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Old Kingdom of Egypt Timeline

Old Kingdom of Egypt Timeline


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  • 2613 BCE - 2589 BCE

    Reign of Sneferu, first king of 4th Dynasty of Egypt.

  • c. 2613 BCE - c. 2181 BCE

  • 2589 BCE - 2566 BCE

    Reign of King Khufu (Cheops), builder of the Great Pyramid of Giza, in Egypt.

  • 2566 BCE - 2558 BCE

    Reign of King Djedefre in Egypt.

  • 2558 BCE - 2532 BCE

    Reign of King Khafre, builder of the second pyramid at Giza, in Egypt.

  • 2532 BCE - 2503 BCE

    Reign of King Menkaure, builder of the third pyramid at Giza, in Egypt.

  • 2503 BCE - 2498 BCE

    Reign of the King Shepsekaf in Egypt.

  • 2498 BCE - 2491 BCE

    Reign of the King Userkaf in Egypt.

  • 2490 BCE - 2477 BCE

    Reign of King Sahure in Egypt.

  • 2477 BCE - 2467 BCE

    Reign of the King Neferiskare Kakai in Egypt.

  • 2460 BCE - 2458 BCE

    Reign of the King Neferefre in Egypt.

  • c. 2458 BCE - c. 2457 BCE

    Reign of King Shepseskare in Egypt.

  • c. 2445 BCE - 2422 BCE

    Reign of the King Nyussere Ini of Egypt.

  • 2422 BCE - 2414 BCE

    Reign of King Menkauhor in Egypt.

  • 2414 BCE - 2375 BCE

    Reign of King Djedkare Isesi in Egypt.

  • 2375 BCE - 2345 BCE

    Reign of King Unas in Egypt.

  • 2345 BCE - 2333 BCE

    Reign of King Teti in Egypt.

  • 2333 BCE - 2332 BCE

    Reign of King Userkare in Egypt.

  • 2332 BCE - 2283 BCE

    Reign of King Pepi I in Egypt.

  • 2283 BCE - 2278 BCE

    Reign of King Merenre Nemtyensaf I in Egypt.

  • 2278 BCE - 2184 BCE

    Reign of King Pepi II in Egypt.

  • c. 2184 BCE

    Reign of King Merenre Nemtyemsaf II in Egypt.

  • 2184 BCE - 2181 BCE

    Reign of King Netjerkare, last ruler of the Old Kingdom of Egypt.


Old Kingdom of Egypt Timeline - History

The Old Kingdom Period of ancient Egypt was the first high point of the civilization in the Nile Valley. The Old Kingdom is often classified as the time frame from the 3rd Dynasty to the 6th Dynasty, or c. 2686 BC – 2181 BC. Following the Old Kingdom Period was the first period of disorder and calamity, known as the First Intermediate Period. The influence of Pharaoh Djoser and his vizier, Imhotep, is credited for the unique Egyptian architecture known as pyramids. During the Old Kingdom, many pyramids were constructed to be designated as royal burial places. For this reason, many scholars regard the Old Kingdom Period as the Age of the Pyramids.

Old Kingdom of Egypt Timeline (c. 2686 BC–c. 2181 BC)

2690 BC Pharaoh Khasekhemwy lays to rest the violent disputes of the 2nd Dynasty and unites northern and southern Egypt.
2670 BC 3rd Dynasty begins with Djoser, whose Horus name was Netjerikhet. Though most historians agree that Djoser was the first pharaoh of the 3rd Dynasty, some believe that Necherophes or Nebka preceded Djoser (Manetho, Turin & Abydos King Lists, respectively)
2667 – 2648 BC Imhotep, Djoser’s vizier, publishes medical documents detailing the diagnosis and cure of 200 diseases.
2650 – 2625 BC Imhotep, Ra high priest at Heliopolis and Djoser’s chancellor, builds a pyramid (or, the Step Pyramid) at Saqqara, the necropolis of Memphis, for Djoser.
2625 BC Huni becomes pharaoh and begins construction of the Maidum step pyramid, which was finished by his successor, Sneferu.
2613 BC The 4th Dynasty begins with Sneferu. In his reign, he builds in Dahshur the first straight-side pyramid, known as the Red Pyramid.
2589 BC Sneferu passes away and Khufu (Cheops) begins his reign. Other than having the Great Pyramid of Giza built, not much as documented about him and his reign.
2584 BC Khufu/Cheops has his vizier, Hemon/Hemiunu, begin building the Great Pyramid of Giza.
2558 BC Khafra, son of Khufu, becomes ruler. Not much was written about him other than that he was said to be cruel and heretical.
2558 – 2532 BC The Sphinx is built for pharaoh Khafra sometime during his reign. He also built the second largest pyramid of Giza.
2532 BC Khafra passes away.
2494 BC The 5th Dynasty begins with Userkaf. He began the custom of building sun temples at Abusir. During his life he also built the Pyramid of Userkaf complex at Saqqara.
2375 BC Unas, last ruler of the 5th Dynasty, reigns as pharaoh. Manetho wrote that he probably had no sons when he passed away.
2345 BC the 6th Dynasty begins with Teti. His reign was said to have lasted about 12 years.
2333 BC Teti passes away and Userkare becomes pharaoh. It was said that Userkare opposed his predecessor and possibly usurped the throne. On the contrary, he may well have been Teti’s son but this is uncertain.
2332 BC Pepi I, son of Teti, becomes ruler. He was able to do so with the support of powerful influence in Upper Egypt. He was able to dethrone his brother, the usurper Userkare who had murdered his father.
2283 BC Pepi I passes away and is buried in a pyramid in South Saqqar.

