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The Chronology of Egypt's Old Kingdom

by Jean-Frédéric

About two months ago, me and all Mysteries of the Bible subscribers received our host's own revised chronology.  Personally, this whole new chronology matter is what attracted me to this site at first, so you can imagine I was thrilled!  But so many things in that file were different from what I had expected, so thought provoking...  I was literally amazed.  You should have seen the long posts with so many questions I sent Michael in the following days...  but knowing how charged his agenda was, I only asked him to confirm that I had, at least, understood something, and then went on to seek the answers for myself.  In the past month, I've been investigating what, for me, seemed the most bizarre and unlikely conclusions of Michael, that is that what Egyptologists call the 'Proto-dynastic (or Archaic) era' and the 'Old Kingdom' were actually contemporaneous periods.
[Now, bear in mind that Egypt has been one of my favourite subjects in the recent years, but I am only an amateur in the field (actually, I study Physics).  Note also that English is not my first language.]
So, I opened some books on Egyptology, ordered one, surfed the net, and compiled the data available to me...  And finally was able to produce my own 'revised chronology' of Egypt's first period of glory.  Although different in details to Michael's, it keeps it's spirit quite well, IMHO.  Of course, due to the lack of evidence for this period of history (most of what we have are king's and noble's tombs, and not much of anything else), most of what you're about to read remains mere conjectures, either from professional Egyptologists, or (often) from myself.


Being a physicist, I am used to add error margins to any experimental measures...  now, of course, this whole chronology is, by it's own nature, experimental.  So I need these uncertainties after each dates.
1)  In Michael's chronology, the sequence begins in 648 BC, which he gives as computed from the 763 BC sun eclipse...  he doesn't give the error margin, but there sure is one...  so, to be exact, we should add this unknown (let's call it X) to all the uncertainties I'll give.
2)  The exact length of the period between catastrophic events is not exactly 54 years, but a bit less, which adds to the uncertainties (by about 1 year every two cycles: 648±X, 701±(X+1), 755±(X+1), 808±(X+2), etc..)
3)  As a working starting point (and as a working s.p. only), I kept Michael's 2258 BC date for the unification of Egypt.  I don't think it has to be that particular date, but I will only be able to verify it as I study following eras of Egyptian history.  Nevertheless, Michael's date seems very suitable.  If it turned out not to be the good one, then we will just have to add 54 (times something) to all proposed dates (and adjust accordingly error margins)
All dates corresponding to the catastrophic events are given between stars (e.i. *2258±15*), all others are derived from my readings (and, mostly, my understanding of these).  [note that I wont write the X in the ± margin...  to keep the chronology easier to read.]

King Lists:

1)  Manetho: unless otherwise stated, I've used the summary of Africanus as given by Syncellus and translated to English by Waddell.
2)  all other names are written in the forms given by Vercouter in "L'Égypte et la Vallée du Nil" (volume 1, pre-dynastic to FIP).


