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The Palermo Stone

Archaeological Origin

Palermo stone recto side (Image: Hsu, 2010)

The Palermo Stone named after the city in Italy where it is currently in residence, this artifact is a fragment of a larger stele named by Egyptologists as the Royal Annals of the Old Kingdom of Ancient Egypt. The aforementioned stele contains a list of the rulers of the united Two Lands of ancient Egypt from the first dynasty to the mid fifth dynasty, along with some of the significant events of their reigns. The stele also contains the names of rulers of the pre-unification era, and going back to legendary and mythical rulers. The record even includes the rulers of the mythical time when the deities were in the seen world and ruled the land, going back to the Memphite creator deity PtaH, and successor . This gives a particular clue as to the possible syncretism and geographical origin of the stele.

Palermo stone verso side (Image: Hsu, 2010)

Currently the origins of the Palermo fragment are unknown, along with the others of the seven found fragments of the original stele. Theories about the stele all remain in controversy. Its age, location and even whether they are all part of the same stele are under debate. One theory is that given its record ends in the fifth dynasty it is indeed from the Old Kingdom. Another is it may be a copy of the original Old Kingdom work from the twenty fifth dynasty. However the theological record of the mythical era should be taken into account. The pharaohs of the Old Kingdom were centric to the theology of Heliopolis, where Ra the Sun was the force of creation. The Memphite Theology however puts the mummified human deity of Ptah at the head of creation, and Ra coming forth as his creation. This syncretism of theologies started to occur around the first dynasty, when the rulers established the Nome of Inabw Hadj (Walls of White), the fortress of Menes, as Men Nefer (endures beautifully), the capitol of the naswt bitya (of Sedge and Bee) ruler of the Two Lands. This fact also makes for more argument as then it could have had its beginnings in the first dynasty and the stela added to as time went on. Analyses of the hieroglyphs indicate it is not in the original Old Kingdom or even soon after.

Description and Content

Palermo stone fitted with other fragments of the Royal Annals of Old Kingdom Egypt (Image: Lundström, 2010)

The Palermo fragment is approximately 43.5 cm high, 25 cm wide and 6.5 cm thick. The recto inscription consists of 6 horizontal registers of Old Kingdom hieroglyphics. The first register lists the names of predynastic bityw (rulers) of maHan (Lower Egypt), which is indicated by the seated man hieroglyph wearing the dashrat (Red Crown). The second register inscribes the final year a First Dynasty naswt bitya, whom is generally assumed to be either Narmer or Aha. The rest of the register contains the first nine annual entries for his successor, again not named on the fragment, but assumed to be either Aha or Djer. The recto inscription continues with royal annals onto the naswt bitya of the Fourth Dynasty.

The registers continue on the verso, inscribing events during the reigns of rulers down to Neferirkare Kakai, the third ruler of the Fifth Dynasty. It is not known whether the Royal Annals originally continued beyond this point in time. If the ruler is named, the name of his mother is also included. Content includes measurements of the height of the annual inundation of the Nile, details of Sed and other festivals, grain tax collected, monuments, architecture, and warfare.

Seti and Ramesses offering to the Pharaohs
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Hsu, S.-W. (2010). The Palermo Stone: the Earliest Royal Inscription from Ancient Egypt. Altoriental. Forsch., 37(1), 68–89.

Lundström, P. (2010). The Royal Annals of Egypt. File:The Royal Annals of Egypt.png. Wikipedia.

Lundström, P. (2017, October 3). Other king lists of Ancient Egypt.

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Published inRoyal Annals of Ancient Egypt

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