Roberta’s Timelines: Early history, Old Kingdoms (3100 BCE-2100 BCE)

Time for the next part of our Timelines, dear friends – a very exciting era when the first great civilisations emerged, wars were fought between the first big and powerful kingdoms in the Fertile Crescent, great stone monuments were built and great migrations took place all over Europe and Asia. Thanks to the newly invented scripts in Egypt and Sumer, for the first time we’ve got some more or less reliable dates now for rulers, battles, monuments and even fashion items and sports events!

Mind you, there still is a lot of confusion about the exact dates even in early Egyptian and Sumerian history – and of course, especially the ‘round’ dates like 3000 or 2500 or 2200 BCE are an approximation of what happened in places where script was unknown rather than what happened exactly that year…

Anyway, let’s immerse ourselves in those great old places along the Nile, the Euphrates and the Tigris and the Indus-Sarasvati as the Bronze Age unfolds…

Part 3: Early history, Old Kingdoms (3100 BCE-2100 BCE)

3100 BCE

society: the united Egyptian kingdom is blossoming, as are the Sumerian cities of Uruk, Ur and Kish; in Megiddo, Canaan a huge temple hall is built; Susa becomes the centre of the Elamites in Iran; a bank and ditch enclosure is built at Stonehenge, used for burials

fashion: in Egypt, men wear short white skirts, women long white dresses, sometimes below the breast (the richer the lady the thinner the material)

3070 BCE

politics: Hor-Aha follows his father Narmer as pharaoh of Egypt, he has temples built to various gods

society: craftsmanship and trade are important in Egypt; Memphis is growing

arts: Neithhotep builds a great mastaba for his mother Neithhotep

3068 BCE        

politics: Hor-Aha declares war on the Nubians and kills their leader Ta-Sety

3037 BCE

politics: Djer follows Hor-Aha on the throne of Egypt

society: at the burial grounds of Saqqara, Egypt, there is evidence of human sacrifice

3000 BCE

politics: city states in Phoenicia (Byblos), sea trade with ships makes them rich; in Mesopotamia

the city states fight each other, Kish (king Etana) prevails, first dynasty in Uruk (king Meshkiangasher)

society: agriculture in Egypt is dominated by Nile flooding, rise in population, cities, trade and crafts, beginnings of bureaucracy; Sumerian cities grow (Uruk: population of 40,000!); a great temple to Ishtar is built in the old Ubaid town of Niniveh, now under influence of Kish; the Semitic town of Ebla in Syria becomes an important trading centre with a network that includes Sumer, Egypt and Indus-Sarasvati; the Phoenician town of Byblos in Canaan turns from a fishing village into a trading town; Troy is founded in Marmara, Asia Minor; cities are developing in China along the Huang He (Yellow River), Longshan culture; cities in the Indus-Sarasvati valley flourish (Nal, Kulli, Quetta); in Europe the proto-Indo-European Bell Beaker culture comes in from the east: metalwork, pottery, cremation of the dead, agriculture, brewing of beer; the first bluestones are brought from Wales to Stonehenge, probably as grave markers; at Avebury, another bank and ditch are built; on the Orkneys, people live in houses built completely from stone (Skara Brae!); Duma na nGiall at Tara, Ireland, becomes a burial site; the world population is about 30 million

arts: stone vases in Sumer with elaborate reliefs that depict scenes from daily life; bell beaker people create round vases with geometrical patterns

fashion: in the Near East, sheep are now bred with a woolly fleece for making clothes; in Sumer, men wear sheepskin skirts, women sheepskin cloaks

sports: in Saqqara handball is very popular, especially for girls

food: beer brewing now becomes widespread in Europe as well

2996 BCE

politics: Djet becomes pharaoh of Egypt, trade with Mesopotamia and Canaan

2969 BCE

politics: when pharaoh Djet dies, his wife Merneith takes over the throne

2959 BCE

politics: Den becomes the new pharaoh of Egypt; fights against the bedouins in Sinai and the Nubians

society: a period of great wealth starts in Egypt, counting is introduced for fiscal purposes and for determining years, a lot of copper mining is done, royal tombs are built

fashion: Den is the first pharaoh to wear the nemes headdress

2922 BCE

politics: after Den’s death, Anedjib becomes pharaoh

2900 BCE

politics: Enmebaragesi rules Kish, the city has hegemony over all of Sumer

society: Corded Ware culture spreads over Europe: development of the first Indo-European languages! Sumerian pictographs develop into phonograms (one symbol per syllable, derived from basic words like til=life and an=sky); Mari is founded to control the waterways of the Euphrates and becomes an important trade centre; Stonehenge: a timber structure is built within the old enclosure, the place is used as a crematorium; a stone circle is set up in Avebury as well

