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A timeline showing the dates, periods, dynasties and significant events in the history and art of ancient Egypt from the Predynastic Period (before 3100 BCE) to the end of the Roman Period (395 CE).


  • Predynastic Period

    Historic events

    Egypt divided into Upper and Lower Egypt

    Art movements

    Hieroglyphic writing created

    Two-dimensional imagery and symbolism established

    Grid system to regulate proportions established

    Painted pottery and figurines, ivory carvings, slate cosmetic palettes

    Relief design developed from drawing

    High quality and richly designed ceramics

  • Early Dynastic Period, Dynasties 1-2

    Historic events

    3100 BCE - Unification of Upper and Lower Egypt by the first pharaoh Menes

    Memphis is capital city

    The strong central government supports the work of scribes, sculptors, and other artists and encourages new artistic methods.

    Art movements

    The Step Pyramid (first pyramid) for King Djoser constructed at Giza

    Conventions of three-dimensional art established

    Special royal iconography used to express ideologies of kingship

    Scale of figures in artwork is used to symbolise status

    Symbolic positions of seated and standing figures established

    Depiction of nude enemies stripped of status

  • Old Kingdom, Dynasties 3-6

    Historic events

    6th Dynasty – Collapse of the central government leads to local art styles developing

    Art movements

    First images and forms of art that endured for 3000 years

    Painting develops

    Large numbers of pyramids constructed

    4th Dynasty – Great Sphinx and Great Pyramids built at Giza

    5th Dynasty – Decoration inside pyramids introduced

    5-6th Dynasty – mortuary chapels expanded to allow walls to be decorated

    Stelae appear

    Statues of kings placed in pyramid temples as part of the royal cult.

    5th Dynasty – potter’s wheel invented

    Gods depicted with broad shoulders and low smalls of their backs

    Formalised nude figures with long, slender bodies, idealised proportions and large staring eyes

  • First Intermediate Period

    Historic events

    Egypt splits into two smaller states: ruled by Memphis in the north and Thebes in the south. This civil disorder lasts for 150 years.

    Art movements

    Regional art styles develop

  • Middle Kingdom, Dynasties 11-13

    Historic events

    Mentuhotep reunites Egypt

    First obelisks erected at Heliopolis by Seusret I

    11th Dynasty – God Amun-Ra rises to prominence and becomes a centre of cult at Thebes

    Art movements

    New emphasis is placed on the King as the child of a divine pair.

    Technology to smelt and cast bronze develops and statues flourish

    Women begin to appear in individual portraits

    People lower in social rankings began to commission statues, causing a large variation of quality

    Coffins imitating body form appear

    Shabtis appear

    Canopic jars with heads sculpted in human form appear

    Key piece

  • Second Intermediate Period

    Historic events

    Egypt falls to Near Eastern rulers  - Hyksos - who seize power of the north.

    11th Dynasty – Egypt unified again

    Art movements

    Egyptian art declines and is relatively crude

    A reversion to traditional models from Memphis in the Early Dynastic Period

    Figures have small heads, narrow shoulders and waists, slender limbs and no visible musculature.

  • New Kingdom, Dynasties 18-20

    Historic events

    1470 BCE - Rule of the first female pharaoh Hatshepsut

    1350 BCE - Ahkenaten rules and attempts to introduce the worship of a single god

    1334 BCE - Tutankhanum rules

    1290 BCE - Rameses II rules

    Political stability and economic prosperity, supporting the abundance of artistic masterpieces

    Art movements

    Ahkenaten adopts the ‘Amarna’ style of art, characterised by movement and activity in images as well as faces shown in profile and distinctly feminine forms

    Elaborate hidden tombs in the Valley of the Kings created

    A middle class comprised of independent craftsmen and artisans develops

    Highest quality workmanship, colossal sizes, rich materials used

    Durable materials such as sandstone, basalt and granite widely used

    A new sculpture introduced – owner kneeling, holding a stelae with a hymn to the sun

    Feminine dress becomes more elaborate; men and women wear large heavy wigs with multiple tresses and braids

    More painted scenes in rock-cut tombs than carved relief scenes

    19th Dynasty – Canopic jars now have heads of baboons, jackals, falcons and humans

    Large-scale battle scenes in temple decorations

  • Third Intermediate Period

    Historic events

    Egypt again falls under Nubian and Lybian rule

    Art movements

    Bronze sculpting reaches its height

    Many statues are richly inlaid with gold and silver

    Kushite fold (the facial ‘smile’ line from the nose to the mouth)

    Nubians depicted with dark skin and hooped earrings, braided hair

  • Late Period, Dynasties 26-30

    Historic events

    Egypt regains the throne

    Art movements

    Stylistics developments of the New Kingdom discarded and older models are looked to for inspiration, particularly styles from the Old Kingdom and Middle Kingdom

    Standards for the king and elite are at an extraordinary high level

    The development of iron tools allow artisans to work on very hard stones

    Bronze statuary common and technically finer and bronze casting now a major industry

    Minor arts, such as alabaster vases, faience pottery, glass, ivories and metalwork flourish

  • Ptolemaic Period

    Historic events

    Alexander the Great conquers Egypt and his general, Ptolemy, founds a dynasty.

    Cleopatra dies in 30 BCE and Egypt becomes a province of the Roman Empire

    Art movements

    Colossal statues grace temple pylons along with sphinxes

    New type of voluptuousness in female forms

    High, smoothly rounded and heavily-modelled relief styles

  • Roman Period

    Historic events

    The adoption of Christianity as the official religion of Egypt

    Art movements

    4-5th Century CE – art decorated with pagan and Christian themes