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Who is the earliest person recorded in history? Whose fame has survived the greatest amount of time to come down to us today?

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This depends on whether you allow mythical personalities. There are many people described in myths which cannot be determined whether they actually existed and even if existed, when they did. –  Anixx Jun 19 '12 at 6:59
@Anixx - Recorded means written. Remember, oral tradition is an excellent cultural exercise, but it's not history. Likewise myth is literature, and not history. The earliest name we know of in writing is that of the Goddess Inana, circa 3200bce. The earliest person is proving more elusive, but may be Nar-Mer, a Pharaoh. I'm doing more research to verify. –  RI Swamp Yankee Jun 19 '12 at 12:11
Would you consider cave paintings to be recorded history? The problem is we don't know how to interpret them. Were they instruction manuals for generations of people to refer to, religious writings used by shamans, boys drawing dirty pictures or a combination of these things? –  jfrankcarr Jun 19 '12 at 17:05
Most oral traditions were later recorded, and most ancient historical chronicles start with mythical depictions. For example, Russian Primary Chronicle starts with claiming (after the Bible) that Russians originated from Japheth. –  Anixx Jun 19 '12 at 20:58
@RISwampY: There are written accounts of persons that go back further than 3200BC. The problem is that they become increasingly mystical, since they were written later. So IMO Anixx does have a point with his question. I think this all boils down to the question: Recorded by contemporary scribes, or recorded in retrospect? If it's the former, it might be possible to identify some ruler (likely a Pharaoh or a Mesopotamian king) who first had his name recorded in clay or stone for some deed. If the latter, things become muddier the further back we go, until they're lost in the mists of time. –  sbi Jun 21 '12 at 10:40

1 Answer 1

up vote 14 down vote accepted

The Narmer Palette, dating to the 31st century BCE, displays the name "Nar-Mer", the Pharoah credited with unifying Upper and Lower Egypt. There are names from before this time in later written records, which may or may not be legendary figures, and then there is Iry-Hor, which is either a predynastic pharaoh of upper-egypt preceding Narmer - or a symbol for the Royal Treasury, we're not sure which. So the first person we know for certain to be recorded by a contemporary scribe was Narmer.

Ka may be older, as it is a single hieroglyph enclosed in a primitve serekh, and a direct predecessor of Narmer, or, again, something to do with the pharaoh, without being the pharaoh.

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Please incorporate your comment on the earliest name being the goddess Inana into your answer, since this question has been directed over here. –  called2voyage Mar 12 '14 at 20:11

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