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A Brief Look at
Ancient Egyptian History
Predynastic Period (to 3100 BCE)
• Prior to 3100 BCE, Egypt was probably a collection of
unorganized societies
• Developed into two monarchies
• Lower Egypt, or the Delta Kingdom, was ruled by a
monarchy symbolized by the red crown
• The white crown represented the power of Upper Egypt
Early Dynastic Period (3100 –
2650 BCE)
• About 3100 BCE, the King of Upper Egypt, King Menes,
unified the country
• King Menes wore the double crown symbolizing the unity
of the two kingdoms
• King Menes founded capital of Memphis
• Began first Egyptian dynasty – the first succession of rulers
who claimed their descent from a common ancestor
• for over 400 years, kings faced considerable opposition as
they tried to secure their power
• Between 3100 BCE and 2700 BCE, Menes and his heirs were
able to consolidate their power and achieve absolute rule in
The Old Kingdom “The Age of
the Pyramids” (2650 -2150 BCE)
• Powerful king finally created a central government
strong enough to command the country
• This king was Djoser
• By the time of the Old Kingdom, the king was ruler
of all of Egypt
• Kings came to be known as Pharaohs
• Pharoah was seen as divine, or godlike
• The Chief advisor to the Pharaoh was the Vizier
• He was the supreme ruler of all affairs, secular and
Pharaoh Djoser
• During his rule, he
ordered his people to
build him an enormous
Step Pyramid at Saqqara
• This pyramid was the first
monumental stone
building ever constructed
in the world
• Height of 200 feet
• Designed by Imhotep
Step Pyramid of King Djoser
Imhotep: An Egyptian Genius
• Seldom lives and accomplishments of
individuals other than Pharaohs
recorded by Egyptians
• Imhotep an exception
• Was essentially deified by Egyptians
• Rose to serve as the right hand man
of Djoser
• Imhotep’s learning included
medicine, astronomy, theology and
• Architect who designed the “Step
Statuette of
Imhotep in the
Height of Old Kingdom
• Old Kingdom Egypt reached its height in the
Fourth Dynasty, the period during which the
great pyramids of Giza were built
• These were true pyramids, which have
become timelss symbols of Egyptian
The Great Pyramid
• The Great Pyramid, built for the pharaoh Khufu (or
Cheops in Greek), was originally 481 feet high and
756 feet along each side of its base, constructed from
more than 2.3 million limestone blocks
• Two massive, but slightly smaller pyramids at the site
were built for Khufu’s successors Khafre (Chephren)
and Menkaure (Mycerinus)
• Historians often describe the Old Kingdom as “the
age of the pyramids” because these monumental
structures are one of the greatest achievements of the
Old Kingdom know as Pyramid Age
• most of Egyptian pyramids built during this time period
• transitioned from step pyramid to true pyramids
Collapse of Old Kingdom
• Nile had a series of poor floods  famine and high death rate
• Egyptian government fell apart  country splintered into many chiefdoms, each
chief claiming to be the true pharaoh
Other Achievements of the Old
• Trade become more regulated and spread
throughout the Mediterranean region,
enriching Egypt with new inventions and
goods, including the potter’s wheel from
Mesopotamia, timber from Syria, wine and
oil from Crete
• Foundations of organized government laid
when the rulers divided the state into
provinces or districts, each with its own
governor appointed by the pharaoh
Decline of the Old Kingdom
• By the fifth dynasty, the authority of the king had weakened
• The pyramids of the kings of the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties
are markedley smaller, reflecting the general
impoverishment of Egypt
• High priests and government officials vied for power
• Local and provincial officials became increasingly powerful
• By the end of the Sixth dynasty, the climate and the Nile
River combined to bring about the end of the old monarchy
• Low rainfall and series of weak floods from the Nile, Egypt
suffered famines
The First Intermediate Period
(2150 – 2050 BCE)
• Civil wars thrust Egypt into about 100 years
of anarchy
• Egypt again separated into two distinct parts
• Without a king strong enough to control
the entire territory, the country entered a
time of general disorder called the First
Intermediate Period
The Middle Kingdom (2050 –
1700 BCE)
• Egypt was reunited under Theban kings who
would rule for the next 250 years
• These monarchs initially rules at Thebes and
eventually moved their capital to Memphis
• Theban supremacy reflected in rise to
national prominence of god Amon
• Amon had been a local Theban deity and
merged with the Sun god Re to become
Amon-Re, an Egyptian national god
Middle Kingdom
• Period of expansion: Economic and political
bounderies of Egypt were expanded
• Egypt experienced two centuries of peace and
stability during which the nation prospered
Second Intermediate Period
(1700 – 1550 BCE)
• Invasion of the Hyksos, a warlike people,
most likely from what is now Syria and
• Egyptian army leagged behind
technologically, copper weapons no match
• Hyksos had horse-drawn chariots, improved
bows, bronze weapons
• Hyksos ruled Egypt for 150 years
• In the end, Egyptians came to master the
new weapons introduced by Hyksos and
drove Hyksos out of Egypt
The New Kingdom (1550 - 1070
• Egyptian civilization reached its apex during
the New Kingdom
• It was during these 5 centuries that Egypt
experienced its Golden Age, building an
empire and producing fine works of art
• The New Kingdom was also a period
dominated by several larger-than-life