Fifteen Frequently Asked Questions
- Q1: Hasn't Egyptian chronology, which CoD challenges, been firmly fixed by 'Sothic'
astronomical dating? [Answer below]
- Q2: Can Radiocarbon Dating prove CoD right or wrong? [Answer below]
- Q3: Do the results from the developing dendrochronology for Anatolia agree or
disagree with CoD? [Answer below]
- Q4: Where does CoD stand with the scientific dating for the explosion of Thera which
is raising, rather than lowering, Bronze Age chronology? [Answer below]
- Q5: Has Professor Kenneth Kitchen shown that the CoD restructuring of Egyptian
chronology is impossible? [Answer below]
- Q6: Egyptologists say that they can retrocalculate, by means of 'dead reckoning', from
securely dated later dynasties back through the Third Intermediate Period to the New
Kingdom. Is this true? [Answer below]
- Q7: But how can you dispute the obvious similarity between the names Shoshenq and
Shishak? [Answer below]
- Q8: Is it true that the conventional chronology of Egypt is supported and proved to be
correct by its synchronisms with the chronology of Mesopotamia? [Answer below]
- Q9: How valid is the statement that CoD makes nonsense of Biblical history by placing
King David in the middle of the reign of Ramesses II? [Answer below]
- Q10: If the Philistines arrived in Canaan in the time of Ramesses III, whom CoD makes a contemporary
of King Solomon, how could they have fought his predecessors Saul and David as mentioned in
the Old Testament? [Answer below]
- Q11: Have any valid criticisms been levelled at CoD which
the authors have not been able to answer? [Answer below]
- Q12: Is there any truth in the rumour that scholars have
fabricated or falsified evidence in order to disprove CoD?
- Q13: Have any of the conclusions in CoD been accepted by
other archaeologists and ancient historians? [Answer below]
- Q14: Why has CoD not been generally accepted as the
correct chronology for the ancient world? [Answer below]
- Q15: Is there a single test that can be done to prove or
disprove CoD? [Answer below]
Q1: Hasn't Egyptian chronology, which CoD challenges, been
firmly fixed by 'Sothic' astronomical dating?
No it has not. The Sothic theory depends on a number of
assumptions which do not stand up to close scrutiny.
Since our first published criticisms (James et al. 1987,
71-74) there has been a sea-change in opinion as to the
reliability of this astronomical dating.
Two key references to the rising of the star Sirius
(Sothis) provide the lynchpins for the conventional
chronology of the Egyptian Middle and New Kingdoms
respectively. Both of them have been effectively
scotched. Senior Egyptologist W. Helck (1989, 40-41)
pointed out that the Ebers Papyrus, which supposedly
provides the Sothic fixed point (traditionally 1517 BC)
for the New Kingdom, does not actually contain a calendar
date - so that it is useless for any calculations. The
Middle Kingdom fixed point (traditionally 1872 BC) derived
from the Illahun Papyri now faces serious problems raised
by L. Rose (1994), who has demonstrated that the lunar
data mentioned in the same documents cannot fit a date in
the 19th century BC.
As there are no longer any reliable astronomical fixes,
Egyptologists have, by and large, abandoned their reliance
on Sothic dating - although they have been rather slow in
admitting it in public.
Q2: Can Radiocarbon Dating prove CoD right or wrong?
Although this method has the potential to do so, C14
results from the relevant areas are at present generally
unsatisfactory. For prehistoric cultures earlier than, or
unrelated to, the Egyptian dynasties, archaeologists
regularly test dozens of samples. By contrast, for the
Late Bronze and Iron Ages, they have tended to assume
that, as the chronology is 'known', radiocarbon tests are
not really needed. As well as the shortage of results,
inappropriate samples have usually been chosen, mostly of
wood and charcoal which, unless selected with extreme
care, will give dates much older than the context they
come from. There have also been many problems at
laboratory level, such as varying degrees of pretreatment
to remove contamination. Calibration raises further
difficulties, as the statistical variables involved are
often poorly understood. Consequently most C14 dates for
the period in question amount to little more than 'window
dressing' for a site report.
From another perspective, it is also well known that
numerous radiocarbon dates from sites in the Aegean, Egypt
and the Near East, have never been published because they
do not suit preconceptions - a phenomenon we have dubbed
the 'publishing filter'. Though it is rarely admitted in
print, there are documented cases from at least three
sites (see James et al. 1998, 36).
Given all this, we strongly feel that the radiocarbon
dates currently available are not adequate to judge the
CoD theory. New series of tests need to be performed on
good materials from secure contexts, with the samples
divided between at least three laboratories for cross-checking as results can differ between them. In one case
in the 1970s the same Egyptian samples were tested by the
Pennsylvania, British Museum and Uppsala labs (Olsson &
El-Daousay 1979). The dates from the first two generally
fitted the conventional chronology but those from Uppsala
were consistently lower and fit well with our chronology.
Had Uppsala alone done the tests it would have looked as
if radiocarbon had proved CoD correct! The Uppsala
laboratory took pride in its careful pretreatment of
samples to remove contaminants, a fact which may perhaps
explain the divergent results. We would not, however, use
these old tests to reinforce our case. There is
increasing realisation, due to enormous improvements in
the method, that all determinations from before the 1990s
should really be discarded.
