The Old Kingdom is the period spanning c. 2700–2200 BC. It is also known as the “Age of the Pyramids” or the “Age of the Pyramid Builders”, as it encompasses the reigns of the great pyramid-builders of the Fourth Dynasty, such as King Sneferu, who perfected the art of pyramid-building, and the kings Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure, who constructed the pyramids at Giza. Egypt attained its first sustained peak of civilization during the Old Kingdom, the first of three so-called “Kingdom” periods (followed by the Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom), which mark the high points of civilization in the lower Nile Valley.

Rise of the Old Kingdom

The first King of the Old Kingdom was Djoser (sometime between 2691 and 2625 BC) of the Third Dynasty, who ordered the construction of a pyramid (the Step Pyramid) in Memphis’ necropolis, Saqqara. An important person during the reign of Djoser was his vizier, Imhotep.

It was in this era that formerly independent ancient Egyptian states became known as nomes, under the rule of the king. The former rulers were forced to assume the role of governors or otherwise work in tax collection. Egyptians in this era believed the king to be the incarnation of Horus, linking the human and spiritual worlds. Egyptian views on the nature of time during this period held that the universe worked in cycles, and the Pharaoh on earth worked to ensure the stability of those cycles. They also perceived themselves as specially selected people.