The Pyramid Age (The Old Kingdom)
Often called “the Pyramid Age” the Old Kingdom (2649 –2100 BCE) is one of three “kingdom” periods in the traditional divisions of ancient Egyptian history. The other two are the Middle Kingdom (2061–1640 BCE) and the New Kingdom (1550–1070 BCE) These Kingdoms – along with the other periods between them – included dynasties of kings, numbered 1-30, after which Egypt came under the control of foreign powers. The Old Kingdom is known especially as the era when ancient Egyptian civilization first rose to become a thriving nation, with a single administration governing the whole country under a single ruler – the pharaoh. The first royal pyramids were constructed in this period. The pyramids were, above all, tombs for pharaohs. Many Old Kingdom kings had pyramid complexes built in the region of Memphis (around modern Cairo), Egypt’s Old Kingdom capital. The cemeteries of these pyramid sites include people from the royal family and the state administration, along with their families. The royal pyramids of the Old Kingdom often are looked upon as symbols of the strength of this new Egyptian state, since vast amounts of planning, resources, and labor had to be organized throughout the country and over many years to build them. The largest is the Great Pyramid of Giza, built for King Khufu of Dynasty over many years. Pyramids were also constructed for some kings of the Middle Kingdom and just one New Kingdom pharaoh. Thereafter the pyramid was abandoned as the preferred kind of tomb for kings. A new kind of hidden, underground tomb become the preferences, in an area of southern Egypt now known as the Valley of the Kings.