June 20, 2010

Radiocarbon based chronology for ancient Egypt (Ramsey et al. 2010)

Science Vol. 328. no. 5985, pp. 1554 - 1557
DOI: 10.1126/science.1189395

Radiocarbon-Based Chronology for Dynastic Egypt

Christopher Bronk Ramsey et al.

The historical chronologies for dynastic Egypt are based on reign lengths inferred from written and archaeological evidence. These floating chronologies are linked to the absolute calendar by a few ancient astronomical observations, which remain a source of debate. We used 211 radiocarbon measurements made on samples from short-lived plants, together with a Bayesian model incorporating historical information on reign lengths, to produce a chronology for dynastic Egypt. A small offset (19 radiocarbon years older) in radiocarbon levels in the Nile Valley is probably a growing-season effect. Our radiocarbon data indicate that the New Kingdom started between 1570 and 1544 B.C.E., and the reign of Djoser in the Old Kingdom started between 2691 and 2625 B.C.E.; both cases are earlier than some previous historical estimates.

Link

57 comments:

AdygheChabadi said...

So does this change the dates that were assigned archaeologically? What effect is this going to have on the overall chronology?

Maju said...

Adyghe: the manual I own on the matter (originally from 1970 but bought as re-edition with a 1990 date) claims that the IV dynasty (Djoser belongs to the III dynasty) ruled from c. 2700 to c. 2500 BCE. But earlier it also says that the whole Early Empire began (also the beginning of the III dynasty, whose second monarch is Djoser) c. 2700.

In any case all the article expresses many doubts on early Egyptian chronology, so I guess that these C14 dates provide just a more precise datation without substantially altering it, at least for the early period.

More interesting is maybe the date for the beginning of the New Kingdom, which arose after the expulsion of the Hyksos, providing a more solid date maybe for this critical but ill-known event.

onur said...

As I didn't read the full paper, I don't know the quantity of the effect, but I can guess that it has a quite wide geographical range as the Bronze and Iron Age chronology of the entire Mediterranean region (including Mesopotamia and Iran) is largely based on the Egyptian chronology.

Andrew Lancaster said...

In answer to the question posted, the way this is being reported it confirms orthodox dating. However I wonder about the claims that it will resolve all debate which I have also seen in the press. If I understand correctly carbon dating may not be the best at this time depth? But I do not know much about this.

Jean said...

Carbon dating can be used back to 50,000 years before the present, according to Wikipedia. I see no problem with its use in this context.

The results have bolstered the conventional chronology. David Rohl's alternative New Chronology was never bought by the Egyptological establishment. Now they have science to throw at him, as well as scholarship.

onur said...

Overwhelming majority of the alternative chronologies (including Rohl's) are motivated by the idea of reconciling the Egyptian chronology with the biblical chronology. So far, none of them have been proven, but they all have been disproven in one way or another. This study is a new and very important addition to the very long list of refutations to the alternative chronologies.

terryt said...

"Our radiocarbon data indicate that the New Kingdom started between 1570 and 1544 B.C.E., and the reign of Djoser in the Old Kingdom started between 2691 and 2625 B.C.E.; both cases are earlier than some previous historical estimates".

Those dates are exactly the same as dates given in a 1994 book I have by Peter Clayton. So not really any surprise, surely.

"the date for the beginning of the New Kingdom, which arose after the expulsion of the Hyksos, providing a more solid date maybe for this critical but ill-known event".

I'm prepared to lay money on that expulsion being the origin of the Exodus myth.

Maju said...

"I'm prepared to lay money on that expulsion being the origin of the Exodus myth".

Me too to be honest. However, while proto-Hebrews may have been part of the Hyksos, they do not need to be identified with them strictly. They may have been a distinct subgroup for instance.

AdygheChabadi said...

I wish I could be an atheist so I could call everything I can't see or have "proof" of a myth...or maybe not, anyway...interesting analyses...

Ponto said...

It is just a story in an old book. Don't take it so seriously.

I don't believe anything about Jews or their fictitious ancestry unless it is consistently proven. So far, nothing, just that they have Middle Eastern ancestry, so do all Europeans barring some Saami and Finns.

The Sea Peoples thing is more about myth than reality. Unless you know something that all the investigators not, then publish, subject yourselves to scrutiny.

It is good that some precision is coming about with the dating of ancient kingdoms in Africa.

onur said...

It is good that some precision is coming about with the dating of ancient kingdoms in Africa.

As I stated in my first post on this thread, not just in north Africa, but the whole Mediterranean region.

onur said...

It is just a story in an old book. Don't take it so seriously.

I agree.

AdygheChabadi said...

@Ponto...There are many things in history and pre-history of which there are precious little or no "proof" of...to apply your logic we would have to dismiss most, if not all of it...Hmmm, that would be very poor logic.

Speculation is the very best most scientists can offer...as very little proof is available to them about such long ago time periods...

Like how the moon was formed...what proof do we have that the currently most widely accepted viewpoint (as it has changed) is valid or actually even happened? All we can do is guess, the is the level best that can be done.

So be careful about dismissing things...Many times human beings have paid a terrible price for such arrogance...All the we should know or admit to knowing is that we don't know much at all...

Andrew Lancaster said...

