Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/164

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As is well known, the first of the Egyptian kings of whom mention is made upon the monuments of the Nile Valley is Mena, or Menes. Manetho had given a statement, according to which Mena must have lived nearly six thousand years before the Christian era; this was looked upon for a long time as utterly inadmissible, since it was so clearly at variance with the chronology of our own sacred books; but, as time went on, large fragments of the original work of Manetho were more carefully studied and distinguished from corrupt transcriptions, the lists of kings at Karnak, Sacquarak, and the two temples at Abydos were brought to light, and the lists of court architects were discovered. Among all these monuments the scholar who visits Egypt is most impressed by the sculptured tablets giving the lists of kings. Each shows the monarch of the period doing homage to the long line of his ancestors. Each of these sculptured monarchs has near him a tablet bearing his name. That great care was always taken to keep these imposing records correct is certain; the loyalty of subjects, the devotion of priests, and the family pride of kings were all combined in this, and how effective this care was is seen in the fact that kings now known to be usurpers are carefully omitted. The lists of court architects, extending over the period from Seti to Darius, throw a flood of light over the other records.

Comparing, then, all these sources, and applying an average from the lengths of the long series of well-known reigns to the reigns preceding, the most careful and cautious scholars have satisfied themselves that the original fragments of Manetho represent the work of a man honest and well informed, and, after making all allowances for discrepancies and the overlapping of reigns, it has become clear that the period known as the reign of Mena must be fixed at about five thousand years b. c. In this the three great Egyptologists of our time concur; Mariette, the eminent French authority, puts the date at 5004 b. c., and with this the foremost English authority, Sayce, agrees; Brugsch, the leading German authority, puts it at about 4500 b. c. We have it, then, as the result of a century of work by the most acute and trained Egyptologists, and with the inscriptions upon the temples and papyri before them, both of which are now read with as much facility as many mediæval manuscripts, that the reign of Mena must be placed close upon seven thousand years ago.

But the significance of this conclusion can not be fully understood until we bring into connection with it some other facts revealed by the Egyptian monuments.

The first of these is that which struck Sir Walter Raleigh—that, even in the time of the first dynasties in the Nile Valley, a high civilization had already been developed. Take, first, man