The historical chronology of ancient Egypt is a golden thread for the history of the entire ancient Near East. Among the most important sources of information are written records, contemporaneous inscriptions and the Egyptian and Greek king list traditions alike. With the aid of a detailed philological evaluation in context, those purportedly exhausted texts provide new information of far-reaching significance.
The history of events and the historical chronology of ancient Egypt rest on three pillars: written records, archaeological sources, and scientific data. From the origins of modern Egyptology in the early 19th century, texts have been essential for the determination of the regnal lengths and sequential order of Egyptian kings. At the same time, many readings, interpretations, and theories have hardly changed in decades thereby neglecting recent finds and methodological progress. The systematic investigation and reappraisal of written records is thus a principal desideratum for the ongoing research on the history and chronology of ancient Egypt. This research project aims specifically at shedding new light on ancient sources in order to determine their value for the chronology of early civilisation.
King Lists: Philology and Linguistics
The ancient Egyptians themselves compiled records of their rulers and historical events; fragments of the royal annals of the Old Kingdom (3rd millennium BC) and of the annals of Amenemhet II (19th century BC) as well as the shreds of the Royal Canon of Turin (13th century BC) bear witness to this practice. One of the latest offshoots of this tradition is Manetho, who, c. 280 BC, composed a king list in Greek for the early Ptolemaic kings. His division of Egyptian history into 30 or 31 dynasties respectively has proved so influential that, even today, it remains in use. It is thus even the more surprising that in-depth philological evaluation of this king list is still in its beginnings. The linguistic evaluation of Egyptian royal names and their Greek renderings is urgently needed in order to found the identification of kings in Egyptian and Greek lists on more than superficial similarities.
Contemporaneous Inscriptions: Text and Context
Starting with the late 4th millennium BC, Egypt produces cotemporaneous written evidence as a major source for the reconstruction of Egyptian history and its chronology. Not only do those texts require continuous rereading in order to observe and include recent progress in grammatical and lexicological studies, but it must be borne in mind that the written sources form part of a multifaceted unity of texts and material culture in complex cultural surroundings. Tracing the connection between texts and their specific contexts as well as their evaluation beyond pure and basic text philology is thus an equally important and promising task.
Alternative Approaches: Prosopography and Genealogy
Apart from the history as shaped by the royal élite, establishing the chronological order of high-ranking officials and reconstructing genealogies allow for the assessment of current chronological models and, in the case of the Intermediate Periods, for the estimation of the duration of dynasties and the historical succession of kings. Sequences of high-ranking officials and genealogies of commoners and (branches of the) royal families alike are a comparably simple tool, which is accessible via the text sources but hardly developed, for the evaluation and reconstruction of ancient Egyptian chronology.
03/2018 – 02/2023