IN a revelation which has rocked the dusty world of Egyptology, British archaeologists have announced that Egypt sprang "fully formed" into being some 500 years later than hitherto has been accepted.
Using mathematical models, radiocarbon dating and archaeological evidence, researchers found the first ruler, King Aha acceded to the throne between 3111 BC and 3045 BC ... up to 500 years later than some previous estimates.
A new timeline shows the original territorial state developed from primitive beginnings in as little as 600 years ... the twinkling of an eye in archaeological terms.
The pharaohs, who are understood to have started with King Aha, ruled Ancient Egypt for more than three thousand years and the story of the very last pharaoh, Cleopatra, is famous to this day.
But it will be another thousand years before we are as far removed from her as she was from her earliest predecessors who remain shrouded in legends and conjecture, known only from a handful of frustratingly incomplete sources.
Archaeologist Dr Michael Dee, of the University of Oxford, said: "There are no records before the third dynasty, so we have had to guess exactly when the vital First Dynasty, which led to the development of writing and agriculture, happened."
The study, published in the journal "Proceedings of the Royal Society A," also found the Predynastic period when inhabitants along the River Nile started to form permanent settlements was probably closer to 3700 BC than 4000 BC, with the stone age Neolithic era preceding it lasting longer and finishing later.
"The origins of Egypt began a millennium before the pyramids were built, which is why our understanding of how and why this powerful state developed is based solely on archaeological evidence," Dr Dee said.
"This new study provides new radiocarbon dating evidence that resets the chronology of the first dynastic rulers of Ancient Egypt and suggests Egypt formed far more rapidly than was previously thought," he added.
Aha is believed to have become pharaoh at the age of 30 and ruled until he was about 62. Legend has it that he was killed by a hippopotamus while hunting.
His "chief wife" was Benerib, whose name was written on his tomb at Abydos, but he also had another wife, Khenthap, with whom he became father of Djer, Egypt’s second king.
Then came King Djet, Queen Merneith, King Den, King Anedjib, King Semerkhet and King Qa’a whose reign began between 2906 BC and 2886 BC.
Dr Dee said they would have ruled over a territory spanning a similar area to Egypt today with formal borders at Aswan in the south, the Mediterranean Sea in the north and across to the modern day Gaza Strip in the east.