The history of ancient Egypt happened as a series of stable kingdoms, divided by periods of relative instability known as Intermediate Periods: the Old Kingdom of the Early Bronze Age, the Middle Kingdom of the Middle Bronze Age, and the New Kingdom of the Late Bronze Age.
Early Bronze dynasties
In Ancient Egypt, the Bronze Age begins in the Protodynastic period in 3150 BC. The old Early Bronze Age of Egypt, known as the Early Dynastic Period of Egypt, now supports the unification of Lower and Upper Egypt, c. 3100 BC.
It is commonly taken to include the First and Second Dynasties, lasting from the Protodynastic Period of Egypt until about 2686 BC, or the start of the Old Kingdom.
With the First Dynasty, the capital moved from Abydos to Memphis with a unified Egypt ruled by an Egyptian god-king. Abydos remained the major holy land in the south. The symbols of ancient Egyptian civilization, such as art, architecture, and many aspects of religion, took shape during the Early Dynastic Period.
Memphis in the Early Bronze Age was the largest city of the time. The Old Kingdom of the local Bronze Age is the name given to the period in the 3rd millennium BC when Egypt achieved its first continuous peak of civilization in complexity and achievement – the first of three “Kingdom” periods, which mark the high points of civilization in the lower Nile Valley (the others being the Middle Kingdom and the New Kingdom).
The First Intermediate Period of Egypt, often defined as a “dark period” in ancient Egyptian history, spanned about 100 years after the end of the Old Kingdom from about 2181 to 2055 BC.
Very little monumental evidence remains from this period, especially from the early part of it. The First Intermediate Period was a dynamic time when the rule of Egypt was roughly divided between two competing power bases: Heracleopolis in Lower Egypt and Thebes in Upper Egypt.
These two kingdoms would finally come into dispute, with the Theban kings winning the north, following the reunification of Egypt under a single ruler during the second part of the 11th Dynasty.
Middle Bronze dynasties
The Middle Kingdom of Egypt lasted from 2055 to 1650 BC. During this period, the Osiris funerary cult rose to control Egyptian popular religion. The period includes two phases: the 11th Dynasty, which ruled from Thebes, and the 12th and 13th Dynasties centered on el-Lisht.
The united kingdom was earlier considered to comprise the 11th and 12th Dynasties, but historians now at least partially consider the 13th Dynasty to belong to the Middle Kingdom.
During the Second Intermediate Period, Ancient Egypt fell into chaos for a second time, between the end of the Middle Kingdom and the start of the New Kingdom. It is best known for the Hyksos, whose reign spanned the 15th and 16th dynasties. The Hyksos first appeared in Egypt during the 11th Dynasty, began their climb to power in the 13th Dynasty, and emerged from the Second Intermediate Period in control of Avaris and the Delta. By the 15th Dynasty, they ruled lower Egypt, and they were expelled at the end of the 17th Dynasty.
Late Bronze dynasties
The New Kingdom of Egypt also referred to as the Egyptian Empire, lasted from the 16th to the 11th century BC. The New Kingdom followed the Second Intermediate Period and was succeeded by the Third Intermediate Period. It was Egypt’s most rich time and marked the peak of Egypt’s power. The later New Kingdom, i.e. the 19th and 20th Dynasties (1292–1069 BC), is also known as the Ramesside period, after the eleven pharaohs that took the name of Ramesses.
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