Thursday, June 05, 2008

Darwinism: Cultural Continuity and the Universal Flood

In my last Darwinism post I discussed apparently human societies that existed many thousands of years before Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden. In this post I'll present a timeline of cultural activities that spans the supposed time of the flood - 2346 BC - without any apparent interruption. I'll restrict my comments to the history of Egypt, to keep this simple.

The Biblical date of the flood corresponds to the division between the fifth and sixth Egyptian dynasties.

The Fifth dynasty of Egypt lasted from 2498 BC to 2345 BC. Here is a list of the known rulers. I'll have something to say about Unas, the last ruler of the 5th dynasty, and Teti, the first ruler of the 6th dynasty.

Userkaf 2498 – 2491 BC
Sahure 2490 – 2472 BC
Neferirkare Kakai 2471 – 2467 BC
Shepseskare Isi 2467 – 2460 BC
Neferefre 2460 – 2453 BC
Nyuserre Ini 2453 – 2422 BC
Menkauhor Kaiu 2422 – 2414 BC
Djedkare Isesi 2414 – 2375 BC
Unas 2375 – 2345 BC

The Pyramid of Unas

Unas is mostly known from his pyramid complex, which he built to the South-west of Djoser's at Saqqara. It is the oldest known royal tomb containing religious texts, the so-called Pyramid Texts, a collection of spells, litanies, hymns and descriptions of the King's life after death; they are the oldest known religious writings! Unas was adored in the Saqqara region for many centuries after his death.

Location of pyramids of Unas and Teti.

I suspect the labels on the pyramids of Teti and Userkaf may be reversed from some photos I've seen of the complex.

The Sixth dynasty of Egypt lasted from 2345 BC to 2183 BC. Here is a list of the known rulers.

Teti 2345 – 2333 BC
Userkare 2333 – 2332 BC
Pepi I Meryre 2332 – 2283 BC
Merenre Nemtyemsaf I 2283 – 2278 BC
Pepi II Neferkare 2278 – 2184 BC
Merenre Nemtyemsaf II 2184 BC
or Neitiqerty Siptah 2184 – 2183 BC

The pyramid of Teti in front of the stepped pyramid of Djoser.

Unas appears to have died without any heir, after which a brief period of political instability may have disrupted the country. Teti is believed to have ended this instability when he came to power. Following the tradition started by Unas, the rooms in Teti's relatively small pyramid at the North-East edge of the plateau of Saqqara have been inscribed with the Pyramid Texts. By this time, the pyramid builders had learned how to put together a structure using relatively poor materials and then encase it in limestone. The result must have been breathtaking, but once the casing had been taken away for other projects, the remaining pyramid deteriorated rapidly.

There is no apparent break in Egyptian history that would correspond to everyone having died in a Universal Deluge around 2346 BC. The same seems to be true in other parts of the world where records document the achievements of the people who lived during this part of the 3rd Millennium BC.

Does this detract from my faith? Absolutely not. Does it detract from yours? I hope not.

Where do we get our information about Ancient Egypt?

It is interesting to consider the source of our information about the kings of ancient Egypt. Five main lists exist today.

1. The Abydos King List has the names of seventy-six kings and pharaohs of Ancient Egypt, found on the walls of the Temple of Seti I at Abydos, Egypt. Besides providing the order of the Old Kingdom rulers (albeit often obviously incorrectly), it is the sole source to date of the names of many of the rulers of the Seventh and Eighth Dynasties, so the list is valued highly for that reason. This list does not include the names of many pharaohs, ruling during the period of time that it was intended to document—who were 'erased' from this revised history—such as Hatshepsut, Akhenaten, Smenkhkare, Tutankhamen, and Ay.

2. The Karnak King List is located in the Festival Hall of Thutmose III, in the temple of Amun-Re at Karnak, in Egypt. It shows Thutmose III with some of the earlier kings that built parts of the temple complex

3. The Palermo Stone is the common name for a fragmentary ancient Egyptian stela comprised of black basalt that was engraved toward the end of the fifth dynasty during the 25th century BC. It lists the ruling pharaohs of Lower Egypt, beginning with several thousands of years of mythological rulers up until the time of the god Horus, who then handed the throne to the first human pharaoh listed, Menes. It then goes on to list the names of historical pharaohs who ruled Egypt up until the early 5th dynasty, the time of the pharaoh Neferirkare Kakai, though the original stela may have recorded events past his reign.

4. The South Saqqara Stone is the lid of the sarcophagus of the ancient Egyptian queen Ankhesenpepi. It is inscribed with a list of 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.

5. The Turin King List is a unique papyrus, written in hieratic, currently in the Museo Egizio (Egyptian Museum) at Turin, to which it owes its modern name. The text dates to Ramesses II and mentions the names of all Egyptian rulers preceded by the register of gods that, as it was believed, ruled over Egypt before the Pharaonic era. The front of the papyrus contains a list of gods, demi-gods, spirits, mythical and human kings who ruled Egypt from the beginning of time presumably until it was written. The beginning and ending of the list are now lost, which means that the introduction of the list — if ever there was such an introduction — and the enumeration of the kings following the 17th Dynasty are missing. Therefore, it is not known with any degree of certainty when, after the composition of the tax-list on the recto, an unknown scribe used the verso to write down this list of kings. This may have occurred during the reign of Ramesses II, but a date as late as the 20th Dynasty can not be excluded. The fact that the list was scribbled on the back of an older papyrus may indicate that it was of no great importance to the writer.

In their 1996 book Berossos and Manetho, Introduced and Translated: Native Traditions in Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, Verbrugghe and Wickersham say

... the purpose of these lists was to cover the walls of a sacred room in which the reigning Pharaoh (or other worshiper, as in the case of Tenry and his Saqqara list) made offerings or prayers to his or her predecessors, imagined as ancestors. Each royal house had a particular traditional list of these "ancestors," different from that of the other houses. The purpose of these lists is not historical but religious. It is not that they are trying and failing to give a complete list. They are not trying at all. Seti and Ramesses did not wish to make offerings to Akhenaten, Tutankhamen, or Hatshepsut, and that is why they are omitted, not because their existence was unknown or deliberately ignored in a broader historical sense.

Manetho was an Egyptian historian and priest who lived during the Ptolemaic era, ca. 3rd century BC. Manetho wrote Aegyptiaca, a history of Egypt. His work is of great interest to Egyptologists, and is often used as evidence for the chronology of the reigns of pharaohs. Manetho lived LONG after the two dynasties we considered at the beginning of this article. He may have had access to some of the material listed above, and to material no longer in existence. The list most similar to the one Manetho used is the Turin King List. Manetho invented the idea of Egyptian "dynasties", and the division between the Fifth and Sixth dynasties is Manetho's. Some people believe Manetho wrote his history in competition with Herodotus. During this period a bitter battle raged between advocates of Egyptian, Jewish, and Greek histories in the form of supporting polemics disputing which civilization was the "oldest". The image below, from the Wikipedia article about Manetho, gives an idea how difficult it is to determine from surviving documents what Manetho's Aegyptiaca originally said.

What can we conclude from this? Probably not much. One thing that comes out, though, is that what we "know" about Ancient Egypt is probably full of misconceptions, gaps, lapses, and errors. Wouldn't it be interesting to be able to go back in time and see what REALLY happened?


Post a Comment

<< Home