The Old Kingdom is the first of the major periods of Egyptian history, and gives us one of our most iconic images of Ancient Egypt – the Pyramids at Giza.
I have chosen to include the 3rd Dynasty in this period (rather than the Early Dynastic Period) so the Old Kingdom opens with the reign of Djoser and the building of his tomb: the Step Pyramid at Saqqara. The period comes to an end with the long long reign of Pepi II of the 6th Dynasty, after some 500 or so years in total.
Pyramids are the theme of the age – the biggest were those at Giza built by 4th Dynasty kings, but every king had his mighty tomb. The Old Kingdom was a time of strong central government with the whole kingdom tightly in the grasp of the divine king who was in charge. It’s a testimony to the organisational skill and resources available to the kings of this time that they were able to undertake such enormous building projects.
After Pepi II died (outliving most of his heirs) the ruling elite’s grip on power began to falter, and the Old Kingdom sort of dribbles away. Central authority wanes, and the regional governors begin to exercise more autonomy in what is now called the First Intermediate Period.