First Dynasty of Egypt

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The First Dynasty of ancient Egypt (Dynasty I)[1] covers the first series of Egyptian kings to rule over a unified Egypt. It immediately follows the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt, possibly by Narmer,[2] and marks the beginning of the Early Dynastic Period, a time at which power was centered at Thinis.

First Dynasty of Egypt
c. 3100 BC–c. 2900 BC
Narmer Palette (circa 3200–3000 BC)
Narmer Palette (circa 3200–3000 BC)
Common languagesEgyptian language
Ancient Egyptian religion
GovernmentAbsolute monarchy
Historical eraBronze Age
• Established
c. 3100 BC
• Disestablished
c. 2900 BC
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Pre-dynastic Egypt
Second Dynasty of Egypt

The date of this period is subject to scholarly debate about the Egyptian chronology. It falls within the early Bronze Age and is variously estimated to have begun anywhere between the 34th and the 30th centuries BC. In a 2013 study based on radiocarbon dates, the beginning of the First Dynasty—the accession of Narmer (commonly known as Menes)—was placed at 3100 BC give or take a century (3218–3035, with 95% confidence).[3]

The dynastyEdit

Information about this dynasty is derived from a few monuments and other objects bearing royal names, the most important being the Narmer Palette and Narmer Macehead, as well as Den and Qa'a king lists.[4][5][6] No detailed records of the first two dynasties have survived, except for the terse lists on the Palermo Stone. The account in Manetho's Aegyptiaca contradicts both the archeological evidence and the other historical records: Manetho names nine rulers of the First Dynasty, only one of whose names matches the other sources, and offers information for only four of them.[7] Egyptian hieroglyphs were fully developed by then, and their shapes would be used with little change for more than three thousand years.

Large tombs of pharaohs at Abydos and Naqada, in addition to cemeteries at Saqqara and Helwan near Memphis, reveal structures built largely of wood and mud bricks, with some small use of stone for walls and floors. Stone was used in quantity for the manufacture of ornaments, vessels, and occasionally, for statues. Tamarix ("tamarisk" or "salt cedar") was used to build boats such as the Abydos boats. One of the most important indigenous woodworking techniques was the fixed mortise and tenon joint. A fixed tenon was made by shaping the end of one timber to fit into a mortise (hole) that is cut into a second timber. A variation of this joint using a free tenon eventually became one of the most important features in Mediterranean and Egyptian shipbuilding. It creates a union between two planks or other components by inserting a separate tenon into a cavity (mortise) of the corresponding size cut into each component."[8]

Biological anthropologist, S.O.Y. Keita, conducted a study on First Dynasty crania from the royal tombs in Abydos and noted the predominant pattern was "Southern" or a “tropical African variant” (though others were also observed), which had affinities with Kerma Kushites. The general results demonstrate greater affinity with Upper Nile Valley groups, but also suggest clear change from earlier craniometric trends. The gene flow and movement of northern officials to the important southern city may explain the findings.[9]

Human sacrificeEdit

Human sacrifice was practiced as part of the funerary rituals associated with all of the pharaohs of the first dynasty. It is clearly demonstrated as existing during this dynasty by retainers being buried near each pharaoh's tomb as well as animals sacrificed for the burial. The tomb of Djer is associated with the burials of 338 individuals.[10] The people and animals sacrificed, such as donkeys, were expected to assist the pharaoh in the afterlife. For unknown reasons, this practice ended with the conclusion of the dynasty.


