Egypt in 2900 BC

Pharaoh Den smiting Asiatics in the First Dynasty, -2900s. (British Museum)

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: reaches 1 million.
  • Major cities: north to south: Sais, Memphis, Abydos.
  • Language: Archaic Egyptian – in archaic hieroglyphic writing.
  • Religion: idol worship in temples of Horus, Neith, Osiris, etc. The king as Horus made flesh. Belief in the afterlife. Human sacrifice practised. Apis bull.
  • Government: Semerkhet, second-to-last god-king of the First Dynasty.
  • 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.

The last 100 years: covers most of the last half of the First Dynasty:

  • kings – Djer, Djet, Den, Anedjib, and Semerkhet of the FIrst Dynasty.
  • and a queen – Merneith, the first recorded queen in Egyptian history. She ruled in the name of her young son Den. Den gives her a tomb fit for a king alongside the other kings buried at Abydos, the holy city of Osiris, god of the afterlife.  He lists her with the other kings of the First Dynasty, but later kings left her off the list. Merneith was named after:
  • Neith – a goddess based in Sais in the Delta, she of the shield and the crossed arrows. The Greeks will see her as Athena.
  • the double crown – Den becomes the first to combine the red crown of the Delta and the white crown of the Nile Valley into one double crown (pictured).
  • “he of the reed and the bee” – Den is also the first pharaoh to give himself the title nsw bty (Ancient Egyptian did not record vowels). In English this is usually translated as “King of Upper and Lower Egypt”, but literally it means “he of the reed and the bee”. The bee represents Lower Egypt, the Delta, where stood the House of the Bee, Neith’s temple.
  • the oldest papyrus roll comes from this period.
  • growth of government – papyrus and hieroglyphs – paper and writing – make possible a large bureaucracy – and a:
  • census – King Den carries out the first known census in Egypt, “a census of all the people of the north, west and east”. Taxes, though, go back at least 200 years, to King Narmer.
  • human sacrifice is still in full swing: pharoahs continue to be buried with dozens to hundreds of strangled employees. But this is about to end – there is little sign of human sacrifice in Egypt much past this date. The strangled are replaced in time by shabtis, small figurines with magic spells written on them to bring them to life to serve the king in the afterlife.
  • “smiting Asiatics”, as Egyptologists like to call it, is now a thing (pictured at top). Asia (meaning mainly Palestine) is a source of war and trade.
  • population – Egypt now hits a million. But that is only about a fifth of its peak in ancient times.
  • trees – now rare in Egypt.

Meanwhile in Britain, brown-skinned people like the Whitehawk Woman are working on the first version of Stonehenge.

– Abagond, 2023. 

See also:


Egypt in 2900 BC