Sunday, May 02, 2010

Ancient Egyptian Revisionism

Bust of Nefertiti

The following is from my old computer files. I have decided not to update it. I hope it will be on interest, at least to some, even though it was originally written in 1997 and revised in 2002.

The following is a reprint from KMT, the only, (and therefore the best), popular journal of Egyptology on two books of "Alternative Egyptology". The first, Ages of Darkness, is given in my opinion a fair review. The second, A Test of Time is given a, in my opinion, a far to kind review. My own comments on these reviews are attached as footnotes.
In Recent Years Two Books (and this fall a U.K. three-part television documentary) have provided new chronologies of the ancient world. One of these adjustments in time telescopes the Third Intermediate Period, dropping the dates of Rameses II and his predecessors in the New Kingdom by over 200 years; the other eliminates 350 years in a like manner. The two books have been produced by different halves of what, until an acrimonious split at the end of the 1980s, was a single group, originally brought together by interest in the revisionist theories espoused thirty years earlier by Jungian psychologist Immanuel Velikovsky 1 who held that the Twenty-first Dynasty was contemporary with the Ptolemies, that Nectanebo I was really Rameses III, and other absurdities! Quite rightly realizing that all of this was utter nonsense, British historians Peter James and David Rohl continued to believe, however, that something was fundamentally wrong with conventional (what they called orthodox) chronology of antiquity; 2 in the mid-1980s they were joined by a number of graduate students at London s Institute of Archaeology. Apart from articles produced in periodicals by their Society for Interdisciplinary Studies (SIS) and the Institute for the Study of Interdisciplinary Sciences (ISIS), the first full-scale publication of their New Chronology theories was a collection of weighty essays titled Centuries of Darkness in 1991 (mentioned briefly on these pages in KMT 5:3, fall l994). Rohl had by this time had a falling out with his fellow New Chronologists, and was excluded from the pages of this volume. Now, in 1995, Rohl a Ph.D. candidate in Egyptology at University College London, has put forward his own glossy volume, A Test of Time, and a corresponding television series on the U.K.. s Channel Four (Pharaohs and Kings: A Biblical Quest). Following is KMT Contributing Editor Aidan Dodson s thoughts regarding some basic problems raised by Centuries of Darkness, and a report by the editor of this journal on A Test of Time. Inasmuch as the latter book is not yet published in the North America, some readers may wonder why it is being considered here at such length. Insider information has it that the Pharaohs and Kings three-part TV documentary based on the book will be shown on an American cable channel sometime shortly after the first of the year; and it is most likely that U.S. and Canadian distribution of A Test of Time will correspond with that airing.

Centuries of Darkness by Peter James, in collaboration with I.J. Thorpe, Nikos Kokkinos, Robert Morkot & John Frankish Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, 1993, 434 pp. 99 b/w illustrations, plus numerjous maps, plans & charts. $16.95 softcover, ISBN 0-8135-1951-9.

In April 1991 there appeared in Great Britain (and then, in 1993, in the U.S.) a volume of essays the collective theme of which was the proposal that a wedge of 250 years be removed from ancient history, thereby essentially eliminating the so-called Dark Ages of the Aegean and Levant. In those regions of the ancient world, the Twelfth to Ninth centuries B.C. show what approaches a cultural vacuum, with various points that present considerable difficulties of interpretation.

This volume, Centuries of Darkness by Peter James (with contributions by I.J. Thorpe, Nikos Kokkinos, Robert Morkot and John Frankish), puts forth a solution to these problems by condensing the Egyptian Third Intermediate Period time-line, with a resultant major overlapping of the Twentieth, Twenty-first, Twenty-second and Twenty-fifth dynasties. At the end of the 1980s a similar scheme had been proposed by David M. Rohl, but with an even greater loss of 350 years (Journal of the Ancient Chronology Forum 3 [1989/ 90], 45-72). If true, such rearrangements would make a nonsense of any of the accepted reconstructions of Third Intermediate Period (and New Kingdom) history. Such a compression of accepted Egyptian chronology immediately raised in a number of scholarly minds the specter of Immanuel Velikovsky, whose notorious Worlds in Collision and Ages in Chaos volumes of the 1950s reached a wide popular audience. This not-unexpected reaction came in the very first review to appear of the James (et. al.) work, that by Professor Kenneth Kitchen 3 of Liverpool University (widely regarded as the leading scholar of the Third Intermediate Period), which dismissed the entire thesis of Centuries, and suggested that it be consigned to the same oblivion as Velikovsky (London Times Literary Supplement, 17 May, 1991, 21). However, the ideas of James and his collaborators cannot be dismissed cavalierly since, unlike the polymath Velikovsky (whose familiarity with archaeology and its methods was, at best, casual, and at its worst nonexistent), the authors of Centuries are all properly university trained (one of them being a contemporary of the present writer at Liverpool). That is not to say they are right, but any rebutting of their ideas has to be done from first principles and not by recourse to rhetoric. Taking such an approach essentially working through the basic material for Third Intermediate Period chronology and testing it results in two conclusions. One is that (thankfully), the kind of compression demanded by the revisionists just cannot be squared with the archaeological evidence; the other, however, is that there are a number of problems which could lead to the the lowering of New Kingdom dates by between a quarter and a half of a century. Taking the first of these conclusions, the most telling evidence stems from the clearly observable sequencing of Twenty-first/Twenty-second Dynasty coffins. A single thread of development of the so-called yellow coffin can be traced from the late-Eighteenth Dynasty down to the time of Osorkon I (early-Twenty-second Dynasty); in the reign of the latter, there is the change to the classic white mummy-cartonnage, with a wholly different set of coffin designs. These types are linked with the various high-priests and kings reigns and cannot be squared with the total overlapping of the two dynasties required by the Centuries view. This is also borne out by the wholly different royal coffins of the era in question, which switched from the traditional rishi (feathered), nemes-headdressed form that had survived into the late-Twenty-first Dynasty (e.g., Psusennes II), to the hawk-headed, tripartite-wigged and deity-decorated examples of the Twenty-second Dynasty (e.g. Shoshenq II). Still looking at funerary material, the Centuries view makes much of the fact that the structure of the Tomb of Osorkon II at Tanis (Twenty-second Dynasty) clearly predates the adjoining one there of Psusennes I (Twenty-first Dynasty). However, the former tomb shows extensive signs of rebuilding and is, quite obviously, an older monument (probably that of Smendes, founder of the Twenty-first Dynasty), usurped by the later ruler, as recent sectional work appears to demonstrate (see P. Brissand, Cahiers de Tanis I [1987], 16-39).

