The Royal Canon of Turin

A hieratic papyrus at the Egyptian Museum in Turin, Italy, is without a doubt the most important king list of Ancient Egypt. It is often referred to as the Turin king list, or more commonly, the Royal Canon of Turin, which originate with Champollion’s 1824 description as “un véritable tableau chronologique, un canon royal”, a true chronological timeline, a royal canon.[1] The papyrus is in very poor shape, less than a third of it remains, having crumbled into hundreds of tiny fragments since its discovery around 1820. The king list is written on the back side of a discarded administative papyrus from the time of Ramesses II.

The small fragments preserve the complete or partial names of 126 kings; many which are not found inscribed on the Abydos, Saqqara, and Karnak king lists from the New Kingdom. When discovered, the intact papyrus would have contained the names of about 222 kings. Despite its importance, there has been no scientific study, and no high quality photographs of the papyrus has ever been published. Instead we have to rely on traced facsimiles from the 1840's and 1850's, which naturally contain a few minor errors. This is perhaps not as bad as it sounds, since the papyrus has deteriorated during the intervening 175 years, and the facsimiles offer us a glimpse of a better preserved king list.

The bicentenary of the discovery of the king list is in
4 years and 12 days

Columns 3-11 of the Royal Canon of Turin 2016
Facsimile of columns 3-11 of the Royal Canon of Turin by Peter Lundström 2016

The end of the papyrus was deliberately cut off in ancient times, containing one column worth of names, probably the names of the kings of the Seventeenth to Nineteenth Dynasties. Several notations of lacuna were present on a vorlage of the papyrus, and used where a part of the source text was missing or unreadable. The order of the reigns seems to be quite reliable.

For the list of kings, see Contents of the Royal Canon of Turin.



The papyrus was lost for some 3000 years, perhaps buried in a forgotten tomb or temple near Thebes in Upper Egypt. Unlike the other king lists of the New Kingdom, the Canon was not produced for religious purposes, but instead as a chronological reference aid, containing the names and reign lengths of the kings of the Two Lands. There is no evidence of any intentional exclusion or supression of kings, as contemporary and ephemeral kings are included, even the foreign kings of the Second Intermediate Period.

The Royal Canon of Turin is an ancient Egyptian full-size papyrus roll written in hieratic, sadly it is in very poor shape, only one third of the full papyrus remains. Its original use was as a tax-register dating to the reign of Ramesses II (1279–1213 BCE), evident from the text, "Inspector of the wells of rꜤ-msw-mry-imn," i.e. an official during the reign of Ramesses II.[2] There is a slight possibility that same position still existed during the subsequent reigns of Merneptah and Seti II, providing an approximate date for the papyrus, somewhere in the 1275–1200 BCE range.

Rolls of papyrus were manufactured with the horizontal fibres on the inside, and the vertical fibres on the outside. The natural way to write on papyri, was on the inside of the roll (i.e. along the horizontal fibres), which also served to protect the writing when it was rolled up.[3] This side is called the recto, or front side.

It was first assumed that the king list was the initial document, however, as the tax-register was written along the horizontal fibres, it naturally must be the original.[4] So, the tax-register is written on the recto, or front side, with the king list on the verso, or back side. There is no indication as to when the king list was written, whether a few months, years, or even decades later.


Origin and purpose

The original document contained a tax-register written sometime during the reign of Ramesses II (1279–1213 BCE), or one of his close successors.[5] When this tax-record became obsolete, the blank back side was used to add the king list, likely while the papyrus was still somewhat fresh, but a few years to a decade cannot be excluded.

The document contains the record of every Egyptian king with his exact position in chronological order, from the gods to the mortal kings. The designation of the papyrus as “a canon” by Champollion and continued by Gardiner, is slightly misleading. The New Kingdom king lists of Abydos, Saqqara and Karnak, all chose kings according to arbitrary principles, presenting only those selected for a celebratory purpose. The names in those lists are presented roughly in chronological order, but with a few errors and deliberate omissions.

The Canon on the other hand is a pure chronological list of kings, who were included simply because they once ruled the land, and include their length of reign, which is absent from all the other lists. The order of reigns seems to be quite reliable, with no indications of excluded or supressed kings, but there are a few instances where the position of kings may have been interchanged.

While we can safely assume that the canon was written during the reign of Ramesses II, it does not necessarily mean that this canon was updated to include the kings of the New Kingdom. Early in the Eighteenth Dynasty, the administration likely needed a chronological record of the kingdom for political and/or religious reasons. By associating himself with well-known ancestors, the king asserted and legitimized his right to rule the Two Lands.

Examining the canon, it is immediately noticable that the reigns are recorded in different ways. Some kings have their age recorded, while most only record years reigned, the more ancient parts contain more corrupt names. This makes it clear that at least five sources were used. The details contained in these ancient records are obviously unknown to us. The ages recorded can be divided into five sections:

 Source A — Dynasties 1–2, recording years, months, days and the age of the king.
 Source B — Dynasties 3–6, recording only years.
 Source C — Dynasties 7–10, recording years, months and days.
 Source D — Dynasty 11, only recording years
 Source E — Dynasty 12, recording years, months and days.

The resulting king list was merged from these sources (A-E), and compiled into a single document, that would serve as a prototype, or vorlage. This original compilation may be designated Vorlage A, and held a complete list of all the kings that ever ruled the kingdom, from the beginning of time, up to the current king.

The transmission, or lineage of the descendants to the original, suggest the following:
A direct copy of the original was created, which we designate "Vorlage B". This copy suffered damage, and part of the text was lost, or became unreadable. This prompted another copy, "Vorlage C", with the damaged parts marked with Lacuna notation in the Royal Canon of Turin (G41:G36) - wsf, meaning unreadable, or lost. Next, a diligent scribe noticed that there were chronological gaps, and in his copy, "Vorlage D", emended the wsf-notation by adding 6 years to the gaps. "Vorlage E" was a direct copy of Vorlage D, but copied unto a half-size papyrus. The Royal Canon is a direct copy of Vorlage E, but again on a full-size papyrus.

It is unclear whether any of the vorlages were updated to include kings of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Dynasty. Only by close examination of the canon can we find some clues, as the introduction is lost in lacuna. It might have included all kings up to Ramesses II, but circumstantial evidence show that it was a literatim copy of an older document, suggesting that there had been no emendations. It would be easy to assume that the copy would only contain the original writing with nothing added or subtracted, but it is impossible to know for certain.

The Canon was certainly not a formal document, as the scribe copied it unto a previously used, and damaged papyrus roll. This suggest that it was not intended to be archived, but perhaps only served as an excercise or intermediary for another document.

The following figure sums up the transmission:

Figure 1: Transmission of the Royal Canon of Turin
Figure 1: Transmission of the Royal Canon.
After Ryholt, Political Situation, Table 7, p. 32

The nature of a full-size papyrus means that the lines are naturally longer than in a half-size, as there are more vertical surface to write the columns on. Copying a text from a small to a large document requires the adjustment of any ditto-markings to conform to the new and larger papyrus. That this was not done in the Canon is a clear indication that the scribe copied Vorlage E sign-by-sign, making an exact copy, without realigning the content. It also explains why there are ditto-marks in the top rows in columns 4 and 9, and also why the kingship formula occur at irregular intervals within the columns.

Reconstruction of the papyrus that the Canon was copied from, i.e. Vorlage E, the half-size papyrus with the exact same writing, was first attempted by Malek in 1982.[6] A couple problems with his reconstruction was rejected by Ryholt, who proposed an improved arrangement.[7]



The papyrus was likely intact when rediscovered in the late 1810’s near Thebes in Egypt; however, the provenance is unknown. Its discovery could have been made in many ways, whether it was from an illegal dig, or simply found when building the foundation for a new house will never be known. Being suddenly exposed to the elements and being handled by human hands after thousands of years in isolation, caused the fragile papyrus to begin to crumble. Even if it was in the interest of the discoverer to preserve it as well as possible to fetch a higher price, it was likely not handled with silk gloves. Bernardino Drovetti, the French Consul-General of Egypt at the time, acquired the papyrus sometime in the 1818–22 timeframe. It is unknown if he personally, or one of his agents bought it. The stories put forth by Maspero and Winlock as to the discovery are likely fabrications created to add some colour to the likely unremarkable discovery.

[the Papyrus] was purchased in Thebes almost untouched by Drovetti around 1818, and unintentionally mutilated during his transport of it. The leftovers were acquired by the collection of the Piedmontese government in 1820 and deposited in Museum of Turin, where Champollion saw them in 1824.Gaston Maspero [8]

When the papyrus was found by Drovetti, either in 1823 or in 1824, it was apparently complete, and he put it into a jar which he tied about his waist, mounted his donkey, and proceeded to ride into town. The joggling which the jar got along the path was disastrous. When Drovetti opened it the extraordinary document had been reduced to mere scraps ... but so much had disappeared in dust on that ride on donkey-back that only the barest outline of the original document remains today.Herbert Winlock [9]

Drovetti clearly failed to note the importance of the papyrus, and simply stored it in a box together with many other papyri of lesser quality he acquired in Egypt.[10] As there is no clear provenance of the discovery, the archaeological context is irretrievably lost. Drovetti and his agents had a careless conduct with their discoveries,[11] which could help explain its poor state, especially since they had no idea of its importance. It was, after all just another of a hundred papyrus rolls like it. As the European market in Egyptian artifacts was rapidly growing, it was to be sold to the highest bidder.

