First Dynasty of Egypt

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The First Dynasty of ancient Egypt (Dynasty I)[1] 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, a time at which 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 beginning of the First Dynasty—the accession of Hor-Aha—was placed at 3100 BC give or take a century (3218–3035, with 95% confidence).[2]


Known rulers in the history of Egypt for the First Dynasty are as follows:

Name Reign Notes
Span Dates
Narmer Uncertain Late 32nd century (?) Usually identified as Menes, uniter of Upper and Lower Egypt.[3] Probable successor of the prehistoric Egyptian Naqada III kings Scorpion II or Ka. Succeeded by Hor-Aha.
Hor-Aha Uncertain but long From late 32nd century or early 31st[4] Sometimes identified as Menes. Father of Djer, possibly by Neithhotep, or another wife who is only attested much later, named Khenthap. Succeeded by the regency of Neithhotep.
Neithhotep 1 year (?)[5] (?) Female. Regent for her son or grandson and successor Djer.
Djer 40–41 years fl. 3000 BC Father of Merneith. Succeeded by Djet, his probable son.
Djet c. 10 years From c. 2980 BC Succeeded by his wife and probable sister Merneith. Father of Den.
Merneith (?) From c. 2970 BC Female. Regent for her son and successor Den and possible pharaoh in her own right. Probably daughter of Djer and senior wife of Djet.
Den 42 years From c. 2970 BC
Possible gap
Anedjib 8–10 years From c. 2930 BC Grandson of Djet and Merneith, possibly son of Den.
Possible gap
Semerkhet 8 12 years From c. 2920 BC Formerly believed to be a usurper but legitimate and possible son of Den. Succeeded by Qa'a.
Qa'a 26–33 years From c. 2910 BC Last pharaoh of Dynasty I

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.[6][7][8] 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.[9] Egyptian hieroglyphs were fully developed by then, and their shapes would be used with little change for more than three thousand years.

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."[10]

Human sacrifice[edit]

Human sacrifice was practiced as part of the funerary rituals associated with all of the pharaohs of the first dynasty.[11] 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.[11] 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.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Kuhrt (1995), p. 118.
  2. ^ Dee, M.; Wengrow, D.; Shortland, A.; Stevenson, A.; Brock, F.; Girdland Flink, L.; Bronk Ramsey, C. (4 September 2013). "An absolute chronology for early Egypt using radiocarbon dating and Bayesian statistical modelling". Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences. 469 (2159): 20130395–20130395. doi:10.1098/rspa.2013.0395. PMC 3780825.
  3. ^ Dee et al. (2013) note: "For this study, we take the foundation date to refer to the accession of king Aha of the First Dynasty, although his predecessor, Narmer, most likely held political control over the whole state. Historical foundation dates vary widely and recent estimates range from 3400 to 2900 BC."
  4. ^ Dee et al. 2013 provide the date 3080 BCE within a margin of error of 30 years (p = 0.32). "Our analysis generates a chronometric date for the foundation of Egypt (accession of king Aha) of 3111–3045 BC (68% hpd range; median 3085 BC) or 3218–3035 BC (95% hpd range)."
  5. ^ In accordance with the "double death" and interregnum recorded on the Palermo Stone following the reign of Hor-Aha.
  6. ^ "Qa'a and Merneith lists", Xoomer, IT: Virgilio.
  7. ^ The Narmer Catalog http://narmer.org/inscription/1553
  8. ^ The Narmer Catalog http://narmer.org/inscription/4048
  9. ^ Manetho, Fr. 6, 7a, 7b. Text and translation in Manetho, translated by W.G. Waddell (Cambridge: Harvard University, 1940), pp. 27–35
  10. ^ "Early ship construction – Khufu's solar boat", Egypt (Timeline), IL: Reshafim, January 2001, retrieved October 29, 2008.
  11. ^ a b Shaw (2000), p. 68.


Preceded by
New creation
Dynasty of Egypt
c. 31002890 BCE
Succeeded by
Second Dynasty