Early dynastic period, c3000–2686 BC

1st Dynasty: c3000–2890 BC


First pharaoh: Aha (c3000 BC–unknown)

Last pharaoh: Qa‘a (unknown–2890 BC)

2nd Dynasty: 2890–2686 BC

First pharaoh: Hetepsekhemwy (2890 BC–unknown)

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Last pharaoh: Khasekhemwy (unknown–2686 BC)

Key information:

The era directly following the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt in c3100 BC, the Early Dynastic Period sees a capital city established at Memphis.

First pharaoh of the First Dynasty: Aha
First pharaoh: Aha (c3000 BC–unknown). (Image by Getty Images)

Old Kingdom, 2686–2160 BC

3rd Dynasty: 2686–2613 BC

First pharaoh: Nebka (2686–2667 BC)

Last pharaoh: Huni (2637–2613 BC)

4th Dynasty: 2613–2494 BC

First pharaoh: Sneferu (2613–2589 BC)

Last pharaoh: Shepseskaf (2503–2498 BC)

5th Dynasty: 2494–2345 BC

First pharaoh: Userkaf (2494–2487 BC)

Last pharaoh: Unas (2375–2345 BC)

6th Dynasty: 2345–2181 BC

First pharaoh: Teti (2345–2323 BC)

Last pharaoh: Nitiqret (2184–2181 BC)

7th and 8th Dynasties: 2181–2160 BC

Several ephemeral kings ruled in the 7th Dynasty, most of whom took the name of Neferkara – probably in imitation of the throne name of Pepy II (6th Dynasty, 2278–2184 BC). The short-lived 8th Dynasty was equally unstable and saw the collapse of the Old Kingdom system of control.

Key information:

The first true, flat-sided pyramids are built during the reign of Sneferu (founder of the 4th Dynasty), in place of the step pyramids commonly found in the 3rd Dynasty. Sneferu’s son, Khufu (2589–2566 BC), builds the Great Pyramid of Giza, and the Great Sphinx follows, probably during the reign of Khafre (Khufu’s son and successor, 2558–2532 BC), together with a second pyramid. The third pyramid at Giza is probably built during the reign of Khafre’s successor, Menkaure (2532–2503 BC). Egypt splits into several political units after the 94-year reign of Pepy II (6th Dynasty).

Ancient Egypt facts

The land of the pharaohs is famous for its huge pyramids, its bandaged mummies and its golden treasures. But how much do you really know about ancient Egypt? Was the Great Pyramid built by slaves? How did mummification work? Here, Egyptologist Joyce Tyldesley shares 10 lesser-known facts...

(Photo by Michele Falzone via Getty Images)

First intermediate period, 2160–2055 BC

9th and 10th Dynasties: 2160–2025 BC

First pharaoh: K hety (2160 BC–unknown)

Last pharaoh: Merykara (unknown –2025 BC)

11th Dynasty (Thebes only): 2125–2055 BC

First pharaoh: Intef I (2125–2112 BC)

Last pharaoh: Intef III (2063–2055 BC)

Key information:

Centralised power weakens during this period, and Egypt is ruled by two competing dynasties. One is based at Heracleopolis in the north, with the other based at Thebes in the south.

Middle Kingdom, 2055–1650 BC

11th Dynasty (all Egypt): 2055–1985 BC

First pharaoh: Mentuhotep II (2055–2004 BC)

Last pharaoh: Mentuhotep IV (1992–1985 BC)

12th Dynasty: 1985–1773 BC

First pharaoh: Amenemhat I (1985–1956 BC)

Last pharaoh: Queen Sobekneferu (1777–1773 BC)

13th Dynasty: 1773–after 1650 BC

First pharaoh: Wegaf (1773 BC–unknown)

Last pharaoh: Ay (exact dates unknown)

14th Dynasty: 1773–1650 BC

Believed to be minor rulers whose reigns were contemporary with the 13th or 15th Dynasties

Key information:

Upper and Lower Egypt are reunified under Mentuhotep II (pictured below). Evidence indicates a shift in the pharaoh’s role as political and spiritual leader during this period, as well as changes in the organisation of society, religious beliefs, and relations with neighbouring peoples. During the 12th Dynasty a new capital is established, at Idj Tawy.

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Tutankhamun's blue and gold funerary mask

Second intermediate period, 1650–1550 BC

15th Dynasty: 1650–1550 BC

First pharaoh: Salitis/Sekerher (1650 BC–unknown)

Last pharaoh: Khamudi (exact dates unknown)

16th Dynasty: 1650–1580 BC

Theban rulers contemporary with 15th Dynasty

17th Dynasty: c1580–1550 BC

First pharaoh: Rahotep (c1580 BC–unknown)

Last pharaoh: Kamose (1555–1550 BC)

Key information:

Egypt is once again ruled by competing dynasties, with the north ruled by the Hyksos – descendants of people from western Asia who had settled in the eastern Nile Delta – who ally with rulers of Kerma in Nubia against the Egyptian 16th Dynasty, based in Thebes.

