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Ancient Egypt

Old Kingdom

History >> Ancient Egypt

The "Old Kingdom" is a period of time during the history of Ancient Egypt. It lasted from 2575 BC to 2150 BC. Over these 400 years, Egypt had a strong central government and a prosperous economy. The Old Kingdom is most famous as a time when many pyramids were built.

What dynasties were during the Old Kingdom?

The Old Kingdom spanned four major dynasties from the Third Dynasty to the Sixth Dynasty. The period reached its peak during the Fourth Dynasty when powerful pharaohs such as Sneferu and Khufu ruled. Sometimes the Seventh and Eighth Dynasties are included as part of the Old Kingdom.

Pyramid of Djoser
Photo by Max Gattringer

Rise of the Old Kingdom

The period before the Old Kingdom is called the Early Dynastic Period. Even though Egypt had become one country under the First Dynasty, it was under the rule of Pharaoh Djoser, founder of the Third Dynasty, that the central government became organized and strong.


Under Pharaoh Djoser's rule, the land of Egypt was divided up into "nomes" (like states). Each nome had a governor (called a "nomarch") that reported to the pharaoh. Egypt became wealthy enough to build the first Egyptian pyramid, the Pyramid of Djoser.

The pharaoh was the head of both the government and the state religion. He was considered a god. Below the pharaoh was the vizier who ran many of the daily tasks of the government. Only the most powerful families gained an education and were taught to read and write. These people became the high-ranking government officials, priests, army generals, and scribes.


The Old Kingdom period is most famous for building pyramids. This includes the first pyramid, the Pyramid of Djoser, and the largest pyramid, the Great Pyramid at Giza. The peak of the Old Period was during the Fourth Dynasty when pharaohs such as Sneferu and Khufu ruled. The Fourth Dynasty built the Giza complex including several large pyramids and the Great Sphinx.

Fall of the Old Kingdom

The central government began to weaken during the Sixth Dynasty. The governors (nomarchs) became very powerful and began to ignore the rule of the pharaoh. At the same time, the country suffered from drought and famine. Eventually the central government collapsed and Egypt broke up into several independent states.

First Intermediate Period

The period after the Old Kingdom is called the First Intermediate Period. This period lasted around 150 years. It was a time of civil war and chaos.

Interesting Facts About the Old Kingdom of Egypt Activities

More information on the civilization of Ancient Egypt:

Timeline of Ancient Egypt
Old Kingdom
Middle Kingdom
New Kingdom
Late Period
Greek and Roman Rule

Monuments and Geography
Geography and the Nile River
Cities of Ancient Egypt
Valley of the Kings
Egyptian Pyramids
Great Pyramid at Giza
The Great Sphinx
King Tut's Tomb
Famous Temples
Egyptian Food, Jobs, Daily Life
Ancient Egyptian Art
Entertainment and Games
Egyptian Gods and Goddesses
Temples and Priests
Egyptian Mummies
Book of the Dead
Ancient Egyptian Government
Women's Roles
Hieroglyphics Examples
Amenhotep III
Cleopatra VII
Ramses II
Thutmose III

Inventions and Technology
Boats and Transportation
Egyptian Army and Soldiers
Glossary and Terms

Works Cited

History >> Ancient Egypt

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