Dynasties 7 to 11, called the First Intermediate Period, have been described as a time of political disunity, economic depression, and cultural decline separating the impressive achievements of the Old Kingdom from those of the Middle Kingdom. Such a picture is now regarded as too simplistic. But there were dramatic changes in the administration of Egypt during this time and there was none of the monumental building activity or other costly projects of earlier dynasties. Much of the country's bureaucratic authority was now in the hands of local officials. But the city of Memphis continued to retain some of its former authority as Dynasties 7 and 8, until a rival group of local administrators at Ihnasiyat al Madinah began to expand their control over a significant part of Egypt as Dynasties 9 and 10.
The southern city of Thebes emerged as a rival to Ihnasiyat al Madinah, its rulers forming Dynasty 11. Conflicts between them resulted in the victory of Thebes and the collapse of power of the rulers from Ihnasiyat al Madinah. The reunification of the country took place under Mentuhetep II. Later Egyptians recognized his reign as the beginning of the Middle Kingdom.
First Intermediate Period art and architecture are often referred to as provincial in style . The characteristics of the various provincial styles were the result of two factors: the absence of any central authority to train artists and establish or maintain stylistic standards; and the inability of provincial administrations to acquire raw materials beyond the borders of their own administrative district.