2879 BCE

politics: Anedjib dies, Semerkhet (possibly an illegitimate son) takes over

2874 BCE

society: the 365-day calendar is first introduced in Egypt

2845 BCE

politics: after Semerkhet’s sudden death Qa’a becomes pharaoh

2814 BCE

politics: pharaoh Qa’a is killed by his son Hotepsekhemwy who subsequently founds the Second Dynasty

2800 BCE

politics: in Persia, the Elamite kingdom rises to power; Gilgamesh rules Uruk, builds a city wall and has a 2 chamber congress, he revolts against Aga of Kish; Mesannepada starts first dynasty of Ur, expands the city’s power and maintains the great temple at Nippur together with Gilgamesh

society: Byblos does a lot of sea trade with Egypt, the Phoenician city states are influences by Egyptian culture; at Kalibangan on the Sarasvati river fields are already being ploughed, while at Kot Diji seals with an early Indus script are used; the Egyptian hieroglyphs are by now well developed and used on seals, pottery and tombs; the chambered cairn Maes Howe is built on Orkney

fashion: in Sumer, men only wear short skirts (kaunakes) and women wear long woollen dresses

2784 BCE

politics: Raneb (Nebra) becomes pharaoh of Egypt

2750 BCE

society: Tyre in Canaan is founded by Phoenicians

2731 BCE

politics: Nyetjer becomes pharaoh of Egypt

2700 BCE

society: the trading city of Ebla, Syria, is immensely rich, a royal palace is built; in Megiddo, Canaan huge megaron temples are built

2695 BCE

politics: after Nyetjer’s death, Egypt is split between his sons: Wadjenes gets Lower Egypt, Weneg gets Upper Egypt

2688 BCE

politics: Weneg declares war on Wadjenes and tries to conquer Lower Egypt

2683 BCE

politics: Weneg is killed, Wadjenes reunites Egypt

2669 BCE

politics: Senedj becomes pharaoh of Egypt

2660 BCE

politics: Djoser becomes pharaoh and founds the Third Dynasty, beginning of what is now called the Old Kingdom

society: Djoser has the first pyramid at Saqqara built by Imhotep; bureaucracy rules Egypt, vizier is the head of it

arts: first step pyramid at Saqqara, also building of temples in Egypt with lots of obelisks


politics: Ur-Nungal, a descendant of Gilgamesh, rules Uruk


politics: Sekhemkhet takes over the throne of Egypt and continues the building of the Saqqara pyramid

society: silk production begins in China

2628 BCE

politics: Udul-Kalama king of Uruk

2613 BCE

politics: Sneferu takes over the throne of Egypt and founds the Fourth Dynasty: beginning of the age of the great pyramids! Udulkalama becomes king of Uruk

society: bureaucracy is big in Egypt, scribes are very important

2604 BCE

politics: Labashum is king of Uruk

2600 BCE

society: a new people comes to Crete (from Asia Minor?) and brings bronze, start of the early Minoan era; stone houses, gold, stone receptacles (resembling Egyptian ones), small figurines similar to the cycladic ones, mother goddess cult; sea trade and agriculture lead to wealth and the formation of an upper class in Crete; at Stonehenge a double ring of holes is dug around the old site, huge grey stones are set up in a circle; a big outer stone circle is set up in Avebury as well; Mohenjo-daro and Harappa are built on the Indus river with a grid plan with a marketplace, a well, assembly halls and a citadel, which shows good social organisation; Caral is the first sign of pre-Inca Norte Chico civilisation in Peru

music: Caral people have cornetts and flutes made out of llama bones

2596 BCE

politics: En-nun-tarah-ana becomes king of Uruk

2589 BCE

politics: Khufu (Cheops) becomes pharaoh: building of the Great Pyramid at Giza!

2588 BCE

politics: Mesh-He becomes king of Uruk

2570 BCE

politics: Enhegal rules Lagash, but has to pay tributes to Uruk

2566 BCE

politics: Djedefre becomes pharaoh and also has a pyramid built for him

2558 BCE

politics: after Djedefre’s death his brother Khafre (Chephren) becomes pharaoh, another great pyramid is built and next to it the Great Sphinx