So until new series of good quality dates are produced
we simply cannot say whether radiocarbon can prove CoD
right or wrong. The C14 database from Greece is, like
that from Egypt, a shambles, and we would fully agree with
the following statement made by Sturt Manning (1990, 37)
of Reading University:
... new series of highly quality dates from sealed
stratigraphic contexts from all the Aegean periods are
required. The current corpus consists of dates from
very different technical processes, and dates usually
lacking carbon-13 normalization, or alkali pre-treatment! This is unacceptable... The pressing need
is therefore for Aegean radiocarbon dates with the
contextual and measurement quality to match the
precision of the current radiocarbon calibration
Yet only two years later, with no new C14 dates (but
not without a degree of hypocrisy), Manning and his
colleague Weninger (1992) attempted to use the available
results from the Aegean to show that CoD was wrong! Their
article, published in Antiquity, has been repeatedly
cited. This is unfortunate, as it contained a number of
serious methodological errors. Most of the C14 results
they used, some going back to the 1950s (!), came from
unsuitable samples of wood and charcoal. We have
published a detailed response (James et al. 1998, 36-38)
showing that if due attention is paid to the context of
the samples, the presently available radiocarbon dates for
the end of the Late Bronze Age in Greece fit comfortably
with our model.
Q3: Do the results from the developing dendrochronology
for Anatolia agree or disagree with CoD?
As with radiocarbon, some loose claims have been made
about tree-ring chronology conflicting with the CoD
model, but a balanced assessment reveals a very different
Professor Peter Kuniholm and his Cornell University
team have established a 1503-year 'floating sequence' of
tree-rings for Bronze and Iron Age Anatolia. When this
has been extended to the point where it becomes continuous
with modern sequences, it should provide the best
yardstick for testing CoD - circumventing some of the
uncertainties involved in C14 dating. At present,
however, Kuniholm's 'floating' sequence is still reliant
on radiocarbon for its absolute dates. In the words of
Professor Lord Colin Renfrew (1996, 734):
Their work offers the best hope we have for a really
sound chronology for the later prehistory and history
of the Near East and Egypt, and indeed the eastern
Mediterranean in general. But their work is not yet
On the release of CoD, Kuniholm unfortunately began
giving misleading impressions of what his dendrochronology
could show with respect to the c. 250 years we wished to
eliminate: "I have tree-ring sequences, which cover almost
all those nasty centuries, and they're there." (Reported
in Brown 1991, 15). This completely missed the point. We
are not disputing that trees grew during the 12th, 11th
and 10th centuries BC! The question is whether those
tree-ring centuries are linked with post-Hittite cultures
(as the conventional chronology would have it) or with
those of the Hittite Empire (as our model predicts). If
Hittite buildings destroyed at the very end of the Late
Bronze Age were to be found exclusively with timbers
dating from considerably before 1200 BC, then our theory
would be in trouble.
We stress the word exclusively here, because as with
radiocarbon dating there is an 'old wood' problem in tree-ring dating. Dendrochronology can rarely give us a date
when a particular piece of wood was used; even less often
will it give a date for an archaeological destruction.
Dendrochronology gives us the dates when tree rings grew,
so one has to be very careful about using it to date
archaeological levels. Kuniholm himself has noted many
examples of centuries' old tree-rings incorporated into
much later structures and he frequently recommends
caution. A recent and extraordinary case concerns a piece
of wood he collected at Dispilio-Kastoria in northern
Greece, near a Neolithic lakeside settlement:
The blue door-post from Dispilio.
© N. Kokkinos, 1999
A well-preserved juniper post, painted blue and with
modern door hinges, was recovered from a modern village
house simply because it looked suspiciously old. The
sample we were given did not fit anything in our
Neolithic inventory, so we sent a piece of it to
Heidelberg to see what radiocarbon analysis would
reveal. The date is 2117 B.C. + 110 years, which means
it is from some Early Bronze Age occupation near the
lake at Kastoria. (Kuniholm 1998, 4)
Yes, this does actually mean (given the right climate and
conditions) that four thousand-year-old pieces of wood can
be reused in building! Given the 'blue door' phenomenon,
it should be obvious that the latest dendro dates from a
structure, site or culture are the most significant.
There is now dated tree-ring material from a handful of
sites of the Hittite period. Unfortunately the most
poorly published of these results has received the most
attention from our critics. This is from Masat Hüyük,
where preliminary reports gave a dendro date of 1392 + 37
BC (since then lowered to 1353 + 1 BC) for a site
associated with the 14th-century Hittite king
Suppiluliuma. As Suppiluliuma is generally thought to
have died c. 1320 BC, the result represented, in the view
of Professor Anthony Snodgrass (1991), "a shot in the arm"
for the conventional chronology. The problem is that the
information given about the context of this wood sample
makes no sense in terms of the stratigraphy as it was
published by the Turkish excavator - and may indeed turn
out to be a "shot in the foot". There are three levels
from the site, and Kuniholm's comments have muddled them
together (James et al. 1998, 38). More worrying, in a
private letter to us, he revealed that a sample from an
earlier level remains unpublished; as far as he could
remember, it postdated the published result. This would
completely invalidate the significance of this dendro-date. Despite numerous appeals since 1991, Kuniholm has
yet to retrieve and publish the full data from the site.
Only the results from one Hittite site have been
formally published, those from Tille Höyük on the
Euphrates. These were striking. The construction of the
last phase of the Tille Höyük Gateway is dated to 1101 + 1
BC, with its use lying in the 11th century BC. Yet Tille
Höyük was an Imperial Hittite outpost, which on the
conventional chronology would have been constructed about
1300 BC, and destroyed c. 1190 BC. The dendro-date is
clearly impossible for the conventional chronology.
