Archaic Period

The trouble with the earliest days of Egyptian history is that there isn’t much history. We know that Upper Egypt was conquering Lower Egypt. The details, however, are lost in the sands of time.

PRE-DYNASTIC (late neolithic culture) 6,000 to 3,000 BC

Nagada I – 5,000 BC – Upper Egypt, spread from Abydos over all of Upper Egypt; reached Red Sea, first cataract and Libyan oasis. Nagada II – 4,000 BC to 3,500 BC – Trade and conflict with Lower Egypt; Hierakonopolis, in middle Egypt, tombs, murals and inscriptions. Nagada III – @ 3,000 BC – The Two Kingdoms, Upper and Lower Egypt, emerge. Upper Egypt: Nekhab (El Kab, near Edfu) central location. Lower Egypt: Buto (Tell el Farain, near Desouq) in the Delta. Period of struggle between North and South in which south claimed the victory; Narmer palette commemorates victory and unification.


Dynasties I and II – Unification of the Two Kingdoms by Hor-Aha (Menes) with capital at Memphis; tombs at Sakkara and Abydos. These tombs are surrounded by the tombs of nobles and court officials killed at the same time. Little is known of the seven kings of the Ist Dynasty other than their names. During the IInd Dynasty, the political struggle centered around the divine sponsor of the king. Set replaced Horus for a few rulers, then returned to influence toward the end of the Dynasty.

It has even taken a while to identify the king who traditionally was said to be the first king of a united Egypt, Mênês (in Greek). Na’rmer, assuming the crown of Lower Egypt, was a good candidate, but then a tablet of Horus’Ah appears to use the hieroglyph mn, “endure,” as a name.
Although the argument about this has been going on for years, it looks like this is where the name “Mênês” comes from, and that Horus’Ah was the first king of a united Egypt.

With a “Scorpion” tomb at Abydos, it may be that this traditional city of Osiris united Upper Egypt by conquering the power, perhaps of the god Seth, based in the city of Naqâda, across the great bend in the Nile from which the Coptos road leads to the Red Sea. The relationship of this conflict to the later twin capitals of Nekhen and Nekheb (Hieraconpolis and El Kâb), further up the River, is more obscure.
All kings are titled “Horus.” The queens, on the other hand, seem to be titled “Neith,” after the goddess familiar at Sais in later centuries. This has overtones of a political marriage between an Upper Egyptian king and a Lower Egyptian princess; but this inference is about as far as we can go with it.
The cult symbol of Neith, crossed arrows, was later associated with the goddess Athena. The identity of the two goddesses is mentioned by Plato, “a goddess whose Egyptian name is Nêith, and in Greek Athena. Since goddesses such as Athena are, one suspects, pre-Greek, even Minoan, an ancient connection between Crete and the Egyptian Delta is quite possible.

Something serious happened between the I to the II Dynasty, but we are at a loss to say what it really was, as the line of tombs at Saqqara (the burial ground at that time) abruptly ends. But later there seemed to be some kind of compromise to the authority of the kings.
The fourth king, Sekhemib, abandons his name and title and becomes a “Seth” king with a new name (Peribsen). The serekh (royal seal) is now topped by the dog of Seth rather than the hawk of Horus. This could be an indication of some religious conflict or revolution. No contemporary evidence of the next three kings occurs. This can be taken to mean that they never existed, or it could be taken to mean that the country was so disrupted that too little in the kings’ names was made to survive.

The Dynasty ends with another interesting turn. Two names occur, “Kha’sekhem,” “The Power Arises,” and “Kha’sekhemui,” “The Two Powers Arise.” The serekh of Kha’sekhemui is uniquely topped by both Horus hawk and Seth dog. The inference is irresistable that Kha’sekhem restored the country with a compromise and fusion between the two cults or factions, changing his name to reflect this.
The restoration seems to have worked, but not the fusion, since the III Dynasty immediately begins with strong rule but not a hint of Seth again as a royal title.

As we have no real facts (this happened almost 5000 years ago), the chronology of this period is largely speculative.

I Dynasty
“Scorpion king” (II?)
Hor-‘Ah, “Menes”
Djer, Zer
Den, Udimu
Anedjib, Enezib
Qa’a, Ka’a

II Dynasty
Seth-Peribsen, Perabsen