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Open letter to science editors





In the December 1976 issue of the Biblical Archaeology Review (p. 43), a Mr. Howard A. Denis inquired about certain aspects of Immanuel Velikovsky's Ages in Chaos. (Curiously, Mr. Denis was a subscriber to KRONOS at the time. Yet, he acted as though he were only vaguely aware of Velikovsky's work; and his brief letter to BAR displayed an appalling misconception of what little familiarity he did possess, e.g, "King Solomon [sic] was to have joined in expelling the Hyksos"

BAR chose to have one of its contributors William H. Stiebing, Jr. - Associate Professor of History, University of New Orleans - reply. The choice was an inauspicious one since Dr. Stiebing was already on record as being opposed to Velikovsky's chronological revisions (see Pensée IVR V, Fall 1973, pp. 10-12 and Pensée IVR X, Winter 1974-75, pp. 24-26). And, as was to be expected, Stiebing remained negative and highly critical. Unfortunately, the only major criticism of Stiebing to be mounted was submitted belatedly to BAR in late 1978. This was a joint rebuttal from Dr. John J. Bimson and Peter J. James which, despite its scholarly content and tone, was rejected on the grounds that the subject was "out of date" By what logic BAR determined that a serious discussion on the fluid subject of ancient history could be "dated " is a question best left to the philosophers. In any event, KRONOS decided to "reopen the case " and provide, via its own pages, the proper platform that BAR failed to do.

It had been KRONOS ' intention to reprint Dr. Stiebing 's original reply to Denis, followed by Bimson's and James' joint response. This was then to have been followed by a further rejoinder from Stiebing - contained in an unpublished letter to Clark Whelton (dated February 11, 1980) - and a final retort by James to Stiebing in a letter to the latter dated May 29, 1980.

As it happened, this plan could not be fully realized. Publication permission was granted by all, with one notable exception. Prof. Stiebing refused, despite two written requests, to allow his letter to Whelton to be printed either in part or in toto. His excuse was that "it was written in haste and, I'm ashamed to say, in anger" This is rather strange posturing from one who had had no previous hesitation in writing published criticism of Velikovsky nor any qualms about penning an introduction to BAR's reprint of Carl Sagan's "An Analysis of Worlds In Collision" in its Jan./Feb. 1980 issue (pp. 41 ff.). Why Stiebing, the out spoken critic, should have been angered is also an interesting question. Obviously, the scholarly strength of his new-found opponents and the consequent erosion of his own credibility cannot be discounted.

Furthermore, Stiebing's unwillingness to allow the publication of even the relevant part of his letter to Whelton, namely that part which embodied a fairly detailed reply to Bimson's and James ' initial response, must have been prompted by Stiebing's receipt of the second and more telling response from James. The total assault of the two British scholars undoubtedly contributed to Stiebing's back-pedaling for, in his letter to Whelton, Stiebing had already declined to contend Bimson and James in the journalistic literature. Instead, Stiebing indicated that he would probably answer the arguments put forth by the two in a book he was currently preparing on popular theories about the past in which there would be a chapter on Velikovsky's ideas. James' additional response seems merely to have solidified that stance.


* * *

Twenty-five years ago Immanuel Velikovsky published two books, Worlds In Collision (1950) and Ages in Chaos (1952), which ignited a controversy which has continued to the present day. He claimed that a comet (which later became the planet Venus) passed close to the Earth about 1450 B.C. This near collision, he argued, produced world-wide earthquakes, tidal waves, pestilence, and other catastrophes. It also caused [a] temporary halt in the Earth's rotation. Velikovsky further asserted that these catastrophic events are reflected in the Biblical accounts of the Exodus and of the Sun standing still for a day during the Israelite conquest of Canaan.

The cosmic catastrophes were supposedly repeated in the eighth century B.C. Velikovsky thought them responsible for the destruction of the Assyrian army of Sennacherib who was besieging Jerusalem at that time (II Kings 18: 13-19: 36).

Velikovsky's views were immediately attacked by scientists, particularly astronomers, who rejected his theories of astronomical catastrophes in recent times. Feelings ran so high that some scientists even attempted to prevent the publication or distribution of Velikovsky's works - a regrettable departure from the ideal of academic freedom.

For Biblical scholars and ancient historians the most significant part of Velikovsky's theories is his reconstruction of ancient chronology. As the letter from Mr. Denis notes, in Ages in Chaos Velikovsky attempted to demonstrate that the Egyptian Eighteenth Dynasty did not belong to the sixteenth through the fourteenth centuries B.C. as thought by historians. Instead, it should be dated to a period of about six hundred years later. Hatshepsut (usually dated c. 1503-1482 B.C.) was equated with the Queen of Sheba who visited Solomon in the tenth century B.C. Thutmos III (conventionally dated c. 1504-1450 B.C.) was supposedly the Egyptian king Shishak who invaded Judah during the reign of Rehoboam (c. 922-915 B.C.). The Amarna letters from the reign of Akhenaton (usually dated c. 1379-1362 B.C.) are placed by Velikovsky in the era of Jehoshaphat of Judah and Omri and Ahab of Israel (the mid-ninth century B.C.).

