Ancient Egypt is one of the great civilizations in history and was one of the most dominant in the Mediterranean world. There were migrations to the Nile zone thousands of years before the first Egyptian Pharaoh. By 5500 BC, small settlements started to flourish along the famous river in what is known as Prehistoric or Predynastic Egypt.
The Neolithic culture in Southern Egypt’s Nabta Playa region is said to have had the world’s oldest calendar, and the raising of crops was introduced sometime after 5000 B.C. These Neolithic communities made significant advances that led to the development of Egyptian technology, arts, and crafts, religion, and politics.
By 3400 BC, two kingdoms known as the Red Land (in the north) and White Land (in the south) were formed in Egypt. This division inevitably led to war, and in 3200 BC, a White Land king by the name of Scorpion was the first to try and conquer the Red Land. He apparently didn’t succeed, but it was only a matter of time before the country became unified under one Pharaoh (this term wasn’t widely used until 1200 BC).
In this article, I will look at the different periods in ancient Egyptian history. It will begin with the Early Dynastic Period and end with the Late Period which culminated in the nation being conquered by Alexander the Great. As a result, the Greco-Roman Period is not included as I may write an entirely new piece about that fascinating era in history. For the sake of continuity, I have tried to take most of the dates from History.com. You’ll doubtless find different dates on other websites.
Early Dynastic (Archaic) Period (C. 3100 – 2686 BC)
There are no precise dates available, but historians generally agree that King Menes (also known as Narmer) became the first Pharaoh of Egypt sometime between 3150 and 3100 BC. He was a southern king that managed to subdue the north and moved the nation’s capital to the White Walls (it was later called Memphis). There is some doubt over the identity of Narmer as it has been suggested that he was a king called Scorpion II. As a result, certain sites will name Scorpion II as the first ruler with Menes as his successor.
The Early Dynastic Period laid the foundations for Egyptian society which included the idea of a single ruler. This individual was a divine being and closely associated with Horus, the all-powerful deity. Archaeologists have also found that the earliest hieroglyphic writing comes from this period. At this time, Egyptians were farmers that lived in small villages with wheat and barley the main staples. The great Nile River flooded annually and gave the people the necessary irrigation and fertilization to grow their crops.
Egypt didn’t become unified during this era as regional tensions carried on for several hundred years. The First Dynasty ended in 2900 BC and the Second Dynasty’s first ruler was Hotepsekhemwy. Ancient sources suggest the Archaic Period ended with the rule of a Pharaoh named Khasekhemwy who probably reigned for 18 years until his death in 2686 BC. He is believed to have finally reunited the nation of Egypt after emerging victorious in a civil war between the followers of the gods Horus and Set. Khasekhemwy is also the first Egyptian ruler to have statues of himself built.