Other points can be put forward in favor of the traditional basic order of events, both from an Egyptian viewpoint, and those of the various other culture-areas affected by the Centuries thesis (examples being given in the Cambridge Archaeological Journal 1:2 [1991], 227-253), but what also becomes clear is that there are points at which the classic structure put forth by Kenneth Kitchen is almost certainly wrong. In particular, we have the probability that Psusennes II and Takelot II should be removed from the list of independent kings, leaving their traditionally attributed fifteen and twenty-five years of rule 4 to be, potentially at least, removed from the cumulative absolute dating of the period s reigns. We are, however, provided with a key dating-criterion by the incidence of Shoshenq I's Palestinian campaign, as recorded in the Bible. James and Rohl both attempt to explain the name Shishak as a corruption of some form of the name of Rameses; but it is hard to doubt that the biblical Shishak = Shoshenq I, given that Shosheq (without the n) was a common spelling of the name, and that the derivations of any other name involve otherwise unattested foreign knowledge of the fairly obscure epithets built into Ramesside nomina. 5 This accordingly fixes Shoshenq I s accession at 948/945 B.C. On this basis the Takelot II years should be soaked up in the manner suggested by David Aston in his paper on the period. Earlier on, however, things become trickier.

The chronological pegs for the New Kingdom include lunar dates for Thutmose III and Rameses II. These have been used to calculate possible accession dates for these kings, the preferred option for Rameses II having, over the years, ranged from 1304 B.C., to 1290, and now to 1279, largely as a result in changes in perceptions of Assyrian history. Even this lower date, coupled with the highest one for Shoshenq I s accession (948 B.C.) leads to certain problems in stretching out intervening reign-lengths to their theoretical maxima, including a rather dubious complete decade for Rameses X. Accordingly, one would like to see a further lowering of Rameses II s accession by a another dozen years or so if this can be squared with the astronomical and Near Eastern data; regrettably, I lack the expertise in these area to make an independent judgment at present. Thus, to summarize: There are fundamental problems from the Egyptian side that make the scale of date reductions proposed in Centuries all but impossible, in my view. However, I do not believe that the accepted chronology is secure, and that perhaps a quarter or even half a century can, or should, be excised from Egyptian chronology, perhaps even more if the date of Shoshenq I's Palestinian campaign could be significantly lowered (or placed later in his reign, as had been suggested in some quarters). All of this depends on a careful examination of Egyptian and Mesopotamian chronology from first principles; only by doing so can the challenge of Centuries of Darkness be met.

Aidan Dodson
The Second Article.
A Test of Time: The Bible - from Myth to History by David M. Rohl Century Ltd., London, 1995 426 pp., 51 color and 424 b/w photos and graphic illustrations sterling17.99 hardcover (available at this time only in the U.K.) ISBN 0-7126-5913-7

Where to start in discussing this piece of work ? David M. Rohl's A Test of Time is quite unlike any other history book that I've ever read from forward to final appendix. Without question since the author says so it was produced with a popular audience in mind and employs an informal, almost conversational, writing style (with the author s voice always in the first person, addressing his reader directly, with such teacher-speak statements as Now let me remind you... or Let us look in a little more detail at..., etc.). And he regularly summarizes, point by point, the information and arguments he has been presenting, which in some instances is useful and others merely cloying.

However, at the same time, the wide-ranging, multi-discipline material which Rohl deals with is often complex (even rather dense) by its very nature, and a sizable portion of it despite the author s best effort to be crystal clear surely will be lost on many non-specialist readers. This leads to the bottom-line conclusion that Test was written with the ulterior motive of finally persuading the phalanx of orthodox Egyptologists in Britain who already have rejected and others elsewhere who likely will (once they are aware of it) the author s underlying thesis. And this, simply enough, is that, by adjusting both upward and downward rather dramatically the pivotal chronology of ancient Egypt, it is possible (easy even) to place in real time those biblical personalities and events which most often are regarded (except by the fundamentalist devout) as more likely mythic than historical: namely Joseph, the Sojourn, the Bondage, Moses and the Exodus.

