Old Kingdom

Old Kingdom
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3rd - 6th Dynasty (2687-2191 BCE)

The Old Kingdom, a period of political stability and economic prosperity that lasted about five and a half centuries, is characterized by revolutionary advancements in royal funerary architecture. Both Egyptian society and the economy were greatly impacted by the organization of major state-sponsored building projects which focused on building a tomb for the king. In this time period, that meant building a pyramid. The first king to launch a major pyramid building project was King Djoser, who ruled in the 3rd Dynasty. He built his famous Step Pyramid at Saqqara, not far from the capital city of Memphis (near modern-day Cairo). In the following dynasties, the pyramid design changed from the step pyramid to a true pyramid shape as kings continued to build pyramids for their burials. These included the pyramids of Giza, the largest of which is the Great Pyramid, which was built by king Khufu of the 4th Dynasty.

Throughout the Old Kingdom Egypt continued to enjoy strong self-sufficiency, centralized rule by strong kings, and experienced no significant threats to its borders from its foreign neighbors. As a result of this stability, Egyptians made advances in building technology, the arts, and development of religious ideas. Finally, at the end of the Old Kingdom in the 6th Dynasty, the king Pepy II, who came to the throne at the age of 6, ruled Egypt for ninety-four years. During his reign, the economic power of the kingship was weakened, and as a result many of the high officials in the royal administration gained greater political power that rivaled the power of the king, setting the stage for the political fragmentation of the following period.

- Amber Myers Wells, (2006)
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