Furthermore, the best fit for this sample (using the
normal T-score statistical test) is actually in 942 + 1 BC
(James et al. 1998, 41, n. 10)! An extra statistical test
had to be introduced to avoid this awkward conclusion.
Kuniholm does indeed have tree-rings for those "nasty
centuries". Nastily for the conventional chronology, at
Tille Höyük they are associated with the remains of an
Empire which was supposed to have fallen at least a century
Q4: Where does CoD stand with the scientific dating for
the explosion of Thera which is raising, rather than
lowering, Bronze Age chronology?
In the mid-1980s dendrochronologists proposed a way of
dating the explosion of Thera scientifically. They
suggested that narrow tree-rings (caused by frost) around
1628 BC in North America reflected the adverse weather
caused by the volcano. Such an event seemed to be
confirmed by later finds of frost-ring damage in Irish
tree-rings and a peak of sulphuric acid in the Greenland
ice-cores. This ran counter to the archaeological dating
of the Thera explosion to c. 1500 BC.
Both vulcanologists (notably David Pyle of Cambridge)
and archaeologists (notably Peter Warren of Bristol)
advised caution about such "proxy dating". Frost-ring
damage and acidity peaks might well be caused by volcanic
eruption, but there was no evidence to show which volcano
was responsible. Nevertheless, by the 1990s an increasing
number of scholars had jumped on the 'scientific dating'
bandwaggon, attempting to raise the beginning of the Late
Bronze Age Greece to accommodate the 1628 BC date.
Manning (1992), for example, insisted that the 1620s acid
peak was the only signature in the ice-cores which was
close enough in time to match the Thera event.
We have always remained sceptical of the case for a
high date for Thera, suspecting that the whole thing would
eventually fall through. Unfortunately, our position
recently led an otherwise favourable reviewer to remark
that we took a "sceptical view of the new scientific
dating techniques" (Gerding 1997/8, 160), which is far
from the truth. Proxy dating is not to be confused with
the scientific techniques themselves.
As it happens, we have now been vindicated. When
further work was published on the Greenland ice-cores the
real reason why the 1620s date looked so conspicuous
became clear. Due to budgetary constraints, a thorough
search measuring the sulphuric acid from each year had
never been undertaken! When this was done, the 1620s BC
'event' ceased to be special. Similar peaks of sulphuric
acid are now known to exist in the 16th, 15th, 14th and
13th centuries (Zielinski et al. 1994)! Any of these (for
example those from the ice-core years 1594, 1454, 1327 and
1284) might represent the Thera eruption. Worse still,
small particles of volcanic ejecta have now been found in
one of the very ice-levels from Greenland. Analysis has
shown that their chemical composition does not match that
of Thera (Zielinski & Germani 1998a). Clearly miffed,
Manning (1998) published a "correction" to the geologists'
conclusions, arguing that they had misinterpreted their
data and that the particles came from Thera after all.
The geologists' response (Zielinksi & Germani 1998b)
stated, in as many words, that Manning was out of his
depth and simply did not understand the methods involved.
Apart from the entertainment value of watching these
developments from the sidelines, we are now able to stress
that there is no longer any 'scientific' consensus on the
high dating. Indeed, the direct evidence from the
Greenland ice-cores suggests that the c. 1628 BC event
should not be linked with the explosion of Thera, but with
that of an unidentified volcano.
In short there is no good evidence for raising the
dates for the beginning of the Late Bronze Age in Greece,
rather than lowering them - as we feel should be the case.
(Even though, strictly speaking, a raising of the
beginning and a lowering of the end are not mutually
exclusive, as the real length of the Late Bronze Age
remains sub judice.)
Q5: Has Professor Kenneth Kitchen shown that the CoD
restructuring of Egyptian chronology is impossible?
Far from it. In his review of CoD in the Times Literary
Supplement, Kitchen (1991a) claimed that our proposed
overlaps between the dynasties of the Third Intermediate
Period are "ruled out by a mass of evidence. A single
example must suffice."
For his example he chose the 21st Dynasty, claiming
that the successor of Siamun, penultimate ruler of this
dynasty, was the brother-in-law of Shoshenq I, founder of
the next (22nd) Dynasty. Therefore, according to Kitchen,
this rules out any overlap between the 21st and 22nd
Dynasties, as we proposed.
We responded in a letter (James & Morkot 1991), towards the end of which we focussed on his
"single example". We agreed it is known that a 21st-dynasty Pharaoh called Psusennes was the contemporary of
Shoshenq I. (Kitchen opted to call him his "brother-in-law".) This in itself shows that there was some overlap
between the two dynasties. Further, there is no evidence
that this Psusennes was the successor of Siamun and hence
the last ruler of the 21st Dynasty, and thus nothing to
rule out our proposed overlap between the two dynasties.
We concluded that we "were confident that he [Kitchen]
cannot demonstrate their successive nature without
recourse to circular argument or reliance on Manetho [a
late source from Hellenistic Egypt]."
In his response Kitchen (1991b) failed to take up our
challenge. So, in a final rejoinder (James 1991) we noted:
Kenneth Kitchen appears to have conceded the major
point of his initial review. In our reply we
challenged Professor Kitchen to produce hard evidence
that the 21st and 22nd Egyptian Dynasties were
successive rather than overlapping. Since he failed to
respond, we can only assume he was unable to do so,
replying on different matters entirely.
To this date Kitchen has not replied to back up his
"single point" with any evidence, although he has never
lost opportunities to make critical remarks about our
work. His latest strategy has been limited to confusing
CoD with the secondary, and manifestly incorrect, efforts
of another author.
