Trying to unravel the chronology of a five thousand-year-old culture must be a hard gig. With only scanty remains and inscriptions, puzzling out who ruled when and where gets to be a guessing game.
But, egyptologists are lucky. Among the inscriptions and carvings and papyrus finds are a number of histories of Egypt which outline the pharaohs and their accomplishments. Even better, lists of kings -- a laundry list of who's who that can support the framework of Egyptian histor y-- have been found in several places.
Some are more complete than others, some are written by contemporaries and others by later historians. For example, Greek historian Herodotus wrote a complete history of Egypt, and Egyptian priest Manetho wrote his history at the behest of the pharaoh Ptolemy I. Lists of titles carved into the wall of the great Temple of Seti in Abydos provide a listing of kings up until his time, and fragments of papyrus listing all the kings into the later dynasties, called the Turin canon, provide yet another reference.
They don't always agree, of course. Some pharaohs are left off entirely -- for example, Akhenaton is not mentioned in the abydos list, nor is Queen Hatshepsut, even though we know that these leaders were powerful and marked huge changes in history. The dates and lengths of reigns aren't always the same -- popular kings are often arbitrarily given longer reigns to enhance their importance. Names are often different, too, with Greek translations adding another twist to the problem.
But, backed up by archeological evidence, the king lists provide some basis for writing the history of Egypt. The dynasties presented by Manetho are still used today, albeit updated with new information, for example. Here's a quick listing of who is where in what list:
Manetho's King list
Abydos King list
There are a few "standard chronologies" as well, and I've used them to built the outline of the pharaohs. Yes, I'm a bit overly wound -- and tend to have serious scope creep in all my projects -- so I've put together a site of all the pharaohs with their names, dates, history, relationships, and monuments. I've linked it to most of the photos we took, so it might be an interesting ride.
I've stuck with the generally accepted chronology, and have used Clayton's dates as a basis. Dating estimates vary wildly between egyptologists. For an explanation of how the dating works, check here.
You can start at any of these places to read through the history: