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Ancient Egypt


The Egyptian priest Manetho grouped the pharaohs into 31 dynasties. Modern Egyptologists tend to count the early, Macedonian, and Ptolemaic pharaohs as three additional dynasties, for a total of 34 dynasties. The dynasties are grouped into the following periods (all dates are BCE and approximate):

  1. Predynastic (5000--3000), Dynasty 0
  2. Early Dynastic (3000--2625), Dynasties 1--3
  3. Old Kingdom (2625--2130), Dynasties 4--8
  4. First Intermediate Period (2130--1980), Dynasties 9--11
  5. Middle Kingdom (1980--1630), Dynasties 12--14
  6. Second Intermediate Period (1630--1539), Dynasties 15--17
  7. New Kingdom (1539--1075), Dynasties 18--20
  8. Third Intermediate Period (1075--656), Dynasties 21--25
  9. Late Period (664--332), Dynasties 26--31
  10. Hellenistic Period (332--30), Dynasties 32--33


Egyptian writing first appeared shortly before 3200 BCE. Throughout it's long history it changed a great deal and also had geographical dialects. Hieroglyphic is a means of writing the Egyptian language; it was normally used for more permanent writing. A cursive script, known as hieratic, was used for nearly as long as hieroglyphic as a form of everyday writing. Each hieratic sign has a hieroglyphic counterpart, although the relationship is not always clear.

There are about 500 basic signs.

Wisdom Literature

Here are a few excerpts from the Toby Wilkinson translation of the Teaching of Ptahhotep, generally believed to have been composed in the first half of the Twelfth Dynasty (c. 1850):

If you come across a disputatious man in the heat of the moment,
who has authority over you as a superior,
bend your arms in respect and bow.
For if you vex him, he will not be friendly to you.
Diminish his bad speech
by not opposing him while he is in the heat of the moment.
He will be called an ignoramus
while your self-control will equal his wealth.