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THE PALERMO STONE: Egypt's First History Book

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Author Topic: THE PALERMO STONE: Egypt's First History Book  (Read 7901 times)
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« Reply #15 on: February 26, 2009, 09:24:55 am »

                                                      Records of prehistory

Archaeologists are adamant that the epoch of the gods, which the Ancient Egyptians, called the First Time, is nothing more than a myth. The Ancient Egyptians, however, who may have been better informed about their past than we are, did not share this view.


The historical records they kept in their most venerable temples included comprehensive lists of all the kings of Egypt: lists naming every pharaoh of every dynasty recognized by scholars today.5 Some of these lists went even further, reaching back beyond the historical horizon of the First Dynasty into the uncharted depths of a remote and profound antiquity.


5 Michael Hoffman, Egypt before the Pharaohs, Michael O’Mara Books, 1991, pp. 12-13; Archaic Egypt, pp. 21-3; The Encyclopaedia of Ancient Egypt, pp. 138-9.

Two lists of kings in this category have survived the ravages of the ages and, having been exported from Egypt, are now preserved in European museums. We shall consider these lists in more detail later in this chapter. They are known respectively as the Palermo Stone (dating from the Fifth Dynasty—around the twenty-fifth century BC), and the Turin Papyrus, a nineteenth Dynasty temple document inscribed in a cursive form of hieroglyphs known as hieratic and dated to the thirteenth century BC.6

In addition, we have the testimony of a Heliopolitan priest named Manetho. In the third century BC he compiled a comprehensive and widely respected history of Egypt which provided extensive king lists for the entire dynastic period. Like the Turin Papyrus and the Palermo Stone, Manetho’s history also reached much further back into the past to speak of a distant epoch when gods had ruled in the Nile Valley.

Manetho’s complete text has not come down to us, although copies of it seem to have been in circulation as late as the ninth century AD.7 Fortuitously, however, fragments of it were preserved in the writings of the Jewish chronicler Josephus (AD 60) and of Christian writers such as Africanus (AD 300), Eusebius (AD 340) and George Syncellus (AD 800).8 These fragments, in the words of the late Professor Michael Hoffman of the University of South Carolina, provide the ‘framework for modern approaches to the study of Egypt’s past’.9

This is quite true.10 Nevertheless, Egyptologists are prepared to use Manetho only as a source for the historical (dynastic) period and repudiate the strange insights he provides into prehistory when he speaks of the remote golden age of the First Time.

Why should we be so selective in our reliance on Manetho?

What is the logic of accepting thirty ‘historical’ dynasties from him and rejecting all that he has to say about earlier epochs?

Moreover, since we know that his chronology for the historical period has been vindicated by archaeology,11 isn’t it a bit premature for us to assume that his pre-dynastic chronology is wrong because excavations have not yet turned up evidence confirming it?12

6 Egypt before the Pharaohs, pp. 12-13; The Encyclopaedia of Ancient Egypt, pp. 200, 268.
7 Egypt before the Pharaohs, p. 12.
8 Archaic Egypt, p. 23; Manetho, (trans. W. G. Waddell), William Heinemann, London, 1940, Introduction pp. xvi-xvii.

9 Egypt before the Pharaohs, p. 11.

10 Ibid., p. 11-13; Archaic Egypt, pp. 5, 23.

11 See, for example, Egypt before the Pharaohs, pp. 11-13.
12 This is a particularly important point to remember in a discipline like Egyptology where so much of the record of the past has been lost through looting, the ravages of time, and the activities of archaeologists and treasure hunters. Besides, vast numbers of Ancient Egyptian sites have not been investigated at all, and many more may lie out of our reach beneath the millennial silt of the Nile Delta (or beneath the suburbs of Cairo for that matter), and even at well-studied locations such as the Giza necropolis there are huge areas—the bedrock beneath the Sphinx for example—which still await the attentions of the excavator.

« Last Edit: February 26, 2009, 09:25:54 am by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

Your mind understands what you have been taught; your heart what is true.
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