Drovetti had the antiquities he acquired in Egypt shipped and stored in Livorno already in 1820,[12] and after France declined to buy his collection, he started negotiations with his native Piedmont. Victor Emmanuel I, the King of Sardinia, showed great interest in the collection, but Drovetti’s asking price of 400,000 lire was an enormous sum for the small kingdom. The negotiations stalled when the king abdicated in favour of his brother Charles Felix. Ultimately, Drovetti accepted the deal, and the king signed the purchase on January 24, 1824.[13] The collection included 170 Egyptian papyri,[14] and was only the first of three that he sold.[15]

The collection was transported from storage in Livorno to Genua by sea, and from there to Turin by wagons in February of 1824. Housed in the Academy of Sciences building, the collection was unpacked immediately and temporarily placed in rooms on the ground floor. The Drovetti collection thus became the Egyptian Museum of Turin, a detached section of the Museum of Antiquities. Formally inaugurated on June 10, 1824, the Museum was still undergoing planning and construction.



Jean-François Champollion portait 1831 Jean-François Champollion became world famous in 1824, after deciphering the enigmatic hieroglyphs,[16] and determined that hieratic is a cursive variant of the hieroglyphs. Realising that the transcriptions he had worked from were full of errors, he set out to remedy this by visiting the collections of Egyptian antiquities throughout Europe, and to make exact copies of the texts for himself. Champollion obtained permission to study the newly acquired Drovetti collection at the museum in Turin, and attended the inaugeration in June.

The large collection at the museum contained thousands of Egyptian artifacts, including Coptic and hieratic manuscripts that kept him busy making transcriptions for weeks. Only by chance, he heard mentions of a box full of tattered fragments of papyri that was stored in the attic.

I insisted on seeing them, and it was agreed that they should be placed on a table where I might examine them the next day. On entering this chamber, a cold dread gripped me at the sight of a table ten feet in length, completely covered by a layer of papyrus debris, at least half a foot thick.Letter from Champollion to his brother, Nov. 6, 1824.[17]

Exposure to air after millennia, the handling and subsequent transports had not been kind to the fragile documents. An unknown number of papyri had been stored together, most of them very fragile due to their age, the resulting debris consisted of an uncountable number of miniscule to medium-sized fragments. When Champollion examined the scraps on the table, he noticed that some contained the distinct names of kings,[18] and the Royal Canon was discovered.

But a unique papyrus outshines all others; the loss of the missing parts is regrettable; it is a historical treasure; I recognized a true timeline, a Royal Canon, which recalls that of Manetho, and the fragments that I found gave me a list of over a hundred kings.Letter from Champollion to his brother, Nov. 6, 1824.[19]

At first, he managed to gather twenty fragments, containing the names of 77 pharaohs,[20] but after completing the examination, he had found 40 fragments with 160-180 names.[21] In fact, he found 48 fragments containing 140 names; of which 20 are complete, and the rest only partials.[22]

Champollion arranged the fragments he discovered alphabetically, and eight of the forty-eight fragments remain unidentified: the K, Q, R, Dd, Ii, Mm, Rr and Ss fragments.[23] It is unknown where these eight fragments came from or ended up; they are not incorporated into the papyrus, nor at the Museum. Since these fragments only contain the Dual King title, with at most traces of one or two signs, they are of little importance. They may well belong to the papyrus, but their positions cannot be safely established. Champollion’s fragment Y do most likely not belong to this papyrus.[24]

Figure 2: Fragments of the Royal Turin Canon of Turin found by Champollion
Figure 2: Fragments found by Champollion
Figure 3: Unidentified fragments of the Royal Canon of Turin from Champollion
Figure 3: Unidentified fragments from Champollion
It should be noted that Champollion made no effort to reconstruct the papyrus, he just simply copied the fragments he deemed important. Neither did he publish the fragments or names he found, which was left to his brother, more than twenty-five years later.[25] His copies of the fragments does not contain any information not available from the later reconstruction. He had planned to publish the transcription, but never did due to poor health, and his untimely death in 1832.



Written right to left, as is usual with hieratic papyri, most lines yield the name of a particular king, followed by a number of years, months and days ruled. Unlike the other king lists, it include the Hyksos kings, ephemeral rulers, and those only ruling over small territories. The poor state of the papyrus only allows for a mostly conjectural reconstruction, but by close examination of the fibres, as well as comparing the writing on both sides of the papyrus, the placement of the fragments can be determined with a good amount of accuracy. Many of the royal names, the order of their reigns, and reign-lengths of are only known from this papyrus.



Gustav Seyffarth portait 1837 The Saxon scholar Gustav Seyffarth had developed a flawed hieroglyphic system, where the signs were purely phonetic, which was competing with Champollion’s system. Seyffarth's system was proven to be incorrect by none other than Champollion himself, a fact which Seyffarth refused acknowledge. It is clear from their correspondences that after meeting in Italy, they soon became enemies, though socially they kept a civil and courteous façade.

Seyffarth arrived in Turin in late May of 1826,[26] and immediately began the restoration of the papyri from the Drovetti collection, among them the Canon. Champollion might have discovered the fragments, but Seyffarth did the actual work of puzzling all the pieces together into a somewhat cohesive papyrus. His careful consideration of the fibres, coloring, and the writing on the both sides would prove to be crucial, as his arrangement of the fragments resulted in the Canon as we know it today.

The Egyptian Museum of Turin preserved a huge box with at least half a million of papyrus fragments, the largest were three inches long and two inches broad. I devoted six weeks to a close examination of each of the fragments, and put them together as far as was possible. The papyrus I thus obtained was eight feet long and one foot high.From Seyffarth’s autobiography.[27]

It was obvious from the start that the fragments of the papyrus were obviously only small parts of a whole text, and to be understood, in need of being reassembled to find a context. This meant examining and sorting through the countless fragments found in the box, from many different papyri, and try to find which fragments belonged to the papyrus. Seyffarth patiently sorted through the vast pile of fragment debris, examining the scraps one by one, and managed to reunite some fragments so well that they do not appear to have ever been broken, as seen in the facsimiles of Lepsius and Wilkinson. His diligence was rewarded as he found fragments neglected or missed by Champollion, who did not go through the debris as thoroughly as he might have.

Champollion’s claim that San Quintino hid fragments from him is only an attempt to mitigate his hurt pride, when confronted with Seyffarth’s superior arrangement.[28] It is to Seyffarth’s merit that he did not try to restore the papyrus according to his own beliefs about the hieroglyphic system, instead he took a scientific route by matching the fragments according to fibres, colour, thickness, and writing. Seyffarth’s arrangement is exceptional, as subsequent reconstructions show that he positioned most of the fragments in their correct position. In all he restored some fifteen papyri during his time at the Museum.[29] When the arrangement was as complete as Seyffarth could make it, he glued the fragments together with blotting paper. Seyffarth did not publish his restoration, but his unpublished tracings of the papyrus is in the archives of the Brooklyn Museum.[30]

Champollion clearly saw Seyffarth as a charlatan.[31] His opinion of Seyffarth could explain why he did not trust in his arrangement of the papyrus. Add to this that Seyffarth saw Champollion as The Enemy,[32] and did his best to discredit the Frenchman's system to anyone that would listen. When Champollion saw Seyffarth’s arrangement of the papyrus,[33] instead of acknowledging the accomplishment, he saw only conspiracy and deceit. So much that he accused Cordero di San Quintino, who was cataloguing Drovetti’s collection at the Museum, of having hidden fragments from him, only to later surrender them to Seyffarth. This claim was circulated in Champollion’s circle of friends, and his brother later reiterated the claim.[34] San Quintino was making a detailed inventory of the collection for the Academy as it was being unpacked, and it would seem probable, even likely, that after Champollion had examined the pile of papyri debris, his close scrutiny resulted in him finding fragments that were neglected or missed by the Frenchman.

Champollion's death in 1832 did not deter Seyffarth from writing an anecdote about the discovery of the papyrus:

Champollion examined the same box of fragments in front of me, and declared them completely useless, even in the Inspector's absence, half of them had been thrown in the privy, and out of ignorance and condescension the world lost one of its most precious treasures.G. Seyffarth 1843.[35]

Seyffarth repeated this in his autobiography, but there he was not himself present at the discovery, as it happened in 1824, two years before he even met Champollion.[36] The disparity is telling of Seyffarth’s ill will toward Champollion.

The famous Champollion rejecting Seyffarth’s arrangement of the papyrus, caused it to be viewed with circumspect, if not contempt. The support for the Frenchman was almost universal, as he was after all the expert on hieroglyphics, while the views of Seyffarth were clearly incorrect. The rejection was exasperated by Champollion’s untimely death, which reinforced the derision of the arrangement without any objective analysis or investigation. Lest they disagree with the late master, the subject of the papyrus was neglected, even avoided, despite its obvious value to scholars. However, this was about to change—albeit slowly. The polemic surrounding the arrangement of the papyrus lasted several years, but eventually scholars who took the time to actually examine the papyrus, realised that the arrangement was indeed very good. The first account in more than a decade was by Samuel Birch of the antiquities department of the British Museum, who held a presentation at the Royal Society detailing his analysis of the Canon in November 1841.[37]



The pioneering German Egyptologist Karl Richard Lepsius visited Turin in December 1835, and made careful traces of both sides of Seyffarth’s arrangement.[38] While in Paris three years later, Lepsius obtained copies of Champollion’s isolated fragments, courtesy of his brother. The following year, in London, Lepsius saw Samuel Birch’s copy of Édouard Dulaurier's copy of Seyffarth.[39] Apparently, Lepsius also saw a manuscript of twelve pages that was stolen from Champollion by his pupil Salvolini who deviously claimed it as his own work.[40] After noticing discrepancies between the different copies that was circulating among the scholars, he returned to Turin in 1841, to once and for all establish that he indeed had an exact copy. He also wanted to verify that he had correctly identified the location in the papyrus of the Twelfth Dynasty.[41]

In 1842, Lepsius published "A selection of important ancient Egyptian documents",[42] with numbered fragments from 1 to 164. Taking special care to present the papyrus as it was arranged by Seyffarth, without any corrections or amendments, he also chose to omit the admittedly less important tax-register, and included no commentary at all, letting the facsimiles speak for themselves. These facsimiles are still very important today, as the papyrus has since deteriorated further, from handling, mounting and remounting, and of course, time.

