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KRONOS Vol. I, Issue 2

Limitations of Astronomical Dating Methods*

[*This article has been reprinted with the gracious permission of Dr. Donovan A. Courville from his two-volume work The Exodus Problem and its Ramifications (Crest Challenge Books, Loma Linda, Calif., 19711 copies of which may be purchased by writing to Dr. Courville.]

The problems involved in setting up a credible chronology of the ancient world are immense. This fact is indicated by the failure of any of the twenty or more outstanding historians of the last half-century to propose a chronology which would be generally acceptable to his associates. (1) At times, the discrepancies in the opinions of these various authorities are so marked as to make one question the possibility that a credible chronology of the ancient world will ever be produced. In any case, the problem is sufficiently complex to make desirable the use of any and all tools which can be devised to assist in arriving at results as close as possible to truth.

But in so doing, it must always be kept in mind that the use of tools which are not valid can well result in conclusions which only serve to obscure the truth. It must not be forgotten that the task of historians is not to create history. The events of history have occurred, and there is nothing that can be done to change the time relationships between these events by a single minute. The task is rather that of unraveling the confused records which have come down to us, and when this task has been done correctly, it is axiomatic that it should not be necessary to apologize for inconsistencies and anomalies at every turn of events.

To be sure, allowances must be made for the often unreliable records left us by the ancients, who failed to distinguish between facts and fiction or between truth and their own opinions. To be sure, our lack of complete information may leave events in one area which cannot be unquestionably related to contemporary events in adjoining areas. But it may be expected that insofar as information is available, a correct chronology of the ancient world will show a discernable harmony at every point where it is possible to check and will certainly be free of major synchronistic failures.

Dating Historical Events from Eclipse Data One of the tools which has commonly been employed to assist in arriving at the traditional structure of ancient chronology is the dating of events by means of coincident astronomical phenomena. While most of us are not sufficiently versed in the science of astronomy to understand how the calculations are made, we accept the predictions of astronomers when we are told that on such a date and at such an exact time of day, an eclipse will begin which will be observed as total in a certain specified area. So exact are these calculations that large sums of money and much effort are expended in locating suitable optical equipment at the most desirable point for observation of the phenomenon, and this is done with complete confidence that only the weather can interfere with the observations as planned. This is possible because of the unerring motion of the heavenly bodies and the validity of the methods of calculating the relative motions.

Just as future eclipses can be predicted for a given time and for a given location, so also it is possible to calculate backwards and determine the exact time and location of eclipses of the past. Hence, if a record of antiquity associates an eclipse with some specific historical event or with some specific year of a king's reign, it is then theoretically possible to date that event in terms of the present calendar or of any other calendar which has a proven relationship to the presently used calendar.

It might be expected that with such a tool at our disposal, the last difficulties in setting up the broad and general outlines of the chronology of the ancient world would be removed. This has obviously not been the case, or there would be no major chronological problems left unsolved. The failure of eclipse data to provide the expected unquestionable structure results primarily from the paucity of satisfactory eclipse records from these early eras, for if the information obtained from such records is to be of any genuine value in problems of chronology, certain limiting criteria must be met. It is not commonly possible to define, for any given case, the exact minimal data which must be available. If certain data are missing or inaccurate, then other data must be more exactly known.

In the first place, it must be known whether the eclipse record refers to an eclipse of the sun or of the moon, for an eclipse of the sun would not necessarily be visible at the same place or on the same date as an eclipse of the moon. The practical difficulty here is not so much a matter of knowing whether a given record refers to one or the other as in knowing for sure whether a given record refers to an eclipse at all for some of these early inscriptions are vague indeed. As an example of such, we take the inscription from the time of Takelot II of the XXIInd Egyptian Dynasty which reads: (2)

"When now had arrived the 15th year, the month Mesorii, the 25th day, under the reign of his father . . . the heaven could not be distinguished, the moon was eclipsed (literally was horrible), for a sign of the (coming) events in this land; as it also happened, for enemies . . . invaded with war the southern and northern districts (of Egypt)."

The historian Brugsch was very positive in interpreting this inscription as referring to a total eclipse of the moon, and others have joined him in this opinion.(3) It must be admitted, however, that the inscription does not say so, and other authorities have objected to such an interpretation.(4)

We have here a case of vagueness which does not permit any unequivocal interpretation from the internal evidence, and any conclusions on the dating of Takelot II based on this inscription must be considered as questionable. Manetho records a similar case in the reign of Necherophes of Dynasty III. He notes that: (5)

. . . In his reign the Libyans revolted against Egypt and when the moon waxed beyond reckoning, they surrendered in terror. This reference might be to the moon coming out of full eclipse, but it is also possible that some other phenomenon is referred to, or that Manetho misinterpreted the data before him from which he was quoting. (6} It should be apparent that such references are quite useless as a basis for providing data for chronological purposes.

Just as it is possible to calculate the exact time and area of observation of a future eclipse, by the same token, in order for an eclipse record of the past to be dated exactly and with certainty, it is necessary that the eclipse record tell us the position of the observer and the time of the day at which the eclipse occurred. It may also be important to know whether the eclipse was partial or total. In the absence of such complete data, it is readily possible that an eclipse record might be confused with quite a different actual eclipse, unless the associated incident can be closely dated by independent means, for it is elementary that an eclipse observed as total in one area will be visible only as partial in areas not too far distant. Furthermore, a total or near total eclipse may be observed in almost any general area of the earth's surface over a period of one hundred years or less.

It follows that an eclipse record which fails to provide sufficient data, or which is associated with an historical event which cannot be dated closely by independent means, may be quite useless as far as providing a basis for refining the date of the event in question. The possibility also remains that the associated event has been misdated due to an erroneous interpretation of the evidence. In such a case, the eclipse record could well serve to introduce confusion instead of eliminating or clarifying it. Since the eclipse records of antiquity, more often than not, fail to provide exact data on these crucial points, the method of dating historical events on this basis resolves itself to one which is of value only in refining dates which are already closely approximated with a considerable degree of certainty.

As an example of the confusion which might arise from attempts to date events by means of eclipse data, we take the case of the Great Eclipse of the Assyrian records. This eclipse occurred in the 10th year of the reign of the Assyrian king, Assur Dan III, and the record has traditionally been interpreted to refer to a total eclipse calculated to have been visible in the vicinity of Nineveh in 763 B.C. On the basis of this interpretation, the 10th year of the reign of Assur Dan III has been set straddling this date and the adjoining chronology of Assyria has been set in turn to meet this dating. However, some scholars have seen difficulties rising from this dating of Assur Dan III, and have proposed that the eclipse record does not refer to the total eclipse of 763 B.C., but rather to a partial eclipse visible in the same area in 791 B.C(8) The very fact that it is possible for scholars to juggle eclipse data in this fashion should indicate to us clearly that the incomplete data provided by these ancient references make them susceptible to more than a single interpretation and that the data may be made to fit into more than a single chronological structure.(9)

While these limitations on the usefulness of eclipse data hold for individual eclipse records, it should be noted that a record of a series of eclipses in sequence may serve as its own check. Such a series of eclipses was set up in the second century B.C., representing eclipses during the era from 721 to 491 B.C.(10) This series of eclipses has been found by calculation to match in unequivocal fashion the series of eclipses visible in this area over the period noted. With the numerous synchronisms between Biblical history and the histories of Egypt and Assyria for this era, the chronology of antiquity after the 8th century B.C. may be regarded as firmly established, the remaining problems having to do largely with refinement of certain dates.

