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Review

THE PAPYRUS IPUWER

  •  Scholarly confirmation of Velikovsky's claims concerning Ipuwer's lamentations.

  •  Velikovsky's priority remains unacknowledged in the scholarly journals.

In 1945 Immanuel Velikovsky stated that "the Papyrus Ipuwer comprises a text which originated shortly after the close of the Middle Kingdom; the original text was written by an eyewitness to the plagues and the Exodus." ("Theses for the Reconstruction of Ancient History," 4.)

In 1909 Gardiner had ascribed The Admonitions of an Egyptian Sage (as the Ipuwer document is also known) to the First Intermediate Period.  But a comparison of the papyrus with the Hebrew Exodus story convinced Velikovsky that 1) both sources describe the same events; and 2) from the philological and historical standpoint those events must be assigned to the period immediately after the fall of the Middle Kingdom (i.e., in the Second Intermediate Period).  Using the Ipuwer document as a starting point for synchronizing Egyptian and Hebrew chronology, Velikovsky began to reconstruct the history of antiquity, an effort requiring a shift of more than half a millennium in Egyptian chronology.

This "Copernican Revolution" in ancient history has not been generally accepted; the large majority of scholars (Wilson, Hayes, Seele, Stevenson Smith, Aldred, Gardiner, Lange) still adhered to an earlier dating for the events recounted in the Papyrus Ipuwer, completely divorcing them from those of the Exodus.

In the years since Gardiner's work, and aside from Velikovsky, only John Van Seters (Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, 50 [1964], 13-23) has subjected the Papyrus Ipuwer to close scrutiny.  Interestingly, Van Seters arrived at a date identical with Velikovsky's.  Further, a textual emendation of the Admonitions by R. O. Faulkner, also in 1964 (Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, 50, 24-36), and his new, full translation in 1965 (Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, 51, 53-62), reinforced the view, first propounded by Velikovsky (Worlds in Collision, Doubleday, pp. 62-64), that the Papyrus Ipuwer recites the story of great physical cataclysms.[*]

In agreeing with Velikovsky's date for the papyrus, Van Seters failed to acknowledge or mention Velikovsky's work.  Van Seters (The Hyksos, p. 120) again put forward his later dating of the Admonitions in 1966.  By then he had received support from W. F. Albright (Bulletin of the American School of Oriental Research, 179 [1965], 41-42), who noted that "Van Seters has reactivated the view first expressed by Kurt Sethe" (Ibid., 41 and footnote 11).  Albright was a reviewer of Ages in Chaos when it first came out in 1952 and yet still deliberately omitted mentioning Velikovsky's name and conclusions concerning the Papyrus Ipuwer. (See Ages in Chaos, pp. 23 ff.)

In concluding his article, "A Date for the 'Admonitions'," Van Seters remarks:

"Taking all the pieces of evidence together there is one date which seems to fit all the requirements, and that is the late Thirteenth Dynasty.  Not only has the orthography and linguistic evidence always pointed towards this later date, but our present knowledge of the social and political history of this period confirms this opinion.  The last word has certainly not been said on the subject, and it is hoped that more learned authorities will enter into a re-examination of this important literary work.  If this late dating should stand, then the Admonitions will, in fact, aid our understanding of the Second Intermediate Period and the Hyksos problem.  To the present writer it seems that the burden of demonstration rests on those who would still maintain an early date."

Indeed, the last word has not been said, nor is it likely to be said, so long as Velikovsky's work is ignored; in 1952 he proposed an answer to the questions Van Seters had not yet even asked.

Surely the "burden of demonstration" now rests on those who oppose that answer.

L. Greenberg

PENSEE Journal III

[*]   Also see W. Federn, "... As does a potter's wheel." (Zeitschrift für Agyptische Sprache und Altertunskunde, 1966, 93.  Band, 55-56)  It would also appear that Plato's words in Timaeus (22, C), which the Egyptian priests told Solon,

"There have been, and will be again, many destructions of mankind arising out of many causes . . . "

are echoed in the Admonitions where one may read the statements,  " . . . what was ordained for you in the time of Horus, in the age [of the Ennead?] . . . " and " . . . what the ancestors foretold has arrived at [fruition?]."

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