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Middle Kingdom

Attitude change in Egypt, right after the first intermediate period, Dyn XI-XII, 2050-1780 BCE

Sphinx of Amenemhat III

Successor of Sesostris, sphinx more lion like than human, face part of the animal, much more integrated, acted as a protector

Statue of King Sesostris III

Dyn XII, stone, wears dual crown, not ideal - downcast eyes/facial lines (represents the Middle Kingdom's increasing preference towards a fair, compassionate and thoughtful pharaoh who cared about his people), reflects wisdom, "verism"


Step Pyramid of Djoser

The Old Kingdom is the age of pyramid building beginning with Third Dynasty Pharaoh Djoser's Step Pyramid at Saqqara, the first finished large stone building in the world. Its ground area is 140 X 118 m., its height 60 m., its outside enclosure 545 X 277 m. Djoser's corpse was buried there but below ground level. There were other buildings and shrines in the area. The architect credited with Djoser's 6-step pyramid was Imhotep (Imouthes), a high priest of Heliopolis.


Main keywords of the article below: bc, egyptian, periods, dynamic, 3-6, ca, development, art, egypt, old, dynasties, 2649-2150, kingdom, egypt's, timeline.

KEY TOPICS
Egypt's Old Kingdom (Dynasties 3-6, ca. 2649-2150 BC) was one of the most dynamic periods in the development of Egyptian art. [1] Archaeologists divide the ancient Egyptian timeline into three distinct categories, the Old Kingdom, the Middle Kingdom, and the New Kingdom. [2] The first pharaoh of the Old Kingdom was Djoser, who ruled Egypt from 2630-2611 B.C. He was responsible for the construction of one of the very first pyramids ever built by the ancient Egyptians. [2] Near the end of the Dynastic Period and the start of the Old Kingdom, the first pyramid is built by the Pharoah Djoser and the famous Egyptian Architect Imhotep. [3] The Egyptians divided their own history into 31 dynasties, and modern historians have further grouped these dynasties into three main periods: the Old Kingdom, the Middle Kingdom, and the New Kingdom. [4] Egypt's history didn't begin with the Old Kingdom modern historians recognize the Predynastic Period (for the time prior to the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under a single pharaoh) and the Early Dynastic Period (for Dynasties 0-2). [4] The Old Kingdom is perhaps best known for the large number of pyramids constructed at this time as burial places for Egypt's kings. [1]

The term itself was coined by eighteenth-century historians and the distinction between the Old Kingdom and the Early Dynastic Period is not one which would have been recognized by Ancient Egyptians. [1]

Below is an Ancient Egypt Timeline outlining the major dividing points in the history of Egyptian civilization, including the early, middle, and new kingdoms. [5]

