Egyptian Timeline:

Old Kingdom (2700 B.C.2184 B.C.)


Prehistoric and Predynastic Periods First Intermediate Period The Middle Kingdom Second Intermediate Period New Kingdom Third Intermediate Period Late Period Graeco-Roman Period Byzantine Period Early Dynastic Period Old Kingdom
The Old Kingdom (Dynasties 3 to 6) was a period of great prosperity and innovation whose most memorable feature was surely the pyramid. In addition to flat-topped mastaba tombs (now used for the burials of nobility) [16902], massive stone pyramid complexes were constructed at sites from Abu Rawwash to Maydum and used as burial-places for the king and royal family members [18046]. At Jizah, three of the largest pyramids were constructed (for Khufu, Khafra, and Menkaura) and a great sphinx, representing the king (Khufu) as Ra-Horakhty, was carved in nearby bedrock [17409]. Adjacent to the pyramids were mortuary temples. Surrounding them lay vast cemeteries of mastabas and rock-cut tombs for minor family members, courtiers, officials, and priests. 16902 18046 17409
Not until Dynasty 5 were the hitherto undecorated pyramid chambers carved with elaborate Pyramid Texts. These were religious and magical utterances intended to facilitate the king's journey to the Netherworld, the journey of the sun through the heavens, and the safeguarding of the royal body [17408]. Unlike royal tombs, the tombs of noblemen had been decorated since the Early Dynastic with elaborately carved and painted scenes of daily life [17407]. 17408 17407
Egyptologists have suggested that the Old Kingdom ended painfully, at the end of Dynasty 6, with the economic, political, and cultural collapse of the country. They have attributed the resulting depression to climate change, low Niles, political jealousies, a decline in foreign trade, and the inordinately long (96 years) and increasingly weak reign of Pepy II. Most now believe that the changes ushering in the First Intermediate Period were neither as rapid nor as dramatic as earlier historians have suggested.
Published or last modified on: August 23, 2002
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