The Turin Kinglist, also known as
the Turin Royal Canon, is a unique papyrus, written in
hieratic, currently in the Egyptian Museum at Turin, to which it
owes its modern name.
When it was discovered in the Theban necropolis by the Italian traveller Bernardino Drovetti in 1822, it seems to have been largely intact, but by the time it became part of the collection of the Egyptian Museum in Turin, its condition had severely deteriorated.
The importance of this papyrus was first recognized by the French Egyptologist Jean-François Champollion, who, later followed by Gustavus Seyffarth took up its reconstruction and restoration.
Although they succeeded in placing most of the
fragments in the correct order, the diligent intervention of these
two men came too late and many lacunae to thus important papyrus
We therefore do not know for certain when after the composition of the tax-list on the recto an unknown scribe used the verso to write down this list of kings. This may have occurred during the reign of Ramesses II, but a date as late as the 20th Dynasty can not be excluded.
The fact that the list was scribbled on
the back of an older papyrus has been seen by some as an indication
that it was of no great importance to the writer. Perhaps it was a
text that needed to be copied in a scribes' school by way of
latter possibility seems the less likely and would infer that the
Turin Kinglist is indeed a unique document.
The other lists, although very valuable for the study of Ancient Egyptian chronology as well, are nothing more than an enumeration of some of the "ancestors" of the current king.
Often the current king, or one of his contemporaries, is seen in adoration before the cartouches or representations of the king’s "ancestors".
The current king is in fact represented as the good heir who pays respect to his long line of "ancestors". The word "ancestor" can not be taken literally, as the current king was in no way a descendant of most of his predecessors.
Such lists had a more cultic and political reason for being, for indeed they confirmed that the current king was the rightful heir of the kings that had ruled Egypt for many centuries.
These cultic lists are more a subjective choice of predecessors than an actual enumeration of all kings:
Other, less important kings, usurpers or kings that were considered
to be illegitimate, such as the kings connected to the Amarna-revolution,
were omitted from the lists.
Despite the fact that it begins with an
enumeration of gods, demi-gods, spirits and mythical that were
supposed to have ruled Egypt before the reign of Menes, it was not a
cultic list and it does not serve the purpose of showing the current
king as the good heir to his "ancestors".
The increasing number
of lines as the Canon reaches its end seems to indicate that the
scribe realized that he would not have sufficient space on his
papyrus to write down all the royal names known to him in 25- or
It has sometimes been postulated that this high number of years does not reflect the length of a reign but the age at which the king died.
Although this possibility can not
entirely be overruled, it is strange that the writer should choose
to note the age of a king in one case and the length of his reign in
another. I would rather suspect that the scribe mistook the
year-labels of early kings as representations of different years,
whereas it is likely that several labels actually referred to the
The cartouche-name used for these kings is often similar to the names used for the same kings in the cultic king-lists, but they are quite different from the Horus-name by which they were known officially during their reign.
The relationship between the Horus-names
of these early kings and the names used in the Turin Kinglist is not
certain: for the later 1st Dynasty kings, the name in the kinglists
seems to be based on their Nebti-name, but how the earlier kings of
the 1st Dynasty and all kings of the 2nd and 3rd Dynasties got their
names is not known.
indicates that the notion of dynasties was not present or fully
developed before the 19th or 20th Dynasty.
fact that there are far less headings than summations may rather be
the result of the fragmentary state of the Canon than an
inconsistency on the part of the scribe who wrote or copied the
Since his publication, other fragments seem to have been placed as well.
This will not yet be
reflected in my current transcription of the Canon.
Translations between [ ] are restorations of
smaller lacunae. Where a restoration of a lacuna was not possible or
uncertain, the signs /// will appear.