The edition of Lepsius made the content of the papyrus available for scholars to study, and though still a touchy subject, studies slowly began to appear. Wilkinson’s edition added to the credibility of Seyffarth’s arrangement, and finally broke the camels back. However, the studies were slow in appearing and concerned themselves more with aligning the king list to fit with Manetho's list of kings. However, progress was beginning to emerge. The director of the Turin Museum at the time, Francesco Barucchi mentioned the king list only in passing in 1844.[43] The following year, Christian Bunsen, a German diplomat and scholar, looked into some of the details preserved in the king list.[44] It was not a very long or detailed study, but a good start nonetheless. In 1846, famed Assyrologist Edward Hincks examined the correspondence of the king lists with Manetho, but again, it was not a very thorough investigation.[45]

The French architect Jean-Baptiste Lesueur tried to make sense of the Manethonian tradition, and used the Canon to try to reconcile the two in 1846.[46] His facsimiles are identical copies of Lepsius, but with most of the smaller fragments left out. He attempted to complete the king list by finishing partial signs, and adding whole lines of text in red ink, which are of course inaccurate. Ironically, his facsimiles does not include the signs that were actually written in red ink on the papyrus.

Sir John Gardner Wilkinson, the Father of British Egyptology, visited the Turin Museum in 1849 and also made tracings of the hieratic on both sides of the papyrus. His edition was published in 1851[47] and is nearly identical to Lepsius', whose edition he himself happily praised as complete.[48] There are only a few minor differences, but most importantly; Wilkinson also included the tax-register on the reverse, which Lepsius had omitted. While Lepsius included no commentary, Wilkinson wrote a detailed description, and included in a new, and more detailed examination of the papyrus by Hincks.[49] It should be noted that the facsimiles of Lepsius and Wilkinson are not always accurate, but since they are not photographs, naturally a few minor errors are to be expected.[50] They are still very relevant, due to the much deteriorated state of the papyrus today.

The addition of Wilkinson’s edition seems to have added incentive for further study of the king list. The first catalogue of the Turin Museum was produced in 1855 by Pietro Camillo Orcurti, who described the content of each column briefly.[51] Four years later, Heinrich Brugsch examined the names found in the Canon, and included a plate with a transcription of the fragments from the Fourth to Twelfth dynasties.[52]

Franz Joseph Lauth's examination[53] of Manethonian tradition included the Canon in his handwritten book in 1865. The following year, Vicomte de Rougé researched the first six dynasties, utilizing the corresponding parts of the canon.[54] Alfred Wiedemann described the papyrus briefly in his Egyptian History in 1886,[55] but the first real investigation of the king list was performed by the historian Edouard Meyer in his "Egyptian Chronology" in 1904.[56]


The 1930 restoration

When Giulio Farina took over as director of the Egyptian Museum in Turin in 1928, he had a workshop set up for the restoration of the papyri of the Museum, and managed to bring in the papyrus conservation specialist Dr. Hugo Ibscher from Berlin in 1930.[57] Ibscher detached the fragments from the blotting paper on which Seyffarth had glued them, and began the arduous task of re-examining and reassembly of the papyrus. The thorough examination resulted in the removal of many fragments from Seyffarth's arrangement that do not belong to this papyrus.[58] The process of removing the papyrus from the blotting paper caused damage along the edges and many minute signs or traces of signs were lost, making the facsimiles of Lepsius and Wilkinson all that more valuable. To protect the papyrus, it was placed between two glass panes in three separate frames. The restoration was long and difficult, and was not completed until October of 1934.[59]

Giulio Farina examined every aspect of the papyrus for years, until he finally published his edition in 1938. He rearranged and added a few fragments compared to Ibscher's mounting.[60] His photographs of the papyrus are still the only ones ever published, and unfortunately of rather poor quality. This edition contain the first complete hieroglyphic transcription of the hieratic which is still valuable, but as additional research has proven, now mostly obsolete as fragments has been rearranged. All earlier studies concentrated more on the chronological aspect than on the actual content of the king list, and only included parts of Lepsius or Wilkinsons facsimiles. The new mounting introduced new fragments not present in Seyffarth’s arrangement. These fragments were left unnumbered, instead indicated as "Fr. ?" by Gardiner. The Museum in Turin still hold numerous unpublished tiny fragments belonging to the papyrus.[61]


Modern studies

The advances in Egyptology since the discovery of the Canon are nothing short of astounding. It is however very surprising that modern Egyptology have not made a complete study of the Turin Canon, to once and all settle things. Instead several noteable scholars have had to make their own investigations, most which unfortunately have been limited in scope.

Essential to any study of the king list, Gardiner’s The Royal Canon of Turin[62] contain detailed information on the fragments and the transcribed hieroglyphic content of the papyrus, but no photographs or facsimiles of the hieratic. Gardiner examined the papyrus several times, and a number of fragments were marked as unplaced as their positions could be established with certainty.[63] There are no translations or commentaries, except short notes about the transcript. The position of a few fragments were changed compared to Farina, but most remained in the same place Seyffarth had put them more than a century earlier. The full transcription can be found in Kitchen's Ramesside Inscriptions II.[64]

The studies after Gardiner have been few, since many Egyptologist saw the research as exhausted. There have been notes and comments by Jürgen von Beckerath, [65] [66] [67] [68] [69] [70] [71] Detlef Franke,[72] [73] Jaromír Málek, [74] Winfried Barta, [75] Wolfgang Helck,[76] and most recently, Kim Ryholt.[77] [78] [79] [80] [81]

It is clear that further research is needed when you consider the 1997 study by Kim Ryholt. While concentrating on the Second Intermediate Period kings (columns 7-11), careful examination of fibre correspondence between the fragments show that there still is work to be done to find the correct positions of the fragments. Ever since Seyffarth’s restoration there are many fragments whose position remain uncertain or questionable. Ryholt proved that a completely new column of divinities must be inserted between the older columns I and II, from fragments that had been placed incorrectly in the eariler reconstructions.[82]


The papyrus

To determine the physical properties of the papyrus roll, careful consideration of the joins and patches is necessary to assure the position of the columns according to established research. A full-size papyrus roll during the New Kingdom usually consisted of up to twenty sheets,[83] aligned with the right edge of one sheet overlapping the left of the next, joined together by adding an adhesive starch paste, and flattening the joins with a mallet.[84]

The Canon cannot have been a formal (official) document, written as it was on an old discarded papyrus. It is roughly 43 cm in height, corresponding to a full-sized roll,[85] and measure about 169 cm in length, or about six and a half joined sheets (see Table 1,) for an total area of 7,267 cm2. The placed fragments amount to an area of 2116 cm2, or only about 29% of the papyrus, not including the fragments Gardiner marked "doubtful and useless".[86]

To create a larger writing surface, a number of papyrus sheets were pasted together, or “joined.” Inferred from the size and position of the remaining fragments, it is obvious that two joins are missing, one to the right of column 3, and one to the right of column 11. With six joins, the complete roll consist of seven sheets, each about 265 mm wide, for a total width of about 1855 mm.
Figure 4: Location of the joins in the Royal Canon of Turin
Figure 4: The sheets and joins of the tax-register
When produced, a narrow strip of papyrus was most likely added along the edge to strengthen it to protect the roll from tearing, but also doubled its thickness.[87] When repurposing the tax-register in preparation for the canon, it would seem natural to remove the thicker part from the outermost edge of Sheet 1, since it would become innermost and resist being rolled up.

Figure 5: The trimmed tax-register
Figure 5: The trimmed tax-register
With the papyrus roll ready for use, it was turned over horizontally, and rolled back with the tax-register on the outside and the blank side ready for use on the inside. The trimmed sheet lost approximately 130 mm; shortening the papyrus roll to approximately 1725 mm.

Figure 6: The sheets of the Royal Canon of Turin king list
Figure 6: the Royal Canon of Turin king list
The king list is written from right to left beginning with column 1 on Sheet 7, and the trimmed part of Sheet 1 at the end of column 11. The canon starts with a blank margin, 11 cm wide, after which the hieratic writing begins.

Table 1: Papyrus sheets
Sheet Join Remarks
7 - Columns 1–2. Wide right margin
6 [6] Columns 2–3.
5 5 Column 3–5.
4 4 Columns 5–6.
3 3 Columns 7–8.
2 2 Columns 9–10.
1 [1] Column 11. Leftmost part was cut off.



