Based on his vast experience of government, he wrote a book, Instructions of the Vizier Ptah-hotep. In it, he advised ambitious young people to be humble and honest, obedient to one's father and superiors, and fair in dealing with other officials of all ranks.

Building the Great Pyramids

The Old Kingdom is sometimes called the Pyramid Age because during this time, the Egyptians built the majestic pyramids that still stand at Gaza, near present-day Cairo.

Tombs within the pyramids were considered homes in which the deceased would live for eternity. Because Egyptians believed in an afterlife, they preserved the bodies of their dead rulers and provided them with everything they would need in their new lives.

To complete the pyramids, workers hauled and lifted millions of limestone blocks, some weighing as much as 15 tons each. Workers quarried each stone by hand, pulled them on sleds to the site, and hoisted them up earthen ramps to be placed on the slowly rising structure. Building a pyramid took so many years that often a pharaoh would begin construction on his tomb as soon as he inherited the throne.

The pyramids suggest the strength of ancient Egyptian civilization. These costly projects took years to complete and required enormous planning and organization. Thousands of farmers, who had to be fed each day, worked on the pyramids when not planting or harvesting crops.

Middle and New Kingdom Egypt

Power struggles, crop failures, and the cost of building the pyramids all contributed to the collapse of the Old Kingdom. After more than a century of disunity, new pharaohs eventually reunited the land, ushering in a new era, the Middle Kingdom.

The Middle Kingdom

The Middle Kingdom was a turbulent period. The Nile did not rise as regularly as it had in the past. Corruption and rebellions were common. Still, strong rulers did organize a large drainage project, creating vast new stretches of arable, or farmable, land. Egyptian armies occupied part of Nubia (also known as Kush), the gold-rich land to the south. Traders also had greater contacts with the peoples of the Middle East and the Mediterranean island of Crete.

Infographic titled building the pyramids, the great pyramid of Khufu.
Image Long Description

Analyze Data

Pharaohs spent a great deal of resources and time building pyramids. Based on the information here, why do you think Giza pyramids built after Khufu's were not as large as his?

Catastrophe struck about 1700 B.C., when foreign invaders, the Hyksos (HIK sohs), occupied the Nile delta region.

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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments