The Royal Canon Library: Volume 10

The hieratic Royal List in the Turin Museum

Wladimir Brunet de Presle


Pages 177–182

§ 11. The Royal List in hieratic writing of the Turin Museum.A document which would have shed the brightest light on the Egyptian dynasties, ifits importance had been understood, and been preserved from the alterations whicha fatal negligence has caused it to suffer. It consists of a royal list on papyrus inhieratic writing, going back to the very origin of the monarchy; a list, which maygive us an idea of what the priests, had preserved in their archives, and showedto Herodotus, and according to which Manetho had used to compose his Historyabove all.

This document is said to have been discovered in the ruins of Thebes, acquiredby Mr. Drovetti, the Consul General of France at Alexandria, and brought with hiscollection to Livorno, from where it passed into the Egyptian Museum of Turin.However, not without suffering damage in the various transports which reduced itto numerous fragments that are difficult to bring together.[*]

As soon as the existence of a document of this kind became known, some of thedoubts that reigned over this part of the chronology were lifted. However, severalyears passed without the scholars could use this treasure. The rumor spread that ithad been lost or destroyed. A few brief notes on this manuscript dispelled this fear,but diminished the hopes the first announcement made.In the first volume of his Monumenti storici, published in 1832, Mr. Roselliniexplained the circumstances, which had prevented him from making use of thisdocument.[*]

Champollion said he had no knowledge of these fragments at the time when heexamined the hieratic manuscripts of the Turin Museum, from which he drew somuch in his second letter to Mr. de Blacas. Some time after, a German scholar, Mr.Seyffarth, studying in his turn the fragments contained in this collection, wouldhave recognized that a large number belonged to a list of kings, with the years oftheir reigns. He collected all these fragments and composed a long list of them,from which he made a copy, which he communicated to various scientists. But Mr.Rosellini adds that this papyrus was reduced to such small fragments that most of thefragments contained only one name, and that some names even consisted of severalshreds. The state of fragmentation must have made the task of recomposing this listin its original state very difficult and almost arbitrary, which greatly diminished theauthority of this canon, at least as to the order of succession of the reigns.The assertions of the professor of Pisa on the state of mutilation of this canon,some exaggerations that perhaps have tricked Mr. Birch and Barucchi to give himthe attention he deserved. There is also a lack of accuracy regarding the Frenchhierogrammate. Champollion was the first to mention the nature and content of thispapyrus in the Bulletin universelle des sciences of 1824, whose fragments he beganto classify, and where he recognized the names of the divine Typhoon, Horus, Thothand Thmei, whom he cites in his Egyptian Grammar, as well as that of Menes.We owe Mr. Lepsius for the publication of a facsimile of this papyrus, in his SelectedMonuments printed in 1842, first distributed only to a small number of friends.According to this text, Mr. Bunsen has given the list of the number of kings containedin the principal fragments; he restored the hieroglyphic reading of the names thatwere preserved, and tried to adapt the figures to his chronological system, especiallyfor the Twelfth Dynasty. Mr. de Rougé, who proposed several different applicationsto some of these passages, followed it in this way.

The fragments collected by Mr. Seyffarth numbered one hundred and sixty-four,which he divided into twelve columns. No column is complete from the uppermargin to the lower margin, making the exact height of the papyrus unknown. Twofragments that join (numbered 32 and 34) are thirty-five centimeters high, and bearthe trace of twenty-two lines of writing. Mr. Seyffarth has allowed up to twenty-seven lines per column, which supposes at least forty-two centimeters in height,including margins, and exceeds the ordinary size of a papyri. The letters are onecentimeter high, and the interval of the lines is half a centimeter.

The text is divided into columns. Three fragments that join in an obvious way(numbers 72, 81 and 97 of the facsimile) have three heads of columns intact. Thewidth of the columns varies from ten to fifteen centimeters. The interval betweenthem is rather narrow; sometimes even longer lines encroach on the next column.It is necessary to evaluate the properties of the material to appreciate the degreeof probability of the order adopted in the arrangement of the fragments, and toevaluate the extent of the gaps. Each line contain a royal cartouche, preceded bythe signs of royalty (the reed and the bee), and followed by the duration of the reignexpressed in years, months, and days. Some signs use red ink (for example, ColumnIII, 18, and Col. VI, 61, the reed and the bee are red). The Egyptian scribes used redink at the beginning of the chapters, and it appears that the list of kings was dividedinto sections, like the dynasties of Manetho. We can also note some fragments withhigh numbers, which must be the addition of a number of reigns.

A fragment with a dozen lines, ending with the name of Menes repeated twice,seems to note of the duration of the reigns prior to Menes. The publisher has formedthe first column, Column II, fr. 11, which, according to the breadth of the rightmargin, would seem to belong to the beginning of the manuscript, contains sevennames, preceded by the ordinary signs of royalty, which Champollion recognizedas Seth, Horus, Thoth, and Thmei.

The remainder of the manuscript has traces of about two hundred names, sometimesindicated only by a part of the bee or reed. About fifty of these can be read, more orless distinctly. Mr. Bunsen count thirty-four kings on ten fragments which he relatesto the first six dynasties; twenty others on six fragments for dynasties six to twelve,and sixty-five for what this author calls the Egyptian Middle Ages, that is, the timeof the Hyksos.

None of the names that could be read belong to the Eighteenth Dynasty or thefollowing dynasties. The conclusion, perhaps a little hastily, is that this papyrusbelong to a later period. There is nothing to prove that this manuscript, when it waswhole, did not have a larger number of columns, whose fragments may have beenlost. The subsequent dynasties could also be contained in one or two other scrolls,just as the division of Manetho into three books.

In truth, the writing is very beautiful, very clear, and the derivation of the hieroglyphsis more recognizable than in many texts, which is a character of antiquity; however,we do not yet have enough certain elements of hieratic palaeography to be able toaffirm that a manuscript belongs to the Eighteenth Dynasty or to a later century.However, even if it only originate from the time of Herodotus, it neverthelesspresent us an authentic extract of the priestly archives. We must be careful, in thecourse of our examination, to discuss the information this text may furnish, aswe find it possible to attach one of its fragments to the lists of Manetho or to thesurviving monuments, as well as Mr. Lepsius, Bunsen and Rougé have already triedby ingenious comparisons.

*Bunsen, 1.1, p. 82.*Monumenti storici, I, p. 146. "Some time later, after the very studious German Seyffarth examined and laboriously preserved those fragments, and separating from the others those who presented the writing itself, discovered that many of these belonged to a list of royal names, with dates of written in hieratic characters, etc."