List of the kings of Egypt from the Temple of Ramesses II
19th Dynasty, around 1250 BC
The chronology of the rulers of Egypt is based on many sources: a list compiled by the historian Manetho in the third century BC; dated inscriptions and documents on papyrus; references to identifiable astronomical events, and lists of kings inscribed on papyrus and stone.
The memorial temple of Ramesses II (reigned 1279-1213 BC) survives today at Abydos, the cult centre of Osiris. The temple contains superb decoration, including such a list of the kings of Egypt. It was excavated by W.J. Bankes and came to The British Museum in 1837.
The list tells us as much about the Egyptian ideas of history as it does about the chronology of their kings. The list records Ramesses making offerings to his predecessors, with rows of cartouches listing the earlier kings' names above his cartouche, as the dedicating king. As a result it only lists those kings relevant to the temple and its cult, often leaving out certain kings, including some whose legitimacy was later doubted. No kings dating to the First and Second Intermediate Periods (about 2160-2040 BC and about 1750-1650 BC respectively) are found, but neither are any of the kings who were associated with the Amarna heresy - Akhenaten, Smenkhkare, Tutankhamun and Ay.
Though not all of it has survived, this list is similar to a complete list in the temple of Ramesses's father, Sety I (about 1294-1279 BC). Between them, the lists are the only source of the names of a number of kings between the known rulers of the Sixth Dynasty (about 2345-2181 BC) and those of the Eleventh Dynasty (about 2125-1985 BC).
T.G.H. James and W.V. Davies, Egyptian sculpture (London, The British Museum Press, 1983)
S. Quirke and A.J. Spencer, The British Museum book of anc (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)