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Annals of kingship: a variant of history writing in ancient Egypt?

There is no history writing in 'our' sense in ancient Egypt. However, from the earliest times there were records of important events and king lists. In Abydos a seal impression was found with the names in order of the kings of the First Dynasty (click on the image to see a reconstruction of the seal UC 36981).

UC 36981

In the First Dynasty, years seem to have been named after key events. Therefore, already in the First Dynasty there must have been lists of names of years, in effect annals recording important events year by year. There are two extant annals stones from the Old Kingdom (about 2686-2181 BC). One is broken in several pieces. The single pieces are now in different museum collections. The best preserved fragment is now in Palermo. One small fragment of the annal stone is preserved in the Petrie Museum: it was acquired at Memphis, but its findspot is not recorded.

UC 15508 - click on the image to see it enlarged (translation)
UC 15508 UC 15508

Reading on the Palermostone:

The other annals stone of the Old Kingdom (Sixth Dynasty) was reused at the end of the Sixth Dynasty as a sarcophagus lid (Baud/Dobrev 1995/ Baud/Dobrev 1997). In later periods, the inscriptions relating to key events were expanded in scope, gradually encompassing passages of narrative. In Memphis were found two fragments of an annals inscription (click here) of the Middle Kingdom, recording events from the reign of Amenemhat II. These include short narrative passages (see the summary).

In the New Kingdom, kinglists survive in temple inscriptions and one example in manuscript (the Turin Canon), while the narration of key events develops with literary expressiveness in the annals of Thutmose III at Karnak, and, in the reign of Ramesses II, the Battle of Qadesh in narrative written and pictorial forms of unprecedented elaboration.


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