The present map of the New Kingdom sets out to be the first in a small series about the great cultures of the Bronze Age. For the entire project we have chosen a uniform scale of 1:2.5 Mio. and an equirectangular projection with a latitude of 30° as standard parallels.

The general design follows the tried principles of our Imperium Romanum map. The background is composed of a landclass and bathymetry data layer above a hi-res satellite image and a shaded relief. For the background, we used a modified NASA Blue Marble image1, where the traces of modern human activity, such as artificial lakes or tracts of irrigated land, have been removed.

The original geodata for coast lines and rivers comes from Natural Earth2. It too was modified to accurately depict the world of over 3000 years ago, and to add a number of additional rivers.

The shaded relief was calculated from the U.S. Geological Survey‘s SRTM30 data set (1 km resolution)3.

The background relief below the legend depicts scenes from the grand temple of Karnak. The original was supplied by Alexander Baranov4. It was modified and reassembled for our purpose.


Names: When labeling the map, we had to carefully balance conflicting expectations. One one side, there was the desire for authenticity and the wish that it should be easily readable for people from all over the world. These two prerequisites both favored the use of original names. However, “easily readable for everyone” also means using the most common names for the places depicted, which are often names from much later eras, such as the Greco-Roman epoch. A well-known example is the ancient capital Memphis, called Jnbw-ḥḏ in ancient Egyptian. We thus had to find a partially individual compromise.

The linear nature of Upper Egypt made it easy to specify several names for well known places without cluttering the map. On Crete, the place names from Linear B tablets are already very close to their Classical forms. In crowded Canaan, we used either the Akkadian5 term form the Amarna archives, or simply the most common name, especially since in this area there is very high name continuity. For example, Meggido is called Maggigu or Maggida in Akkadian and Meketi (Mktj) in hieroglyphic texts. For the regions and some of the cities depicted on the ancillary map, the color indicates the source of the name.

The map includes several hundred names and terms taken from ancient Egyptian sources6. Usually, transcriptions from hieroglyphic writings include only letters for consonants or half-vowels, just as the original texts. Thus, it is impossible to read them out loud without knowledge of the language. On our map, we used the Egyptological pronunciation7 for increased user-friendliness. However, in most cases, this standard is not identical to the ancient pronunciation of a given word. The legend includes a list with translations and the proper transcriptions for the most important labels.


Settlements: The depicted settlements are classified according to their political significance. Imperial capitals are the seats of rulers and administrative centers of the great Empires, whereas provincial capitals belong to their larger subdivisions. This category includes the seat of the viceroy of Kush [15], Aleppo and Carchemish (as centers of Hittite viceregal kingdoms) and Apasa, capital of the Arzawa lands8. First order centers are the capitals of further subdivisions, such as the city districts of Egypt, small city states, or similar polities, second order centers are local administrative centers and similar places.

Beyond a first approximation, their distribution does not say much about regional population density or economic strength. The town of Tanaakh in Canaan, for example, has only scarcely produced archaeological remains from this period [5], meaning that it seems to have been a rather unimportant place, while still continuing to function as an independent city state with its own complex bureaucracy.


Routes: In the Bronze Age, true roads already existed at a few places. On the map they are shown as full lines. The oldest example is the paved Old Kingdom quarry road between Widan el-Farrasand Qasr el-Sagha on the ancient shore of lake Qarun [11]. It was no longer used during the New Kingdom, but its remains are still traceable over many kilometers through the desert, even today. We also see the beginning of a true road network featuring bridges and similar auxiliary infrastructure in the Mycenaean world.

Of greatest importance for New Kingdom Egypt was the road called the “Ways of Horus”9, a strategic route between Egypt and Canaan, well equipped with forts and watering points to allow both single couriers as well as the entire army of the Pharaoh a swift and secure passage across the dry Sinai desert.


As the Sahara was becoming an even drier place in the second half of the 2nd millennium BCE, the oases of the region had already lost most of their former importance (compared to the Middle and Old Kingdom periods, when they were still step stones for trade with southern countries such as Yam). Consequently, the routes leading to and from them were classified appropriately. Only after the introduction of the camel and new irrigation methods during Persian times would they flourish once again and reach their peak prosperity in the Greco-Roman era.


Traces of New Kingdom activity have been found in the pharaonic port of Mersa Gawasis/Saww [3], but its main phase of use clearly fell within the Middle Kingdom period. Since expeditions to Punt were sent out until the reign of Ramesses III., the main port used used during that time is probably still awaiting to be found.


Borders: Only in exceptional cases can the borders of city kingdoms and similarly sized polities be reconstructed with some certainty. This usually only happens when a palace archive is found, as in Pylos or Ugarit. In some other cases, diplomatic letters from similar but distant archives allow some reasonable guesses. As a consequence, city kingdom borders are not continuously included over the entirety of the map.


Nomes of Egypt [8, 10, 13]: The old nomes originating in the Old Kingdom had ceded their function as administrative units to the newer, smaller, so-called city districts, which were focused around larger settlements instead of cult centers. These districts would later develop into the Nomoi of Greco-Roman Egypt. They were lead by an official called haty-a, which is usually translated as mayor. There could be also mayors in strategic settlements without exercising control of the surrounding countryside. On the map, these are shown as second order centers.

However, the old nomes still kept their importance in a religious context and also for the practical purpose of topographically subdividing the country.


Faiyum [6, 7]: The Faiyum is large basin without any drainage to the sea, west of the Nile valley. It is supplied with water by a sidearm of the Nile, the Bahr Yussef, which also allows some back-flow after Nile floods. Consequently, a large, seasonally fluctuating lake and extensive swamps had formed in the basin, which made the early Faiyum a good hunting ground (but an only sparsely inhabited one).

