A photo of the Turin King List.

Little-Known Curiosities about the Turin King List

Some parts of the papyrus are lost, including its beginning and ending.


The Turin King List is like the guest list of an exclusive ancient Egyptian party. Dating back to the reign of Ramesses II during the 19th Dynasty, it’s the kind of historical document that would make even Indiana Jones raise an eyebrow. In this article, I bring up some of the little-known curiosities about the Turin King List. Enjoy!

The papyrus lists the names of rulers, and lengths of reigns in years, with months and days for some. It’s like a royal timeline, except without Facebook updates. In some cases, they are grouped together by family, resembling a royal family reunion, and correspond approximately to the dynasties of Manetho’s book.

Some parts of the papyrus are lost, including its beginning and ending. Think of it as an ancient Egyptian cliffhanger. The composition could have occurred at any time from Ramesses II to as late as the 20th Dynasty. So if you’re looking for spoilers, you’re out of luck.

The list includes human kings and mythical ones – gods, demi-gods, and spirits. Talk about an exclusive VIP section! Even the Hyksos rulers from the 15th Dynasty make an appearance, though marked as foreigners. They didn’t get a cartouche (a king’s name border), but at least they were invited.


“We’ll Just Write it on the Back”

Perhaps the most amusing part about the Turin King List is that it’s written on the back of a tax roll. Imagine using your tax documents to draft the guest list for your next party. While this may indicate that the list wasn’t of great formal importance to the writer, it’s believed to be an unbiased and comprehensive administrative aid.

Some rulers on the list may be unmentioned elsewhere – the one-hit wonders of their time. These ephemeral rulers, ruling small territories, are like the underground indie bands of ancient Egypt. They didn’t make the Top 40, but they still made the list.

The Hyksos rulers, those pesky outsiders, are specially marked as foreigners. It’s like an ancient notation saying, “They’re not from around here, but we’ll list them anyway.”

A Casual Approach to Royalty

The informal nature of the Turin King List is what makes it unique. It’s like a casual stroll through Egyptian history, filled with factual tidbits and a dash of mystery. It provides an insight into rulers known up to the 19th or 20th Dynasty without taking itself too seriously.

The Turin King List is not just a dry historical document. It’s a vibrant scroll filled with names, reigns, and a bit of ancient humor. From gods and demi-gods to mysterious missing parts and Hyksos without cartouches, it’s a historical journey with a wink and a smile.


If it were a novel, it would be a thriller you can’t put down. If it were a TV series, it would be binge-worthy. But since it’s a papyrus, it’s an enlightening and entertaining peek into the world of ancient Egypt that continues to intrigue scholars and curious minds alike.

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Written by Justin Gurkinic

Hey, my name is Justin, and my friends call me Gurk. Why? Becuase of my last name. It sounds like a vegetable. Kind of. I love sleeping and writing. History is my thing.

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