Time Periods of Ancient Egypt

The ancient Egyptians dominated a good portion of the early history of mankind. Through careful excavations and extensive research, scientists have learned a lot and have organized that information into different time periods. As a basic rule, periods of turmoil and change are noted as Intermediate Periods.

Archaeological digs have been able to give us great insight into a time before recorded history. Known best as the Predynastic Period, it spanned from around 6000 through 3150 BCE. Objects found throughout the Nile River Valley area help archeologists piece together how the culture developed and the daily lives of people who lived there.

Next came the Early Dynastic Period. Upper and Lower Egypt were unified under a single, centralized government ruled by a king. The first of these kings was Menes (or possibly Narmer, as more research has scholars believing).  Moving on to The Old Kingdom, four dynasties followed. This time period is also known as the Pyramid Age. The Pyramid of Djoser, Great Pyramid of Giza, and the Great Sphinx were built during this time. Pharaoh Djoser broke up the kingdom into different areas, known as nomes, which had their own governors (called a nomarch). But the nomarchs grew so powerful that the government collapsed while famine and poverty ravaged the population.

A dark period followed: The First Intermediate Period. While plentiful documentation and art have survived from The Old Kingdom, we do not have much from this transition era. Battling factions fought over resources and led to the founding of Lower Egypt. Finally, Mentuhotep II defeated Lower Egypt and brought it back under his control. The Middle Kingdom followed. Infrastructure improved and art was plentiful again. The Pharaohs limited the power of nomarchs and priests and formed a centralized army under the direct control of the Pharaoh. This time period was prosperous, but there were challenges to come.

The Second Intermediate Period depicts an Egypt divided into three factions – Nubians had taken the south, Hyksos ruled over the north, and Egyptian ruled at Thebes. The biggest conflict here was between the Hyksos and the Seventeenth Dynasty. Eventually, the Egyptians won and began consolidating power again. The New Kingdom followed, marking another prosperous time for the area. Many well-known people came from this era – Ramses, Tutankhamun, Amenhotep, and Nefertiti.

Marking the death of Ramses XI, the Third Intermediate Period of Egypt was once again a tumultuous time marked by significant decline and political instability. This period coincided with the Dark ages all over Greece and portions of the Mediterranean. By the end of this period, Egypt had lost much of its prestige throughout the world. The Persians took advantage of this chaos, imprisoning and eventually killing Pharaoh Psamtik III so that the Persian king Cambyses could assume the title of Pharaoh.

The Late Period was ruled by both Native Egyptians as well as Libyans and Persians. The 26th through the 31st dynasty was marked by the Egyptian people resisting rule by the Persians even though the Persians encouraged and imitated the traditional Egyptian culture. Alexander the Great ended the Persian rule of Egypt and was greeted as a liberator. This final period was known as the Greco-Roman Period. Unfortunately, it was also the beginning of the end of Egyptian culture, as it blended with Hellenism, and later, Christianity.

Those are the main time periods of Ancient Egypt. If there is a specific period that you’re interested in, please let me know in the comments and I might dedicate an entire post to it.