South Saqqara Stone

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The South Saqqara Stone

The South Saqqara Stone is the lid of the sarcophagus of the ancient Egyptian queen Ankhenespepi which was inscribed with a list for the reigns of the pharaohs of the 6th dynasty from Teti, Userkare, Pepi I, Merenre to the early years of Pepi II under whom the document was likely created. It is essentially an annal document which records events in each year of a king's reign; unfortunately, it was reused in antiquity for Ankhesenpepi I's burial and many of its invaluable inscriptions have been erased.


The South Saqqara Stone was discovered in 1932-33 by Gustave Jéquier in the westernmost of five storerooms south of the pyramid of Queen Iput II, within the pyramid complex of Pepi II (during whose reign it was created) at Saqqara.


Made of basalt, it measures 2.43 metres by 0.92 metres and is 20 centimetres thick. It is inscribed on both sides, but much of the inscription is erased and unreadable. The recto appears to list events of the reigns of Teti, Userkare, Pepi I and Merenre, the verso describes the second part of the reign of Merenra and part of Pepi II's.


The importance of the South Saqqara Stone stems from its inscription: a list of a number of pharaohs, along with details of annual or biannual cattle counts which confirm details in other sources (such as the Turin King List), and allow archaeologists to estimate the length of their reigns. Michel Baud and Vassil Dobrev estimate at least 12 years of reign for Teti, 2-4 years for Userkare, 49-50 years for Pepi I and, at least, 11-13 years for Merenre based on an estimate on the size of the preserved year the size of each year blocks and the location of certain cattle counts (such as the Year of the 18th and 25th counts for Pepi I and his Year after the 23rd count, or the Year of and the Year after the 2nd count for Merenre) within this document.

The Stone is considered one of the earliest historical documents in existence, as it is not merely a list of dynastic ancestors for the ruling pharaoh, but includes the names of all preceding pharaohs known to the artefact's creators, including such known usurpers as Userkare.

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