Rohl protests in Time that he did not purposely set out to prove the historicity of Genesis and Exodus, 6 that this result was merely the unavoidable consequence of his original investigations into what he and others perceived some years ago as serious problems with the accepted orthodox chronology of ancient Egypt. That Rohl's studies shifted to a biblical focus, however, very likely were a root cause of his having parted company with fellow New Chronologists in 1989.

Before detailing the provocative textual contents of Time, a few words need to be said about the physical makeup of the book itself, as it is also one of the most unusually designed trade books I've ever seen. In fact, it has a distinct affinity with college-textbook layout, which may not be all that unintentional (considering the author s propensity to teach, if not preach).

Generally speaking, the crisp 424 (!) black-and-white photos and graphics are quite excellent, even though a good number of the former are reproduced the size of largish postage stamps and relegated to to the book's wide margins. Chief appeal of Time's layout is the very generous use of computer-generated dramatic graphics (charts, graphs, maps, plans, etc.) and numerous sidebars or mini-essays of extra information to the main narrative, which are set off in framed boxes. The sometimes-smallish fifty-one full-color photos (and one plan) which are ganged together in three groups evenly interspersed through the volume work less well, and seem almost addenda, as if the publisher felt A Test of Time would not sell to its intended popular audience unless it had color in it. It might be noted that a majority of the photographs, both color and b/w are the author s own; and an excellent photographer he is, it can be said. David Rohl makes a very seductive case in his lengthy Test of Time revision of ancient Egyptian chronology and the inevitable consequences thereof (i.e., revelation of the historical reality of early-Old Testament personalities and events).

If in the end he does not succeed in persuading every reader of the correctness of his readings of the facts offered, it certainly is not for lack of exhaustive argument. Rohl divides his book (following a brief preface by free-lance American Egyptologist Robert S. Bianchi, and the author's lengthy, thirty-six-page introduction), into six parts composed of fifteen chapters, five appendices and a reference section (notes, bibliography, index, etc.). Parts One and Two contain the chapters likely to be of most interest to students of ancient Egypt and anyone with a particular curiosity in how the New Chronology is rationalized. Parts Three and Four are concerned mostly with biblical history and the identification of the historical Joseph, Moses, Saul, David, Solomon and others. Part Five, Additional Research wherein the author focuses in on such esoteric subjects as dating the reign of Shoshenq I (Appendix A), Third Intermediate Period genealogies (B), radiocarbon dating (C), Sothic dating (D) and Assyrian chronology (E) is guaranteed tough plowing for most non-specialist readers, some of whom will surely elect to skip this material altogether.

Following Rohl s long introduction his condensed accounts of the histories of pharaonic Egypt and Old Testament Israel A Test of Time, Part One, Conundrums of the Pharaohs, deals with The Search for Apis (Chapter One), Secret of the Pharaohs (Two) and The Royal Tombs of San [Tanis] (Three). These chapters cover, respectively, (1) the discovery of the Serapeum at Sakkara by Mariette (1851) and subsequent confusions over the datings of many of the bull-burials therein; (2) the unofficial (1871) and official (1881) discoveries of the Royal-Mummies Cache at Deir el Bahari, which housed the salvaged reburials of numerous New Kingdom royalty and associated individuals, plus the family-interments of the Twenty-first Dynasty priest-kings who ruled at Thebes, as well as the puzzling presence among them of a Twenty-second Dynasty high-priest of Amen; and (3) Montet s discovery of the royal necropolis at Tanis (1939), with its gold-rich burials of kings of both the Twenty-first and Twenty-second dynasties, at least one of the latter arguably pre-dating the others. I shall return to Chapter Two, further on.

A Test of Time's Part Two, Unravelling the Gordian Knot is subtitled Making Sense of Egyptian Chronology. Here the author first discusses the Victorian need to find biblical proofs in the newly readable ancient Egyptian records, and the eagerness of scholars of those early years of the discipline of Egyptology to identify Rameses II with the Oppression and his successor, Merenptah, with the Exodus.

Then Rohl presents in some considerable detail The Four Great Pillars on which the conventional chronology of ancient Egypt is supported: (1) the 664 B.C. date of the sacking of Thebes by the Assyrians; (2) the identification of Shoshenq I of the Twenty-second Dynasty with Shishak, king of Egypt, who, according to the biblical account, despoiled the Temple of Solomon in 925 B.C.; 7 (3) the Sothic date revealed in the Papyrus Ebers of 1517 B.C. as Year 9 of Amenhotep I; and (4) another astronomical dating (in Papyrus Leiden) placing Year 52 of Rameses II in exactly 1228 B.C., thus giving him an accession date of 1279. Rohl proceeds to demonstrate that just one of these pillars is in his view sound, the 664 B.C. Assyrian sacking of Thebes. 8

