The Old Kingdom of Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egyptian history holds a certain fascination for people both young and old. All periods are important and provide a lot of historical data; however, the Old Kingdom timeline stands out. Though this period is not considered to be at the height of Egyptian power, events that happened during this time was a foreshadowing of what was to yet to come for this great civilization. It is this time sequence filled with pharaohs (kings), exciting explorations, awe-inspiring pyramids, and mystifying gods that have provided the world an enchantment, and why most likely, billions are drawn to this ancient historical period.

There are 35 rulers in the 505 years of the Old Kingdom and it begins in the year 2686 B.C., with the Third Dynasty marking the beginning. The Old Kingdom ends with the Sixth Dynasty; whereby, the First Intermediate Period then begins. There are some Egyptologists, however, that include both the Seventh and Eighth Dynasties within this period.


In addition, there is some difference in the various lists that provide details as to the kings that ruled within this time period. For instance, the Abydos King’s list and the Turin King’s list both give the names of five pharaohs ruling; although, the King’s named are different in some respect. The Saqqara Tablet indicates that only four pharaohs ruled during this time. Could this have been simply a mistake or maybe the intent of a pharaoh to erase the name of another pharaoh? Not sure.

The Abydos list indicates that the five pharaohs were Nebka, Djoser, Teti, Sedjes, and Neferkare. In the Turin’s list, it indicates that first it was Nebka, Djoser, Djoserti, Hudjefa I, and then Huni. In the Saqqara Tables, the names provided are Djoser, Djoserti, Nebkare, and Huni. Although there are discrepancies, at least it gives us some insight as to some of the kings that ruled during this time frame.

The Old Kingdom period did include prosperity, but was then followed by a period where the populace wasn’t so united; thereby, causing cultural decline. During the Old Kingdom, the King was considered a living God. It wasn’t until the New Kingdom that the word “pharoah” was coined and began to be used frequently.

During the begining of the Third Dynasty and under Djoser’s rule, Memphis became the capital. His architect at that time, Imhotep, began to build what is now known as the Step Pyramid. This time period in history is seen as one where many pyramids were constructed. This is why it’s also called “The Age of the Pyramids.”

Fourth Dynasty and under Sneferu’s rule, more stone began to be used. He is credited with having three major pyramids built; the Bent Pyramid, the Red Pyramid, and the Meidum. Under his rule, many expeditions (military in nature) were conducted.

In the Fifth Dynasty, Pharaohs Usrkaf, Sahure, Shepsekare, Niuserre, Menkauhor, Djedkare and Unas ruled. With this dynasty came a high significance to the God Ra and this cult. There was much increase in trade such as gold, copper, ebony, frankincense, and myrrh. As a result, the ship industry became more prominent. Ships were built to withstand the open sea and the trading industry became more global.

Within the Sixth Dynasty, Teti, Pepi I, Merenre I, Pepi II, and Merenre II proved to be strong explorers of this time. Less is known about this time period and many scholars remain divided on the names of the rulers. It is believed, however, that the rule power of the kings during this time became weak. This is because many of the powerful nomarchs were coming more into power due to hereditary influences. Fortunately, many of the pyramids were built in an earlier, more documented time period.

In all, there are 15 pyramids built within the Old Kingdom – a few built within each dynasty. Construction of the pyramids began with the reign of Djoser and continued through this timeframe in history. His Step Pyramid laid the foundation for all the others that followed. Seneferu is the only pharaoh known to have built in the Fourth Dynasty.

One remarkable event is the invention of the solar calendar in the year 2500 B.C., during the reign of Djedkaras. In the same year, his Minister wrote “The Precepts of Ptahhotep”. Today this work is known as one of the world’s oldest literary works. In this peaceful time, came the creation of a strong navy that explored such countries as Phoenicia and Somalia. No doubt they learned of other religions through their travels as they were building their own.

The nine gods of the Great Ennead formed are the heart of Egypt. Ra (the sun god), Tefnut (the goddess of moisture), Nut (the sky goddess), Geb (the god of the earth), Osiris (ruler of the underworld), and Isis and Nephthys (the protectors of the dead). Seth, the last of the nine, is the god of darkness and confusion.

With history so full of rich culture and incredible architecture, it is no wonder so many people love Egyptian history. Of the thirty-five pharaohs in the Old Kingdom, a few left their mark, especially the pharaohs that built the famed pyramids at Giza.

In summary, this was a very important time in Egyptian history, With this era, remarkable feats were accomplished such as the establishment of a powerful navy, the many monuments that are seen still today, and the many gods that played a vital part in the strength and survival of this culture. An interesting time to have lived.