Ancient Egyptian history before the Graeco‑Roman Period is called the Dynastic Period, which is divided into 30 dynasties. The Early Dynastic Period begins with the unification of Egypt into a single political entity around 3100 BC, and consists of the very first two dynasties.
The unification of Upper and Lower Egypt was in reality a very gradual process, but one of its final stages appears to have taken place during the reign of King Narmer. One of the most important treasures in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo, the Narmer Palette, is a record of his historic event. With the unification of Egypt, a new capital was founded: Memphis. Then known as Ineb‑Hedj “The White Wall”, this new city, situated between—and thus uniting—Upper and Lower Egypt, would remain one the country’s most important and populous cities throughout ancient Egyptian history.
The area of Abydos (near modern Sohag) retained its prominence from the preceding Naqada III period. The kings of the First Dynasty were buried here, and their tombs demonstrate a tremendous leap forward in monumentality. Egypt was becoming more centralized, and the king’s power was growing.
Most of the Second Dynasty rulers were buried in Memphis, but the last two, Kings Peribsen and Khasekhemwy, had their final resting places constructed in Abydos. Tantalizing clues suggest a power struggle between them. This may have been echoed in the stories revolving around the gods Horus and Seth, but this is far from certain. Royal power grew demonstrably during the reign of Khasekhemwy. Like his predecessors, he paired his tomb with a funerary enclosure closer to the Nile Valley. This truly massive structure, today known as the Shunet al‑Zebib, far surpassed any of those of his predecessors, however, and remains one of the world’s oldest surviving brick structures.