The upper half of the papyrus suffered damage while rolled up, as is evident by a series of holes at an interval of 16 cm, about 4 cm from the top edge.[88] The cause of the damage could be from rodents, insects or some sharp object. The holes were repaired before the papyrus was ever used, and were not marked on the lithographs of Lepsius or Wilkinson.[89] The eight patches are 2-3 cm wide and 6-7 cm tall and were first marked by Gardiner. The position and size of Patch number 4 is approximated, since it is lost.

Figure 7: Location of the patches in the Royal Canon of Turin
Figure 7: Location of the patches
Table 2: Location of patches (right to left)
PatchLocationSizeGap to next
12.1–2.63 x 7 cm14 cm
23.2–3.62.5 x 7 cm12 cm
34.2–4.62 x 6 cm32 cm (16 cm)
(4)(5.4–5.8)(2 x 6 cm)(16 cm)
56.3–6.63 x 5 cm13 cm
67.1–7.72.3 x 9cm13 cm
78.2–8.83.2 x 9 cm14 cm
89.3–9.91.7 x 8 cm18 cm
911.5–11.93 x 5.5 cm


The hieratic

The paleography indicate that the signs are similar to other documents from the late Nineteenth or early Twentieth Dynasties. An indispensable source for transcribing hieratic is the Hieratiche Paläographie,[90] especially volume 2 which concentrates on the hieratic of the New Kingdom. The transcription of the hieratic script is obviously best left to experienced palaeologists who can distinguish and interpret the smallest traces and nuances in the script. Gardiner’s transcription is, as expected, correct, with emendations and clarifications by Ryholt.[91] The orthography of the names in the Canon are mostly correct, but a few names were damaged or erroneously copied. The transcription made by Gardiner is as expected, very good, only a few very minor corrections has been suggested by later studies.

The hieratic text consists of 24–31 horizontal lines written in eleven columns, from right to left. The columns are 8–17 cm wide; with a line spacing of about 0.5 cm, but in columns 2 and 11, it is almost zero.[92] The first 2½ columns list gods, demigods, and spirits; the remaining 8½, the historical kings. Roman numerals has been used ever since the facsimiles by Lepsius, but to avoid confusion with the new reconstructions, plain numbers are used. To distinguish text in the papyrus, each column and row of the papyrus is numbered and put in parenthesis, except when used in a table. For example, (4.7) refers to column 4, row 7, which was written as IV 7 in older works.

The historical kings begins with Meni (3.10), and occupies the rest of the papyrus. The number of lines increases as the papyrus nears the end, as the scribe needed to compact the writing to be able to fit all the remaining kings onto the papyrus. The list of kings ends in column 11 with partial names of unidentifiable late Second Intermediate Period kings.

Table 3: Number of columns and rows in the Turin Canon

It can be safely assumed that the king list was preceded with some sort of introduction describing the nature of its content, probably including the date and name of the scribe, but unfortunately the first column is almost entirely lost. The structural similarity (gods→spirits→mortal kings) with the king lists of Manetho was noted already by Champollion, and attempts to reconcile the two has been attempted ever since.


Ditto marks and rubra

Writing the same text over and over is tedious and unnecessary, the scribes of Egypt had long since learned to use ditto marks for repeating words or sentences. A hieratic ditto mark simply consist of a dot,[93] and were used in the king list to replace three texts: The name of each king is followed by the text “he acted in kingship” which was only written out at the top of a column, and ditto marks were used below that for the repeating text. Ditto marks were also used for the signs for months, and days, but never for years. Numbers were always written out in full.

The full formula for an entry reads:

Royal Canon of Turin: He acted in kingship x years, y months, z days
Dual King Name. He acted in kingship x years, y months and z days.[94]
nsw-bit Name ir.n=f m nswyt rnpt x Ꜣbd y hrw z

Using ditto marks, the same line looks like this:

Royal Canon of Turin: He acted in kingship x years, y months, z days using ditto-marks

It is evident that the source used for the king list was a half-size papyrus, since the top rows of columns 4 and 9 contain ditto marks. This means that the scribe made a sign-by-sign copy of the original, not caring that the ditto marks were out of sync with the topmost row, nor that the kingship formula occur at irregular intervals within the columns.

There are 31 rows with ditto-marks.

Red ink (Latin: rubra) was used to highlight some words on rows concerning the historical kings, except 1.21 which belong to the section of gods. The only royal title that is written in red ink is for Djoser, doubtless due to his good reputation in later times. Red ink was also used on the unplaced Fr. 4.

Figure 8: Red ink in the Royal Canon of Turin
Figure 8: Red ink in the king list


Headings and summations

There are six headings and ten summations in the king list, which divide it into five sections. The first four summations clearly suggest that different sources were used to gather the data, rather than any historical division by the Egyptians themselves. To them the line of kings was uninterrupted. However, the dynastic divisions were likely invented during the Ptolemiaic Dynasty a millennia later, as Manetho divided the periods covered in the papyrus into nineteen dynasties. Furthermore, the two Intermediate Periods are modern definitions of the breakdown of the Old and the Middle Kingdoms.

The dynasties of Egypt as we know them were clearly not defined by the time of the New Kingdom, it seems to be a later invention during the Ptolemaic Period. The headings and summations divide the papyrus into sections similar to the dynasties of Manetho, however, there are only eleven clear divisions, or dynasties, not nineteen as would be expected. By the time of Manetho, list of kings had evolved, and divided into better defined periods. The papyrus is arranged into two parts: mythological and historical kings. The mythological part can further be divided into three sections: gods, demigods, and spirits, as per Manetho. The historical part is a sequence of kings that are arranged chronologically, with headings and summations at irregular intervals. The headings provide the name of the founder, after which each king is listed, followed by a summation that calculate the number of kings and the duration of their reigns.

The headings and summations divide the papyrus into sections similar to the dynasties of Manetho, however, there are only eleven clear divisions, or dynasties, not nineteen as would be expected. By the time of Manetho, list of kings had evolved and been divided into better defined periods. The historical king list can be divided into six sections, each starting with a heading, naming the founder and from where the kings ruled. Following this is a sequential list of kings and their reign length, one per line, and lastly, a summation of the section, where the duration and the number of kings are calculated. There are only six headings, but ten summations, some of which obviously have no corresponding heading, effectively yielding ten distinct periods (see Table 4.) It is tempting to equate those ten periods with the dynasties of Manetho, and while there are general similarities, dynasties 1–10 appears as one heading and four summations in the papyrus. However, better-defined dynasties had likely appeared in the tradition by the time of Manetho, a millennium later.

Table 4: Sections of the papyrus
Gods, demigods and spirits1.13.9
H1Heading of Dynasty 1–103.10
A  Dynasty 1–53.114.2539
S1  Summation of Dynasty 1–54.26
B  Dynasty 6–85.15.1313
S2  Summation of Dynasty 6–85.145.15
S3  Summation of Dynasty 1–85.165.17
C  Dynasty 9–105.186/918
S4  Summation of Dynasty 9–106.10
H2Heading of Dynasty 116.11
D  Dynasty 116/126.176
S5  Summation of Dynasty 116.18
H3Heading of Dynasty 126.19
E  Dynasty 126.207.28
S6  Summation of Dynasty 127.3
H4Heading of Dynasty 13–147.4
F  Dynasty 137.58.2751
S7  Summation of Dynasty 138.28
G  Dynasty 149.110.2050
S8  Summation of Dynasty 1410.21
H5Heading of Dynasty 1510.22
H  Dynasty 1510.2310.286
S9  Summation of Dynasty 1510.29
H6Heading of Dynasty 1610.30
I  Dynasty 1610.3111.1415
S10  Summation of Dynasty 1611.15
J  Abydos Dynasty11.1611.3116
Total number of kings  222


Heading 1 (3.10)
Royal Canon of Turin: Heading 1 hieroglyphics
The details of the first ten dynasties of historical kings. This is evident as there are three summations between the first and second headings. Only the name of Meni is preserved, the rest of the heading is lost. During the New Kingdom the first ten dynasties were seemingly considered one continuous period, subdivided into three distinct phases, perhaps due to imperfect or lacking records. The further division into five dynasties happened later, probably during the Ptolemaic Period.

Section A (3.11–4.25)
A continuous lineage of thirty-nine kings of the First through Fifth Dynasties (Meni to Unas.) Many of the names are orthographically incorrect or outright lost due to the poor state of the papyrus.

  • 1. Meni
  • 2. Ity
  • 3. lost
  • 4. ...tiu
  • 5. Qenty
  • 6. Merigeregipen
  • 7. Semsem
  • 8. ...beh
  • 9. Bau...
  • 10. ...kau
  • 11. ...netjer
  • 12. lost
  • 13. Senedj
  • 14. Aaka
  • 15. Neferkasokar
  • 16. Hudjefa
  • 17. Bebti
  • 18. Nebka
  • 19. Djoserit
  • 20. Djoserti
  • 21. ...djefa
  • 22. Hu....
  • 23. Snoferu
  • 24. lost
  • 25. lost
  • 26. Kha...
  • 27. lost
  • 28. lost
  • 29. lost
  • 30. lost
  • 31. ...kaf
  • 32. lost
  • 33. lost
  • 34. lost
  • 35. lost
  • 36. lost
  • 37. Menkauhor
  • 38. Djedu
  • 39. Unis

Summation 1 (4.26)
Royal Canon of Turin: Summation 1 hieroglyphics
Summation of the First through Fifth Dynasties; [39][95] kings from Meni to [Unas, amounting to x years]. The number of years can be calculated by taking Summation 3 (5.16–17) and subtracting Summation 2 (5.14–15), which result in 768 years.

