Egypt and the Nile

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Egypt and the Nile1

2Early Dynastic Period c.a. 3100-2700 B.C.The Old Kingdom c.a. 2700-2200 B.C. First Intermediate Period c.a. 2200-2050 B.C. The Middle Kingdom c.a. 2050-1652 B.C. Second Intermediate Period c.a. 1652-1567 B.C. The New Kingdom c.a. 1567-1085 B.C. Post-empire c.a. 1985-30 B.C. Historian have divided Egyptian history into three major periods: the Old Kingdom, the Middle Kingdom and the New Kingdom. These were long periods of stability characterized by strong monarchical authority, competent bureaucracy, freedom from invasion, much construction of pyramids and temples, and considerable intellectual and cultural development and activity. These major periods were punctuated by ages of political chaos known as the Intermediate Periods, which were characterized by weak political structures and rivalry for leadership, invasions, a decline in building activity, and a restructuring of society.


A mural of Narmer or Menes conquering Lower Egypt (c.a. 3100 B.C.)


The new pharaoh established their capital at the strategic site of Memphis, just south of the delta, and over the next several centuries consolidated their rule. Probably no other dynasty in history has been so successful in creating an effective yet apparently timeless form of government. For thousands of years Egyptian pharaohs were able to convey to their subjects a sense of permanence and eternity while constantly adjusting the system to meet new needs.


For administrative purposes, Egypt was divided up into provinces, or nomes. A governor, or nomarch, was at the head of each nome and was responsible to the pharaoh. These governors tended to amass large holding of land and power within their nomes, creating a potential rivalry with the pharaohs. Of special importance to the administration of the state was a vast bureaucracy of scribes who kept records of everything. Armed with the knowledge of writing and reading, they were highly regarded and considered themselves a superior class of men. Their high standard of living reflected their exalted status.

Seated Scribe, from Saqqara. c.a. 2400 BC.


Professor Fekri Hassan examining ancient hieroglyphs which tell of appalling suffering. A third of the population died and the most ordered of empires was brought to chaos.

Relief showing men, women, and children suffering from the effects of severe famine

The End of the Old Kingdom7

The first pyramid built was the graded one of Zoser, which exists even today, in Sakkarah, the necropolis of Memphis. Built in the year 2650 BC by the architect Imhotep, initially it was supposed to be a mastaba but later floors were added until they reached six. It is the oldest monumental work in stone known to man that exists. Its exterior walls, of white limestone, measures 545 metres from North to South and 227 metres from East to West. The wall has 14 doors, 13 of them false. Its height is 66 metres. In its interior, lies the sepulchral chamber of the Pharaoh Sneferu with cladding of pink granite and sealed with a block of stone of three tons weight.


The Middle Kingdom (2050-1653 B.C.) was characterized by a new concern of the pharaohs for the people. In the Old Kingdom, the pharaoh had been viewed as an inaccessible god-king. Now he was portrayed as the shepherd of his people. PHARAOHS CROWNED WITH SHEPHERDS CROOK AND FLAIL


The Hyksos were the source of the new horse-drawn war-chariots introduced to Egypt in the second half of the Hyksos rule. This invention, never seen before in Egypt, was instrumental in the continued power of the Hyksos in this region. The Hyksos utilized superior bronze weapons, chariots, and composite bows to help them take control of Egypt, and by about 1720 BC they had grown strong enough, at the expense of the Middle Kingdom kings, to gain control of Avaris in the north eastern Delta. This site eventually became the capital of the Hyksos kings, yet within 50 years they had also managed to take control of the important Egyptian city of Memphis.


Ahmose and his army driving out the Hyksos. Starting in 1567 B.C., the pharaoh Ahmose I eventually managed to defeat and expel the Hyksos from Egypt, reuniting Egypt and establishing the New Kingdom (c. 1567-1085 B.C.). The New Kingdom was characterized by a new militaristic and imperialistic path. A more professional army was developed. 11

Egyptian sculptors at work on various statues. Drawing after a painting in the tomb of Rekhmire, c.a. 1475 BC.


Amenhotep IV (c. 1362-1347 B.C.) introduced the worship of Aton, god of the sun disk, as the chief god and pursued his worship with enthusiasm. Changing his own name to Akhenaten (It is well with Aton), the pharaoh closed the temples of other gods and especially endeavored to lessen the power of Amon-Re and his priesthood at Thebes.


Invasion of the Sea Peoples around 1200 B.C.

Egyptian Drawings of Two Different Tribes of Sea People The days of Egyptian empire were ended, and the New Kingdom expired with the end of the twentieth dynasty in 1085 B.C. For the next thousand years, despite periodic revivals of strength, Egypt was dominated by Libyans, Nubians, Persians, and Macedonians.