This question of immediate interest here has reference to the number of eclipse records prior to 763 B.C. which may be regarded as unequivocably datable by means of calculations backwards in time. In answer to this question, it must be candidly admitted that there is not a single eclipse record of antiquity prior to 763 B.C. which can be thus characterized, if one grants that there is no reasonable question on the dating of the Great Assyrian Eclipse.(11) Thus a method which theoretically might have served as a powerful tool in setting up the broad outlines of ancient chronology is reduced to one whose sole value has been that of refining a few dates in the era of the 8th century B.C. and later where there is rather abundant independent supporting evidence for the chronology.

Meyer's Theory of Historical Dating from Sothic Data

In addition to eclipse records, other types of astronomical data have been used in attempts to date ancient historical events or eras. Most notable of these is the use of the so-called Sothic period.(12) The Sothic theory presumes that the Egyptians used a calendar year of 365 days, without interruption, as far back as the Vth Dynasty or earlier. Since the true solar year is more exactly 365-1/4 days, the New Year of such a calendar would wander backward through the seasons at the rate of one day every four years. Thus in 4 x 365 or 1460 years, the New Year's Day would return to its original position with reference to the seasons. This is the Sothic period. The theory of Sothic dating further presumes that the Egyptians had, by observations, determined the length of this period by noting the time required for a given star (Sothis) to appear on the horizon at sunrise on New Year's Day after its similar previous appearance 1460 years earlier, and that the Egyptians had used this 1460 year period as a sort of long range calendar. Thus if an historical event is dated by its position in the Sothic cycle, it becomes theoretically possible to calculate the corresponding date on the B.C. time scale, providing the date for the beginning of any Sothic cycle is known.

This concept of using the Sothic period as a basis for dating historical events of the ancient world was first proposed by Lepsius (1810-1884), but the development of the method belongs to later workers (Mahler, Borchardt, Meyer, and Weill). Meyer is commonly credited with the specific statement of the theories involved. From calculations based on these theories, Meyer pointed to the year 4240 B.C. as the earliest fixed date of ancient history.(13) This date was purported to be the date for the introduction of the Sothic calendar in Egypt. Since other thousands of years must be hypothesized for the Egyptian to make the necessary observations to initiate the calendar, we are led far back into a presumed antiquity of civilization in the Nile Valley.

The history of this theory since its inception has been a checkered one indeed. The opinions of authorities on its validity have varied from complete rejection of the concept as providing any basis whatever for dating ancient events through a tacit acceptance in the face of much contradictory evidence, to a position of complete domination of the thinking of historians in a superlative manner.(14) As one looks backward in retrospect on the history of this concept of Sothic dating, and more specifically to the conclusion of Meyer that the Egyptians introduced a calendar in Egypt in the year 4240 B.C. based on this concept, one should be led to appreciate that modern historians are not at all immune to making mistakes of a major nature, and that human reasoning falls far short of being able to cope with the problems of ancient chronology once separated from the fundamental source of truth.

We are reminded of the ridicule which has been so freely heaped upon Ussher, the Biblical chronologist of some three centuries ago, who made the error of imposing unsound theories onto what was otherwise a brilliant piece of work. Realizing that Bible chronology logically led him to a date approximating 4000 B.C. for Creation, he theorized that the elapsed time from Creation to the appearance of the promised Messiah must be exactly 4000 years. Noting that the birth of Christ had, in error, been placed four years too late, he set the date for Creation in exact fashion as having occurred in 4004 B.C. For this bit of unsound supposition, the chronology of Ussher, so long accepted, has been the butt of ridicule during the last century or more by those who reject the historicity of the early chapters of the Bible, not because this chronology is so far out of line with that provided by the Scriptures, but because he presumed to thus exactly set a date for which there was only an unsound theoretical basis.

It has been tacitly assumed by modern scholars that errors of this type and magnitude are no longer possible because of man's improved grasp of the principles of logic and reasoning. The error of Meyer in setting the date of 4240 B.C. as the date for the presumed introduction of the Sothic calendar in Egypt represents a mistake of far greater proportions than that made by Ussher and this in spite of the three centuries advantage in time.(15)

While a number of prominent authorities have rejected the theories of Meyer and his associates as providing any reliable basis for the dating of ancient historical events, it remains a fact that these theories have continued to dominate the traditional structure of ancient chronology. It is thus in order to re-examine critically the theories and assumptions on which this method of dating is based. In order for the calculations of Meyer, and related conclusions based on the Sothic method of dating, to be worthy of credence, the following points should be shown to stand on solid ground: (I) The date for the beginning of some Sothic period must be known with certainty; (2) The identity of the star, Sothis, which ancients used to mark the Sothic period, must be known with certainty;* (3) The calculations involved must be valid; (4) It must be clear that the Egyptians used the Sothic cycle in the manner presumed by the theory;** (5) It must be known that the calendar of Egypt remained unchanged, both in the length of the year and in the position of the months of the year, over the period in question; (6) The references from the ancient records, used to support the theory, and conclusions based upon this theory, must be sufficiently clear as to permit but a single interpretation; (7) The application of the theory to the problems of historical dating must not lead us into anomalous situations; (8) All of the data available relating events to the Sothic period should fit satisfactorily into the theory.

[Note:* Reference to an incident within the Sothic period which can be unequivocally dated in terms of both its position within the period and on the B.C. time scale would serve equally well.]

[Note: ** i.e., for the period to which the theory is applied for dating purposes.]

While a failure to establish any one of these points should be regarded as placing the theory on other than solid grounds, it is here proposed to show that the theory is found wanting on every one of these major points. The date for the beginning of a Sothic period is not known with certainty; the identification of the star, Sothis, with Sirius cannot be unquestionably established, and evidence is at hand which is definitely contradictory to this conclusion of identity; the calculations used are not valid; it is quite out of the question that the Egyptians used the Sothic period in the manner assumed by the theory; there is abundant evidence that the Egyptian calendar did not remain unchanged during the period in question; the ancient records fail to provide a single inscription which can be unequivocally interpreted to support this theory of dating; the application of the theory has led us into a chronology which, at best, can only be evaluated as uncertain and characterized by altogether too many anachronisms to be regarded as even approximately correct. It should be carefully noted that in the report of the Program to Aid in the Development of the C-14 dating method, it was pointed out that when judged by scientific standards worthy of the name, the ancient dates proposed by archaeologists and historians remain hypothetical.(16) These dates, which are tightly bound to the Sothic dating scheme, were regarded as having no value at all for evaluating the data from C-14 analyses, except as individual cases can be confirmed by an independent and unequivocal method. The only suggestion of such a suitable method for confirmation was by means of tree ring data.(17) But even this method has now been shown to provide only questionable data.(18) The Sothic dating method was not even mentioned as providing any such method for arriving at unequivocal dates. Thus while the C-14 and tree ring dating methods fall short of providing dependable dates, the dates derived by application of the Sothic method should be recognized as far less worthy of confidence.

The Beginning Date of a Sothic Period and the Identity of Sothis with Sirius Remain Uncertain

The commonly accepted date for the beginning of a Sothic period is 139-143 A.D. According to Meyer's theory, this means that the star Sothis (Sirius), rose coincident with the sun on the Egyptian New Year's Day of this year. This date rests on the statement of Censorinus, a Roman historian who states that a Sothic period began just one hundred years before the time of his writing. Since the B.C.-A.D. method of expressing dates had not yet been introduced, Censorinus gave the date of his writing in terms of various periods of elapsed time from earlier historical events or eras. These data are summarized below, together with the accepted dates for the incidents and the calculated date for the writing by Censorinus in each case.(19)

Some of the data given by Censorinus are not exact, since they are based on eras rather than on specific dates. If we interpret each as meaning the beginning of the era mentioned, then the data are not in agreement. It would seem obvious that if these data are to be used to determine the date at which Censorinus wrote, such use must be on the basis of selection from conflicting figures. If we grant the current view that the most probable date is approximately 240 A.D. for Censorinus, then Sothic periods began in 140 A.D., 1320 B.C., 2780 B.C., and 4240 B.C., the latter being the one which Meyer considered as representing the introduction of the Sothic calendar in Egypt.

