Centuries of Darkness
Reply to Kitchen (1 of 2)
| Next Reply to Kitchen (2 of 2) |
Letter, Times Literary Supplement June 7 (1991), p. 15
Sir, - The tone used by K. A. Kitchen in his review of Centuries of Darkness (May 17) shows that we have touched a raw nerve. Our book highlights a mass of archaeological and literary evidence, ranging from Spain to Iran, showing that Egyptian chronology must be seriously in error. The major fault lies in the accepted reconstruction of the "Third Intermediate Period" (TIP), which we have argued from evidence within Egypt itself needs to be shortened by some 250 years. As Professor Kitchen is responsible for its standard chronology, it is understandable that he was so upset.
It is unfortunate that Kitchen frequently relies on ad hominem insinuations, namely his constant references to Velikovsky, who, we stressed, "understood little of archaeology and nothing of stratigraphy". Kitchen's claim that we confuse gaps in modern knowledge with gaps in the archaeological record is misleading. Some areas we discuss are among the most heavily excavated in the world. Despite the best efforts of archaeologists, material for these Dark Ages is still thin on the ground. To pretend that all is well with chronology is to trivialise their work. Problems continue to arise, with art, pottery and even strata being shuffled between the twelfth and thirteenth [READ ninth] centuries BC.
Kitchen's stance is egyptocentric, except when, with a mischievous wave of his hands, he misrepresents our arguments regarding Mesopotamian chronology before 911 BC. We did not dismiss "almost all" Assyrian rulers between Tukulti-Ninurta I and the mid-10th century as "ghost kings now known to history", but argued the existence of two dynasties ruling in parallel at this time, the more powerful being well attested, the other poorly. The Assyrian King List, whose purpose was to demonstrate the continuity of a single royal line, would have masked their co-existence, a practice known from the Sumerian and the earliest Assyrian king lists. Obfuscating the issue, Kitchen has attempted to sweep aside a line of inquiry which promises to clarify a grey area of Assyrian history parallel to the TIP in Egypt.
Only a kind of siege mentality can have ascribed to us an "irrational hatred" of Manetho, the original of which is not extant. One wonders what to make of such a comment from someone who elsewhere writes: "The surviving Manethonian versions of the 25th Dynasty are... absolutely riddle with errors from end to end... NOT ONE FIGURE IS CORRECT. They are WRONG." (1986, 554-5; Kitchen's capitals.) The truth is that Kitchen drags Manetho out of the closet when it suits him - not a sound position for someone who accuses us of "methodological errors". While dismissing Manetho's evidence for all the other dynasties between the 18th and 25th, he hails its accuracy for the 21st (crucial to TIP chronology). Our position is consistent with that taken by all serious Egyptologists - Manetho's king lists are not an admissible source, compared to the evidence of the monuments.
Kitchen claims that, in his TIP reconstruction, "neither Sothis nor the 'empire' datings could help". Contrast his statement that "upper limits set by the 19th/20th Dynasties also serve to set tangible limits for the 21st/22nd" (1986, 575). Thus the overall framework is set by the New Kingdom dates as well as by the equivocal identification of Shishak with Shoshenq I. Our statement that "the evidence... has been arranged within an already predetermined time-span", which Kitchen describes as "arrogant and wrong", is perfectly correct. His much vaunted "dead reckoning" backwards is actually a process of filling up a pre-set time-frame. The pretence is exposed in Kitchen's claim that his date for Shoshenq I is supported by "the series of known regnal years of his successors, which fill up the interval 924-716/712 BC almost completely, leaving just 14/18 years for the one king (Osorkon IV) whose reign is poorly documented in terms of monumental year-dates" (1987, 38). Much of Kitchen's "methodical" reconstruction has been spent assigning anonymous regnal years to various kings.
Regarding the 21st Dynasty evidence which Kitchen feels is so damning, he states that five generations held the high priesthood at Thebes, and "hence" its kings were "independent rulers". The first part we accept (only for the first four generations); the second is a non sequitur. King Siamun is linked with the fourth generation, but the key question concerns his successor, who Kitchen believes was Psusennes "II". The latter was a contemporary of Shoshenq I, founder of the 22nd Dynasty, and it was because of this link that he was put at the end of the 21st Dynasty. There is no evidence that Psusennes II followed Siamun and nothing to rule out the overlap between the two dynasties we argued on other grounds. Kitchen stressed it as the "single point which must suffice" to destroy our model, but we are confident that he cannot demonstrate their successive nature without recourse to circular argument or reliance on Manetho.
| Next Reply to Kitchen |