The Old Kingdom existed between the 27th and 22nd century BC. It was centred on the Nile River and extended southward from the Mediterranean Sea to the town of Elephantine in Upper Egypt. Dynasties three to sixth are included in the Old Kingdom that had at its capital the city of Memphis. Egyptologists believe that the era was defined by prosperity and relative freedom from outside invasion. It is also the period in Egyptian history when independent states fell under the control of the pharaoh who ruled over these administrative territories termed Nomes through the instrument of the Nomarchs (semi-feudal governors).
The pharaoh Djoser was the first king of the Old Kingdom and his reign was characterized by the workings of his influential vizier Imhotep. Egyptian views regarding the cycle of time developed during the third dynasty and the architecture is noted for its Step Pyamids such as the one located in Saqqara.
However it was the fourth dynasty that is associated with the brilliant feats of civil engineering. The Great Pyramid at Giza (dedicated to the pharaoh Khufu), the Khafre Pyramid, the Sphinx, the Bent and Red Pyramids and the Pyramid of Menakaure were all built during this dynasty.
The Fifth and Sixth dynasties had their fair share of building projects as well but there seems to have been a greater shift toward the construction of temples associated with the god Ra.
Despite its focus on trade (particularly in ebony, myrrh, frankincense, gold and copper) the Old kingdom went into decline at the end of the long reign of Pepi II. Civil war ravaged the countryside and this was compounded by a severe drought. The period that followed the Old Kingdom was known as the First Intermediate Period that spanned the seventh to eleventh dynasties.