To support these contentions Velikovsky quotes numerous parallels between Egyptian and Biblical texts. He also provides extensive documentation for his claims which must seem very impressive to a layman. Why, then, haven't ancient historians, Biblical scholars, and archaeologists accepted his arguments?

The first reason is that Velikovsky's use of ancient textual material and his documentation are frustrating (sometimes even infuriating!) rather than convincing to the professional linguist or ancient historian. In using Biblical texts he ignores the results of modern Biblical criticism. He often makes unwarranted identifications between individuals and places in Egyptian texts and similar names found in the Bible. In making such identifications he often ignores established philological principles worked out by specialists in the languages involved. He uncritically uses legends and Medieval midrashic accounts (Ginzberg's Legends of the Jews is a frequently cited source) as equal weight with ancient documents. And, he often derives his information from, or bases his arguments on, old works which have long been out of date.

Perhaps even more important than these faults in Velikovsky's methodology is his failure to take cognizance of the results of Near Eastern archaeology. Excavations in the Holy Land, Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Greece have revealed synchronisms between those areas which make Velikovsky's revised chronology impossible.

For example, in the Amarna letters found at Akhenaton's capital in Egypt are letters from the rulers of Babylon and Assyria. In these letters Kadashman-Enlil and Burnaburiash are given as the names of successive kings of Babylon at the time of Akhenaton and his father, Amenhotep III. Two other letters are addressed to Akhenaton from Asshur-uballit, king of Assyria. According to Velikovsky's theories, both Asshur-uballit and Burnaburiash must be identified with the ninth century Assyrian king Shalmaneser III (c. 858-824 B.C.). He claims this king assumed the name Burnaburiash after his conquest of Babylon. However, Assyrian king lists giving the names of Assyrian kings as well as their contemporary counterparts in Babylon disprove Velikovsky's reconstruction. These lists indicate that the Kassite kings Kadashman-Enlil (I) and Burnaburiash (III) did rule Babylon at about the same time that Asshur-uballit (I) was king of Assyria. Furthermore, the Assyrian king lists make it clear that the period when these kings ruled was long before the time of Shalmaneser III (whose counterpart in Babylon is given as Murduk-zakir-shumi).

Palestinian archaeology also provides evidence against Velikovsky's synchronisms. Assyrian objects found at Palestinian sites indicate that the time of the Assyrian Empire and the period of the divided monarchy of Israel and Judah corresponds to the era of Palestinian history archaeologists call the Iron Age II. Now, if Velikovsky is right, this should also be the period of the Egyptian Eighteenth Dynasty. It so happens that a large amount of Mycenaean pottery from Greece has been found in Palestine as well as at el-Amarna and other Eighteenth Dynasty sites in Egypt. But this Mycenaean pottery is not found in the Iron Age layers of Palestinian sites the way it should be according to Velikovsky's theories. Instead, it is found stratified with Palestinian Late Bronze Age materials.

Whatever the absolute dates one assigns these archaeological periods in Palestine, the relative order will remain the same - the Late Bronze Age was earlier than the Iron Age II. Archaeology has established that the Egyptian Eighteenth Dynasty and the Mycenaean Age are contemporaneous with the Late Bronze Age in Palestine. Therefore, they cannot belong to the same time as the Hebrew monarchies and the Assyrian Empire which existed during the Palestinian Iron Age. It is clear, then, that one cannot arbitrarily move Egyptian and Mycenaean history forward by six hundred years while keeping Palestinian and Assyrian history at rest.

For such reasons, Velikovsky's theories are unacceptable to the vast majority of Biblical scholars, linguists, archaeologists, and ancient historians.

William H. Stiebing, Jr.

Dr. John J. Bimson and Peter J. James Respond :

While agreeing with Professor Stiebing that Velikovsky's use of ancient sources often leaves much to be desired, we do believe that there is sufficient evidence to warrant a reassessment of Egyptian and related chronologies with Velikovsky's placement of the Middle Kingdom and XVIIIth Dynasty in mind. Later studies and new evidence uncovered since 1950 often do support Velikovsky's general thesis. Discussions of this material, by the present writers and others, can be found in a special issue on Ages in Chaos of the Society for Interdisciplinary Studies Review (Vol. II, No. 3, 1978), with reports and contributions both for and against the "revised chronology" in other issues of that journal.(1) Velikovsky's theory is being taken seriously by an increasing number of scholars, and in the Spring of 1978 the Extra-Mural Department of the University of Glasgow organised a weekend conference on the theme of Ages in Chaos.

Here we would like to discuss briefly the two main objections which Professor Stiebing raised against Velikovsky's reconstruction concerning (a) the evidence of Mesopotamian synchronisms, and (b) Palestinian stratigraphy.

