Egypt in 2800 BC


Note: This is so far back in time that dates can be off by up to 100 years or so. I follow the dates in “The Princeton Dictionary of Ancient Egypt” (2008). 

  • Location: north-eastern Africa, the last 1,000 km of the Nile where ships can freely sail north of the rocky Cataracts.
  • Population: probably about 1 million.
  • Major cities: Memphis.
  • Language: Archaic Egyptian – in archaic hieroglyphic writing, now used for more than mere labels.
  • Religion: idol worship in temples of Horus, Osiris, Seth, etc. Apis bull. The seeming end of human sacrifice. The rivalry between Seth and Horus of myth seems to take political form as a religious struggle in Egypt. See below.
  • Government: not sure who was king in 2800 BC – this period is shadowy.
  • Economy: wheat, cattle. Olive oil from Palestine.
  • Transport: Nile River, sail boats, donkeys. Roads and wheel transport are rare, camels unknown.
  • Technology: irrigation, mud bricks, copper (not yet bronze), paper.
    • Newish: dam, chair, book, page numbers, 365-day calendar.

The last 100 years:

  • Kings:
    • 1st Dynasty: Qa’a
    • 2nd Dynasty: Hetepsekhemwy, Raneb, Nynetjer, …. ?
  • Qa’a, the last of the king of the 1st Dynasty, is buried, with “only” 26 of his hangers-on, not hundreds like some earlier kings of Egypt. He is the last known Egyptian king to buried with strangled employees.
  • Hieroglyphic inscriptions become longer and more complex under Qa’a. They move beyond being mere labels.
  • The 2nd Dynasty (-2890 to -2686), the first half of it, covers most of this period. But there is little direct evidence of it. We know more about the 1st Dynasty than the 2nd, which is odd: generally speaking, there is less evidence the further back you go in time, not more. All we have from the -2800s itself is the tomb of Qa’a, some galleries near the tomb of Unas in Saqqara, and the names of three kings written on the back of a statue of the priest Hotep-dif (pictured above). The three names are Hetepsekhemwy, Raneb and Nynetjer. It is unclear what kings came afterwards.
  • Seth v Horus: There seems to have been some sort of religious struggle, with the 2nd Dynasty overthrowing the Horus-centric religion of the 1st Dynasty with a Seth-centric one:
    • Kings are suddenly no longer buried at Abydos, the holy city of Osiris, father of Horus.
    • In the next century, the last kings of 2nd Dynasty kings will put the jackal-like Seth animal above their name, instead of (or in addition to) the falcon of Horus. The 3rd Dynasty restores the 1st Dynasty practice of just putting the falcon of Horus above the king’s name.
    • Human sacrifice was practised before the 2nd Dynasty but, as far as we know, not during or after.
    • Many of the royal monuments of the 1st Dynasty were set on fire, perhaps during this time.
    • In Egyptian mythology, Horus and Seth are enemies. Seth represents chaos and destruction, the desert and foreign lands.

Meanwhile in Britain, brown-skinned people like the Whitehawk Woman are working on the second version of Stonehenge – still being made of wood.

– Abagond, 2023. 

See also:


Egypt in 2800 BC