Jean wrote:-

"Carbon dating can be used back to 50,000 years before the present, according to Wikipedia. I see no problem with its use in this context."

Yes, but I was more wondering whether it is suitable for younger estimates, and also not about whether it works, but about whether its margin for error is not going to be getting bigger.

"The results have bolstered the conventional chronology. David Rohl's alternative New Chronology was never bought by the Egyptological establishment. Now they have science to throw at him, as well as scholarship."

I think a big problem with discussion on this subject is that serious concerns have been ignored because they seem linked to people like Velikovsky and Rohl. It is not just Velikovsky and Rohl.

I have to say I liked Peter James' book on the subject, and also that I have felt uneasy reading the press releases and abstract of this article, which exude an atmosphere of "there is nothing to see here, don't know why we even needed to check" as if that was the aim. Seems oddly political, and oddly political things are known to happen in Egyptology.

Best Regards
Andrew

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

onur is right about the potentially broad impact beyond Egypt of the findings.

The key date for fixing Hittite chronology is the Battle of Kadesh which is well attested in both Hittite and Egytian records (it is conventionally dated at 1274 BCE).

Some Mesopotamian dates are linked into the whole via Hittite dates, rather than Egpytian ones.

The conventional New Kingdom date is 1550 BCE (vs. 1570 BCE and 1544 BCE via the new radiocarbon date). The conventional date for the start of the reign of Djoser was 2635 BCE to 2610 BCE (vs. 2691 BCE to 2625 BCE via the new radiocarbon date).

Given the margin of error in the current study, the conventional New Kingdom date and the radiocarbon dates are consistent. Given the margin of error of the old Djoser date and the new radiocarbon Djoser date, the date would be consistent if the true Djoser date were 2635 BCE to 2625 BCE.

This strongly suggests that the historical records used to set up the conventional dates weren't grossly wrong, and also suggests that the ancient astronomical observations used to calibrate the conventional dating system should be given considerable credence.

The study also allows for a reanalysis of the astronomical observations to determine if any particular observation is clearly inconsistent with radiocarbon dating and should be ignored. For example, it might clarify which of two lunar eclipses a dated ancient astromical observation involves.

It is also worth noting that for the most part, disagreements regarding absolute dates aren't historically important to our understanding of history, and methods like ancient climate studies can't be dated precisely enough in absolute terms for a few years plus or minus to make a difference.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

**"the date for the beginning of the New Kingdom, which arose after the expulsion of the Hyksos, providing a more solid date maybe for this critical but ill-known event".

I'm prepared to lay money on that expulsion being the origin of the Exodus myth.**

The date for the start of an independent Jewish state in the Levant (an event that necessarily post-dates the events, if any, giving rise to the Exodus myth) is pretty tightly constrained and historical scholars who aren't religiously motivated don't disagree that there was an Iron Age Jewish state in the Levant. An independent Jewish state has to be after 1274 BCE (Battle of Kadesh) when the area was controlled by Egypt, and it has to be fairly close in time to the settlement of the Philistines in the modern day Gaza Strip (less than a hundred years later).

It has to be after the split of Akkadian from proto-Semitic (because linguistic evidence makes clear that Hebrew split off later), probably after 2000 BCE when the Akkadian empire ends.

One can doubt the exactness of time ranges like "40 years" in Torah accounts, because that number of significiant symbolic content in the Torah with 40 often used to mean "a long time" but Hyskos arrival and expulsion are a major event in Egyptian history, whose dates are radiocarbon coroborrated for the most part, at about the right time, involving an external Semitic language speaking people. If the Torah provides additional coroboration for Egyptian records, it shouldn't be dismissed as simply "a story in an old book." Exodus doesn't have to be completely literally true to have a relationship to real historical events any more than the Illiad has to be completely literally true to have a relationship to a real historical Trojan War (an event also coroborated). Later editorial tweaking is probably more plausible than wholesale fabrication.

Maju said...

"Yes, but I was more wondering whether it is suitable for younger estimates"...

Yes. C14 method was initially demonstrated precisely by calculating with great accuracy the dates of historical objects of known age, such as Egyptian and Roman archaeological remains.

pconroy said...

I've always felt that the Hyksos could have been Semitic + Indo-European or Indo-Aryan - the latter supplying the horses + war chariots.

Also, I think the Jewish religion got it's start with Akhenaton, and his monotheism. Surely Moses led the monotheists out of Egypt, after the death of Akhenaton and the pogroms against monotheists. Or else the exodus is apocryphal, and Israel formed from the part of the Egyptian Kingdom in the Southern Levant, which did not revert back to polytheism.

What say ye all??

Va_Highlander said...

@Andrew Oh-Willeke:

"Exodus doesn't have to be completely literally true to have a relationship to real historical events... Later editorial tweaking is probably more plausible than wholesale fabrication."

Why, Andrew? Which parts are you claiming to be historically true? Which parts are you claiming are mere "editorial tweaking"? What criteria are you using to make such a miraculous determination?

Or is this just a confession of faith on your part?

The problem is not that some details of the Exodus myth might be untrue, as you seem to imply. The problem is that there is no external evidence whatsoever that any event described in Exodus has any basis in any real-world, historical event.