Stiebing raised the problem of the identity of the Mesopotamian el-Amarna correspondents - Assuruballit, Kadashman-Enlil, and Burnaburiash - who are usually dated to the 14th century B. C., whereas Velikovsky dates the archive to the mid-9th century B. C., when Shalmaneser III of Assyria and apparently different Babylonian monarchs were reigning. Stiebing is justified in pointing to this difficulty, but his discussion contained several serious mis-statements of fact that should be noted:

1. According to Stiebing, Velikovsky identifies Shalmaneser III with both Assuruballit of Assyria and Burnaburiash of Babylonia, which is incorrect, although he does suggest that Shalmaneser used the latter name in Babylonia.(2)

2. Stiebing then claims that "Assyrian king lists giving the names of Assyrian kings as well as their counterparts in Babylon disprove Velikovsky's reconstruction". In fact there is only one such list, the so-called Synchronistic Chronicle or King List. (3)

3, 4, 5. Stiebing: "These lists [sic] indicate that the Kassite kings Kadashman-Enlil (I) and Burnaburiash (II) did rule Babylon at about the same time that Asshur-uballit (I) was king of Assyria." The List does not mention these three rulers - in fact, it does not cover the period of Assuruballit I (14th century B.C.) at all.

6. "Furthermore, the Assyrian king lists make it clear that the period when these kings ruled was long before the time of Shalmaneser III. . ." While ordinary Assyrian king lists do place an Assuruballit, the First (and not necessarily the el-Amarna correspondent) some five centuries before the time of Shalmaneser III, neither the Synchronistic Chronicle nor any list includes Kadashman-Enlil (I) or Burnaburiash (II). How then is it "clear that the period when these kings ruled was long before the time of Shalmaneser III"? [Cf. Peter J. James, "Some Notes on the 'Assuruballit Problem' ", SISR IV: 1, Autumn 1979, pp. 18-22.]

7. Shalmaneser III's "counterpart in Babylon is given as Murduk [sic] -zakir-shumi". Shalmaneser's counterpart is actually given as Nabu-zakir-shumi in the List, though this is presumably a mistake for Marduk-zakir-shumi, the ruler of Babylonia known from Shalmaneser III's annals.

Thus Stiebing's discussion, containing no less than seven mis-statements of fact, hardly elucidates the problem. While we do not wish to pretend that there is no difficulty at all in reconciling Velikovsky's date for the el-Amarna letters with the evidence of Mesopotamian synchronisms, Stiebing's claim that "lists" exist giving two parallel streams of Assyrian and Babylonian rulers, and that these prove the conventional date of the el-Amarna correspondents and immediately disqualify Velikovsky's dates, is utterly misleading and palpably untrue.

Turning to the objections based on Palestinian archaeology, we do not deny that the chronology for Mycenaean pottery is tied inextricably to that of Egypt, and that the XVIIIth Dynasty cannot therefore be redated in the way Velikovsky proposes without an attendant redating of archaeological periods. We agree with Professor Stiebing's assertion that one cannot move Egyptian and Mycenaean history forward by six hundred years "while keeping Palestinian and Assyrian history at rest". We believe, however, that the history of Palestine's archaeological periods should not be left at rest.

While the relative order of the archaeological periods is fixed, there is good evidence that the absolute dates currently given to those periods should be drastically reduced. One of the present writers has discussed this evidence at length elsewhere,(4) and only a few points will be mentioned here.

As Stiebing states, finds of Assyrian objects in Palestinian strata are used to date the Iron Age, phase II of which is usually associated with the period of the Israelite Monarchy. Yet, if the full implications of such finds are realised, it is clear that the dates assigned to the Iron Age phases are much too high. For example, though the "Assyrian Palace Ware" from Samaria and Tell el-Far'ah North is currently dated to c. 720 B.C., it now appears that such a date is roughly a century too early. J. S. Holladay notes that similar pottery from two groups at Nimrud "is to be dated very closely to 612 B.C. and later, instead of to the late eighth and early seventh centuries B.C."(5) Such forms are "actually post-Assyrian in date. That is, we must recognise them as witnessing to a Babylonian influence. . ."(6) Imported pottery of this type was also found at Tarsus in Cilicia in the Early Iron Age levels (possibly from the very beginning), conventionally dated to c. 1100-850 B.C.,(7) some 250 to 500 years before its occurrence in Assyria!

With regard to Assyrian ware proper, one of Nelson Glueck's last articles gave a long list of Assyrian pottery finds ostensibly reflecting Assyrian influence in Palestine "from the last part of the eighth century on".(8) Yet, significantly, several examples in the list come from contexts which are much earlier than this if conventional dates are correct. Of three examples from Lachish, two come from deposits usually dated to the 11th-10th centuries B.C., and a third from a burial dated to "c. 900 B.C."(9) An example from Ain Gev comes from Stratum III, which is dated to the 9th century B.C.,(10) and examples from Dibon in Moab also come from a context dated to the 9th century.(11) In addition, we may note an item of Assyrian pottery from Hazor illustrated by Amiran;(12) in the excavation report this is assigned to Stratum Va, which is conventionally dated prior to the Assyrian invasion of 733 B.C.(13)

These finds indicate that probably from Iron Age I onwards, and certainly from Iron Age IIA, Assyrian pottery was appearing in Palestine. Historically, its expected context, with conventional dates for the strata, would be Iron Age IIIB, c. 720-586 B.C. (using the tripartite subdivision of the Iron Age).