As he will argue at length in Time's Chapter Seven, The Historical Shishak, the Shishak/ Shoshenq synchronism is historically untenable. 9 He claims many Egyptologists dispute the interpretation of the Papyrus Ebers Sothic dating of Amenhotep I, and so concludes that the Year 52 lunar date of Rameses II Pillar Four is in error, being entirely dependent on the same debated Sothic dating. Therefore Rohl concludes that the only safe date in ancient Egyptian chronology is 664 B.C. 10 Chapter Six, Towards a New Chronology, is the heart of Rohl s case for redating the Third Intermediate Period, and deals chiefly (but not exclusively) with a Geneaology of Royal Architects discovered in a schist quarry of the Wadi Hammamat. This rock-cut inscription apparently lists in succession the names of twenty-two generations of a family of architects, as recorded by one Khnemibre in Year 26 of Darius I (496 B.C.) and extending back to his ancestor, Rahotep, who is indicated in the inscription as having flourished early in the reign of Rameses II. By allowing twenty years per generation (admittedly an arbitrary given by the author), this would place Rahotep in 936 B.C., rather than in ca. 1270 B.C., as would be the case for the dating of early-Rameses II according to orthodox chronology. Based on this genealogical record, the early-Nineteenth Dynasty would have to be re-dated to the late-Tenth Century B.C.(!), rather than to the first quarter of the Thirteenth, as is conventional. Dismissing that this Royal Architects genealogy might reflect a possible hapography (accidental omission) of up to ten generations between Rameses II and Shoshenq I, and another eight generations between the latter king and Darius I (if so, two other corresponding independent genealogies discussed in Time's Appendix A make the same omissions), Rohl proposes that the dramatically shortened time between Rameses II and Darius I be explained by the fact that the Third Intermediate Period s Twenty-first and Twenty-second dynasties, at least, were concurrent. 11

At this point in his presentation, the author refers those of his readers who are still thirsty for more sips from the poisoned chalice which is the the TIP [Third Intermediate Period] to turn to his treatment of same in Time s appendices. He explains that he is restrained from being more detailed in the main text of his book by the university regulations regarding [his] PhD thesis presenting this same material, which is due for examination one year following the writing of A Test of Time. 12 Starting with Time's Part Three ( Legendary Kings and Chronicles: Egypt and the United Monarchy Period in Israel ), Rohl advances into territory that requires his readers to have more than just Sunday-school familiarity with Old Testament events and personalities. But first he tackles the sticky wicket of The Historical Shishak (Chapter Seven), whom Rohl identifies with none other than Rameses II 13 rather than the Shoshenq I of conventional wisdom. Having made the third ruler of the Nineteenth Dynasty contemporary with the 925 B.C. biblical date of the despoiling of the Temple of Solomon by an Egyptian king Shishak, the author equates the latter event with Rameses II's plundering of a town named Shalem in his Year 8, 14 as specifically recorded on the pylon gate of the Ramesseum and by inference elsewhere (Abu Simbel). For Rohl Shalem is easily enough Jerusalem. And Rameses is Shishak, if one is to believe the author's argument that Sese (SS, SSw, SSy or Sysw) a supposed nickname or hypocoristicon for that Egyptian king, as preserved for Rameses III in a cartouche at Medinet Habu is equivalent to the Hebrew Shisha[k]. Additionally, Rohl uses several of Rameses II s war reliefs (such as the Ashkelon Wall at Karnak) as support to his case that the Nineteenth Dynasty ruler engaged in battle with a fully established Israelite nation 15 (possessing war chariots), which would have been impossible had Rameses II been the Pharaoh of the Oppression (or the Exodus, for that matter).

Next, in Chapter Eight, The Age of Solomon, Rohl posits that the culturally rich time of King Solomon is not likely to have occurred during the universally impoverished first years of the Iron Age (its traditional dating), but rather should be contemporary with the Late Bronze Age IIA-B, or the end years of the Eighteenth Dynasty; and he goes so far as to identify the Pharaoh's daughter who married Solomon as the (otherwise unattested) offspring of Horemheb. Rohl even identifies the site near Jerusalem (grounds of the cole Biblique) once occupied by the palace which Solomon built for his transplanted Egyptian bride (II Chronicles 8:11) this based on a few Egyptian minor artifacts and a papyrus capital excavated there in the 1880s. 16

Rohl s chapters Nine, The Lion Man, 17 and Ten, The Beloved, although biblically dense, hold special interest for Amarnophiles, inasmuch as he argues therein that he is able to identify legendary kings Saul and David as historical personalities playing roles in the events recorded in the famous cuniform correspondence known as the Amarna Letters, which dates from the late reign of Amenhotep III into that of Tutankhamen. Scholars have long pondered an identification for the troublesome Habiru of the Letters, though have concluded these nomad-raiders must have been a separate (if possibly related) group from the Hebrews (Ibrim), who still would have resided in Egypt at the time of the royal correspondence in question (according to the
traditional dating which places their Exodus some 140 years later). With his New Chronology making late-Eighteenth Dynasty Egypt contemporary with the rise of the United Monarchy in Israel, Rohl finds a Habiru/ Hebrew synchronism not only possible but certain. 18 Looking at the detailed biblical accounts of the military activities of the first Israelite king, Saul, Rohl sees an amazing similarity in the reported marauding of a renegade hill-country ruler named Labayu ( Great Lion ), who is repeatedly complained about in the Amarna Letters by Egypt s Levantine vassals (and is himself the author of letters to the Egyptian king). And the Habiru rebel Dadua, also subject of frequent reference in Letters, is equated by Rohl with Saul s rebellious son-in-law, David, 19 dynastic founder of Jerusalem making the latter king a contemporary with Egyptian pharaohs Akhenaten to Horemheb and Hittite Emperor Suppliluliumas I. This is but the briefest summary of the author s lengthy, greatly detailed discussion of the advent of the United Monarchy in Israel, made possible, he believes, by the deterioration of Egypt s hegemony in Syro-Palestine during the Amarna and post-Amarna years, coupled with Mitanni s defeat by the Hittites during the same period.

