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A note on some
The El-Amarna Letters
In line 19 of this letter No. 9 (and also in line 19 of the reverse side of letter No. 11), Burnaburiash gives the name of his (forefather as Kurigalzu. Independently, this name is known from excavations at Aqar-Quf in Iraq as that of the probable Kassite dynasty founder of Dur-Kurigalzu (7). Burnaburiash's mention of Kurigalzu as his (fore)father in these letters has often been taken to mean that the order of Babylonian kings in this period is Karaindash, Kadashman-Enlil, Kurigalzu, Burnaburiash (3). However, in a Babylonian inscription from Nippur (8), Burnaburiash is specifically called "the eldest son" of Kadashman-Enlil; and this fact, plus the presence of letters from Kadashman-Enlil in the el-Amarna collection but not from Kurigalzu, strongly indicates that the correct order is actually Karaindash, Kurigalzu, Kadashman-Enlil, Burnaburiash (5), as indicated in the accompanying synchronical chart. In any event, regardless of their exact regnal sequence, all four names are found in Assyrian and Babylonian records dating from the fourteenth and late fifteenth centuries.
Unfortunately, only two letters from Assyria are preserved in the el-Amarna correspondence. Both are from Assur-uballit, king of Assyria: one (No. 16) is addressed "to Naphuria [Akhnaton], king of Egypt," and the other (No. 15) simply "to the king of Egypt." In letter No. 16, Assur-uballit recalls "the time when Assur-nadin-ahhe, my (forefather, wrote to Egypt" and received "20 talents of gold."
By way of independent evidence, the Khorsabad and SDAS Assyrian king lists (2), in agreement with Assur-uballit's own inscriptions (9), record Assur-uballit I (king No. 73, with a reign of 36 years) as the son of Eriba-Adad (king No. 72), who, in turn, was a son of Assur-belnisheshu (king No. 69), already mentioned in connection with a boundary treaty with Karaindash (1) of Babylonia. However, in line with Assur-uballit's reference in the above letter to an ancestor named Assur-nadin-ahhe, the same king lists also state that the immediate predecessor of Eriba-Adad was Assur-nadin-ahhe II (king No. 71), son of Assur-rimnisheshu (king No. 70). The latter, according to one of his own inscriptions (2b, 9), was a brother, and not a son (as in the king lists), of Assur-bel-nisheshu. (For dates, see synchronical scheme.)
Additionally, according to Babylonian Chronicle P (10), some time after the reign of Burnaburiash, "Assur-uballit, the king of Assyria, went to Babylonia to avenge [the murder of] Kadashman-Harbe, the son of his daughter" (Muballitat-Sherua, named earlier in the passage). The same chronicle also relates that the husband of Muballitat-Sherua was Karaindash (II), son of, and successor to, Burnaburiash. In the Assyrian Synchronous History version (11) of these events, the names are confused, and the murdered son of Muballitat-Sherua is called Karaindash instead of Kadashman-Harbe. It also states that Kurigalzu (II) the younger, who was placed on the throne of Babylonia by Assur-uballit after the death of Kadashman-Harbe, was the son of Burnaburiash, instead of the son of Burnaburiash's murdered grandson, Kadashman-Harbe.
Note that in the synchronization of these various rulers according to the conventional placement of the Amarna period in the fourteenth century, as set out in the accompanying scheme, the reign of Burnaburiash entirely spans that of Akhnaton and overlaps the first part of the long reign of Assur-uballit I. This fits in well with the internal evidence of the letters for the ascendancy of Assyrian power in this period. The tone and style of Assur-uballit's second letter (No. 16) clearly reflect a situation which can explain why, in letter No. 9, Burnaburiash urges the pharaoh not to "carry on any business" with envoys of the Assyrians, whom he still regards as being his "subjects" (or vassals). Thus the Assyrian elements in the el-Amarna letters also point to a fourteenth century setting.
Ninth Century Problems
Throughout his many records and chronicles (12), Shalmaneser III always refers to himself as "Shalmaneser [Shulmanu-Asharid], son of Assur-nasir-pal [II], grandson of Tukulti-Ninurta [II]." These Assyrian rulers appear some 500 years after Assur-uballit I and are found as Nos. 102, 101, and 100, respectively, in the Khorsabad and SDAS king lists. None of the Assyrian names cited above in the el-Amarna letters occur among those of Assyrian kings who reigned in this period (see accompanying table of ninth century rulers).
