Article - Laura Knight-Jadczyk
The first thing we discover about the chronology of everything in the Near and Middle East is that it is suspended upon "rags and tatters." If you think I am joking, just start reading a selection of books on Middle Eastern chronology by assorted experts, find out who they quote, go to their sources, and the sources of the sources, and discover what their evidence is, and start asking questions. After going around the Mulberry bush a few times, the idea that the Titanic ought to have been completely filled with Egyptologists, will seem like a good start in the right direction. After you have read a few dozen technical papers about MBA/LBA, LCIA, LCIB, LMIA, types of pottery, you will wish you had been aboard the Titanic as well.
As it happens, all the archaeological dating in the Mediterranean has been suspended upon Egyptian chronology under the influence of foundations laid by believers in the Biblical chronology. What is more, all of their dates rely upon two major assumptions: the Sothic Cycle and the identification of the Egyptian King Shoshenq I with the Biblical King Shishak, the Egyptian ruler who came against Rehoboam and took "all" the treasures of Solomon's Temple and Solomon's house."
It is understood that Manetho only included 30 dynasties, the 31st being added later for the sake of completeness. However, the fact is, there are no original copies of "The Egyptian History" by Manetho. All we have of his work are excerpts cited by Josephus, the Jewish historian of the first century AD and by two important Christian chronographers, Sextus Julius Africanus (3rd century AD), and Eusebius (4th century AD). George the Monk, Syncellus, used both Africanus and Eusebius extensively as his sources in his history of the world written in 800 AD. It is fairly easy to realize that all three of these men had agendas. We also note, once again, the period of time in which they were writing, and the fruits of their efforts in terms of the imposition of Christianity based on the platform of Judaism, the ultimate arbiter of the linear view of Time.
It is regularly claimed that Egyptian chronology is based on "astronomical dating." What does this mean? It actually means that Egyptian dating is based on a theory that the Egyptians used astronomical dating. But many people do not realize this and believe that Egyptian chronology is actually based on astronomy. The fact is there are astronomically fixed Near Eastern dates, but they are not Egyptian dates. Two Babylonian cuneiform tablets have been found, each one filled with an entire year of data on the sun, planets, and eclipses. These dates fix two years: part of 568 / 567 B.C. and part of 523 / 522 B.C. Those are our oldest astronomically fixed dates. There is one other older Near Eastern eclipse, noted by the Assyrians, which has enough partial data to fix it at one of two years: it applies either to 763 BC or 791 BC. But experts do not agree on which date this eclipse occurred.
So what is the deal about the Egyptian astronomical dating system? Didn't they also record eclipses?
The Egyptian "eclipses" are far different. Because of a lack of data, each eclipse mentioned in the papyri could apply to a number of different dates, spanning over a thousand years! To compound the problem, partial eclipses were also called "eclipses" by the ancients. The result has been that the experts more or less arbitrarily select the date that fits their assumptions, and then pronounce it to be "astronomical dating."
When we dig even deeper into these dating assumptions, we find that the main peg upon which the assumptions are hung is called the "Sothic cycle." What is the Sothic cycle?
The experts tell us that the Egyptian civil year had 365 days - 3 seasons (Akhet, Peret, Shemu), 4 months each with 30 days per month. To this, they added 5 additional epagomenal days. Since the actual orbit of the earth around the sun takes 365 and about a quarter days, this calendar falls behind by one day every four years. Nowadays, we correct this by adding an extra day every four years in a "leap year." However, if no calendar corrections are made, such a year would soon create significant problems (the experts say.) How the Egyptians dealt with this was a matter of some conjecture, and it was finally decided that they corrected their calendar every 1460 years at the time of the heliacal rising of Sirius. Where did this idea come from? Our information on the alleged Sothic cycle depends largely on the late classical writers Censorinus (ca. 238 AD) and Theon (379-395 AD). Sir William Flinders Petrie writes, referring to a table of purported observations of Sirius:
We will soon discover that there is significant reason to discard the above dates, but for now, we can just notice that even with such a great system, Petrie is still having some problems here. There is only one other documentary record of the Egyptian observation of Sirius (you would think that in all those thousands of years, if they observed this every year, they would write it down more often.)
Please notice that this only other "Sirius rising" is dated to either 1874 or 3334 BC. That's quite a jump. But Petrie struggles on mightily to fit the square peg in the round hole:
At this point, Petrie has almost fallen on his face on the very clue that would lead him out of the dilemma. To see him state it so clearly, and then just stumble on in the dark is almost painful.
What do I mean? I mean that perhaps Sothis is not Sirius. And perhaps the "Sothic Cycle" was something altogether different. To be clear, let's look at these assumptions. First, it is assumed that a Sothic calendar was used in Egypt. We do not know that for a fact. We only know it because Censorinus said so. Censorinus wrote his idea rather late to be considered so great an authority. What is more, Censorinus was highly praised by Cassiodorus, a converted Christian of about two centuries later, so we discover here that Censorinus' work was preserved because it was "approved," while other works that may have contradicted his ideas may be lost to us.
The next big problem is the assumption of the beginning date of the Sothic cycle of 1,460-years. Again, Censorinus' word was accepted despite the endless problems this assumption has created. As it happens, when one begins to investigate the issue more thoroughly, it is found that the dates based on this theoretical Sothic calendar do not agree with one another. [It is known that a lunar calendar was used in ancient Egypt, but not much is known about it. The end result of the use of this calendar is that every date on any monument would have to tell us which calendar was being used, but the Egyptians didn't do that.]
In the end, we find that the most fundamental problem of all is that it is an assumption of modern Egyptologists, that the word they have translated in the observations listed above - spd.t - is even Sirius at all! A lot of people are sure that this is exactly what was meant by the Egyptians, but the fact is, no one really knows this for sure! The word that gets translated a Sothis could have been anything, the sun, moon, a planet, a star, a constellation, the Pleiades, the Nile itself or a local god. And actually, in the context above, it is not even certain what "rising" means. It could mean a star, or it could mean the rising of the river. It could also mean a ceremony that was to be conducted called the "Raising of Sothis."
As we have already discussed regarding observational astronomy, Sirius rises in the sky from any given vantage point once every 24 hours, but it cannot be seen during those times when the sun is in the sky. The so-called heliacal rising of Sirius would have to occur at least 36 minutes before the sun comes up, in order to be seen, which presupposes a rather accurate time keeping method, which obviates the entire argument about a Sothic cycle to begin with.
Although it has been made the keystone of the absolute dating of ancient history, the chronology of ancient Egypt rests on a host of unproven assumptions. The whole structure is rendered even more shaky by the lateness and the fragmentary nature of most of the literary sources which are crucial for providing a skeleton for Egyptian chronology.
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