2552 BCE

politics: Melem-Ana is king of Uruk

2550 BCE

politics: Mesilim of Kish becomes first high king of all of Sumer

music: the first lyres are played in Ur, and also pipes which are precursors to bagpipes

arts: in Egypt slightly static statues are popular

2546 BCE

politics: Lugal-kitun becomes king of Uruk

2532 BCE

politics: Menkaure (Mykerinos) becomes pharaoh and has a pyramid built

2518 BCE

politics: Shepseskaf becomes pharaoh of Egypt

2510 BCE

Lugal-kitun is defeated by Mesannepada of Ur, end of the first dynasty of Uruk

2500 BCE

politics: Urnanshe founds the first dynasty of Lagash which eventually becomes more powerful than Kish

society: the first big Indo-European migration wave from Eastern Europe westwards begins; the population of Knossos is about 2000, Lerna  has got an administrative centre called the “House of the Tiles”, Tyrins has also got monumental buildings (both are part of the Korakou culture), farmers settle on the Acropolis of Athens; the passage tomb in Newgrange is being developed further; on the Orkneys the Ring of Brodgar is erected; the oxen-drawn plough makes farming much easier and more efficient; Mari is rebuilt with a careful plan, a palace and temple are built; Kalibangan on the Sarasvati river is fortified and the town is laid out similarly to Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, water supply and drainage, warehouses, metallurgy, pottery and production of jewellery and toys, trade with Mesopotamia and Egypt (lapis lazuli from Afghanistan!), well developed sign script used on stamp seals and pottery

arts: Indo-European corded ware people bring simply but beautifully designed pottery into Europe

fashion: in Sumer woven cloths start replacing the sheepskin clothing

food: the diet in Sumer consists of goat’s milk, eggs, fruit, vegetables and meat (pig, goat, chicken); in Egypt birds are also very popular, especially goose and duck

2494 BCE

politics: Userkaf kills Shepseskaf and founds the Fifth Dynasty of Egypt

society: in Egypt sun cult around Re, pharaoh is regarded as Re’s son

2487 BCE

politics: Sahure becomes pharaoh; expedition to the land of Punt (Somalia)

arts: Sahure loves having statues and reliefs of himself made in a stylised manner

2475 BCE

politics: Neferirkare becomes pharaoh

2464 BCE

politics: Akurgal becomes king of Lagash, border conflicts with Umma

2455 BCE

politics: Neferefre becomes pharaoh

2454 BCE

politics: Eannatum makes the city state of Lagash powerful, declares himself divine, subdues Elam and destroys Susa

2453 BCE

politics: Shepseskare becomes pharaoh, his parentage is obscure

2445 BCE

politics: Nyuserre Ini, Neferefre’s brother, deposes Shepseskare and builds necropole in Abusir and extends Giza

2425 BCE

politics: Enannatum follows his father Eannatum on the throne of Lagash, constant wars with Umma

2423 BCE

politics: Ansud becomes king of Mari and starts the ‘hundred years war’ against rival Ebla

2421 BCE

politics: Menkauhor Kaiu becomes pharaoh

2416 BCE

politics: king Sa’umu of Mari launches new attack against Ebla

2414 BCE

politics: Djedkare Isesi becomes pharaoh

2408 BCE

politics: Entemena becomes king of Lagash

2400 BCE

politics: Balulu, the last king of the first dynasty of Ur, is defeated by the Awan dynasty of Elam; Entemena makes Lagash big again, fights against the power of the priests, defeats Il of Umma and has an alliance with Lugal-kinishe-dudu of Uruk

arts: rich Egyptians can afford to adorn their tombs and build elaborate mastabas

fashion: in Egypt both men and women wear makeup (kohl!); Sumerian men sport a modern hairstyle: curly at the top and short on the sides; in the Indus valley, there are materials with patterns on them for the wealthy

2380 BCE

politics: king Iblul-Il of Mari launches extensive attacks on Ebla

2379 BCE

politics: Eannatum II, the last of the house of Urnanshe, rules Lagash

2378 BCE

politics: Enentarzi, son of a high priest, becomes king of Lagash which weakens and is plundered by Elamites

2375 BCE

politics: Unas becomes pharaoh and has a pyramid built for himself with the first Pyramid Texts

2374 BCE

politics: Lugalanda, son of the high priest of Lagash, declares himself king, corruption is rife

2370 BCE

fashion: in Sumer the latest fashion for the wealthy is a shawl, worn as a belt but also around the head

2365 BCE

politics: Urukagina overthrows Lugalanda, becomes king of Lagash and combats corruption, he reduces the power of priests and big landowners

2360 BCE

politics: Igrish-Halam of Ebla has to pay tributes to Mari

2358 BCE

politics: Lugalzagesi founds the third dynasty of Uruk and defeats Urukagina of Lagash

2350 BCE

society: the Ebla tablets are written in both Sumerian and Canaanite: economic records of trade between Ebla and other cities, king lists and place names

2345 BCE

politics: Teti becomes pharaoh, beginning of the Sixth Dynasty, he rules from Memphis; his vizier Mereruka has huge power, marries his daughter Seshseshet and has an elaborate tomb built for himself at Saqqara

2340 BCE

politics: king Irkab-Damu of Ebla stops paying tributes to Mari, the long war continues, but he also makes a peace treaty with Abarsal, one of the first in history

2334 BCE        

politics: Semitic conqueror Sargon conquers the Sumerian town of Akkad and starts expanding quickly: he defeats Lugalzagesi of Uruk, conquers the whole of Sumer and builds the first empire in Mesopotamia!