Part Four of A Test of Time is titled Discovering the Israelites: The Sojourn in Egypt and the Conquest of the Promised Land. Before launching forward, Rohl cautions readers that they are about to enter a very different kind of world from what they have experienced in parts One through Three. There, he explains, his New Chronology arguments and their biblical synchronisms have been grounded on established historical methodology and other traditional material evidence provided by archaeology, inscribed monuments, surviving archives, etc. But as he necessarily moves his search for the origins of the ancient Israelites back in time beyond the New Kingdom to the well-lighted Twelfth Dynasty, a realm of darkness in Egypt is encountered (the Second Intermediate Period), a span of several centuries during which there is a scarcity of tangible source-material, causing Rohl to rely more heavily on the traditions laid down in the biblical narratives of Genesis and Exodus, and in Manetho's (and others) imprecise history of Egypt. 20

Having made this caveat, the author spends Chapter Eleven (Navigating by the Stars) in a complex discussion of such incomprehensible scientific techniques as astronomical retrocalculation, whereby esoteric data on something called the Ugarit Eclipse Tablet (KTU-1.78) determines for Rohl and others that Amenhotep III died just months before a solar eclipse was observed on May 9, 1012 B.C. Knowing this certainty(?), the author is able to count Eighteenth Dynasty reign-lengths backwards to arrive at a New Kingdom start-date (Ahmose I) of 1194 B.C., rather than the generally accepted circa 1570. Then, using data in the Royal Canon of Turin, Rohl further calculates that the first ruler of the Hyksos Fifteenth Dynasty took power 108 years prior to the Asiatics expulsion from Egypt by Ahmose (1183 B.C.), in circa 1290 B.C. 21

As if all of this were not obtruse enough, the author then resorts to astronomical retrocalculation of Venus observations in the Ammisaduga Texts of Babylon, to ultimately arrive at the determination that the Thirteenth Dynasty's Neferhotep I ruled in the second half of the Sixteenth Century B.C. (ca. 1540-1530), rather than at the beginning of the Seventeenth (according to conventional chronology). Whew! 22

Which brings us to A Test of Time’s key Chapter Twelve, Moses and Khenephrs, wherein David Rohl reveals the identity of the king of the Bondage as Khaneferre Sobekhotep IV (successor once removed to Neferhotep I), whom James H. Breasted pronounced as the greatest ruler of the Second Intermediate Period. It was during his some twenty-year reign that Moses grew up to be a prince of Egypt, Rohl argues. After tracing the Egyptian career of Moses (including his leading an invasion of Kush), the author turns to a discussion of Austrian archaeologist Manfred Bietak's on-going excavations at Tell ed Daba (Avaris) in the eastern Delta (biblical Goshen) and his discovery there of a sizeable Egyptianized- Asiatic community, which occupied the habitation-and-cemetery site from the end of the Twelfth Dynasty throughout most of the Thirteenth. Coincidentally Tell ed Daba is also the site of later-New Kingdom Pi-Ramesse (biblical Rameses), capital of the Nineteenth Dynasty, although no evidence of any Asiatic settlement was found by the Austrian excavator in that particular stratum of occupation. Thus, Rohl concludes that the only period in Egyptian history with incontrovertible archaeological evidence for a large Asiatic population in the eastern the Second Intermediate Period the era into which the New Chronology places the historical events which lie at the heart of the traditional stories of the Israelite Sojourn, Bondage and Exodus. 23

And so, at last, comes Rohl's explanation of the historical basis of the Exodus in his Chapter Thirteen (Exodus, simply enough). Even the biblically semi-literate know that this event was associated with a series of plagues brought down on Egypt by the Hebrew god, Yahweh, the tenth and last of these being a divine extermination of the first-born of the Egyptians, starting with the Crown Prince and extending even to livestock(!). Well, Rohl turns again to Tell ed Daba and Bietak's uncovering there of so-called plague pits with large numbers of human skeletal remains in what amount to mass graves. It was at the time of these gruesome group interments, Rohl reports, that the Egyptianized-Asiatic settlement at Tell ed Daba/Avaris was abandoned lock, stock and barrel (not to be occupied again until some time later when non-Egyptianized Asiatic squatters read Hyksos moved into the empty and crumbling town and made it their own). What better way to explain away these phenomena but a Tenth Plague and the Exodus? 24

And so, for Rohl, circumstantial archaeology fleshes out the myth! He is even able to sort out using Manetho and the Turin Canon and those generational calculations he likes so much exactly which king of Egypt is to be identified as Pharaoh of the Exodus, and that is a little-known Dudimose, thirty-sixth and last ruler of the Thirteenth Dynasty (it seems there were twelve occupants of the throne while Moses was out of the country). So Moses leads the Israelites out of Egypt at the end of the murky Thirteenth Dynasty, says Rohl. 25

But, say you, what about those 600 chariots Pharaoh’s army used to pursue the refugees across the fateful Sea of Reeds? Weren't horses and chariotry introduced to the Egyptians by the Hyksos a dynasty or two later? Not so, according to the author of A Test of Time, and he cites glove evidence (you'll have to read the book to find out what that is) and slim archaeological equine finds (horse teeth) supposedly dating to the Thirteenth Dynasty strata at Tell ed Daba, to argue that the Egyptians were horsemen somewhat earlier than previously supposed. And those Hyksos? Rohl offers that they were Amalekite tribesmen who entered Egypt soon after the Hebrews left (the two groups met in battle, he says, in the Sinai, when their different paths crossed), settling into the town abandoned by those who followed Moses, which
these invaders eventually rebuilt as their capital, Avaris. 26

