The Royal Canon Library: Volume 16

History of Egypt

Heinrich Brugsch

History of Egypt


p. 13-15

Among these monuments is the famous royal hieratic cannon of Turin, which escaped general destruction only to be torn to pieces nowadays as a result of inattentive transport. On several pieces, we find the remains of divine names accompanied by numbers, indicating the duration of the reigns of the deities. But by comparing them with those we have just recognized above, we notice some rather remarkable differences.

The name of the god Ra is found on fragment 141 (I quote the pieces of this precious papyrus according to the publication of Mr. Lepsius); this deity was preceded by another, whose name is completely destroyed. Fragment 11 is more complete; it is one that is most frequently spoken of in the works on Egyptian deities. Without being fully convinced of the correctness of the interpretation of the names of the first two divinities, we believe that they represent the divine king Seb, and his son King Osiris. So, from Ra to Seb there is only one god missing, Shu.

Following the signs for the god Seti-Typhon we see his successor Horus, with the epithet neteru, i.e. “gods.” The duration of the reign of this god is 300 years.

The First Dynasty ends with, as we saw earlier, the god Horus. It is not so in our papyrus, in which three or four reigns of Gods follow Horus-neteru, of which only the name of a Thoth has been preserved, that of his wife Maat, and finally that of a god who seems to me to be a Horus.

We do not know if there is a reign included from there until the red sign.The exact number of the sum is destroyed, and is followed by at least two divine kings. The rest of the divine dynasties are quite wanting; it is likely that the names of gods on fr. 41, for they are not kings as Mr. Lepsius believe, since the mark which accompanies them is the same that determine the names of the gods of which we have spoken, and not those that indicates the human kings. It is therefore probable, that these names must be interposed; so that we obtain six new royal names, among which the third, Hapi, stand out, representing the Apis Bull of Memphis, and the fifth, Mena, the Egyptian name of the bull Mnevis of Heliopolis. A passage from fr. 1 of the Turin canon, contain the summary calculations of the divine and human dynasties, is followed by the predecessor of King Mena was called Hor-her-su or Hor-hi-su. From a divine king whose name does not appear on the papyrus, until the latter, a space of 13,420 + x years has elapsed; while according to another text, the reigns up to Horhersu embraced 23,200 + x years.

Although we cannot obtain any explanation on the special calculus of the divine dynasties, we at least see that the classical authors and their traditions on the high figures of the duration of the kingdom of the gods are confirmed by the indications of the papyrus. Furthermore, according to the calculation of the number of columns and lines each column contained on the papyrus, the divine dynasties consisted of about 30 deities.

p. 19-24

In examining the fragments of the royal canon of Turin, we note, that the number of kings composing the first five dynasties is much greater than Manetho reports. The transcribed names in Greek are not always exact, and the figures expressing the duration of the reign of each king, are sometimes lacking in exactness.

As to the number of kings, it is now certain that Manetho on purpose omitted some of the names of the pharaohs who did not matter. To fill the fundamental errors caused by the chronological calculation, if the duration of these reigns was lacking; he collected two or three of these reigns, which he placed in the account of one of the kings who appear on his list.

The inaccuracy of the names and the numbers transcribed, is undoubtedly due to the faulty reproduction of the copyists, who had no knowledge of the Egyptian, and not looking at the total amount of the duration of the reigns at the end of each dynasty, and unable to correct the accumulated errors.

To understand the only Egyptian document that offers us an ancient calculation of the royal lists, we put beforethe eyes of the readers a picture of the pieces of the canon of Turin, classified according to the dynasties of Manetho.

Col. II. summary – the first kings of the First Dynasty. Mena–Thoth. – fr. 1 – sum of approx. 12 kings.
Col. III. kings of the First, Second, and Third dynasties. – fr. 18, 19, 20 – 21 kings.
Col. IV. Kings of the Fourth and Fifth dynasties. – fr. 32, 34 – 21 kings.
Col. V. Kings of the Sixth and Seventh dynasties. – fr. 43, 44, 47(?) – 19 kings.
Col. VI. Kings of the Eight to Twelfth dynasties. – fr. 39, 61, 63 – 20 kings.
Col. VII. Kings of the Twelfth and Thirteenth dynasties. – fr. 72 – 27 kings.
Col. VIII. Kings of the Thirteenth Dynasty (cont.) – fr. 81 – 30 kings.
Col. IX. Kings of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth dynasties (cont.). – fr. 97-104 – 30 kings.
Col. X–XI. Successors to the preceding kings. – 3 x 30 = 90 kings.

King Unas corrresponds to pharaoh Onnos of Manetho, the last king of the Fifth Dynasty. The hieratic text of the Turin list hold approximately 54 kings from Mena to Unas. That is a difference of 11 kings between the inscriptions of this canon, and the writings of Manetho.

Let us see if we can restore the place to some of these kings, whom Manetho omitted from his list, for the reason I have indicated above. The most complete and important fragments of the canon are those bearing numbers 32 and 34, which I published for the first time in my Geographische Inschriften altägyptischer Denkmäler (Vol I. p.44 note), and reproduce here to facilitate comparison with the Manetho list.

[Table omitted]

Whoever take the trouble to examine these two lists, and to compare them with one another, will immediately notice the concordance presented in the figures. On the other hand, it will be seen that we were right in attributing Manetho lists with certain peculiarities and errors, for the explanation of which the Egyptian document offers the surest key.

