II. Ancient and Classical Periods, 3500 B.C.E.–500 C.E. > B. Kingdoms of Western Asia and Africa, to 323 B.C.E. > 3. Egypt, c. 3500–332 B.C.E. > c. The Old Kingdom and the First Intermediate Period (1st–11th Dynasties)
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
c. The Old Kingdom and the First Intermediate Period (1st–11th Dynasties)
c. 3500–3100
THE GERZEAN CULTURE. Gerzean sites are found in both Lower and Upper Egypt (See Egypt and Sub-Saharan Africa). Both copper and pottery were in common use, and tomb wall paintings appear for the first time. Irrigation-based agriculture was introduced, and this is reflected in a dramatic growth in population: from approximately 200,000 at the beginning of the period to over a million at its end. Egyptian art, architecture, and hieroglyphic writing developed in their earliest forms. These advances were influenced, to some extent, by contacts with the Sumerian culture—the Mesopotamian Stimulation (See c. 3100–2900). At the beginning of the period, the various nomes were probably independent states, but by the end there were two kingdoms: Lower Egypt with a capital at Pe in the northwest Delta and Upper Egypt ruled either from Nekhen (Hierakonpolis) or This (near Abydos). At some point, King Scorpion of Upper Egypt conquered part of the Delta region.  1
c. 3100–2686
c. 3100–2890
1st Dynasty. Menes, whose Horus name was Narmer, was the king of Upper Egypt who conquered Lower Egypt, united the two lands and built the city of Memphis, near the border, as his capital. A palace bureaucracy developed, and artists and craftsmen were employed by the royal court. Other 1st Dynasty kings were Djer, Djet, Den, Aha (who invaded Nubia), and a queen, Merneith.  3
c. 2890–2686
2nd Dynasty. Virtually nothing is known of this dynasty except the names of its kings, and it is unclear what divided it from the previous dynasty. Hetep was the first king of the 2nd Dynasty, and Khasekhemwy was the last. The latter was the first king to have a stone burial chamber in his tomb.  4
c. 2686–2181
c. 2686–2613
3rd Dynasty. What divided the 2nd and 3rd Dynasties is also unclear—the 3rd Dynasty's first king Nebka may have been related to the previous rulers. Inscriptions of Nebka have been found at Byblos in Phoenicia, indicating overseas trade (See Geography). The most famous king of this dynasty was Djoser, who built the famous Step Pyramid at Saqqara. The architect of this edifice was Imhotep, who was later worshipped as a god. The kings of the 3rd Dynasty campaigned in the Sinai, defeating the nomadic chieftains who ruled there.  6
c. 2613–2494
4th Dynasty. Snefru fought successful wars against the Nubians and Libyans, further developed the sea trade in cedar with Byblos, and began the serious exploitation of turquoise from the Sinai. His successor, Khufru (Cheops) is best known for building the Great Pyramid at Giza. Originally 481.4 ft. high, it covered an area of about 13 acres and contained 2,300,000 blocks of stone, each weighing an average of 2.5 tons. Khafre (Chephren) built the second pyramid at Giza (473.5 ft. high), as well as the enormous human-headed lion, the Sphinx, called Herakhte (“Horus of the Horizon”) by the Egyptians. Menkaure (Mycerinus) built the third pyramid of Giza (219.5 ft. high). In the 3rd and 4th Dynasties the idea of divine kingship developed, as did the classical Egyptian canons of art and architecture. There were remarkable advances in mathematics and medicine, the latter including diagnostic techniques and systematic treatment. In the Old Kingdom the population of Egypt was between 1.5 and 2 million.  7
c. 2494–2345
5th Dynasty. The 5th Dynasty witnessed the rise of the Heliopolitan priesthood of Ra: its nine kings regularly assumed the title “son of Ra” and built obelisk temples dedicated to the sun god. Sahurre defeated the Libyans and organized trading expeditions to Punt (Somalia) and the “Turquoise Land” in the Sinai. Under Unas, the last king of the dynasty, the first Pyramid Texts appear, although they contain much earlier material, some dating from predynastic times.  8
c. 2345–2181
6th Dynasty. Uni, a general of Pepy I, campaigned in Palestine, perhaps as far north as Mount Carmel (See c. 3100–2000), and Merenre I took the homage of Nubian chiefs south of the First Cataract. Especially after the reign of Pepy II, the rulers of the nomes assumed more independence and often ruled as feudal lords. The eighth and last ruler of the dynasty was Queen Nitokerti (Nitocris), the sister and widow of Merenre II.  9
c. 2181–2133
THE FIRST INTERMEDIATE PERIOD. According to Manetho, the 7th Dynasty (c. 2181–2173) had 70 kings in 70 days, obviously a fiction but representative of the unstable conditions of the First Intermediate Period. For much of this period there was strife between nobles of Heracleopolis (Nennesu) in Lower Egypt and Thebes (Waset) in Upper Egypt. The 8th Dynasty (c. 2173–2160), comprised of six kings, still ruled from Memphis. In the 9th Dynasty (c. 2160–2130), the capital moved to Heracleopolis, althoughthe kings were still buried at Memphis. Toward the end of the 9th Dynasty, the country was divided in two, the 10th Dynasty (c. 2130–2040) ruling in Heracleopolis and the 11th Dynasty (c. 2133–1191) in Thebes. Central authority was weak, banditry became common, and commerce with overseas interrupted. Despite the civil unrest, literature flourished: notable are the Admonitions of Ipuwer, and the Instructions for King Merikare. The idea of a life after death began to include persons other than the royal family.  10
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.