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History of Ancient Egypt: Old Kingdom

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After Khasekenwy expanded the natural resources trade, which helped Egypt acquire things like cedar, limestone, and tin, King Zoser came to power. In 2,650 BCE after Khasenkenwy dies, Zoser completely reinvents the position of Kingship. He would lead Egypt into a golden age which would last 500 years.

Zoser’s reign begins with his government revolution. He went on to create the ‘’Vizier’’ position which served similar duties to a prime minister. Four viziers were stationed throughout Egypt, and all possessed direct access to the king. The most unique thing about the viziers was that none of them were related to the king, yet held such immense responsibilities. Zoser’s next move would be to create a professional government, or in other words a bureaucracy. Again, the people in control of the bureaucracy were non family members. Next, Zoser increased the power of the kingship by telling his beloved architect Imhotep to build him a monument for the ages.’’ The building site that was chosen would be Saqara. One million tons of stone are used to build this monument, with a work force of 30,000 men that weren’t considered slaves. The monument took 10 years to complete, but was only worked on for 3 months a year. Six mastaba’s were built on top of each other, accidently creating the world’s first pyramid which stood 207 ft. high. In 2,575 BCE, Zoser dies, making the way for Snefru.

Snefru would take two titles. Neb’maat which means lord of truth, and Neckernefer which means perfect god. His next move would prove to be vital as he disconnects Egypt from its prehistoric past. First, he founded new towns, gave them new names, and switched up the pottery. Along with that he changed the administration centers and the burial sites to the merchant town of Dashur. The Palermo stone is the primary source of this. He would go on to the build the world’s first true pyramid which was 52.5 degrees on top, and had flat sides, also in Dashur. Next, he built 35 gigantic estates which were used for grain production and housing. Also, 122 cattle farms are built, so that his workers get enough protein in their diet. This was all part of his National Undertaking. Soon after, the pyramid in begin to crumble due to the soil being too moist. Forty ships sail to lower Egypt from Lebanon in order to save the pyramid. In order to maintain the pyramid, it was bent a little to prevent it from sinking hence giving it the name ‘’Bent Pyramid’’. The interior of the pyramid is finished with iron oxide to give it a reddish complexion. It stood at 280 ft. and the kings there were buried at ground level.

Khufu rises to power next, and starts off by building his pyramid in Giza. His fabled architect and nephew Himunu takes charge of the planning. The land of Giza is a virgin, as its never been touched by a pyramid. From Giza, one can see all the other pyramids which served as a tradition. Huge chunks of limestone can be found in Giza near the moccado formation. His next move was to build the pyramid according to the stars in order to get it directionally perfect. The workers were split into groups of 10, consisting of 20 workers each. Other groups (5) consisted of 200 workers, and 1000. Workers ate cattle, about 11 per day. The working conditions weren’t great, as they were hit with extreme heat, swarms of flies and heavy physical labor. After the completion, the pyramid stood at 480 ft., although today it only reaches 451 due to erosion and deterioration. 2.5 million Limestone blocks were used to build the pyramid, as it was built on 13.5 acres of land and took 20 years to complete. The estimated number of workers ranges from 4,000-10,000 or 100,000.

By 2,525 BCE Khufu dies, leading the way for Dejefra. Dejerfra would be the first king to associate himself with the sun god, Ra. The pyramids he would build are based in Iunu. After Dejefra, Khafra comes to throne and builds his pyramids in Giza, which stand 474 ft. His pyramid is the highest point on the plateau. Khafra also builds the plateau guardian, ‘’Sphinx’’. He would be the last of the great pyramid builders, as his son Menkura becomes king next. Menkura builds the final pyramid in Giza, which stands at 216 ft.

In 2,450 BCE, Userfra becomes king. He changes the nature of the kingship by emphasizing its sacred character. He builds the first sun temple and emphasizes the kings relationship with the sun. Next, he separates himself by stating that he is divine, and having his own separate burials. The government changes with him in charge as well, as he lets in non-royal birth members to join. Userfra’s son Unas comes to throne next.

Unas ignored the government, and only focused on the religious nature of the kingship. He wrote the oldest religious text called ‘’Book of the dead’’. Unfortunately he didn’t produce a male heir. His daughter would marry a common man Teti, who would rise to power next. His reign only lasted 8-10 years as he was assassinated in 2,315 BCE. After Unas, Pepy II becomes king at only 10 years old. His rule would last however the most in the history of the world, a stunning 94 years.

During Pepy’s II reign the old kingdom begins to decline. Bankruptcy is hitting Egypt hard, all due to the building of the pyramids which cost about $200 billion. Also, The Egyptian land is too large to govern and keep in control as it spans to about 1,000 miles in length. Next, corrupt officials grow independent, steal taxes and build their own private armies. During this time, the Nile didn’t flood 7 times which only meant catastrophic news for Egyptians. Famine and civil unrest occur. Lastly, the decline of the kingship weakens the Egyptian land. Peppy II slept with common women, which certainly wasn’t helpful for his reputation, only to follow up with drinking and drug problems. This would lead Egypt to finally collapse into a period which is known as the First Intermediate Period.

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