Date: Sun, 16 Apr 1995 00:28:27 CST
Sender: World-L - Forum on non-Eurocentric world history <>
Subject: Re[2]: The Bimillennium & World History

Mediterranean dating and the chronology of Kemet

By Bill Schell, Murray State University
16 April, 1995

Naomi, Perhaps I can make you smile again by moving the discussion of dates and dating sideways.

For many years, evidence has been accumulating that the conventional chronology of the ancient Mediterranean world, based on the king list chronology of Egypt, is gravely flawed. Despite the fact that the Egptian kings were fixed in their centuries long before hieroglyphics were read, little more than fine-tuning of the system has been tolerated by the scholarly community which has invested vast amounts of time and energy in the status quo.

After teaching enough world civ, chronological paradoxes begin to present themselves. For example, why should the Myceneans learn to write their Greek language in using the Minoan Linear script (c. 1450 BCE by the standard chronology), lapse into total illiteracy for 600 years, and then become literate again using the phoenician writing system? Even during the European Dark Ages (a comperable period of collapse) writing was not completely lost. Or how do we explain Greek letters cut into the reverse side of fired-clay tiles which decorate the palace of Ramesses III (conventionally dated to 1186 BCE) located at the Tell el-Yahudiya site northeast of Cairo. Or the Greek letters inscribed on the sarcophagus of Ahirm of Biblos, conventionally dated to c. 1000 BCE, although its artistic style would seem to place it in the 12th century. Then there are the troubling "after-glows" of the Hittites and other peoples that burst forth centuries after the supposed close of the main civilization, and scarabs and other artifacts found so far out of expected stratigraphy that scholars can only label them as heirlooms (unconvincingly). And, of course, there is the ultimate world civ mystery: why is there no record of Hebrew-Egyptian relations from the Eygptian side? Are we really to believe (and expect our students to believe) that four centuries really separate the composition of Psalm 104 of King David and the strikingly similar Hymn of the Sun Disk by Akhetaten?

The recent book by Peter James Centuries of Darkness suggests that the conventional chronology of Egypt from the Middle Kingdom is 4 centuries too long. The resistance to this hypothesis by the establishment, however, is strong. Bruce Trigger's review of James in AHR 99 (1994) admits that "problems beset Late Bronze and Early Iron Age chronologies throughout the Mediterranean region" but he is unwilling to admit any solution that would systematically reform the current chronologies "however weak the astronomical calculations" (the discredited Sothic dating) which prop up the current scheme which is little more than the priest Manetho's ancient king list.

We should "come clean" with our world civ students and admit that we have no real idea about the relationships that existed between the civilizations of the ancient world - that its all speculation, myth draped in the shabby mantel of speculation and called TRUTH.

Bill Schell, Murray State University