Section B (5.1–5.13)
A continuous lineage of 13 kings of the Sixth to Eight Dynasties (Teti to Neferirkara.) It is notable that there is no indication of a dynastic break after the Sixth Dynasty, the kings simply continue.

  • 1. lost
  • 2. lost
  • 3. lost
  • 4. lost
  • 5. lost
  • 6. lost
  • 7. Netiqerty
  • 8. Neferka Khered Seneb
  • 9. Nefer
  • 10. Ibi
  • 11. lost
  • 12. lost
  • 13. lost

Summation 2 (5.14–5.15)
Royal Canon of Turin: Summation 2a hieroglyphics Royal Canon of Turin: Summation 2b hieroglyphics
Summation of the Sixth through Eight Dynasties; [13][96] kings until [Neferirkara],[97] amounting to 181 years, 6 months and 3 days, and a lacuna of 6 years. Total: [13] kings for 1[87 years, 6 months, and 3 days.][98] The lacuna notation suggest the wsf in 5.7 was in fact the source.

Summation 3 (5.16–5.17)
Royal Canon of Turin: Summation 3a hieroglyphics Royal Canon of Turin: Summation 3b hieroglyphics
Summation of the First through Eight Dynasties; [52][99] kings of the house of Meni, for [949 years] and 15 days, and a lacuna of 6 years. Total: [52] kings for 955 years and 1[5] days.

Section C (5.18–6.9)
A continuous lineage of 18 kings of the Ninth and Tenth Dynasties, unfortunately most are lost.

  • 1. lost
  • 2. lost
  • 3. Neferkara
  • 4. Khety
  • 5. Senen...
  • 6. lost Neferkara
  • 7. Mer... Khety
  • 8. Shed...y
  • 9. H...
  • 10. lost
  • 11. lost
  • 12. lost
  • 13. lost
  • 14. lost
  • 15. lost
  • 16. lost
  • 17. lost
  • 18. lost

Summation 4 (6.10)
Royal Canon of Turin: Summation 4 hieroglyphics
Summation of the Ninth and Tenth Dynasties, however, only the initial signs remain.

Heading 2 (6.11)
Royal Canon of Turin: Heading 2 hieroglyphics
Written in red ink, only the initial signs of “the kings of...” remain, the rest is lost.

Section D (6.12–6.17)
The seven kings of the Eleventh Dynasty, from Mentuhotep I to Mentuhotep III.

  • 1. lost
  • 2. lost
  • 3. lost
  • 4. lost
  • 5. lost
  • 6. Nebhapetra
  • 7. Sankhkara

Summation 5 (6.18)
Royal Canon of Turin: Summation 5 hieroglyphics
Total: 6 kings for 1[36 years and a lacuna of] 7 years. Total: 143 [years.] The seven year lacuna probably belong to the last king of the dynasty, Mentuhotep IV.

Heading 3 (6.19)
Royal Canon of Turin: Heading 3 hieroglyphics
Heading for the Twelfth Dynasty of which only the middle portion remain. [Kings of] Itj-tawy [lost]

Section E (6.20–7.2)
Eight kings of the Twelfth Dynasty

  • 1. ...pib(ra)
  • 2. ...ka(ra)
  • 3. lost
  • 4. lost
  • 5. lost
  • 6. lost
  • 7. Maakherura
  • 8. Neferusobekra

Summation 6 (7.3)
Royal Canon of Turin: Summation 6 hieroglyphics
Summation of the Twelfth Dynasty. Total: 8 kings of [Itj-tawy?] for 213 years, 1 month, and 17 days.

Table 5. Reigns of the Twelfth Dynasty[100]
with Successor
attested Year
Royal Canon
Amenemhat I103029 years
Senusret I2–34545 years
Amenemhat II33530 + x years
Senusret II8/919 years
Senusret III203930 + x years
Amenemhat III14640 + x years
Amenemhat IV109y 3 m 27d
Sobekneferu33y 10m 24d
Total36–37217205y 13m 51d

The 217 years total of the highest attested years from the archaeological record, does not account for the known 36 years of coregencies, which yield a total reign of about 181 years for the entire dynasty. According to Africanus, the dynasty ruled for 160 years,[101] while Eusebius allotted 182 years,[102] though both only counted seven kings.

Heading 4 (7.4)
Royal Canon of Turin: Heading 4 hieroglyphics
Kings who came after the children (?) of The Dual King, [Sehote]pibra, may he live, prosper and be healthy.

Section F (7.5–8.27)
Fifty-one kings of the Thirteenth Dynasty.

  • 1. Khutawyra
  • 2. Sekhemkara
  • 3. Amenhemhet(ra)
  • 4. Sehotepibra
  • 5. Iufni
  • 6. Sankhibra
  • 7. Semenkara
  • 8. Sehotepibra
  • 9. Sewadjkara
  • 10. Nedjemibra
  • 11. Sobek(hote)p
  • 12. Ren...neb
  • 13. Awtibra
  • 14. Sedjefa...kara
  • 15. Sekhemra Khutawy Sobekhotep
  • 16. User...kara Khendjer
  • 17. ...ka(ra) Imyremeshaw
  • 18. ...ka
  • 19. ...ibra Seth
  • 20. Sekhemkara ... Sobekhotep
  • 21. Kha...ra Neferhotep
  • 22. Sihathor
  • 23. Kha...neferra Sobekhotep
  • 24. lost
  • 25. Khahotepra
  • 26. Wahibra Jaib
  • 27. Merneferra
  • 28. Merhotepra
  • 29. Sankhenra Sewadjtu
  • 30. Mersekhemra Ined
  • 31. Sewadjkara Hori
  • 32. Merka... Sobek(hotep)
  • 33. lost
  • 34. lost
  • 35. lost
  • 36. lost
  • 37. lost
  • 38. lost
  • 39. Mer...ra
  • 40. Merkheperra
  • 41. Merka(ra)
  • 42. lost
  • 43. lost
  • 44. lost
  • 45. ...mes
  • 46. ...maatra Ibi
  • 47. ...webenra Hor
  • 48. ...kara
  • 49. ...enra
  • 50. ...ra
  • 51. ...enra

Summation 7 (8.28)
Royal Canon of Turin: Summation 7 hieroglyphics
Only a small section of the text remain, the rest is lost. There is no heading for the kings of the Fourteenth Dynasty.

Section G (9.1–10.20)
Fifty kings of the Fourteenth Dynasty.

  • 1. Nehesy
  • 2. Khatira
  • 3. Nebfautra
  • 4. Sehabra
  • 5. Merdjefara
  • 6. Sewadjkara
  • 7. Nebdjefara
  • 8. Webenra
  • 9. lost
  • 10. ...djefara
  • 11. ...benra
  • 12. Awtibra
  • 13. Heribra
  • 14. Nebsenra
  • 15. ...ra
  • 16. Sekheperenra
  • 17. Djedkherura
  • 18. Sankhibra
  • 19. Nefertum....ra
  • 20. Sekhem...ra
  • 21. Kakemura
  • 22. Neferibra
  • 23. I...ra
  • 24. Khakara
  • 25. Aakara
  • 26. Semenenra Hapu
  • 27. Djedkara Nebnati
  • 28. ...kara Bebnum
  • 29. lost
  • 30. lost
  • 31. lost
  • 32. lost
  • 33. lost
  • 34. lost
  • 35. lost
  • 36. lost
  • 37. Senefer...ra
  • 38. Men...ra
  • 39. Djed...
  • 40. lost
  • 41. lost
  • 42. lost
  • 43. Inek...
  • 44. Ineb...
  • 45. Ip...
  • 46. lost
  • 47. lost
  • 48. lost
  • 49. lost
  • 50. lost

Summation 8 (10.21)
Royal Canon of Turin: Summation 8 hieroglyphics
Only a small section of the text remain, the rest is lost.

Heading 5 (10.22)
Royal Canon of Turin: Heading 5 hieroglyphics
Possibly contained a heading for the Hyksos Fifteenth Dynasty, as the previous row hold part of a summation.

Section H (10.23–10.28)
Six kings of the Hyksos Fifteenth Dynasty, of which only a partial name of the last king remain.

  • 1. lost
  • 2. lost
  • 3. lost
  • 4. lost
  • 5. lost
  • 6. Khamudy

Summation 9 (10.29)
Royal Canon of Turin: Summation 9 hieroglyphics
Total: 6 foreign kings reigned for 100 + x years

Heading 6 (10.30)
Royal Canon of Turin: Heading 6 hieroglyphics
Lost in lacuna.

Section I (10.31–11.14)
Fifteen kings of the Sixteenth Dynasty.

  • 1. lost
  • 2. Sekhem...ra
  • 3. Sekhemra
  • 4. Sekhemra S...
  • 5. Se...enra
  • 6. Nebiriawra
  • 7. Nebitawra
  • 8. Semenenra
  • 9. Seuserra
  • 10. Sekhemra Shedwaset
  • 11. lost
  • 12. lost
  • 13. lost
  • 14. lost
  • 15. lost

Summation 10 (11.15)
Royal Canon of Turin: Summation 10 hieroglyphics
5 kings ...
The number is clearly a 5, but seeing as there are exactly 15 rows between Heading 6 and this row, the number should be emended as 15.

