The Old Kingdom of ancient Egypt is generally described as the period from the Third Dynasty through to the Sixth Dynasty (2686 BC-2181 BC), although there is still some debate regarding the start and finish dates of the Old Kingdom. This period was followed by the First Intermediate Period, when central authority declined and the country fragmented into different factions. However, a number of Egyptologists also include the Memphite Seventh and Eighth Dynasties (of the First Intermediate Period) in the Old Kingdom because there is evidence that Memphis retained a fairly high degree of control over much of the country. A huge number of pyramids were constructed, and so the Old Kingdom is frequently referred to as "the Pyramid Age".
Djoser established his royal court in Memphis at the beginning of the Third Dynasty. He also built the Step Pyramid at Saqqara with the help of his famous vizier, Imhotep, and so began the trend of building pyramids. The Fourth Dynasty saw the construction of the Pyramids at Giza including the Great Pyramid and the sphinx. This period marked the height of pharaonic power during the Old Kingdom. However, it is thought that the Fifth Dynasty pharaoh Userkhaf initiated reforms that weakened both the Pharaoh and central government. These reforms and the strain put on the treasury by the building works of the previous dynasty may have combined with poor innundations and a growth in the power of nomarchs to cause the demise of the Old Kingdom as central authority crumbled and power returned to local rulers.
(O.C. 2498 B.C. to 2345 B.C.)
(O.C. 2345 B.C. to 2181 B.C.)
copyright J Hill 2010