Seventh and Eighth Dynasties of Egypt

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The Seventh and Eighth Dynasties of ancient Egypt (notated Dynasties VII and VIII) are often combined together and regroup a line of poorly-known short-lived pharaohs reigning in the early 21st century BC, a toubled time referred to as the very end of the Old Kingdom or the beginning of the troubled First Intermediate Period, depending on the scholar. The Dynasties VII and VIII ruled Egypt approximately from 2181 to 2160 BC[1] at a time when the power of the king was waning and that of the provincial nomarchs was on the rise.

Rulers[edit]

The classification of the Egyptian pharaohs into dynasties is due to the Egyptian priest Manetho who wrote an history of Egypt Aegyptiaca in the 3rd century BC. Manetho assigns 70 kings ruling 70 days to the 7th Dynasty thereby reflecting the chaos prevailing at the end of the Old Kingdom and in the early First Intermediate Period. Nowadays, Egyptologists consider the 7th Dynasty to be fictitious owing to the lack of attestations for this dynasty and it is thus combined with the following 8th Dynasty, whose kings, although ephemeral, are attested by other sources in particular in the Abydos King List.

Dynasty VII/VIII comprises little-known pharaohs reigning from Memphis in the short time period immediately after the death of Merenre Nemtyemsaf II c. 2180 BC:[2]

Dynasty VII/VIII
Name Comments
Netjerkare Siptah Sometimes classified as the last king of the 6th Dynasty. Identical with Nitocris.
Menkare -
Neferkare II -
Neferkare Neby Planned or started a pyramid "Neferkare Neby is Enduring of Life", possibly at Saqqara.
Djedkare Shemai -
Neferkare Khendu -
Merenhor -
Neferkamin -
Nikare Possibly attested by a cylinder seal.[3]
Neferkare Tereru -
Neferkahor Attested by a cylinder seal.
Neferkare Pepiseneb Turin Canon gives at least one year.[4]
Neferkamin Anu
Qakare Ibi Turin Canon gives rule of two years, one month, one day.[5] Attested by his pyramid at Saqqara.
Neferkaure Turin Canon gives rule of 4 years and 2 months,[5] attested by a decree concerning the temple of Min.[6]
Khwiwihepu Neferkauhor Turin Canon gives rule of 2 years, 1 month and 1 day,[5] attested by eight decrees concerning the temple of Min,[7][8][9] and an inscription in the tomb of vizier Shemay.[10]
Neferirkare Turin Canon gives a reign of 1 and a half years.[5] Maybe identical to either or both of Horus Demedjibtawy and Wadjkare. If so, he is attested by a decree concerning the temple of Min.

Sources[edit]

Manetho[edit]

The Egyptian priest Manetho wrote an history of Egypt during the 3rd century BC known as the Aegyptiaca. Manetho's work has not survived to this day and is only known to us via three later writers who quoted from it. Unfortunately, These three sources are exceedingly difficult to work with, for example because they often contradict each other. The is the case for the two ancient historians who quote from the section of the Aegyptiaca regarding the 7th and 8th Dynasties. Sextus Julius Africanus and Eusebius of Caesarea provide inconsistent accounts of both dynasties. Africanus claims that Dynasty VII consisted of 70 kings that ruled during a period of seventy days in Memphis, and Dynasty VIII consisted of 27 kings who reigned for 146 years. However, Eusebius records that during Dynasty VII five kings ruled over seventy five days, and Dynasty VIII includes five kings who ruled for 100 years. Seventy kings in seventy days is usually considered the correct version of Manetho, but obviously not the actual correct dates. This epithet is interpreted to mean that the pharaohs of this period were extremely ephemeral, and the use of seventy may be a pun on fact that this was Manetho's seventh dynasty.[11] Because Manetho does not provide actual historical data on this period, many argue that the seventh dynasty is fictitious.

