Terry E
Re: Astronomical Dating
Sat Feb 16, 2008 04:29 (XFF:

Dear Marianne,

Thank you for your comments. First an apology: I did not intend my post to be a blast at you or your chronological views although I realise on re-reading it why you think I might have meant to be that. What I was trying to do was to explain the reason for my general scepticism about things astronomical in connection with chronology and why I do not agree the dates that you quote.

You say: "First of all, nobody appreciates the difficulty of attempting to get absolute dates more than I do--as I have said here more than once. In fact, with present information, it may not ever be possible. On the other hand, others have proposed various models on this forum--so I fail to see why mine should have evoked such a strong objection on your part. Must have struck a nerve."

In reply: You are correct. I could equally well have responded to other threads on astronomical calculations in the same way.

You say: "Secondly, I haven't espoused some chronology that I would defend to the death. You seem to me to be one of those erring in that direction."

In reply: I try not to do this, but yes, like everybody else my first instinct is to defend my existing positions. But I like to think that I am open to the need to change when the evidence demands it. But I'm sure that not everybody with whom I have debated would necessarily agree.

You say: "When someone wrote "psDntiw", we know what that means. It is the "new moon" or "no moon". Such things are calculable. That was true even without modern software, although technology has made it much easier. So, when you have a recorded psDntiw on a given date in the civil calendar, that is something to work with."

In reply: Now here you highlight what I think is the most valid of all the aspects of astronomical dating, the potential to refine the dating of an event more precisely when the date of that event is already known within a few years, i.e. within a relatively narrow ballpark. However sometimes this very precision can be misinterpreted as giving validity to the underlying assumptions that produce the unrelated ballpark date.

You say: "Sorry, Terry, but that puts you at a disadvantage. You cannot have a "preferred chronology" that ignores astronomical data. There is some! Sothic and lunar. Some of it is ambiguous--but some is not."

In reply: Yes, I am at a disadvantage in that respect but I do indeed, rightly or wrongly, have a preferred chronology that ignores astronomical data. It is not however inconsistent with evidence about moon phases since I freely concede that my chronology is not exact and should be regarded as within a leeway of a few years either way.

I said: "What is not at all common is for astronomical evidence to be interpreted or accepted as supporting a chronology that is radically different to the one already championed."

You say: "Where have I done that?"

In reply: Once again this was not a criticism directed at you but a general observation about astronomical dating. This often seems to be used by both scholars and amateurs to confirm rather than establish a chronology. Whether or not a record is read as a record of for example an eclipse sometimes seems to depend on whether there is an astronomical candidate for an eclipse at that place at the preferred date. See for example the debate over the alleged eclipse in the time of Takelot II.

You say: "You'll have to take that up with Kitchen, but here we're talking 18th Dynasty. No Shishak, no Ramesses. No Bible. Not this time."

In reply: Not directly no, but if the later dynasties and the Third Intermediate Period generally, do really represent a shorter period of time then all of the dates of the New Kingdom need to be lowered.

You say: "Why belabor me with "radical"?? There is nothing "radical" about a 1482 date for the 23rd Year of Thutmose III. That's been accepted by many for a long time. Same goes for the 1570 accession date of Ahmose I. There is no "squeezing" or "stretching" required between those two dates.

In reply: I did not mean to say that these dates are radical. What I am saying is that I think they depend on a stretched chronology of the TIP so they are too early. The stretched chronology is brought about by astronomical dating of the reign of Ramesses II which is generally accepted in preference to the non-astronomical evidence justifying a later date for that reign.

You say: "Terry, what is manifestly missing from the records of remote antiquity is "year dates". All we get is "year of King X". Genealogies are fine, but what is missing from that is the life-span of the individuals involved. I think I am as much as expert on "Manetho and the Greek historians" as anybody [wrote a book about them] and they, sorry to say, are helpful and confusing by turns. Chronology? How does it help when a certain historian wrote "490 years from the time of Abraham" or "Ahmose lived in the time of Inachus the Argive"? Or "Deucalion's flood occured in the reign of Misphragmoutosis"?

In reply: I don't for one moment suggest uncritical acceptance of such sources. I simply say the general volume of evidence as to years, dates, events, relationships etc should be the main framework of the chronology. We should not form the framework from the astronomical evidence and try to make everything else fit. This produces a number of very square pegs in very round holes.

You say: "Well, two calendars being in force at the same time isn't incredible. There were, at times, multiple kings [and some High Priests doing some coming and going] at the same time. At one point in Egyptian history, there was not only a high priest and a king coming and going, they ruled jointly."

In reply: Yes, when we have evidence to that effect that's fine, but a lot of this sort of thing is constructed from modern chronological assumptions and nothing else. As for calendars I was referring to the unique construct of the so called Renaissance Era which has been put together by modern scholars in opposition to all precedent of Egyptian history and its calendrical system. I do not agree that there was any such Era.

You say: "Terry, you complain about "odd" and "unusual" but I don't think it should come as a shock to you that most reasonable persons interested in Egyptian chronology would find a 1400 BCE accession date for Ahmose I "very odd". For reasons far too numerous to mention here."

In reply: I am sure you are correct. But this approximate date is not my starting point, but my end point. It is where I have currently arrived by working my way back to that point. In doing this I have simply accepted large chunks of the generally accepted chronology. Where I differ is in specific parts of the chronology where the evidence, in my opinion, requires a shorter chronology, or in one case a chronology that is a little longer.

I appreciate that not everybody doing the same exercise will arrive at 1400 or anywhere nearby. But I think the exercise if valid, i.e. work back from the known to the unknown. Not work out a fixed date and then try to fill the gap in between. If the fixed point is valid it should fit in well with the method of working back from the known to the unknown (and Shishak/Shoshenk I does fit reasonably well). But a major difference between proceeding in this manner and dates produced from astronomical calculations should not in my opinion give priority to the astronomical calculations.

You say: "Sorry that I couldn't find anything to support your own theory. If I ever do, you'll be the first to hear about it."

Many thanks

Best Wishes

  • Re: Astronomical DatingMarianne Luban, Fri Feb 15 16:54
    TE: I freely confess my ignorance of things celestial as far as ancient chronology is concerned. But I also confess my great scepticism about this whole subject. I appreciate the attraction of trying ... more
    • Re: Astronomical Dating — Terry E, Sat Feb 16 04:29
    • Astronomical DatingDavid Rice, Sat Feb 16 01:54
      > Marianne (or others) -- do you have a convenient list of these at hand? -- David Rice
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          • Re: Post-Exilic Sabbath YearsTory, Sat Feb 23 19:25
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        • Post-Exilic Sabbath YearsTory, Sun Feb 17 10:25
          Hi David, We need to know for certain the dates of Ezra's and Nehemiah's activity and which Persian kings they served. There is no explicit statement linking the public reading of the Torah by Ezra,... more
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