All journeys have a start and this one does too. The start is...... What does "Ancient Egyptian" mean? How do we delineate this term from Egypt in general, modern or in the past.
The short answer is time. As far as time is concerned Ancient Egypt ends at 30 BC with the defeat of Cleopatra and Marc Anthony. (That is a story for another day I am sure) Those dates are etched into the writing of Greco-Roman scholars. We know them as fact. Where it started is a completely different concern altogether. The beginning can be as early as 8,000 BC up until approximately 5,500 BC. The debate over these dates has been going on for some time. Do we start when the images of the gods first appear or do we wait until there is a tribe with some Egyptian qualities living along the Nile River? The earliest examples of what is claimed to be an image of Anubis and another of the Apis bull and perhaps even Sekhmet are to be found on the rocks near where the Tashwinat Mummy was found in Libya.
The one thing we can be sure of is by the time the Naqada culture came around in 4,000 BC there were people we would recognize as Egyptians along the Nile. These people even had hieroglyphs, a full set of them. This also brings us to a very important word that is km.t (pronounced by most Kemet). This is the Egyptian word for themselves. No longer can we debate on which people were Egyptian and which were not. Those historical people, long ago, are kind enough to give us a slap in the head to recognize them as a contiguous group.
So, we call km.t Egypt but what did it mean to the people who wrote these texts thousands of years ago? km is the word for black and it is theorized that km.t means black soil or refers to black soil and the fertile areas of delta and bank along the Nile River. How ever we translate it by 3,100 BC we have a pharaoh ruling Egypt from Memphis, religion in place, writing and no way to deny that these people are Egyptians as our modern minds would define them.
In short, this is the brief definition of when Ancient Egypt begins and ends.