From the 1st dynasty 3I00 2890 BC to the 8th dynasty 2181- 2125 BC Egyptian dating is expressed by ruling families - dynasties.
The historian Manetho (270 BC) wrote a history of Egypt giving the number of dynasties, the number of kings, their names and the length of each reign.
Before the first dynasty Egypt was in fact two lands. The unifier of these lands, in folk tales, was a fellow called Menes and known as the first mortal king of Egypt. The Greek historian Herodotus, records that this king founded the capital, Memphis, by damming the Nile to reclaim land for the city.
During this time papyrus was invented and as a consequence writing was used as an administrative tool of government. This created the conditions for prosperity, which can be seen in the magnificent artefacts that have been found from this period.
1st dynasty 3I00 2890 BC
The fourth pharaoh, Peribsen, took the title of Seth instead of Horus and the last ruler of the dynasty, Khasekhemwy, took both titles. A Horus/Seth name meaning "arising in respect of the two powers," and "the two lords are at peace in him." Towards the end of this dynasty, however, there seems to have been more disorder and possibly civil war.
2nd dynasty 2890-2686 BC
This period is one of the landmarks of Human history. A prosperous age and the appearance of the worlds first great monumental building - the Pyramid. The artistic masterpieces in the tombs of the nobles show the martial wealth of this time
3rd dynasty 2686 2613 BC
|First king of third Dynasty, reigned for 18 years.Foundation of dynasty through marriage to female heir of 2nd dynasty. Thought to be brother of Djoser. Began exploitation of mineral wealth of Sinai peninsula. Relief shows king about to smite a foe.||Second king of 3rd Dynasty, reigned for 19 years. Famous for the Step Pyramid of Saqqara designed by his Visier Imhotep. ||Third king of third Dynasty. Reigned for only 6 years.||Fourth king of third Dynasty.Built his layer pyramid at Zawiyet el-Aryan, a mile south of Giza but it was never used.||Fifth and last king of third Dynasty. He built the first pyramid to have a square groundplan at Meydum 50 miles south of Cairo.|
Egypt was able to accomplish the ambitious feat of the Giza Pyramids because there had been a long period of peace and no threats of invasion. So their energies were spent in cultivating art to it’s highest forms. The fourth dynasty came from Memphis and the fifth from the south in Elephantine. The transition from one ruling family to another appears to have been peaceful.
4th dynasty 2613 2494 BC
|First king of 4th Dynasty was son of Huni by a minor wife and married king Huni's daughter. He reigned for about 24 years. He travelled to Lebanon for Cedar wood and to Sinai for turquoise. He built 2 pyramids at Dahshur, called the bent and the blunt pyramids and also completed a third for his predecessor.||Second king of the 4th Dynasty. He reigned for about 23 or 24 years and initiated military expeditions to the Sinai peninsula. His greatest achievement was the great pyramid on the Giza plateau, originally 481 ft high and covered with shining white limestone.||Third king of the 4th Dynasty, son of Khufu reigned for only 8 years. He was the first king to call himself "son of Re" but little is known about him. Very little remains of his pyramid.||Fourth king of 4th Dynasty, another of Khufu's sons. Reigned for 66 years. The country was prosperous under his reign. Built his pyramid on higher ground than Khufu giving the illusion that it was larger. The great sphynx is also part of his funerary complex.||Fifth king ruled for 28 years. Built his pyramid at the south end of the Giza plateau, less than half the height of Khufu's. He was married to one of Khufu's daughters, Khamerernebty II who was buried in the largest of the 3 smaller pyramids where her granite sarcophagous still lies.||Menkaure's eldest son predeceased him and Shepseskaf was a son of a lesser wife. Sixth king of 4th Dynasty reigned for only four years. He was burried at Saqqara in a tomb known as the Mastaba el-Faraoun (Pharaoh's Bench)|
The first two kings of the fifth dynasty, were sons of a lady, Khentkaues, who was a member of the fourth dynasty royal family. There was an institutionalisation of officialdom and high officials for the first time came from outside the royal family.
