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The Abydos King List Gets a Technicolor Makeover

Updated: Jan 8


Full-colour reproduction of the Abydos King List by Natalie Watson (Wonderful Things Art) created in 2023

Reproduction Details

  • Object Type: Painted bas relief

  • Date: c. 1290-1279 BC

  • Period: Reign of Seti I, Dynasty 19, New Kingdom

  • Findspot: Temple of Seti I, Abydos (west wall of the passage leading from the Second Hypostyle Hall to the Butcher’s Hall)

  • Reproduction Notes: This reproduction was made by Natalie Watson using reference photographs of the current site found on Wikimedia. The colours and art style used are based on Amice Calverley’s colour reproductions in ‘The Temple of King Sethos I at Abydos Vol 1-3’. The transliterations and translations of hieroglyphics come from Rosalie David’s book Temple Ritual at Abydos. Reconstructed elements of the image are based on examples used elsewhere in the temple.

  • Print Reference: DP85A

The Mansion of Menmaatre

Seti I was the second pharaoh of Dynasty 19, ruling c. 1290-1279 BC, and the father of Ramesses II. Among the many artistic achievements of the popular king’s reign, his mortuary temple at Abydos represents a high point in craftsmanship and ambition. Called the Mansion of Menmaatre in antiquity, it is better known today as the Great Temple of Abydos or the Memnonium.

It was commissioned by the king to provide a place to honour the gods and his eternal soul. Unlike most temples, it was dedicated to more than one god. As well as the deified form of Seti I, it also included chapels honouring Ptah, Re-Horakhty, Amun-Re, Osiris, Isis, and Horus. The temple was unfinished at the time of the king’s death and completed by his son and heir, Ramesses II. It is famous for the beauty and quality of its decoration, and the presence of the invaluable ‘Abydos King List’.

Plan of the Temple of Seti I with the location of my reproduced scene marked in red (From ‘The Temple of King Sethos I at Abydos’ Vol. 1, Fig. 1)

The Abydos Kings List

The Abydos King List as it currently looks

The Abydos King List is carved into the temple's walls and records the names of 76 rulers inside cartouches from the previous 1,600 years. The hieroglyphics record the prayers that Seti and his son Ramesses are reciting for the past kings.

The List was carved on the west wall of the passage known as the Gallery of Lists which leads from the Second Hypostyle Hall to the Butcher’s Hall (‘B List of Kings’ on the plan below). You can explore a 3D model of the Kings List made by David Anderson to help you visualise the space and the poor state of preservation it is now in. Originally, the wall reliefs would have been brightly painted using a standard palette of colours which are preserved on reliefs in other parts of the temple.


Seti I

Seti I shown in the blue crown

In the scene, Seti stands before the list in full regalia, holding a burning censor and gesturing with his hand to indicate he is speaking. On his head is the blue crown with a rearing uraeus cobra, and he is wearing a linen Shendyt kilt held in place with a jewelled belt.

The hieroglyphics record Seti’s words, which describe how he is giving offerings to the eternal souls of the kings in praise of the god Ptah-Sokar-Osiris:

Words spoken by the king, Menmaatre. Bringing the god to his food, depositing an offering for the Kings of Upper and Lower Egypt: “Greetings to thee, Ptah-Sokar-Osiris, who-is-south-of-his-wall; come, that I may carry out for thee these choice things which Horus carried out for his father Osiris.”

Ramesses II

Ramesses II as a youth reading the Jubilant Summons

In front of Seti is his son, Ramesses II, his young age indicated by the sidelock of hair on his head. He is wearing the linen robes of a priest and reciting a prayer from the scroll in his hands. The hieroglyphics beside him explain he is reciting ‘The Jubilant Summons’ for his predecessors:

The Jubilant Summons by the hereditary prince and king’s eldest legitimate son, whom he loves, Ramesses, justified.

The Offering Formula

Above the registers filled with cartouches are hieroglyphics recording the words of the offering prayer Seti is reciting for the kings. This is a standard funerary prayer which is designed to give the kings all the things their eternal souls would require for a happy afterlife.


The first half of the offering formula
An offering-which-the-king gives for Ptah-Sokar-Osiris, Lord of the Sanctuary of Sokar, who is residing in the Mansion of Menmaatre. Depositing an offering for the Kings of Upper and Lower Egypt, by the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Lord of the Two Lands, Menmaatre, son of Re, Seti Merenptah.

The second part of the offering formula
A thousand of bread, a thousand of beer, a thousand of cattle, a thousand of fowl, a thousand of incense, a thousand of unguent, a thousand of linen, a thousand of cloth, a thousand of wine, a thousand of god’s offering, as the gift of the king, Menmaatre.

Register 1 and 2

The List itself can be found in the top and middle registers of cartouches which take up the bulk of the scene. The names of 76 kings are shown in chronological order which should be read from the top left to the bottom right (see closeups of each cartouche below).

