First Dynasty of Egypt
|c. 3100 BC–c. 2900 BC|
|Common languages||Egyptian language|
|Religion||Ancient Egyptian religion|
|Historical era||Bronze Age|
|c. 3100 BC|
|c. 2900 BC|
|Periods and dynasties of ancient Egypt|
All years are BC
The First Dynasty of ancient Egypt (Dynasty I) 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, and marks the beginning of the Early Dynastic Period, when power was centered at Thinis.
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 accession of Hor-Aha, the second king of the First Dynasty, was placed between 3111 and 3045 BC with 68% confidence, and between 3218 and 3035 with 95% confidence. The same study placed the accession of Den, the sixth king of the dynasty, between 2928 and 2911 BC with 68% confidence, although a 2023 radiocarbon analysis placed Den's accession potentially earlier, between 3011 and 2921, within a broader window of 3104 to 2913.
See also: First Dynasty of Egypt family tree
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. 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. Egyptian hieroglyphs were fully developed by then, and their shapes would be used with little change for more than three thousand years.
Alena Buis noted:
"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."— Alena Buis, PhD
S.O.Y. Keita, a biological anthropologist, 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" (although others were also observed) that 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.
Main article: Ancient Egyptian retainer sacrifices
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. 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.
According to historian and linguist, Christopher Ehret, the ritual practice of retainer sacrifice originated from the southern region in the Middle Nile. Ehret also stated that this cultural practice was shared with the Kerma kingdom of the Upper Nubian Nile region.
Known rulers in the history of Egypt for the First Dynasty are as follows:
|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.|
|Djet||Greek form: Usapháis. Possibly married Ahaneith.|
|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.
Around 2950 BC
|Den||Greek form: Kénkenes (after the ramesside diction of his birthname: Qenqen). First pharaoh depicted wearing the double crown of Egypt, first pharaoh with a full niswt bity-name.|
|Anedjib||Greek form: Miebidós. Known for his ominous nebwy-title.|
|Semerkhet||Greek form: Semempsés. First Egyptian ruler with a fully developed Nebty name. His complete reign is preserved on the Cairo stone.|
|Qa'a||Greek form: Bienéches. Ruled a long time, his tomb is the last one with subsidiary tombs.|
|Sneferka||Very short reign, correct chronological position unknown.|
Around 2900 BC
|Horus Bird||Very short reign, correct chronological position unknown.|
Around 2900 BC
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 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, where the fixed tenon was made by shaping the end of one timber to fit into a mortise (or 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.