The pyramids are smaller and less solidly constructed than those of the fourth dynasty, but the carvings from the mortuary temples are well preserved and of the highest quality.
There are surviving papyri from this period which demonstrate well developed methods of accounting and record keeping. They document the redistribution of goods between the royal residence, the temples, and officials.
5th dynasty 2494 2345 BC
- Neferirkara Kakai
- Shepseskara Isi
- Menkauhor Akauhor
- Djedkara Isesi
|Grandson of Djedefre, married daughter of Menkaure. Moved burial grounds back to Saqqara, built his own pyramid near that of Djoser.Gave supreme importance to the "sun cult" and built sun-temples at Abu-Gurob a remote spot in the desert.||Built a mortuary temple using red granite containing bold hieroglyphs. Reliefs in his mortuary complex show ships, thought to be trading with Byblos in the Lebanon.||Brought in the use of a second cartouche, which most subsequent kings followed. The earliest forms of hieratic script written on papyrus were found in his mortuary temple.||Due to an unfinished pyramid and very few objects identifying him, it is thought that his reign was cut short and only lasted a few months. According to Manetho and the Turin King's list he ruled for 7 years.||Again it is not clear how long he ruled. His pyramid is unfinished suggesting a short rule but Manetho's writings say 20 years.Neferefre was the son of king Neferirkare Kakai by queen Khentkaus II, and the elder brother of pharaoh Nyuserre Ini.|
|Niuserre was the younger son of pharaoh Neferirkare Kakai by Queen Khentkaus II, and the brother of the short-lived king Neferefre. He is thought to have reigned for 30 years. His burial place is a pyramid at Abusir located between those of pharaohs Sahure and Neferirkare Kakai.||The Turin King List assigns him 8 years of rule. He was the last pharaoh to build a sun temple but his pyramid has never been found. A relief shows him being worshipped as Pharaoh.It is likely that he was either the brother or son of his predecessor Niuserre.It is also likely that he was the father of Djedkare,||He was thought to have a long reign of 40 years. His almost complete mummy, along with a badly broken basalt sarcophagus and a niche for the canopic chest, was discovered in his damaged pyramid tomb at Saqqara. He did not build a sun temple This is believed to be a sign that Osiris had now replaced the sun-god Ra as the most popular god.||First pyramid to be decorated with texts - "pyramid texts" and carved reliefs showing daily life. Unas had no heir and there was a short period of political instability after his death.|
There are many inscriptions from the sixth dynasty. These include records of trading expeditions to the south from the reigns of Pepi I. One of the most interesting is a letter written by Pepi II.
The pyramid of Pepi II at southern Saqqara is the last major monument of the Old Kingdom. None of the names of kings of the short-lived seventh dynasty are known and the eighth dynasty shows signs of and political decay.
6th dynasty 2345 2181 BC
- Pepy I
- Pepy II
|6th Dynasty kings were thought to come from Memphis. Began the dynasty by marrying one of Unas' daughters to legitimise his rule. Reigned for about 12 years, thought to have been murdered.He was buried in the royal necropolis at Saqqara. His pyramid complex is associated with the mastabas of officials from his reign.||Son of Teti, came to throne young and reigned for 50 years. The country prospered through trade during his reign. He was probably the son of Teti and his queen, Iput I.||First son of Pepi I, reigned for only 5 years.It is believed that during his reign, Merenre continued his his fathers policies in northern (lower) Nubia, and sent officials to maintain Egyptian rule as far south as the third cataract.||Came to power at only 6 years of age. Ruled for 94 (could be 64) years. His mother was Ankhnesmerire II, the sister of his older brother, Merenre and probably acted as Pepi II's regent during his youth. PepiII maintained foreign relations with Byblos and developed new ones with southern Africa. Nobles became very rich during his reign but this accelerated political collapse and at his death the government fell.|