Many other anomalies, such as the association of "Midianite" pottery with both transitional LBA-Iron Age forms (currently dated to the 13th-12th centuries B.C.) at Timna, and Assyrian 7th century ware at Tell el-Kheleifeh,(14) could be cited. Taken together, such evidence implies that the chronology of the Iron Age is greatly overstretched. We would propose reducing it so that the end of the LBA comes down from c. 1200 B.C. to between 730 and 700 B.C. The destructions of the LBA cities, and the consequent decline in material culture, would thus mark the Assyrian conquest of Israel and Judah, and not the Israelite Conquest of Canaan, which we believe is attested by the fall of the cities at the end of the MBA, redatable to c. 1400 B.C. in line with a 15th century date for the Exodus.(15)

This revised dating of Palestinian strata neatly permits Velikovsky's redating of the XVIIIth Dynasty and the parallel redating of Mycenaean pottery in Palestine. Among the further benefits of this revision we may note that rich LBA cities at Megiddo, Hazor, and Gezer become those built by Solomon, in place of the comparatively very poor Iron Age II cities normally attributed to him. As Kenyon admitted, "excavations in Palestine have so far failed to produce" any evidence of Solomon's position as "a great merchant prince";(16) Pritchard described the so-called "Solomonic cities" of the Iron Age as "more like villages", which "suggest a cultural level which was apparently lacking in both artistic sophistication and wealth".(17) This should be contrasted to the rich "Syrian" civilisation of the LBA discovered by Thutmose III, whom Velikovsky identifies with Pharaoh Shishak.

Other implications, such as the redating (and re-attribution) of so-called "Philistine" ware, and many other questions relating to specific sites, such as Samaria, would take too much space to discuss even in outline here. These, and other issues, are discussed in Dr. Bimson's paper referred to above (see Ref. No. 4). We hope enough has been said to show that many of the objections made to Velikovsky's chronology for the XVIIIth Dynasty turn out to be groundless when examined closely, and that good reason exists to call for a reassessment of his work. (We do not wish the above statements to imply acceptance of Velikovsky's reconstruction in its entirety; for many reasons, the present writers find the arguments for the later parts of Velikovsky's reconstruction, in recent sequels to Ages in Chaos, unacceptable, and favour the development of an alternative model for completing the "revised chronology".)

Finally, we would like to note that John Dayton, a field archaeologist in the Near East and specialist in ancient glazing techniques, has arrived independently at similar conclusions to those of Velikovsky. In his massively documented Minerals, Metals, Glazing and Man,(18) Dayton recently concluded that the dates for the Late Bronze Age are centuries too high, and that the nebulous "Dark Ages" of the Ancient Near East (from c. 1200 to 800 B.C.) are a chronological fiction. Dayton describes the currently held model of Ancient Near Eastern chronology as "a card-house of interrelated 'facts' ", built on tenuous evidence but with an unfortunate tendency to be self-perpetuating. To assess Velikovsky's proposals it is not sufficient, as Stiebing has done, to simply cite "evidence" from elsewhere in the "card-house". The implications of his revision must be fully followed through, and the whole structure evaluated together.


1. Obtainable from Bernard T. Prescott, 12 Dorset Road, Merton Park, London SW19 (U.K.).
2. I. Velikovsky, Ages in Chaos (N.Y., 1952), Ch. VIII: "Who is the dreaded 'King of Hatti' of the el-Amarna Correspondence?".
3. Istanbul, Assur 14616c; for a translation, see A. L. Oppenheim in J. B. Pritchard (ed.), Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (Princeton, 1969), pp. 272-4.
4. J. J. Bimson, "Can There Be a Revised Chronology Without a Revised Stratigraphy?" in Ages in Chaos? (Proceedings of the 1978 Conference on the revised chronology in Glasgow), forthcoming in SISR. This paper begins with an examination of Stiebing's more detailed criticisms of Velikovsky's chronology in Pensée V (1973), pp. 10-12.
5. J. S. Holladay in F. M. Cross, et al. (eds.), Magnalia Dei (Wright Festschrift, 1976), p. 282, n.59.
6. Ibid., p. 272 (emphasis in original).
7. H. Goldman, Excavations at Gözlü Kale, Tarsus, Vol. III, "The Iron Age" (Princeton, 1963), pp. 20,91-92.
8. N. Glueck, Eretz-Israel 9 (1969), p. 51.
9. O. Tufnell, Lachish III (1953), pls. 72: 12; 81: 103, 104; cf. text Vol., pp. 200, 250.
10. B. Mazar, IEJ 14 (1964), p. 43, fig. 8:9; cf. p. 29.
11. A. D. Tushingham, BASOR 133 (1954), pp. 23-24 with fig. 10.
12. R. Amiran, Ancient Pottery of the Holy Land (1970), p. 291, photo 300.
13. Y. Yadin, et al., Hazor II(1960), pls. XCVII: 11 ; CLIX: 13, pp. 57, 63.
14. This is discussed in Dr. Bimson's paper cited in n. 1, and more fully by E. Danelius in KRONOS I:3 (1976), pp. 3-19.
15. For this dating of the end of the MBA and its identification with the Biblical Conquest of Canaan, see J. J. Bimson, Redating the Exodus and Conquest (JSOT, Sheffield, 1978); for a discussion of the same evidence in the framework of Velikovsky's chronology for the Hyksos period and the XVIIIth Dynasty, see SISR I:3 (1976), pp. 2-7, and SISR II:3 (1978), pp. 57-8. Recently Siegfried H. Horn urged a reconsideration of the 15th century date for the Exodus - "What We Don't Know About Moses and the Exodus", BAR (June, 1977), pp. 22-31 (Dec. 1977), pp. 47-48.
16. K. M. Kenyon, Archaeology in the Holy Land (London, 1970), pp. 258-9.
17. J. B. Pritchard, et al., Solomon and Sheba (London, 1974), p. 35.
18. Published by Harrap, London, 1978. Reviewed by P. J. James in SISR III:4 (Spring 1979), pp. 81-83 and Geoffrey Gammon in Catastrophism and Ancient History II:2 (June 1980), pp. 123-130.

