Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom
By Adela Oppenheim, Dorothea Arnold, Dieter Arnold and Kei Yamamoto
(New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2015), 400 pp., color and b&w illustrations, $75 (hardcover)
Reviewed by Marek Dospěl
Egypt’s Middle Kingdom (mid-11th Dynasty–13th Dynasty, c. 2030–1650 B.C.E.) is arguably the least known of Egypt’s three kingdoms. Contemporary with the Middle Bronze Age cultures of the Levant, it was a period of Egypt’s political consolidation, revived artistic expression, further evolution of styles and the transformation of many aspects of Egyptian culture and religion. It was also a time of Egypt’s intensified engagement with the peoples of the Levant, and our sources even reveal a strong influx of Canaanites into the eastern Nile Delta.
We are indebted for much of our knowledge of Egypt’s Middle Kingdom to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art’s (the Met’s) sponsorship of numerous excavations at Middle Kingdom sites. Drawing on this tradition and expertise, the Met presented the first-ever comprehensive picture of the art and culture of the Middle Kingdom in a special exhibition that ran from October 2015 to January 2016. Titled Ancient Egypt Transformed and curated by Adela Oppenheim and Dorothea Arnold—with Dieter Arnold and Kei Yamamoto—it showcased an array of artifacts from domestic settings, as well as tombs and temples.
The accompanying catalog presented here features nearly 300 works of art, including sculpture, reliefs, stelae, jewelry, funerary objects and personal possessions from the world’s major collections of Egyptian art. Besides the opening and closing essays on selected aspects of the Middle Kingdom, this lavishly illustrated book contains a dozen catalog chapters, each with a scholarly essay and entries on related objects. Based on the most recent scholarship on the Middle Kingdom, this catalog is an authoritative resource for study of the period’s art and of Egyptian history and culture in general.