The Royal Canon Library: Volume 30

Remarks on the royal papyrus of Turin and the dynasties of Egyptian history

Jürgen von Beckerath


Pages 49-55

The honored celebrant has convincingly demonstrated in the fundamental work “Manetho und die ägyptischen Königslisten” that the priest Manetho in his Greek-written history of Egypt used a copy of an ancient Egyptian king list on which the hieroglyphic royal tablets of the New Kingdom,[*] and the so-called royal canon of the Turin museum[*] relied. He also explained how this list of kings arose from annals that have been drawn up every year since the reign of Menes. Finally, he drew attention to the broad agreement of Manetho with the lists obtained from the New Kingdom, especially the T, which, despite the passage of one millennium, and despite the many corruptions and deliberate changes in the Manethonic tradition, still clearly emerged.

Characteristic of the work of Manetho is his classification of Egyptian history in 31 (originally only 30) dynasties - a classification, which we are known to use, despite many errors contained therein even today. These are ruler groups which, as the headlines show, are mainly local in nature, i.e. they are differentiated according to the position of their actual or alleged residence, their sphere of influence, or, in the case of foreign rulers, their ethnicity.[*] The assumption is obvious that Manetho has also taken this classification from his Egyptian template. A comparison, for example, with the Babylonian list of kings shows that such dynasties were common in ancient Near Eastern historiography and that they did not have the meaning of blood-related families of rulers associated with this word.

Here the question arises as to whether Manethos dynasties, as can be presumed, can already be proved in some way in the ancient Egyptian tradition. In fact, as one has long seen, remnants of a subdivision into certain sections can be found in T. The formula to be expected behind each individual royal name “he spent x years, y months, and z days” ( m nsyt...) is written in full only at certain intervals; otherwise the name is followed only by the group “Reign Year” (sometimes only “year” written) with the numbers for the number of years, months and days.

This results in a subdivision which is no longer universally recognizable even in the fragmentary state of the papyrus, but which only partially coincides with the dynasties of Manetho. Occasionally, at the close of such a group, as in Manetho, there is a summation of the number of kings and years. Of course, after such a summation, which breaks the [Unterführung] of the reign formula, the latter continue in the following line.[*] Finally, remnants of headings have been preserved for such rulers, as in Col. II 10 (before the beginning of Manetho's dynasty), in col. V 11 (before the Eleventh Dynasty) and 19 (before the Twelfth Dynasty) and in col. VI 4 (before the Thriteenth Dynasty). But more often than not the kingship formula jrj.n.f. m nsyt is repeated without a reason - conspicuously rare at the head of a column, where it would logically belong. Here Helck (Manetho, 64) has made the important observation that these fully written-out kingship formulas are repeated at roughly equal intervals, and has drawn the convincing conclusion that this is the first line of a column in the original, which the writer of the T carelessly took over. The original was written in much shorter columns - a feature especially in older papyri. This proves well that at least a part of the sections in T does not signify the beginning of a new ruling group, but that of a new column in the original.

Recently, J. Malek[*] has adopted this knowledge and built on it a reconstruction of the template of the T, according to which this would have consisted of consistently 16-line columns. He has suggested that Manetho's “dynasties” ultimately went back only to a misinterpretation of the columns of his model and were therefore without any historical significance. This touches upon a very important point in the Egyptian conception of history. For this reason, I would like to make some statements in this regard, based on my own investigations, which I have been allowed to carry out with the kind permission of the then director of the Turin Museum, Professor Ernesto Scamuzzi, more than 25 years ago on the original papyrus.

From the outset, the assumption of columns of the same length seems a bit too rigid and unnatural for any connoisseur of hieratic papyri. The manuscripts do not always have the same size of the characters, resulting in a slight fluctuation in the number of lines, especially towards the end of the text, as seen in T, it is often become more and more narrow in order to get along with the available space without sticking on another sheet. This is evident from Helck's compilation, and apparently also in the case of the vorlage of T. It should also be noted that Malek, in order to always obtain 16-line columns, often anneals the distribution of a particularly long line on two lines, and that for several columns of T he uses more lines than is probable by dimensions of the lines obtained. According to my own records and calculations, which are generally in accordance with the order given by Sir Alan Gardiner, the classification of the T gives the following indications.

