What is the true chronology of Ancient Egypt?

Apr 2019
208
UK
I think there will have been a cumulative effect and we are off in terms of the chronology in multiple places because we don't have exact dates for when some kings reigned (within the Egyptian calendar) - and for example the use of cattle counts to verify OK reign lengths is tricky because at some times the cattle counts were not conducted every year. Some of the reigns by traditional counts are suspiciously long. Then you have the known periods with complex records (the Intermediate Periods), and also reigns missing or overlapping during the Amarna period for example - with disputed coregencies and Horemheb apparently on some monuments counting his reign from the end of Amenhotep III. If you add all of those things up it's not surprising that we may be out by up to 300 years over the course of thousands of years. Yes there are some possible fixed points that seem likely (Amenhotep I) but these are still undermined by what happened after that reign.
 

dreamregent

Ad Honorem
Feb 2013
4,366
Coastal Florida
Maybe you should actually read the book. How can you criticise something you know nothing about?

Thanks, I just returned from a lovely vacation. To be quite frank, you should probably be careful about denigrating what I "know" lest you embarrass yourself. It really makes no significant difference whether, in his specific case, he's claiming the date is 664 or 705 BC. Also, it's not necessary to read the book when Peter James has written extensively on the subject otherwise since the book was published, including a contemporary synopsis of the text itself which can be freely read by anyone on his own website. In mainstream archaeology, scholars typically examine the evidence, draw conclusions from them and then revise those conclusions as new evidence is discovered or realized. It's a continuous process of revision because they usually try to practice archaeology as a science. However, it appears to me James takes a different approach. He started from the position that the biblical narrative can somehow be read as an accurate account of history and he believes he simply needs to find support for whichever passages from the bible he presumes to be inerrant. As a result, evidence is not examined in its own right. Rather, he finds some way to rationalize the evidence as being in harmony with the biblical text and we end up with unhinged fantasies of Solomon being Merenptah's son-in-law and Ramses III as Shishak. You're free to argue whether or not this was his overriding purpose in writing the book but this sort of thing is definitely what he's focused on in much of his subsequent writing. And he's still trying to prove the historicity of the bible nearly 30 years later. Whether it's James or someone else, we get this utopian rationalization of history which supposedly solves all of our problems, archaeologically-speaking. And that's just complete nonsense. These "utopian rationalizations" actually create more problems because they're grossly contradicted by the actual archaeology, even when you steer clear of evidence like carbon dating.

It seems to me that James tends to write with a narrow focus about a subset of evidence which serves the narrative he wants us to believe at a given time. However, when I've tried to synthesize different works with archaeology as well as the biblical text, I find a twisted pretzel which breaks under the strain. Consider his views on Solomon. It seems to me James accepts at face value many biblical passages about Solomon, but his crackpot theories simply don't make sense when closely examined. For instance, he believes Solomon accepted tribute from the Philistines just as the bible says in 1 Kings 4:21...and he specifically cites one of the Megiddo ivories as evidence (e.g. see The kings of Jerusalem at the Late Bronze to Iron Age Transition -- Forerunners or Doubles of David and Solomon?, pg. 251). The artifact in question is inscribed for an apparent Egyptian official, or a local official operating under the aegis of Egyptian bureaucracy. As James puts it, he's a "prince of Ashkelon, called Kerker, who also held the title 'Singer of Ptah', perhaps in the temple at Memphis" (pg. 247). But there's a huge problem here and it appears to be insurmountable based on the actual archaeology. Ashkelon is one of the primary cities of the Philistine Pentapolis. Despite the claims of Egyptian records, the archaeology of this area clearly seems to preclude the plausibility of anything along this line. We have extensive evidence of the presence of Egyptian bureaucracy, including titles similar to this one attributed to bureaucrats...but all of this evidence predates the emergence of Philistine material culture over this region. Where stratigraphy has revealed the sudden emergence of dominant Philistine material culture inside the Pentapolis, evidence of Egyptian administration suddenly disappears. Heck, even Egyptian pottery practically disappears completely and doesn't start returning for some time. Hence, the idea this "prince of Ashkelon" was Philistine appears utterly absurd. And related to this, James wants to associate Ramses III with Shishak, apparently because substantial evidence exists to show Ramses III militarily occupied much of Canaan. However, the problem here is that Ramses III did not occupy Philistia. Rather, he merely fortified sites surrounding Philistia. During the earlier part of Merenptah's reign, we have ample evidence the Egyptians fully controlled this region. By the time Ramses III moved into Canaan, the Egyptians appear to have been excluded from Philistia and a clear break of material culture had taken place. In fact, from the material archaeology alone, it appears to me that Ramses III consolidated military control in Canaan in order to contain the Philistine threat along the coast because he was unable to conclusively defeat them in battle. Really, it looks an awful lot like the Egyptians could do little more than achieve a stalemate at that point. And I don't care whether you believe a foreign migration of some sort occurred as that's irrelevant here. The simple fact is that the evidence certainly seems to indicate that Egypt was unable to exert political control over Philistia at this time. So, his claim concerning Solomon is simply untenable as it's clearly not supported by the archaeology itself and relies solely on the application of his convoluted interpretation of the biblical text. Without the bible story, he would have absolutely nothing here.

