The Old Kingdom of Ancient Egypt is the foundation upon which all of Egypt’s long and storied history has been built. It was during this period from 2686 to 2181 BC when people living in the Nile Valley first began to produce the art and architecture that we still count among the most impressive ancient feats in history.
There is evidence of human settlement in the Nile Valley dating back to around 7000 BC and Ancient Egypt was organized into kingdoms before 2686 BC, but archeologists have defined the Old Kingdom as the first of three peaks of stability that Ancient Egyptian civilization experienced, lasting between the 3rd and 7th dynasties of Ancient Egypt. Art and monumental building in the ancient world are evidence of economic and organizational success. They suggest that people had surplus time and resources to devote to activities other than survival and food production. During the Old Kingdom, the king’s of Egypt were able to feed their subjects and organize huge work forces in order to construct some of the largest structure ever built.
Almost all of the pyramids that we see today in Egypt were built during the Old Kingdom. Specifically, the 4th dynasty (2613–2494 BC) of the Old Kingdom was the ‘golden age’ of pyramid building. The Giza Pyramids and other large pyramids and Sakkara and Dahshur were all built during the the largest and best constructed pyramids were all built during this surprisingly short moment in Egypt’s long history. The end of the Old Kingdom came about as the economy of Egypt and the power of the Egyptian kings declined and the Nile Valley fell into a period of disarray known as the First Intermediate Period (2181–2055 BC).