Unit 1: Ancient Africa - The Cradle of Civilization
(200,000 B.C. - 476 B.C.)

Unit 1: Class 8: Ancient Kemet (Egypt): The Old Kingdom & First Intermediate Period (3150 B.C. – 2055 B.C.)

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Learning Objectives
After completing this lesson, students 
will be able to:

  • Discuss the early formation of ancient Kemet/Egypt, including the knowledge and technology that existed prior to its establishment.

  • Analyze the geography and climatic events that led to the mass migration of people to the Nile Valley – ancient Egypt in particular.

  • Identify the major pharaohs who united Upper and Lower Egypt, establishing the First Dynasty of ancient Kemet/Egypt.

  • Identify the major pyramids and monuments built during the Old Kingdom and the pharaohs and engineers responsible for their construction.

Believed to represent the face of the Pharaoh Khafra, the Sphinx (Her-em-akhet) is the largest statue in the world carved from a single piece of rock. It is the oldest known monumental sculpture – and it still stands. It is believed to have been built between 2558 –2532 B.C.E. 


As you have learned, civilization did not begin with Ancient Egypt. Nor did it begin with Ancient Nubia. The foundations of civilization were laid across the continent of Africa in all pockets where humans congregated. By the time we encounter Ancient Egypt around 3150 B.C.E., its knowledge and philosophy had already been formulated. Ancient Egypt is the product of literally thousands of years of indigenous African achievement, and the original people who populated and became what is known as “Egyptians” were black Africans. In the Nile Valley, they put forth their collective genius to establish the longest lasting and arguably most impressive civilization ever created on earth. Like the major urban centers of today like New York, London and Paris, Ancient Egypt was the light of the ancient world. It attracted Africans from all over the continent, many by way of the Nile River, the world’s first cultural highway, which begins in the interior of Africa and empties into the Mediterranean Sea. They also came from western and southern Africa. These Africans brought with them not only the necessary labor to build ancient Egypt, but the age-old skills, techniques, and worldview to do so with such splendor and humility. 

In the period before the Old Kingdom, which is referred to as the pre-dynastic period, small farming communities existed along the banks of the Nile from its source in Ethiopia (the South) all the way to Nubia. Many groups of Africans had long settled land, domesticated plants and animals and lived in large, organized communities. We see the evidence of this as far back as 77,000 B.C.E. with the discovery of “a piece of ochre decorated with a delicate geometric pattern” by Chris Henshilwood in the Blombos Caves located on the southern Cape of Africa which has been dated conservatively at 77,000 years old. According to Henshilwood:

“The discovery indicates that our early Homo sapien ancestors had a basic knowledge of chemistry and the ability to make long-term plans…The recovery of these toolkits adds evidence for early technological and behavioral developments associated with Homo sapiens, and documents their deliberate planning, production, and curation of a pigmented compound and the use of containers.”

There are other rock art such as the Apollo 11 Stones, discovered in the Huns Mountains in Nambia dated between 28,000 and 28,000 B.C.E., which also illustrate Africans’ early knowledge of chemistry. It also provides evidence that the rudiments of civilization were being developing far beyond ancient Egypt and the Nile Delta – thousands of years before the formation of ancient Egypt. 

All of the most revered Gods had been established before the founding of the Old Kingdom. It is acknowledged that Aha or “the Scorpion King” and Menes, who are both credited for establishing the first dynasty, came from the South, and their capital and most sacred city was Abydos, is also in the South. From all accounts, the knowledge that went into the making of ancient Egypt was thousands of years in the making and came from the interior of the continent – not from outside of Africa. The formation of ancient Egypt represents the synthesis of the collective African genius. Ancient Egypt was not created by aliens or any people outside of Africa.

The Old Kingdom, also referred to as “the Age of Pyramids,” set the philosophical and spiritual foundation for ancient Egypt. It is during this period that the technique for constructing intricate, monolithic pyramids was perfected, and that the pantheon of Egyptian Gods was immortalized. It is during the Old Kingdom that the great pyramids at Saqqara, Meidum, Dahshur, and Giza were built. Despite earlier reports, it has been confirmed that the labor to construct the pyramids was paid and skilled – not slave labor. More importantly, the labor force was entirely African, a fact long ceded by Egyptologists. Amid this labor force were people like Imhotep, the world’s first multi-genius, and Hesy-Ra, "Chief of Dentists and Physicians," who both served under Pharaoh Djoser of the Third Dynasty. Yet many Egyptologists and other non-African historians have posited that ancient Egyptian civilization was the brainchild of a non-African, Mediterranean people. Yet there is no evidence of such a people in the historical record. And no people outside of Africa have ever been able to reproduce the knowledge required to build the ancient monuments, temples and artifacts of ancient Kemet. 

By the end of the Old Kingdom, all of the most important Egyptian/Kemetic Gods/Netcher had already been established and enshrined on the walls of the pyramids. These include the world’s first Holy Trinity (Isis, Osiris, and Horus, or Iset, Ausar, and Heru) as well as Thoth or Djehuti, the world’s first philosopher whom the very word “thought” is derived from. The foundations of math (especially geometry) and astronomy were manifested to construct the grand pyramids and temples as well as the world’s first calendar. Not to mention, the measurement of time was perfected to the hour (the word hour was derived from the word Horus). The Old Kingdom laid the spiritual foundation of ancient Kemet and set the standard of excellence that would enable Kemetic civilization to endure for nearly three millennia. 

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