[Here, Stiebing's letter of 2/11/80 to Whelton was to have appeared. It is absent owing to Stiebing's publication refusal. - LMG ]

Dear Professor Stiebing,

Clark Whelton kindly passed on to me a copy of your letter of February 11th - in it you comment on the criticisms made by Dr. Bimson and myself of your answer to Howard Denis in BAR December '76. Naturally, I feel impelled to answer the criticisms which you have returned.

By way of introduction, I would like to stress my view that your articles in Pensée on the stratigraphical problems of Dr. Velikovsky's revised chronology form one of the most valuable contributions to the debate surrounding Ages in Chaos. They stated the problem, which all of Velikovsky's sympathisers should take very seriously, in a clear and cogent way. Dr. Bimson's paper on a "revised stratigraphy"* for Palestine is an attempt to solve the problem by a radical reinterpretation of Palestinian stratigraphy. It accommodates the scheme of Ages in Chaos, solves the basic stratigraphical problems you have referred to, and to my mind brings a most welcome harmony to Biblical history and archaeology. We had hoped that the letter we sent to BAR outlining this new model, in answer to your comments, would be accepted for publication. Alas, it seems that BAR are not really interested in hearing two sides of an argument. It is a rather poor reflection on them that they are not interested in the new work of a Doctor of Biblical Archaeology, first presented at a conference at Glasgow University, that is so germane to the field covered by The "Biblical Archaeology" Review when they are eager to publish a third-hand "analysis" of Worlds In Collision by a science populariser. Anyway, I gather that Mr. Whelton has sent you a copy of Dr. Bimson's Glasgow paper; I trust that you will read it with an open mind, and at least consider it as a possible answer to the problems you raised in Pensée.

* Forthcoming in the SIS Review. - LMG

If you would like to raise any objections to Dr. Bimson's theory in the pages of SIS Review, they are always open to reasoned debate. I must admit, however, that I am not delighted with the idea of William H. Stiebing Jr. joining the tedious money-spinning band-wagon of Sagan, Gould, et al. whereby the sales of popular books can be increased by throwing in a Velikovsky chapter that is invariably one-sided and where there is no chance allowed of reasoned debate on an academic level. While I wish you every success with your book on popular theories of history, if you have any answers to make in public regarding our models for Velikovsky's revised chronology, I would rather you made them in the journals available, i.e. SIS Review and KRONOS.

To turn to the answers you gave to my seven point criticism, I would like to point out that we are fully aware of Dr. Burgstahler's excellent study on the problems of Mesopotamian synchronisms and the revised chronology. I enclose a paper from a recent issue of the SISR - published before your letter to Mr. Whelton - which reviews a number of possible solutions to the "Assuruballit problem". As you will see, Burgstahler's study is acknowledged in the second paragraph. There you will also note I stress the "seriousness of the problem", i.e. the apparent discrepancy between Velikovsky's proposals and the generally accepted synchronisms between Egypt and Mesopotamia, and I am devoting a lot of time and energy to checking the evidence on this question - without, I hope, bias in any particular direction. Further studies will be appearing in SISR on the reliability of Assyrian and Kassite chronology. As we stated in our letter to BAR "we do not wish to pretend that there is no difficulty at all in reconciling Velikovsky's date for the el-Amarna letters with the evidence of Mesopotamian synchronisms". But the issues involved are exceedingly complex. Testing the accepted chronology of Mesopotamia and checking Velikovsky's revised chronology against it will involve a lot of careful study and discussion. False generalisations about "king lists" proving this or that only obfuscate and aggravate the situation; and when such sweeping statements are published in a popular journal such as BAR they mislead and confuse the public.

If we really want to find the truth behind the question of the conventional vs. revised chronologies, and resolve the debate to the satisfaction of laymen and academics alike, we need to be very careful about our use of the documents involved, checking carefully what they actually say and not merely relying on what they are thought to say. We should take to heart the words of Professor Ellis Rivkin here:

" . . . we must rigorously qualify each proposal as tentative, as consisting of a 'dotted line' . . . the methodological ante has to be raised to demands of such rigor as to appear to some as bordering on the hypercritical. . . Neither Velikovsky nor his detractors can be allowed to diverge from the source; to overextend its lines of communication; to emend the received text so that it conforms with the postulated schema." (Reported in Pensée IVR X, p. 43.)