During the Old Kingdom, the king of Egypt (not called the Pharaoh until the New Kingdom) became a living god who ruled absolutely and could demand the services and wealth of his subjects. [1] Under King Djoser, the first king of the Third Dynasty of the Old Kingdom, the royal capital of Egypt was moved to Memphis, where Djoser established his court. [1] Reign of King Netjerkare, last ruler of the Old Kingdom of Egypt. [6] We know from ancient writings that Egypt was experiencing many low Nile floods toward the end of the Old Kingdom. [7] "Nile flow failure at the end of the Old Kingdom, Egypt: Strontium isotopic and petrologic evidence". [1] The Old Kingdom includes the first important dynasties that made Egypt an advanced civilization. [7] Egypt underwent a period of desiccation during the late Old Kingdom that had an effect on crop growth, causing droughts that destabilized the government. [4] Objects from Old Kingdom Egypt have been found throughout Syro-Palestine, and Snefru's pyramid includes wooden beams sourced from somewhere outside of Egypt. [4] The Old Kingdom is the period in the third millennium(c. 2686-2181 BC) also known as the 'Age of thePyramids' or 'Age of thePyramid Builders' as it includes the great 4th Dynasty when King Sneferu perfected the art of pyramid building and the pyramids ofGizawere constructed under the kings Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure. [1] The Old Kingdom began with the Third Dynasty of kings in 2686 B.C. and ended with the Eighth Dynasty, more than 500 years later. [7] The Old Kingdom began with the rule of King Djoser, who immediately marked a sharp change from his predecessors by ordering the building of a major monument for his burial place: the Step Pyramid at Saqqara. [4] During the Old Kingdom, pharaohs were buried in pyramids, the Middle Kingdom saw pharaohs buried in hidden tombs, and in the New Kingdom they were buried in the Valley of the Kings. [2] The first pharaoh of the old kingdom was Djoser (3rd dynasty, 2667-2648 B.C.E.), who built the first monumental stone structure, called the Step Pyramid. [8] The first Pharaoh of the Old Kingdom was Djoser (sometime between 2691 and 2625 BC) of the third dynasty, who ordered the construction of a pyramid (the Step Pyramid ) in Memphis' necropolis, Saqqara. [1]

The pyramids at Giza, built during the Old Kingdom, are a visible indicator of the strength of the pharaoh. [4] During the Old Kingdom, the Great Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx were constructed due to a long-standing peaceful period. [2] The Old Kingdom is the name designated by 19th-century historians to refer to the first period reported by Manetho when both the north (Lower) and south (Upper) parts of the Nile Valley were united under one ruler. [8] The Old Kingdom, the first of these periods, was the strongest in terms of the centralization of the government. [4] The Old Kingdom is most commonly regarded as the period from the Third Dynasty through to the Sixth Dynasty (2686-2181 BC). [1] Several reasons have been cited for the fall of the Old Kingdom, including climate changes, governmental reforms from the Fifth Dynasty (intended to strengthen the pharaoh's control) contributing to a weakening of the government, and the long reign of Pepi II. [4] During the Fifth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom, the sun god Ra took a dominant place in the state religion. [7] The Old Kingdom and its royal power reached a zenith under the Fourth Dynasty (2613-2494 BC), which began with Sneferu (2613-2589 BC). [1] The Old Kingdom lasted from 2686 B.C. to 2181 B.C. It included the 3rd through the 6th dynasty. [2] The pyramids of the Middle Kingdom weren’t as well-constructed as those in the Old Kingdom, unfortunately, there aren’t many Middle Kingdom pyramids that have survived. [2] The Old Kingdom was known as the "Age of Pyramids", the Middle Kingdom was known as the "Golden Age", and the New Kingdom was known as the "Imperial Age". [2] The last important monument built during the Old Kingdom was the Pyramid of Pepi II at Saqqara. [2] The Old Kingdom, from ca. 2649-2150 BCE, saw Ancient Egypt ruled by a strong, centralized government. [4] The Old Kingdom nears its end as the 7th and 8th dynasties are weak and the government begins to collapse. [3] The Old Kingdom ends and the first Intermediate period begins. [3] While the Old Kingdom was a period of internal security and prosperity, it was followed by a period of disunity and relative cultural decline referred to by Egyptologists as the First Intermediate Period. [1]

This is the transition point from the Old Kingdom to the Middle Kingdom in ancient Egyptian history. [9] Dynasties are grouped in sets called Old Kingdom, Middle Kingdom, and New Kingdom. [10] The Old Kingdom (Dynasties 3 to 6) was a period of great prosperity and innovation whose most memorable feature was surely the pyramid. [11]

The Old Kingdom, also known as the Pyramid age, is recognized as the first benchmark for the flowering of Egyptian civilization. [12] The Great Pyramid of Giza and the Great Sphinx were constructed about 100 years after the Step Pyramid Collapse of the Old Kingdom The Old Kingdom came to an end in a period of famine and Egypt became divided once again Capital: Thebes The capital of the unified Egypt in the Middle Kingdom became Thebes, a city in Upper Egypt Reunification Under King Mentuhotep II, Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt were reunited. [13]


Montuhotep II (2,007-1,956 B.C.E.), an Eleventh dynasty pharaoh, was the last ruler of the Old Kingdom and the first ruler of the Middle Kingdom. [14] The history of ancient Egypt is divided into three main periods: the Old Kingdom (about 2,700-2,200 B.C.E.), the Middle Kingdom (2,050-1,800 B.C.E.), and the New Kingdom (about 1,550-1,100 B.C.E.). [14] This was the beginning of the Old Kingdom. (Kings tend to rule from a central place, which is why the early dynastic period is not considered a kingdom.) [14] It began with the collapse of the Old Kingdom due to crop failure and low revenues due to pyramid building projects. [15]

