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Toby A.H. Wilkinson. Early Dynastic Egypt
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The pyramids of the Old Kingdom are perhaps the most remarkable, and certainly the
most captivating, of Egyptian monuments. Those at Giza were hailed as one of the
wonders of the ancient world; to modern eyes they are perhaps the quintessential symbol
of the ancient Egyptians’ extraordinary creativity and craftsmanship. Yet the cultural and
political developments which led to the construction of the pyramids have been
comparatively neglected. Without central control of the economy, the royal court would
not have had the resources to engage in monumental building projects. Without the
ability to command the necessary manpower, the pyramids could not have been raised.
Without the religious and ideological motivation, the construction of huge funerary
monuments would, quite literally, never have got off the ground. All these prerequisites
for pyramid-building have their roots in the Early Dynastic period. Hence to understand
the most potent symbols of ancient Egypt, we must look at what went before. Five
hundred years separate the birth of the Egyptian state and the erection of the pyramids.
This half-millennium constitutes the formative period of civilisation in the Nile valley,
when Egypt’s early kings developed the mechanisms of rule and the élite culture that
were to characterise their country for the next three thousand years. This crucially
important formative stage is the subject of the current work.
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