Taking these lines as my watchword, I still stand by my insistence on the errors that you made in your BAR letter. And far from repairing the errors you made, or admitting them properly, you have unfortunately increased the number of mis-statements in your letter to Mr. Whelton. Leaving the relatively unimportant point 7 on which you "plead guilty as charged", I will discuss your answers in turn:


You originally stated that "according to Velikovsky's theories, both Assuruballit and Burnaburiash must be identified with the ninth century Assyrian king Shalmaneser III . . ." You have tacitly admitted the error in this statement when you state in your letter to Whelton that "Velikovsky does not directly identify Shalmaneser III with Asshur-uballit. . ." The indirect link which you assume from Ages in Chaos, however, is not the fallout of Velikovsky's theory, but of your own misunderstanding of what it entails.

Velikovsky suggested that Shalmaneser III used the Kassite name Burnaburiash as a correspondent of the el-Amarna collection. (Although I do not accept the proposal for various reasons which cannot be gone into here, it is not unreasonable prima facie, as there is good evidence that Assyrian kings used more than one name on occasions - see my article on Assuruballit, p. 19.) This is manifestly not the same as saying that Shalmaneser III was the same as the Babylonian king Burnaburiash thought to have reigned in the 14th century B.C. If it were proven that a Burnaburiash reigned in the 14th century, contemporary with Assuruballit 1, this would make no difference. Doctor Velikovsky has never suggested that the date of the 14th century Assuruballit I should be changed, nor, to the best of my knowledge, has any other scholar who has written about the revised chronology. This being the case, it is a complete non-sequitur to assume that anyone using the name Burnaburiash was the assumed 14th century king, and that therefore in Velikovsky's argument Shalmaneser III must be Assuruballit as well.


I have already pointed out the incorrectness of the statement that Assyrian "king lists" exist which give the names of Assyrian and Babylonian counterparts, disproving Velikovsky's proposals. This error you again admit when you say you "had in mind" the Synchronistic History, which is manifestly not a king list, but a completely different kind of document. Then you repeat the contention that the Synchronistic Chronicle, which is a king-list, "invalidates Velikovsky's contention that the Kassite kings of the Amarna letters belong to the time of Shalmaneser III (ninth century B.C.)". I will repeat the point. The S.C. does not cover the 14th century (assumed date of the letters), and does not mention any of the assumed 14th century Amarna correspondents. So how can the S.H. be " like the Synchronistic Chronicle" in dating the el-Amarna correspondents and invalidating Velikovsky's proposals?

Will you please accept that the S.C. does not cover the 14th century B.C.? A translation is easily available in Pritchard's ANET. If you won't take my word for it, perhaps you will take that of J. A. Brinkman (Materials and Studies for Kassite History , 1, Chicago, 1976, p. 14). Referring to kings 15 to 21 of his reconstructed Kassite Dynasty (Karaindash to Nazibugash, including the supposed span of the el-Amarna period), he states: "this section of the dynasty is not preserved in any of the known kinglists."

Please contrast this statement from an eminent authority with what you said in reply to Mr. Denis in the BAR:

"However, Assyrian king lists giving the names of Assyrian kings as well as their counterparts in Babylonia disprove Velikovsky's reconstruction. These lists indicate that the Kassite kings Kadashman-Enlil (I) and Burnaburiash (III) did rule Babylon at about the same time that Asshur-uballit (I) was king of Assyria."

You will see why I called your claim a mis-statement of fact.

POINTS 3, 4, 5:

You switch the argument from the imaginary "king lists" to the Synchronistic History which you also contend invalidates Velikovsky's proposals. What, however, does the Synchronistic History have to say on the matter?

There are four Babylonian rulers mentioned in the el-Amarna correspondence: letters were received from Kadashman-Enlil and Burnaburiash, and there are references to earlier kings called Kurigalzu and Karaindash.


To begin with, there is definitely no reference to Kadashman-Enlil (called "I") or to Kurigalzu (called "I") in the Synchronistic History or the parallel Chronicle P; i.e., there are no kings of those names mentioned in those chronicles in the position required for them by the conventional chronology.


In the section of the History dealing with the time of Assuruballit I, there is one highly ambiguous reference to a Burnaburiash: "He [Assuruballit] appointed Kurigalzu (II), the younger, mar [i.e., "son" or "descendant"] of Burnaburiash as sovereign and put him on his father's throne" (i, 16-17). Earlier in the document reference is made to Assuruballit's grandson Karahardash, son of his daughter Muballitat-Sherua. Karahardash was Assuruballit's grandson, not Kurigalzu the younger referred to as mar of Burnaburiash. The text nowhere states, requires or "indicates" that Muballitat-Sherua was the wife of Burnaburiash. Yet you state in your letter to Whelton that "Column 1, line 19f of the Synchronistic History indicates that Asshur-uballit was the father of Muballitat-Sherua, the wife of Burnaburiash". You have also managed to get the line number wrong: lines 19f deal with the later time of Enlil-nirari.

