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Highlights of Ancient Egypt: Old Kingdom
Posted In: Ancient Civilizations  2/6/12
By: Yona Williams

Egypt is one of the oldest civilizations in the world – becoming an established culture around 3000 BC or about 5,000 years ago. The civilization was prominent until 332 BC when the ancient inhabitants were conquered by Alexander the Great. In this article, you will learn more about the notable events and people associated with ancient Egypt.

The history of ancient Egypt is marked by the 30 dynasties that ruled the civilization. The majority of the dynasties fell into one of three kingdoms. The Old Kingdom thrived during the third millennium BC. The Middle Kingdom took place during the early second millennium BC. The New Kingdom was acknowledged during the middle of the second millennium BC. Each of the kingdoms was followed by intermediate periods marked by weakened government or obstacles set by other countries.

In 3110 BC, Menes founded the First Dynasty after he successfully united the kingdoms of Upper and Lower Egypt, which were rivals at the time. The lands were under his rule and established the capital at Memphis as a result. The government was described as being centralized. Kings of this Kingdom period were seen as possessing supernatural powers – whatever he said was an absolute and no one could go against his will. After the death of a pharaoh, it was thought that he would play a role in the connection between humans and gods. Because of this belief, preparation for the pharaoh in the afterlife was highly regarded. This is why the ancient Egyptians constructed great burial sites for their pharaohs.

The Old Kingdom lasted from about 2686 to 2160 BC – starting with the 3rd Dynasty and ending with the 8th (or in some cases, the 6th). The following timelines are seen as representing the Dynasties of the Old Kingdom: 3rd (2686 to 2613 BC), 4th (2613 to 2494 BC), 5th (2494 to 2345 BC), 6th (2345 to 2181 BC), and the 7th and 8th Dynasties (2181 to 2160 BC). During the Old Kingdom, the people were prosperous in commerce and they dived head first into the arts.

During the Early Dynastic Period and Old Kingdom Egypt, the pharaoh resided at White Wall (also called Ineb-hedj). It was located on the west bank of the Nile – south of Cairo. Later on, this capital city was named Memphis. After the 8th Dynasty, the pharaohs no longer called Memphis their home.

One of the biggest achievements for the Egyptians was the Great Pyramids of Giza, which included the Great Sphinx. The bulk of the building of the pyramids took place during the Fourth Dynasty (around 2500 BC). During the Third Dynasty, Djoser's Step Pyramid at Saqqara emerged – it was the first large stone building in the world to be finished. A high priest of Heliopolis named Imhotep was the architect for Djoser's 6-step pyramid. Inside, the body of Djoser was buried, placed below ground level. Other buildings and shrines were built during this time.

However, over time, the authority of the royals gradually weakened and the power of viziers and local administrators gained more clout.


 

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