Kitchen also claimed that his case regarding the
relationship between dynasties 21 and 22 was "backed by
other evidence (the Neseramun family tree, etc)". What
the Neseramun genealogy says is actually rather
surprising. The family trees of Egyptian officials often
mention under which Pharaoh a given individual held
office. In this case the Neseramun genealogy specifically
states that Siamun was the contemporary of two
individuals. If Kitchen is right, one would expect from
the rest of the genealogy that these individuals lived
before the end of the 21st Dynasty. As it happens they
did not. In genealogical terms they lived one to two
generations after Shoshenq I, founder of the 22nd Dynasty.
At a conference on Mediterranean chronology in 1995 we
presented the evidence from the Neseramun and other
genealogies that Siamun must have been a contemporary of
the early 21st Dynasty (James et al. 1998, 32-4). The
evidence from the Neseramun family tree thus shows
completely the opposite of what Kitchen claimed.
Our point about the overlap between the 21st and 22nd
dynasties, which allows a lowering of Egyptian chronology,
has not completely fallen on deaf ears. Egyptologist
Aidan Dodson (1992) has conceded a possible 50-year
reduction, involving a small overlap between the
dynasties in question. In response to CoD, John Ray of
Cambridge (1992) also considered that a reduction of this
order is possible. Graham Hagens (1996) took up our
suggestion of a major overlap between dynasties in the
Journal for the American Research Center in Egypt.
Kitchen believes the 21st Dynasty ruled as an independent
entity for 125 years. We would propose reducing that
figure by a century, Hagens by 75 years. Kitchen's
attempt to debunk our restructuring of chronology should
now be a matter of increasing embarrassment.
Q6: Egyptologists say that they can retrocalculate, by
means of 'dead reckoning', from securely dated later
dynasties back through the Third Intermediate Period to
the New Kingdom. Is this true?
This claim is frequently made but is false. The lynchpin
for the Third Intermediate Period in Egypt is the
identification of Shoshenq I (founder of the 22nd Dynasty)
with a character mentioned in the Old Testament.
According to the First Book of Kings "Shishak king of
Egypt" invaded Judah in the fifth year of Rehoboam (c. 925
BC). Since Champollion's time it has been assumed that
Shoshenq I, who campaigned in Palestine in his Year 21,
was the same person as Shishak. This meant that
Egyptologists could use biblical chronology to date the
beginning of Shoshenq's reign, and hence that of the 22nd
Dynasty, to 945 BC. Various reign-lengths were then
assigned to fill up the time between this point and the
firmly fixed dates at the end of the TIP about 670 BC.
Yet Kitchen claims that he arrived at a 945 date for
Shoshenq I by 'dead reckoning', i.e. by adding up the
reigns of the pharaohs involved back from the 7th century
BC. This he manifestly did not do. To take just one
example, Pharaoh Takeloth I, who left no dated monuments
or documents at all, is given 14 or 15 years by Kitchen,
simply because of the need to fill the gulf of time
created by the Shoshenq=Shishak equation.
We are not alone in drawing attention to the fact that
egyptologists have been dishonest on this point.
Independently, Jeremy Hughes (1990, 190), an Oxford expert
on biblical chronology, has stated clearly:
Egyptian chronologists, without always admitting it,
have commonly based their chronology of this period on
the Biblical synchronism for Shoshenq's invasion.
The true situation was described with equal force by a
Harvard authority on biblical chronology, William Barnes
Although the present scholarly consensus seems to favor
a date c. 945 B.C.E. for the accession of Shishak ...,
apart from the biblical synchronism with Rehoboam
(which as I have noted above remains problematic at
best) there is no other external synchronism by which
one might date his reign, and the Egyptian
chronological data themselves remain too fragmentary to
permit chronological precision.
Egyptian chronology from the end of the New Kingdom
down to c. 670 BC is actually dependent on a single,
alleged synchronism with biblical chronology - and not on
supposed 'dead reckoning'.
Q7: But how can you dispute the obvious similarity between
the names Shoshenq and Shishak?
From a philological point of view Shoshenq and Shishak
make a good match, but there we feel the resemblance ends.
(As a caveat to the dangers of playing the 'name game' in
ancient history one can cite numerous spurious efforts,
though one example will suffice: in the 1940s someone
argued that the 'Derbe' and 'Lystra' visited by Paul the
Apostle - in Lycaonia in cental Asia Minor - were actually
located at 'Derby' and 'Leicester' in England. A good
phonetic match, but slightly implausible on other
Apart from the fact that both individuals were Pharaohs
who campaigned in Palestine, there is absolutely no match
between the accounts given of Shoshenq I and Shishak in
the respective Egyptian and biblical records. According
to the Old Testament, the focal point of Shishak's
campaign was the city of Jerusalem, before which he seized
fifteen Judahite cities fortified by Solomon's successor
Rehoboam. Only one of these towns, Aijalon, occurs in the
list of Palestinian place-names left by Shoshenq I at
Karnak. As Yohanan Aharoni (1966, 285) wrote in his
classic work on biblical geography:
It is clear from the Egyptian text that the main
objectives of the expedition were not the towns of
Judah and Jerusalem, but rather the kingdom of Israel
on the one hand and the Negeb of Judah on the other.
The situation may actually be worse than Aharoni
thought. Frank Clancey (1999) has recently argued that
Shoshenq's campaign was restricted to the Sinai, Negev,
southern hill country and Shephelah of Judah; though some
of his conclusions may be questioned, he has reinforced
the point that there is no evidence that the central hill
country around Jerusalem was involved. Admittedly, we do
not yet fully understand the purpose of the place-name
lists of foreign lands drawn up by the Pharaohs - they may
be towns conquered, neutralised or simply those they
passed through or received tribute from; nor can we demand
that the scribes who prepared Shoshenq's records had the
same perspective or concerns as those who prepared the
Hebrew account of Shishak's invasion. But the fact
remains that no case can be made for identifying the two
individuals from the geopolitics of their campaigns.