IThe number of rows is uncertain
Row 1-14(?): Introduction (?) and headings (lost); the Gods Ptah, Re-Harakhty and Shu.
Row 15: Explanatory formula ꜤḥꜤw.f m Ꜥnḫ in Geb,
start of a column in the original.
II24 rows[*]
Rows 1-9: Ꜣḫw-dynasties, together with the sum in row 9. Since they probably start with row 1, according to Malek this is the heading of a column in the vorlage.
Row 10: Heading of the following royal group.
Row 11: (Menes): jrj.n.f formula, dynasty starts.
Row 16: (Miebis, at Gardiner, line 17): jrj.n.f formula,
start of a column in the vorlage.
III26 rows. No jrj.n.f formula in row 1.
Row 5: (Djoser): jrj.n.f, royal title written in red.
Columns begin.
Row 19: jrj.n.f, start of column.
Row 25: Sum of the kings from Menes to Unis (1st-5th dynasties)
IV26 rows
Row 1: Because of the written out words for month and day is a jrj.n.f formula expected. Dynasty start (Teti) after summation.
Row 8: (nfr-kꜢ)[*] According to Malek, a jrj.n.f formula is assumed (the previous column of the template ends with Nitokris).
Rows 14-17: Summation of the kings of Dyn. I-VIII, and the last ruling group (Dyn. VI-VIII).
Row 16: Add jrj.n.f after the sum, Dynasty start.
Row 22: jrj.n.f after the arrangement of the fragment no. 48+36.[*] also accepted by Malek; Column start.
V25 rows.
Row 1: The word “month” received here is probably not as part of a jrj.n.f formula, but as a statement, because the King in question only ruled for months (so also Malek).
Row 10: Sum of 18 Kings (IV 18 – V 9. Manethos IX and X dynasties).
Row 11: heading. Beginning of a new dynasty and probably also a column of the vorlage.
Row 18: Sum of 6 kings (V 13-17 = XI dynasty).
Row 19: Heading “Kings of the Residence jtj-tꜢwy”.
Row 20: jrj.n.f dynasty start.
VI27 lines (not more!).
Row 1: Column start (in the T and the vorlage).
Row 3: Sum of 8 kings (V 20 - VI 2 = XII dynasty).
Row 4: 4: Heading (perhaps to supplement “kings who were after [the house (?)] of sḥtp-jb-rꜤ”. Does this mean all following kings or only those of the XIII dynasty?
Row 16: jrj.n.f column start.
VII28 rows. No jrj.n.f formula in row 1.
Row 3: jrj.n.f, column start.
Row 17: (or 18?): Probably a lost jrj.n.f formula here.
(column start)
VIII31 rows. No jrj.n.f formula in row 1.
Row 4: Column start.
Row 20: jrj.n.f. Column start.
IX31 rows.
Row 5; Maybe emended to jrj.n.f. The arrangement of the unplaced fragment no. 40 proposed by Malek seems questionable.
Row 30: jrj.n.f, column start.
X31 (?) rows. The position of most fragments (except nos. 150-152 at the beginning and no. 134 at the end) is quite insecure and even provisionally fixed by Gardiner.
Row 5: A jrj.n.f formula is about to be accepted here.
Row 13 (?): In this row, according to my considerations,[*] the first of the unnumbered fragments listed here by Gardiner is to be placed with the remainder of a summation.
Row 14 (?): Perhaps the heading of the Hyksos dynasty.
Row 15 (?): Lost (jrj.n.f due to start of dynasty).
Row 16-17 (?):On the second unnumbered fragment (x + 3 and [x +?] 8 years).
Row 18-19 (?): On the third unnumbered fragment [x years and 40 years]
Row 20 (?): [ḥḳꜢ] ẖꜢmwdj.
Row 21 (?): Sum of the 6 Hyksos (XV dynasty).
Row 22 (?): Due to start of dynasty jrj.n.f added, probably also column start.
Rows 24-26 (?): Fragments 22 and unnumbered.
Row 31: (last line, Gardiner row 30): (start of Dynasty, or total?).
XINumber of rows uncertain (34 or 35?). No jrj.n.f to complete in row 1 (start of column)
Row 15: Sum of 5 (correctly 15?) Kings (= Theban group of the Hyksos contemporaries).
Row 16: jrj.n.f because of previous sum.
Row 30/31: jrj.n.f Column beginning.

With row, 34 or 35 the list aborts without summation. Since in light of the protective strip on the recto, assuming that another column has been lost is unlikely, the writer probably completed his copy despite lack of space. The vorlage did probably not include the pharaohs of the Eighteenth Dynasty.

After this attempt at reconstruction of the T, his model would have consisted of 21 columns, which were transferred to the T as follows:

Col.Position in TRows
1[I 1–13 ?]13 (?)
2I 14 – [26 ?]13 (?)
3II 1 – II 1515
4II 16 – III 413
5III 5–1814
6III 19 – [IV 7]15
7[IV 8] – 2114
8IV 22 – [V 10]15
9[V 11] – 2515
10VI 1–1515
11VI 16 – VII 214
12VII 3 – [16]15
13[VII 17] – VIII 315
14VIII 4 – 1916
15VIII 20 – [IX 4]16
16[IX 5] – 1915
17IX 20 – [X 5 ?]17
18[X 5-21 ?]17 (?)
19[X 22 – XI 9 ?]19 (?)
20[XI 10?] – 29/3020/21 (?)
21XI 30/31–34/35 5

