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From the 5th Dynasty till the First Intermediate Period
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Nedjemu (University of Memphis)

The Village Chief
a scribe from Memphis
"The Village Chief"
2500 BCE
(Cairo Egyptian Museum)

Reed boat
Reed boat
6th Dynasty

Girl carrying bread
Girl carrying bread
(11th Dynasty)
(Cairo Museum)

Model of plowman
Model of plowman
(11th Dynasty)
Source: Phoenix Art Museum website

From the 5th Dynasty till the First Intermediate Period

(Dates: ± 100 years)
2500 - 5th Dynasty
  • Pyramid texts (a collection of magical spells) inscribed on the walls of the tombs of the pharaohs are supposed to serve them in the after-life.
  • The autocratic-patriarchal monarchy changes into a monarchy controlled by the bureaucracy. Increasing power of high officials and priests.
  • The Precepts of Ptahhotep: purportedly a father's instructions to his son, one of the oldest literary works.
  • The worship of the sun god Re at Heliopolis becomes state religion. The king is the "son of the sun".
  • Limestone reliefs depicting the daily life in the tomb of the vizier Ptahotep near Saqqara.
  • There are great obelisks at the centre of the courtyards of the Sun temples. Coloured naturalistic reliefs in honour of the god.
  • Hieratic script develops from the Hieroglyphic
  • Statue of a scribe (a high official in a squatting position) made of granite in a geometric-symmetrical style.
  • Pillars in the form of stylized palm trees or papyrus reeds
  • Limestone figure of a beer making slave
  • "The Village Chief" (wooden statue of a high official)
  • Relief in the tomb of King Ti at Saqqara: Hippopotamus hunt, workshops of a sculptor and a carpenter, a bird hunting mongoose etc.
  • Production of bronze, first bronze statues
  • Depiction of surgeons
  • First mummies
  • Dates are grown
  • An extensive system of dikes, canals and sluices has developed. It remains in use until the Roman occupation,
  • First mention of Osiris in funerary inscriptions.
  • No more solar temples are being built
  • Changes in the priestly functions at the pyramid complexes: the title Priest of the King is abandoned and replaced by Priest of the Pyramid.
  • New official positions are created, such as Supervisor over Upper Egypt
  • The pyramid of Unas (Weni) is the first showing Pyramid Texts, which relate to the fate of the king in the afterlife, when he takes his place among the gods and among the stars.
  • Return to burials at North Saqqara
2320 - 6th Dynasty
  • Pyramids at Abusir (since 2500) with reliefs depicting daily life
  • Official lists mention bee keepers.
  • Navigable canal at the first cataract
2280 - Pepi II
  • There are nine gods in the pantheon of the Suntemple at Heliopolis:
    1. Atum-Re (Sungod and creator)
    2. Geb (Earth)
    3. Nut (Heavens)
    4. Shu (Air)
    5. Tefnut (Moisture)
    6. Osiris (Son of Geb and Nut, God of the Dead)
    7. Isis (Sister and wife of Osiris, later Mother goddess)
    8. Seth (Brother and enemy of Osiris, later God of Darkness)
    9. Nephthys (Sister of Osiris, wife of Seth)
  • Seth kills Osiris, Isis buries him, The son of Osiris, Horus (Atum-Re) kills Seth, Osiris is reawakened and becomes Lord of the World of the Dead. Everybody can rise from the dead in the world of the dead. The cult of Osiris becomes very widespread.
2180 - First Intermediate Period
  • The power of the princes of the nomes grows, while the central power is severely weakened, cf. the Biography of Tefibi and his descendants.
  • Civil disorder and drought, cf. the Biography of Ankhtifi.
  • Literature is sceptical in outlook: complaints, questions about the meaning of life. It flourishes at the court of the princes of Herakleopolis, who are politically dominant.
  • The Instruction of Merikare
  • According to tradition: Giant labyrinthine Pantheon near Medinet el Fayum
  • Art shows signs of decay
  • Widespread famine
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