The history of ancient Egypt spans the period from the early prehistoric settlements of the northern Nile valley to the Roman conquest of Egypt in 30 BC. The pharaonic period, when a pharaoh ruled Egypt, is dated from the 32nd century BC when Upper and Lower Egypt were unified until the country fell under Macedonian rule in 332 BC.
Periods of Ancient Egyptian History
Egypt’s history is split into several different periods according to the ruling dynasty of each pharaoh. The conservative dates are not supported by any absolute reliable date for about three millennia. The dating of events is still a subject of research. The following is the list according to conventional Egyptian chronology:
- Prehistoric Egypt (before 3100 BC)
- Naqada III (“the proto-dynastic period”, approximately 3100–3000 BC; sometimes referred to as “Dynasty 0”)
- Early Dynastic Period (First–Second Dynasties)
- Old Kingdom (Third–Sixth Dynasties)
- First Intermediate Period (Seventh or Eighth–Eleventh Dynasties)
- Middle Kingdom (Twelfth–Thirteenth Dynasties)
- Second Intermediate Period (Fourteenth–Seventeenth Dynasties)
- New Kingdom (Eighteenth–Twentieth Dynasties)
- Third Intermediate Period (also known as the Libyan Period; Twenty-first–Twenty-fifth Dynasties)
- Late Period (Twenty-sixth–Thirty-first Dynasties)
- Ptolemaic Egypt (305–30 BC)
The Nile has been the lifeline for Egyptian culture since nomadic hunter-gatherers began living along it during the Pleistocene. Traces of these early people appear in the form of artefacts and rock carvings along the terraces of the Nile and the oases.
Along the Nile in the 12th millennium BC, an Upper Paleolithic grain-grinding culture using the earliest type of sickle blades had replaced the culture of hunting, fishing, and hunter-gatherers using stone tools. Evidence also indicates human habitation and cattle herding in the southwestern corner of Egypt near the Sudan border before the 8th millennium BC.
Despite this, the idea of an independent bovine domestication event in Africa must be abandoned because subsequent evidence gathered over thirty years has failed to corroborate this.
Archaeological evidence has attested that population settlements occurred in Nubia as early as the Late Pleistocene era and from the 5th millennium BC onwards. In contrast, there is “no or scanty evidence” of human presence in the Egyptian Nile Valley during these periods, which may be due to problems in site preservation.
The oldest-known domesticated cattle remains in Africa are from the Faiyum c. 4400 BC. Geological evidence and computer climate modelling studies suggest that natural climate changes around the 8th millennium BC began to desiccate the extensive pastoral lands of North Africa, eventually forming the Sahara by the 25th century BC.
Continued desiccation forced the early ancestors of the Egyptians to settle around the Nile more permanently and adopt a more sedentary lifestyle. However, the period from the 9th to the 6th millennium BC has left very little archaeological evidence.
The Predynastic Period
2. The Archaic Period
First Dynasty of ancient Egypt
The First Dynasty of ancient Egypt (Dynasty I) covers the first series of Egyptian kings to rule over a unified Egypt. It immediately follows the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt, possibly by Narmer, and marks the beginning of the Early Dynastic Period, a time at which power was centred at Thinis.
The date of this period is subject to scholarly debate about the Egyptian chronology. In a 2013 study based on radiocarbon dates, the beginning of the First Dynasty—the accession of Narmer (commonly known as Menes)—was placed at 3100 BC, give or take a century (3218–3035, with 95% confidence). It falls within the early Bronze Age and is estimated to have begun between the 34th and the 30th centuries BC.
Second Dynasty of ancient Egypt
The Second Dynasty of ancient Egypt (or Dynasty II, c. 2890 – c. 2686 BC) was the latter of the two dynasties of the Egyptian Archaic Period when the seat of government was centred at Thinis. It is most known for its last ruler, Khasekhemwy, but is otherwise one of the most obscure periods in Egyptian history.
3. The Old Kingdom of Ancient Egyptian History
Third Dynasty of Ancient Egypt
The Third Dynasty of ancient Egypt (III Dynasty) is the first dynasty of the Old Kingdom Period. The Third Dynasty of ancient Egypt (c. 2670-2613 BCE) begins with king Djoser, famous for his Step Pyramid at Saqqara. The capital during the period of the Old Kingdom was Memphis.