Then you say: "This synchronism is confirmed by Babylonian Chronicle P, Obv. I, lines 5-6." This is remarkable, as it is well known that Chronicle P diverges from the History at this point, and contains no reference to this Burnaburiash at all. The following juxtaposition of the two versions is taken from A. K. Grayson's Assyrian and Babylonian Chronicles (NY, 1975), p. 211:

"In the following chart, the two accounts have been placed side by side to illustrate the discrepancies.

Karahardash was killed by the Kassites. Kadashman-Harbe was killed by the Kassites.
Ashur-uballit went to Karduniash to avenge [Kar] aindash. Ashur-uballit went to Karduniash to avenge Kadashman-Harbe.
The Kassites had put Nazibugash on the throne. The Kassites had put Shuzigash on the throne.
Ashur-uballit put Kurigalzu the younger, son of Burnaburiash on the throne. Ashur-uballit put [Kurigalzu son of Ka] dashman-Harbe on the throne."

How then do you propose that Chronicle P (right hand column) supports the synchronism of Assuruballit with a Burnaburiash, or the idea that Burnaburiash was Assuruballit's son-in-law when it doesn't even mention this Burnaburiash? To cap it all, you refer to P. Van Der Meer's book on chronology as if he is to blame for these erroneous statements. You have obviously not looked at translations of the S.H. or Chronicle P, and you haven't even looked carefully at Van Der Meer. This is what he says on page 16 of the work you refer to:

"We thus possess two accounts of the same event, one from the Assyrian side in the synchronistic history and the other from the Babylonian side in chronicle P. They agree in substance with one another, but differ as regards the name.... Now since the Babylonian chronicle reproduces the Babylonian tradition and as regards the correctness of names is in a better position than the writer of the Assyrian synchronistic history, who reproduces the Assyrian point of view and was not so well informed as regards the names, since he had less easy access to the Babylonian archives, the Babylonian chronicle P inspires more confidence with respect to the correctness of the names. So we can reconstruct the run of events thus.... Kadasmanharbe. He in turn had a son, Kurigalzu, as is clear from the Babylonian chronicle P.... The Assyrian synchroniser calls Kurigalzu a son of Burnaburiash, who was really his great-grandfather."

I count three more gross mis-statements in a mere two sentences of yours: (1) that the S.H. "indicates" that Burnaburiash was Assuruballit's son-in-law (2) that Chronicle P "confirms" this and (3) that Van Der Meer says so. Add one careless error in your line citation of the S.H . Not bad going.

The single equivocal reference to Burnaburiash as Kurigalzu's father or ancestor in the S.H., and the assumption that the el-Amarna letters date from the 14th century, form the chronological evidence for placing a king Burnaburiash (II or III) in the mid-14th century. See Brinkman (op. cit., p. 15):

"Burna-Burias (II). It is nowhere stated that he was the father or the immediate predecessor of Kara-hardas. That he ruled at this time may be inferred from the fact that he is known to have been the father of Kurigalzu II (king no. 22) as well as the approximate contemporary of Assur-uballit I of Assyria (who placed Kurigalzu II on the throne). [Note 28, supporting the second statement: "They both wrote Amarna letters to Akhnaton."]

Since the date of the el-Amarna letters is the very issue at stake it would be circular reasoning to hold them up as proof that a Burnaburiash was contemporary with Assuruballit I. Thus the 14th century placement of a Burnaburiash ultimately depends on the supposition that he was the father of Kurigalzu the younger. There is no room to examine the pros and cons of this issue in detail in a letter. But briefly, the statement in the S.H. is directly contradicted by the Babylonian Chronicle P, which many scholars (Van Der Meer among them) acknowledge to be the more reliable source. Van Der Meer cites, for example, another document which refers to the period "from Kurigalzu the son of Kadashman-Harbe to Nazimaruttash the son of Kurigalzu" (p. 16, op. cit.), supporting Chronicle P. (The word mar is used again here, but in the second case it is clear that "son" is implied.) In the complex arguments that surround the issue of P versus the S.H. the only "good" argument in favour of the S.H. is the existence of a 14th century Burnaburiash assumed from the synchronism with the el-Amarna period.

On a revised chronology there was no Burnaburiash in the 14th century, and the solution to the problem of who was Kurigalzu's father becomes easy. P and the other documents agreeing with it are correct, and the Burnaburiash referred to in the S.H. is an ancestor of Kurigalzu. It seems likely that he was the first Burnaburiash, mentioned in the second entry of the S.H. as the contemporary of Puzur-Assur III of Assyria. Interposing another Burnaburiash on the strength of the el-Amarna letters causes problems. From the two chronicles we know that Assuruballit was contemporary with kings Karahardash (or Karaindash), Kadashman-Harbe, Nazibugash (or Shuzigash) and Kurigalzu. A fifth contemporary king (Burnaburiash) is rather unlikely.