The expulsion of the Hyksos MAY be a source for a LITERARY tradition of some Levantine people's sojourn in, and exodus from, Egypt. Given the internal evidence of Torah, though, and the external historical and archaeological record as we have it, it is clear and most certain that Exodus, whatever else it might be, cannot be a chronical of historical fact, not by any sane stretch of the imagination.

Jean said...

Andrew Lancaster said...

Yes, but I was more wondering whether it is suitable for younger estimates

Dendrochronology is favoured for more recent periods, because it has the capacity to give a precise year. It is not ideal for Ancient Egypt, because of the lack of timber. But there was a project to create database for Lebanese cedar : http://www.oeaw.ac.at/sciem2000/Pr07Abst.html I don't know how far they have got, but that is potentially another useful method of cross-checking dating.

whether its margin for error is not going to be getting bigger.

No the margin of error has been narrowing in recent years. With the old methods the date range was much larger.

Maju said...

"What say ye all??"

No chariots have been found in archaeological sites of the Hyksos period, so maybe it is hyped. There's no particular reason to believe that there was an IE component among them, as Semitic tribes were already bellicose enough and could easily infiltrate Egypt via the desert. There's no reference of IEs living south/west of Highland West Asia ever (excepting the Philistines but they are from a later period).

So I'm inclined to see the Hyksos as Semitic.

As for what you say about "Monotheists", as if this would be an specific sect (Egyptians had many quasi-Monotheistic cults: "henotheism" or tolerant monotheism; Hyksos favored Seth but Egyptians in general preferred other first gods, as Seth represented Chaos), I don't think it can be justified.

I'm more in agreement with what Highlander says in the sense of the Exodus story being a reconstruction based on memories from the time of the expulsion of the Hyksos.

I imagine that some of the Hyksos military leaders may have regrouped themselves, in the semideserts of the southern Levant and eventually, with a sectarian leadership (mythological Moses and Aaron figures) became able to grab power in Palestine, which is attested in some localities (no pork) since the 13th century BCE.

There's still three centuries in between, so anything might have happened then.

An alternative is that the proto-Hebrews were a distinct subgroup of the Hyksos, which were allowed to stay in not-so-good conditions ("slavery") in Egypt after these were expelled. In this case, a more literal interpretation of the Exodus myth can be accepted. But this lacks any evidence.

I doubt they had anything to do with Atenism anyhow, as this was an elite Imperial cult. The dates of Akhenaten's reign are good for an almost literal reading of the Exodus... but how do you explain that the Solar elite cult became that of an invisible god such as Yaveh. How do you explain that the Hebrews speak Semitic and have Semitic origin mythologies if Atenism was an Egyptian (not Semitic) cult?

onur said...

Also, I think the Jewish religion got it's start with Akhenaton, and his monotheism. Surely Moses led the monotheists out of Egypt, after the death of Akhenaton and the pogroms against monotheists. Or else the exodus is apocryphal, and Israel formed from the part of the Egyptian Kingdom in the Southern Levant, which did not revert back to polytheism.

Then why is there no reference in the Bible to the Egyptian rule in much of Levant (including what is now Israel/Palestine) during the Late Bronze Age? In fact, Bronze Age history in the Bible seems completely unrelated to the real history of the Bronze Age and thus completely fabricated. We can say the same things for the first centuries of the Iron Age.

terryt said...

"However, while proto-Hebrews may have been part of the Hyksos, they do not need to be identified with them strictly. They may have been a distinct subgroup for instance".

But probably not a subgroup that existed at the time, but one that developed later. There is a fair time difference between the Hyksos and any reasonable dating for an Israelite political entity.

"It is just a story in an old book. Don't take it so seriously".

But many myths have an origin in actual events, usually altered and interpreted to suit any current ideology. As Andrew said, 'Exodus doesn't have to be completely literally true to have a relationship to real historical events ... Later editorial tweaking is probably more plausible than wholesale fabrication'.

"Surely Moses led the monotheists out of Egypt, after the death of Akhenaton"

Possibly. Anyway Moses is an Egyptian name, not used for Pharaohs until after the Hyksos (Thuthmoses, Ahmoses, Ramoses etc.).

"The problem is that there is no external evidence whatsoever that any event described in Exodus has any basis in any real-world, historical event".

The Hyksos expulsion actually fits quite well. They were almost certainly Levantine in origin, and returned there, for example. And the agreement was that they could leave Egypt unmolested, until the Egyptian leader changed his mind and pursued them.

"it is clear and most certain that Exodus, whatever else it might be, cannot be a chronical of historical fact, not by any sane stretch of the imagination".

Certainly not if we consider mainly all the miraculous stories that have become woven into it to justify a particular political perspective. But the main outline may be reasonably true.

Maju said...

"There is a fair time difference between the Hyksos and any reasonable dating for an Israelite political entity".

Not really meaningful, much less considering the legend of the journey through the desert. It's just 2-3 centuries, not more.

"Anyway Moses is an Egyptian name, not used for Pharaohs until after the Hyksos (Thuthmoses, Ahmoses, Ramoses etc.)"

Cool, never thought about it that way. :)

So who of these "Moses" is the Biblical one, he was seemingly the son of a pharaoh, right?

"In fact, Bronze Age history in the Bible seems completely unrelated to the real history of the Bronze Age and thus completely fabricated. We can say the same things for the first centuries of the Iron Age".

