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Administration in the Old Kingdom (about 2686-2181 BC): the Provinces

In the Old Kingdom most royal construction activities are concentrated in the area between Meydum and Abu Rowash. Cemeteries and sites outside of this area will here be called 'provincial'. There are not many written sources from the early Old Kingdom (3rd to about mid Fifth Dynasty), therefore the administrative structures remain uncertain. Some huge tombs built at provincial cemeteries (Bet Khallaf) indicate the presence of local authorities, able to organise such building projects. The presence of royal seals in some of these tombs indicate involvement of the central administration in some way.

There are two theoretical models for the administration of the provinces in the Old Kingdom:

loose control
tight control

The provincial administration was under the control of local chiefs. The local chiefs were responsible to the central government, but more or less free to do what they liked inside of their area. Only for special reasons (e.g. pyramid building) were local resources withdrawn from provinces.

The central government had full control over provincial resources. The whole country was organised from the centre. Local rulers were installed by the central government.

At the end of the Old Kingdom local authority grew more important, and became visible in the many provincial tombs. From the end of the Fifth Dynasty there is also certain evidence for more control over the provinces: the office of an 'overseer of Upper Egypt' was introduced.


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