Egypt attained its first continuous peak of civilization - the first of three so-called "Kingdom" periods (followed by the Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom ) which mark the high points of civilization in the lower Nile Valley. [1] The first New Kingdom ruler was Ahmose (1550-1525 B.C.E.) who drove the Hyksos out of Egypt, and established many internal reforms and political restructuring. [8]

The Pharaoh Mentuhotep II reunites the two parts of Egypt under one rule signaling the start of the Middle Kingdom. [3] The Middle Kingdom began with the victory of Mentuhotep II of Thebes over his rivals at Herakleopolis, and the reunification of Egypt. [8]

The Old, Middle and New Kingdoms were periods when upper and lower parts of the Nile Valley were united the Intermediate periods were when the union fell apart. [8] The king has ordered his vizier to assemble the best minds of the kingdom to advise him what to do about the Nile failures before catastrophe hits. [7] The New Kingdom is the time of greatest prosperity for the Ancient Egyptian civilization. [3] Egyptian views on the nature of time during this period held that the universe worked in cycles, and the Pharaoh on earth worked to ensure the stability of those cycles. [1] To these ends, over a period of time, Egyptian artists adopted a limited repertoire of standard types and established a formal artistic canon that would define Egyptian art for more than 3,000 years, while remaining flexible enough to allow for subtle variation and innovation. [1]

The fourth dynasty is a time of peace and also a time when the sun god Re became prominent in the Egyptian religion. [3] Egyptians in this era worshipped their Pharaoh as a god, believing that he ensured the annual flooding of the Nile that was necessary for their crops. [1] His "step" pyramid at Saqqara started the Egyptian tradition of constructing pyramids as burial places for pharaohs. [2] Pepy II (also called Neferkara) died in 2184 B.C. He was buried in the last major Egyptian pyramid, which was named "Neferkara is established and living." [7] When the king died, Egyptians believed he accompanied Ra on his trip each day through the sky in a "solar boat." [7] Egyptians did not consider the king to be a god, but only the king could speak to the gods on their behalf. [7]

During this time the Pharaohs conquer the most lands and the Egyptian Empire reaches its peak. [3] During this time the Egyptians developed hieroglyphic writing which would be important for making records and running the government. [3]

Only much later in Egyptian history did farmers use a pole and bucket lever (shaduf) to lift water from the Nile during the dry season to grow a second or even third crop. [7] The first extensive Egyptian irrigation projects did not occur until after 300 B.C. in the area of the Faiyum Oasis. [7] The primary source for the thirty established dynasties, sequences of rulers united by kinship or their principal royal residence, is the 3rd century B.C.E. Egyptian priest Manetho. [8]

Historians have traditionally organized Egypt's history by groups of dynasties (families of kings or pharaohs). [7] Egypt's kings early on adopted Horus, the hawk god "who is high," as their protector. [7]

During the Fourth Dynasty, Egypt's architectural marvels took off with the building of the Great Pyramid and the other pyramids of Giza. [4]

Kingdoms and Periods: There are also three primary kingdoms that historians use to define periods of Ancient Egypt. [3] There were three kingdoms, as well as three intermediate periods in ancient Egypt. [2] Between the kingdoms, the time periods were known as Intermediate Periods. [2]

The New Kingdom lasted from about 1550 B.C. to 1070 B.C. and it included the 18th, 19th and 20th dynasties. [2] Some of the dynasties at the end of the middle kingdom and during this period only last for a short time. [3] The Middle Kingdom lasted from 2055 B.C. to 1650 B.C. and included the 11th and 13th dynasty. [2]

The first attempts to restore the old religion began as early as the rule of Akhenaten's son Tutankhamun (1336-1327 B.C.E.), and eventually persecution of the practitioners of the Aten cult proved successful and the old religion was re-established. [8] When Pepy II reached old age, his authority weakened, his government officials grew ineffective. [7]

Nile is a Greek name for what the ancient Egyptians simply called "the river," which flows northward through Upper and Lower Egypt. [7] It was in this era that formerly independent ancient Egyptian states became known as nomes, under the rule of the Pharaoh. [1] Ancient Egyptians were ruled by religion every day, always fearful of the Gods and death. [2]

In addition to the Ancient Egypt Timeline, this site features exhaustive information on the civilization, including descriptions of its social classes, pyramids, and many other facts. [5]


