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

Unit 1: Class 7: Ancient Kemet (Egypt): Predynastic Period & The Old Kingdom (10,500 B.C. – 2,181 B.C.)

Ancient Egypt: Predynastic and Early
Dynastic Period (5,500 - 2,700 B.C.E.)  

Map of ancient Kemet/Egypt
Click to enlarge

According to the historian Manetho, the first king was Menes (likely reign circa 3100–3050 BC). However, the earliest recorded king of the First Dynasty was Hor-Aha (reign c. 3050–3049 BC), and the first king to claim to have united the two lands was Narmer (the final king of the Protodynastic Period). His name is known because it is written on a votive palette (the Narmer Pallette) used for grinding minerals for kohl, used by ancient Egyptians to outline the eyes. Funeral practices for the peasants would have been the same as in Predynastic times, but the rich demanded something more. Thus, the Egyptians began construction of the mastabas which became models for the later Old Kingdom constructions such as the Step pyramid. Cereal agriculture and centralization contributed to the success of the state for the next 800 years.

It has also so been interpreted that King Menes and the whole traditional story of an Egypt unified under a single conquering ruler, who led his armies and conquered lower Egypt to establish the first dynasty in the lower Egyptian city of Memphis, is just mythology as are the twin kingdoms story.

It seems certain that Egypt became unified as a cultural and economic domain long before its first king ascended to the throne in the lower Egyptian city of Memphis where the dynastic period did originate. 

Political unification proceeded gradually, perhaps over a period of a century or so as local districts established trading networks and the ability of their governments to organize agriculture labor on a larger scale increased, divine kingship may also have gained spiritual momentum as the cults of gods like Horus, Seth and Neith associated with living representatives became widespread in the country.

During the First Dynasty, the capital moved from Abydos to Memphis where an Egyptian god-king ruled a now unified polity that extended from the Nile Delta to the first cataract at Aswan. 

Abydos remained the major holy land in the south. The distinctive hallmarks of ancient Egyptian civilization, such as art, architecture and many aspects of religion, took shape during the Early Dynastic period.

Source:  United States Department of Defense
Cultural Property Training Resource

Stella of the Scorpion King
Stella of the Serpent King, Egypt's 1st Dynasty, ca. 3200 B.C.E.

The Stella owes its name to the serpent seen in the middle of the Stella. It was discovered in Abydos, the holy city of the Pharaohs. 



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