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
    Commented Jun 19, 2012 at 6:59
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    @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. Commented Jun 19, 2012 at 12:11
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    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
    Commented Jun 19, 2012 at 17:05
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    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
    Commented Jun 19, 2012 at 20:58
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    @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
    Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 10:40

4 Answers 4


The Narmer Palette, dating to the 31st century BCE, displays the name "Nar-Mer", the Pharaoh 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. Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 20:11

One interesting possibility is a person who described the making of beer on a tablet in Sumer, dated 3400 to 3000 BC. The suggested transcription of the tablet is


It is not cleared up whether Kushin is the person's official title or given name. But Yuval Noah Harari says that if it is his name, then this is the first human in history whose name was recorded.

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    Yes, similar issues with the older Egyptian names, too - Ka and Iry-Hor aren't definitely names rater than titles. It'd be awesome if the first known name in history was the guy who brewed the beer. Commented May 18, 2015 at 15:45
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    @RISwampYankee funny, the book author from whom I got it says it's remarkable that the first name in history is not one of a ruler, but that of an accountant :) but I think his interpretation of the original text is slightly different.
    – rumtscho
    Commented May 18, 2015 at 19:41
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    Yeah! I vote for the brewmaster. Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 22:44
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    @rumtscho Not altogether too remarkable though, when you consider that accountants more or less invented writing. It's just like "Tim Berners-Lee" being among the first names on a website. Commented Aug 10, 2017 at 18:47
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    @rumtscho At the time, rulers probably didn't care about having their name transcribed in the new-fangled "writing" that their accountants made up. Commented Aug 10, 2017 at 18:50

Perhaps the oldest known human being is the cave painter with a distinctive twist in his or her little finger whose hand imprint—thought to be a kind of signature—is found in several different locations in the Grotte Chauvet in France. The date given these imprints varies between 30 and 36 thousand years ago. Clearly, this predates history as the term is normally used, but it is a record, and it is much, much older than anything like it in Mesopotamia, Egypt, or China.

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    Unfortunately, a signature is not a name - see the point above about Ka and Iry-Hor. It does not translate into any known language, and there is no context to it apart from being unique to a particular artist; we don't know if the artist was using it to identify themselves, or if they used it for another purpose. It's quite literally pre-historic, and we can't make any real assumptions on it. We can't even pronounce it. Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 20:09
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    But can't it be interpreted as "here I am, this is me" ? I have (several times) used a fictional Ugh representing pre-historical man. Since the creator of the hand-prints lived pre-historically, he lived by definition before writing had been invented, perhaps even before most speech. So, by showing us his print, he was saying "here I am, this is me, I am the owner of this hand and it is me." He has identified himself as a thinking being, capable of more than "where is my next meal and will that creature kill me?"
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Oct 31, 2015 at 3:49
  • We don't know his name, but that is only because he didn't know how to write it.
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Oct 31, 2015 at 3:54
  • We are not talking about a person as we might imagine them to be. We are talking about a name we can pronounce, and know it was a name we pronounced. The first was a bundled sheaf of wheat we learned from later developments in language and literature as "Inana" - a mythical goddess. The first person we can assign a name we can pronounce and without ambiguity was Narmer - so his is the first historical name. Sorry. Commented Nov 1, 2015 at 3:44

Imhotep, is the first "artist" whose name is recorded. He built the first pyramid during the Third Dynasty for King Djoser. Before that however, there were kings, gods and goddesses whose names were recorded. As it has been mentioned, King Narmer’s palette is the earliest surviving labeled work of historical art. On the back, in the middle on the top, a hieroglyph gives his name (catfish = nar; chisel = mer) within a frame representing the royal palace.

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    Can you include some research or reference to back up your claim?
    – Rathony
    Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 3:36

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