Yeah, at best it's an unilateral mythical interpretation of a much wider reality. Probably if you read the Book of the Mormon or Scientology "history", it similarly has nothing or nearly nothing to do with the wider reality outside their sect and their imaginary. You also see that, for example in early Chistian texts, they almost never relate with the wider historical reality, they are totally self-absorbed and partial.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

"Which parts are you claiming to be historically true? Which parts are you claiming are mere "editorial tweaking"?"

A group of people predominantly with Semitic origins or cultural ties was a minority group in Egypt that came to be disfavored, differed religiously from the then prevailing elite cult in Egypt, left Egypt under the leadership of someone with ties to the Egyptian leadership to arrive in the South Levant at a time when Egypt was beset by drought and other large scale disasters, were not on good terms with the ruling regime when they left, ultimately suppressed influences of a Baal cult and ritually elaborated their own monotheistic cult during a nomadic period during which they were organized on a tribal basis, and forcibly established themselves as a settled people in the South Levant after a period of military conflict with indigenous South Levantine people (the Canaanites) and with another group of people who were culturally different from the Gaza area known as the Philistines.

The Eastern Mediterranean around the time of Bronze Age collapse (also possible, but less likely would be a link to an earlier arid period around the time of the collapse of the Akkadian Empire ca. 2000 BCE).

Other parts of the Exodus story shows clear roots in Mesopotamian myth (as does much of the Genesis story). For example, the story of Moses floating in a basket down the Nile to be found by a princess is almost identical to a myth about the identity of the founding family of the Akkadian Empire about a millenium earlier.

The first known monotheistic religion was in Egypt, after a Semitic Hyskos occupation ended the Old Kingdom in Egypt. The religious word "Amen" has an Egyptian source in that cult. Amulet wearing and sacrificial offering schedules to a priesthood both have strong precedents in ancient Egyptian religion and are attested in Exodus as Jewish ritual. Some Jewish burial traditions (like the directional orientation of bodies and burial tradition) and religious traditions like track Egyptian traditions, not those of other Semitic people. Independent archeological finds have found that Philistine names recorded in the Bible were used by a people in that place at that time. The Baal cult is well documented in many places in the right time period. Moses is an Egyptian name. Large parts of the Semitic language Hyskos population were exiled from Egypt.

Literary-historical criticism suggests that the Torah was probably composed centuries after the establishment of the first independent Iron Age Jewish states in the Levant from multiple sources. In the compiliation, actual places and names of historical individuals may have been assigned despite their absence in the tradition, based upon guesswork. Inconsistencies in multiple stories may also likely have been suppressed or tweaked by equating actions by different individuals in different sources to the same person. Mystical numbers may have been inserted for inexact dates.

terryt said...

"Then why is there no reference in the Bible to the Egyptian rule in much of Levant (including what is now Israel/Palestine) during the Late Bronze Age?"

Because such an admission did not fit the mythical history of an ancient and independent Israel (or more specifically Judah). The same explanation holds for why 'Bronze Age history in the Bible seems completely unrelated to the real history of the Bronze Age and thus completely fabricated. We can say the same things for the first centuries of the Iron Age'. The last thing King Josiah wished to admit was that the region had actually been subject to foreign powers for most of its history. Especially seeing he was trying to stir up opposition to the Assyrians and Babylonians.

"Not really meaningful, much less considering the legend of the journey through the desert. It's just 2-3 centuries, not more".

But you earlier said:

"There's still three centuries in between, so anything might have happened then".

So I think we're basically in agreement here.

"In this case, a more literal interpretation of the Exodus myth can be accepted. But this lacks any evidence".

Again I agree.

"So who of these 'Moses' is the Biblical one, he was seemingly the son of a pharaoh, right?"

Possibly. But I presume the Hyksos had some sort of leader as they left. This leader may have adopted such a name from the Egyptians. But it's just as likely that some upstart leader decided to copy the contemporary Egyptian names of leaders. Or perhaps the person of Moses is completely mythical.

onur said...

A group of people predominantly with Semitic origins or cultural ties was a minority group in Egypt that came to be disfavored, differed religiously from the then prevailing elite cult in Egypt, left Egypt under the leadership of someone with ties to the Egyptian leadership to arrive in the South Levant at a time when Egypt was beset by drought and other large scale disasters, were not on good terms with the ruling regime when they left, ultimately suppressed influences of a Baal cult and ritually elaborated their own monotheistic cult during a nomadic period during which they were organized on a tribal basis, and forcibly established themselves as a settled people in the South Levant after a period of military conflict with indigenous South Levantine people (the Canaanites) and with another group of people who were culturally different from the Gaza area known as the Philistines.

There is no archaeological proof or any indication of the Exodus and the conquest of Canaan, not even of the United Monarchy.

Because such an admission did not fit the mythical history of an ancient and independent Israel (or more specifically Judah). The same explanation holds for why 'Bronze Age history in the Bible seems completely unrelated to the real history of the Bronze Age and thus completely fabricated. We can say the same things for the first centuries of the Iron Age'. The last thing King Josiah wished to admit was that the region had actually been subject to foreign powers for most of its history. Especially seeing he was trying to stir up opposition to the Assyrians and Babylonians.