His general, Ptolemy, on becoming independent ruler of the country in 305 BCE, was also crowned pharaoh, and his line lasted down to the famous queen, Cleopatra, who died in 31 BCE. Some may regard the civilization of Egypt under the Ptolemies as being more Greek than Egyptian, but the older civilization was still vital enough for the kings to feel the need to present themselves to their subjects in the traditional style of the pharaohs. [16] The medieval Arabs wrote about Egyptian civilization, and the modern European fascination with Egypt was fuelled by Napoleon’s conquest of the country in 1798. [16] Mizraim, Noah’s grandson, founded Egypt around 2188 B.C., a date consistent with both biblical and secular records. 37 The Egyptians, the Sumerians, and the Mayans all retained the technology to build pyramids. [10] Eduard Meyer created the Sothic cycle in 1904 to give Egypt a unified calendar 6 that aligns Egyptian regnal years with modern historians’ B.C. dates. [10] When traditional Egyptian chronology is used to evaluate archaeological findings, landmark events such as the mass exodus of Hebrew people from Egypt appear to have left no evidence. [10] On one papyrus slave list, 48 of the 77 legible names are typical of a "Semitic group from the northwest," 44 many listed beside the Egyptian name assigned by the owner. 45 The presence of Semitic slaves in Egypt during this time is consistent with the biblical account of the oppression of the Israelites. [10]

One of the best-known examples of Egyptian literature is a collection of spells dating to the New Kingdom period and labelled the "Book of the Dead": its object is to enable people to pass successfully from this life into the next. [16] The New Kingdom is often recognized as the height of Egyptian civilization. [9]

When the rulers of Thebes became kings of all Egypt, and founded the New Kingdom, its local god Amun became the chief god, and was united with Ra to become Amun-Ra. [16] By 3000 BCE, the unified kingdom of Egypt occupied the entire Nile Valley north of a series of rapids called the 1st Cataract (the other cataracts lay in a chain stretching south along the River Nile into present-day Sudan). [16]

In contrast to the lack of evidence for an Israelite population in Egypt during the New Kingdom of Ramses’ time, there is significant evidence of the Israelite presence during the Middle Kingdom. [10]

He points out many synchronisms between the histories of Israel and Egypt, providing a highly plausible identification for many of the characters in the Old Testament. [10] Accepted dates for the beginning of Solomon’s reign, as calculated from the lengths of the reigns of Old Testament kings, range from 1015 to 970 B.C. From this data, the Exodus occurred around 1491 to 1445 B.C. The dates are confirmed by additional Scriptures. [10]

Because the names sound similar, Champollion assumed that Shoshenq was the Shishak who plundered Jerusalem in the fifth year of King Rehoboam. 19 Using the biblical date for Rehoboam as a starting point, chronologists used Manetho’s list to outline the next three centuries of Egyptian history. [10] For the Sothic scheme to be valid--just as for Mesopotamian, Palestinian, Greek or Anatolian chronologies to be valid-- it is necessary for each period of Egyptian history to be capable of perfect alignment with any relevant period of history of one or another ancient nation. [10] Though traditional Egyptian chronology dominates modern understanding of ancient history, traditional chronology is inconsistent with the Bible. [10] Several Egyptian pharaohs may have ruled at the same time in different regions of the land, as archaeologist David Down suggests in his revised chronology. [10] Because Manetho’s history contradicts actual Egyptian records from the time of the pharaohs, historians should not consider Manetho’s history authoritative. [10] The second-century astronomer Claudius Ptolemy never mentions the rising of Sothis. 9 Furthermore, whenever Egyptian writings mention the rising of Sothis in connection with a regnal year, the pharaoh is unnamed, 10 or the reference is ambiguous. 11 For these reasons, many Egyptologists have consistently rejected Sothic-cycle-based chronology. [10] The theory says the Egyptians knew that 1,460 years were necessary for the calendar to correct itself because the annual sunrise appearance of the star Sirius corresponded to the first day of Egypt’s flood season only once every 1,460 years. 7 Sothic theory claims that the Egyptian calendar was correct only once every 1,460 years (like a broken watch that is correct twice a day) and that the Egyptians dated important events from this Great Sothic Year. [10] The construction of pyramids was in fact restricted to the earlier days of Egyptian civilization. [16] This so-called traditional Egyptian chronology would have the pyramids predate the flood of Noah’s day such cannot be the case, for pyramids could never withstand a worldwide flood. [10] Just as carbon dating is more consistent with a young earth than most people realize, carbon dating is consistent with a much younger Egyptian civilization than traditional chronology claims. [10] This is most especially true in the case of Egyptian history because. the historians of other nations tend to look to Egyptian chronology as the rule according to which they estimate and adjust their own chronologies 12 (emphasis added). [10] Traditional Egyptian chronology is built on Manetho’s history and the Sothic theory. [10]