When the crackpot theorists on this topic get their act together and bring forward some evidence that actually makes sense all the way around, I'll give it more consideration. So far, these works generally appear to be nothing more than a pretext to lend historical credence to the biblical text. The "dark age" they're trying to erase is really much like the "dark age" attributed to the Middle Ages. It's not that the archaeology is completely missing as James and others have claimed is the required interpretation of mainstream archaeology. Rather, we have a great deal of evidence showing the biblical narrative regarding this period was grossly exaggerated and they don't want to face that apparent reality. And rather than study the matter seriously and make meaningful contributions to our understanding of this time period, they're wasting time, institutional academic resources and intellectual energy trying to make a cottage industry out of polluting the gullible minds of folks who love a good conspiracy theory with crap that simply doesn't make logical sense. If they want to prove Solomon existed at a certain time, Great! They can do something like go find an artifact that actually has his name on it like every other archaeologist is expected to do in order to be taken seriously when proposing radical new theories. And then they need to do the work that's necessary to convince their peers that their findings are correct. That would actually revolutionize the field in a sound & coherent fashion. But they can't insist to everyone that the entire field of archaeology has been doing it wrong when they themselves have nothing to offer but cockamamie nonsense pulled out of their behinds.
 
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Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
4,999
Australia
So you still haven't read the book. Pretty much everything you just wrote is wrong. Read the book. It will surprise you.
 
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Jan 2015
951
England
So you still haven't read the book. Pretty much everything you just wrote is wrong. Read the book. It will surprise you.
I'd be interested in a more detailed rebuttal. Although I don't support the chronologies of the early dynasties of Egypt, I more or less agree with the commonly-accepted chronology of Egypt from the 18th century onwards. So for this section of the debate, I'm on dreamregent's side (though not in spirit).
 

dreamregent

Ad Honorem
Feb 2013
4,366
Coastal Florida
So you still haven't read the book. Pretty much everything you just wrote is wrong. Read the book. It will surprise you.

Well, I just went back and looked at the actual dates he cites in the synopsis he posted on his website. Here, he explicitly states the reign of Taharqa is "firmly dated" and "securely placed in time". He also explicitly gives a date range for Taharqa's reign of "690-664 BC" (pg. 230). So, everything is fine in 690 and, apparently, the 250 years only need to be subtracted in 691. Considering he appears to have written this synopsis right after the book was released, I'm skeptical he wrote something different in the actual book. I would ask you to quote the actual passage but I think you probably realize that if his claims in the book differ from those in his synopsis, it simply impeaches his credibility even further. Or do you doubt the authorship of the other paper I linked? His name is certainly on it.
 
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Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
4,999
Australia
The vast majority of the book explains why the current chronology can't be right and their argument is more than convincing - it is patently obvious when all the evidence is laid out in one place. The section that proposes a solution isn't as strong, but that isn't the main point of their work. The point is to demonstrate that considerable revision is needed and it most certainly is. You are focusing on the least important part of their book, which is a classic deflection technique used by their detractors, most of whom haven't bothered to read the book either. Just because their proposal for revising the chronology may not be correct, does not mean that no revision is required.
 
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AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,365
Italy, Lago Maggiore
I keep on thinking that the general approach is not that appreciable.

It's true that Egyptology and C14 datation are not good friends [Egyptologists admit this without problems] and that in some cases there isn't a perfect agreement, but it's also true that generally this confrontation generates good results.

[David Aston
Ägypten und Levante / Egypt and the Levant
Vol. 22/23 (2012/2013), pp. 289-315]
[RADIOCARBON, WINE JARS AND NEW KINGDOM CHRONOLOGY on JSTOR]

Dating object from the XVIII dynasty the researchers have determined two ranges of results [65% and 95%]. Let's consider Thutmosis III.

65% = 1494-1483 BCE; 95% 1498-1474 BCE.
In this case we could even predate his reign [we cannot be sure they have found objects from all the years of his long reign, clearly they didn't], since usually Egyptologists indicate around 1480 for his birth and around 1457 for his coronation [but with a note: + - 30 years ...].

Amenhotep III? 65% = 1404-1393 BCE; 95% = 1408-1386 BCE.
Here we see that the finds come from years when also according to Egyptologists the Sovereign was already alive, but 1408 or 1404 introduce the possibility to predate his birth by some years.

Ramses II? 65% = 1292-1281 BCE; 95% = 1297-1273 BCE.
This is perfect. These finds fall within the traditional temporal window of the reign of Ramses II.

We can criticize as we want C14 method, but to sustain that someone made a mistake of 300 years ... it sounds curious.
 
Jan 2015
951
England
The problem is that the conventional chronology works a lot better with the Biblical information. For example, the Bible consistently uses the term ‘Pharaoh’, on its own, before the time of Solomon, but from the end of his reign onwards, it uses the term ‘Pharaoh’ in conjunction with the king’s personal name.

So for example, immediately after Solomon, there is the description of ‘Pharaoh Shishak’ invading the country. And all the Pharaohs after that point are also referred to by their name after the title ‘Pharaoh’.

That fits perfectly with the conventional chronology. The practice of using ‘Pharaoh’ in conjunction with the personal name started in (or immediately before) the time of Sheshonq, the Pharaoh who is commonly accepted as the Shishak of the Bible.

If the current dates were shifted by a couple of centuries, to make Ramses III the Shishak of the Bible, then this just doesn’t work.

Another detail is the fact that the prices for a slave throughout the Bible always perfectly match the time period in which the story is set. For example, in the account of Joseph, he is sold as a slave for 20 pieces of silver. That was precisely the average price of a slave in the 18th century, when the story is set. And this correspondence continues through to the 16th/15th century in the time of the Exodus, when the Mosaic Law stipulates the price as being 30 pieces of silver (and throughout the Bible the price continues to gradually increase, exactly as it really did over the centuries).

If you moved the chronology of Egypt (and the rest of the ancient world) forward by a couple of centuries, then this correspondence regarding the Bible’s price of slaves wouldn’t work anymore.