A mush more plausible explanation is that King Josiah or any other person from his kingdom didn't know anything about the real history of the Bronze Age and the first centuries of the Iron Age. They surely didn't have access to the archives of Egyptians and Mesopotamians, so they had no way of learning about those periods.

onur said...

I suggest you to read Israel Finkelstein regarding the archaeology and history of the relevant periods and regions and their impact on the evaluation of the Bible. Btw, I accidentally wrote "mush more" instead of "much more" in my previous post.

Bolinaga said...

I offer this link for your delectation:

http://www.bibleandscience.com/archaeology/exodus.htm

Va_Highlander said...

Andrew O-Willeke,

What you offer is not proof, or even a reasonable suggestion, that Exodus is a chronicle of actual historic events, though.

I have already stipulated that the Hyksos may offer a basis for the LITERARY tradition of a Levantine people's descent to, sojourn in, and exodus from, Egypt, so why you would offer that as further evidence is somewhat mysterious. At any rate, a dim and scarcely recognizable memory of an actual historic event embedded in an otherwise mythical narrative establishes nothing to your purpose.

Everything else you provide is just a hodge-podge of wishful thinking and bizarre anachronism. The Torah is, contrary to what you suggest, remarkably and undeniably ignorant of both Egypt and the Levant during the Late Bronze Age, precisely the time at which the nascent Biblical Hebrews should have been most intimately familiar with both. This fact is damning and nothing you offer here comes close to offsetting this screaming contradiction. That there was some Egyptian influence on Hebrew culture is obvious and to be expected, given Egypt's dominance of the eastern Mediterranean. What is surprising, in fact, is just how little Egyptian influence there actually was. And even then, what little knowledge the Hebrews had of Egypt seems to have reached them indirectly through the Phoenicians.

The claim that Judaic monotheism owes anything to Akhenaton is laughable. The differences between the cults are extreme, as is the gulf of time separating the two. You cannot state, even vaguely, how this essentially and fundamentally Egyptian cult developed into Mosaic monotheism. No one can. We cannot even say for certain that the Hebrews were themselves strictly monotheistic until after the Babylonian exile.

And, to be honest, you don't need literary criticism to know that Torah was composed many centuries after the events it claims to describe. All it requires is common sense and a rudimentary knowledge of modern Egyptian and Levantine archaeology.

terryt said...

"left Egypt under the leadership of someone with ties to the Egyptian leadership to arrive in the South Levant at a time when Egypt was beset by drought and other large scale disasters"

As Onur sort of mentions, Finkelstein claims there's no evidence at all that the Israelites came from anywhere else but Canaan.

"A much more plausible explanation is that King Josiah or any other person from his kingdom didn't know anything about the real history of the Bronze Age and the first centuries of the Iron Age".

They would have known something about the history. Oral tradition is surprisingly good at maintaining elements of history. But that's not to say the stories are not edited appropriately as they are passed from generation to generation.

"And, to be honest, you don't need literary criticism to know that Torah was composed many centuries after the events it claims to describe".

Not necessarily composed, but certainly edited. And possibly first put into written form at that time.

"The Torah is, contrary to what you suggest, remarkably and undeniably ignorant of both Egypt and the Levant during the Late Bronze Age, precisely the time at which the nascent Biblical Hebrews should have been most intimately familiar with both".

Surprising, isn't it? The Egyptians actually had control of the region through much of the period, often through their Philistine mercenaries. Surely that fact suggests a willful neglect on the part of the Torah writers, as much as ignorance.

"What is surprising, in fact, is just how little Egyptian influence there actually was".

Offset by the large Mesopotamian influence. The Jewish religion seems to be basically a mix of Egyptian and Mesopotamian ideas, over a substrate of Canaanite ideas, with apparently Hittite ideas thrown in for good measure.

"And even then, what little knowledge the Hebrews had of Egypt seems to have reached them indirectly through the Phoenicians".

But according to Finkelstein the Israelite Kingdom (as opposed to the Judahite Kingdom) was intimately connected to the Phoenicians. In fact provided the inland connections in their trading enterprises. King Ahab is an historical figure, and part of that trading network.

Va_Highlander said...

Bolinaga,

Thanks for the link.

Even when all the available evidence is gathered together into one heap by true believers, that evidence is pathetically thin on the ground. To the dispassionate eye, it shows just how far from demonstrable reality the Exodus narrative really is.

Bolinaga said...

Actually I am surprised that any information on the Exodus survives in the written Egyptian records and not at the paucity of information.

They are several instances were it was state policy to remove the complete reign of a pharaoh from the written record as it affronted some aspect of the state culture. Examples of this are Akhenaton and many of the early female pharaohs.

I seriously doubt that the escape of several thousand state workers or slaves would have been cause for official celebration. They would have built no monuments to this event.

There is also the problem of the success of the Jews escaping providing encouragement to others within the empire who may have been of similar situation and of like mind. Remember the Nat Turner Slave revolt in the early 1800s in Southside Virginia. One of the great concerns of the civil government was that the other slaves not find out the particulars of the revolt, only of the punishment of those that had revolted. Since there was no punishment for the escaped Jews, there would have absolutely no desire by the Egyptian government to spread the news of the escape of the Jews.

By the way, How is the Commonwealth these days? I was born and raised in Norfolk and educated at that peculiar Virginia Institution in Lexington.

onur said...