Every cartouche is preceded by the phrase “To the King of Upper Egypt” and should be read as a continuation of the main offering formula in the upper register, so the full prayer for each king is:

An offering-which-the-king gives… a thousand of bread, a thousand of beer… to the King of Upper Egypt [KING’S NAME].

Register 3

The bottom register of the Abydos King List showing the repeated names of Seti I inside cartouches

The offering formula is completed in the third register, where each column ends with the words “As the gift of” followed by Seti’s throne name and birth name repeated in alternating columns.

Seti’s throne name Menmaatre “Established is the Justice of Re is preceded by the word “king” and followed by a determinative of a seated king wearing the white crown of Upper Egypt. His birth name Sety Merenptah "Man of Seth, beloved of Ptah" is preceded by “son of Re” and followed by a determinative of a seated king wearing the red crown of Lower Egypt.

Therefore, each of the 76 rulers in the King List can be given a personalised offering:

An offering-which-the-king gives … a thousand of bread, a thousand of beer … to the King of Upper Egypt [KING’S NAME] … As the gift of king Menmaatre, King of Upper Egypt [OR] king Sety Merenptah, King of Lower Egypt.

Full Kings List

The Abydos King List covers Dynasty 1 to the start of Dynasty 19 but is not a complete list and deviates in places from other known king lists. It omits many rulers considered illegitimate and also includes 17 royal names not seen on any other King Lists. The missing kings come from periods of political instability or religious upheaval:

  • First Intermediate Period kings including Mentuhotep I, Intef I, Intef II, Intef III (end of Dynasty 6 to the beginning of Dynasty 11.

  • Female king Sobekneferu (end of Dynasty 12).

  • Kings from the Second Intermediate Period (Dynasty 13-14).

  • Kings from the Amarna Period (end of Dynasty 18) including (female king) Hatshepsut, Akhenaten, Smenkhare, Tutankhamun and Ay.

Besides providing the order of the Old Kingdom kings, the Abydos King List is the sole source to date of the names of many of the kings of Dynasty 7 and 8. It can be compared to the Karnak Kings List, the list in the Temple of Ramesses II at Karnak, the Palermo Stone, the Saqqara Kings List and the Turin Canon (the only list written on papyrus as a historical account rather than produced as a cultic device).


Dynasty 1

Cartouches of the kings of Dynasty 1: #1 Meni (commonly known as Menes), 2 Teti (Hor-Aha), 3 Iti (Djer), 4 Ita (Djet), 5 Septi (Den), 6 Meribiap (Anedjib), 7 Semsu (Semerkhet) and 8 Qebeh (Qa'a).

Dynasty 2

Cartouches of the kings of Dynasty 2: #9 Bedjau (commonly known as Hotepsekhemwy), 10 Kakau (Raneb), 11 Banetjer (Ninetjer), 12 Wadjnas (Weneg), 13 Sendi (Senedj) and 14 Djadjay (Khasekhemwy).

Dynasty 3

Cartouches of the kings of Dynasty 3: #15 Nebka (commonly known as Nebka), 16 Djeser-za (Djoser), 17 Teti (Sekhemkhet), 18 Sedjes (Khaba) and 19 Neferkare (Huni).

Dynasty 4

Cartouches of the kings of Dynasty 4: #20 Sneferu (commonly known as Sneferu), 21 Khufu (Khufu), 22 Djedefre (Djedefre), 23 Khafre (Khafre), 24 Menkaure (Menkaure) and 25 Shepseskaf (Shepseskaf).

Dynasty 5

Cartouches of the kings of Dynasty 5: #26 Userkaf (commonly known as Userkaf), 27 Sahure (Sahure), 28 Kakai (Neferirkare Kakai), 29 Neferefre (Neferefre), 30 Nyuserre (Nyuserre Ini), 31 Menkauhor (Menkauhor Kaiu), 32 Djedkare (Djedkare Isesi) and 33 Unis (Unas).

Dynasty 6

The Dynasty 6 kings straddle the end of the top register and the beginning of the middle register.

Cartouches of the kings of Dynasty 6: #34 Teti (commonly known as Teti), 35 Userkare (Userkare), 36 Meryre (Pepi I Meryre), 37 Merenre (Merenre Nemtyemsaf I), 38 Neferkare (Pepi II Neferkare) and 39 Merenre Saemsaf (Merenre Nemtyemsaf II).

Dynasty 8

Cartouches of the kings of Dynasty 8: #40 Netjerikare (commonly known as Netjerkare), 41 Menkare (Menkare), 42 Neferkare (Neferkare II), 43 Neferkare Neby (Neferkare Neby), 44 Djedkare Shemai (Djedkare Shemai), 45 Neferkare Khendu (Neferkare Khendu), 46 Merenhor (Merenhor), 47 Sneferka (Neferkamin), 48 Nikare (Nikare), 49 Neferkare Tereru (Neferkare Tereru), 50 Neferkahor (Neferkahor), 51 Neferkare Pepiseneb (Neferkare Pepiseneb), 52 Sneferka Anu (Neferkamin Anu), 53 Kaukare (Qakare Ibi), 54 Neferkaure (Neferkaure II), 55 Neferkauhor (Neferkauhor) and 56 Neferirkare (Neferirkare).

Dynasty 11-12

Cartouches of the kings of Dynasty 11-12: #57 Nebhepetre (Mentuhotep II), 58 Sankhkare (Mentuhotep III), 59 Sehetepibre (Amenemhat I), 60 Kheperkare (Senusret I), 61 Nubkaure (Amenemhat II), 62 Khakheperre (Senusret II), 63 Khakaure (Senusret III), 64 Nimaatre (Amenemhat III) and 65 Maakherure (Amenemhat IV).

Dynasty 18

Cartouches of the kings of Dynasty 18: #66 Nebpehtire (commonly known as Ahmose I), 67 Djeserkare (Amenhotep I), 68 Aakheperkare (Thutmose I), 69 Aakheperenre (Thutmose II), 70 Menkheperre (Thutmose III), 71 Aakheperure (Amenhotep II), 72 Menkheperure (Thutmose IV), 73 Nebmaatre (Amenhotep III) and 74 Djeserkheperura Setepenre (Horemheb).

Dynasty 19


Cartouches of the kings of Dynasty 19: #75 Menpehtire (Ramesses I) and 76 Menmaatre (Seti I).

Translations

The transliterations and translations of hieroglyphics come from Rosalie David’s book Temple Ritual at Abydos (2018, 240-41).


Seti Inscription

nṯr nfr Mn-mꜣʾt-Rʾ

The perfect god, Menmaatre (Established is the Justice of Re)


sꜣ Rʾ Sthy-mr-n-Ptḥ

The son of Ra, Sety Merenptah (Man of Seth, beloved of Ptah)


ḏd mdw in nsw Mn-mꜣʾt-Rʾ in nṯr r šbw.f wꜣḥ ḫt n nsyw-bityw nḏ-ḥr.k Ptḥ-Skr rsyw-inb.f m’I iry.i n k nw [ḫt] iri.n Ḥr n it.f Wsir

Utterance by the king, Menmaatre. Bringing the god to his food, depositing an offering for the Kings of Upper and Lower Egypt. Greetings to thee, Ptah-Soker-Osiris, who-is-south-of-his-wall; come, that I may carry out for thee these [things] which Horus carried out for his father Osiris.


Ramesses Inscription

nis ḥnḳ in rpʾt sꜣ nsw sms n ẖt.f mr.f Rʾ-mss-s mꜣʾ-ḫrw

Reciting praises by the hereditary prince, king’s son, the eldest, bodily, beloved son of the king, Ramesses, vindicated.


Offering Formula

irt ḥtp-di-nsw n Ptḥ-Skr-Wsir nb sṯyt ḥry-ib ḥwt Mn-Mꜣʿt-Rʿ wꜣḥ ḫt n nsywt-bityw in nsw-bit nb tꜣwy Mn-mꜣʿt-Rʿ sꜣ Rʿ Sthy-mr-n-Ptḥ

Making-a-boon-which-the-king-gives for Ptah-Soker-Osiris, Lord of the Sanctuary of Soker, who is residing in the Mansion of Menmaatre. Depositing an offering for the Kings of Upper and Lower Egypt, by the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, lord of the Two Lands, Menmaatre, son of Re, Sety Merenptah.


ḫꜣ m t ḫꜣ m ḥnkt ḫꜣ m kꜣw ḫꜣ m ꜣpdw ḫꜣ m sntr ḫꜣ m mrḥt ḫꜣ m ssrw ḫꜣ m mhnt ḫꜣ m irp ḫꜣ m ḥtp-ntr m dd nsw Mn-mꜣʿt-Rʿ

A 1,000 of bread, a 1,000 of beer, a 1,000 of cattle, a 1,000 of fowl, a 1,000 of incense, a 1,000 of unguent, a 1,000 of linen, a 1,000 of cloth, a 1,000 of wine, a 1,000 of god’s offering, as the gift of the king, Menmaatre.


Register 1-2

n nsw [Unis]

To the King of Upper Egypt [Unas].


Register 3

m dd nsw Mn-mꜣʾt-Rʾ nsw

As the gift of King Menmaatre (Established is the Justice of Re), King of Upper Egypt.


m dd bit Stẖy-mr-n-Ptḥ bit

As the gift of King Sety Merenptah (Man of Seth, beloved of Ptah), King of Lower Egypt.


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1 Comment


MrHusang23
MrHusang23
Jul 25, 2023

Another wonderful piece! Nr. 7's name is the coolest, I guess, because he has a whole hieroglyph, representing only him, which looks very nice! Nr. 10's name has 3 strange objects, what do those represent?;) It's also interesting, how 3 of them have the exact same name (Teti), at least those I could observe.

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