The emergence of a complex civilization in the Nile valley of Egypt at the beginning of the third millenium BC is a story of rapid development in art, technology and social organization. The initial conditions for this advance were created by the adoption of agriculture in about 5000 BC; this freed the early inhabitants of the region from the hunting and gathering lifestyle which had persisted for the preceding quarter of a million years. Settled communities of farmers along the Nile gradually coalesced into urban centres under local rulers as the pace of development accelerated a process which culminated in the unification of the country under the authority of a king from southern Egypt in about 3100 BC. Under this king and his successor, during the first two Egyptian dynasties, the character of Egyptian civilization was established through a period of innovation coupled with increasing wealth and rapid technological advance. It was the substantial achievements of this period which laid the foundations for the political stability of the Old Kingdom, an age of highly centralized royal power which found expression in the construction of the pyramids.
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