They would have known something about the history. Oral tradition is surprisingly good at maintaining elements of history. But that's not to say the stories are not edited appropriately as they are passed from generation to generation.

We are talking about intervals of 3-6 centuries here, how many examples are there among modern human communities that have managed to preserve their history rather accurately for such a long time purely by oral tradition?

Not necessarily composed, but certainly edited. And possibly first put into written form at that time.

What is your explanation for Torah's origins and evolution (taking also in account oral dynamics)?

Surprising, isn't it? The Egyptians actually had control of the region through much of the period, often through their Philistine mercenaries. Surely that fact suggests a willful neglect on the part of the Torah writers, as much as ignorance.

During the Bronze Age collapse Egypt completely lost control of its Asian provinces and the Egypt of the Iron Age was a dim shadow of what it had been during the Late Bronze Age, completely confined in the Egypt proper (except some very brief and temporary episodes of territorial extension) and no longer an imperial power (unlike the powerful Neo-Assyrians of much of the Iron Age and the following similarly powerful Neo-Babylonians).

Actually I am surprised that any information on the Exodus survives in the written Egyptian records and not at the paucity of information.

What surviving written information from ancient Egyptians on the Exodus are you talking about?

terryt said...

"I seriously doubt that the escape of several thousand state workers or slaves would have been cause for official celebration".

Aren't you making the mistake of assuming the Exodus was in fact 'the escape of several thousand state workers or slaves'? The Hyksos were certainly not Egyptian slaves. So if the myth is based (however loosely) on the Hyksos expulsion we would expect to see it recorded in Egypt as a great victory. And this is exactly what we find with regard to the Hyksos.

"There is also the problem of the success of the Jews escaping"

I very much doubt that we actually could call any group 'Jews' before about 800 BC.

onur said...

We are talking about intervals of 3-6 centuries here, how many examples are there among modern human communities that have managed to preserve their history rather accurately for such a long time purely by oral tradition?

Also do not forget the negative effects of the Bronze Age collapse on the preservation of cultural memories (including history).

terryt said...

"how many examples are there among modern human communities that have managed to preserve their history rather accurately for such a long time purely by oral tradition?"

I'm certainly not claiming accurately preserving their history, especially when we consider that even written history varies depending on the point of view being promoted. I understand that oral history can be reasonably accurate up to 200 years, after that it becomes altered considerably although some of the main elements will remain long after that length of time.

"What is your explanation for Torah's origins and evolution (taking also in account oral dynamics)?"

Pretty much collected and collated during Josiah's reign (late 600s), possible adapted from Hezekiah's earlier efforts of 50 years earlier. I doubt very much that it was in written form before that time, although some stories may have been.

"During the Bronze Age collapse Egypt completely lost control of its Asian provinces"

I presume you're talking about the period after Ramesses III (mid 1100s). But there still seems to have been contact after that period. Didn't some Pharaoh join King Ahab is his war against the Assyrians (mid 800s)?

"Also do not forget the negative effects of the Bronze Age collapse on the preservation of cultural memories (including history)".

But the compilation of the Torah is an attempt to justify a centralisation of Jewish identity. So the history it contains was used, as it so often is even today, to justify a particular political perspective. So hte actual 'truth' is less important than the 'message'.

onur said...

Pretty much collected and collated during Josiah's reign (late 600s), possible adapted from Hezekiah's earlier efforts of 50 years earlier. I doubt very much that it was in written form before that time, although some stories may have been.

I see. So you follow Finkelstein's views, eh?

I presume you're talking about the period after Ramesses III (mid 1100s).

Yep.

But there still seems to have been contact after that period.

Of course, but ruling is very different from simple contact.

Didn't some Pharaoh join King Ahab is his war against the Assyrians (mid 800s)

I don't remember to have read such a thing, but anyway, Assyrians fought many peoples from the Middle East during Ahab's reign (Battle of Qarqar comes to mind), so it would have been just the right time for Egypt to take some action. But such opportunities were rare for the weak Iron Age Egypt.

onur said...

But the compilation of the Torah is an attempt to justify a centralisation of Jewish identity. So the history it contains was used, as it so often is even today, to justify a particular political perspective. So hte actual 'truth' is less important than the 'message'.

That of course cannot prove that Bible writers knew anything about the Egyptian rule in much of Levant during the Late Bronze Age.

terryt said...

"So you follow Finkelstein's views, eh?"

Yes. His connection of myth to archeology is pretty convincing to me. Do you disagree?

"Assyrians fought many peoples from the Middle East during Ahab's reign (Battle of Qarqar comes to mind), so it would have been just the right time for Egypt to take some action".

In fact I think it was at that battle. Although Wiki says, 'The land of KUR Mu-us-ra- (sometimes identified with Egypt but possibly somewhere near Que) sent 1,000 soldiers', so perhaps Egypt wasn't involved.

"That of course cannot prove that Bible writers knew anything about the Egyptian rule in much of Levant during the Late Bronze Age".

Certainly not accurate memories. In fact the writers claim that their ancestors battled with the Philistines, although the Philistines they fought were presumably Egyptian mercanaries.

onur said...

His connection of myth to archeology is pretty convincing to me. Do you disagree?

Which myths do you mean here?