The question here is perhaps not so much in terms of the exact date for Censorinus' writing as it is of the reliability of his record in the first place. The writings of antiquity contain numerous such statements and calculations, many of which must be regarded as erroneous opinions or conclusions based on inadequate data. The acceptance of this particular one, while rejecting so many of the others, requires substantiation in the form of directing us to a consistent and rational chronology of Egypt. The simple observation that Censorinus seems to have been confused in the matter of the elapsed time from events he himself selected, suggests that his calculations are hardly to be considered as fully reliable.


Censorinus' Data on the Beginning of a Sothic Period

Censorinus dates himself Accepted date Calculated date for Censorinus
1040 years from the Olympiad era 776 B.C. 264 A.D.
896 years from the founding of Rome 753 B.C. 143 A.D.
283 years from Parilibus    
986 years from Nabonassar's era 746 B.C. 240 A.D.
562 years from Philippi 357 B.C. 205 A.D.
265 years from Augustus 28 B.C. 237 A.D.

The statement of Censorinus is commonly regarded as corroborated by the statement of Theon, an ancient astronomer of Alexandria, who said that 1605 years had elapsed between the era of king Menophres and the era of Diocletian.(20) The era of Diocletian is rather firmly fixed as beginning in 284 A.D. This provides the date 1321 for Menophres, which date coincides satisfactorily with the date 1320 for the beginning of a Sothic period as calculated from the interpretation of Censorinus, which places his writing in 240 A.D. and the beginning of a Sothic period in 140 A.D. As one becomes aware of the degree of confusion which existed among the ancient writers relative to their own past, it would seem almost certain that Theon did not possess information which would permit him to place the date 1320 B.C. in the reign of any particular king with certainty. We have here then only a situation where two statements, each uncertain in its interpretation and in its validity, provide a questionable corroboration of each other.

It would seem strange, if astronomers are able to calculate backward in time and date eclipses centuries before Christ, that they would not be able to calculate back and determine whether or not the star, Sirius, was on the horizon at sunrise in Egypt on the Egyptian New Year's Day in the year 140 A.D. Actually, this calculation has been made, but one sees these data quoted with apparent reticence. The calculation was made by the astronomer Poole over one hundred years ago and was corroborated for correctness by the Astronomer Royal of London.(21) The calculations show that Sirius was not on the horizon coincident with the rising sun on this day. It was 1 hour and 16 minutes above the horizon at Thebes and slightly less than this at Memphis.* We are thus faced with a curious anomaly. What shall we conclude? Are we to presume that the astronomers did not know how to make these calculations? Shall we conclude that Censorinus did not know that of which he spoke so glibly, or that his calculations were in error or possibly based on the same erroneous data used by Theon? Or is it possible that the statement of Theon is being mis-interpreted? Is it possible that it was not Sirius which is the star to be identified as Sothis? Or shall we conclude that the beginning of the Sothic period was marked by a position of Siruis which was 1 hour and 16 minutes above the horizon at sunrise? Is it possible that historians have misdated Censorinus? Or is there a possibility that Censorinus is quite correct in his dating, but that historians are mistaken about the significance of this period and in the manner in which it was used by the ancients?

[Note: *To avoid the discrepancy as it exists for either Thebes in southern Egypt or Memphis in northern Egypt, the geographic location for the origin of the observation leading to this definition of a Sothic rising has been moved still further north to Alexandria. Since the discrepancy decreases as one moves northward, this ameliorates the difficulty somewhat However, the rising of Sothis must still be defined as an appearance of the star Sirius about the time of sunrise. There is considerable doubt that Alexandria can be regarded as the site of the original observations in 1320 B.C.]

The obvious conclusion is that there is something radically wrong with the reasoning and the calculations which have led to the placement of the Sothic cycle beginning in 140 A.D. This point alone may be regarded as sufficient basis for a disagreement among the authorities as to the date to be assigned to the beginning of this period and for the difference of opinion as to the reliance which should be placed on the use of this period for dating purposes. The historian Budge wrote in a most skeptical manner on this point: (22)

. . . It must be remembered that, as said above, very little reliance is to be placed on any calculations of this kind in attempting to formulate an exact chronology, especially as authorities, both ancient and modern, are not agreed as to the exact date in the second century of our era when the Sothic period ended on which they based their calculations.

Actually the extent of the disagreement in the matter of the date for the beginning of a Sothic period is not limited to an exact fixing of this date in the second century of our era. The astronomer Lockyer fixed the date for the beginning of the cycle in the year 269 B.C., some 409 years earlier than that deduced by historians from Censorinus. Lockyer built up a chronology of the XVIIIth and other dynasties with dates set some 400 years earlier than the ones now so familiar for these dynasties based on Censorinus. MacNaughton set up a chronology based on the supposition that Sothis was not Sirius, but Spica, as a way around the difficulty, (23)

The question might be raised as to what happens if one of the alternate dates is taken for Censorinus and the beginning of the Sothic period is adjusted to this date. The answer is simple but disastrous. For if we do not take the statement of Censorinus as is traditionally done, then the statement of Theon does not corroborate Censorinus, and we have a shaky basis indeed for the entire concept of Sothic dating. The same holds true if we try to adjust this date to that when Sirius was actually on the horizon at sunrise on the Egyptian New Year's Day. There would seem to be little by way of alternative. We must either accept this traditional interpretation of Censorinus in spite of the anomalies involved or admit that some gross errors have been made in the presumed fixation of the dates for the XIIth and XVIIIth Egyptian Dynasties.

Calculations Based on the Sothic Theory Are Invalid

Since Meyer first outlined his theories which form the bases of astronomical dating by the Sothic method, astronomers have had occasion to scrutinize the reasoning leading to Meyer's conclusions and have not been highly impressed. The Sothic theory as proposed by Meyer presumes that the Egyptians had determined by observation the length of the Sothic period and had used it subsequently as a long range calendar. This conclusion now seems to be quite out of the question. The trouble lies in part in the fact that the true solar year is not exactly 365 1/4 days, but is some 12 minutes short of this. A simple calculation, using the correct year length, shows that the true Sothic period is not 1460 years in length but 1507 years long.(24) The astronomers point out that during this time, the sun itself will move among the stars, and this motion is in a direction such as to partly offset the discrepancy between 1460 and 1507 years. The remaining discrepancy may be considered as sufficiently small so that the Egyptians would not detect the difference in a single Sothic period since four solar years are required for the vague year to deviate by a single day. However, the difference would certainly be apparent on the second Sothic rising and would represent an embarrassing amount of error by the third one. Since it had been assumed that the whole concept was adopted by the Egyptians as a result of observations,(25) it becomes apparent that any calendar thus set up in 4240 B.C. would be obsolete by 1322 B.C., two Sothic periods later. Since we have no reference from antiquity giving the beginning of any period prior to 1322 (assuming that Theon is referring to such), we are confronted with a presumed calendar already obsolete at the time of the first suggestion of such a beginning. It is thus quite out of the question that the Sothic period was used in the way presumed by Meyer, and his supposed date for the introduction of a calendar based on the Sothic cycle remains hanging in mid-air without a shadow of foundation.

