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The first two dynasties of Egyptian history are often known collectively as the “Early Dynastic Period.” They are not generally considered to be part of the Old Kingdom (c. 2686-2125 BC), but neither are they Predynastic, as the Egyptian state had been unified by that point. Narmer established control of the land from the Delta to the first cataract of the Nile near present day Aswan, built the capital in Memphis, and also established other political and cultural precedents such as royal burial. <ref> Bard, p. 67</ref>
The new city of Memphis quickly became the political capital of Egypt, and stayed so for most of pharaonic history, but the Upper Egyptian city of Abydos maintained its spiritual importance for the early kings. All of the kings of the First Dynasty and the last two kings of the Second Dynasty were buried in Abydos’ royal necropolis. These early kings were interred in large pits covered with brick superstructures known as a <i>mastabas<i
/>. The mastabas of the earliest kings, including Narmer, have been identified at Abydos, <ref> Arnold, Dieter. “Royal Cult Complexes of the Old and Middle Kingdoms.” In <i>Temples of Ancient Egypt.</i> Edited by Byron Shafer. (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1997), p. 40</ref> which apparently continued to be a place of pride and possibly provided a bit of nostalgia for the kings from the south.
Narmer’s successors continued to build on his successes, which continued until the end of the Second Dynasty during the reign of King Khasekhemway (ruled c. 2640 BC). Khasekhemway’s rule is best remembered for his mastaba tomb, located just west of Abydos. Known as “Shunet ez-Zebib,” the massive tomb measures 177 by 370 feet internally and 400 by 213 feet externally, surrounded by a mudbrick double wall eighteen feet thick. <ref> Kemp, Barry. <i> Ancient Egypt: Anatomy of a Civilization.</i> (London: Routledge, 1991), p. 53</ref> Khasekhemway’s tomb was much more than a typical mastaba, but was an elaborate complex that influenced the pyramid temple complex’s of the Old Kingdom. Known as the “fortress of the gods,” Khasekhemway’s mastaba complex was viewed as a place where the gods, including the deceased king, gathered on earth. <ref> Arnold, p. 34</ref>