Rough Timeline of Ancient Egypt

3500 B.C. Early settlers already present in the Nile Valley. The valley is divided into separate districts called ‘nomes.’

3000 The unification of Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt (today what we would call the south of Egypt and the north of Egypt, respectively). King Menes is the first official king. Egypt is by no means primitive. Already by this time, standards and canons of art and literature have been established.

2700 The Third Dynasty, and the Old Kingdom begins. This features the construction of the Step Pyramid, created for the burial of King Djoser. The mastermind behind it was his advisor Imhotep, a genius who, besides architecture, was also a sage and physician.

2600 By this time, Egypt has already had close contact with Canaan. In this time comes the building of the Pyramids of Giza by King Khufu (also called Cheops). These required extremely precise work, and tremendous effort and organization. The first built contained 2.3 million blocks, each one weighing roughly two and a half tons. While we may underestimate such an accomplishment because of the many we are familiar with today, this was truly an amazing work.

2220 Approximate end of the Old Kingdom due to decentralization, as power passed from the king to local leaders of nomes.

2100 Rulers of the city of Thebes ascend to take control of both Egypts, inaugurating the Middle Kingdom. The Song of the Harper stems from this period, so does this text which promotes the notion of the equality of men.

1950 Founding of the 12th Dynasty by Amenemhet I, who managed to control the leaders of the nomes and unite Egypt by depending on them for control. Unity was maintained by keeping a central treasury and moving the capital from Thebes up to a more central location near Memphis. Palace schools, where officials were trained, also promoted unity.

1700 The Hyskos invade Egypt from the East, ending the Middle Kingdom. They used warfare tactics that were new to the Egyptians and so introduced them to Egypt, among them horse-drawn chariots. The two main mathematics papyri that we have from Ancient Egypt, the Rhind Papyrus and the Moscow Papyrus, come from roughly this time. They show rather sophisticated mathematics, which was of course originally taken up for practical purposes (accounting, distribution of goods, building, etc.). It was a science practiced by scribes (a certain sort of official). One extremely interesting method found in these papyri to determine the product of two numbers is nowadays called (fittingly) “Ancient Egyptian multiplication.”

1550-1300 The Hyskos are expelled by Ahmose I of Thebes, causing the creation of the New Kingdom. Unlike the Middle Kingdom, which involved rather powerful leaders of nomes, in the New Kingdom all citizens were subject to the king, who was strong and dictatorial. In this period comes a lot of warfare with Canaan. Although Egypt won many battles, the gains were not kept for long, since they had trouble dealing with walled cities.

1470 The ascent of Queen Hatshepsut as king/pharaoh. She would be replaced by Thutmose III. His daring strategy during the Battle of Megiddo to attack by an unexpected route – unexpected because so highly dangerous to his troops – worked brilliantly and is well-known to this day. Read about it in a primary source!

1400-1300 The period in this century when Amenhotep III and (later) Amenhotep IV ruled is sometimes called the Amarna Age. “Amarna” comes from the name of the capital Amenhotep IV built, where a good deal of documents were found by archeologists. Amenhotep IV was married to Queen Nefertiti (look at the bust of her sculpted during the Amarna Age to see the beauty of the Queen, and to see how skilled Egyptian art could be). Amenhotep IV instituted a religious revolution where the many gods of Egypt was overthrown to worship the sun god, Aton (sometimes called Aton-Re). This revolution led to other changes in (the usually conservative) Egyptian culture, including in language. Amenhotep even changed his name to Akhenaton. While the religious revolution was overturned after the death of Akhenaton, the changes in language remained.

 Sources: I got almost all of the information from the book Bible and the Ancient Near East by Cyrus H. Gordon and Gary A. Rendsburg. It’s truly an amazing book that shows the intelligence and wisdom of the ancients. Unlike many works on the Ancient Near East, it makes it seem interesting and relevant for today. The information about mathematics I took from Victor J. Katz’s A History of Mathematics: An Introduction. I used this timeline to structure the information in a more organized manner than is given in the Gordon-Rendsburg book.



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