Section J (11.16–11.31)
Sixteen kings of an unidentified Dynasty

  • 1. User...ra
  • 2. User...
  • 3. lost
  • 4. lost
  • 5. lost
  • 6. lost
  • 7. lost
  • 8. lost
  • 9. lost
  • 10. lost
  • 11. ...hebra
  • 12. lost
  • 13. lost
  • 14. lost
  • 15. lost
  • 16. ...enra


Mythological kings

Only a few fragments remain of the mythological section of the papyrus, detailing gods, demigods, and spirits. The mythological kings mentioned by Manetho[103] are generally thought to have been placed here, but there is no corroborating evidence that this is correct.


Historical kings

The historical kings begin with Meni of the First Dynasty, and continue to the end of the Second Intermediate Period, where the papyrus is in tatters, and only a few small fragments survive. For row-by-row details on each king, see here. While there are no information about the gender in the king list, Manetho explicitly refers to several female rulers, meaning there must have existed some sort of traditional lists where the gender was included. Only one female ruler has been identified in the king list, Sobekneferu (7.2), but with no indication of gender.


Details provided about the kings
On each line, the title nsw-bit (the Dual King) precedes the king’s prenomen enclosed in a cartouche, followed by the divine determinative,[104] indicating their divinity. It remains unknown why the recorded names in the New Kingdom king-lists are not always the expected prenomen. The early dynasties use of the nebty name is understandable, as the kings of that period did not use prenomens, as is the scribe adding the nomen into the cartouche of kings with the same prenomen, presumably to distinguish them from each other. This inconsistency is also present in Manetho, where most recorded names are the known prenomen, but a few use the nomen instead. There is evidence of hypercorrection of the royal names over time, that is, by adding the ubiquitous divine -ra to their name. The variations of the recorded names in the king list can be found in Table 6.

The recording of the names of the kings are inconsistent throughout the papyrus, likely due to gathering information from multiple sources (see 0). There is no mention of concurrent dynasties, coregencies, ethnicity, gender, reputation, or any other secondary criterion. The only exception are two kings of the Thirteenth Dynasty that include the names of their fathers.[105]
Table 6: Variations of the kings name in the Canon
Cartouche: (prenomen)Prenomen in a cartouche
Cartouche: (nomen)Nomen in a cartouche
5.10, 5.21, 7.2, 7.7, 7.9, 7.15-16, 9.1, 9.10, 9.13-15, 11.5-6
Cartouche (prenomen + nomen)Prenomen and nomen in the same cartouche
7.19, 7.20, 7.23-25, 7.28, 8.2, 8.5-6
Cartouche: (prenomen) (nomen)Prenomen and nomen in their own cartouches
5.23, 8.7-8
Cartouche: (prenomen) nomenPrenomen in a cartouche, nomen no cartouche
5.7-8, 7.21-22, 8.22-23, 9.25?, 9.26-28

The king's name was followed by a formula indicating the length reign.

Hieroglyphics: ir n.f m nsyt
ir.n=j m
“he acted in kingship”

This formula is not written in full on every row, instead ditto marks are used to minimize long repetetions. The formula, in turn, is followed by the length of the reign of the individual king.
The G7-sign Gardiner's G7-sign “Horus/falcon on a standard”, is used as a determinative/logogram for 'king' or 'god.' It is often placed within the cartouche to emphasize a royal name, but also immediately adjecent behind the cartouche.


Number of kings
Determining the number of kings found on the papyrus, we first find the total number of lines in columns 3–11, which is 250 (see Table 7.) Discarding the ten rows of the spirits in 3.1–9, and the empty 3.14, 240 lines remain. The headings and summations of the dynasties account for another 18 lines, subtracting these, the total number of remaining lines, or kings, is 222. The names of 96 kings are lost or consist only of a single sign or traces, leaving 73 partial names, and only 53 complete names.

There are 76 kings listed before the eight of the Twelfth Dynasty, followed by 138 of the Second Intermediate Period, totalling 222 kings, not accounting for names that were lost in lacuna notations.
Table 7: Counting the kings
Complete names  4571107150453
Partial names  8743159117973
Lost names  21311171114201796
Kings  142522212627302730222
Headings  1002100206
Summations  01421102112
Total  152626252828303131240


Length of reign
The length of reign is recorded in two ways: years, months, and days, or round years alone. The variation is due to the sources used to collect the information. The distinction between "year" and "regnal year" is sometimes lost due to the cursive nature of hieratic – and/or a careless scribe. For the number of years ruled by a king, HA.t-sp (regnal years) (ḥꜢt-sp, regnal years) will be assumed, despite it often appearing as rnp.t (years) (rnpt, year), depending on the transcription.


Age at death
The ages of the early kings (3.11–4.5) are recorded after their reign lengths, by the formula:

Royal Canon of Turin: 'in his lifetime' formula
His lifetime
ꜤḥꜢ=f m Ꜥnḫ

This formula was likely derived from Source A, detailing kings of the first two dynasties only. There are no indications that the other sources held this information. However, the ages should be viewed with due scepticism, as they seem uncommonly high for the times.

Table 8: Preserved ages in the Canon.
PositionKingHis lifetime (age)
3.17Adjib74 years
3.18Semerkhet72 years
3.19Qa'a63 years
3.20Hotepsekhemwy95 years
3.22Ninetjer95 years
3.23Wadjenes70 years
3.24Senedj54 years
3.25Sneferka70 years
4.1Neferkasokar10-30 + x years
4.2Hudjefa I34 years
4.3Khasekhemwy40 + x years


Long lines
Several lines are too long to fit within a column and encroach on the next column, which forced the starting point of the initial signs to move to the left compared to the rest of the column. To clearly mark this, the scribe drew a curved line around the text that crossed over to the next colum. This is evident in at least four places (2.17@3.14, 5.16@6.15, 7.3@8.4, and 8.3@9.4,) and possibly also on frgs. 4 and 147.[106]

Figure 9: Long lines in the Royal Canon of Turin
Figure 9: Long lines in the Royal Canon of Turin


Damage and human error
The inconsistent details provided about the individual kings are more apparent in the older parts of the document. This is hardly surprising, since the ancient sources used must have survived conflict, fire, flooding, and other hardships for up to a thousand years. The accuracy of records from such a remote time would naturally be circumspect, and evidently not entirely reliable. Over the millennia, sporadic copying errors would undoubtedly have occurred, which would have permutated the original texts, causing some kings and information about their reigns to be lost. Each subsequent copy also compounded the errors, and ultimately resulted in a somewhat inaccurate duplicate of a duplicate etc. The age of Kakau (3.21) was left blank, perhaps by simple omission. The cartouche open is missing from the records of Sneferka (3.25), Nebka (4.4), and Snoferu (4.9).


Notation of lacuna
Several notations of Lacuna notation in the Royal Canon of Turin (G41:G36)wsf (meaning gap or ‘lacuna’) were present on a vorlage of the papyrus, and used where a part of the source text was missing or unreadable, including names, dates, or reigns.[107] A lost lacuna notation for the missing ten kings found in the Abydos Canon (41-50) are missing following Netiqerty (5.7), which is corroborated by the lacuna notations in summations 2 (5.15) and 3 (5.16). The next immediate names are corrupted, nfr-kꜢ ẖrd-snb (5.8), nfr-kꜢ (5.9), and nfr (5.10) which suggest that there was a larger lacuna in the sources, and the scribe did not realize that the lacuna notation included more than one king. A lacuna notation, presumably for Mentuhotep IV, in the summation of the Eleventh Dynasty (6.18), can only mean that there was another notation that is itself lost in lacuna at the end of the entry for Mentuhotep III (6.17). The lacuna notation after sḫm-kꜢ-rꜤ (7.6) account for Nerikara, whose name is absent in the king list.[108] There is a lacuna notation for the number of months in the reigns of Ꜣw-ib-rꜤ (9.12), and sw-wsr-rꜤ (11.8). It is impossible to determine if the notation after nb-sn-rꜤ (9.14) included one or more kings.

Figure 10: Notations of lacuna in the Royal Canon of Turin
Figure 10: Notations of lacuna in the king list.


Corrupted names
The kings of the Archaic Period did not use a nomen or prenomen, which caused problems in later periods. The solution was to assign new names to these ancient kings. The other New Kingdom king lists contain the same names, suggesting canonization at an earlier date, however, none of these names is orthographically correct according to contemporary attestations. The changes range from slight to unrecognizable. Toward the end of the Archaic Period kings, a lacuna is preserved in the name Hudjefa.[109] The scarce remains of the papyrus make in unclear to what extent corrupted names occurred, especially in the older parts.


Incorrect names
Some signs were simply misread or erroneously copied by the scribe, resulting in a slightly corrupted name, as can be seen in several places. For example: an O29-sign was incorrectly copied as a V30-sign in (9.27), resulting in the name Nebnati, which is a mistake for Anati. It is unsurprising, and quite expected that there would be a number of errors in such a long text. The scribe was rather careless at times; several names has the sun-disc added after the cartouche open. This was likely done automatically as he wrote the nsw-bit title, and failed to notice his error.[110]


Incorrect arrangement of kings
There is evidence to suggest that kings were interchanged on at least one and possibly two occasions. The highest attested year of Pepi I (mry-rꜤ) is 25, and the highest year of Nemtyemsaf I (mr.n-rꜤ) is 5. The names in (5.3) and (5.4) are lost, but the years are recorded as 20 and 44 respectively, suggesting that the rows were interchanged. Both names use the signs mr and rꜤ, and the kings were probably simply confused by the scribe.
Sobkhotep I (7.19) and Wegaf (7.5) would have been recorded more or less across from each other in adjacent columns in Vorlage E. Their names share the elements ḥw, tꜢwy and rꜤ, suggesting that the similar names may have been interchanged by the scribe.


