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The Kingdoms of Ancient Egypt

written by: Bruno Kos • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 9/19/2014

A unique geographical position helped in the emergence of ancient Egypt kingdoms. Due to the bounty yielded by the Nile River, an ancient civilization flourished along its banks. The development of Egyptian culture shows that civilizations can prosper within a hospitable environment.

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    Gift of a Mighty River

    Wikimedia Commons / by Codadilupo78 The mighty Nile River, widely considered the longest in the world, is the major factor behind the emergence of the ancient Egyptian kingdoms. A large portion of the population centers and cities in Egypt were built along the banks of the Nile, and almost all of the country’s historical and cultural attractions are situated beside the river.

    For the ancient Egyptians, the Nile became a generous water source for irrigating the fertile valley in the area. Farming thrived with the predictable flooding of the river, resulting in crop surpluses that became platforms for the development of ancient Egypt’s society and culture.

    The regular source of extra food provisions not only enabled more extensive agricultural production, but also mineral exploitation and collective construction projects. The economic prosperity likewise augured well for the development of a writing system, resulting in better communication, increased trade with nearby regions, and organization of a military for defense and invasion.

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    The Old Kingdom

    The period immediately preceding the kingdoms of ancient Egypt is known as the Predynastic Era (5500–3000 B.C.). It was the period when mummification became common. This was also the time when farming began and centers of habitation grew along the Nile. The river communities then were mainly divided into the upper (southern) and lower (northern) sections of Egypt.

    These north and south Nile population centers became united around 2950–2575 B.C. in the early dynastic period of ancient Egypt’s civilization. Such unification flourished for the next three thousand years, resulting in a series of stable periods that Egyptologists termed as kingdoms. Unstable times in between these kingdoms were called intermediate periods.

    The fusion of Upper and Lower Egypt eventually ushered in the emergence of the Old Kingdom of Egypt, ruled by its first pharaoh. This period covers 2575–2150 B.C. and is also called the age of the pyramids. The famous pyramid of Khufu was built at Giza during this era, which also saw trade and culture reaching new heights in ancient Egypt.

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    The Middle Period

    A political division occurred in 2125-1975 B.C., resulting in the first intermediate period in ancient Egyptian history wherein two dynasties reigned separately. Stability was restored between 1975 and 1640 B.C. with the Theban kings of Egypt reuniting.

    Such reunification was highlighted by the classical ancient Egyptian literature that flourished during the period. Another schism, however, occurred in the second intermediate period in 1630-1520 B.C. during which some Asiatic settlers then called Hyksos ruled Northern Egypt, while the Theban kings remained supreme in the south. The introduction of the horse-drawn chariot is ascribed to this period.

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    The New Kingdom

    The Theban kings regained full control of ancient Egypt during the era of the New Kingdom in 1539-1075 B.C. During this era, the Asiatic Hyksos were expelled from Egypt and the country was once again reunited. Territorial expansion marked the height of this period when the Egyptian warrior kings established an empire that included parts of Palestine and Syria.

    After this era, the Egyptian empire went into a gradual decline starting from the Third Intermediate Period (1075-715 B.C). Eventually, a succession of invaders conquered Egypt in the Late Period (715-332 B.C.), resulting in the ancient Egypt kingdoms being reduced to a province of Rome around 31 B.C.