manetho and the king lists
Manetho was a Greco-Egyptian priest born at Sebennytos in the Nile Delta, and lived during the reign of Ptolemy I. He is of significant importance to the study of Egyptology because he wrote a detailed history of Egypt which gives us the basic structure for the chronology of Ancient Egypt that we use today.
Manetho divided Egyptian history into dynasties which were essentially ruling houses, of which 30 are recognised and used today. These date from unification around 3100 BC up until the death of the last native Egyptian ruler Nectanebo II in 343 BC. Two additional dynasties were then added onto these; the 31st or Second Persian Period, and the 32nd or Macedonian rulers followed by the Ptolemies. While his work has been very useful to scholars, his history covers thousands of years, and while he had perhaps some documentation to assist him that is not available to us today, he lacked the capability of modern scientific archaeological examination and the accumulated data we have today. Nevertheless, his system is so entrenched that we still today, continue to try to “fit” our modern understanding of Egyptian history into his framework.
It is ironic that although great reliance is placed upon Manetho and his “Egyptian History”, no full text of his work actually survives! Manetho’s history is known to us because several writers whose works have survived have quoted extensively from it. These writers included Josephus, writing in the late first century AD, Sextus Julius Africanus, writing around the year 220 AD, and Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea, writing in the early 4th century AD. Around five hundred years later the works of Sextus Julius and Bishop Eusebius were used as a basis for a history of the world, written by George the Monk, the secretary to the Byzantine Patriarch Tarasius (784-806 AD).
THE PALERMO STONE:
A 5th Dynasty black basalt slab in several pieces, and now in the Palermo Museum in Sicily, with further fragments in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and the Flinders Petrie Museum in London. The stone is inscribed on both sides and records some of the last pre-dynastic kings, plus the kings that followed, up until the reign of Neferirkare in the mid 5th Dynasty.
THE ROYAL LIST OF ABYDOS (above):
In the Hall of the Records at the Temple of Abydos, Seti I and his young son the future Ramesses II, are shown worshipping the cartouched names of 76 of their ancestors. However, “unacceptable” predecessors, such as Hapshepsut and Akhenaten are conveniently omitted from this list. The list also does not have records of any of the kings from the Second Intermediate Period.
THE ABYDOS KING LIST:
A badly damaged duplicate of the Royal List of Abydos was discovered in the nearby temple of Ramesses II.
THE ROYAL LIST OF KARNAK:
A list of kings from the first kings down to Tuthmosis III. It records the names of many of the obscure kings from the Second Intermediate Period, and is now housed in the Louvre Museum in Paris.
THE ROYAL LIST OF SAQQARA:
Discovered in the tomb of the royal scribe Thunery at Saqqara. Originally this list had 58 cartouches, but now only 47 remain, running from Anedjib of the 1st Dynasty up to Ramesses II, and once again omitting those names from the Second Intermediate Period.
THE ROYAL CANON OF TURIN (above):
Currently in the Museo Egizio, Torino (to which it owes its name) this papyrus is the best surviving chronology of the Ancient Egyptian pharaohs, but is unfortunately the most damaged. Originally listing over 300 kings, it is written in a fine literate hand, around 1200 BC. It lists the dynasties of the kings with the lengths of each reign in years, months and days. It also includes the names of ephemeral rulers or those ruling over small territories and, as such, are barely known nowadays, being usually unmentioned in other sources. The list includes the Hyksos rulers (often left out of other King Lists), although they were not given cartouches, and a hieroglyphic sign was added to indicate that they were foreigners. Because of the poor condition, piecing the fragments together is like trying to solve an immense and almost impossible jigsaw.
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Primary Sources of the Old Kingdom
By Jaromir Malek
The Egyptian Old Kingdom ended over 4,000 years ago, but amazingly we still have access to a number of primary sources dating from the era. Jaromir Malek uncovers the evidence.
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