Who is the earliest historical figure?

Who is the earliest person whom we know existed. I’m not referring to archeological finds like “Lucy,” or people who may have been mythical, but people with reliable records showing they existed.

I don’t know, but I’ve heard some people claim Gilgamesh as the oldest historical figure.

Maybe King Narmer of Egypt? He appears (portrait and name) on a ceremonial palette that dates to c. 3000 B.C.E., and is generally thought to be the pharaoh who unified the Upper and Lower Kingdoms of Egypt. This act was traditionally attributed to a king named Menes, who some scholars believe was entirely mythical, while others think he may have been based on the real, historical Narmer.

Enmebaragesi is a Sumerian king from around the time of Gilgamesh. Unlike Mr. G, there is definitive proof that he existed. The First Dynasty Egyptian guys were around earlier, though.

There have been threads on this before. Based on my recollection and experience, there’s going to be a lot of wasted effort unless you quickly clarify the following part of the OP:

What counts as “reliable”?

Define it however you like, but as long as it remains undefined, a lot of people are going to argue about what counts and what doesn’t count.

I did a quick search before I posted this thread and didn’t see it addressed before, but if there have been threads on this before, I’ll try harder to find them and see what answers they came up with.

I have a 1960 World Book that shows a statute of “Shub-Ad”, a queen of Sumer who lived ca. 3500 BCE. I suppose she would count as an individual who is known. OTOH, when it comes to names that long ago, we have to keep in mind that the name which has come down to us may mean no more than Dark-Eyed Queen. Or the earliest king’s name we know of may just be Big Dude. The earliest non-royal person we know of is probably Imhotep, whose name is supposed to mean “Comes In Peace”. The “Scorpion King” was supposed to have been the father of the first Pharaoh of united Egypt, which makes me wonder if the very concept of personal names was then barely in existence.


You may be thinking of this guy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Scorpion

I’m liking Nar-mer (Catfish-chisel) based on contemporary historical record of him. Maybe same guy as Scorpion, maybe same guy as Menes, who can tell, but I like Catfish-Chisel.

Scorpion King bothers you but not Dances with Wolves or Pine Tree Skies Great Joy (Hideki Matsui)?

I hardly think personal names were undeveloped at that period of protohistory :dubious: but rather it was writing that hadn’t fully been developed yet. Wikipedia notes how predynastic hieroglyphs are hard to interpret.

If “king Scorpion” actually existed, he would be the first named individual known – evidently the last king of Upper Egypt (the Nile Valley) before Menes/Narmer united Upper and Lower Egypt (the latter being essentially the Nile Delta). However, as the Wikipedia article on him notes, the name is the Englishing of the scorpion heiroglyph that may or may not have been his given or throne name, and/or he may have been identical to, or a tributary subking to, Menes/Narmer (who himself/themselves may or may not have been the same person).

Narmer is attested, and appears to be the same person as the one whom the later Manetho kinglists called Menes – though that is debatable. And the First Dynasty Egyptians have a leg up on the Sumerians and their friends and relations, time-wise.

Freud wrote a book purporting to show that Akhnaten (AKA menhotep IV) was the first individual of whom we have knowledge enabling us to give clear personality to. This is most definitely arguable, but worthy of note.

I might also note that the movie starring Dwayne Johnson (“The Rock”) is about as hisgtorically accurate as Bela Lugosi’s depiction of Vlad Tepes. :slight_smile: