One of the most difficult things to keep straight about ancient Egypt is its dynastic chronologies, thirty-three families of rulers over thousands of years, full of contradictions, inaccuracies, and outright lies. To offer some assistance I have included an incomplete list of the important dynasties, with a few details about each period; relevant Pharaohs, important events and so forth, from Wilkinson's timeline.
First Dynasty. c.2950-c.2750 BCE
The unification of Upper and Lower Egypt.
Third Dynasty, c.2650-c.2575 BCE
Notable for the construction of the Step Pyramid of Djoser, one of the first pyramids.
Fourth Dynasty, c.2575-c.2450 BCE
The apex of the pyramid age; construction of the Great Pyramid and the Sphinx.
The Seventh Dynasty
Never happened, chalk it up to creative bookkeeping.
The Eleventh Dynasty, c.2080- c.1938 BCE
Egypt's first major civil conflict, a period of great religious as well as political strife, as the Pharaoh's religious mandate to rule was constantly questioned.
Seventeenth Dynasty, c.1630-c.1539 BCE
Invasion and foreign occupation by The Hyksos, Egypt's first outside conquerors. Eventually repelled.
Eighteenth Dynasty, c.1539-c.1292 BCE
Notable for the reign of Akhenaten (c.1353-c.1336 BCE), who banned the native religion and attempted to instate an official monotheism. Also, saw the reign of the boy-king Tutankamun.
Twentieth Dynasty, c.1190-c.1069 BCE
Egypt's golden age, rule under Ramesses and his various successors.
Twenty-fifth Dynasty, c.728-657 BCE
Invasion and rule by the Southern Kushites; political power rests mostly in the hands of the priesthood.
Twenty-Seventh Dynasty, 525-404 BCE
Invasion and rule by the Persian Empire. A canal linking the Nile to the Red Sea is completed (a precursor to the modern day Suez Canal which follows a different path).
Thirtieth Dynasty, 380-343 BCE
The last period in which a native Egyptian monarch rules the state.
Macedonian (32nd) Dynasty, 332-309 BCE
Alexander the Great's conquest over Egypt.
Ptolemaic (33rd) Dynasty, 305 to 30 BCE
The final Pharaohs of Egypt. Ethnically Greek, this dynasty ends with the absorption of the Egyptian state into the Roman Empire.
Images (top to bottom): Step Pyramid of Djoser, Sphinx, Akhenaten, Alexander the Great.
This article was originally published in March 2011, and has been updated for the
January 2013 paperback release.
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