Ancient Egypt: The Old Kingdom (3500?-2445 BC)

Figure 1.--This Ancient Egyptian statue, showing a child, comes from 6th Dynasty in the Old Kingdom (2345-2181 BC). It is unteresting because it is the oldest artistic representation of a child in this case a boy, that we have yet found. Unfortunately as the boy was depicted naked, it does not provide any clothing details, although we do see hair style. Children in the Old Kingdom commonly went naked, but we are not sure that accuracy was the reason for the anatomically accurate depiction. We are not sure what the purpose of this small statuette was. Nor do we lmow what the finger positioning means. Click on the image for a fuller discussion. Louvre Museum (Paris).

Egyptian history generally begins with the foundation of Dynasty I and the Old Kingdom, the unification of the Lower and Upper Kingdoms by Menes about 3,500 BC. Some Egyptolists believes Menes was also called Narker. Thus an important pices of evidence is the Narmer Palette. Also attributed to Menes is the foundation of Memphis and the introduction of the basin system of irrigation. Some time around the end of the Dynasty II, about 3,000 BC, the first mastaba, above the ground tombs, appear in Egypt. Some art at the time was heavily influenced by Mesopotamia with which there were extensive commercial relations. The greates era of the Old Kingdom was achieved during the reign of Zoser who founded the Thir Dynasty beginning about 2980 BC. Zoser's Dynasty III was the first Memphite Dynasty because his capital was located at Memphis. Zoser extended Egyptian control into the Suani and ptomoted art and science. His chief advisor, Imhotep, probably designed the Step Pyramid--the first important stone structure in history. This technological achievement culminated in Dynasty IV with the Great Pyramids at Giza. Zoser's successor was Snefru, Egypt's first important warrior king. He made Egypt the most prosperous center of the ancient world and conducted successful military expeditions against the Syrians to the north east and the Nubians to the south. Egyptian government by the time of Snefru had evolved into a theocracy in which pharoah was both absolute ruler and god. This centralized authority made possible the maintenace of the irrigation system as well as clossal building projects like the pyramids. The three Great Pyramids at Giza were built by the pharaohs following Snefru, Khufu, Khafre, and Menkure over a span of 150 years. Besides these impressive achievements in architecture, comparable achievements were also made in astronomy, industrial arts and scences, mathematics, navigation, painting, and sculpture. Our modern solar calendar of 365 days divuded into 12 months was developed during this period. Inperfections however are thecause of much confusion concerning Egytian chronology. Other achievenents were the sun dial, the water cloick, and mathematical fornula (suchb as computing the area of a circle). There were also graet advances in medicine, including a sophisticated undersyanding of physiology, surgery, and the circulatory. The Old Kingdom survived for centuries after Dynasty IV, but few important advances were made in learning and culture. The Egyptians around 2,625 BC during Dynasty V initiated the practice of inscribing religious texts on the inner walls of tombs, thus preserving some of their earliest writing. During Dynasty VI the authority of the Pharaoh Pepi was challenged by the nobility leading to an era of feudal strife. The internal bickering led to growing instability and a collapse of central authority. Partially as a result, little is known about the Dynasties VII and VIII.


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Created: 9:44 PM 7/14/2011
Last updated: 9:44 PM 7/14/2011