The Egyptian Calendar Has Not Been Fixed Throughout the Period During Which Sothic Dating Methods Are Employed

The utilization of Sothic data for historical dating must presume that there was no change in the calendar of Egypt during the period to which the method is applied. Even after the disposition of Meyer's theory relative to the introduction of a Sothic calendar in 4240 B.C., the use of the method must still presume that no alterations in the calendar occurred between the XIIth Dynasty and the time of Censorinus which involved the length of the calendar year or the position of the months in the year. A single such alteration in this interim would invalidate all calculations and conclusions from this dating method for periods prior to such change. Actually there are a number of evidences that indicate changes in the Egyptian calendar after the time of the XIIth Dynasty.

A note appended to the name of King Aseth, one of the late Hyksos kings, whose name appears in the Sothis king list, reads: (26)

This king added the 5 intercalary days to the year: in his reign, they say, the Egyptian year became a year of 365 days, being previously reckoned as 360 days only.

Another version of Manetho credits this same calendar alteration to the Hyksos king, Saites, at an earlier date.(27) These two records are not necessarily contradictory, since the two kings may have introduced the change in different parts of Egypt in the two cases. The question of the reliability of the note is pertinent. As previously noted, these inserted notes may represent opinions or calculations based on inadequate evidence, just as may be supposed for the calculation of Censorinus. The question of the reliability of this note must be decided on its own merits.

It has been suggested that the note has no significance, since it is otherwise known that the 365 day year was in use back as far as the Vth Dynasty. But this is no evidence against the authenticity or reliability of the note, for the calendar could have been changed from 365 days to 360 days at the time the Hyksos took over Egypt and then returned to the 365 day year at the time of Aseth. Certainly it is not illogical to suppose that the Hyksos brought their own calendar with them when they took over the control of Egypt. Even if this 360 day calendar had a very short life, this would be sufficient to completely ruin the validity of any calculations based on a presumed fixed calendar. While the point in question may not be capable of proof or disproof at this time, the note must be considered as casting doubt on the validity of any chronology which is based on the assumption of a fixed calendar. In view of the anomalous chronology which has resulted from the application of the Sothic theory, it would seem that the simplest explanation lies in the probability of error in this assumption of an unaltered calendar in Egypt through the period from 2000 B.C. to 140 A.D.

There is also considerable evidence to indicate that the first month of the Egyptian calendar did not remain unaltered during this period. By the year 721 B.C., and probably as early as 851 B.C., the month Thoth was the first month of the Egyptian calendar.(28) From inscriptions dealing with New Year ceremonies of an earlier era, Brugsch deduced that the month Hathor was the first month of the year at this earlier period.(29) The Ebers papyrus definitely gives the month Menkhet as the first month of the year.(30) In the XXth Dynasty, Hathor is the 4th month and Mesorii is the first.(31)

The ease with which the calendar could be altered is indicated by the fact that both Amenhotep III and Rameses II altered the sequence of the so-called Sed Festivals. These rulers were dictators, and there is no reason to presume that if one of them decided to make New Year's Day coincide with his birthday, or for some other insignificant reason, elected to alter the calendar, he might not do so to meet his whims. In anticipation of the Julian calendar adopted many years later, Ptolemy III introduced a true solar calendar of 365 1/4 days (probably in the year 235 B.C.). While it is not possible to relate all these various calendars to each other or to the present calendar, it would seem futile to hope to set up a valid chronology of Egypt based on the assumption that the calendar was not altered during the period from the XIIth Dynasty to the 3rd century A.D.(32) With the numerous inconsistencies and anachronisms in the chronology to which we have been led, it would seem that some one should have guessed that the difficulty lies in the extreme improbability of this premise on which the Sothic dating method rests.

Ancient Inscriptions Used to Support the Sothic Theory are Vague

There are perhaps five principal ancient records which have been used in attempts to fix certain dates or events or eras in the Sothic period. Besides these, there are perhaps this many more which have an equal right to such consideration but which are commonly disregarded because they do not fit satisfactorily into the scheme which has resulted from the acceptance of the others. Not a single one of these references can be regarded as providing unequivocal dates.

The first example to be noted is the statement previously referred to from Theon, pointing to the year 1320 as the date for the era of Menophres and presumed to indicate that a Sothic period began in this year. As noted above, the use of this statement depends for confirmation on the selection of the date 240 A.D. chosen from several possible dates derivable from the data provided by Censorinus. There is considerable doubt that the statement of Theon can be depended upon as factual.(33) Disconcerting also is the fact that no king of Egypt is elsewhere known by the name Menophres,* and hence his identity remains uncertain. If we follow the recognized rules for transliterating Greek names back to Egyptian, we arrive at the Egyptian name Mennefer-re. There are two kings in Egypt who had names sufficiently close to this to merit such tentative identification. The first is a name transliterated as Menoffirre, belonging to a Hyksos king. But the Hyksos era is far out of line by the traditional chronology to allow placement of this king in the year 1320 B.C., the last of the Hyksos kings having ended his rule by 1580 B.C. Second vote should go to Menoffire Ai of the XIIIth Dynasty, but this king is even farther out of line with the year 1320 and hence likewise cannot be seriously considered. We might give a third vote to Merneptah of the XIXth Dynasty, though this name is hardly the equivalent of Menophres. He falls closer to the desired date, but is still some 70 years out of line.

[Note: *... i.e., for the era of 1320 B.C See I. Velikovsky, "Astronomy and Chronology," Pensee IV (Spring-Summer, 1973) pp 44-45 and 49 and reference #93 of this article. – the Ed.]

Petrie suggested an identity to Rameses I, since he carried an alternate name of Men-peh-re, a name which again is hardly the counterpart of Menophres, but which has a resemblance. Petrie's suggestion has been generally accepted, not because of any convincing evidence, but rather because Rameses I falls within the era for which it has seemed logically possible to synchronize Egyptian history with later synchronims retained. Certainly nothing but the demand of the theory would give such credence to this proposed identity. If the theory proves anything at all, it proves that the year 1322 B.C. should fall during the period of Hyksos domination.

Petrie attempted to date the reign of Mer-en-re, a king of the Vlth Dynasty, by the Sothic method, from an inscription by one of his officials named Una.(34) Una tells us in his inscriptions that he had been sent by the king to the quarry at Het-nub to secure large stones to be used in providing altars for religious offerings. After securing the stones, he floated them down the river on a barge to Memphis, arriving in the month Epiphi when, according to the inscription, there was no water over the sandbars. In spite of this difficulty, he succeeded in bringing the barge to shore and unloading his stone. Petrie concluded from this situation that the end of flood season in that era occurred in the month Epiphi. On the basis of the calculated shift of the end of the flood season from its normal position in the seasons, it was calculated that king Mer-en-re reigned about 3350 B.C. (or one Sothic period earlier by the long chronology), with an allowable error of perhaps a hundred years in either direction.

Budge recognized the insecure basis on which Petrie's calculation rested. He comments:(35)

What Una narrates may show that the month of Epiphi was considerably out of place in the year when he went to Het-nub, but the possibility of deducing any date for the reigning king from this circumstance is too remote to be seriously entertained for a moment.

The skepticism of Budge on Petrie's conclusion has been fully borne out by subsequent developments in the field of Egyptian chronology. In the course of the last several decades, there has been an increasing tendency to accept the conclusion of Scharff that Mena, the first king of Egypt, must be moved to a date in the era of c. 2800 B. C. This date is some 400 years later than the latest date deduced for Mer-en-re of Dynasty VI, a situation which is of course impossible. One might argue that Mer-en-re of Dynasty VI should then be moved one full Sothic Period later than his placement by the short chronology and date him in the era of 1900 B.C. But this is not permissible, since this period is already assigned to the XIIth Dynasty by the same method of Sothic reckoning. We have heard no suggestion, other than our own. that the VIth Dynasty should be made contemporary with the XIIth. Or it might be argued that Una's arrival at Memphis was at the beginning of the flood season, before the waters had risen to cover the sandbars. This hardly makes sense either, for then Una's trip up the river with his barge must be placed during the dry season, and this in turn puts his quarrying work in the hot summer season, when quarrying was deliberately avoided because of the difficulties involved. The obvious conclusion would be that this inscription, like all others used to the same end, provides no basis whatever for dating the reign of Mer-en-re.

