Around 3000 BCE, the people of Egypt created the world’s first united state. It was governed by a king known as a pharaoh, who was believed to be the representative of the gods on Earth. For 3,000 years, Egyptians wore similar white linen clothing, spoke the same language, and followed a regular cycle of work, governed by the annual flooding of the River Nile.
First settlements (4500 BCE)
Farming people settle in villages by the Nile. They grow wheat and barley, keep cattle and sheep, and make polished red pottery with blackened tops. This early culture is later called Badarian, after the site of El Badari, the remains of which were excavated in 1923.
Early writing (3300 BCE)
Egyptians invent the world’s first writing system: hieroglyphics. It uses hundreds of picture signs, standing for ideas, words, and sounds. These are carved on stone or painted
on sheets of papyrus, a writing material made from the reeds along the Nile.
A kingdom united (3100 BCE)
Egypt, previously two kingdoms, is united under one king. The first king we know of is called Narmer. He is shown in art as a warrior defeating enemies while wearing the crowns of Upper (southern) and Lower (northern) Egypt.
Pharaoh Djoser, the first ruler of a period that historians call the Old Kingdom, builds the first pyramid. This is a royal tomb where the king’s body, preserved as a mummy, is thought to live on after death. Djoser’s pyramid has stepped rather than smooth sides and is Egypt’s first monument to be built out of stone.
Great Pyramid (2589-2566 BCE)
At Giza, Pharaoh Khufu builds the Great Pyramid, which remains to this day the world’s biggest stone building. The whole nation takes part in the project, either hauling stone or growing food for the workforce.
Dark period (2181-2055 BCE)
The fall of the Old Kingdom after a period of political strife and widespread drought is followed by a time of disunity, called the First Intermediate Period. There are few monumental building projects during this time, as the power of royal authority was in decline.
Middle Kingdom (2055-1710 BCE)
Egypt is reunited by Pharaoh Mentuhotep II, the founder of what historians would later call the Middle Kingdom. This period is remembered for its great achievements in art
and literature, which leave behind clues about the daily lives of ancient Egyptians.
The Hyksos (1650 BCE)
A people from western Asia, the Hyksos, move into northern Egypt and destroy the Middle Kingdom. They bring with them the new technology of fighting from horse-drawn chariots. While the Hyksos rule the north, Egyptian pharaohs continue to govern in the south.
New Kingdom (1550-1525 BCE)
Ahmose, ruler of Thebes, drives out the Hyksos and reunites Egypt, founding what would become known as the New Kingdom. Pharaohs are no longer buried in pyramids, but in hidden tombs in the Valley of the Kings, in the desert to the west of Thebes. The Theban god Amon-Re becomes chief Egyptian god.
Egyptian Empire (1504-1425 BCE)
Thutmose I aggressively expands Egyptian rule into Nubia, a country that lies to the south of Egypt, as well as into areas of western Asia. The Egyptian Empire continues to grow under his successors, Thutmose II (1492-1479 BCE) and Thutmose III (1479-1425 BCE).
Sun worship (1352-1336 BCE)
Pharaoh Akhenaten makes sweeping changes to Egypt’s religion, closing down the temples to the gods and introducing worship of the Aten, a disk that represents the Sun.
He builds a new capital called Akhetaten (modern-day El Amarna), with open-air temples for the worship of the Sun.
Tutankhamun (1336-1327 BCE)
Under the rule of Pharaoh Tutankhamun, the old religion is restored. After his death at the age of around 18, Tutankhamun is buried in a tomb filled with treasures. Discovered in 1922, the tomb of Tutankhamun is the only unrobbed Egyptian royal tomb ever found.
Ramesses the Great (1279-1213 BCE)
Ramesses II rules for an astonishing 66 years and fathers around 100 children. He has many colossal statues built of himself, as well as a temple at Abu Simbel, where he is worshipped as a god.
Foreign rulers (664-332 BCE)
During the Late Period, Egypt is conquered by a series of foreign powers. The first invaders are the Nubians, followed by the Assyrians and the Persians. Finally, in 332 BCE, King Alexander the Great of Macedon, ruler of an empire that extends from Greece, takes control.
Ptolemaic Dynasty (332-30 BCE)
Egypt is ruled by 15 Macedonian pharaohs, all called Ptolemy. The capital of Egypt during this period is Alexandria, founded by Alexander the Great on the Mediterranean coast. The last ruler is Queen Cleopatra (ruled 51-30 BCE). Egypt is then conquered by the Romans, bringing an end to the rule of ancient Egypt.