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CHRONOLOGY Modern Egyptologists' chronologies of ancient Egypt combine three basic approaches. First there are 'relative' dating methods, such as stratigraphic excavation or the 'sequence dating' of artefacts. Second there are the 'absolute' chronologies, based on calendrical and astronomical records obtained from ancient texts such as 'king-lists' and stelai. Finally there are 'radiometric' methods (principally radiocarbon dating and thermoluminescence), by means of which particular types of artefacts or organic remains can be assigned dates in terms of the measurement of radioactive decay or accumulation. The ancient Egyptians themselves dated important political and religious events in terms of the years since the accession of each current pharaoh, referred to as the regnal year. Dates were therefore recorded in the following standard format: 'day three in the second month of peret [spring] in the third year of Menkheperra [Thutmose III]'. The division of the pharaonic period into dynasties was a chronological system introduced by Manetho (fl. 300 BC), a Hellenized Egyptian priest, when he composed his history of Egypt, the A egyptiaca. Unfortunately this major work has survived only in the form of extracts used by much later writers, from the Jewish historian T. Flavius Josephus (b. c. AD 37) to the Byzantine chronicler George Syncellus (fl. AD 800). The list of 30 dynasties began with the semi-mythical Menes (fl. 3000 BC), who was the first to unite the 'Two Lands' of Upper Egypt (southern Nile) and Lower Egypt (the Delta), and continued through to Alexander the Great (d. 323 Be). Manetho was evidently able to consult both Egyptian sources and also Greek annals. In general his dynasties appear to correspond to the groupings of rulers suggested by various pharaonic king-lists, mainly recorded on the walls of tombs and temples. In modern chronologies the dynasties are usually grouped into major periods known as 'kingdoms' (when one king ruled unchallenged throughout the Two Lands), and 'intermediate periods' (when the kingship was often divided). The distinction between one dynasty and another occasionally seems rather arbitrary, but two of the most important factors appear to have been changes in royal kinship links and the location of the capital.


Stonemasons' and carpenters' tools (Edinburgh, Royal Museum), including stone mould, wooden mallet, copper tongs, axe blades, knives and chisels, an adze and an awl. The introduction of more complex weapons evolved simultaneously with the introduction of more specialized tools for stone and wood working. (Esther Carre)

Osprey warrior 121 soldier of the pharaoh  
Osprey warrior 121 soldier of the pharaoh