Did Egypt’s Old Kingdom Die—or Simply Fade Away?
The end of the great age of pyramid building in Egypt was long thought to be a traumatic collapse that plunged the Nile Valley into a long era of chaos. New research is changing that view.
As world leaders celebrate a new agreement to limit the impact of greenhouse gases on human society, archaeologists have been taking a fresh look at one of the most dramatic instances of a civilization confronted with devastating climate change.
For nearly a millennium, Egypt’s early pharaohs presided over a prosperous and wealthy state that built countless temples and palaces, enormous public works, and the famous Giza pyramids. Much of that prosperity depended on the regular inundations of the Nile River in a country that otherwise would be only desert.
Then, around 2200 B.C., ancient texts suggest that Egypt’s so-called Old Kingdom gave way to a disastrous era of foreign invasions, pestilence, civil war, and famines severe enough to result in cannibalism.