Exclusion of kings
There is no evidence suggesting that any kings were deliberately omitted from the king list. Prehistoric kings might have been included among the "spirits" preceding the historical kings, but since no names are preserved, it will remain unknown.


Inclusion of fictious kings
Mentuhotep I (6.12) did not adopt royal titles during his lifetime, these were awarded posthumously by his successors. Part of his (severely damaged) name is preserved in the Karnak Canon (12), alongside the Horus name tpy-Ꜥ.[111]
Neferkasokar (4.1) is unlikely to be historical, as there are no contemporary attestations of his name. Whether the name is fictious, or a false etymology of an unidentifiable name remain unknown.[112]


Incorrect reign lengths
As can be expected, it is impossible to assess credibility of the reigns attributed in the papyrus. The quality of the sources used to compile the reigns are unknown, and as a result, the reliability of the numbers is impossible to quantify. The uncertainty of the reign-lengths of even well attested kings make assessing the numbers an impossible task. A mathematical error produced at any time during the multiple sources, and their copies, could have remained undetected, and impossible to correct.


Most number found in the king list, are found following the name of a specific king, detailing the length of his reign. Numbers are also found in summations, but not in headings. The numbers in summations specify the number of kings, the length that particular group of kings reigned, and totals calculated where multiple groupings are summed up. The reliability of the totals in the summations is impossible to assess, as no section of the papyrus preserve all the individual reign-lengths. The total for the individual reign-lengths are calculated in Table 9 below.

Table 9: The summations and reigns
§Preserved reigns§Summations
A313 years, 2 months, 5 daysS1lacuna (768 years: calculated by S3 minus S2)
B165 years, 5 months, 23 days
(164 years, 17 months, 23 days)
S2181 years, 6 months, 3 days (+6 year lacuna)
S3949 years, 15 days (+6 year lacuna).
Total: 955 years, 1[5] days
CNoneS418 kings, lacuna
D120 yearsS56 kings, 136 years (+7 year lacuna)
Total: 143 years
E206 years, 1 months, 21 days
(205 years, 13 months, 21 days)
S68 kings, 213 years, 1 month, 18 days
F77 years, 7 months, 1 day
(73 years, 47 months, 241 days)
G18 years, 8 months, 3 days
(17 years, 15 months, 153 days)
H40 yearsS96 kings, 100 + x years
I62 yearsS10[1]5 kings, lacuna


The fragments

It should be noted that most of the numbered fragments themselves consist of a number of smaller fragments that were restored by Seyffarth. In all, there are more than 300 fragments.[113] There are a few unpublished fragments at the Museo Egizio, but they only consist of the initial nsw-bity and are thus of little importance. Table 10 show the rough position and approximate size of the fragments in square centimeters (cm2).

Table 10: Size of fragments


Table 11: Size of the unplaced fragments.



Removed fragments

When Gardiner examined the 164 fragments from Seyffarth’s arrangement of the papyrus, it became evident that 25 fragments did not belong to this papyrus, but came from other papyri. Fifteen fragments were classified as useless or doubtful, while another twelve are completely blank; they were not commented on further, and supposedly belong to the papyrus, but were not included as unplaced. Five fragments only contain traces, while anothe five only have the sign for year, or part of the kings title.

Gardiner retained 102 numbered fragments[115] on his plates, plus ten unnumbered fragments marked by questionmarks, that has been added after Seyffarth’s reconstruction.

Unplaced (17) : 1, 2, 4, 7, 29, 40, 36, 48, 50, 75, 90, 133, 135, 141, 145, 147, 30a

Does not belong (25) : 24, 25, 26, 35, 37, 39, 91, 106, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 124, 132, 137, 138, 148, 153, 154, 157, 159, 160, 161, 162

Doubtful/useless (15) : 5, 6, 13, 14, 15, 16, 27, 28, 107, 120, 121, 134, 140, 144, 146, 158

Blank on vs (12) : 49, 51, 53, 54, 55, 58, 65, 68, 92, 128, 129, 149

Traces (5) : 52, 56, 57, 114, 139

Years/title (5) : 109, 111, 113, 136, 155, 156


Unplaced fragments

Gardiner put fragments that he could not safely position in the papyrus, into a special category of unplaced fragments. Many of the 164 numbered fragments from Seyffarth’s restoration, as preserved by Lepsius, do not belong to this papyrus, but rather to other papyri transported in the same crate from Egypt.[116] The fragments discovered after Lepsius edition are unnumbered, instead marked with a question mark, or the position recorded by Gardiner. Many of the numbered fragments themselves consist of smaller fragments that Seyffarth reconnected by placing them in their obvious position forming larger fragments, and thus reducing the number of fragments, as can be seen more clearly in Wilkinson’s edition.


A twelfth column?

Ryholt suggested that a twelfth column was removed in ancient times; presumably to reuse the blank recto side.[117] This is further corroborated by the fact that sheet 1 is less than half the width of the other papyrus sheets. However, as discussed earlier above, the outer sheet of the papyrus roll was likely trimmed before being reused for the king list. It is uncertain whether the king list was a direct copy of the information on an older papyrus that needed to be preserved, or an updated version that included later kings not present in the original.

The cut-off part, if it indeed existed, would presumably have held the names of the kings of the 17th–19th dynasties, the exact number is uncertain, probably somewehere around 25 (see Table 12, however, it is obviously unknown how many would have been present in a twelfth column.). Some kings of the Abydos Dynasty might also have been present, depending on the number of NK kings, and how elaborate the headings and summations were. Adding these 25-27 kings, the complete papyrus would thus have included some 280 lines with around 250 kings.

The estimated number of rulers between the late Second Intermediate Period and Ramesses II is somewhat uncertain, as we do not know the exact number of rulers with absolute certainty. Queen Hatshepsut would certainly have been included, but the succession of the Late Amarna Period is still unsolved, making the exact number of rulers and their position unclear.

Table 12: The rulers of the 17th through 19th Dynasties
XVII9Rahotep, Sobekemsaf I, Sobekemsaf II, Intef VI, Intef VII, Intef VIII, Senakhtenra, Seqenenra, Kamose
XVIII15Ahmose I, Amenhotep I, Thutmose I, Thutmose II, Hatshepsut, Thutmose III, Amenhotep II, Thutmose IV, Amenhotep III, Amenhotep IV, Neferneferuaten, Smenkhkara, Tutankhamun, Ay, Horemheb
XIX3Ramesses I, Seti I, Ramesses II, Merenptah, Seti II


Current state of the papyrus

The Royal Canon display at the Museo Egizio in Turin
The Royal Canon display at the Museo Egizio
Apart from the piece cut off in antiquity, the papyrus was presumably intact upon its discovery and only subsequently fell to pieces owing to the rough handling. It now consists of more than 300 fragments. Seyffarth pasted the fragments onto papier végétal in 1826, but this was removed in 1930 by Hugo Ibscher. However, the papyrus suffered evident damage during this process. A comparison between the facsimiles of Lepsius and Wilkinson with the photographs of Farina shows that numerous fragments were damaged along the edges and that many signs were lost in the process.

There are still a number of important fragments whose exact position has not been established, and numerous smaller fragments, mostly very small, have never been published at all. Among the unpublished fragments are parts of royal names of both historical rulers and gods, figures relating to reigns of kings, and parts of headings and summations.[118]


Inventory number

The papyrus is descibed in two 19th century catalogues of the Museum. It should be noted that the king list was still considered to be the original document at that time.

The official Museum inventory number is Cat. 1874,[119] from the 1882 catalogue.

Museum catalogue 1855.[120]

Room A. No. 1. Chronological papyrus
(Frame hanging on the right side of the room.)

It contains a list of kings from the beginning of the Egyptian monarchy until the Nineteenth Dynasty, the era in which it seems to have been written. We find the name of Ramesses in the midst of various accounting records on the backside. It is a great pity that it is in this state due to carelessness by those who transported it to us from Egypt. The illustrious Seyffarth patiently established the order of the fragments, but there are doubts about the arrangement by the patient German. However, even in the current state it greatly helps history through the series of names written on the same fragments, by means of the numbers assigned to each reign, and the amounts placed at the end of each dynasty. This shows that the system of Manetho was domestic.

Museum catalogue 1882.[121]

1874. Hieratic opisthographic papyrus, composed of tiny fragments glued on blotting paper, 2.31 m wide, 0.46 tall. This papyrus, called a royal chronology, written on both sides, contain on the recto a series of royal cartouches, starting from the divine dynasties until the Nineteenth Dynasty; and on the verso, in the midst of accounting records, you find the cartouche of Ramesses II, which dates the papyrus. The illustrious Seyffarth arranged it in its present state. Mr Lepsius published the recto of the papyrus in 1842 in his Auswahl der wichtigsten Urkunden des Aegyptischen Alterthums, and afterwards Mr. Wilkinson, recorded the verso (Orcurti, II 129, n. 1). - Upper floor, room I. n. 126.



Royal Canon of Turin papyrus N. 1874 verso by Peter Lundström 2017.
Turin papyrus N. 1874 verso

Peter Lundström 2017
Facsimile created from the plates of Lepsius (1842).
Note: Very large image.

Columns seven through 10 of the Royal Canon of Turin.
Columns 7-10

Photo of columns seven through ten.