Eusebius says, "Several Egyptian kings ruled at the same time. [10] Dates for the earliest comparative material available, reeds used as bonding between mud brick courses of tombs of Egyptians Dynasty I, about 3,100 B.C., appeared to be as much as 600 years, or about 12% too young 30 (emphasis added). [10] In Egyptian eyes, the pharaoh was a god himself, who stood between heaven and earth. [16] This was a period of conquest, sometimes called the Egyptian Empire. [9] Unlike the Sumerians, Egyptian cities were not independent states however, there were numerous urban settlements in the Nile Valley, and Memphis was one of the largest cities in the world, if not at times the largest. [16]

The Ancient Egyptian civilization produced the first government to rule an entire nation. [16]

The 17th dynasty overthrew the Hyksos 58 and began the New Kingdom. [10] During Rehoboam’s time, Jeroboam ruled the northern kingdom. [10] Newton’s Revised History of Ancient Kingdoms makes available much additional information and insight about the history of ancient Egypt as well as the history of other ancient kingdoms. [10]

Egyptology, originally expected to support the history recorded in the Old Testament, has produced a chronology that contradicts the Bible. [10] Because the dates constructed from this biblical misinterpretation actually coincide with the traditional dating of the third intermediate period, many Bible scholars trust the traditional chronology even when it disputes the Old Testament. [10]

This era began when the Old Kingdom's centralized rulers grew weaker as the provincial governors and local rules known as normarchs became more powerful and claimed the throne. [12] Napoleon Bonaparte defeats the remaining Mamluks and brings large numbers of scholars and artists to study Egypt's history, flora and fauna, beginning the European fascination with Egypt. [17] Alexander's general Ptolemy founds the dynasty of greek Ptolemaic rulers who adopt Egyptian religion, architecture and clothing. [17]

The kingdom disintegrates, Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt become separate kingdoms. [17]

RANKED SELECTED SOURCES(17 source documents arranged by frequency of occurrence in the above report)


The First Intermediate period

After the end of the 8th dynasty, the throne passed to kings from Heracleopolis, who made their native city the capital, although Memphis continued to be important. They were acknowledged throughout the country, but inscriptions of nomarchs (chief officials of nomes) in the south show that the kings’ rule was nominal. At Dara, north of Asyūṭ, for example, a local ruler called Khety styled himself in a regal manner and built a pyramid with a surrounding “courtly” cemetery. At Al-Miʿalla, south of Luxor, Ankhtify, the nomarch of the al-Jabalayn region, recorded his annexation of the Idfū nome and extensive raiding in the Theban area. Ankhtify acknowledged an unidentifiable king Neferkare but campaigned with his own troops. Major themes of inscriptions of the period are the nomarch’s provision of food supplies for his people in times of famine and his success in promoting irrigation works. Artificial irrigation had probably long been practiced, but exceptional poverty and crop failure made concern with it worth recording. Inscriptions of Nubian mercenaries employed by local rulers in the south indicate how entrenched military action was.


The First Intermediate Period

The First Intermediate Period, the Seventh to Eleventh dynasties, spanned approximately one hundred years (2181-2055 BCE), and was characterized by political instability and conflict between the Heracleopolitan and Theban Kings.

Learning Objectives

Describe the processes by which the First Intermediate Period occurred, and then transitioned into the Middle Kingdom

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The First Intermediate Period was a dynamic time in history, when rule of Egypt was roughly divided between two competing power bases. One of those bases resided at Heracleopolis in Lower Egypt, a city just south of the Faiyum region. The other resided at Thebes in Upper Egypt.
  • The Old Kingdom fell due to problems with succession from the Sixth Dynasty, the rising power of provincial monarchs, and a drier climate that resulted in widespread famine.
  • Little is known about the Seventh and Eighth Dynasties due to a lack of evidence, but the Seventh Dynasty was most likely an oligarchy, while Eighth Dynasty rulers claimed to be the descendants of the Sixth Dynasty kings. Both ruled from Memphis.
  • The Heracleopolitan Kings saw periods of both violence and peace under their rule, and eventually brought peace and order to the Nile Delta region.
  • Siut princes to the south of the Heracleopolitan Kingdom became wealthy from a variety of agricultural and economic activities, and acted as a buffer during times of conflict between the northern and southern parts of Egypt.
  • The Theban Kings enjoyed a string of military successes, the last of which was a victory against the Heracleopolitan Kings that unified Egypt under the Twelfth Dynasty.

