Egypt: Old Kingdom
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Aside from the three primary conventions, there are several characteristics that can help date a piece to a particular time frame. Proportions of the human figure are one of the most distinctive, as they vary between kingdoms. Old Kingdom male figures have characteristically broad shoulders and a long torso, with obvious musculature. On the other hand, females are narrower in the shoulders and waist, with longer legs and a shorter torso. However, in the Sixth Dynasty, the male figures lose their muscularity and their shoulders narrow. The eyes also tend to get much larger.
Though the above concepts apply to most, if not all, figures in Egyptian art, there are additional characteristics that applied to the representations of the king. Their appearance was not an exact rendering of the king's visage, though kings are somewhat identifiable through looks alone. Identification could be supplied by inscriptions or context. A huge, more important part of a king's portrayal was about the idea of the office of kingship, which were dependent on the time period. The Old Kingdom was considered a golden age for Egypt, a grandiose height to which all future kingdoms aspired.
A capable bureaucracy of officials, literate in reading and writing hieroglyphics, served the king. During the early Old Kingdom dynasties, members of the royal family made up this elite class. Later, the king chose those without royal blood, largely by merit, to administer the kingdom.
Imagine the year is 2250 B.C. and Pepy II is 34. His vizier has informed him that Nilometer records for the past 10 years show Nile floods getting lower and lower. Food production has also been dropping. The king has ordered his vizier to assemble the best minds of the kingdom to advise him what to do about the Nile failures before catastrophe hits.
The old kingdom time period in ancient Egypt is when the great pyramids and the great sphinx were built, pyramids construction took place in the early period in the old kingdom. This period of time was highlighted with the progress of management, architecture, painting, sculpture, transportation, food distribution, astronomy and sanitation.
There is evidence of human settlement in the Nile Valley dating back to around 7000 BC and Ancient Egypt was organized into kingdoms before 2686 BC, but archeologists have defined the Old Kingdom as the first of three peaks of stability that Ancient Egyptian civilization experienced.
During these periods, power passed from one dynasty to another. A dynasty ruled until it was overthrown or there were no heirs left to rule. Each kingdom ended in turmoil either after a period of infighting or after being invaded.
Beginning in about 4,000 B.C.E., all of Egyptian society existed in two kingdoms, Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt. Around 3,100 B.C.E., Menes, the king of Upper Egypt, started the long string of dynasties by conquering Lower Egypt. He unified the regions and built his capital city at Memphis, near the border of these two kingdoms. Because Memphis was located on an island in the Nile, it was easy to defend.
We have very few records from the Archaic period, but one account tells of a king of Upper Egypt named Menes. Menes sent an army down the Nile and defeated the king of Lower Egypt in battle. In this way Menes united the two kingdoms. Unification means the joining together of two separate parts, in the case, the two kingdoms.
Kingdom periods in ancient Egyptian history were times when the people of Lower and Upper Egypt were unified under the rule of a single pharaoh. Kingdoms were also periods when Egypt reached peaks in achievements. During kingdoms it was not uncommon for one family to rule for many years. The rule was passed on from father to son and then to grandson, this is called a dynasty. A dynasty is a succession of rulers from the same family. Dynasties Three through Six made up the rulers of the Old Kingdom.
Ancient Egypt geography was once split into two distinc