Most of the jrj.n.f kingship formulas written in full are therefore, as Helck and Malek have remarked, the writer of the T transferred the headings without consideration of his own distribution of columns. In addition, remnants of a different subdivision become visible in the summations obtained – because the columns were not completed. The sections thus formed, show a clear agreement with Manethos dynasties. The summation in III 25 counts the rulers of the dynasties I-V. In IV 14/17 those of VI-VIII, in V 10 those of IX/X, in V 18 those of XI, and in VI 3 those of dynasty XII. Finally, Dynasty XV is clearly marked in Col. X. The remainder of col. X and col. XI appear to include local rulers, which were contemporary to the Hyksos, arranged in at least three groups. Originally Manetho apparently grouped them together into a single dynasty consisting of “43 shepherds and Thebans,” while the division into dynasties XVI and XVII is probably due to an oversight of the epitome.[*] To be sure, the division of the dynasty of Heracleopolites (according to T IV 18 to V 11) in two dynasties by Manetho is probably a mistake. Dynasties VI-VIII also appear in the T as a group. While the VII dynasty need to be removed as a misunderstood commentary by Manetho, the division into dynasties VI and VIII may be a reinterpretation of the beginning of the column as suggested in IV 8. After all, there is a clear difference between the two groups in that the second comprises exclusively of short-lived epigones, only summarily mentioned by Manetho.

Thus, as the main difference to Manetho, the summary of the first five dynasties remains a ruling group in T. Did these remain in the historical tradition of the New Kingdom as a group (for example, kings of the old days whose origins are no longer known), and is Manetho's dynastic division merely due to a misinterpretation of previous columns?

I believe that the Egyptian history is underestimated here too. It should not be forgotten that there were other traditions besides the T, and that this is not an “official” list of kings, but a copy that a historically interested writer prepared on the back of a no longer needed administrative papyrus. In addition, we can see that he was not very careful in doing so. For example, from Col. III 4 to the end of Col. V, that is, columns 5-9 of the vorlage, and probably out of indifference, he omitted the statement of the months and days. Helck (Manetho, 55ff.) has shown that Manetho, who consistently gives a higher number, has thus rounded up.

For example, the consequent omission of the so-called interim times on the royal tablets as well as the omission of such rulers of the Old Kingdom on the Abydos table, who described according to contemporary evidence as “illegitimate”, show that the Egyptian writers possessed knowledge beyond royal names and numbers. Therefore, there will probably have existed knowledge about the historical unity of certain groups of kings. As the story of the pWestcar shows us, Userkaf was always regarded as the first ruler of a new dynasty. The separation of the so-called Thinites into two dynasties by Manetho is proven by archaeological research as not arbitrary: the end of the First Dynasty is marked by the end of the royal cemetery of Abydos. Even Djoser, who was not only originally in the first line of a column, but also highlighted by a rubrum, a new era begins, marked by the monumental stone construction and the concentration of power and culture to the Memphis area. Whether this already happened under Nebka, as it seems to Manetho, or whether there is a later oversight here, remains uncertain. It is more difficult to explain the transition from the Third to Fourth Dynasty, but at least Snofru also appears in the Egyptian tradition as the founder of a new era.[*]

With the same arguments, however, one can also argue for a presumed distinction of the kings in the Egyptian king list between the Twelfth Dynasty and the Hyksos in two groups, corresponding to the Thirteenth and Fourteenth dynasties. Apart from Nehasi (VIII 1), which is only documented in the eastern delta, all of the kings of this group in Col. VIII-X are unknown, perhaps even pure fiction. They certainly correspond to the Foruteenth Dynasty of Manetho, whatever may be behind his strange “Xoites”. On the other hand, the majority of the rulers mentioned in Col. VI and VII can also be archaeologically attested, many of them also for jtj-tAwj, which—as Hayes[*] has shown—remained the capital of the country until it was taken by the Hyksos.

Similarly, the later “dynasties” of Manetho, no longer recorded in the T, will be of Egyptian origin, although the transition from the XVIII to the XIX Dynasty is blurred by text corruption and otherwise many mistakes have crept in. Thus we may regard Manetho's classification of Egyptian history in the whole, albeit with improvements, as a reliable historical tradition.

*In the temples of Seti I and Ramses II in Abydos (the latter now in the British Museum) and in the tomb of Tly in Saqqara (in Cairo).*pTurin no. 1874, in hieroglyphic transcript published by A.H. Gardiner, The Royal Canon of Turin, Oxford 1959, hereafter abbreviated as T.*Cf. v. Beckerath, in LÄ I, p. 1555f., see Dynastie.*Just as it is known from accounting papyri.*The Original Version of the Royal Canon of Turin, in: JEA 68, 1982, 93-106.*Gardiner’s line 14 should be struck. This is the end of a line projecting into Col. II from Col. I (as in VI 3 and VII 3).*For the position of fragment no. 43 (in Gardiner one row lower) cf. v.Beckerath, in: JNES 21, 1962, 140-47.*v. Beckerath, in: ZÄS 93, 1966, 13-20.*v. Beckerath, 2. Zwischenzeit, 22-26.*ibid., 17-20.*Cf. Wildung, Rolle äg. Könige I, 104-51.*JEA 33, 1947, 3-11 and JNES 12, 1953, 31-33.