In 1898, the Narmer Palette was uncovered, one of the few surviving artefacts from the Nile Valley. It is an iconic example of an artefact from which a vast amount of information about ancient Egypt can be gleaned. ‘Introduction: the story so far’ charts what we know about ancient Egypt from discoveries made to date. The earliest ‘Egyptians’ appeared in Palaeolithic north-eastern African in c.4,000 bc. By the beginning of the 4th millennium bc, a distinctive civilization had emerged at the northern end of the Nile Valley. The history of the rediscovery of ancient Egypt follows that of any other civilization: centuries of ignorance and plundering followed by the enlightened approaches of late 19th-century and 20th-century scholars.