Key Terms

  • Mentuhotep II: A pharaoh of the Eleventh Dynasty, who defeated the Heracleopolitan Kings and unified Egypt. Often considered the first pharaoh of the Middle Kingdom.
  • oligarchy: A form of power structure in which power effectively rests with a small number of people who are distinguished by royalty, wealth, family ties, education, corporate, or military control.
  • nomarchs: Ancient Egyptian administration officials responsible for governing the provinces.
  • First Intermediate Period: A period of political conflict and instability lasting approximately 100 years and spanning the Seventh to Eleventh Dynasties.

The First Intermediate Period (c. 2181-2055 BCE), often described as a “dark period” in ancient Egyptian history after the end of the Old Kingdom, spanned approximately 100 years. It included the Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, and part of the Eleventh dynasties.

The First Intermediate Period was a dynamic time in history when rule of Egypt was roughly divided between two competing power bases: Heracleopolis in Lower Egypt, and Thebes in Upper Egypt. It is believed that political chaos during this time resulted in temples being pillaged, artwork vandalized, and statues of kings destroyed. These two kingdoms eventually came into military conflict. The Theban kings conquered the north, which resulted in the reunification of Egypt under a single ruler during the second part of the Eleventh dynasty.

Events Leading to the First Intermediate Period

The Old Kingdom, which preceded this period, fell for numerous reasons. One was the extremely long reign of Pepi II (the last major king of the Sixth Dynasty), and the resulting succession issues. Another major problem was the rise in power of the provincial nomarchs. Toward the end of the Old Kingdom, the positions of the nomarchs had become hereditary, creating family legacies independent from the king. They erected tombs in their own domains and often raised armies, and engaged in local rivalries. A third reason for the dissolution of centralized kingship was the low level of the Nile inundation, which may have resulted in a drier climate, lower crop yields, and famine.

The Seventh and Eighth Dynasties at Memphis

The Seventh and Eighth dynasties are often overlooked because very little is known about the rulers of these two periods. The Seventh Dynasty was most likely an oligarchy based in Memphis that attempted to retain control of the country. The Eighth Dynasty rulers, claiming to be the descendants of the Sixth Dynasty kings, also ruled from Memphis.

The Heracleopolitan Kings

After the obscure reign of the Seventh and Eighth dynasty kings, a group of rulers rose out of Heracleopolis in Lower Egypt, and ruled for approximately 94 years. These kings comprise the Ninth and Tenth Dynasties, each with 19 rulers.

The founder of the Ninth Dynasty, Wahkare Khety I, is often described as an evil and violent ruler who caused much harm to the inhabitants of Egypt. He was seized with madness, and, as legend would have it, was eventually killed by a crocodile. Kheti I was succeeded by Kheti II, also known as Meryibre, whose reign was essentially peaceful but experienced problems in the Nile Delta. His successor, Kheti III, brought some degree of order to the Delta, although the power and influence of these Ninth Dynasty kings were still insignificant compared to that of the Old Kingdom kings.

A distinguished line of nomarchs rose out of Siut (or Asyut), which was a powerful and wealthy province in the south of the Heracleopolitan kingdom. These warrior princes maintained a close relationship with the kings of the Heracleopolitan royal household, as is evidenced by the inscriptions in their tombs. These inscriptions provide a glimpse at the political situation that was present during their reigns, and describe the Siut nomarchs digging canals, reducing taxation, reaping rich harvests, raising cattle herds, and maintaining an army and fleet. The Siut province acted as a buffer state between the northern and southern rulers and bore the brunt of the attacks from the Theban kings.

The Theban Kings

The Theban kings are believed to have been descendants of Intef or Inyotef, the nomarch of Thebes, often called the “Keeper of the Door of the South. ” He is credited with organizing Upper Egypt into an independent ruling body in the south, although he himself did not appear to have tried to claim the title of king. Intef II began the Theban assault on northern Egypt, and his successor, Intef III, completed the attack and moved into Middle Egypt against the Heracleopolitan kings. The first three kings of the Eleventh Dynasty (all named Intef) were, therefore, also the last three kings of the First Intermediate Period. They were succeeded by a line of kings who were all called Mentuhotep. Mentuhotep II, also known as Nebhepetra, would eventually defeat the Heracleopolitan kings around 2033 BCE, and unify the country to continue the Eleventh Dynasty and bring Egypt into the Middle Kingdom.

Mentuhotep II: Painted sandstone seated statue of Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II, Egyptian Museum, Cairo.


Religious Changes: Fifth Dynasty (2494-2345 BCE)

The Fifth Dynasty began with Userkaf (2494-2487 BCE), and with several religious changes. The cult of the sun god Ra, and temples built for him, began to grow in importance during the Fifth Dynasty. This lessened efforts to build pyramids. Funerary prayers on royal tombs (called Pyramid Texts) appeared, and the cult of the deity Osiris ascended in importance.

