The dynasties of the pharaohs are divided in groups of kings united by kinship or by their royal residence. In total, a subdivision into 30 dynasties was adopted in Egyptology based on the written sources of Manetho, a Greek historian and priest, who reconstructed the history of ancient Egypt in his study “Aegyptiaca” (c. 282–246 BCE). To write his work (known to us only thanks to later historians) Manetho consulted ancient Egyptian official documents containing lists of pharaohs. Among the examples of these lists, one of the most important is the "Papyrus of Kings" - also known as the "List of Kings" -, which arrived at Museo Egizio due to a purchase made by the consul Drovetti around 1820.
It is a chronological list written in hieratic, preserving 11 columns of Egyptian rulers. It starts from the primordial mythological period, with the divine kingdoms of Geb, Osiris, Horus, Seth, and Maat, up to the end of the Second Intermediate Period (1650 BCE). The title, names and duration of the reign in years, months and sometimes even days are recorded for each sovereign. The list of kings mentions rulers of great importance such as Menes-Narmer (c. 2900 BCE) the first non-divine ruler listed, and also Djoser (2592–2566 BCE), the pharaoh who erected the first great pyramid in history.
Despite its value for the history of ancient Egypt, the Papyrus of Kings was written on “recycled paper”. The recto (“the front”) of the papyrus, preserves a tax register dated to the time of King Ramesses II (1279–1213 BCE). It mentions numerous high officials of the temples of Sobek and Amun and several superintendents at the head of the fortresses located along the southern border of Egypt. The list of kings was written later, on the verso - “the back” of the scroll.
Over the last 200 years, thanks to the efforts of numerous scholars, it was possible to combine most of the approximately 300 fragments. The last restoration took place in 1930 by Hugo Ibscher (Berlin) and Erminia Caudana (Turin), who cleaned and repositioned the fragments with thin strips of silk. On the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the deciphering of the hieroglyphs, the papyrus was completely restored in 2022 by Myriam Krutzsch (Berlin). The restoration project followed the new reconstruction developed by Kim Ryholt (Copenhagen), who in recent years has devoted himself to the study of manuscript. He added numerous fragments that were not included in previous editions and rearranged many other fragments that were included but in their wrong positions.
1820-1822 BERNARDINO DOVRETTI
According to contemporary scholars, the papyrus was purchased in a complete state but became fragmented afterwards during its transport. It is most likely that it was already a mass of fragments like most of the Deir el-Medina material.
1824 JEAN-FRANÇOIS CHAMPOLLION
Champollion studied the fragments and undertook the initial sorting of them in Turin, identifying 47 fragments out of around 300. He made facsimiles of each piece as well as of several columns.
1826 GUSTAV SEYFFARTH
Seyffarth identified and arranged nearly 200 fragments. He undertook the first restoration by mounting the fragments onto “papier végétal” (vegetable fibre paper).
1834 RICHARD LEPSIUS
Lepsius’ first nearly complete facsimile of the List of Kings followed Seyffarth’s arrangement, as well as numbering fragments 1-164.
1851 JOHN WILKINSON
Wilkinson made a new copy of the back of the papyrus (containing the List of Kings) and for the first time, copied the front as well, which bears a taxation text.
1930 HUGO IBSCHER
Ibscher detached the fragments from the vegetable fibre paper used by Seyffarth. He cleaned each individual fragment and repositioned them using thin strips of silk.
1938 GIULIO FARINA
Farina published the first extensive edition with photos and a hieroglyphic transcription, based on an extensive examination of the papyrus. He rearranged and added a few more fragments to Ibscher’s 1930 mounting.
1930-38 ERMINIA CAUDANA
Caudana was assisting Ibscher and, following the indications of Farina (who studied the text), she later added minor fragments, which were not included by Ibscher himself.
1959 ALAN H. GARDINER
Gardiner improved Farina’s transcription and also described the unplaced fragments, without translations or commentaries: only short notes. He modified the position of a few fragments previously put into place by Farina.
1957-2022 KITCHEN, HELCK, RYHOLT
Various researchers made transcriptions, notes and comments on the List of Kings and the taxation text. However, no complete edition of the List has been written since Farina in 1938. Ryholt studied the fragments in detail and created a new reconstruction and arrangement of the columns. He put several of Gardiner’s unplaced fragments into place and modified the position of some fragments previously laid down by Gardiner.
2022 MYRIAM KRUTZSCH
Krutzsch detached all old restoration strips, cleaned and consolidated nearly 300 fragments. The papyrus fragments were mounted on a sheet of Japanese paper instead of only strips of this material. This is the first time that a papyrus has been mounted in such a way at Museo Egizio.
On the occasion of the bicentenary of the deciphering of hieroglyphs by Jean-François Champollion, the famous "Papyrus of the Kings" will be exhibited in a room equipped with multimedia tools and infographics that will reveal its history and contents. The temporary exhibition is open from September 27th till November 21st.
Find out more (Instructions for the interactive station of the King List)
Curatore della mostra
con il contributo di
Progetto di allestimento
Enrico Edoardo Barbero
con il contributo di
Visual design e progetto grafico
Supporto per la revisione dei testi
Restauro del papiro
ÄMP SM Berlin
Si ringrazia per la collaborazione per il restauro
Ägyptisches Museumund Papyrussammlung der Stattlichen Museen (ÄMP SM) zu Berlin
Il Museo Egizio ringrazia per il generoso supporto
La Consulta per la Valorizzazione dei
Beni Artistici e Culturali di Torino
Associazione Sostenitori Museo Egizio di Torino
Chiara Mastino e Robin Studio
Ditta di allestimento