An introduction to the history and culture of Pharaonic Egypt Table of contents Instead of an introduction: On the whole I prefer the plodding examination of facts however few and poorly understood to the flights of fancy of some of the alternative historians. For many occurrences there is very little evidence, but whole edifices of connections, interrelations, influences and causes have been constructed by serious, well meaning experts often on the flimsiest of grounds. One would like to think that physical remains should leave little to doubt.
Greywacke statue of the pharaoh Menkaure and his queen consortKhamerernebty II. The royal capital of Egypt during this period was located at Memphiswhere Djoser — BCE established his court.
The Old Kingdom is perhaps best known, however, for the large number of pyramidswhich were constructed at this time as pharaonic burial places. For this reason, this epoch is frequently referred to as "the Age of the Pyramids. It was in this era that formerly independent states became nomes districts ruled solely by the pharaoh.
Former local rulers were forced to assume the role of nomarch governor or work as tax collectors. Egyptians in this era worshiped the pharaoh as a god, believing that he ensured the annual flooding of the Nile that was necessary for their crops.
The Old Kingdom and its royal power reached their zenith under the Fourth Dynasty. Sneferuthe dynasty's founder, is believed to have commissioned at least three pyramids; while his son and successor Khufu Greek Cheops erected the Great Pyramid of GizaSneferu had more stone and brick moved than any other pharaoh.
Khufu, his son Khafra Greek Chephrenand his grandson Menkaure Greek Mycerinus all achieved lasting fame in the construction of the Giza pyramid complex.
To organize and feed the manpower needed to create these pyramids required a centralized government with extensive powers, and Egyptologists believe the Old Kingdom at this time demonstrated this level of sophistication.
Recent excavations near the pyramids led by Mark Lehner have uncovered a large city that seems to have housed, fed and supplied the pyramid workers.
They apparently worked while the annual flood covered their fields, as well as a very large crew of specialists, including stonecutters, painters, mathematicians and priests.
The Fifth Dynasty began with Userkaf c. Consequently, less efforts were devoted to the construction of pyramid complexes than during the Fourth Dynasty and more to the construction of sun temples in Abusir. The decoration of pyramid complexes grew more elaborate during the dynasty and its last king, Unaswas the first to have the Pyramid Texts inscribed in his pyramid.
Egypt's expanding interests in trade goods such as ebonyincense such as myrrh and frankincensegold, copper and other useful metals compelled the ancient Egyptians to navigate the open seas. Evidence from the pyramid of Sahuresecond king of the dynasty, shows that a regular trade existed with the Syrian coast to procure cedar wood.
Pharaohs also launched expeditions to the famed Land of Puntpossibly the Horn of Africafor ebony, ivory and aromatic resins. During the Sixth Dynasty — BCEthe power of pharaohs gradually weakened in favor of powerful nomarchs.
These no longer belonged to the royal family and their charge became hereditary, thus creating local dynasties largely independent from the central authority of the pharaoh.
His death, certainly well past that of his intended heirs, might have created succession struggles and the country slipped into civil wars mere decades after the close of Pepi II's reign. The final blow came when the 4. First Intermediate Period[ edit ] Main article: After the fall of the Old Kingdom came a roughly year stretch of time known as the First Intermediate Period, which is generally thought to include a relatively obscure set of pharaohs running from the end of the Sixth to the Tenth and most of the Eleventh Dynasties.
Most of these were likely local monarchs who did not hold much power outside of their nome. There are a number of texts known as "Lamentations" from the early period of the subsequent Middle Kingdom that may shed some light on what happened during this period.
Some of these texts reflect on the breakdown of rule, others allude to invasion by "Asiatic bowmen". In general the stories focus on a society where the natural order of things in both society and nature was overthrown.
It is also highly likely that it was during this period that all of the pyramid and tomb complexes were looted. Further lamentation texts allude to this fact, and by the beginning of the Middle Kingdom mummies are found decorated with magical spells that were once exclusive to the pyramid of the kings of the Sixth Dynasty.
A rival line, the Eleventh Dynasty based at Thebesreunited Upper Egyptand a clash between the rival dynasties was inevitable. The period comprises two phases, the Eleventh Dynasty, which ruled from Thebes, and then the Twelfth Dynastywhose capital was Lisht.
These two dynasties were originally considered the full extent of this unified kingdom, but some historians now  consider the first part of the Thirteenth Dynasty to belong to the Middle Kingdom.
The earliest pharaohs of the Middle Kingdom traced their origin to two nomarchs of Thebes, Intef the Elderwho served a Heracleopolitan pharaoh of the Tenth Dynasty, and his successor, Mentuhotep I.
The successor of the latter, Intef Iwas the first Theban nomarch to claim a Horus name and thus the throne of Egypt. He is considered the first pharaoh of the Eleventh Dynasty. His claims brought the Thebans into conflict with the rulers of the Tenth Dynasty.
Intef I and his brother Intef II undertook several campaigns northwards and finally captured the important nome of Abydos. Warfare continued intermittently between the Thebean and Heracleapolitan dynasties until the 39th regnal year of Mentuhotep II, second successor of Intef II.
At this point, the Herakleopolitans were defeated and the Theban dynasty consolidated their rule over Egypt. Mentuhotep II is known to have commanded military campaigns south into Nubia, which had gained its independence during the First Intermediate Period.
There is also evidence for military actions against the Southern Levant. The king reorganized the country and placed a vizier at the head of civil administration for the country.Writing.
The ancient Egyptians believed that it was important to record and communicate information about religion and government.
Thus, they invented written scripts that could be used to record this information. Ancient Egypt’s history is so long that it would be difficult to do it justice in a summary.
Throughout most of its long history it was a monarchy, the title pharaoh means literally “great house”. It is the second oldest known civilization, after the Sumerian one of Mesopotamia. Much of Egypt's ancient history was a mystery until the secrets of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs were deciphered with the discovery and help of the Rosetta Stone.
Among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Great Pyramid of Giza is the only one still standing.
"Ancient Egyptian was a living oral language and most hieroglyphs represent the sounds of consonants and certain emphatically expressed vowels," wrote Barry Kemp, a professor at the University of. Ancient Egypt was an early example of a massive civilization spanning thousands of years.
Sal explains this history in an overview.
Thebes: Thebes, one of the famed cities of antiquity, the capital of the ancient Egyptian empire at its heyday. It covered an area of some 36 square miles (93 square km). The main part of the city was situated along the Nile’s east bank.
Along the west bank was the necropolis, or “city of the dead,” an area containing the royal tombs and mortuary .