The Egyptologist, Ebers, discovered a papyrus dated on the reverse side as of the 9th day of the 11th month in the 9th year of king Zeserkare.(36) Ebers identified Zeserkare a Amenhotep I of the XVIIIth Dynasty, a conclusion which was hotly contested for a period prior to its general acceptance, since other kings were also known by this same name.* The papyrus contains data in the form of a calendar of months, which has been used as the basis of Sothic reckoning for the dating of Amenhotep I. The data, however, raised difficulties, since the calendar specifically refers to the month of Menkhet as the first month of the year, rather than Thoth, which was certainly the first month a few centuries later. The explanations offered to account for this discrepancy have, to say the least, not been very credible, and a recognition of a need for a simpler explanation has been voiced.(37) By assuming that the calendar meant Thoth when it read Menkhet, a date was calculated for Amenhotep I in the 16th century as demanded by the traditional chronology.

[Note: *The name in the extant inscription is partially effaced leaving a question as to whether the name has been properly read. The reading as Zeserkare, throne name of Amenhotep I, was hotly contested when proposed and other readings have been suggested. The uncertainty of this reading leaves the inscription without value for dating.]

An inscription presumed to have been produced under Thutmose III states that a Sothic rising took place on the 28th day of the third month of the season of inundation (i.e., the 11th month of the year).(38) However, the inscription does not state the name of the king nor the year of his reign. It is ascribed to Thutmose III on the basis of the appearance of this name on another fragment presumed to be from the same inscription, but found at some distance from it. The astronomer Torr commented on the worthlessness of this inscription to prove anything, since the inscription may have been produced by any one of the successors of Thutmose III.

Perhaps the most important inscription on which Meyer based his calculations is presented by what are known as the Kahoun Papyrii. This series of papyrii inscriptions were discovered by Borchardt in 1899, one fragment of which contains a reference to a Sothic rising which stands as the key record for Meyer's Sothic theory. The record is addressed to a priest by the name of Pepihotep and is dated in the 7th year of the reign of Sesostris III of Dynasty XII. That part of the record of primary interest here reads.(39)

"You ought to know that the rising of Sothis takes place on the 16th of the 8th month. Announce it to the priests of the town of Sekem-Usertesen and of Anubis on the mountain and of Suchos . . . and have his letter filed in the temple record."

Assuming that the "rising of Sothis" of this inscription refers to the coincident rising of Sothis with the sun (although calculations do not support this concept for the marking of the beginning of a Sothic period in the time of Censorinus), and assuming that Sothis is the star now known as Sirius (which assumption is not corroborated by astronomical calculations for the Sothic beginning in 140 A.D.), and assuming that the calendar involved in this inscription was for a vague year of 365 days which was not altered between this time and the time of Censorinus (which assumption would seem certainly to be in error), and assuming that the 8th month of this calendar was the same as the 8th month of the calendar at the time of Censorinus (which assumption must certainly be in error), it is calculated that the 7th year of Sesostris III fell in the era 1876-1872 B.C. Since the internal chronology of the XIIth Dynasty has been established with some degree of certainty, the era for the dynasty is thus regarded as fixed in the era approximated by the dates 2000-1787 B.C. These dates, as an approximation, are rather universally accepted among historians as marking the limits of Dynasty XII.

The reliability of this conclusion is no greater than that of the assumptions on which it is based. The least that can be said is that there are no less than three other interpretations for this inscription which are reasonable. The first of these assumes that, since the calendar of Egypt was not fixed from the time of the XIIth Dynasty, all possibility of connecting the calendar of this inscription with that on which Censorinus based his statement is lost, and even if the Sothic period was utilized by the Egyptians in the manner presumed, there remains no basis for dating events by this method. The second explanation presumes that the Egyptians, even at this early date used a true solar calendar of 365 1/4 days.(40) By this thesis, the expression "You ought to know that the rising of Sothis takes place," does not mean that the priest should know this because of recorded observations over the past period of 1460 years, but rather that he should have known this because it occurred at this same time every year. The third interpretation would presume that the star, Sothis, is not Sirius, since this star was not on the horizon at sunrise in Egypt on New Year's Day in 140 A.D. This theory was adopted by MacNaughton, who built up a complicated astronomical basis for his chronology based on the identification of Sothis as Spica.(41)

The author of this work holds to the view that, whatever the interpretation of Sothic data which may eventually be substantiated as correct, there is, nevertheless, very good reason for believing that the Egyptians, as early as the early IVth Dynasty, used a true solar calendar of 365 1/4 days which could be regarded as fixed in the same sense that our present calendar is fixed, i.e., it was periodically corrected to take care of the accumulated discrepancies. Even if a second migrating calendar was simultaneously in use for certain purposes, the references are too vague to permit the use of such as a basis for establishing a chronology. This deduction should be apparent, since none of the premises on which this theory of dating rests can be regarded as having been established. The inescapable evidence that the Egyptians of the IVth Dynasty had a knowledge of mathematics and astronomy sufficient to calculate the exact length of the year is presented in a subsequent section of this chapter.(42)

When one sees the significance of these alternate possibilities for interpreting the inscription of the Kahoun papyrii, there is no particular difficulty in realizing that there were ample grounds for the rejection of the theory of Sothic dating by Brugsch and other astute authorities, who simply could not see in it any solid basis for providing a system of dating, and more specifically, as far back as the XIIth Dynasty. It would seem that historians in general who understand the full import of the objections raised to the validity of this theory must admit that it is not possible to date events by this method as far back as the time of Sesostris III. There are some, however, who believe that when data are used in conjunction with data relative to a second cycle, such as that of the moon, then it is possible to date events back this far with a degree of exactness and certainty. Hence the assumptions on which such a belief rests require critical scrutiny.

The principles at point are very simple. If an event can be pinned down in two independent cycles, the chronological conclusions rest on a more secure foundation than when a single cycle is used. However, it must be apparent that the use of a very short cycle, such as that of the moon, to confirm dates derived by use of a much longer cycle, such as the Sothic cycle, has some very large inherent weaknesses. The cycle of the moon will repeat itself so many times in the course of one Sothic cycle that any given lunar data can be made to fit satisfactorily into the Sothic period at a considerable number of points. Hence, unless the date for the incident involved is known approximately and with certainty from independent data, it is very possible that any proposed confirmation may be only wishful thinking. The most that could be expected of this method is the determination of the most logical date within a relatively narrow era which provides the best harmony between lunar and Sothic data. If this narrow era has not been established with certainty, the conclusions reached are quite worthless as confirmation of a chronology.

Sothic Dating Has led to an Incredible Chronology

Not the least of the reasons for rejecting the Sothic method of dating is that it led historians to adopt an incredible chronology of Egypt. If we accept the Sothic datings for the XVIIIth Dynasty as demanded by the identification of Menophres with Rameses I and accept the most questionable datings based on the Ebers papyrus, then the beginning of the XVIIIth Dynasty is fixed at a date which cannot be far removed from 1580 B.C.(43) By the same token, if we accept the dating of Sesostris III as calculated from Sothic data found in the Kahoun papyrii, the end of the XIIth Dynasty is fixed at a date not far removed from 1788 B.C.(44)* This leaves a period which cannot be in any considerable excess of 210 years from the end of Dynasty XII to the beginning of Dynasty XVIII. Into this brief period must be squeezed all the reigns of the kings of the XIIIth Dynasty prior to the Hyksos invasion (probably some 26 or more in number), followed by the total period of Hyksos domination and a brief period for the XVIIth Dynasty.

