Egyptian Dynasties

Dynastic Period Early Dynastic Period 1st & 2nd Dynasties 3100 – 2686 BC
  Old Kingdom 3rd to 6th Dynasties 2686 – 2181 BC
  First Intermediate Period 7th to 10th Dynasties 2181 – 2050 BC
  Middle Kingdom 11th & 12th Dynasties 2050 – 1750 BC
  Second Intermediate Period 13th to 17th Dynasties 1750 – 1657 BC
  New Kingdom 18th to 20th Dynasties 1657 – 1085 BC
  Late Kingdom 21st to 24th Dynasties 1085 – 715 BC
  Late Period 25th to 30th Dynasties 715 to 332 BC
Ptolemaic Period     832 to 30 BC


  • Imhotep (architect of the pyramids) lived in the 3rd Dynasty
  • Cheops was the 2nd King of the 4th Dynasty
  • Pepi 11 was the last King of the 6th Dynasty
  • Akhenaton and Tutenkhamen lived in the 18th Dynasty
  • Rameses 11 was the 3rd King of the 19th Dynasty
  • With the death of Cleopatra in 30BC, Egypt became a Roma province.


Queen Ankhnes-meryre II and her son
Queen Ankhnes-meryre II and her son


The Family in Ancient Egypt

To the Ancient Egyptians, the family consisted, not only of living members, but also of the dead.

The basis of the family was monogamous marriage, although there were examples of polygamy among high officials and the Pharaoh had a chief wife, lesser wives and numerous concubines.

Marriage was a private act, usually for love rather than arranged, and sometimes set out in a “marriage contract”. Divorce was possible but social pressures, the marriage contract and financial penalties made it difficult.

The husband was obliged to maintain his wife and children but the wife was allowed to own and dispose of her own property as she chose. On the other hand, the father had certain rights over the property of his grown sons and children were legally responsible for their parents debts and for maintaining them in their old age.

At the royal level, Ancient Egypt was matrilineal. The queen was born to the throne and the king achieved it through marriage.


Statue of the Pharoah Khafra (2558 - 2532 BC)
Statue of the Pharoah Khafra (2558 – 2532 BC)


Egyptian Sculpture

The Egyptians made sculpture as an abode for the ka (soul) of the dead in case the mummy should be destroyed. Because of this, portrait likeness and permanence of material were the most important considerations. Stone was used for the royal and noble classes, wood, clay or bronze were used for others.

Because of the difficulty of carving the hard stone (mostly granite) with bronze tools, Egyptian statues have a block-like appearance.

To fashion a statue, a design was drawn on the stone in red ochre. A rough blocking out was then done. If the stone was soft enough, copper or bronze saws and chisels were used to fashion the rough shape. In the case of hard stone, this was achieved by pounding the stone with a ball of dolerite and by grinding with stones held in the hand using sand as an abrasive.

Finishing consisted of burnishing and polishing. In all cases, the statue would be painted to make it as lifelike as possible.

Ushabti figures were placed in the tombs of the wealthy to act as their labourers in the afterlife.


Egyptian Painting

Ancient Egyptian painting
Ancient Egyptian painting

Upper and Lower Egypt were united in about 3,000 B.C. by Menes, or “King Narmer”. His image appears on a slate slab, originally used for preparing eye makeup. Except for the brief period of the reign of Akhenaton, the style of the “Palette of Narmer” was followed by Egyptian artists for 3,000 years. Figures are arranged in lines; the head, legs and arms are seen from the side but the eyes and shoulders are seen from the front.

Paint was used freely on papyrus, plaster, pottery, stone and wood. Perhaps surprisingly, linen was rarely painted until Roman times.

 The pigments used were minerals: soot, lamp-black or charcoal was used for black; ochre for red and yellow; malachite for green and azurite for blue. The pigment was finely ground and mixed with water. Glue, gum or egg was used as an adhesive.

The paint was applied with either a wooden brush which had been soaked and frayed at one end or a brush made from a reed frayed at the end. An identical type of brush was used by ancient Egyptian scribes.

When the painting was complete, it was protected with a thin layer of varnish.


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