2333 BCE

politics: Teti is assassinated by his bodyguards, Userkare usurps the throne

2332 BCE

politics: Teti’s son Pepi I takes the throne back

2320 BCE

politics: Isar-Damu ascends the throne of Ebla and continues the war with Mari

2300 BCE        

politics: Sargon I has conquered Sumer, Upper Mesopotamia (Mari, Ebla), parts of the Levant and Elam

society: the Hattians settle in Anatolia; the Akkadian Empire trades with Anatolia, Canaan and Indus-Sarasvati cities (lapis lazuli!); Sargon’s generals have developed a new fighting technique: spears, bows and arrows which weaken the enemy from a distance

arts: victory stele of Sargon, showing the king with his soldiers and Sumerian prisoners in chains

fashion: in the Indus-Sarasvati area, dancing girls entertaining the rich wear lots of jewellery but nothing else; in Egypt short adorned wigs are popular

food: tablets show that a lot of fish is sold and consumed in Ur

2283 BCE

politics: Merenre Nemtyemsaf I follows his father Pepi to the throne of Egypt

2278 BCE

politics: Pepi II Neferkare becomes the longest ruling pharaoh of Egypt, but his power dwindles while the regional nomarchs become more powerful; Rimush becomes king of Akkad and has to face revolts all over Sumer, but he manages to capture Meskigala, king of the rebellious city of Adab

2270 BCE

politics: Manishtushu, brother of Rimush, becomes king of Akkad; the empire recovers, campaigns to the Persian Gulf and Elam

2260 BCE

society: Manishtushu of Akkad has the destroyed temple of Inanna at Niniveh rebuilt

2255 BCE

politics: Manishtushu of Akkad is assassinated, but his son Naramsin takes the throne and makes the Akkadian Empire bigger than ever

2217 BCE

politics: Sharkalisharri takes over the throne of Akkad from his father Naramsin, but the empire is threatened by raids of the nomadic Gutians from the Zakros mountains; he demands high taxes from vassal states which in turn leads to rebellions

society: a great drought comes over Egypt and Akkad, terrible famine, towns and cities are abandoned

2216 BCE

politics: after Pepi II’s death, Merenre Nemtyemsaf II becomes pharaoh, but he’s already old

2215 BCE

politics: Merenre dies, Netjerkare Siptah becomes pharaoh, but the kingdom is crumbling, beginning of the First Intermediate Period when Heracleopolis and Thebes fight for hegemony

2207 BCE

politics: Sharkalisharri of Akkad manages to capture king Sharlagab of the Gutians

2200 BCE

society: the immigration of Semitic Amorites into Palestine leads to cultural changes

Tiryns culture in Greece: tumuli and megara (long houses) at Tiryns, Lerna and Olympia

2193 BCE

politics: after the death of Sharkalisharri, Akkad falls into anarchy, the Sumerian cities start splitting off

2189 BCE

politics: when Dudu takes over the throne of Akkad, power is stabilised, but he is unable to reconquer the lost territories in Elam and Sumer; also, the Gutians keep invading

2183 BCE

politics: the aged Merenre follows his father Pepi II on the throne of Egypt, but lasts only a few months, then Siptah I succeeds him; chaos breaks out, Egypt splits in two again, anarchy and famine follow

2168 BCE

politics: Shuturul becomes king of Akkad, but the rest of the empire keeps weakening

2154 BCE

politics: the Gutians conquer Akkad, end of the Akkadian Empire, the Gutian king Erridupizir proclaims himself ruler over Akkad

2144 BCE

politics: Gudea rules Lagash, he calls himself ensi (governor), not lugal (king) and doesn’t think he’s divine, but he shakes off the yoke of the Gutians, builds temples and irrigation canals

2119 BCE

politics: Utuhengal of Uruk manages to drive out the Gutians and founds the 5th dynasty of Uruk

society: the shekel is first used by the Akkadians as a weight unit for trading

2112 BCE

politics: Urnammu (Utuhegal’s son-in-law) founds the 3rd dynasty of Ur, defeats Lagash and Uruk, has many buildings constructed (Great Ziggurat of Ur!) and a law code written: Code of Urnammu, the oldest written laws in the world!

Next time: Early history, Empires (2100-1400 BCE)

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