Ancient Egypt: Timelime
The story of ancient Egypt is more than three thousand years' worth of kings and queens. It's a rollercoaster ride that underpinned much of what we take for granted in our own civilisation. Track the major periods in Egypt's development with this timeline.
The Ancient Egyptian Calendar
Ancient Egyptians did not calculate the date according to a continuous calendar. Instead, they used a scheme based on the reigns of their pharaohs. Thus, a particular date might be written: "Year 12 of the reign of Ramesses II". Reconciling this dynastic dating with our own system inevitably throws up different interpretations. Therefore, all dates before 664 BC - when events can be cross-referenced with other classical sources - should be regarded as approximate.
Early Dynastic Period (c. 3000 BC – 2686 BC)
The pre-dynastic Nile Valley and Delta region was made up of independent city-states, each with a number of satellite towns and villages. The building blocks for a state were in place: agriculture, thanks to the Nile's annual flooding of the surrounding plains; early hieroglyphic writing; and relatively sophisticated artistic expression. But there was no concept of "Egypt" until a southern king, Narmer, conquered and unified these states around 3,000 BC. Narmer's successor, Aha, founded Egypt's 1st Dynasty.
Old Kingdom (2686 BC – 2160 BC)
By the beginning of the Old Kingdom, Egypt had become more centralised and was ruled from Memphis, near modern Cairo. A tradition of near-divine rule by omnipotent pharaohs was established, leading to a period of relatively stable government that lasted half a millennium. The burial rites and entombment of these revered rulers became increasingly sophisticated. When the 3rd Dynasty pharaoh, Djoser, gave the groundbreaking order to construct the Step Pyramid at Saqqara, Egypt was well on the way to becoming one of the world's great ancient civilisations. Once the Great Pyramids were built, a century or so later, that status was beyond dispute.