New Kingdom, 1550–1069 BC

18th Dynasty: 1550–1295 BC

First pharaoh: Ahmose I (1550–1525 BC)

Last pharaoh: Horemheb (1323–1295 BC)

Dr Nasri Iskander restoring the mummy of Ahmose I
Dr Nasri Iskander restoring the mummy of Ahmose I, c2006. (Image by Getty Images)

Ramesside Period, 1295–1069 BC

19th Dynasty: 1295–1186 BC

First pharaoh: Ramesses I (1295–1294 BC)

Last pharaoh: Queen Tausret (1188–1186 BC)

20th Dynasty:1186–1069 BC

First pharaoh: Sethnakht (1186–1184 BC)

Last pharaoh: Ramesses XI (1099–1069 BC)

Key information:

Ahmose I drives the Hyksos from the Delta and reunites Egypt, ushering in nearly 500 years of political and economic stability. The following Ramesside period is a high point in Egyptian history, with great building projects – particularly under Ramesses II (1279–1213 BC) and military conquests in Syria, Libya and Nubia.

Third Intermediate Period, 1069–664 BC

21st Dynasty: 1069–945 BC

First pharaoh: Smendes (1069–1043 BC)

Last pharaoh: Psusennes II (959–945 BC)

22nd Dynasty: 945–715 BC

First pharaoh: Sheshonq I (945–924 BC)

Last pharaoh: Osorkon IV (unknown–715 BC)

23rd Dynasty: 818–715 BC (contemporary with late 22nd, 24th and early 25th dynasties)

Pharaohs include: Pedubastis I, Takelot III, Iuput II

24th Dynasty: 727–715 BC

Known pharaoh: Bakenrenef (720–715 BC)

25th Dynasty: 747–656 BC

First pharaoh: Piy (747–716 BC)

Last pharaoh: Tanutamani (664–656 BC)

Key information:

The death of Ramesses XI in 1069 BC sees Egypt descend into some 400 years of politically divided rule, with various centres of power and a loss of control over Nubia (Kush) in the south, which is ruled by an independent dynasty in the mid-eighth century BC. In the late eighth century BC, the Kushite ruler Piy (whose victory stele is pictured below), invades Egypt and lays the foundations for the 25th Dynasty.

Late Period, 664–332 BC

26th Dynasty: 664–525 BC

First pharaoh: Psamtek I (664–610 BC)

Last pharaoh: Psamtek III (526–525 BC)

27th Dynasty (1st Persian Period): 525–404 BC

First pharaoh: Cambyses (525–522 BC)

Last pharaoh: Artaxerxes II (405–359 BC)

28th Dynasty: 404–399 BC

Only pharaoh: Amyrtaios (404–399 BC)

29th Dynasty: 399–380 BC

First pharaoh: Nepherites I (399–393 BC)

Last pharaoh: Nepherites II (c380 BC)

30th Dynasty: 380–343 BC

First pharaoh: Nectanebo I (380–362 BC)

Last pharaoh: Nectanebo II (360–343 BC)

2nd Persian Period: 343–332 BC

First pharaoh: Artaxerxes III Ochus (343–338 BC)

Last pharaoh: Darius III Codoman (336–332 BC)

Key information:

Egypt sees considerable turmoil with foreign powers threatening throughout the period. In 525 BC, the Achaemenid Persian empire invades for the first time but will be ousted by Alexander the Great in 332 BC.

The 'Alexander Mosaic' showing Alexander the Great
A fragment from the 'Alexander Mosaic', c100 BC, showing Alexander the Great in battle against the Persian king Darius III. (Photo by Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

Ptolemaic Period, 332–30 BC

Macedonian Dynasty: 332–305 BC

First pharaoh: Alexander the Great (332–323 BC)

Last pharaoh: Alexander IV (317–310 BC, nominal ruler 310–305 BC)

Ptolemaic Dynasty: 305 BC–30 AD

First pharaoh: Ptolemy I Soter (305–285 BC)

Last pharaoh: Ptolemy XV Caesarion (44–30 BC)

Key information:

After Alexander the Great’s death, rule passes to one of his generals, Ptolemy. Antony and Cleopatra’s defeat at Actium by Octavian (future Roman Emperor Augustus) in 31 BC is followed by the murder of Egypt’s last pharaoh, Cleopatra’s son Caesarion (pictured with his mother, below), the following year.

*The dates used in this feature are derived from The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, edited by Ian Shaw (OUP, 2000). Please note that dates will vary between different sources.


This timeline was first published in the June 2022 issue of BBC History Revealed


Charlotte HodgmanStrategic Projects Editor, HistoryExtra

Charlotte Hodgman is Strategic Projects Editor for HistoryExtra. She currently looks after the HistoryExtra Academy and was previously editor of BBC History Revealed, and deputy editor of BBC History Magazine - although not at the same time. She also makes the occasional appearance on the HistoryExtra podcast