Late in the Second Intermediate Period (ca. 1650–1550 B.C.), the Theban rulers (Dynasty 17) began to drive the Hyksos kings (Dynasty 15) from the Delta. This was finally accomplished by Ahmose I, who reunited Egypt, ushering in the New Kingdom—the third great era of Egyptian culture. Ahmose’s successors in Dynasty 18 conducted military campaigns that extended Egypt’s influence in the Near East and established Egyptian control of Nubia to the fourth cataract. As a result, the New Kingdom pharaohs commanded unimaginable wealth, much of which they lavished on their gods, especially Amun-Re of Thebes, whose cult temple at Karnak was augmented by succeeding generations of rulers and filled with votive statues commissioned by kings and courtiers alike.
Although the rulers of Dynasty 19 established an administrative capital near their home in the Delta, Thebes remained a cultural and religious center. The pharaohs built their mortuary temples here and were buried in huge rock-cut tombs decorated with finely executed paintings or painted reliefs illustrating religious texts concerned with the afterlife. A town was established in western Thebes for the artists who created these tombs. At this site (Deir el-Medina), they left a wealth of information about life in an ancient Egyptian community of artisans and craftsmen.
Known especially for monumental architecture and statuary honoring the gods and pharaohs, the New Kingdom, a period of nearly 500 years of political stability and economic prosperity, also produced an abundance of artistic masterpieces created for use by nonroyal individuals.