Egyptians began to build ships to trade across maritime routes. Goods included ebony, incense, gold, and copper. They traded with Lebanon for cedar, and perhaps with modern-day Somalia for other goods. Ships were held together by tightly tied ropes.


What changes took place in the transition from the Middle Kingdom to the New Kingdom? Military expansion continued but seemed like an empire after their geographically imposed isolation. surplus production, cities with specialized labor, a centralized government, social distinctions, shared values, and writing.

In the New Kingdom, Egyptian religion underwent a significant change (not only during the reign of Akhenaten). The growth of the cult of Amun brought with it a new age of state-sponsored religion, and the temple of Amun at Karnak in particular saw a huge growth.


Patriarchal period: proposed correlations

Two clues arise in regard to the patriarchal period: one specific regarding Abraham the other general in regard to the period as a whole.

    We begin with Abraham. He should be placed at Ur in Lower Mesopotamia, a major cultural centre for ancient Sumer, known in Scripture as &ldquothe land of Shin&lsquoar&rdquo. Some have tried to place him in Northern Mesopotamia, e.g. Cyrus Gordon, 19 but his reasons are not cogent. As to where to place Abraham in the chronological scheme above, given that his dating is approximately 1950 BC , he can plausibly be placed in the Third Dynasty of Ur, provided that the chronology can be reduced such that Ur III belongs in the period 2000 to 1900 BC . Such a placement would fit admirably, as this period was the last&mdashand greatest&mdashof Sumerian civilization, when its culture, social organization, and political power reached their zenith, and humanly speaking it would have been a hard place to leave. Only a man of faith in God, who sought &ldquoa city which has foundations&rdquo (Heb. 11:10) and &ldquoa better country&rdquo (Heb. 11:16) would have seen Ur as a sinking ship, as indeed it was, since it collapsed within Abraham&rsquos lifetime on the synchronism proposed here. Thereafter Sumerian civilization passed into history, while Ur became a virtual non-entity, reviving only briefly in the time of the late Neo-Babylonian Empire, c. 550 BC .

Furthermore, there is a consideration of the patriarchal period in more general terms, where a little-noticed passage in the book of Job gives some important evidence. The Book of Job, by general consent of conservative scholars, is the oldest book in the Old Testament canon. Bearing that in mind, we seem to have a reference to the pyramid tombs of kings and nobility in Job 3:14&ndash15. The text reads in NKJV:

The interesting phrase here is the latter half of v.14, in the Hebrew, habbōnīm h o rābōt lāmō, which is better translated, &ldquowho built tombs for themselves&rdquo. Hartley comments as follows:

Wikimedia Commons Figure 3. Inscribed brick of Ur-Nammu, founding king of the Third Dynasty of Ur.

If Hartley is correct in his analysis, and especially if the ḥrm / ḥ a rābōt equation is correct, then the Egyptian pyramids, with all their treasures for the afterlife (in their belief) are contemporary with Job. In the Old Kingdom the afterlife was indeed something for royalty and nobility, as the text here clearly implies, i.e. before the &lsquodemocratisation&rsquo of the afterlife in later periods. 21 Note also the participles in Job 3:14&ndash15: the kings are building tombs, and the nobles are filling their houses with silver. These constructions seem to indicate a practice contemporary with Job, not something in the distant past.

But what is the relation of Job to Israel? Many conservative scholars believe that the story of Job belongs approximately to patriarchal times, even if the composition comes later, as we find argued, for example, in Gibson&rsquos commentary. 22 He cites the lack of any reference to the Mosaic Law or the covenant with Israel then to the constant use of the general name for God,&rsquo e loah, in the speeches (although Shaddai, &ldquoAlmighty&rdquo occurs frequently), as opposed to Yahweh, which occurs only in the Prologue and Epilogue. 23 Archer echoes the same arguments, and believes further that both the historical Job and the book&rsquos composition belong to the pre-Mosaic age, either the patriarchal age or during the Egyptian sojourn. 24 If this reasoning is at all correct, then the pre-Mosaic or patriarchal age, the age of Job, is contemporary with the pyramids of at least the Late Old Kingdom.

If the above reasoning seems somewhat tenuous, it is simply following clues where they turn up, and to follow where they might lead, which is the task and procedure of the historian.

As to Abraham in Egypt (Gen. 12:10&ndash20), when he passed off his wife Sarai as his sister (partly true), it is not possible to say who that pharaoh was, and any attempt to identify him is speculation.


Watch the video: Ancient Egypt Explained: The Old Kingdom (May 2022).