The superficial resemblance between the names Shoshenq
and Shishak may be just that. More importantly, the other
side of the coin is that acceptance of the equation has
done away with an identical name-match in Phoenician
history. Incriptions from Byblos reveal the following
sequence of kings:
Abibaal -------- contemporary Shoshenq I
Elibaal -------- contemporary Osorkon I (son of Shoshenq
Shipitbaal (son of Elibaal)
The synchronisms with the 22nd-dynasty rulers Shoshenq and
Osorkon are known from the fact that in each case the
Byblite ruler had added his own inscription around the
cartouche of the Pharaoh, on statues imported from Egypt.
Following the conventional Egyptian chronology the Byblite
inscriptions have been dated to the 10th century. This,
however, has always caused problems. Many scholars have
preferred a later date, on palaeographic grounds, and the
late Benjamin Mazar was tempted to lower the date for the
whole series, making the last ruler Shipitbaal the same as
the "King Shipitbaal of Byblos" known from Assyrian
records around 740 BC. Mazar offered the suggestion twice
but, with the utmost reluctance, had to concede that the
Egyptian evidence seemed to date Shipitbaal nearer 900 BC.
More recently a detailed paper by epigrapher Ronald
Wallenfels has raised the spectre of the same synchronism,
which the conventional chronology is forced to reject.
Wallenfels produced a mass of evidence for redating the
Byblite insciptions to the 9th-7th centuries, and even
toyed with the idea of challenging the conventional date
for Shoshenq I. On the CoD model the conundrum is
resolved. Shoshenq I was not the biblical Shishak of c.
925 BC. Rather he campaigned in Palestine c. 800 BC and
the same date should be given to his contemporary Abibaal.
Shipitbaal, two reigns later than Abibaal, would then
after all be the king mentioned in Assyrian records about
740 BC. This is one of the many 'natural' synchronisms
between Egypt and Western Asia which CoD is able to
restore to ancient history.
Q8: Is it true that the conventional chronology of Egypt
is supported and proved to be correct by its synchronisms
with the chronology of Mesopotamia?
No, it is not true. Numerous synchronisms have been drawn
between Egypt and Mesopotamia, but many of these are based
on unproved assumptions. Of those that are genuine,
closer examination reveals that in many cases Mesopotamian
chronology is actually dependent on Egyptian - and not the
other way around. For example it is clear (Brinkman 1976)
that the list of kings for the late Kassite period in
Babylonia, conventionally 14th-13th centuries BC, has been
heavily restored from Egyptian and Hittite evidence.
(Hittite dating is directly dependent on that of Egypt.)
Where there are genuine synchronisms based on independent
Mesopotamian evidence, the model outlined in CoD provides
as many links as the conventional chronology, so there can
be no preference here for one model or the other. For
example, the conventional chronology has a convenient
match in the 14th century BC between the Assuruballit I of
the Assyrian King List and a like-named ruler who wrote
two letters to Pharaoh Akhnaton. (On the CoD model, the
contemporary of Akhnaton would have to be an otherwise
unattested Assuruballit 'II', as suggested by the fact
that the fathers of the Assuruballits concerned are
different in each case.) On the other hand, for example,
the CoD model offers a new synchronism in the 10th century
BC, between the Ini-Teshub, Hittite King of Carchemish,
and the Ini-Teshub, King of Carchemish, known from
Assyrian records. (For another 'new' synchronism see Q 7
Mesopotamian chronology itself is in need of serious
re-examination and revision. There are 'dark age' gaps
and archaeological anomalies during the 12th-10th
centuries in Assyria, Babylonia and neighbouring Persia
(Elam). During this period documentary evidence becomes
extremely scarce, and chronology is largely dependent on
the statements made in a King List drawn up by the
Assyrians in later times (9th-8th centuries BC). Yet it
has been shown by many scholars that this King List was an
artificial construct, the aim of which was to provide a
continuous line of kings stretching back into the distant
past, masking unofficial rulers and rival dynasties. In
the Assyrian dark age there is contemporary evidence that
there was more than one dynasty ruling. As argued in CoD,
two parallel dynasties ruled during the 11th to 10th
centuries period, which reduces Assyrian chronology by
some 110 years.
Work is ongoing on whether Assyrian chronology can be
further reduced. Model building is difficult, as there is
little controlling evidence on the data provided by the
Assyrian King List. Careful study of the fragmentary
eponym-lists (annual officials) could provide ways of
moderating the figures it gives.
Q9: How valid is the statement that CoD makes nonsense of
Biblical history by placing King David in the middle of
the reign of Ramesses II?
The statement is completely invalid, as CoD does not place
David in the middle of Ramesses' reign. The idea
originated with Kitchen (1991c, 238):
On their dates, King David would have carved out his
empire in Syria from the Euphrates to SW Palestine
right in the middle of the reigns of Ramesses II of
Egypt and the Hittite King Hattusil III, after their
peace-treaty ending two decades of war over who should
have how much of Syria. Is it even remotely
conceivable that these two formidable rulers should
just sit idly by, cowering with armies in mothballs,
while some upstart prince from Jerusalem's hills calmly
carved out three-quarters of their hotly-disputed
territories (and revenues) for himself? This is sheer
The chronology here is Kitchen's assumption, not ours.