[* "To abandon 1786 8.C. as the year when Dyn. XII ended would be to cast adrift from our only firm anchor, a course that would have serious consequences for the history. not of Egypt alone, but of the entire Middle East." – A. H. Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs p. 148 – The Ed.]

At the time of the proposal of the fixation of the chronologies of the XIIth Dynasties, there was strenuous objection to the resulting structure. Petrie pointed out that on the basis of the data then available, the only rational conclusion would involve the insertion of an extra, full Sothic period of 1460 years into this interim. The comments of Petrie on this question are of sufficient importance to reproduce them here in part: (45)

. . . The question in debate is in which cycle the XIIth Dynasty occurred; does it end at 1786 B.C. or 3246 B.C.? Or, as it is agreed the XVIIIth dynasty began in 1580, were there 206 or 1666 years between the XIIth and XVIIIth dynasties? The advocates of the short period claim that there are not enough monuments known to fill more than two centuries. Yet we have remains of at least seventeen kings of the XIIIth dynasty, and every year adds to their number, which on an average of 7 years each is 120 years. The Hyksos age is now fairly defined, and requires us to recognize at least ten important reigns, besides the probability of a large number more, and 150 years would be a low estimate for what is already well known. And at least 10 years must be allowed in the XVIIth dynasty. Thus 280 years is covered by reigns which are evident, while we ignore the probability that we only know yet the minor part of the rulers in this very dark and confused period. To compress this into two centuries seems impossible. The advocates of the longer period consider that the evidence of changes in the art, the language, and the burial customs show that much more than two centuries had passed, and that this fully balances the supposed scantiness of monuments as historical material.

Subsequent developments have shown that it is equally impossible to insert an extra Sothic period between Dynasties XII and XVIII as proposed by Petrie, since it is now apparent that the date of Mena must be moved to a date later than that which would result for the end of Dynasty XII. However, the increasing amount of data from this era, between Dynasties XII and XVIII, make it necessary to leave room, not only for the 17 kings known when Petrie wrote, but for not less than 26 such kings in Dynasty XIII prior to the Hyksos invasion.(46)

As a result of the disagreement among historians on this point, two theories were held by various authorities known as the long and the short chronologies for the Hyksos era. Petrie was the principal proponent of the long chronology. Many historians were not primarily chronology conscious, and the remainder of those who were (Breasted, Meyer, and Weill) leaned toward the short chronology. With the death of Petrie, and the loss of the principal supporter of the long chronology, the short chronology has become generally accepted along with the chronology of later Egypt which results from this 208 year squeeze. A summary of the diverse opinions held by various authorities at the time is provided by MacNaughton. He writes: (47)

Breasted, accepting Meyer's arguments, drew up an elaborate chronology based on the minimum lengths of reign of the kings and Dynasties as shown from the monuments. On reading his chronology one is left with the impression that he regards a minimum date as likely to be the correct probability.... It is therefore strange that so able a scholar as Breasted should have stumbled into the same type of pitfall. Nevertheless his chronological discussions are very valuable provided it is kept in mind that what he really is demonstrating are the minimal dates, not the probable dates.

Petrie, with a knowledge of the practical difficulties in the way of Meyer's theory, proposed an extra Sothic cycle between the Twelfth and Eighteenth Dynasties, but this, though ingenious, is untenable with Sirius as Sothis.... What Petrie emphasized, however, was the complete incompatibility of Meyer's theory with the archaeological evidence and the evidence of the King Lists.

But as the outstanding Egyptologists with a chronological bent . . . were three in favour of a form of "short" chronology and one in favour of a "long" chronology, it is perhaps not surprising that those who had not time to study the chronological problem for themselves gave their vote for the "short" chronology.

Budge, however, refused to accept the "short" chronology and later, Hall thought he would effect a compromise by choosing a date for the Twelfth Dynasty intermediate between that of Meyer and of Petrie. He regarded the changes in art between the Twelfth and Eighteenth Dynasties as unlikely to have occupied so short an interval as 200 years or so long an interval as 1600-1700, and he entirely abandoned the Sothiac cycle as a clue to the period elapsed.

Petrie has now also abandoned the Sothiac cycle and substituted a theory that the dates of the Twelfth Dynasty were quoted in terms of a seasonal calendar. On cultural grounds, more particularly basing his conclusions on the variations in the types of Hyksos scarabs recently discovered by him, he now estimates the interval at about 800 years.

Baikie, who has evidently made a special study of the artistic side of Egyptian life, thinks that arguments based on estimates of length of time for a change to have taken place in the arts of a nation are based on a slender foundation and that on cultural grounds a "long" chronology is just as likely to be right as a"short" chronology.

Weigall favours a short chronology but is evidently conscious that to a reader new to the subject the crushing of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, Fifteenth, Sixteenth, and Seventeenth Dynasties into two or three hundred years will appear somewhat ridiculous. He therefore excuses himself by explaining that "of course the most important argument in favour of the arrangement is that the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Dynasties have got to be fitted into a period between the astronomically fixed date of the fall of the Twelfth Dynasty and the rise of the Seventeenth." As the Twelfth Dynasty is not astronomically fixed where he thinks it is the necessity for the squeezing of the evidence disappears.

My own view [MacNaughton's] based principally on astronomical evidence, calendrical evidence, the evidence of the King Lists, and synchronisms with Babylonia, is that the interval from the end of the Twelfth Dynasty to the beginning of the Eighteenth Dynasty was somewhat less than 1500 years.

It should be noted that the reason why Breasted set up his chronology in terms of minimal reigns of the kings of Dynasties XVIII and XIX was because he was forced to do so to squeeze these dynasties into the period in such a fashion as to retain certain synchronisms which had long been accepted. While MacNaughton is unquestionably correct in his criticism of Breasted in this interpretation of the monumental data, it must be recognized that there is little by way of alternative if the limitations imposed by the Sothic method are accepted. The important thing to keep in mind is that the acceptance of either the long or the short chronology based on the fixation of dates by the Sothic dating method leads us to an incredible structure. Petrie's long chronology provides an untenably long period between the two dynasties, as he himself must have eventually recognized. The short chronology forces us to squeeze this period into an incredibly short space.

With the acceptance of the short chronology by historians in general, the problem has become one of dividing this 208 year period between Dynasties XIII, XVII, and the Hyksos period in some sort of a credible manner. The tendency seems to be to allow about 10 years for Dynasty XVII and divide the remaining time between the kings of Dynasty XIII and the Hyksos period. Neither of these allottments is credible. Even granting but 26 kings of Dynasty XIII before the Hyksos conquest only provides an average of four years reign for each. Elsewhere, such a condition would be interpreted unequivocally as a period of chaos approaching anarchy with a rapid turn-over of rulers. Yet the archaeological evidence indicates that no such conditions prevailed during this period.(48) Some of these rulers must have had very normal periods of reign with time to erect imposing monuments with no indication of haste.

Nor is it any more credibly possible to squeeze the Hyksos period into a 100 year period now than it was when Petrie pointed out the impossible nature of such an arrangement. Manetho allows 250 (or 284) years for Dynasty XV alone, giving the length of reign for each of its kings. Following this was a less well defined period of Dynasty XVI which may well have involved a divided reign between two or several kings at one time. To squeeze these two dynasties into a period of 100 years has no resemblance to the interpretation of Manetho's dynasties otherwise. Miss Kenyon allowed 150 years for the Hyksos.(49) This is still insufficient for the era and reduces the period for Dynasty XIII to a still more incredible value.