It was an effort to get through Rohl s Chapter Fifteen, And the Walls Came Tumblin Down, since it deals with all that Joshua/Jericho and other post-Moses, pre-David biblical Conquest business, in which I don t have much interest, frankly. But Joseph the Vizier, Chapter Fifteen, did perk me up, since Rohl gets back to Egypt and makes a well-reasoned case for the biblical Joseph having actually flourished during the reigns of the Twelfth Dynasty’s Amenemhat III and his immediate successors. Rohl uses complicated Nile inundation records from those three reigns to identify the fat and lean years of the Joseph story, and he points persuasively to the Amenemhat III Labyrinth and the Bahr Yussef canal as evidences of the Hebrew vizier's enterprises on behalf of his king. He explains Joseph's Egyptian name (Zaphenat-Pa aneah) as a Hebrew metathesis of Djeduenef ( he who is called ) and the Egyptian name Ipiankhu
(well attested in the Middle Kingdom, but not later, apparently). 27

But I began to wax skeptical when Rohl goes on to claim that the Austrians have found at Tell ed Daba: (1) foundation evidence of the house built by Joseph for his father, Jacob; (2) ruins of his own retirement palace Joseph built over the former site; and (3) the tomb of Joseph on these same palace grounds, near which was uncovered (4) the badly battered head of a non-royal colossal cult-statue, which Rohl believes depicts Joseph himself(!), and of which he has done a full-color (coat of many colors) reconstruction, using lots of imagination. 28

As I stated above, A Test of Time is a piece of work and provocative, and its author's evidences and arguments are indeed persuasive. But was I persuaded, especially regarding the New Chronology? Much of what David Rohl presents in the elaborate tapestry of Time must be received in good faith, simply because my own knowledge in so many areas he deals with is slim to non-existent. However, my confidence in his overall scholarship was shaken somewhat right in Chapter Two, Secrets of the Pharaohs, where I caught Rohl in several simple errors of fact. The Royal-Mummies Cache, DB320, has been the subject of my own extensive research of late, and so I believe I am more than merely familiar with the subject. Rohl is mistaken, for example, when he writes that American tourist Charles Edwin Wilbour was sent as an antiquities-spy to Luxor by Émile (which Rohl spells Émil) Brugsch; and he gives as the latter's dates (actually 1842-1930) those of his brother, Heinrich Brugsch (1827-1894). It was Gaston Maspero, in fact, Wilbour's former teacher, who asked him to make inquiries in Luxor regarding illicit antiquities that seemed to be coming from an unknown royal tomb. When, in Maspero's absence, Brugsch traveled to Luxor to take possession of the cache of royal mummies, the existence of which had been revealed by Mohamed Abd er Rassul, he was accompanied by two Bulak Museum colleagues, one of whom David Rohl twice identifies as Madame Thadeos Matafian, although it is quite clear that this individual certainly was not female, since Maspero twice refers to him and Brugsch s other Bulak colleague as MM. Thadeos Matafian...[et] Ahmed Effendi Kamal (Les Momies Royales, p. 516), and MM. is, of course, the abbreviation of Messieurs.

More seriously, Rohl writes that The unwrapping of the royal mummies did not get underway until May 1886 but, once begun, was completed within two months. The examination was supervised by Maspero and British anatomist Sir Grafton Elliot Smith the great mummy specialist of his day. Five errors in two sentences: (1) Thutmose III was unwrapped by Brugsch in July 1881, but the poor condition of the mummy discouraged Maspero from exposing others of the DB320 royal-remains until 1886; (2) not all of the latter were, in fact, unwrapped at that time, several individuals being left for later; (3) the medical person in attendence at these 1886 unwrappings was Dr. Daniel M. Fouquet; (4) anatomist G. Elliot Smith examined the already-unwrapped DB320 mummies (and completed unwrapping others) between 1905 and 1909 (he would prepare The Royal Mummies Catalogue General volume for publication in 1912); and (5) Smith was Australian and not British. None of these are egregious mistakes in David Rohl's research, to be sure. But they are there and not likely an editor s unchecked insertions. 29 Which leads this reader to wonder how many more and more serious errors remain to be pointed out by specialists in those several areas of scholarship so authoritatively presented by Rohl in his A Test of Time.

Dennis Forbes
BOOK REPORT KMT 6:4, WINTER 1995-1996 © KMT Communications BACK TO KMT WINTER 95-96 CONTENTS


1, Velikovsky, a highly intelligent man, wasted his life proposing a whole series of radical theories concerning history and astronomy. See Worlds in Collision. In this case he proposed that 600 years of Egyptian history needed to be removed because 600 years of Egyptian history were "duplicated". The two books he wrote about this were Ages in Chaos, and Rameses III and his Times. For example Velikovsky stated that the battle of Kadesh was fought at Jerusalem against the Babylonians. Aside from the date problem, (589 B.C.E. against c. 1275 B.C.E.). How the Hittites become Babylonians is a bit much, aside from the fact that a Hittite account of the battle of Kadesh as been found in the Hittite capital of Hattilus, not in Babylon. How Kadesh which is securely located in central Syria becomes Jerusalem in southern Cannan is another problem

2, That there does seem to be something wrong with the conventional chronology of Ancient Egypt is a perfectly acceptable position. The question is how much dates have to be readjusted. For example in 1900 C.E. the conventional date for the start of the reign of Rameses II was 1304 B.C.E., today the usual date accepted is 1279 B.C.E., a reduction of 25 years, a further reduction is certainly possible.