Similarly, none of the Babylonian names that occur in the el-Amarna letters appear among those of the kings who are known to have ruled in Babylonia in the ninth century (see table). According to the Assyrian Synchronous History (13), Shalmaneser III concluded a peace treaty early in his reign with King Nabuapal-iddin of Babylonia. The latter, in turn, was succeeded by his son, Marduk-zakir-shumi, whose brother, Marduk-bel-usate, then led a revolt in league with the Chaldeans. Marduk-zakir-shumi, fearful that his kingdom would be overthrown by his brother, turned to Assyria for aid, which Shalmaneser was evidently only too eager to provide. Shalmaneser promptly helped defeat the usurper Marduk-bel-usate, and Babylonia became a vassal state of Assyria with Marduk-zakirshumi as a tribute-paying king. As indicated earlier, these events are recorded (12, 13) as having occurred in the ninth year of Shalmaneser's reign, or about 850 B.C.
It would, of course, be only after this date that Shalmaneser could be expected to write to Egypt as "King of Babylonia," using or assuming the name Burnaburiash as his alter ego, as Velikovsky proposes. However, even apart from other difficulties, this date seems impossibly late, since in Velikovsky's revised chronology, it falls some years after the reign of Amenhotep III, to whom, as already discussed, Burnaburiash appears to have addressed letter No. 6 of the el-Amarna collection.
As Velikovsky himself has pointed out, his contention that the el-Amarna letters were written not in the fourteenth but in the ninth century before the present era "should not be accepted merely because it fits into a scheme built on other evidences of preceding or following periods. It should be demonstrated with respect to the letters themselves. Besides the Scriptures and the el-Amarna tablets, two other sources relate to the time of King Jehoshaphat: the stele of King Mesha of Moab and the inscriptions of the Assyrian king, Shalmaneser III. These relics, too, and not the Bible alone, must correspond to the contents of the el-Amarna letters, if it is true that Egyptian history must be revised and moved forward more than half a thousand years" (Ages in Chaos, p. 229).
In subsequent passages, Velikovsky cites numerous close parallels of events and similarities or identities of names between those found in the el-Amarna letters and those preserved not only in mid-ninth century Biblical history but also in the ninth century inscriptions of Shalmaneser III and the stele of King Mesha. Thus he is able to provide strong support for his thesis of a ninth century placement of the letters.
On the other hand, as shown here, no name of any known ninth century ruler of either Babylonia or Assyria, including Shalmaneser, corresponds directly to any in the Babylonian or Assyrian letters in the el-Amarna collection. This contradiction is further compounded by the fact that the names of various fourteenth and late-fifteenth century Babylonian and Assyrian monarchs, as preserved in independent ancient records, do appear to correlate well with corresponding names in the el-Amarna letters.
Thus, barring serious, hitherto unsuspected errors in the transliteration and/or translation of proper names in the texts, or unless there is a remarkable "ghost" doubling of reigns and events in the accepted history of both Assyria and Babylonia, as Velikovsky contends is the case in Egypt, the evidence assembled here is clearly more in agreement with the conventional view of a fourteenth rather than a ninth century setting of the Amarna period.
(1) Cuneiform Texts from Babylonian Tablets in the British Museum, 34, pl. 38, 1-4 (quoted by Van Der Meer, ref. 3 below, V. 18).
(2) (a) I. J. Gelb, "Two Assyrian King Lists," Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 13 (1954), 209-230; (b) A. Poebel, "The Assyrian King List from Khorsabad," ibid., 1 (1942), 247-306, 460-492; 2 (1943), 56-90.
(3) P. Van Der Meer, The Chronology of Ancient Western Asia and Egypt, Second re vised edition (Leiden, E. J. Brill, 1963).
(4) W. C. Hayes, "Inscriptions from the Palace of Amenhotep III," Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 10 (1951), 87-88. See also pp. 15-16 of ref. 5 below.
(5) See E. F. Campbell, The Chronology of the Amarna Letters (The Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore, 1964), pp. 44-62.
(6) Babylonian Expedition of the University of Pennsylvania, 14, 9, 7-9 (cited by Van Der Meer, ref. 3 above, p. 17).
(7) Iraq Expedition Supplement, 1944-1945 (cited by Van Der Meer, ref. 3 above, p. 19).
(8) See W. F. Albright, "A Revision of Early Assyrian and Middle Babylonian Chronology" Revue d'assyriologie et d'archeologie orientale, 18 (1921), 91 citing Hilprecht's Old Babylonian Inscriptions, nos. 66-67.
(9) See D. D. Luckenbill, Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia, Volume I, Historical Records of Assyria University of Chicago Press, 1926, reprinted by Greenwood Press, New York, 1968), Ch. II.
(10) Babylonian Chronicle P, obv. I, 5-14 (quoted by Van Der Meer, ref. 3 above, p. 16).
(11) Cuneiform Texts, 34, Pl. 38, 8-17 (quoted by Van Der Meer, ref. 3 above, p. 15).
(12) See ref. 9 above, Ch. XII.
(13) Cuneiform Texts, 34, Pl. 40, rev. III, 21-34 (quoted by Van Der Meer, ref. 3 above, p. 41).
PENSEE Journal V