The dates for King David are dependent on those for his
successor King Solomon. Ancient historians agree that the
reign of Solomon ended c. 930 BC, but hardly any (except
uncritical fundamentalists and Kitchen) accept the
schematic biblical figure of 40 years apiece for the
reigns of Solomon and David. Forty years for both reigns
together would be more realistic. This - on our
chronology - would place the unification of Israel under
Saul and David during the last years of Ramesses II and
the reign of his successor Merenptah. It is generally
acknowledged that the armies of Egypt were indeed sitting
idle during the last years of Ramesses II, while
Merenptah, though he campaigned in southern Palestine,
ruled a much reduced territory. Ramesses III later
described this time as the "empty years" when there was
chaos in the Egyptian empire.
We should also remember that the heartland of Israel
was the hill country in the interior, in which the
Egyptians showed no great interest. Their imperial
ambitions in Palestine were largely restricted to
controlling the rich cities of the coastal area and the
Jezreel Valley. Through most of the Late Bronze Age the
hill country was something of a backwater unaffected by
the Egyptian comings and goings through the more
economically important parts of Canaan. It is significant
that the first (and only) reference to Israel in Egyptian
records occurs in a stela of Merenptah which celebrates
the troubles afflicting neighbouring countries. One
enigmatic line, which has exercised scholarly imagination
for decades, states that "Israel is laid waste, his seed
is not". It is generally thought to mean that Merenptah
claimed to have bested Israel in a military conflict. But
a more literal translation might be safer, with the "seed"
referring to grain. As it was a standard Egyptian tactic
to destroy the fields and trees of enemies and rebels, it
seems that Merenptah was boasting about his raids on
Israelite fields. In the CoD chronology, the famine said
to have occurred during the reign of David (2 Samuel 21:1)
may reflect these circumstances.
In the same text Merenptah states that he conquered the
Canaanite city of Gezer, a fact which can provide us with
an invaluable synchronism. According to the Bible an
unnamed Egyptian Pharaoh became the father-in-law of
Solomon. As a dowry Solomon received the city of Gezer,
which this Pharaoh had recently conquered (1 Kings 9:16).
In the CoD model he must be Merenptah, who presumably
effected a rapprochement with Israel sometime after his
raids. During the reign of Solomon Egypt was clearly
friendly towards Israel, a policy which was reversed again
after Solomon's death.
Q10: If the Philistines arrived in Canaan in the time of
Ramesses III, whom CoD makes a contemporary of King
Solomon, how could they have fought his predecessors Saul
and David as mentioned in the Old Testament?
Quite simply we dispute the idea that the Philistines
first appeared in Canaan during the reign of Ramesses III.
The interpretation of that Pharaoh's records regarding the
so-called Sea Peoples (including the Plst who are
generally thought to be the Philistines) has been the
subject of increasing debate over recent years. How much
these records describe the arrival of peoples or tribes
new to the Levant is a moot point, but some aspects of the
problem have been clarified. When the Philistines (Plst)
and their confederates transgressed the "borders" of Egypt
in the years 5 and 8 of Ramesses III, his scribes always
referred to them using the traditional terms for
"Asiatics" (a geographical rather than ethnic term).
Moreover, Ramesses III's inscriptions specifically mention
the towns and orchards of the Plst - which stands clearly
against the idea that they were all new arrivals from
elsewhere in the Mediterranean. Many Plst must have
already been settled in southern Palestine. These points,
originally stressed by Alessandra Nibbi (1975), have since
been echoed in the work of other scholars including Peter
James (in numerous lectures and in an unfinished
postgraduate thesis of the early 1980s), Phoenician
archaeologist Patricia Bikai (1992) and classicist Bob
Drews (1993, 52-3).
(Centre) A warrior of the Shardana, one of the
mysterious 'Sea Peoples', as depicted on Egyptian reliefs
conventionally dated to the 13th and 12th centuries BC.
Egyptian references to the Shardana continue until the
early 11th century BC. (Right and left) Bronze figurines
from Sardinia, usually dated to the 9th-7th centuries BC.
While it is tempting to draw some connection between the
two groups they are presently separated by over two
The Philistine problem is extremely complex but, in
short, there is a growing school of thought which regards
the so-called 'Sea Peoples' invasion as having been
overstated. This, while it does not rule out new
settlements of peoples from Cyprus and the Aegean at the
transition from the Late Bronze to Iron Ages, does stress
that the Plst were already an entity in coastal Palestine
before the reign of Ramesses III. On the archaeological
side, while the Philistines adopted the latest Aegean-style pottery at the beginning of the Iron Age (Monochrome
'Philistine Ware'), this cannot be taken as proof that
they had only just arrived; it may only reflect new
settlers that had joined them. In our archaeological
model Philistine presence during the Late Bronze Age is
reflected by, among other things, the 'Bichrome Painted'
pottery (thought to be Cypriot in origin) of the coastal
region. The 'foreignness' of the Philistines, as
perceived by the Hebrews, who always distinguished them
from the Canaanites, springs from their long-standing
relationship with Cyprus and the Aegean - a relationship
that continued in the Iron Age but had its origins much
There is, therefore, no conflict between the idea that
Saul and David fought the Philistines before the reign of
Ramesses III, since Philistines were already present in
Palestine. Incidentally, this would also mean that at
least some of the biblical references to Philistines in
earlier times - e.g. those at the time of the Israelite
Conquest/Settlement - need not be 'anachronistic', as the
conventional chronology assumes them to be.