3, His book The Third Intermediate Period, now in its third edition, is considered one of the classics of modern Egyptology. Kitchen reacted rather negatively to these proposals a more measured response was in his introduction to the third edition of The Third Intermediate Period.

4, This is a proposition Kitchen vigorously opposes in his The Third Intermediate period, third edition. It does appear likely that the reduction of reign times or elimination of theses two kings is required.

5, In Egyptian Shishak is written Shoshenq. Since in Hebrew s is always reproduced as s and sh always as sh, it is not likely that Sessi, (a short name for Rameses II and sometimes Rameses III) would become Shishenq let alone Shishak.

6, Well maybe. However Rohl seems to be developing a taste for pseudo-history, he has written introductions to such risible fare as The Tomb of Viracocha, and going to conferences with the Mars face, lost super civilization enthusiasts like Hancock and Beaval. Further bible literalists have been around for sometime and there is a ready, large market for books etc., that say the Bible is true. Rohl seems to be catering to this audience just a bit too much.

7, See 5.

8, This is a violently contentious area. There are good reasons to accept that the conventional dating system is overall correct, however the conventional chronology may be off by a few decades. Since I don't have the expertise I cannot really analyze the rather technical arguments involved here. However one issue that Rohl does not deal with is the linked chronology of Assyria and Babylonia. The Assyrian king-list goes back to the 15th century. The Assyrians dated events and reigns according to the year in office of certain officials. Since no one has such a memory the Assyrians kept lists of such officials. As a result of putting together various lists we can date events and reigns going back to the 15th century B.C.E., with very little error. At most about 20 years error. And since Assyrian kings corresponded with both the Hittite Empire and The Egyptians, such correspondence would also date both the Hittite Kings and Egyptian Pharaohs and quite bluntly it supports the conventional chronology, although it does allow for some modification of a few decades. For example we have letters in the Tell-El-Amarna archive from Ashur-Uballit I, written to Akhenaton. If Ashur-Uballit I reigned c. 1363-1328 B.C.E., and wrote to Akhenaton than Akhenaton was alive around this time. It has been suggested that there may have been multiple Assyrian kings at the same time and new kings have been invented. Without very good additional evidence this cannot be accepted.

9, See 5.

10, See 8.

11, Aside from questions of the reliability of said genealogies there is a problem of common sense. It seems that Rohl deliberately selected a low "generation" number of 20 years. Given that Rohl is so interested in rehabilitating and historicizing the bible it is bit of a surprise that he ignores the biblical number for "generation" which is forty years. The 20 year figure is low. if you change 20 years to 25 you get, instead of 440 years 550 years placing the genealogies beginning at c.1046 B.C.E. And if a few generations were left out and a few people had children late in life. All in all its a bad argument. If you accept the biblical generation than you get 1376 B.C.E., for the start of the genealogy. Rohl's best argument for a low chronology is the Apis bull burials which have a gap in them if the conventional chronology is accepted. This is not a minor problem, but instead of considering that since bull burials have been known since the 2nd dynasty but no remains have been found until the 18th Dynasty so that it is possible they were buried someplace else, not found yet etc. Rohl's solution to this real puzzle is simply not necessary.

12, As of March of 2002 Rohl still has not done his Phd. This reason sounds a little too much like Velikovsky who would refer readers to his unpublished manuscripts to support some of his more radical opinions.

13, See 5.

14, See 5, it is unlikely that Jerusalem would become Shalem, which from the context of the inscription seems to be located in Northern Syria.

15, Since this inscription refers to alliances of Kings within the later borders of Israel and Judah this is doubtful. It is hard to believe that Rameses would refer to Kings of Meggido, Dor, Taanch, etc if those cities had in fact been part of the Israelite kingdom.

16, Since the Bible clearly refers to Solomon having Chariots of Iron, this is problematic. Further is it not possible that the Biblical writers exaggerated the wealth and power of Solomon's kingdom?

17, Rohl identifies Labayu with Israelite King Saul, this is dubious. Aside from the question about why Saul is referred to as Labayu, (meaning the Lion). Saul is not referred to as the Lion in the Bible. Further Saul was not King of Sechem, but was headquartered further south near Jerusalem. Second Saul killed himself after losing the battle of Gilboa, (a mountain), to the Philistines, where 3 of his four sons fell also. According to the Tell-EL-Amarna archives Labayu was killed by the citizens of Gina, while raiding them. He was succeeded by two of his sons. Who continued to cause trouble. This does not read like King Saul it reads like a different man. As for David, the reading of a name as Dadua is disputed; it probably is Tadua or something similar

18, The problem here is that Haripu in its various forms is an old word and goes back to c. 2000 B.C.E. at least, and that it refers to a social category, basically nomadic and semi-nomadic people and individuals outside of governmental authority and control. The word meant something like brigand and freebooter. Given that Haripu had a social meaning for quite a while it does not seem likely that at the time it had a ethnic dimension. Haripu does seem to be at the root of the word Hebrew, but in the Bible it is Judean, Israelite which are specific ethnic designations not Hebrew. Which seems even in the Bible to be a more vague designation. Note some scholars dispute the link between Haripu and Hebrew.