*2258±15* The Follower of Horus in Hierakonpolis "Khasekhem" (whose personal name was probably something like _Men_ (Menes in Manetho, Meni in the lists [Abydos, Turin's papyrus]) conquered all Egypt and became the Horus "Khasekhemouy", the king 'Nebouyhotep Imef'.  He was succeeded by his son (?), the Horus "Aha" (Athothis in Manetho, Teti in the lists), who carved his name as the earlier kings of a united Egypt (the so-called dynasty 0 of "Narmer", who had ruled BEFORE the Followers of Horus, according to Eusebius's version of Manetho)
 2235±18  "Aha" names his brother-in-law (or nephew?) in the Delta as  the Horus "Sanakht", the king Nebka' (?) (Necherophes in Manetho)  This probably occurs shortly after a war in Libya.  Indeed, while such a campaign is attested during the reign of "Aha" and not during that of 'Nebka', it is during the latter's that Manetho mentions one (in conjunction with what seems to be a lunar eclipse, something that MIGHT help us to date the event more accurately)  Note that this dual kingship must have been peaceful, as no evidence of civil war were found during the Old Kingdom.
*2204±15* Year 14 of the Horus "Neterykhet", the king 'Djeser', in which a grand famine occurred (began 3 years earlier, lasted 7 in all)  This "Neterykhet" was the brother and successor in Lower Egypt of "Sanakht".  In Upper Egypt, the Horus "Djer", the king 'Iti', possible son of "Aha" was ruling.
 2199±18  Lower Egypt itself gets divided between the lines of 'Djeser-Teti' (as recorded in the Abydos list, Tosertasis in Manetho) and 'DjeserTy' (as recorded in the Turin's papyrus, Tyreis in Manetho).  The later was followed by Manetho's Mesochris (probably Turin's Houdjefa "name missing" and the Saqqara list's Nebkare) and then by Manetho's Soyphis, most probably the Horus "Kahedjet", the king 'Ny Soutekh' (or 'Houny')
 2166±18  King 'Snefrou' succeeds 'Houny', time of the great pyramids begin.  "Djer" still in power in Upper Egypt, soon to be replaced by his son (?), the Horus "Djet" (Manetho's Uenephes)
*2151±14* The famine under "Djet" (and 'Snefrou')
*2097±14* Year nine of the Horus "Semerkhet", (Manetho's Semempses), third successor to "Djet" in Upper Egypt. => Catastrophe (Manetho)  Also, end of 'Khaefre's reign (Manetho's Suphis II, Herodote's Chephren, second successor to 'Snefrou' in Lower Egypt)
 2075±16  End of dynasty IV / 'Ouserkaf' of Dynasty V in Lower Egypt (reunited?)
 2064±16  End of dynasty I / "Hotepsekhemouy" of dynasty II in Upper Egypt.
Both kings buried in Saqqara, showing once more the peaceful nature of this double kingship.
*2043±13* The Earthquake under "Hotepsekhemouy" (Manetho's Boethos) (At about that time, the very short reign of 'Shepseskare-Ini', third successor of 'Ouserkaf' in Lower Egypt)
*1990±13* No catastrophe recorded...  but there sure was one ;o) Ruling by then: either 'Menkaouhor-Ikaouhor' or 'Djedkare-Isesi' (respectively third and fourth successors of 'Shepseskare-Ini') in the north and "Nineter" (second successor of "Hotepsekhemouy") in the south.
*1936±12* The famine under 'Ounas' (successor to 'Djedkare-Isesi') contemporaneous with Manetho's Nephercheres, under whom the Nile flowed with honey (which, indeed, wouldn't have been good for the cultures ;-)  Now the later kings of the second dynasty are, unfortunately, unattested in monuments :-(
 1909±17  Death of 'Ounas', last king of the fifth dynasty.  In the Turin papyrus, a total of all the reigns since Menes is given.  IMO, this means that all previously listed kings had reigned, including those of the second dynasty...  More accurately, I think the last of that line, the Bebty of Turin, was still in power in the south, albeit a power more symbolic than anything else, considering the lack of evidence.  Thus, 'Ounas being more important, he was chosen to close the period of 40 kings or more. (43 in Manetho, who does not list Bebty...)  Anyway, 'Ounas' is succeeded by 'Teti', first king of Dynasty VI.
 1890±19  Year 6 (or 4, or 5...) of 'Meryre-Pepy I', successor of 'Teti'. Total reunification of Egypt under the sixth dynasty king (for how long?).  Thirty years later, 'Meryre-Pepy I' celebrates is 1st Sed Festival.  (no, it wasn't in it's 30th years, like most others)
*1882±12* Once again, no catastrophe recorded...  but there sure was one, especially considering this is, most probably, when Abraham left Canaan for the first time (because of famine).  If so, than the pharaoh he met was 'Meryre-Pepy I', whose son, 'Merenre-Antiemsaf', becomes co-regent some years later.
*1828±11* Here also, no catastrophe was recorded...  but it sure doesn't mean there were none...  at that time, the land was controlled by regents, for a kid ('Neferkare-Pepy II') was on the throne.  Such administrations were never recognised for their transparencies ;-).
*1775±11* Year 63, or around, of 'Neferkare-Pepy II', the last year of his long reign for which we have documents...  In that year, the Old Kingdom came to an end.  (Following Turin and Manetho, that king still had 30 years to go, but I'll include those in my First Intermediate Period analysis.)  Now, if we believe Michael, that year saw many, many, destruction world wide... And is indeed a very likely candidate for the end of Egypt's first period of glory...  And we reached it using different methods than Michael, yet using the same starting point...  So his 2258 BC date for the beginning of this same period seems secure...  the biggest problem, now, will be to squeeze the FIP  and early Middle kingdom in a very short span of time.

 The evidences:

Of course, the biggest question remains "Is there any evidence for such an overlapping of reigns?"  As far as dynasty two is concerned, we have so very little evidence of anything, that anything is possible, IMO.
Other dynasties are somewhat known a little better.  And yes there is such evidence:
1)  Artwork (and writing) at the time of "Den", fifth king of the first dynasty is more elaborate than that of king 'Djeser' of the third.  (See L'Égypte et la Vallée du Nil by Vercouter 1992, pages 254 and 256) In my hypothesis, these two kings are only about two generations apart.
2)  In the valley temple of 'Snefrou' we find a list of all the Egyptian nomes providing with goods his funerary cult...  All the nomes south of Abydos were deliberately not included...  Quite easy to explain if Dynasty I kings were still ruling the south.  Also not included were the nomes in the Fayoum, if not also controlled by Dynasty I, this region could be where the 'second' line of dynasty three had their kingdom (and where 'Snefrou's grandson 'RaDjedef', brother of 'Khaefre', would also reign).
6 juillet 1998