Known rulers in the history of Egypt for the First Dynasty are as follows:

Name Image Comments Dates
Narmer Believed to be the same person as Menes and to have unified Upper and Lower Egypt. Possibly married Neithhotep.
Around 3100 BC
Hor-Aha Greek form: Athotís. Led an expedition against the Nubians. Married Benerib and Khenthap.
Around 3050 BC
Djer Greek form: Uenéphes (after his Gold name In-nebw); His name and titulary appear on the Palermo Stone. His tomb was later thought to be the legendary tomb of Osiris.
54 years[11]
Djet Greek form: Usapháis. Possibly married Ahaneith.
10 years[12]
Merneith Possibly first female Pharaoh

(or ruled as regent to her son Den or ruled as both king/queen and regent). Merneith was buried close to Djet and Den. Her tomb is of the same scale as the tombs of the (other) kings of that period.[13]

Around 2950 BC[14]
Den Greek form: Kénkenes (after the ramesside diction of his birthname: Qenqen[15]). First pharaoh depicted wearing the double crown of Egypt, first pharaoh with a full niswt bity-name.
42 years[12]
Anedjib Greek form: Miebidós. Known for his ominous nebwy-title.[16]
10 years
Semerkhet Greek form: Semempsés. First Egyptian ruler with a fully developed Nebty name. His complete reign is preserved on the Cairo stone.
8½ years[12]
Qa'a Greek form: Bienéches. Ruled a long time, his tomb is the last one with subsidiary tombs.
34 years
Sneferka Very short reign, correct chronological position unknown.
Around 2900 BC
Horus Bird Very short reign, correct chronological position unknown.
Around 2900 BC

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ Kuhrt (1995), p. 118.
  2. ^ Heagy, Thomas C. (2014). "Who was Menes?". Archeo-Nil. 24: 59–92. Available online "[1]".
  3. ^ Dee, M.; Wengrow, D.; Shortland, A.; Stevenson, A.; Brock, F.; Girdland Flink, L.; Bronk Ramsey, C. (4 September 2013). "An absolute chronology for early Egypt using radiocarbon dating and Bayesian statistical modelling". Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences. 469 (2159): 20130395. Bibcode:2013RSPSA.46930395D. doi:10.1098/rspa.2013.0395. PMC 3780825. PMID 24204188.
  4. ^ "Qa'a and Merneith lists", Xoomer, IT: Virgilio.
  5. ^ The Narmer Catalog Archived 2020-02-08 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ The Narmer Catalog Archived 2020-02-19 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Manetho, Fr. 6, 7a, 7b. Text and translation in Manetho, translated by W.G. Waddell (Cambridge: Harvard University, 1940), pp. 27–35
  8. ^ "Early ship construction – Khufu's solar boat", Egypt (Timeline), IL: Reshafim, January 2001, retrieved October 29, 2008.
  9. ^ Keita, S. O. Y. (1992). "Further studies of crania from ancient Northern Africa: An analysis of crania from First Dynasty Egyptian tombs, using multiple discriminant functions". American Journal of Physical Anthropology. 87 (3): 245–254. doi:10.1002/ajpa.1330870302. ISSN 1096-8644. PMID 1562056.
  10. ^ Shaw (2000), p. 68.
  11. ^ Wolfgang Helck: Untersuchungen zur Thinitenzeit (= Ägyptologische Abhandlungen (ÄA), Vol. 45). Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1987, ISBN 3-447-02677-4, p. 124.
  12. ^ a b c Wolfgang Helck: Untersuchungen zur Thinitenzeit (Agyptologische Abhandlungen), ISBN 3-447-02677-4, O. Harrassowitz (1987), p. 124
  13. ^ Tyldesley, J. (2006). Chronicle of the Queens of Egypt. Thames & Hudson.
  14. ^ Teeter, Emily, ed. (2011). Before the Pyramids, The Origins of Egyptian Civilization. The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. p. 207.
  15. ^ William Matthew Flinders Petrie: The Royal Tombs of the Earliest Dynasties. Cambridge University Press, New York 2013 (reprint of 1901), ISBN 1-108-06612-7, p. 49.
  16. ^ Nicolas-Christophe Grimal: A History of Ancient Egypt. Blackwell, Oxford UK/ Cambridge USA 1992, ISBN 978-0-631-19396-8, p. 53.


Preceded by Dynasty of Egypt
c. 31002890 BC
Succeeded by