19, See 17.

20, Manetho's account only survives in fragments and summaries, and from what has in fact survives is considered a source to be used with great care.

21, Given that other experts in the area come to quite different conclusions in this matter and the consensus is of such "experts" is that the conventional chronology is approximately right. Probably this too is wrong.

22, The problem with these Venus tablets is that the observations recorded are not very exact allowing for a wide range of outcomes of analysis including the conventional chronology.

23, Given that the Second Intermediate Period is so poorly known it is not a surprise that Rohl can locate the Pharaoh of the oppression in this time, but unless his re-dating is accepted this is dubious. Further looking for Moses as a Prince of Egypt gives the game away regarding Rohl's purpose of proving the bible has history. In fact accepting Josephus fanciful account of Moses activities as an Egyptian Prince is a dead giveaway. As for the statement that this is the only period where there is incontrovertible evidence of massive Asiatic settlement in Egypt. While I suppose it depends on what you mean by incontrovertible, but it is just false there is certainly massive evidence of Asiatic settlement during the late 19th Dynasty and after.

24, The game of looking for evidence of the plagues has been going on for over 100+ years. Rohl gives himself away here. After all Plagues were unpleasantly frequent in the ancient world.

25, Aside from the difficult question of the historical veracity of Moses, a figure so laden with myth that there may in the end be only myth, the account in Exodus implies that the Pharaoh who Moses contested with had been Pharaoh for a while, (more than a few years anyway). Finally how the weak Pharaoh's of the late 13th dynasty who controlled little of Egypt could keep the Israelites in bondage is a real question.

26, Real dubious. Chariots and horses are conspicuous by their absence in Egypt before the Second Intermediate Period, certainly compared to the period afterwards. The few alleged remains of horses and chariot equipment are both very rare and dubious as to dating. The fact is during this time period early Second Intermediate Period when they illustrated their armed forces they did not show chariots neither was the equipment buried in tombs. The contrast with later times is obvious. It is obvious that horses and chariots were very rare before the late Second Intermediate Period in Egypt. The identification of the Amalekities with the Hyskos is pure Velikovsky right out of Ages in Chaos, so is the battle with them as the Israelites leave Egypt.

27, This goes against a large amount of archeological evidence that indicates that the "conquest" described in the Bible did not happen. Many of the destructions described in the Bible simply did not happen. The general modern consensus is that Israel emerged from within Cannan, with the possibility of a few people from Egypt joining in. The stuff about Joseph is another giveaway, and highly dubious.

28, This is were faith has taken over completely and where Rohl joins Velikovsky, Blavel and Hancock in pseudo territory.

29, The errors mentioned by the reviewer are minor. Aside from the problems mentioned above the following four problems, among many, exist in Rohl's A Test of Time.

1, In order to create his new chronology Rohl pushed together the 19th and 20th dynasties and shortened the overall period the two dynasties covered. Instead of 1299-1070 B.C.E., a period of 229 years to 961-813 B.C.E., a period of 148 years. 81 years disappear. In order to do this Rohl's amended king list creates a large number of co-regencies. To give two extreme examples Rohl gives Rameses III not less than 8 co-regent Pharaohs, and in one instance has 4 Pharaohs at the same time. Three Pharaoh's at the same time abound. It is also interesting that the Papyrus Harris, which is an account of the Reign of Rameses III does NOT mention the 8 other Pharaoh's. Rohl's whole solution is risible.

2, The Bible is quite clear that both Saul and David fought the Philistines and Egyptian Accounts clearly record that the Philistines settled in southern Palestine during the reign of Rameses III. While if Rameses III was in the 9th century B.C.E., how could Saul and David fight the Philistines in the 11th century B.C.E., when they were not there?

3, The Assyrian King Tiglath-Pileser I who reigned c. 1114-1076 B.C.E., in his great inscription repeatedly mentions wagons and chariots of iron. If Rohl is right and the iron age did not begin until the late 9th century than what is this Assyrian King doing with iron chariots? Further what is Rameses III doing 2 centuries later without iron weapons! Also in the same inscription Tiglath-Pileser I mentions fighting off the Mushki who invade Assyria from areas formerly controlled by the Hittite empire, which in the new chronology existed until the 9th century. Even worse the inscription mentions that the Mushki conquered two Hittite provinces in the heartland of the empire 50 years before Tiglath-Pileser became king, (c. 1164 B.C.E.). This really undermines Rohl's chronology.

4, Very simply Rohl after the 20th dynasty claims that the 21st and 22nd dynasty were concurrent. This would involve accepting that the two Pharaoh's appointed two officials for the same position. For example the High Priest of Amun, the Southern Vizier etc., this creates a whole series of serious problems.

In the past there was a website called A Waste of Time which was the source of all the critical information I used in my Footnotes. Unfortunately the Website no longer exists and I’ve been unable to find any copies on the web. If anyone E-mails me I’ll send copies of the web pages that I made years ago.


Rohl as continued to publish his increasingly farout speculations and continues to be ignored by Egyptologists and Historians of the Ancient World.

The intervening 13 years since I originally commented on the above two reviews has not been kind to the revisionistic chronologies proposed. If anything they are more unlikely than ever. See The Oxford Encyclopaedia of Ancient Egypt, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2005.

Pierre Cloutier

No comments:

Post a Comment