Pictures of the Periods of History in Ancient Egypt

01
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Predynastic and Proto-Dynastic Egypt

Picture of the Narmer Palette from Ancient Egypt
Picture of a Facsimile of the Narmer Palette From the Royal Ontario Museum, in Toronto, Canada. Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikimedia.

Predynastic Egypt refers to the period before the pharaohs, before the unification of Egypt. Proto-Dynastic refers to the period of Egyptian history with pharaohs, but before the Old Kingdom period. At the end of the fourth millennium B.C., Upper and Lower Egypt were unified. Some evidence for this event comes from the Narmer Palette, named for the first known Egyptian king. The 64 cm high slate Narmer Palette was found at Hierakonpolis. The hieroglyphic symbol on the palette for Egyptian king Narmer is a catfish.

The culture of southern Egypt of the Predynastic period is described as Nagada; that of northern Egypt as Maadi. The earliest evidence of agriculture, which replaced the earlier hunting-gathering society in Egypt, comes from the north, at Fayum.

See:

  • "The Egyptian Predynastic: A Review of the Evidence," by Kathryn A. Bard Journal of Field Archaeology, Vol. 21, No. 3 (Autumn, 1994), pp. 265-288.
  • "The Final Phase of Predynastic Culture Gerzean or Semainean(?)," by Helene J. Kantor. Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Vol. 3, No. 2 (Apr., 1944), pp. 110-136.
  • "New Light on King Narmer and the Protodynastic Egyptian Presence in Canaan," by Thomas E. Levy, Edwin C. M. van den Brink, Yuval Goren and David Alon. The Biblical Archaeologist, Vol. 58, No. 1 (Mar., 1995), pp. 26-35.

02
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Old Kingdom Egypt

Step Pyramid Picture - Djoser's Step Pyramid at Saqqara
Picture of an Egyptian Step Pyramid - Djoser's Step Pyramid at Saqqara. Chris Peiffer Flickr.com

c.2686-2160 B.C.

The Old Kingdom Period was the great age of pyramid building that started with Djoser's 6-step pyramid at Saqqara.

Before the Old Kingdom Period were the Predynastic and Early Dynastic Periods, so the Old Kingdom did not begin with the first dynasty, but, instead, with Dynasty 3. It ended with Dynasty 6 or 8, depending on scholarly interpretation of the start of the next era, the First Intermediate Period.

03
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First Intermediate Period

Egyptian Mummy Picture
Egyptian Mummy. Clipart.com

c.2160-2055 B.C. 

The First Intermediate Period began when the Old Kingdom's centralized monarchy grew weak as provincial rulers (called nomarchs) became powerful. This period ended when a local monarch from Thebes gained control of all Egypt.

Many consider the First Intermediate Period to be a dark age. There is some evidence that there were disasters -- like failure of the annual Nile flood, but there were also cultural advances.

04
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Middle Kingdom

Faience Hippo from the Middle Kingdom at the Louvre
Picture of a faience hippo from the Middle Kingdom at the Louvre. Rama

c.2055-1650 B.C.

In the Middle Kingdom, a feudal period of Egyptian history, ordinary men and women were subject to corvee, but they also achieved some advances; for instance, they could share in funerary procedures previously reserved for the pharaoh or top elite.

The Middle Kingdom was composed of part of the 11th Dynasty, the 12th Dynasty, and current scholars add the first half of the 13th Dynasty.

05
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Second Intermediate Period

Picture of a Votive Barque Attributed to Kamose
Picture of a Votive Barque Attributed to Kamose. Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

c.1786-1550 or 1650-1550

The 2nd Intermediate Period of ancient Egypt -- another period of de-centralization, like the first -- began when the 13th Dynasty pharaohs lost power (after Sobekhotep IV) and Asiatic "Hyksos" took over. The 2nd Intermediate Period ended when an Egyptian monarch from Thebes, Ahmose, having driven the Hyksos into Palestine, reunified Egypt, and established the 18th Dynasty, the start of the period known as the New Kingdom of Ancient Egypt.

06
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New Kingdom

Picture of Tutankhamen
Picture of Tutankhamen. Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

c.1550-1070 B.C. 

The New Kingdom Period included the Amarna and the Ramessid Periods. It was the most glorious period in Egyptian history. During the New Kingdom period some of the most familiar names in pharaohs ruled over Egypt, including Ramses, Tuthmose, and the heretic king Akhenaten. Military expansion, developments in art and architecture, and religious innovations marked the New Kingdom.

07
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Third Intermediate Period

Third Intermediate Period Cat Amulet at the Louvre
Third Intermediate Period Bronze and Gold Cat Amulet at the Louvre. Rama

1070-712 B.C.

