The only online ancient Art Resource directory of its kind!

Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egypt was a civilization in eastern North Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern nation of Egypt. The civilization began around 3150 B.C. with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh, and it developed over the next three millennia. Its history occurred in a series of stable periods, known as kingdoms, separated by periods of instability known as Intermediate Periods. After the end of the last kingdom, known as the New Kingdom, the Egypt civilization entered a period of slow, steady decline, during which it was conquered by a succession of foreign powers. The rule of the pharaohs ended in 31 B.C. when the early Roman Empire conquered Egypt and made it a province.

Art of Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egyptian art refers to the style of painting, sculpture, crafts and architecture developed from 5000 B.C. to 300 A.D. Ancient Egyptian art as expression in painting and sculpture was both highly stylized and symbolic, and remained remarkably stable over that 3000 year period. Much of the surviving art comes from tombs and monuments and thus there is an emphasis on life after death and the preservation of knowledge of the past.

General Ancient Egypt websites:

Explore the art of Ancient Egypt at these sites:

Egyptian Kerma Beaker - Metropolitan Museum of Art

Egyptian Mummy Mask - The British Museum

Egyptian Faience Hippopotamus - Metropolitan Museum of Art

Naqada II Jars, Egypt - The British Museum
Eyptian Dynasties

Late Predynastic Period, 3100-2950 BC

  • Earliest known hieroglyphic writing
  • Foundation of the Egyptian state

Early Dynastic Period, 2950-2575 BC (1st-3rd Dynasties)

  • Creation of the capital city of Memphis
  • Intensive contact with Palestine
  • The first pyramid is built - the Step Pyramid at Saqqara

Old Kingdom, 2575-2150 BC (4th-8th Dynasties)

  • The Great Pyramids are built at Dahshur and Giza
  • Pyramids and elite tombs include the first extensive inscriptions

1st Intermediate Period, 2125-1975 BC (9th-11th Dynasties)

  • Egypt splits into two smaller states, ruled from Memphis in the north and Thebes in the south

Middle Kingdom, 1975-1640 BC (11th-14th Dynasties)

  • Mentuhotep reunites Egypt
  • Amenemhat I founds a new royal residence near Memphis
  • Egypt conquers Lower Nubia under Senwosret I and III
  • Classical period of art and literature

2nd Intermediate Period, 1630- 1520 BC (15th-17th Dynasties)

  • Hyksos kings seize power in the north
  • Theban 17th dynasty in the south

New Kingdom, 1539-1075 BC (18th-20th Dynasties)

  • Egyptian empire in Near East and Nubia
  • Elaborate tombs of the Valley of Kings
  • Rule of woman pharaoh Hatshepsut
  • King Akhenaten attempts to introduce a monotheistic religion
  • Brief reign of Tutankhamun
  • Ramesses II rules for 67 years

3rd Intermediate Period, 1075-715 BC (21st-25th Dynasties)

  • Disunity and Libyan settlement in Egypt
  • Nubians conquer Egypt (late 8th century)

Late Period, 715-332 BC (20th-30th Dynasties)

  • Egypt conquered briefly by Assyrians
  • Cultural revival under kings from Sais
  • Persian conquest of Egypt (525 BC)
  • Egypt independent again (404-343 BC)

Greco-Roman Period, 332 BC-395 AD (Macedonians, Ptolemies, and Romans)

  • Alexander the Great occupies Egypt
  • Alexander's general, Ptolemy, becomes king and founds a dynasty
  • The Rosetta Stone is carved (196 BC)
  • Cleopatra VII reigns (51-30 BC)
  • Egypt becomes a province of the Roman Empire (30 BC)

Egyptian Hawk-Headed Sphinx - The British Museum

           Shawabti of Yuya, Egypt
Shawabti of Yuya, Egypt - Metropolitan Museum of Art

Eye from a Coffin Eye from a Coffin - LACMA, California

   Kohl Container Inscribed for Queen Tiye
Kohl Container Inscribed for Queen Tiye - LACMA, California

Calcite headrest
Calcite Headrest - The British Museum

    Head of King Tutankhamen
Head of King Tutankhamen - Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Vessel in the Form of a Fish
Vessel in the Form of a Fish - LACMA, California


Periods of Ancient Egypt


The Predynastic Period of Egypt (prior to 3100 BC) is traditionally the period between the Early Neolithic and the beginning of the Pharaonic monarchy beginning with King Narmer. The predynastic period is generally divided into cultural periods named after the places where a certain type of Egyptian settlement was first located.

Old Kingdom

The Old Kingdom is the name commonly given to that period in the 3rd millennium BC when Egypt attained its first continuous peak of civilization in complexity and achievement. The Old Kingdom is most commonly regarded as spanning the period of time when Egypt was ruled by the Third Dynasty through to the Sixth Dynasty (2686 BC - 2134 BC). The Old Kingdom is perhaps best known, however, for the large number of pyramids, which were constructed at this time as pharaonic burial places. For this reason, the Old Kingdom is frequently referred to as "the Age of the Pyramids."

Middle Kingdom

The Middle Kingdom is the period in the history of ancient Egypt stretching from the establishment of the Eleventh Dynasty to the end of the Fourteenth Dynasty, roughly between 2040 BC - 1640 BC.

New Kingdom

The New Kingdom is the period in ancient Egyptian history between the 16th century BC and the 11th century BC, covering the Eighteenth, Nineteenth, and Twentieth Dynasties of Egypt.

Armana Period

The Ancient Egyptian art style known as Amarna Art was a style of art that was adopted in the Amarna Period (i.e. during and just after the reign of Akhenaten in the late Eighteenth Dynasty), and is noticeably different from more conventional Egyptian art styles. It is characterized by a sense of movement and activity in images, with figures having raised heads, many figures overlapping and many scenes busy and crowded. Also, the human body is portrayed differently in Amarna style artwork than Egyptian art on the whole.

Late Period

The Late Period of Egypt refers to the last flowering of native Egyptian rulers after the Third Intermediate Period from the 26th Saite Dynasty into Persian conquests and ended with the death of Alexander the Great. It ran from 664 BC until 323 BC.

Ptolemaic Dynasty

The Ptolemaic dynasty was a Greek royal family which ruled the Ptolemaic Empire in Egypt during the Hellenistic period. Their rule lasted for nearly 300 years, from 305 BC to 30 BC.

Photo courtesy of The Getty Museum

       Cosmetic Spoon
Cosmetic Spoon - LACMA, California

      The harpist's stele
The Harpist's Stele - Louvre Museum

Four vases with the name of Ramesses II
Four vases with the name of Ramesses II - Louvre Museum

Sennefer's necklace
Sennefer's necklace - Louvre Museum


Recommended Egyptian Links

Ancient Egyptian Gods
Interesting Facts - Ancient Egypt
Life in Ancient Eygpt, Carnegie Museum
Ancient Egyptian Culture Exhibition
Online Museum Guide to Egypt Exhibits
Museums with Egyptian Collections

Hyksos Scarab with Anra Inscription
Hyksos Scarab with Anra Inscription - LACMA, California