Q 11: Have any valid criticisms been levelled at CoD which
the authors have not been able to answer?
No, not yet. We are still waiting to be proved wrong, and
should this ever happen we would readily accept it. But
we insist that CoD can only be disproved by good evidence
and argument, not fudge and misinterpretation.
Q12: Is there any truth in the rumour that scholars have
fabricated or falsified evidence in order to disprove CoD?
Unfortunately, yes. Reactions to our theory have
exhibited examples of the most dubious side of
scholarship, ranging from the time-honoured practice of
misciting one's opponents, through sheer misstatements of
fact, to actual fabrication. Here are a few examples:
In a 'critique' of CoD Egyptologist Professor Frank
Yurco (1993, 10) claimed that we had overlooked "an
important synchronism". He stated that at the battle of
Karkar (Syria) in 853 BC, Pharaoh Osorkon II of Egypt
contributed 1,000 troops to fight king Shalmaneser III of
Assyria. If that were the case, our redating of Osorkon
II to the 8th century would be impossible. However, Yurco
seems to be unaware of what a synchronism means. A
synchronism between two individuals requires that two
names are given. The Assyrian texts of Shalmaneser III do
indeed refer to an Egyptian contingent at the battle of
Karkar. But they do not name the Pharaoh who sent them.
Yurco has simply supplied that name, probably by reference
to the chronological tables in Kitchen's book. In this
circular argument, and all other respects, Yurco's
'critique' was so shoddily researched that it would shame
We stated that Ramesses III (of the 20th Dynasty) used
the abbreviation of his name 'Sesi'. This concerns an
important point, as on our model we have suggested that he
is to be identified with the Egyptian king 'Shishak' who
invaded Palestine c. 925 BC. (The Hebrew text was
originally unpointed, so that strictly speaking the name
should be read as 'Shyshk' or 'Sysk'.) Kitchen (1991c,
236), with amazing effrontery, denied that Ramesses III
used the abbreviated form of his name. Effrontery is the
only word one can use, because Kitchen himself had
published the evidence to show that Ramesses III used the
name Sesi on an inscription from Medinet Habu (see James
et al. 1992, 127). Unaware of Kitchen's convenient lapse
of memory, Yurco (1993, 11) simply repeated the claim.
Both have manipulated the facts to suit their
The worst case, evidently one of sheer fabrication, appeared in a review of CoD by James Mellaart (1991/2), a
famous archaeologist and, until recently, a lecturer at
University College London. While he made some favourable
comments, he claimed to have access to an unpublished
cuneiform text which gives a list of synchronisms between
Lydia (a kingdom in western Turkey in classical times) and
Assyria, running back 21 generations from the 7th century
BC through to the Late Bronze Age. According to Mellaart
it confirmed the conventional chronology and made "short
shrift" of our model. Apparently some scholars were taken
in and rejoiced at our defeat. Alan Millard of Liverpool
University, a noted expert on Near Eastern languages,
praised Mellaart's review as "appropriately negative"
Quite incredibly, Mellaart has never produced any
evidence that such a unique text exists, outside his
imagination. Despite his best efforts, Professor David
Lewis, an eminent epigraphist at Oxford, could find no
trace of such a tablet. Other scholars, such as cuneiform
expert Professor David Hawkins of the School of Oriental
and African Studies, are confident that the text is simply
not real. With evident embarassment, the editor of the
Bulletin of the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society, which
had carried Mellaart's review, published a note, alongside
letters from ourselves (James & Kokkinos 1992/3) and Lewis, stating that Mellaart's "alleged
documents... should not be cited as valid source
material." (Gibson 1992/3, 82). And there this
extraordinary episode ended. Mellaart does not appear to
have mentioned his tablet since.
Q13: Have any of the conclusions in CoD been accepted by
other archaeologists and ancient historians?
Many of the individual conclusions arrived at in CoD (and
its pilot project Studies in Ancient Chronology 1,
published in 1987) have been accepted or subsequently
proposed by other scholars. Examples include:
We suggested that the 'Pantalica III (South)' phase in
Sicilian archaeology was a chronological phantom, and that
it should be completely scrapped. It used to occupy some
120 years between the end of the Cassibile phase (c. 850
BC) and the beginning of Greek colonisation in c. 735 BC,
creating a strange gap betweeen burnt native settlements
and the Greek colonies founded on top of them.
(Especially strange as we know that the Greeks drove out
the natives and burnt their settlements.) Our argument
has been accepted and augmented by Robin Leighton (1993),
a leading authority on the archaeology of Sicily.
Following us, he lowered the end of Cassibile down from
c. 850 BC to c. 735 BC.
We demonstrated that the Greek pottery finds from Tell
Abu Hawam on the coast of Israel cannot be used to prop up
the presently accepted high chronology for the Greek Iron
Age. This conclusion (with reference to our work) was
accepted in the handbook on Aegean chronology written by
Professor Peter Warren and Vronwy Hankey (1989, 167).
Mention of Tell Abu Hawam as a useful benchmark for Greek
Iron Age Greek chronology has now dropped out of the
We stressed that the classical traditions do not
consistently point to a date for the Trojan War in the
12th century BC or earlier but, particularly using
genealogical material, that dates can be calculated as
late as the tenth century BC. Walter Burkert (1995) has
since reached the same conclusions.
We pointed out that the astronomical information on
the Ammizaduga Tablets, generally used to date the fall of
the First Dynasty of Babylon to 1595 BC, "provide no
serious obstacle" to a substantial lowering of
Mesopotamian chronology. In fact we noted that the
tablets would allow the Hittite sack of Babylon to "have
taken place in 1466 BC". Recently H. Gasche et al. (1998)
have argued for redating Babylon's fall to 1499 BC, a
century later than the conventionally preferred date.
