Saturday, September 22, 2007

Ancient Egypt: The Old Kingdom

During the Old Kingdom the core of Egyptian thought and institution was formed. It was a time to which the ancient Egyptians themselves looked with pride and regarded as a model throughout their history. (The Ancient Egyptians: Life in the Old Kingdom, Kamil)

The Old Kingdom of Egypt, also referred to as the 'age of the pyramids', was a period in which civilization first achieved and sustained a climax of success and prosperity. Much which signified the greatness of Egyptian civilization was accomplished during the Old Kingdom. The Old Kingdom was of three other major time periods, which are known as the Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom. The Old Kingdom consisted of the Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Dynasties, with the Third Dynasty beginning at 2650 B.C., and the Sixth Dynasty stopping at 2134 B.C., signifying the end of the Old Kingdom and the beginning of the First Intermediate Period.

During the Third Dynasty(2650 B.C. - 2575B.C.), the independent states principle was left behind, with the leaders of the states becoming governors who were directly accountable to the pharaoh. The pharaoh was seen and worshipped as a god-king, as it was with the following dynasties and kingdoms. Also, during the Third Dynasty the first large stone building was constructed, King Djoser's Step Pyramid at Saqqara. Identified as the Golden Age of Egypt, the Fourth Dynasty(2575 B.C. - 2467 B.C.) was started off with King Sneferu and his developing of three great pyramids (comparing with the prior built pyramids). The Great Sphinx was also built in the Fourth Dynasty. The Fifth Dynasty(2465 B.C. - 2323 B.C.) was begun with the pharaoh Userkhaf making changes in the government which ultimately weakened the government. Civil conflict also arose during the Fifth Dynasty with the governors of the states gaining too much power. During the Sixth Dynasty(2323 B.C. - 2150 B.C.), between 2200 B.C. and 2150 B.C. a brutal drought came upon Egypt; this was a huge setback for Egypt which was a contribution to the downfall of the Old Kingdom.

Early in the Third Dynasty, King Djoser employed the genius of his architect Imhotep to erect the first great building of stone, the Step Pyramid at Saqqara. (Early History of the Middle East, The Cambridge Ancient History)

The Egyptians' architectural ability was expanded during the Old Kingdom, notably the construction of the Pyramids. The pyramids were a representation of the greatness of the ancient Egyptians; society saw the Great Pyramids as their superiority over all the existing nations. The Egyptians also made exceptionally beautiful jewelry, furniture, and other items. As a result they would surround themselves in wealth.

Conflict arose when the governors of the divided regions gained too much power, rising against eachother to gain more power. The uproar within Egypt was the ultimate reason of the fall of the Old Empire, along with other relatively minor conflicts and struggles. The Egyptians fell into the First Intermediate Period which led to series of invasion and no real rule. It was most likely during this time period when the Pyramids were looted.

Kamil, Jill. The Ancient Egyptians: Life in the Old Kingdom. Cairo, Egypt: The American University in Cairo Press, 1984, 1996.

The Cambridge Ancient History. Early History of the Middle East. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1971.

History of Egypt. InterCity Oz, Inc. 1996. September 22nd, 2007. < http://www.touregypt.net/ehistory.htm#Old%20Kingdom >

Egypt in the Old Kingdom. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 2000 – 2007. September 22nd,2007. < http://www.metmuseum.org/TOAH/hd/oking/hd_oking.htm >

The Old Kingdom. Mark Millmore. 1997 – 2007. September 22nd, 2007. < http://www.discoveringegypt.com/dynasty1.htm >

Old Kingdom. Jacques Kinnaer. 2007. September 22nd, 2007. < http://www.ancient-egypt.org/index.html >

The Old Kingdom. Richard Hooker. 1996. September 22nd, 2007. < http://www.wsu.edu/~dee/EGYPT/OLD.HTM >