Were it not for the pressure of the presumed fixation of dates by the Sothic dating method, no historian would presume such a short period for this era on the basis of data otherwise available.

Not All Data Relative to the Sothic Cycle Fit into Meyer's Theory

If the interpretations of Meyer are correct, then all of the data which may be brought to bear on this problem should fit satisfactorily into the Sothic theory. This is far from the case. As of the present moment, there are far more data pertinent to the question which do not fit into the theory than there are which do apparently fit. The record. of Theon as related to Menophres and his identification to Rameses I has already been introduced. The collapse of the earlier interpretations relative to Una have also been referred to. The historian Brugsch called attention to two references to Sothic risings which were studied in detail by the astronomer Lockyer.(50) On the basis of one of these, Lockyer concluded that a Sothic period began in the year 269-270 B.C., which conclusion is at variance with the statement of Censorinus by some 409 years. In the reign of Osorkon II of Dynasty XXII, there was an unusually high Nile, which resulted in a flood of the temple of Osiris.(51) The flood is dated as occurring on Tybi 12, which in the year 876 B.C. (ascribed to Osorkon II), was "extraordinarily early" as calculated by Petrie. King Pankhi I of the XXVth Dynasty examined the fortifications near Memphis and noted that "the water came up to the road below the walls, and that ships were moored there."(52) The date would coincide with our April, at which time the Nile was at low level. To by-pass this anomaly, it has been supposed that some sort of a system of dams had been used to retain the water at high level during the dry season.

While Theon is commonly credited with supporting the concept that a Sothic period began in 1321 B.C. in the era of Menophres, he also leaves a clear statement to the effect that a Sothic period began in the 5th year of the reign of Augustus (B.C. 26).(53)

. . . Now this period of 1460 years, commenced from a certain time, terminated in the fifth year of the reign of Augustus; so, from this last epoch, the Egyptians began all over again to find themselves every year one quarter of a day in advance.

Later in his discourse, Theon again reiterated this concept:

". . . we have said that the return of the coincidence of the year of Alexandria with that of Egypt occured five years after the beginning of the reign of Augustus."

Unless we are permitted to conclude that there was more than one way of defining the beginning of a Sothic period, it is difficult to see how these statements can be harmonized with an interpretation of Theon which places the beginning of such a period in 1321 B.C. If we allow that there is more than one way of defining what was meant by the beginning of a Sothic period, then none of these references to such can, with certainty, be used for chronological purposes, and in neither case can we resort to Theon as an authority as far as defining a date for the beginning of such a Sothic period.

The Egyptians of the IVth Dynasty Had the Know-how for Correcting Their Calendar to an Exact Solar Year

The Sothic theory of dating has as its fundamental basis the belief that the Egyptians of early antiquity were not adequately versed in the mathematics of astronomy to permit a knowledgeable correction of their calendar in order to prevent the seasons from becoming displaced in the year. The current views on the chronology of Egypt are tightly bound to certain vague inscriptions which have been interpreted to indicate such a migration of the seasons. While it remains true that, to date, no inscription has been found stating explicitly that any such correction was made, this is no proof that such correction was not made. It is not scientifically feasible to use what we do not know as a support for the validity of deductions that cannot stand on their own feet otherwise.

On the other hand, evidence has long been available to indicate that the Egyptians back as far as the IVth Dynasty did have the know-how and the necessary information for making such adjustments in their calendar. If they had such knowledge, it is only reasonable to assume that this knowledge was used to make these corrections. This evidence does not preclude per se the possibility that such knowledge was lost during the subsequent centuries; however it is highly improbable that once the correction system was in use the mechanics of the correction would be lost. The vagueness of the evidence used to support the hypothesis of an uncorrected calendar as the sole calendar of Egypt does not warrant the use of such an hypothesis for "fixing" the chronology of ancient Egypt. The data in question are capable of an alternate interpretation that does not require recognition of such a wandering calendar.

It is first to be noted that the Egyptian seasons were named as the Season of Sowing, the Season of Harvesting, and the Season of Inundation. It is most unlikely that these names would be retained through a period of 1460 years, making it necessary to refer to the actual Season of Inundation as the Season of Sowing. More credible is the assumption that a correction system had already been devised and adopted before the seasons were given these names.

Secondly, as pointed out by Davidson, (54) the various references to sowing, harvesting, and quarrying through the era of the first twelve dynasties, which also refer to the month of the year, indicate that there is no necessity for supposing a shift of the seasons in the calendar year of months. It is true that such data can be made to fit into more than a single calendrical interpretation; hence undue weight should not be attached to such data. Nevertheless, any credible chronology should be able to show a reasonable degree of harmony with such references.

It is to be noted also that early Scripture refers to the year as composed of 12 months of 30 days each,(55) with no indication of any correction even to the extent of adding 5 intercalary days. Yet without such correction, the seasons would have migrated backward through the year at the rate of 5 1/4 days per year to give a cycle of only 70 years rather than 1460 years. The existence of such a situation is even more incredible than would have been the case in Egypt.

Other evidence from Scripture indicates that the calendar must have been corrected in spite of the absence of reference to such correction. This follows from the fact that the various feasts of the ancient Hebrews were related to both the seasons and to the calendar months. For example:(56)


Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the Lord....

The context indicates clearly that this was to be an annual festival; yet if the seasons had been migrating through the year, it would have required hardly a decade before the harvest would not have been in the seventh month at all. We do not know just how this correction was made in early Biblical times; we do know how it was done in post-Biblical times,(57) and the very fact that the Jews this late did correct their calendar to maintain a proper relation between feast days and the seasons reflects such a practice at least from the time of Moses.


