Life in the Old Kingdom



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Ch. 1.2 “The Old Kingdom” (p.19-26) KEY

Life in the Old Kingdom


The Big Idea: Egyptian government and religion were closely connected during the Old Kingdom.
Main Idea 1: Life in the Old Kingdom was influenced by pharaohs, roles in society, and trade.

Early Pharaohs


  • 2700-2200 BC: 500 year period-- called the Old Kingdom

    1. Egypt’s political system was based on the belief that the pharaoh was both king and god

    2. Pharaohs had absolute power over the land and the people.

    3. Pharaoh’s responsibilities: make crops grow, keep disease away, make trade profitable, prevent wars

    4. Most famous pharaoh of Old Kingdom: Khufu –cruel but people who served him were well fed. Many monuments built to him. (pyramids…)



Society and Trade

  • Egypt’s population at end of Old Kingdom: 2 million


  • Social Classes in Egypt: the Egyptians believed that if their society was well-ordered it would

keep the kingdom strong.

    1. At the TOP: Pharaoh—ruled as a god

    2. Upper Classes: Nobles—Officials and priests—helped run government & temples—from rich powerful families

    3. Middle Class: lesser government officials, scribes and rich craftspeople

4 Lower Class : 80%, mostly farmers, during flood season worked on pharaoh’s building projects – also servants and slaves

  • Trade route: traders traveled south along Nile to Nubia

5.Goods from Nubia: gold, copper, ivory, slaves, stone for building

6.Goods from Syria: wood for building and for fire


Religion and Egyptian Life

Main Idea 2: Religion shaped Egyptian life.


  • The Gods of Egypt

  1. Egyptians practiced Polytheism—which means they worshiped many gods

  2. During First Dynasty: every village worshiped its own gods

  3. During Old Kingdom: everyone worshiped the same gods, but in different ways

  4. Temples collected payments from worshippers and government, which made temple more influential.

  5. Examples of Gods: Ptah—creator of world, Re or Amon-Re—sun god, Osiris—god of underworld, Isis—goddess of magic, Horus—sky god, Thoth—wisdom, Geb--earth --- also families had house gods.


Main Idea 3: The pyramids were built as tombs for Egypt’s pharaohs.

Emphasis on Afterlife

  1. Ka: life force, at death ka leaves the body but is still linked to body and can’t leave burial place

  2. People met the needs of Ka by: filling the tomb with clothes, furniture, tools, jewelry, weapons. They also brought food and drink.


Burial Practices—Religious beliefs influenced burial practices.

  • Reason body needed to be preserved: so the Ka (spirit) could recognize its body

  • Method of preservation: Embalmed then wrapped in cloth (mummies)

  • Which people had mummies made? Only royalty and members of Egypt’s elite could afford to have mummies made.

  • How did peasants deal with their dead? They buried them in shallow graves at the edge of the desert. The hot, dry sand preserved the bodies.



The Pyramids


  • Purpose: royal tombs--monuments in which to bury rulers

  • First built: during Old Kingdom

  • Great Pyramid of Khufu: Some facts: near town of Giza, Largest, 13 acres, 480 feet tall, 2 million limestone blocks, thousands of workers, guarded by the Sphinx

  • Earliest Pyramids: did not have smooth sides

  • Smooth sided pyramids: began around 2700BC

  • Workers pay: goods such as grain, instead of money.

  • Theories of how Egyptians moved the massive stones: Floated them to the building site during flood season. Used brick ramps and wooden sleds to move stones at the site.

  • Symbolism of Pyramids: Shape = pointing to the sky = journey to afterlife


p. 26 Questions:

#1b. Why did Egyptians never question the pharaoh’s authority?

No one questioned the pharaoh’s authority because he was considered a god.

#2b. Why was embalming important to Egyptians?

Embalming was important because if the body decayed the spirit wouldn’t recognize it.

#3b. What does the building of the pyramids tell us about Egyptian society?

The pyramids show that Egyptian society was capable of complex skills, very organized, and highly disciplined.





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