In fact I think it was at that battle. Although Wiki says, 'The land of KUR Mu-us-ra- (sometimes identified with Egypt but possibly somewhere near Que) sent 1,000 soldiers', so perhaps Egypt wasn't involved.

I heard the KUR Mu-us-ra = Egypt theory too, but it hasn't been verified as far as I know.

Certainly not accurate memories. In fact the writers claim that their ancestors battled with the Philistines, although the Philistines they fought were presumably Egyptian mercanaries.

But one thing is certain: there isn't any trace of the Late Bronze Age Egyptian rule in parts of Levant in the Bible. But it is very normal given the half millenium interval. Besides, it isn't the kind of information that would be preserved for centuries by any Canaanite people, foreign rules are generally unpopular among natives.

onur said...

foreign rules are generally unpopular among natives

Even if natives may be content with a foreign rule of their land at the populace level, native rulers usually do not like them and try to remove their memories or at least do not preserve them soon after their collapse.

onur said...

Even if natives may be content with a foreign rule of their land at the populace level, native rulers usually do not like them and try to remove their memories or at least do not preserve them soon after their collapse.

Also do not forget that we are dealing with a completely or almost completely illiterate society and culture here, this isn't the Israel/Palestine of the times that Bible was being composed (probably beginning around the time of Josiah), there wasn't even a monarchy during much (probably most) of the Iron Age in the region that would be the Kingdom of Judah.

Dienekes said...

onur, the rules say "avoid double posting", they do not say "triple post".

onur said...

Dieneke, I thought that rule only applied to the multiple posting of the same comment, not to the consecutive posting of different (however related) comments.

terryt said...

"Which myths do you mean here?"

Joseph, the Exodus, Moses, the conquest, etc.

"native rulers usually do not like them and try to remove their memories"

And I think tha's what's happened here.

"Also do not forget that we are dealing with a completely or almost completely illiterate society and culture here"

But pre-literate societies can be remarkably good at retaining history, especially if it has been made into poetry. All the comments you've made regarding the ancient Israelites hold just as true for the Homeric epics.

onur said...

Joseph, the Exodus, Moses, the conquest, etc.

What do these myths have to do with archaeology? None of them are archaelogically verified, but rather refuted (Exodus, conquest). As far as I know and remember, Finkelstein also thinks that way.

And I think tha's what's happened here.

But I also added the soonness factor, which you seem to neglect.

especially if it has been made into poetry

But the Bible (be it the OT part or the NT part) is overwhelmingly prose:

We now know several "epics" from other Ancient Near Eastern cultures, some of begin with stories similar to those in Genesis 1-11. Others tell the tales of great heroes. All of them are in poetry. Ancient Greece too had epic poems, but Israel's stories are told in prose. With the exception of fragments - like Lamech's taunting song (Gen 4:23-4) - and the occasional longer poem interspersed in a prose frame - like Ex 15:1-18 (cf. the fragment or refrain in v.21) - biblical epic though it stretches from Creation to Exile (Gen - 2 Kings) or to the Persian period (1 & 2 Chron, whether or not we include Ezra & Nehemiah) is told in prose.

http://www.bible.gen.nz/0/poetry.htm

All the comments you've made regarding the ancient Israelites hold just as true for the Homeric epics.

Homeric epics are all poetry, so potentially they are expected to conform much better to your observations than the Bible. But even then, there isn't any identifiable/verifiable historicity in Homeric epics.

Maju said...

"But even then, there isn't any identifiable/verifiable historicity in Homeric epics",

Troy was first discovered using the clues in Homer. That's quite a memory because it not only knew of Troy but its geography in great detail.

But oral history can and usually does introduce many distortions, and the case of the Iliad is probably quite unique. An only slightly less important story in Greek mythology, the legend of Herakles (Hercules) makes him serving not Mycenae but nearby Argos, which is obviously an adaptation to a post-Mycenaean reality.

Greek and Hebrew mythology have roughly similar timelines: their legends talk of epics of the Bronze Age but were not compilated properly until the early Classical period.

However the religious and political emphasis in Hebrew mythology make it always more suspect of intentional deformation, because while there was no Mycenae nor Troy anymore when Homer's stories were written down, there was instead a whole ideology and political system gravitating around Jerusalem and it's strange god when the early Bible was compiled.

So I'd say that Homer's epic and in general Greek "historical" mythology is somewhat more likely to be a honest account and not a case of "griot on pay-row". But the OT must also have some elements of truth, the problem, is to discern what is true, what purely false and what a half-truth (the worse type of lies because they can be very confusing).

terryt said...

"As far as I know and remember, Finkelstein also thinks that way"

And so do I. I guess Finkelstein's connection of archeology to myth involves his description of places of worship in the region, and his interpretation of city ruins.

"But the Bible (be it the OT part or the NT part) is overwhelmingly prose"

Is that equally true of the Hebrew? I'd guess much of it is fairly easily remembered. After all many people even today can quote largwe tracts by memory.

terryt said...

"What do these myths have to do with archaeology?"

I was thinking more specifically of how Finkelstein connects various city ruins with the Israelite Kingdom (Omri and Ahab), and suggests that this Kingdom is the origin of many of the Judahite myths.

onur said...

Is that equally true of the Hebrew?