Top rows of column 9 of the Royal Canon of Turin.
Column 9 detail

Photo of the first ten kings of the Fourteenth Dynasty.
Fragments 97, 98, 99, and 81

Top seven rows of column 9 of the Royal Canon of Turin.
Column 9 detail

More detailed photo of the first seven kings.
Fragments 97, 98, and 81
Note: Large image.



  1. Champollion, "Papyrus Égyptiens", 297–303
  2. Gardiner, Royal Canon, pl. VIII (col. VIII, line 5)
  3. Cerny, Paper, 17.
  4. Wilcken, "Recto oder Verso?", 487-492.
  5. Based on the palaeographical similarities with other papyri from the same period. See Ryholt, Political Situation, 9
  6. Málek, "Original Version," 93-106.
  7. Ryholt, Political Situation, 31.
  8. Maspero, Histoire ancienne, 225, note 5.
  9. Winlock, Rise and fall, 4.
  10. Donatelli 2016, 494
  11. Dawson and Uphill, Who was who, 90
  12. Lettere del conte Carlo Vidua, 241. Letter No. 41, August 7, 1820
  13. The final price was 400,000 lire, 100,000 paid in cash and the remainder in yearly installments of 15,000 lire. See Donatelli 2011, A.5
  14. Fabretti, Notizie, 13 n. 1. N.b. this resumé clearly show the number to be 169, not 170.
  15. Charles X of France bought the second for 250,000 francs in 1827, now in the Louvre, and Lepsius bought the third for the Egyptian Museum of Berlin in 1836 for 30,000 francs. See Dawson and Uphill, Who was who, 90
  16. Champollion, Précis
  17. Hartleben, Lettres, 84
  18. Champollion, "Papyrus Égyptiens", 297–303.
  19. id., 302. This was written for the Bulletin. cf. Hartleben, Lettres, 87. (Letter of Nov. 6)
  20. ibid.
  21. id., 90. (Letter of Nov. 15)
  22. Farina, Papiro, 7.
  23. Gardiner, Royal Canon, 11
  24. i.e. Fr. 159, id., 18, 20.
  25. Champollion-Figeac, "Table des Rois" 397–402, 461–472, 589–599, 653–665, Plate 149.
  26. Knortz, Skizze, 27. Letter of June 3, 1826
  27. Seyffarth, Literary life, 20f.
  28. Wilkinson, Hieratic Papyrus, iv-v.
  29. Farina, Papiro, 8. Among those restored are the "erotic" papyrus (pTurin 55001)
  30. Consecutively numbered copies of inscriptions arranged in 14 unpublished volumes. The tracings of the Canon is in volume 7, containing numbers 6283–7828 and titled "Monumenta Aegyptiaca Taurinensia." Seyffarth, Gustav. Bibliotheca Aegyptiaca 1826-1830. The Wilbour Library of Egyptology, the Brooklyn Museum. For further details, see Gardiner, Royal Canon, 12.
  31. In a letter to his brother on July 29, 1826: "I have read his book and is convinced that he knows neither the monuments, hieroglyphs, or Coptic, and that his system is in direct opposition to the facts, and especially common sense." cf. Hartleben, Lettres I, 369
  32. Knortz, Skizze, 43. Letter of Nov. 17, 1827.
  33. All the more eagerly he seized upon the important work [of Seyffarth, who was visiting Paris] sent to him on December 25, 1827, which immediately confirmed to him how disgracefully he had been deceived by San Quintino." cf. Hartleben, II, 126; Champollion-Figeac, "Table des Rois," 468
  34. Champollion-Figeac, "Table des Rois," 402f.
  35. Seyffarth, Grundsätze, 264.
  36. Seyffarth, Literary life, 21.
  37. Birch, "Observations", 203-8
  38. Lepsius, "Über die zwölfte dynastie", 441.
  39. Champollion-Figeac, "Table des Rois", 402f.
  40. id. 404.
  41. Lepsius, "Über die zwölfte dynastie", 440ff; Bunsen, Aegyptens Stelle, 84.
  42. Lepsius, Auswahl, pls. 3-6
  43. Barucchi, Discorsi, 29-30
  44. Bunsen, Aegyptens Stelle.
  45. Hincks, TRSL 3, 128–150. Two narratives of his reading held at the Royal Society in 1846.
  46. Lesueur, Chronologie.
  47. Wilkinson, Hieratic Papyrus.
  48. id., 3f.
  49. id., 47-60.
  50. Ryholt, Late Old Kingdom, 88.
  51. Orcurti, Catalogo, 129f., 211-215.
  52. Brugsch, Histoire, Pl. 3 only in this edition.
  53. Lauth, Manetho und der Turiner Königs-papyrus.
  54. de Rougé, Recherches, 225–376, pl. 3.
  55. Wiedemann, Aegyptische Geshichte, 73–79.
  56. Meyer, Aegyptische Chronologie.
  57. Farina, Papiro, ????????.
  58. Gardiner, Royal Canon, 11, 19-20
  59. Farina, Papiro, 10
  60. id. 11
  61. Ryholt, "Turin King-list", 136, note 10
  62. Gardiner, Royal Canon
  63. Gardiner, Royal Canon, plate IX
  64. Kitchen, Ramesside Inscriptions II, §288, pp. 827–844.
  65. Beckerath, "End of the Old Kingdom", 140-147
  66. Beckerath, "Untersuchungen", 20-26.
  67. Beckerath, "Dynastie der Herakleopoliten", 13-20
  68. Beckerath, "Chronologie", 45-57.
  69. Beckerath, "Bemerkungen", 49—58.
  70. Beckerath, "Some Remarks", 225-227.
  71. Beckerath, "Anmerkung", 19-21.
  72. Franke, "Zur Chronologie", 113-138.
  73. id. 245-274 ** 256
  74. Málek, "Original Version", 93-106.
  75. Barta, "Bemerkungen", 11-13.
  76. Helck, "Anmerkungen", 151–216.
  77. Ryholt, Political Situation, 25ff. Further clarified in Ryholt, "Turin King-list", 136, Table 1.
  78. Ryholt, Political Situation.
  79. Ryholt, "Late Old Kingdom", 87–100.
  80. Ryholt, "Turin King-list", 135–155.
  81. Ryholt, "Seneferka", 159–73.
  82. Ben-Tor, "Seals and Kings", 47–74.
  83. Cerny, Paper, 8f.
  84. Bridget Leach and William John Tait, "Papyrus," in Ancient Egyptian Materials and Technology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 236f.
  85. Cerny, Paper, 16f.
  86. Gardiner, Royal Canon, 19–20.
  87. Cerny, Paper, 19.
  88. Ryholt, "Turin King-list", 138.
  89. ibid.
  90. Möller, Hieratiche Paläographie 2
  91. Out of curiosity I compared and verified 99% of the writing, sign-by-sign, with Möller’s Hieratiche Paläographie. The last percent consist of small traces that are best left to the professionals that are able to understand and interpret the remaining signs.
  92. Farina, Papiro, 13f.
  93. Rolf Krauss, "Papyrus Ebers", 75-96. Depuydt, "Ebers Calendar", 61ff.
  94. Ryholt, "Turin king-list," 140.
  95. Number arrived at by adding the thirty-nine rows in Section A.
  96. Number arrived at by adding the thirteen rows in Section B. Including a possible lacuna notation of ten kings (5.7), would bring the total to twenty-three.
  97. The last king of Section B is Neferirkara (5.13)
  98. The missing numbers after the hundred-sign is a possible fit by adding the lacuna to the total.
  99. There are fifty-two lines in Sections A+B (39+13). If there was a lacuna notation in (5.7) indicating ten lost kings, the total would be sixty-two.
  100. Schneider, "Chronology", 174
  101. Adler and Tuffin, "Synkellos"", 84.
  102. id. 85f.
  103. Waddell, Manetho, 2-19.
  104. Gardiner sign G7, "Falcon on a standard"
  105. i.e. Sobekhotep II (7.15) and Neferhotep I (7.25), see Ryholt, "Turin King-list", 144, §18.
  106. Ryholt, "Turin King-list", 146 (§24)
  107. Helck, Untersuchungen, 14ff.
  108. Ryholt, Political Situation, 11.
  109. Hans Goedicke, "King ḥwḏfꜢ?", 50-53
  110. Ryholt, Political Situation, 27."
  111. Meaning "the forefather" or "the ancestor"
  112. Ryholt, "The Turin king-list", 151
  113. id. 136.
  114. Farina inserted a small fragment between 72 and 76 not present in Lepsius. See Gardiner, Royal Canon, 16 (VI 13 a).
  115. Col. I+II=14, III-V=21+3U, VI-X=43+6U, XI=8, Unpl.=16+fr.30A(?!)
  116. For details about the numbered fragments, and which were marked by Gardiner as not belonging to the Canon, see "Concordance of fragments" in Gardiner, Royal Canon, 19f.
  117. Ryholt, Political Situation, 9 writes: "The end of the papyrus seems to have been deliberately cut off in ancient times. The sharp edge along fr. 127 and 163, as well as the fact that the edge is slightly diagonal rather than parallel with the vertical fibres, suggests that the papyrus was cut rather than torn or accidentally fragmented.
  118. Ryholt, "Turin King-list", 136 n. 10.
  119. Archived Museum Webpage:
  120. Orcurti, Catalogo illustrato, 129-30.
  121. Fabretti, Catalogo generale, 239.
Note: Many of the references above are available
in the Reference Library.



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Note: Many of the references above are available
in the Reference Library.
The Royal Canon of Turin.
Latest revision: July 12, 2019


With 2336 hieroglyphic names of the pharaohs
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