DW | Ancient Egypt
1.3 - The Egyptian Historical Timeline
Because Egyptian history lasted so long, Egyptologists divide the historical timeline into nine periods:
(1) Predynastic Period (ca. 3100-2686 BC)
(2) Old Kingdom (ca. 2686-2181 BC)
(3) First Intermediate Period (ca. 2181-2055 BC)
(4) Middle Kingdom (ca. 2055-1650 BC)
(5) Second Intermediate Period (ca. 1650-1550 BC)
(6) New Kingdom (ca. 1550-1077 BC)
(7) Third Intermediate Period (ca. 1077-712 BC)
(8) Late Period (ca. 712-332 BC)
(9) Hellenistic Period (ca. 332-30 BC)
The Ancient Timeline
The Predynastic Period (ca. 3100-2686 BC) marks the emergence of unified political entities in Egypt and the development of hieroglyphic writing. The Predynastic Period of Ancient Egypt is crucial for understanding the cultural, social, and technological developments that paved the way for the rise of dynastic Egypt and its eventual flourishing as one of the most remarkable civilizations in history.
The Old Kingdom (ca. 2686-2181 BC) saw the beginnings of nationhood for Egypt. This period was the rise of the Great Pyramids and established rules for Egyptian art that would last for over 3,000 years. The Old Kingdom is known for reigns of Pharaohs like Djoser and Khufu (builder of the Great Pyramid of Giza). The capital was Memphis, and strong central authority was established.
The First Intermediate Period (ca. 2181-2055 BC) was characterized by political disunity and regional conflicts that led to a decline in centralized power. Chaos erupted and political rule was fragmented.
The Middle Kingdom (ca. 2055-1650 BC) was a period of stabilizing after the Old Kingdom collapsed, and saw a nation fighting to regain its greatness. The Middle Kingdom saw a reunification of Egypt under the 11th Dynasty. Pharaohs focused on public works, trade, and expanding Egypt's influence in Nubia. Pyramids were still built, but not to the same quality as those built during the Old Kingdom. Being built of mud-brick instead of stone, they would not last as long. During this time, the power of the priests of Amun began to overshadow the kings, and the country was eventually split again.
The Second Intermediate Period (ca. 1650-1550 BC) witnessed the invasion and control of Egypt by foreign rulers known as the Hyksos.
Through the rise of the New Kingdom (ca. 1550-1077 BC), Egypt developed a golden age of prosperity and expansion. The greatest pharaohs the country ruled during a time of incredible building projects and beautiful artistic craftsmanship. The pharaohs of the New Kingdom, like Hatshepsut, Thutmose III, and Ramesses II ceased building pyramids and focused on tombs in the famous Valley of the Kings. Through the power of their great army, the pharaohs exerted their authority over lands in the Levant and south into Nubia.
During the Third Intermediate Period (ca. 1077-712 BC), Political instability and decentralized power again fragmented the empire and various dynasties began ruling different regions of Egypt. This weakened the country and set the stage for outside influence.
During Late Period (ca. 712-332 BC) Egypt faced foreign invasions and dominations by various powers, including the Assyrians, Persians, and Greeks (Ptolemies).
The final period, before Roman Rule, was called the Hellenistic Period (ca. 332-30 BC). Egypt fell under the rule of the Greek Ptolemaic dynasty, established by Ptolemy I. The most famous ruler of this period was Cleopatra VII.
The Major King Lists
Scholars acquire the timeline of kings from several lists discovered in tombs and temples that include:
The Palermo Stone
The South Saqqara Stone
The Royal List of Karnak
Tuthmosis III's Offering Table
The Abydos King List
The Turin King List
The Saqqara King List
The Ramesseum King List
The Medinet Habu King List.
The order of pharaohs are not complete, but are mostly accurate when they are compared together. It is only during the time of the Intermediate Periods when the list of pharaohs become either unknown or vague.
We acquire our basic structure of Egyptian chronology from the Graeco-Egyptian priest, Manetho, who lived in the third-century B.C. during the reign of Ptolemy I. His work was called Egyptian History, or Notes About Egypt, and divided the Egyptian chronology into dynasties. We recognize 30 of them from the unification of Egypt down to the last native Egyptian Pharaoh, Nectanebo II in 342 B.C. Dynasty 31 is the Second Persian Period, and Dynasty 32 is the Ptolemaic Dynasty, which of course ended with the death of Cleopatra VII in 30 B.C.
Great reliance is placed with Manetho, but no full text of his work survives. It was so treasured by later writers that they often quoted from him. As a result, we are able to piece together a majority of his work.
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