The Royal Canon Library: Volume 6

Critical remarks on Egyptian chronology

Francesco Barucchi


Pages 29–30

XIV. Of the many antiquities so far found in Egypt and examined by archaeologists, if we exclude the hierarchical records with the year of the reign of this or that Pharaoh, and some funerary stelae with indication of the reign under which it was dedicated, only one is truly chronological. It is the papyrus of the Turin Museum mentioned above, composed by the unknown author, with the intention of bring to light a series of mythical and historical reigns.

There was little care and concern taken to safeguard the pristine objects from Egypt by those responsible for the preservation of the objects belonging to the illustrious collection of Mr. Drovetti on the long journey from the banks of the Nile to this capital. However, it is useless to complain about who is responsible for the damage caused to the papyrus, which is of no interest as to the question of the chronological succession of the pharaohs. The German professor Seyffarth studied and patiently reassembled of the damaged fragments to the best of his ability, when he visited us the first year we had it.

The royal names that are readable all belong to the times preceding the Eighteenth Dynasty and we can recognize some of them, present in the Abydos Table, and in the small room at Karnak. It is probably a register of the earliest dynasties, and the names of the 330 kings prior to Sesostris that the Egyptian priests recited to Herodotus. Each name is preceded by the reed and the bee, two symbols in the monumental inscriptions placed before of the signs of the Pharaohs, which Champollion called their first name. The two symbols, according to the subtle observations of Doctor Lepsius, hinted at lordship over the Upper and Lower Lands.[*] It is impossible to tell in when this very rare, indeed unique, document was written; but comparing the writing to that of similar papyri, it seems that it should not be later than the Eighteenth or Nineteenth Dynasties. It is reasonable to suppose, that in the flourishing period after the long domination of the Shepherds, the Egyptians turned their study to gather the scattered memories of previous ages, and on the faith of the monuments advanced to the devastating ferocity of those conquerors, they recomposed the old annals.

However, said papyrus is not a document made by public authority, rather a private and anonymous writing. If we had serious evidence from public monuments, or from another authoritative source, to deny that a large number of Pharaohs exercised dominion over all of Egypt before the Eighteenth Dynasty, the contrary testimony of the aforementioned document would be of little weight.

*Annali dell’Instituto di Corrispondenza Archeologica, 1838, cah. I. pag. 113.