1. D. MacNaughton, A Scheme of Egyptian Chronology (London, 1932), p. L The use of references from this work should not be taken to infer acceptance of MacNaughton's chronological scheme or of any of his interpretations of data used to support his scheme. However, he has accumulated a mass of factual data, not otherwise conveniently available and which are pertinent to the problems of ancient chronology. §AIso see E. J. Bickerman, Chronology of the Ancient World (Ithaca, 1969), p. 96, n. 1. – the Ed.
2. H. Brugsch-Bey, Egypt under the Pharaohs (London, 1881), II, p. 226. This, and other earlier references here used as sources, contain references to facts not readily accessible in more recent works, some of which more recent works tend to ignore.
3. Ibid.
4. F. Petrie, A History of Egypt (London, 1894), III, p. 255. See note 2 in defense of the earlier reference.
5. This note appears following the name Necherophes in Waddell's translation of Manetho through Africanus, p 41
6. Petrie entertained such a possibility. Petrie, op. cit., I, p. 30.
7. This date (763 B.C.) for the Great Eclipse is here accepted together with the chronology of late Assyria based on this eclipse. See D. Courville, The Exodus Problem and Its Ramifications (Loma Linda, Calif., 1971), II, p. 293; §But see Pensee V, "Eclipses in Ancient Times," (Fall, 1973), p. 21 – the Ed.
8. The writer does not subscribe to this alternate opinion.
9. See MacNaughton, op. cit., P. 352 for an example of the difficulties involved in associating a reference to an ancient eclipse with a calculated one
10. This series of eclipses is listed by E. R. Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings (Grand Rapids, 1965), p. 218; §For further information. on eclipses, see Bickerman, op. cit., p. 105, n. 69 – the Ed.
11. See ref. 7 supra.
12. The theory behind this dating method is described by numerous commentators. See
MacNaughton, op. cit., p. 27 for example. §Also see W. C. Hayes in "Chronology," CAH (rev. ed., Fascicle #4, N. Y., 1964), p. 3, note 2; A. H. Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs (Oxford, 1972), pp. 65-67 – the Ed.
13. Cited by C. W. Ceram, Secret of the Hittites (N. Y., 1956), p. 145; J. H. Breasted, A History of Egypt (N. Y., 1905), p. 32. See note 2 for defense of the use of this earlier source.
14. See quotations of reference #47 for a summary of the reactions of early scholars to this theory 15. This concept of Meyer relative to the introduction of a wandering calendar in the year 4242 B.C. has now been repudiated by all scholars. Hayes, et. al., "Chronology," op. cit., p. 1, n. 3.
16. Courville, op. cit., II p. 34, §Also see I. Velikovsky, "The Pitfalls of Radiocarbon Dating," Pensee IV (Spring Summer, 1973), pp. 12ff.; T. Mowles, *'Radiocarbon Dating and Velikovskian Catastrophism," Pensee, Ibid., pp. 19-25 – the Ed.
17. Courville, Ibid
18. Ibid., II, p. 35; §Also see H. C. Sorensen, "The Ages of the Bristlecone Pine," Pensee IV (Spring-Summer, 1973), pp. 15-13 - the Ed.
19. MacNaughton, op. cit., p. 323. §The star of Isis was Venus (Pliny) and from a study of the cult of Isis in the Roman World, Censorinus (or modern scholarship) most likely misconstrued what it was the Egyptians were celebrating – see R. E. Witt, Isis in the Graeco-Boman World (Ithaca, 1971), pp. 222ff. and especially p. 224 where it is stated that Isis "appears very sporadically under Hadrian and Antoninus Pius [117-161 A.D.] notably in the guise of Isis Sothis." (emphasis added). It is noteworthy that the Emperor Antoninus Pius succeeded Hadrian in the year 138/139 A.D. when the Egyptians supposedly celebrated the festival referred to by Censorinus. Perhaps this fact, so far neglected, should be added to the scales of scholarly consideration when considering the remarks of Censorinus. – the Ed
20. MacNaughton, Ibid., p. 234; §Also see I. Velikovsky, "Astronomy and Chronology," Pensee, op. cit., pp. 42-44 – the Ed.
21. R. S. Poole, The Chronology of Ancient Egypt (London, 1851), pp. 30-31. See note 2 supra in defense of the use of this earlier source; §AIso see Velikovsky, Ibid., p. 46 and n. 36 – the Ed.
22. E. A. W. Budge, Books on Egypt and Chaldea (London, 1904), IX, p. 151. See note 2 supra in defense of the use of this earlier source.
23. MacNaughton, op. cit., pp. 28, 31.
24. By simple insertion of the correct deviation from a 365-day year into the same formula used for determination of the figure 1460: thus, the length of the Sothic period 365/.25 = 1460; but 365/.2422 = 1507.
25. With the collapse of the concept of a presumed origin of this wandering calendar in 4242 B.C., there has also been a shift in thinking to the premise that the Egyptians determined the length of the period by observation of the rise and fall of the Nile over an extended period. §See Bickerman, op. cit., pp. 42 and 101, n. 38 – the Ed.
26. Waddell, op. cit., (ref. 5), p. 241.
27. Ibid., p. 99.
28. MacNaughton, op. cit., p. 249.
29. Ibid., p. 28.
30. Ibid., p. 193.
31. Ibid. p. 266.
32. Ibid. p. 30 for summary of other calendar changes recognized by MacNaughton. One such
alteration is adequate for invalidating the scheme.
33. It is extremely doubtful that Theon had available to him the necessary data to determine the date of any king this far back in time. It is apparent that the Egyptians of his era were confused on the chronology of their own past. §The late great Egyptologist Jaroslav Cerny believed that the name Menophres agrees very well with the prenomen of Ramesses I in one of its two writings – see the Journal or Egyptian Archaeology, Vol. 47 1961, pp. 150-152. Also see the revised edition of the Cambridge Ancient History, I, p. ;90, n. 2 which refers to Vol. II, Chapter XXIII, Sec. I where Faulkner agrees with Cerny and mentions his article in footnote 4. I.E.S. Edwards also supports Cerny. However, Cerny assumed on the basis of Sothic reckoning that the date 1320 B.C. "should lie not very far from the beginning of the Nineteenth Dynasty . . . [though] our knowledge of the chronology of the latter part of the New Kingdom is still very inadequate (p. 150 of JEA)." This is either an unwarranted a priori assumption on Cerny's part or he is employing Sothic reckoning to establish the beginning point of a Dynasty which he then uses to affirm Sothic reckoning, a completely circular argument. In addition, the chronographers Rowton and Hayes differ in their opinions from Cerny. Rowton favored Memphis as the proper translation for Menophres (Iraq 8, pp. 108-109) in agreement with Velikovsky. Cerny challenged this interpretation but his chronological argument rests on the accepted traditional chronology for ancient Egypt. Hayes, writing after Cerny in the CAH, Fascicle #4, 1962 and reprinted in 1964, p. 20, hinted that the "era of Menophres" may have begun with Sethos I thereby implying that he was Menophres. One could hardly call the matter closed – the Ed.
34. Petrie, op. cit., I. p. 95.
35. Budge, op. cit., IX, p. 153.
36. MacNaughton, op. cit., pp. 192ff.
37. See Ibid., p. 194 for reference to Weill's Chronologie Egyptienne (1926) on this point.
38. Budge, op. cit., XXIII, p. L (50) of introduction.
39. MacNaughton, op. cit., pp. 146ff.
40. See infra, reference #54 and related material.
41. See supra, reference #19; §Velikovsky has cogently argued for the identification of Sothis with Venus – see "Astronomy and Chronology," op. cit., pp. 46-49 I. Velikovsky, Worlds in Collision (Doubleday: Garden City, 1950), pp. 195-198 and Thesis #283 in the "Theses for the Reconstruction of Ancient History," Scripta Academies Hierosolymitana (N. Y., 1945) – the Ed.
42. See note #40.
43. This date is now accepted rather universally.
44. L. H. Wood, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 99, pp 5ff.
45. Petrie, op. cit., I, addenda pp. xvii, xviii. §AIso see Velikovsky, "Astronomy and Chronology," op. cit., pp. 43-44 – the Ed.
46. Brugsch, op. cit., I, p. 211: quoted by Courville, op. cit., I, p. 125.
47. MacNaughton, op. cit., pp. 9-10.
48. Brugsch, loc. cit.
49. K. Kenyon, Archaeology in the Holy Land (London, 1960), p. 195.
50. Cited by Budge, op. cit., IX, p. 148.
51. Petrie, op. cit., III, p. 251.
52. Ibid., p. 274.
53. R. L. Odom, Vettius Valens and the Planetary Week (Andrews University Seminar Studies,
1965), III, No. 2, pp. 120-121.
54. D. Davidson, The Great Pyramid (8th ed., N. Y., 1940); §but see Velikovsky, "Astronomy and Chronology," op. cit., p. 48 – the Ed.
55. Cf. Gen. 7:11 and Gen. 8:3,4. §But see Gen. 8:14, note 2 in KJV – the Ed.
56. Leviticus 23:39.
57. See Seventh-Day Adventist Bible Dictionary Vol. IX, "Calendar, Jewish." In the concluding remarks to his book Chronology et the Ancient World, E. J. Bickerman made the following pungent statement: "To put it bluntly: anyone trying to convert an ancient dating into one expressed in terms of our reckoning should remember the legal maxim: c-vent emptor (p. 91)." – the Ed.

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