The Old Kingdom - Egyptian history for Kids
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Old Kingdom Egypt

Pyramid Giza
The pyramids at Giza

When Egypt was first unified around 3000 BC under a Pharaoh from Upper Egypt (the south), the Pharaohs quickly came to have a great deal of power over their subjects. The Pharaohs' capital was at Memphis. This slate palette - the Narmer Palette - has a hole in the middle for mixing eye shadow. But the carvings seem to show the Pharaoh of Upper Egypt standing up and beating the Pharaoh of Lower Egypt.

Narmer Palette Narmer Palette
Narmer Palette showing the unification of Egypt

Because the Old Kingdom was so long ago, we don't have a lot of information about this time. It seems that the Pharaohs organized the first systematic irrigation from the Nile river, which allowed still more people to live in Egypt without starving. The Pyramids were built in this period as great tombs for the Pharaohs. Probably they were built by people who were usually farmers, like most people at that time. They may have been built a little at a time each year, during the Nile floods when people couldn't do farm work anyway. Recent archaeology suggests that the earliest Pharaohs also engaged in human sacrifice. About the same time, another great civilization was arising in Sumer.

Ankhesenpepi II
Ankhesenpepi II and her son Pepy II

The last pharaoh of the Old Kingdom was Pepy II. But Pepy II was only six years old when he became Pharaoh - Pepy II's mother, Ankhesenpepi II, probably was really the one ruling Egypt. She would have been used to the idea of women having political power: Ankhesenpepi II's mother, Nebet, had been the vizier for Pepy II's grandfather, Pepi I. Ankhesenpepi II may have ruled until Pepy II grew up, or perhaps until she died. After her death, Pepy II gradually lost power, and the other rich men and women of Egypt began to rule their own areas as if they were kings themselves - this was the First Intermediate Period.

First Intermediate Period (2160-2040 BC)
Sumerians in West Asia
Meroe south of Egypt
Ancient Egypt
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To find out more about Old Kingdom Egypt, check out these books from Amazon or from your library:

Eyewitness: Ancient Egypt, by George Hart. For kids.

The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, by Ian Shaw (2002).

Old Kingdom (2686-2160 BC)
First Intermediate Period (2160-2040 BC)
Middle Kingdom (2040-1633 BC)
Second Intermediate Period (1786-1558 BC)
New Kingdom (1558-1085 BC)
Third Intermediate Period (1085-525 BC)
Persian rule (525-332 BC)
Greek rule (332-30 BC) (also called the Hellenistic)
Roman rule (30 BC-700 AD)
Islamic rule (700 AD to present)
Ancient Egypt
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Copyright 2012-2014 Karen Carr, Portland State University. This page last updated 2014. Powered by Dewahost.

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