Yes. I was specifically talking about the Hebrew version of the OT (Old Testament), ans so did the article I quoted. In short, the OT is overwhelmingly prose even in its original version.

I was thinking more specifically of how Finkelstein connects various city ruins with the Israelite Kingdom (Omri and Ahab), and suggests that this Kingdom is the origin of many of the Judahite myths.

Knowledge of the Israelite Kingdom in the Judahite Kingdom can easily be explained with the historically and archaeologically confirmed mass migrations of Israelites to the Kingdom of Judah right after their kingdom's collapse. In fact, during this period (last 2-3 decades of the 8th century) the Judahite Kingdom saw a huge exponential population growth almost solely due to the Israelite refugees. Before this mass migrations, the Judahite Kingdom was a sparsely populated and virtually non-existent kingdom (even by Canaanite standards), after the Israelite mass migrations it became a densely populated regional power by Canaanite standards. So they owed their power and most of the population to the Israelite Kingdom, their historical knowledge, myths and religious beliefs probably also mostly came from the Israelite refugees. The OT is the product of this genetic and cultural fusion between the two peoples after the collapse of the Israelite Kingdom.

onur said...

Maju, I would be the first person to wish that the Homeric stories in the Iliad to be based on real events and even real people. The Trojan War was accepted as history through out the Antiquity, Middle Ages and even for some time after. So it has a cultural significance beyond religious boundaries. I think it is so significant that I cannot describe its cultural significance in words, so I will skip this part.

But there are too many unknowns in the Bronze Age history of Greece and Anatolia, and these are the main causes of problems in evaulating the historicity in parts of the Iliad and in the Trojan War in general. Did such a war happen? We cannot answer this simple question with the level of knowledge of the Bronze Age Greece and Anatolia we have, and probably we will never be able to answer this and similar questions regarding the Trojan War and Iliad (due to limited written records from the relevant times and places). The issue is complex, but I don't want to delve into details due to their irrelevancy to the topic of this thread. So these will be my last remarks on the Trojan War and Iliad on this thread.

Maju said...

Onur:

Yes, the Trojan War happened with a likelihood greater than 99.99% at the end of the 1st millennium BCE.

It was also the time other destructions happened but we have no narrations of any kind about them.

Do we have many blanks in our knowledge? Sure. Does it matter to make the Homer's narration essentially correct? Nope: we know that Troy, Athens and Mycenae existed back then and we know that Greeks had been expanding by sea (Crete, Cyprus, Italy and even arriving to Iberia in search of tin), so other major non-Greek trading cities such as Troy, once so strategical and influential in the Balcans and surroundings, or Ugarit were rivals to slain.

However somehow the Greeks themselves fell in that hecatombe of the late Bronze Age. Winning too much may destroy you, it seems.

onur said...

Maju, I see that you want to prolong the discussion. But it is too complex to discuss this issue irrelevant to the topic of this thread. So all I am going to say (and this will be my last on this issue in this thread) is that your statement "the Trojan War happened with a likelihood greater than 99.99% at the end of the 1st millennium BCE" is completely false.

terryt said...

"So they owed their power and most of the population to the Israelite Kingdom, their historical knowledge, myths and religious beliefs probably also mostly came from the Israelite refugees. The OT is the product of this genetic and cultural fusion between the two peoples after the collapse of the Israelite Kingdom".

That's exactly how I see it.

siaxares said...

"I'm prepared to lay money on that expulsion being the origin of the Exodus myth."

This option doesn't really exist since the "Book of Sothis" and Manetho date the Exodus to the end of the reign of Amenhotep III. That is, both the Hyksos expulsion and the Exodus are covered, even though both events have been confused (i.e. Josephus). Syncellus thus in 810 AD knew precisely who the historical pharaoh of the Exodus was. Since then this seems to have been lost for some reason.

The Book of Sothis dates the coming of Joseph specifically to year 4 of Apophis which means we can calculate the 2nd year of the 7 years of famine to year 24 of Apophis, the year Jacob became a permanent resident in Egypt, which in turn, is exactly 215 years from the Exodus. 215 years from the 24th of Apophis is the end of the rule of Amenhotep III.

Per Kathleen Kenyon, Jericho fell to the Israelites between 1350-1325 BCE which also would date the Exodus during the time of Amenhotep III. Thus, speculation about the pharaoh of the Exodus is a little less optional than thought, at least from a historical (Manetho) and archaeological (Jericho) point of view. The new RC14 data solidifies the conventional dating as indicated.

siaxares said...

Pconroy said: "Also, I think the Jewish religion got it's start with Akhenaton, and his monotheism. Surely Moses led the monotheists out of Egypt, after the death of Akhenaton and the pogroms against monotheists."

From a strict historical point of view based on Manetho and the "Book of Sothis" the Exodus occurs at the end of the rule of Amenhotep III, which means the Israelites left at the beginning of the reign of Akhenaten. Akhenaten's monotheism is thus interpreted as being a direct result of his experiencing the 10-plagues. That is, claiming the gods of Egypt were "worthless" and then becoming a monotheist like the Israelites already were.

The Israelites would have been in the Sinai desert during the reign of Akhenaten. Akhenaten's monotheism is thus considered an unorthodox form of Yahwehism (Isaiah 19:19-25).