Early Dynastic Period

According to Manetho, ancient Egyptian civilisation dawned with the unification of the country by Menes. Herodotus agrees with Manetho that Menes (or Min) was the first king of Egypt, and Men is recorded as the first King of Upper and Lower Egypt in the Abydos Kings list, inscribed during the reign of Seti (New Kingdom). However, Egyptologists disagree on the identity of the Pharaoh Men.

Herodotus claims that Men founded the ancient city of Memphis, an act that is usually attributed to Hor-Aha. Some scholars have argued that Hor-Aha and Menes are one and the same.

Some point to the Naqada label, which bears Hor-aha’s birth name and (possibly) his throne name – Men (established). However, the birth name faces away from the signs claimed to be the birth name (against convention) and the signs above the name (the cobra and the vulture, also know as Nebty – “the two ladies”) were not used with royal names until the reign of Den. Finally, the Nebty and the sign for Men are surmounted by the sign for a shrine or funerary tent. It is therefore quite possible that Hor-aha was burying the previous Pharaoh, Men.

Hor-Aha label
Hor-Aha label

Other sources attribute the unification of Egypt to one of Hor-aha’s predecessors called Narmer. Excavations in Hierakopolis (the site of the ancient city of Nekhen) unearthed many artifacts naming Narmer and seal impressions found in the tombs of Den and Qa’a imply that he unified Egypt. Furthermore, the Narmer palette shows the King wearing both the crown for Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt.

Narmer Palette
Narmer Palette

Dynasty Zero: O.C. 3150 B.C. to 3050 B.C.

Buto (Lower Egypt)

  • Ska
  • Hyw
  • Tyu
  • Tjsh
  • Neheb
  • Wadjha
  • Mach

Nekhem (Upper Egypt)

Dynasty One: O.C. 3050B.C. to 2890B.C.

Dynasty Two: O.C. 2890B.C. to 2686B.C.


  • Bard, Kathryn (2008) An introduction to the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt
  • Bard, K (2000) “The Emergeance of the Egyptian State”, in The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt Ed I. Shaw
  • Kemp, Barry J (1991) Ancient Egypt: Anatomy of a Civilisation
  • Trigger, B.G, Kemp, B.J, O’Connor. D, Lloyd. A.B (1983) Ancient Egypt, A Social History
  • Van De Mieroop, Marc (1999) A History of Ancient Egypt
  • Wilkinson, Toby A H (1999) Early Dynastic Egypt
  • Wilkinson, Toby A H (2000) “What a King Is This: Narmer and the Concept of the Ruler” from The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology

Copyright J Hill 2010