The Turin Canon of Kings and Abydos King List[edit]

The Turin and Abydos king lists were written during the reigns of Seti I and his son Ramses II and both record the pharaohs of Egypt from the 1st Dynasty onwards. The kings mentioned on the entries 42 to 56 of the Abydos king list come between the end of Dynasty VI and the beginning of Dynasty XI, and do not appear to be from the 9th nor from the 10th. There are thus assigned to the 8th Dynasty. The Turin Canon is heavily damaged, and cannot be read without much difficulty. However, the fragment containing what is believed to be the name of Nitocris has two mangled names and a third name on it which is clearly that of Qakare Ibi, the fifty-third king on the Abydos King List. There seems to be room for two more kings before the end of the dynasty.[12] This would indicate that the missing parts of the Turin Papyrus probably contained the kings in the fifty-first to fifty-fifth registers of the Abydos King List. Because the Turin papyrus omits the first nine kings on the Abydos list, W.C. Hayes thinks it reasonable that the Egyptians may have divided Dynasties VII and VIII at this point.[12]

Decline into chaos[edit]

Given that five names of the kings from this period have Pepi II's throne name Neferkare in their own names, they may have been descendants of Dynasty VI who were trying to hold on to some sort of power.[13] Some of the acts of the final four Dynasty VIII kings are recorded in their decrees to Shemay, a vizier during this period, although only Qakare Ibi can be connected to any monumental construction. His pyramid has been found at Saqqara near that of Pepi II and, like its predecessors, had the Pyramid Texts written on the walls.[13]

However many kings there actually were, it is clear that during this time period a breakdown of the central authority of Egypt was underway. The rulers of these dynasties were based in Memphis; with the exception of the final Dynasty VIII kings, all that is known of most of these rulers is their names. This group of kings was eventually overthrown by a rival group, Dynasty IX, based in Herakleopolis Magna.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Shaw, Ian, ed. (2000). The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford University Press. p. 480. ISBN 0-19-815034-2. 
  2. ^ Jürgen von Beckerath: Handbuch der ägyptischen Königsnamen, Münchner ägyptologische Studien, Heft 49, Mainz : Philip von Zabern, 1999, ISBN 3-8053-2591-6, see pp.66–71, and p. 284 for the datation of the 8th Dynasty.
  3. ^ Peter Kaplony: Die Rollsiegel des Alten Reichs, vol. 2: Katalog der Rollsiegel, (= Monumenta Aegyptiaca. Vol. 3), La Fondation Égyptologique Reine Élisabeth, Brüssel 1981, issue 144.
  4. ^ Kim Ryholt: "The Late Old Kingdom in the Turin King-list and the Identity of Nitocris", Zeitschrift für ägyptische, 127 (2000), p. 91
  5. ^ a b c d Jürgen von Beckerath: "The Date of the End of the Old Kingdom of Egypt", Journal of Near Eastern Studies 21 (1962), p. 143
  6. ^ The decree on the catalog of the MET
  7. ^ Darrell D. Baker: The Encyclopedia of the Pharaohs: Volume I - Predynastic to the Twentieth Dynasty 3300–1069 BC, Stacey International, ISBN 978-1-905299-37-9, 2008, p. 271-272
  8. ^ William C. Hayes: The Scepter of Egypt: A Background for the Study of the Egyptian Antiquities in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 1, From the Earliest Times to the End of the Middle Kingdom , MetPublications, 1978, pp.136-138, available online
  9. ^ The fragments of the decrees on the catalog of the MET: fragment 1, 2 and 3.
  10. ^ Nigel C. Strudwick, Ronald J. Leprohon ed.: Texts from the Pyramid Age, see pp.345-347, available online
  11. ^ Grimal, Nicolas. A History of Ancient Egypt. p.138. Librairie Arthéme Fayard, 1988.
  12. ^ a b Smith, W. Stevenson. The Old Kingdom in Egypt and the Beginning of the First Intermediate Period, in The Cambridge Ancient History, vol. I, part 2, ed. Edwards, I.E.S, et al. p.197. Cambridge University Press, New York, 1971
  13. ^ a b Grimal, Nicolas. A History of Ancient Egypt. p.140. Librairie Arthéme Fayard, 1988.
Preceded by
Sixth dynasty
Dynasty of Egypt
c. 21812160 BC
Succeeded by
Tenth dynasty