Centuries of Darkness
Reply to Kitchen (2 of 2)
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Letter, Times Literary Supplement July 12 (1991), p. 13
Sir, - Robert Morkot and I were pleased that Kenneth Kitchen (Letters, June 21) appears to have conceded the major point of his initial review. In our reply (Letters, June 27), 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 that he was unable to do so, replying on different matters entirely. The Shishak/Shoshenq equation, while philologically plausible, totally disregards the monumental evidence of the campaign which, as Kitchen himself is forced to acknowledge, is at variance with the biblical record. Kitchen has always accepted it without question as a key fixed point for Egyptian history - thus his claim that he would have happily reduced chronology by 250 years, had the evidence suggested it, is empty rhetoric. The same "rock", as Kitchen calls it, has thrown into complete disarray the development of the early alphabet. Objects of Shoshenq I and his son Osorkon found at Byblos give impossible dates for the Phoenician evidence, requiring the abandonment of historical links with Assyria and acceptance of the bizarre conclusion that the Greeks borrowed an alphabet which was already 300 years out of date. While Kitchen's work on the Third Intermediate Period remains the foundation for all studies, it is not as sound as Kitchen would like us to believe. A large number of recent works have questioned Kitchen's presumptions and reconstructions of genealogies, political geography, dynastic connections and sequences of officials. Despite this, Kitchen seems to be remarkably unwilling to accept any fundamental alterations to his model.
We are glad that Kitchen has noted Yuhong and Dalley's article in Iraq 1990, outside of our book the first publication to argue that the Assyrian king list might present contemporary dynasties as successive. Kitchen accepts the principle, but only for the earliest period, insisting that "from 1400 BC onwards there was no dyarchy of twin lines or rulers". Then what of the letter written by the Babylonian king Adad-shuma-usur (conventionally 1216-1187 BC) addressed to two kings of Assyria? Perhaps if the King of Babylonia had read Kitchen's work he might have been spared from making such a crass error.
Another who might have benefitted from Kitchen's "proper assessment of all available facts" is Pharaoh Takeloth I. Kitchen admits that a reference to him in a genealogy is the only unambiguous evidence of his reign. Nevertheless , using some anonymous year-dates, Kitchen (1972, 121-2) grants him a reign of "not less than 14 or (for safety) 15 years." Unhappy with Takeloth's inactivity over these years, Kitchen 1982, 220) describes him as a "witless nonentity who allowed all real power to slip through his fumbling fingers"! Such stuff, like the imaginary relationship he passed off as a fact in his review (that Psusennes II and Shoshenq I were "brothers-in-law") is the province of historical novels. A more cautious novelist might have sailed closer to the evidence and suggested that Takeloth I left no monuments because he died after reigning only a few months. We would urge scholars in all fields dependent on Egypt for their dates to begin a careful study of Kitchen's work. They will then be able to decide which patient is suffering from the "disease" of obsessive chronological study is in the greatest danger of being carried away by his own model.
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