In the Middle Kingdom period, during the reign of Senuseret (Sesostris) II., the Egyptian state for the first time invested in large scale reclamation and infrastructure projects. Their exact scope and aims can currently not be determined with any certainty. Senuseret II. build his pyramid at el-Lahun near the entrance to the Faiyum, just as Amenemhet III. did in Hawara little time later. The distribution of Middle Kingdom archaeological sites, which kept their importance during the New Kingdom, allows us to conclude that the lake level at this time was very high, about 18 meters above sea level.

Only in Ptolemaic times did a strict regulation of water flow into the Faiyum basin make it possible to largely drain and transform it into a highly productive agricultural zone. During the Roman era, the remaining lake Qarun achieved its modern level of about 45 meters below sea level.


Shasu and Apiru [5]: Both are generic terms for people following a certain way of life, not well-defined ethnic groups. The name Shasu is best translated as Bedouins. It is derived from the Egyptian word šꜢs (shas), meaning to wander around or move through. In the sources, Shasu are nomadic or semi-nomadic tribes living in the steppes and deserts at the fringe of the Levant and beyond.

Apiru, or Akkadian Hapiru, are stateless people, practically part of the civilized world, but living outside the highly bureaucratic societies of the Bronze Age Middle East. The term can be translated as robbers or troublemakers. Apiru recruited themselves from all kinds of adventurers, refugees and other outcasts and usually appeared in small groups as migrant workers or mercenaries. They could some times occur in great numbers and become a security risk not to be underestimated. United, they could threaten entire city kingdoms.


Libyans [2]: During the New Kingdom, the terms Tjemehu and Tjehenu for northern and southern Libyan groups were already used very broadly. They could designate the country, as well as the people within it.

The Libu and Meshwesh were new groups increasingly appearing in our sources since the 13th century BCE. They most likely originated in fertile Cyrenaica and migrated along the coast searching for new land in the sparsely developed western fringes of the delta. Towards the end of the century, they also begun to infiltrate the Egyptian sphere via the western oases.


Canaan [14]: During the 18th dynasty, the Egyptian territories in the Levant were organized as a loose compound of client states. This later changed in the Ramesside period, when an increasing number of cities were placed under direct control of Egyptian governors. The first phase of this development under Ramesses II. is depicted on our map. Until the end of our time frame Ashkalon, Gezer and Damascus(?) were added to the list during the reign Merneptah, Yuzra (Tell Jememeh) (at the latest under Seti II.) and finally Lachish, Gath (Gimtu, Tell es-Safi) and Tell es-Sa'idiyeh were added when Ramesses III. ruled Egypt.





4Original image © Alexander Baranov 2011, cc-by-2.0.:

5The lingua franca of the Bronze Age Middle East

6Usually, the used variant of the names was taken from [9].

7As described in [1]

8At this time a compound of Mira, Arzawa Minor, Wilusa, Seha River Land, and Haballa [4]

9In Egyptian texts both, he singular wꜢt ḥr, and more often, the plural wꜢwt ḥr are used. Since the plural is almost exclusively used in English literature it is also listed on the map [12].


[1] H. Altenmüller, Einführung in die Hieroglyphenschrift, H. Buske (20109.

[2] K. A. Bard (ed.), Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt, Routledge Chapman & Hall (1999)

[3] K. A. Bard, R. Fattovich, The Middle Kingdom Red Sea Harbor at Mersa/Wadi Gawasis, JARCE 47 (2011), 105-129.

[4] T. Bryce, The Kingdom of the Hittites, Oxford University Press (2006)

[5] T. Bryce, The Routledge Handbook of the Peoples and Places of Ancient Western Asia: The Near East from the Early Bronze Age to the Fall of the Persian Empire, Routledge Chapman & Hall (2009).

[6] P. Davoli, The Archaeology of the Fayum, in C. Riggs (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Roman Egypt, Oxford University Press (2012)

[7] G. Garbrecht, H. Jaritz, Neue Ergebnisse zu altägyptischen Wasserbauten im Fayum, in: Antike Welt: Band. 23,4 (1992), 238–254.

[8] F. Gomaà, R. Müller-Wollermann, W. Schenkel, Mittelägypten zwischen Samalut und dem Gabal Abu Sir, L. Reichert (1991)

[9] R. Hannig: Großes Handwörterbuch Ägyptisch-Deutsch: (2800 - 950 v. Chr.), von Zabern (2006)

                       Großes Handwörterbuch Deutsch - Ägyptisch, von Zabern (2014)

[10] W. Helck, Die altägyptischen Gaue, L. Reichert (1974).

[11] J.A. Harrell, P. Storemyr, Ancient Egyptian quarries-an illustrated overview, in N. Abu-Jaber, E. G. Bloxam, P. Degryse, T. Heldal, QuarryScapes: ancient stone quarry landscapes in the Eastern Mediterranean, Geological Survey of Norway Special Publication 12 (2009), 7–50.

[12] J. K. Hoffmeier, S. O. Moshier, “A highway out of Egypt”: The main road from Egypt to Canaan, in Desert Road Archaeology in F. Förster, H. Riemer (eds.), Ancient Egypt and Beyond, Heinrich-Barth-Inst. (2014)

[13] A. B. Lloyd, A Companion to Ancient Egypt, Blackwell Companions to the Ancient World, John Wiley & Sons (2014).

[14] I. Singer, Merneptah's Campaign to Canaan and the Egyptian Occupation of the Southern CoastalPlain of Palestine in the Ramesside Period, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 269 (1988), 1-10.

[15] L. Török, The Kingdom of Kush - Handbook of the Napatan-Meroitic Civilization, Handbuch der Orientalistik Abt.2 Bd. 31 (1999).