Where the inspection of the cannon shows us a series of 18 kings, (I omit them kings 1. 2. 3, which make up the number of 21), Manethon has only 14. The error necessarily provoked by the duration of the years of reign, attributed to these pharaohs in the hieratic canon, is compensated by the union of two or three reigns which Manetho gives to a single king. This is f. ex. that he grants to King Sephres only, 13 years of reign while the papyrus makes us recognize three pharaohs whose years of reigns 4, 2 and 7 form precisely the sum of 13 years of Manetho.

So it is quite certain that the Manetho list is not complete and therefore we must adopt the approximate figure of 54 kings for the first five dynasties, instead of 45 that the Manetho list indicates by order chronological.

Before naming the pharaohs of these dynasties, I must make an observation; in the transcriptions of Manetho, the names of the first ten kings are deprived of the final syllable res or ris, so common for the rest of the pharaonic names and expressing the Egyptian word ra, "sun".

It seems, therefore, that kings prior to the Second Dynasty were not favorable to the worship of the god Ra, who later took his place in the Egyptian mythology.

After Mena, the Canon of Turin designates a king whose half-destroyed name gives a glimpse of the most important element of his composition; the well-known image of the ibis, symbol of the god Tauud. It represents Pharaoh Athotis, son of Mena. The monuments give no indication of him, and it is only bacuse of Manetho that we owe the observation that Athothis had built the royal palace in Memphis and been engaged in anatomy studies, about which he had written books.

There is no doubt that the art of medicine is very old, and it is not surprising that it is really Athothis, who composed, perhaps the first, work of anatomy. I will remind of the hieratic papyrus dealing with medicine, found in Memphis and currently preserved at the Berlin Museum. This valuable document contains a long series of recipes for various diseases of the leprosy genus, as well as some anatomical treatises. As I have shown elsewhere, this document was written in the time of Ramesses the Great, and copied on another manuscript dating from the ancient epochs we are dealing with. On page 15 it is expressly stated that the original, an ancient scroll of papyrus, had been discovered at Sechem, a town which the Greeks called Letopolis. It is added that this discovery was made in the time of King Zazati, and that after his death the papyrus was brought to His Holiness King Send. We will soon have occasion to speak of these two pharaohs.

We have sought in vain on the monuments, for the names of the immediate successors of Menas and Athothis. The part of the canon that contained their names is destroyed or reduced to scraps, making recognition of these pharaohs impossible.

There is, however, some probability that the fragment 20 contains a large part of it, which we have transcribed in a hieroglyphic character, in the plates attached to this book. [see plate 3]

The remains of the three names 8, 9 and 10:
(8) … BAU
(9) ... KA
(10) ... NeTeR ...

contain elements, which are found in the names of the first three kings of the Second Dynasty of Manetho, that is, Boethos, Kaiechos, Binothris.Fragment 20 contains the continuation. We distinguish the following names, to which the Egyptian composer of the canon added the years of reign, as well as another series of figures whose meaning we do not know. Perhaps these figures express the years of life of the so-called pharaohs.

(14) Nefer-ka-sek8 years 3 months x days – 10 (20? 30?)+x
(15) ..h..fa10(20?30?)+9 years 8 months 4 days – 24
(16) years 2 months 1 day – 40+x
(17) Neb-ka19 years 0 months 0 days
(18) Sera19 years 0 months 0 days
(19) Sertix

The name in No. 15 contained what seems to me the phonetic elements which compose the proper name Usaphaes (4th king of the First Dynasty), but neither the other names nor the figures are in harmony with the indications of Manetho; which proves that the royal list of this priest lacks veracity for the most ancient epochs of Egyptian history.

Going back from the historical landmark we found for the place occupied by King Ounas in the Turin canon, we find instead of the so-renamed king Mencheres, the builder of the third great pyramid, a destroyed Royal name. This name of an unknown king is followed by three hieratic signs expressing the words anch ouza sneb, “to a healthy and strong life,” an honorific title in the canon, given only to the great kings of Egypt.

To Mencheres belong this number, as we shall see below, there is no doubt that the name is destroyed, that would have contained the hieratic letters which form the name of Menchérès. Manetho assigns 63 years of reign to him, the papyrus however give him only 24, new proof of the defect of Manethon figures.

According to the Priest of Sebennytos, the two predecessors of Mencheres who built the other two great pyramids, were

Suphis I, 63 years
Suphis II, 66 years.

The respondent numbers of the canon are six, and six. In addition, the last sign of the name of the second king, which escaped the general destruction of the names on fr. 32, is quite different from the graphical elements used to write the name of the two kings called Souphis by Manetho. There is, therefore, evidence to suppose that at least two kings came between Suphis II and Mencheres, of which Manetho and the other authors make no mention. To explain the number 63 given by Manetho to King Mencheres, it would be necessary to admit the omission of a series of several kings’ names: but the years of reign, according to summary calculation, assigned to Mencheres. Eratosthenes approaches more of the truth, by attributing to this king 31 years of reign.

For the other royal names of these early dynasties, which the sepulchral monuments of Memphis offer here and there, and because of their concordance with the names given by Manetho, we have thought fit to compare those of

Chufu or Snum-Chufu (20) with Suphis II,
Safra (21) with Suphis I,
Userkaf (30) with Usercheres,
Sahura (31) with Sephres,
Neferarkara (34) with Nephercheres,
Ranuser or Usernra (36) with Sisiris.

I also adopt the comparison of Ded-ka-ra (40, b) with Ded (40) of the canon, and with Tatcheres of Manetho.In spite of the certainty that I acquired from their age, I still have doubts about the comparison that could be made of a number of ancient kings: I listed them under No. 42 - 46.

Let us now see what tradition and monuments tell us about the kings who have occupied us so far.