Predynastic and Old Kingdom

“Dynastic” Egypt—sometimes referred to as “Pharaonic”—was the time when the country was largely unified under a single ruler, starting around 3100 B.C.E. The period before this, lasting from about 5000 B.C.E. until unification, is referred to as Predynastic by modern scholars.

c. 5000–2150 B.C.E.

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Step Pyramid complex at Saqqara
Step Pyramid complex at Saqqara

The Step Pyramid complex at Saqqara is a vital crux that represents both the culmination of royal funerary architectural development of the 1st to 2nd Dynasties and the spark of Egypt’s glorious Age of the Pyramids that would follow.

Decorated jar, predynastic
Decorated jar, predynastic

This pot comes from the tomb of a young woman, at el-Amra in Middle Egypt, but pots showing boats have been found throughout Egypt and into Nubia

Statue of seated man, Ankhwa
Statue of seated man, Ankhwa

In this statue a ship-builder named Ankhwa is shown holding an adze, a woodworking tool indicative of his trade.

King Den’s sandal label
King Den’s sandal label

The king smiting his enemies is one of the longest-lived subjects in Egyptian art and became a standard image for royal propaganda.

Wooden tomb statue of Tjeti
Wooden tomb statue of Tjeti

Tjeti is shown in the classic pose of a standing official, holding a staff and a scepter, yet he is naked—a way of portraying tomb owners which only occurred during the second half of the Old Kingdom.

<em>The Seated Scribe</em>
The Seated Scribe

Seated cross-legged, with rolls of belly fat, this painted statue differs from the ideal statues of pharaohs.

King Menkaure (Mycerinus) and queen
King Menkaure (Mycerinus) and queen

This serene statue of the pharaoh and the queen is from a temple of the Pyramid of Menkaure, undisturbed for millennia.

Pyramid of Menkaure
Pyramid of Menkaure

Smallest of the Giza Pyramids, the Pyramid of Menkaure still rises to 213 feet—and was home to stunning sculpture.

Pyramid of Khafre and the Great Sphinx
Pyramid of Khafre and the Great Sphinx

Carved from bedrock, the Great Sphinx is one of the largest statues in the world—does it have the face of a pharaoh?

Pyramid of Khufu
Pyramid of Khufu

Largest of the Pyramids of Giza, the outer casing of this engineering marvel once shone bright white in the sun.

The Great Pyramids of Giza
The Great Pyramids of Giza

Rising out of the Western Desert—the only remaining monument of the ancient Seven Wonders, the Great Pyramids.

Palette of King Narmer
Palette of King Narmer

The Narmer Palette is so valuable that it has never been allowed to leave Egypt.

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