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Open letter to science editors



The Libyan Period In Egypt


Copyright (c) 1983 by Elisheva Velikovsky

Editor's Note: This article is a conflation of two separate sections of Velikovsky's forthcoming book The Assyrian Conquest. - LMG

The period of Libyan domination in Egypt, the Twenty-second Dynasty, is said by Manetho to have lasted for 120 years:(1) "but the accepted chronology," wrote Sir Alan Gardiner, "finds itself compelled to legislate for fully two centuries...."(2) What is the basis for beginning the time of the Libyan Dynasty of Egypt that of the Shoshenks and Osorkons - as early as -945, or even earlier, and for stretching the period for over two hundred years? The end of the period is well established, since Libyan rule was supplanted by the Ethiopian conquest ca. -712;(3) and the latter stands firmly fixed in time in relation to Biblical and Assyrian sources. The beginning of the Libyan Dynasty was dated to -945 because a synchronical link was claimed to exist between the Biblical references to Pharaoh Shishak, who conquered Palestine in the fifth year after Solomon, and Shoshenk I of the Libyan Dynasty. The placing of Shoshenk I in the second half of the tenth century did not follow from the Egyptian material,(4) but from the supposed synchronism of Rehoboam who followed Solomon on the throne in Jerusalem - and Shoshenk I. In Ages in Chaos, I have already pointed out that this alleged synchronism is not supported by the available evidence, and I was able to show that the conqueror of Jerusalem and sacker of its temple was not a Libyan king but Thutmose III of the Eighteenth Dynasty.(5)

With the revised chronology, Manetho's figure appears to be approximately correct. The Eighteenth Dynasty ended ca. -830 and the last of the Libyan kings was deposed in -712 by Shabaka, advancing from Ethiopia to occupy the Delta. Also, to put Shoshenk "I" at the head of the Libyan Dynasty is incorrect; actually, he belongs to the end of the period of Libyan domination in Egypt, and is seen to be Pharaoh So of the Scriptures.(6)

During the greater part of the eighth century, when the Libyan Dynasty of Osorkons and Shoshenks ruled over Egypt, the kings of that country vied with the kings of Assyria for influence in Palestine and Phoenicia. Elibaal, king of the Phoenician port-city of Byblos, had an Egyptian artist carve a statue of Osorkon I and cut an inscription on its chest: "Statue that Elibaal, king of Gebal [Byblos], made...."(7) Since the conventional chronology made Osorkon a contemporary of Asa, who ruled over Israel in the early ninth century before the present era, Elibaal also had to be placed in the ninth century nearly a hundred years too early. Abibaal, another king of Byblos, ordered a statue of Shoshenk I to be carved and inscribed in his name;(8) for this reason Abibaal was placed in the tenth century as a contemporary of that Libyan king.

Placing Abibaal and Elibaal in the tenth and early ninth centuries, respectively, created problems for epigraphists concerned with the history of Hebrew script. The inscriptions on the sculptures are in Hebrew characters, and were the subject of much discussion in connection with the development of Hebrew. The epigraphists, taking their directives from the archaeologists, tried to reconcile the dates derived from these inscriptions with the characters on the stele of Mesha - the king of Moab who, in the middle of the ninth century, revolted against Ahab, king of Israel and with the ivories from Samaria belonging to the same period. This created a puzzle. The inscriptions of Abibaal and Elibaal are written in a script that appears to bear the closest resemblance to eighth-century ostraka from Samaria; yet conventional historians have them precede the stele of Mesha. Evidently, the order of Libyan kings on the throne of Egypt has been improperly reconstructed; for just as Elibaal and Abibaal should belong to the eighth century, so do Osorkon I and Shoshenk "I" their contemporaries in Egypt.


1. W. G. Waddell, Manetho (Loeb Classical Library, 1940).
2. Egypt of the Pharaohs (Oxford University Press, 1961), p. 334. Actually, at least 220 years must be allotted to the Twenty-second Dynasty on the conventional time scale.
3. A. Spalinger, "The Year 712 B.C. and its Implications for Egyptian History," Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt 10 (1973), pp. 95-101.
4. [For criticism of the monumental evidence traditionally used to assign long reigns to some Libyan kings, see Helen K. Jaquet-Gordon, "The Illusory Year 36 of Osorkon 1," The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 53 (1967), pp. 63-68, and R. Caminos, "An Ancient Egyptian Donation Stela," Centaurus 14 (1969), pp. 42-46; see also NOTE below. JNS]
5. Ages in Chaos, Chapter IV: "The Temple in Jerusalem", especially pp. 159-163. [Cf. E. Danelius, "Did Thutmose III Despoil the Temple in Jerusalem?" SISR II:3 (1977/78), pp. 64-79; and Velikovsky's response in Ibid., p. 80. - LMG]
6. See I. Velikovsky, "From the End of the Eighteenth Dynasty to the Time of Ramses II", the section titled "Pharaoh So" in KRONOS III:3 (Spring 1978), pp. 7-9.
7. P. Montet, Byblos et l'Egypte (Paris, 1928-29), pls. 36-38.
8. Ibid., p.53, fig. 17 and p.56, fig. 18. Cf. my Ramses II and His Time (1978), Chapter III: "The Tomb of Ahiram".


It may be useful to summarize here the content of the articles of Helen K. Jaquet-Gordon and Richard Caminos, referred to above. The first author showed that, because of a faulty reading by Flinders Petrie of the year formula on a stele of Osorkon I, this king had been wrongly credited with a thirty-six year reign; in fact, it is unlikely that he reigned beyond the fifteen years recorded by Manetho - the highest date mentioned on his documents is twelve years.

In a note, Jaquet-Gordon contended that the reign of Osorkon I's successor on the throne, Takelot I, needs to be similarly reduced, for a stele "on the basis of which a 23-year reign has been meted out to him does not in fact belong to him at all". She suggested that Takelot only reigned the seven years which are attested on his genuine monuments. The attribution of the stele was definitively clarified by Caminos in an article published two years later, removing an error which "has particularly affected king-lists and discussions of the Libyan period in Egypt". As a result of the two adjustments, the Libyan period becomes shorter by a total of at least thirty-seven years. This did not, however, produce a lowering of the absolute date for the beginning of the Dynasty, which is still held to be firmly tied to the supposed synchronism between Shoshenk I and Rehoboam. But the shortening of individual reigns within the Dynasty places the entire scheme under increased strain. JNS

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