After Ramses XI, Egypt again entered a period of divided power. First rulers from Avaris (Tanis) and Thebes were in the ascendant during the 21st Dynasty (c.1070-945 B.C.); then in 945, a Libyan family gained power in Dynasty 22 (c.945-712 B.C.). The first of this dynasty was Sheshonq I who is described as sacking Jerusalem, in the Bible. The 23rd Dynasty (c.818-712 B.C.) again ruled from the eastern Delta, starting in about 818, but within a century there were several small, local rulers, who united against a Nubian threat from the south. The Nubian king was successful and ruled Egypt for 75 years.

Source: Allen, James, and Marsha Hill. "Egypt in the Third Intermediate Period (1070-712 B.C.)". In Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000-. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/tipd/hd_tipd.htm (October 2004).

Also see National Geographic's February 2008 feature article Black Pharaohs.

08
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Late Period

Picture of a statue of a genie of the Nile flood; Bronze from Late Period Egypt; Now at the Louvre.
Picture of a statue of a genie of the Nile flood; Bronze from Late Period Egypt; Now at the Louvre. Rama

712-332 B.C.

In the Late Period, Egypt was ruled by a succession of foreigners and local kings.

  1. Kushite Period - Dynasty 25 (c.712-664 B.C.)
    During this crossover period from the Third Intermediate, the Assyrians fought the Nubians in Egypt.
  2. Saite Period - Dynasty 26 (664-525 B.C.)
    Sais was a town in the Nile Delta. With the help of the Assyrians, they were able to drive out the Nubians. By this time, Egypt was no longer a world-class power, although the Saites were able to control the area governed from Thebes as well as the north. This dynasty is thought of as the last truly Egyptian one.
  3. Persian Period - Dynasty 27 (525-404 B.C.)
    Under the Persians, who ruled as foreigners, Egypt was a satrapy. Following the defeat of Persia by the Greeks at Marathon, the Egyptians mounted a resistance. [See Darius section in Persian Wars]
  4. Dynasties 28-30 (404-343 B.C.)
    The Egyptians repelled the Persians, but only for a time. After the Persians regained control of Egypt, Alexander the Great defeated the Persians and Egypt fell to the Greeks.

Source: Allen, James, and Marsha Hill. "Egypt in the Late Period (ca. 712-332 B.C.) ". In Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000-. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/lapd/hd_lapd.htm (October 2004)

09
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Ptolemaic Dynasty

Ptolemy to Cleopatra
Ptolemy to Cleopatra. Clipart.com

332-30 B.C.

The large empire Alexander the Great had conquered was too big for one successor. One of Alexander's generals was entrusted with Macedonia; another Thrace; and a third Syria. [See

Diadochi

- The Successors of Alexander.] One of Alexander's favorite generals and possibly a relative, Ptolemy Soter, was made governor of Egypt. Ptolemy Soter's rule of Egypt, the start of the Ptolemaic Dynasty, lasted from 332-283 B.C. It was in this period that Alexandria, named for Alexander the Great, became a major center for learning in the Mediterranean world.

The son of Ptolemy Soter, Ptolemy II Philadelphos, co-ruled for the last 2 years of the reign of Ptolemy Soter and then succeeded him. The Ptolemaic rulers adopted Egyptian customs, like marriage to siblings, even when they conflicted with Macedonian practices. Cleopatra, the only one of the Ptolemies known to have learned the language of the subject people -- Egyptian -- was a direct descendant of the Macedonian general Ptolemy Soter and a daughter of Ptolemy Auletes 'flute-player'.

  • Map of Macedonian North Africa - Map shows major cities in Egypt with their Greek names

List of the Ptolemies

Source: Jona Lendering

  1. Ptolemy I Soter 306 - 282
  2. Ptolemy II Philadelphus 282 - 246
  3. Ptolemy III Euergetes 246-222
  4. Ptolemy IV Philopator 222-204
  5. Ptolemy V Epiphanes 205-180
  6. Ptolemy VI Philometor 180-145
  7. Ptolemy VIII Euergetes Physcon 145-116
  8. Cleopatra III and Ptolemy IX Soter Lathyros 116-107
  9. Ptolemy X Alexander 101-88
  10. Ptolemy IX Soter Lathyros 88-81
  11. Ptolemy XI Alexander 80
  12. Ptolemy XII Auletes 80-58
  13. Berenice IV 68-55
  14. Ptolemy XII Auletes 55-51
  15. Cleopatra VII Philopator and Ptolemy XIII 51-47
  16. Cleopatra VII Philopator and Ptolemy XIV 47-44
  17. Cleopatra VII Philopator and Ptolemy XV Caesarion 44-31

10
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Roman Period

Roman Mummy
Roman Mummy Mask. Clipart.com

30 B.C. - A.D. 330

Following the death of Cleopatra on August 12, 30 B.C., Rome, under Augustus, assumed control of Egypt. Roman Egypt was divided into 30 administrative units called nomes with capital towns, the governors of which were responsible to the provincial governor or prefect.

Rome was economically interested in Egypt because it supplied grain and minerals, especially gold.

It was in Egypt's deserts that Christian monasticism took hold.