Following our criticisms of Sothic dating, most
Egyptologists have now abandoned reliance on this method
(see Q1 above).
We have argued that the chronology of the early 25th
(Nubian) dynasty in Egypt needs shortening - specifically
we have lowered the beginning of the reign of Shabaqo in
Egypt to c. 708/707 BC. Subsequently a date of 706 BC was argued by Egyptologist L. Depuydt (1993), though with no reference to our work.
We suggested that the reigns of the 22nd Dynasty
pharaohs Shoshenq III and Takeloth II overlapped by some
20 years. This was argued independently by Egyptologist
David Aston (1989).
We argued that there was a considerable overlap
between the 21st and 22nd Egyptian Dynasties. This has
been followed by Hagens (see Q5 above).
We claimed that the Iron I period in Palestine needs
to be drastically reduced. Again Hagens (1999) has
followed this, in a paper in Antiquity, Britain's leading
We put forward the idea that the Iron II (so-called
'Solomonic') period in Palestine should be lowered in date
from the 10th to the 9th century BC. As the evidence for
this is so strong, we predicted that within a few years
such a revision would be followed, but with disastrous
consequences. We feared that if done as a half-measure,
it would only succeed in creating a 'dark age' in
Palestine during the time of David and Solomon - it would,
nevertheless, be consistent with the dark periods
elsewhere in the Eastern Mediterranean. We jokingly
referred to this as the 'Thatcherite' solution to
chronology - "things have to get worse before they get
better". Our prediction has now been fulfilled by the
work of Israel Finkelstein (e.g. 1996), a leading Israeli
archaeologist, who has argued our 10th to 9th century
revision (without reference).
While the arguments in CoD are frequently being
borrowed by other scholars in a piecemeal fashion, there
is still reluctance to adopt - or sometimes even consider
- the scheme as a whole. The consequences are misleading,
as the case of Finkelstein illustrates. His lowering of
Iron Age chronology (while leaving the end of the Late
Bronze at its conventional placement) has created the
predicted 'dark age' for Israel in the 10th century BC
(see James & Kokkinos forthcoming). This caused an
unprecedented furore, as Finkelstein has stranded King
Solomon in an archaeological vacuum - against Old
Testament tradition. Not unexpectedly, his conclusion has
been eagerly seized by the rising school of 'minimalists'
within biblical scholarship - who are attempting to scotch
the historicity of the Bible, claiming that Saul, David,
Solomon and the early kings of Israel are merely
For the key site of Samaria, we proposed that levels
V-VI should not be seen as the last Israelite phase before
the Assyrian conquest of 722 BC, but as the final Assyrian
levels - with a terminal date no earlier than about 630
BC. Such a date has since been forcefully argued in a
doctoral thesis by the late Stig Forsberg (1995, 24).
Q14: Why has CoD not been generally accepted as the
correct chronology for the ancient world?
Archaeologists are usually specialists working in separate
fields. While they are happy to draw conclusions in their
own areas of study, they are reluctant to make assessments
of the problems in other areas. Because the issues raised
by CoD involve interconnections between all fields of
ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern studies, the
overall case is simply too difficult for most to
comprehend. As in any scientific discipline it is easier
to keep to the status quo and avoid 'sticking one's neck
out', as it were. Academic inertia, scholarly egotism, the
desire for promotion, teaching convenience and a number of
other reasons continually reinforce this attitude.
It is quite clear, for example, that no-one would be
encouraged to publish articles agreeing with our model -
they would probably be automatically rejected. We have
naturally encountered this problem ourselves. With
respect to academic journals, we have been frustrated by a
'lack of airtime' in which we could defend our case
against critics. For example, when the Cambridge
Archaeological Journal published lengthy, and sometimes
rambling and unjustified, criticisms from several
scholars, the editor declined to publish our reply in the
same issue and allowed only limited space in the next.
In the case of Antiquity, our reply to Manning and
Weninger's ill-considered treatment of the radiocarbon
evidence from the Aegean, was flatly rejected.
Despite such difficulties, and in the meantime, CoD has
become a respectable and widely known antidote to the
conventional chronology which is regularly cited in the
literature and used in numerous university courses.
Q15: Is there a single test that can be done to prove or
Unfortunately there is no deus ex machina. The problems
of ancient chronology we have highlighted are so vast and
complicated that there is no easy way to prove or disprove
CoD - i.e. to the satisfaction of all concerned. Only a
combination of tests, including more rigorous studies of
comparative typology and stratigraphy, hand-in-hand with
scientific dating methods, will ultimately provide the
Having said that, and as most archaeologists accept the
primacy of radiocarbon dating, an extensive series of
fresh C14 results should by itself go a long way to
resolving whether we are right in lowering the end of the
Bronze Age by as much as 250 years. But, to achieve this
kind of chronological 'fine tuning' - though revolutionary
in archaeological terms - far more than the usual handful
of determinations would be needed. An adequate test of
CoD should involve a new suite of well-chosen samples,
short-lived and from secure contexts, each divided into
three parts and sent to as many laboratories. Radiocarbon
labs are normally informed of the expected archaeological
date of submitted material, but in this case 'blind
testing' should be followed. The samples must range
between a number of different sites, thus providing
further control. Were such a programme to be undertaken,
we are confident that the results will clearly be
discrepant with the conventional chronology but in harmony
with that in CoD.
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