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Open letter to science editors
KRONOS Vol II, No. 4
PEOPLES OF THE SEA: AN EGYPTOLOGIST'S REACTION
(Ph.D., Johns Hopkins)
The appearance of Velikovsky's Peoples of the Sea is an event of outstanding
importance. It scarcely needs to be said that the revision of history offered in the book runs
counter to orthodox Egyptological opinion, and it will thus be interesting to see the reaction to
the book on the part of Egyptologists who specialise in the Ramesside and Late Periods. I
work closely with neither, and the following brief notes are intended only as a first reaction to
some specific points in Velikovsky's arguments – and, hopefully, to encourage scholarly
debate by those specialists who are more qualified than I to engage in it. But I wish to
emphasise that this book lays down a strong challenge to specialists which they cannot afford
- pp. xv-xvii:
The point regarding the Carbon 14 dates is important, especially since it
can help cut through the very tricky business of interpreting texts.
Twelfth or Fourth Century?
- p. 5:
Alessandra Nibbi does dispute that the Peoples of the Sea came from the Aegean area.
She accepts the chronology but prefers to reorder our understanding of the origins of these
people and attendant geographical problems. See The Sea Peoples: A Re-examination of the
Egyptian Sources and The Sea Peoples and Egypt.
- pp. 6-12:
It is good to hold firm on the point of the Greek letters on the tiles of Ramesses III's
palace. It is a crux which, to the best of my knowledge, defies conventional explanation.
- pp. 12-17:
It is at least possible that the cemetery was used over a long period of time, if one
adheres to the conventional chronology.
- pp. 21-28:
The identification of "Irsu" of Papyrus Harris with the Persian satrap or king is
ingenious and can fit the precious few facts we have from the Egyptian record; it would be
useful to check Albright's Vocalisation of the Egyptian Syllabic Orthography and to consider
the possible vocalisations of the Egyptian spelling, especially if a choice is to be made between
Arsa (the satrap) and Arsu (the king). On p. 27, however, it is unwise to quote the forms
Arsatis, Arshu, Arsa and Arsu side by side as names of the Persian king without any
consideration of what is typical or atypical in Greek, Aramaic and Egyptian renderings of
Persian Names, especially with regard to the vocalisation and the sibilant (s versus sh). It is to
be granted that the writings of foreign names in ancient languages are a rather great problem,
but the problem should be solved, not exploited.
Persians and Greeks Invade Egypt
- pp. 29-35:
The argument for identifying the headgear of the Prst and the Persians is a very strong
one. A sceptic might make this counter argument: that if the Prst were Aryans, as is usually
assumed, then the identity of headgear can be attributed to identity of origins not identity of
the Prst and the Persians. If the two arguments are juxtaposed alone, however, the
counter-argument is the weaker one. On the other hand, Velikovsky's argument for reading
the name Prst as Persians is weak, at least in the form in which he makes it. I have touched on
this problem, in the article quoted p. 35, n. 13, in which I argued that an occurrence of the
word in question is to be read as "Philistia," and not "Persia." It is true that in endings
in late texts, the second t is superfluous and the writings "aesthetic," as
Velikovsky points out. However, there remains one t to account for. In the case of the Prst of
Ramesses III's text, one can account for the t by reading "Philistines," but not by reading
"Persians." Velikovsky could have argued in this way (but unfortunately did not and thus
invites criticism): that a writing Prst for "Persia" is in accordance with a tendency in Egyptian
to treat geographical names as feminine (the-t being an indication of feminine gender), and that
in the writing Prst of Ramesses III's texts, the ethnic designation is derived from the
geographical name. In fact, the ending (Pl. 6) lends itself to interpretation
as a nisbe adjective.
- pp. 44:
On Plate 6, I do not see the Peoples of the Sea "parading with the army of Pharaoh" or
"advancing swiftly in military array." I see only the Egyptian king leading bound prisoners;
these are identified in the inscriptions between the rows of prisoners as Dnyn (Danaeans?) and
Prst, but all wear the headdress of the Prst.
- pp. 36-52:
Given the premises set up to this point, the comparison of the accounts of Ramesses
III and Diodorus is inevitable. The degree of correspondence is remarkable, and the argument
is very tempting. On the other hand, Ramesses III's account is in some respects very laconic,
which facilitates the comparison. This observation must be the beginning of any retreat from
Velikovsky's argument, buttressed then by arguments derived from other areas (genealogy and
the like), for the comparison itself, considered on its own grounds, can certainly stand.
The Art of Warfare
- p. 53:
The identification of Dnyn with "Athenians" is ingenious and possible, but not in and of
itself convincing, at least as argued. There is not only the confusion of d and t in Egyptian, but
a third consonant tj, which could conceivably have been used to render the theta of
"Athenians." Of course, tj itself is also confused in Egyptian with d and t. But Velikovsky
should have raised the point – and perhaps he could have found evidence for d=th in the
rendering of Grecian names.
- pp. 54-57:
The arguments offered on these pages are particularly strong and effective.
- pp. 58ff.:
If Velikovsky is wrong, then the similarities in armaments is just a coincidence – after
all, how many possibilities are there? I only want to point out that not too much can be made
of this single argument, though Velikovsky singles it out for special treatment, thus drawing
undue attention to it and inviting scepticism. It would have been better to treat this point more
briefly, and as part of the previous section. But in the context of his general hypothesis,
Velikovsky is absolutely right in raising the point, for whatever it's worth.
- pp. 61ff.:
There is a certain weakness in this argument, for it is only a possibility. But there is also a
certain strength; at least I, for one, welcome any possibility to assign concrete and practical
meanings of Egyptian words and expressions.
- pp. 65-68:
This is a particularly effective section [The Ore of the Land of "Atika"], since it
combines a solution to a name problem with very practical matters.
From Ramses III to Danus III
- p. 84:
In "a small one supported by his strong arms," I would take "his" as referring to the
Egyptian king. If "his" is to be taken as meaning "his own," then I still do not see the support
for Velikovsky's statement that the text states that the "small one" supported the king.
- p. 89:
It would have been better to quote Gauthier, Livre des Rois rather than Budge, Book
of the Kings, since it is the former which is more highly regarded by specialists.
- p. 99:
The "very apogee of its [Egypt's] imperial power" is a description better suited to
Dynasty XVIII than to the transition period – Dynasties XIX-XX.
- pp. 79-102:
This chapter is very well written and presents a very strong case.
The Dynasty of Priests
- pp. 105-127:
There are strong arguments in this chapter as well.
"The Basest of Kingdoms"
- pp. 129-162:
Again, the arguments are strong and intriguing.
- pp. 163-176:
The argument here is tempting, but (1) it would be unparalleled for a king to be
identified with Amun-Re, and (2) in the Egyptian of "Thou hast not failed to destroy him, to
kill him" (p. I 72), one would expect a negative word before each verbal form, not just the
first. These difficulties must be overcome if the argument is to stand.
- pp. 179-188:
The argument regarding Si-Amon is well fashioned.
Supplement: Astronomy and Chronology
- pp. 205-214:
A good attack on chronological methodology is presented in this chapter.
- pp. 215-233:
An excellent attack on the foundations of absolute chronology in Egyptology.
- pp. 245-244:
The reasoning in this chapter is brilliant, though I do not work with absolute
chronology and thus lack the expertise to judge it critically.