Who is the oldest probably real person we know the name of?

“Probably real” rules out people from legends (like Beowulf) and people from religious books that likely are composits or inventions or at least there is no other mention of them anywhere. Like, oh, most the named people in the New Testament likely existed, while Adam and Methuselah didn’t.

This came up at a coffee break today. Our ‘off the top of our head’ suggestion was Hammurabi. (Circa 1750 B.C. – looked it up later.) Any earlier candidates?
A follow up question was, who’s the oldest known by name probably real person who was just an ordinary person. As in, not royalty, not a general. Just Joe the date trader, something like that. I know there is graffiti about various whores on Roman era walls. Anything before that?

How about Enmebaragesi?

Gilgamesh, at 2700 BC?

Egyptian King Narmer (32nd century BC)?


Fu Xi, the first Chinese Monarch?

ETA: Not as old as Narmer. :frowning:

this list of pharoahs has the earliest (non legendary ruler) as Scorpion I ruler of Upper Egypt at 3200BC:


Possibly the same person as Narmer.

Would that include “ordinary” folks who got swept up in extraordinary circumstances? Most of the Apostles, for instance, were blue-collar folks, and would definitely have been regarded as ordinary before that whole Jesus thing (moot because the Romans mentioned in the graffiti of Pompei would predate them, but they were a convenient example).

I’d be interested (well, you know, fleetingly; it’s not a life passion of mine or anything) to know who’s the oldest person we know the name of who would not have experienced any degree of celebrity in their own time (thus excluding the Apostles, regardless of background); more along the lines of the mentioned random graffiti on the wall and so on.

Similar thread last summer.

What I was hoping was that hidden in some corner of a burial tomb is a tiny “I, Timo, carved this chair.”

It would just be so cool, you know?

There are zillions of such identifications recorded in Old-Babylonian administrative documents, such as this list of military and support personnel from the early second millennium, probably during the reign of Hammurabi. It records, for example, how one Apil-Amurrim, son of Apil-Eshtar, was transferred from the charioteers commanded by Sin-magir to the soldiers commanded by Usi-nurum, and so on and so on and so on and so on.

Assyriological archives are practically awash in the carefully recorded names of actual historical individuals of no known contemporary celebrity or historical importance whatsoever. Lotsa luck figuring out which one was earliest, though.

I believe some stuff like that has been found either on quarried stone blocks, or on the cut faces of unquarried stone in abandoned quarries - I can’t remember any of the details though - can anyone help?

It seems to me that the question depends on the invention of writing, and that the answer probably lies in the oldest writing known, whatever that is. Surely those people had names and recorded them.

On the other hand though, it may be that we’re just biased towards what we recognize as writing. Maybe those guys that filled their mouths with dissolved pigments, put their hand on the cave wall, and auto-airbrushed the silouette were signing their name, and their contemporaries would have recognized it as saying “Thag was here”. That we can’t read it is because of our own shortcomings and the unfortunate fact that we never got to know ‘good old Thag’ the way his fellow mammoth hunters did.:wink:

Am I the only person who read the OP and thought they were asking for the person who had attained the greatest age?

Although much later than Narmer, like on the order of 1800 years later, the pharaoh Akhenaten has been called the first individual in history. In deviating from the traditional Egyptian religion and trying to found a new religion, Akhenaten is the oldest figure we know to depart from the ritualized, stereotyped roles expected from ancient kings and pharaohs and do something truly unexpected, so he’s the first person whose personality made any difference in his life story. Other ancient kings and generals are described as fierce, strong, wise, and so on, but we recognize that they would be so described even if they were fools and dodderers; the descriptions were traditional and formulaic.

Nope, I read it that way too.

I thought I read once (The Ancient Engineers, by L. Sprague de Camp, IIRCC?) that Imhotep was the architect of the Djoser Step Pyramid, the first real pyramid of Egypt, and was the first person other than a King whose name was recorded in history, approx. 2600BC

I guess the answer to both this question and the OPs would be the late Thag Simmons.

“I, Narvi, made these signs.”