Menkare was an ancient Egyptian pharaoh, the first or second ruler of the Eighth Dynasty. Menkare probably reigned a short time at the transition between the Old Kingdom period and the First Intermediate Period, in the early 22nd century BC. The rapid succession of brief reigns at the time suggests times of hardship, possibly related to a widespread aridification of the Middle East, known as the 4.2 kiloyear event. As a pharaoh of the Eighth Dynasty, according to Manetho, Menkare's seat of power would have been Memphis.
The cartouche of Menkare on the Abydos King List.
|Reign||Probably short, c. 2181 BC (Eighth Dynasty)|
- Historical source
Menkare's only secure historical source is the Abydos king list, a list of kings redacted during the reign of Seti I for religious purposes and which today serves as the primary historical source for kings of the early First Intermediate Period. The praenomen Menkare appears on the 41st entry of the list. Another king list redacted during the early Ramesside period, the Turin canon, may have listed Menkare as well. Unfortunately, a large lacuna affects the papyrus of the canon where Menkare's name would have been listed.
- Contemporaneous source
The tomb of queen Neit in South Saqqara houses a relief showing the queen in front of a damaged royal cartouche. The Egyptologist Percy Newberry proposed that the cartouche reads Menkare, which would thus be the sole contemporaneous attestation for this king having survived to this day. This opinion is shared by Gae Callender, who reexamined Jéquier's plates of the inscription.
- A source from a later period
Another possible, though not contemporaneous, attestation of Menkare is a cylinder seal made of glazed steatite, now in the British Museum under the catalog number 30557, and inscribed with the text "The Good God, Lord of the Two Lands, Menkare". The seal dates to the 26th Dynasty, some 1700 years after Menkare's lifetime. The attribution of the seal to Menkare is unlikely: given that Menkare is a rather obscure king, some scholars have suggested instead that the seal bears a mistake and actually refers to the better known pharaoh Menkaure, builder of the third pyramid of Giza.
Refuted identification with Nitocris
In an old hypothesis, the Egyptologist Flinders Petrie suggested that Menkare should be equated with queen Nitocris, a legendary figure appearing in Herodotus' Histories and Manetho's Aegyptiaca and who is believed to have lived close to Menkare's lifetime. Petrie based his hypothesis on the fact that Nitocris is credited with the construction of the third pyramid of Giza by Manetho. Since this pyramid was in fact built by Menkaure, Petrie surmised that Manetho fell victim to a tradition which had confused Menkare and Menkaure. Similarly, the seal would seem to be another manifestation of this confusion. Petrie's hypothesis has been thoroughly disproven by modern analyses of the Turin canon however, and Nitocris is now known to originate from the names of the real ruler Netjerkare Siptah. The attribution of the seal remains uncertain.
- Jürgen von Beckerath: Handbuch der ägyptischen Königsnamen, Münchner ägyptologische Studien, Heft 49, Mainz : Philip von Zabern, 1999, ISBN 3-8053-2591-6, see pp.66–67, king No 2.
- 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. 197
- Kim Ryholt: The Late Old Kingdom in the Turin King-list and the Identity of Nitocris, Zeitschrift für ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde 127:87–100, (2000).
- Gustave Jéquier, Maṣlaḥat al-Āthār (1993): Les pyramides des reines Neit et Apouit (in French), Cairo: Institut français d’archéologie orientale, OCLC 195690029, see plate 5.
- Percy Newberry (1943): Queen Nitocris of the Sixth Dynasty, in: The Journal of Egyptian Archeology, vol. 29, pp=51–54
- Gae Callender: Queen Neit-ikrety/Nitokris, in: Miroslav Barta, Filip Coppens, Jaromic Krecji (editors): Abusir and Saqqara in the year 2010/1, Prague: Czech Institute of Egyptology, Faculty of Arts, Charles University, 2011, ISBN 978-8-07-308384-7, see pp. 249–250
- Harry Reginald Hall: Catalogue of Egyptian Scarabs, etc., in the British Museum, vol I: Royal Scarabs, British Museum 1913, available online see p. 272 seal num 2650.
- Peter Kaplony: Die Rollsiegel des Alten Reiches, Vol II, Fondation Egyptologique Reine Elisabeth, Brussels 1981, see p. 427–428 and pl. 113 num 1 and p. 114 num. 1 & 2.
- Flinders Petrie: A History of Egypt, Volume 1, 1902, available online, see p. 86, 104–105.
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