The Nile Valley is first inhabited in the Lower Paleolithic Period (ca. 300,000 BC–90,000 BC). Neolithic people continue to create stone tools, and exploit domesticated plants and animals (7000–4500 B.C.). In the ensuing millennia many forms of art flourish, including jewelry (faience beads), ceramic vessels, geometric figures, and pottery, much of which is found in tombs. Hierakonpolis in the south, the largest Predynastic settlement known, is the center of political control. The pyramids of Giza and Saqqara arise in the Old Kingdom (ca. 2649–2150 B.C.), one of the most dynamic and innovative periods in Egyptian culture. Power decentralizes during the First Intermediate Period (ca. 2150–2030 B.C.), only to be unified again by the Theban king Mentuhotep II in the Middle Kingdom (ca. 2030–1640 B.C.).
Archers (detail), Old Kingdom, Dynasty 4, reigns of Khufu to Khafre, ca. 25512494 B.C.
Egyptian; Excavated at Lisht, reused in the pyramid of Amenemhat I, probably originally from Giza
Painted limestone; H. 10 in. (25.4 cm), W. 14 3/4 in. (37.5 cm)
Rogers Fund and Edward S. Harkness Gift, 1922 (22.1.23)
Recumbent lion, Old Kingdom, Dynasty 4–early Dynasty 5 (ca. 2575–2450 B.C.)
Two Vases in the Shape of a Mother Monkey with Her Young
(a) Old Kingdom, Dynasty 6, reign of Merenre I, ca. 22552246 B.C.
Egyptian alabaster; H. 7 1/4 in. (18.5 cm)
Theodore M. Davis Collection, Bequest of Theodore M. Davis, 1915 (30.8.134)
(b) Old Kingdom, Dynasty 6, reign of Pepi I, ca. 22892255 B.C.
Egyptian alabaster; H. 5 3/8 in. (13.7 cm)
Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, Fletcher Fund, and Lila Acheson Wallace, Russell and Judy Carson, William Kelly Simpson, and Vaughn Foundation Gifts, in honor of Henry George Fischer, 1992 (1992.338)