Mentioned in EA 10:8-10 as an ancestor of Kadashman-Enlil, and usually thought to be the king of that name contemporary with Assur-bel-nisheshu of Assyria (first entry of S.H.). This is possibly the only good match between the Babylonian kings known from the el-Amarna letters and those of the 14th century known from the chronicles. The Karaindash entry in the S.H. is problematic, however, as the order of the first two Assyrian kings (Assur-bel nisheshu and Puzur-Assur III) is reversed. It reminds us that we shouldn't place too much store by the data given in a seventh century Assyrian document for events that happened seven or eight centuries earlier.

Thus the coincidence between the Mesopotamian kings of the el-Amarna letters and those of the 14th century (from the chronicles) amounts to two certain names only: Assuruballit and Karaindash. (Possibly a third with Assuruballit's "father" Assur-nadin-ahhe, but the reference is problematic again - see my enclosed article.) This isn't really a very impressive case, especially when the names of Mesopotamian rulers were so repetitive. For example, in Assyrian history the sequence Adad-nirari and Shalmaneser repeats itself in the 13th and the 8th centuries; but chronologically this is just a coincidence.

The relationship you mention between a Kadashman-Enlil and a Burnaburiash, "established by a Babylonian inscription from Nippur", doesn't prove anything. You can't show from the chronicles that a king of either name ruled in the 14th century, and the relationship might be between two ninth century rulers. Besides,the name of Burnaburiash is not fully preserved in the text you refer to: "The sole evidence for the filiation is a broken passage (. . .) in an inscription usually attributed to Burna-burias, though only the end of the royal name is preserved in i 5'." (Brinkman, op. cit., p. 130. All that is left of the name is [ ] rias.)


Here you insist again that the Synchronistic Chronicle, "in combination with" other data make it "clear that the period when these kings [Burnaburiash and Kadashman-Enlil] ruled was long before the time of Shalmaneser III". I repeat: the S.C. does not cover the 14th century. As to the other data proving the point, see the arguments above.

You then proceed to make a further incorrect statement about the S.C. Please have a look at it before you cite it! You say that Assuruballit "must have reigned, therefore, in the period before that covered by the Synchronistic Chronicle". The S.C. actually begins with the name Adasi, a seventeenth century ruler of Assyria. What you have suggested is nonsense. The point I was making was not that the S.C. begins after the 14th century, but that there is apparently a lacuna in the S.C. at this period. Column (i) ends with the name of Nur-ili, supposedly a 15th century king of Assyria. Column (ii), the first line missing, continues with Tukulti-Ninurta I, late 13th century.

What the argument boils down to is whether kings of the 9th century could or could not have used names such as Assuruballit and Kassite Babylonian names. As to the first, it is not impossible that he is a king missing from the lists, perhaps a rebel ruler of Assyria during the period of breakdown at the end of Shalmaneser III's reign. Several other Assyrian rulers were missed off the "official" king lists for various reasons: such as Sammuramat (9th century) and several kings of the early period (see my article). As to whether Babylonian kings of the 9th century could have used Kassite names when corresponding with Egypt, Kassite styles didn't disappear into thin air in the 12th century. The 11th century king Simbar-Shipak had a pure Kassite name, and three rulers of the 10th century claimed Kassite ancestry. Assurnasirpal (883-859) referred to the Babylonian army as "the widespread troops of (the land of) the Kassite(s)". The worship of Kassite deities is attested as late as the reign of Esarhaddon. On the archaeological side, there are many cases such as the Luristan bronzes which exhibit many Kassite features, yet date to between 1150 and 700 B.C. Archaeologically the "Post-Kassite" period in Babylonia is almost a complete blank, and one suspects that much that has been dated to the Kassite period actually fills the gap.

N.B., two curious finds from Hasanlu in north-western Iran in level IV, which began no earlier than around 1000, and ended c. 800. The dates have been established on many criteria, including C14 dating and stylistic comparison; for example the resemblance of the wall tiles to those of Shalmaneser III's palace. Finds included an object inscribed "Kadashman-Enlil", and a mace-head inscribed "Palace of Assuruballit". The comment on these is "may have been an heirloom" and "It is supposed that this is an heirloom". So they may have been, but on the other hand they may have belonged to 9th century kings of those names.

In conclusion, the seven mis-statements of fact I picked on still remain seven mis-statements of fact, and your answer has only multiplied the number. When you accuse other people of "ignorance" it would behoove you to check your own "facts", and at least look at the documents you are citing. Absurdities such as the suggestion that Assuruballit I reigned before the period covered by the Synchronistic Chronicle, or your total misunderstanding of what Chronicle P has to say, would shame anyone who claims to have a passing acquaintance with the material in question.

As we said in our letter to BAR we don't pretend there is no problem to be resolved with regard to the revised chronology and Mesopotamian history. However, a close look at the relevant documents, and a study of the way in which Kassite history has been reconstructed shows that the basic structure of accepted "14th century" Kassite history relies far more on the el-Amarna letters than native documentation. It may turn out that a careful study of all the material at our disposal, and the archaeological problems involved will show that Kassite kings with the same names as the el-Amarna correspondents can be proven to have ruled in the 14th century. In the meantime, careless sweeping generalisations about king-lists and chronicles get us nowhere. The debate is about the evidence, not what you think you "know" to have happened in the 14th century.

(signed) Peter J. James

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