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"Ash"--the short monosyllable suggests not only the physical end product of radiocarbon tests, but also something of the asperity engendered by prolonged attempts to have them made and interpreted. So much labor of mobilization, it seems, for such ambiguous results. And yet the story, which is often one of frustration, has its moments of triumph. At the least, as Velikovsky remarked to one of his correspondents, it "reads like a very adventurous tale."
Copyright 1974 Immanuel Velikovsky
Our aims in publishing these letters are several. The letters themselves comprise a historical record of more than a little interest to the historians and sociologists of science, who may well glean from them insights into the peculiar obstacles facing the bearer of unwelcome or unapproved views, should he attempt to secure objective tests of those views. More than one critic has chastised Velikovsky for his supposed failure to seek scientific means of arbitration between his own and accepted theories. That he not only sought such arbitration, but continued to do so under singularly frustrating and unrewarding circumstances, is amply demonstrated here.
The letters serve other purposes as well, some of them historical and documentary. They make clear, for example, the time lapse between Libby's discovery of the radiocarbon (C14) dating method and its application to New Kingdom objects, and they offer examples of the reasoning according to which researchers dismissed such tests as unnecessary or postponed them as unimportant. Further, the correspondence documents the fact that ' ever since the method was discovered, Velikovsky has been expressing reservations about it. These reservations, summarized elsewhere (see Pensée, spring-summer, 1973, p. 12), are not recent, ad hoc inventions designed to explain irregularities in the test results. Rather, they were early deduced by him from the basic premises of Worlds in Collision and Earth in Upheaval. At the same time, since he has undeniably been hoping for some years that the method would confirm the theses of Ages in Chaos, it is helpful to establish that he has all along been concerned to formulate for others precisely how the method will have to be used if such confirmation is to be valid by his own standards.
The first phase of the enterprise, lasting from 1953 to 1961, is a series of negatives. Velikovsky initially wrote to W. F. Libby, the discoverer of radiocarbon dating. He then began going the rounds of the major museums, inquiring whether radiocarbon tests of New Kingdom and related objects had been or might be made. The exchanges below are with curators and officials at the Harvard Semitic Museum, the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and the British Museum, as well as several. faculty members at the University of California. In this quest he both wrote the museums on his own and enlisted the aid of others acquainted with his work and objectively interested in the possible results of tests. These include the late Robert Pfeiffer, then Chairman of the Department of Semitic Languages and History at Harvard; Albert Einstein, who shortly before his death had verbally expressed a desire to use his influence to help get the tests made; Francis Asip, Rev. Benjamin Adams and Rev. Warner Sizemore, all sympathetic readers of Ages in Chaos. The official replies cover an expressive variety of reasons why the tests could not or need not be made. Ed.
October 7, 1953
W. F. Libby
DEAR PROFESSOR LIBBY:
In my work "Ages in Chaos" (Doubleday) I present a reconstruction of ancient chronology from the Middle Kingdom in Egypt to the advent of Alexander. I place the end of the Middle Kingdom in ca. -1500 (instead of conventional -1680); the time of the Hyksos from -1500 to ca. -1040 (instead of -1680 to -1580); the New Kingdom from then on. Accordingly the dates of the Middle Kingdom are reduced by about 200 years; and those of the Eighteenth Dynasty by ca. 500 years; the dates of the Nineteenth Dynasty by 650 years; and of Twentieth Dynasty by over 700 years. The Hittite Empire, contemporary with the Nineteenth Dynasty, is also reduced by almost 700 years.
In your radio-carbon analysis, Alisar III is reduced by 800 years which is very close to my dating. I also assume that if analyses of organic objects dating from the time of Hatshepsut, Thutmose III, Amenhotep II, III, or Akhnaton were made, the results will indicate a reduction by as much as 500 years from the conventional figures; and over 650 years for objects of Seti or Ramses II or Marneptah.
"Ages in Chaos" was repeatedly read by Prof. Robert H. Pfeiffer, Head of the Department of Ancient History at Harvard University, beginning with its first draft in 1942 to its final form, and he always gave me his encouragement. The first volume was published in 1952, covering the time from the end of the Middle Kingdom to the end of the 18th Dynasty (Akhnaton). Prof. E. Drioton, the renowned Egyptologist (Director of Louvre Egypt. Dept.) wrote me that in his opinion the chronology of Egypt and the ancient East will need a drastic revision in the light of my work. A copy of my book will reach you in a few days, and I like to hope that you will find time to look into it. The second volume is set, however not yet published.
At present I work on geological chronology and I anticipate that some of fossils ascribed to the Pleistocene Age will be found, like the roots associated with Pleistocene mammals of Tepexpan, in sediments only 3500 years old. However, I wonder whether the supplanting of organic carbon by lime carbon in fossil bones allows their radioactive dating.
Finally, I would suggest a radio-carbon analysis of petroleum; if it is of organic origin, as generally assumed, and if some oil deposits are of a relatively recent dating, radio-carbon analysis may produce some unexpected results.
October 27, 1953
DEAR DR. VELIKOVSKY:
Since I know nothing at all about Egyptology or archaeology of any sort I feel constrained to return your book, because it is about as intelligible to me as if it were written in Greek. You understand that my role in the radiocarbon dating has been solely that of inventor and user of the method. I have gradually learned a little bit about Egyptology and archaeology, but it is minuscule in dimension.
We have dated several samples of petroleum. All of them have been of great antiquity. One sample reported from the Gulf sediments proved to be of measurable age. This is described in an article by Paul Smith in Science, about one year ago. I enclose reprints and a reference to a book which I published on radiocarbon dating. I am sorry that I have no copies of the book left.
Yours very sincerely,
November 4, 1953
Robert H. Pfeiffer, Chairman
DEAR PROFESSOR PFEIFFER:
You may have read about the radio-carbon dating of archaeological objects of organic origin, as perfected by W. F. Libby and his associates of the University of Chicago. The method has some problematic features: in the case of fossil remains in which organic carbon is replaced by the inorganic, there can be no correct result. Libby also stresses that his method works only on the condition that cosmic radiation or terrestrial radioactivity remained unchanged in the last 20,000 years. As the first attempt to verify the method on an object of known age, pieces of wood from the Old Kingdom (Zoser and Sneferu), from the Middle Kingdom (Sesostris III) and from the Ptolemaic ages were analyzed. The pieces of Sesostris (three tests' average) showed the age of 3621 with an error margin both ways of 180 years, or 1720 before the common era, with the chance that Sesostris III's reign (or properly the time the tree was cut) can be brought as low as -1540. As you know I place the end of the Middle Kingdom at ca. -1500, and Sesostris III was not the last king of Middle Kingdom (there must have been also a succession of lesser known kings of the 13th Dynasty). In short, the date of the wood of Sesostris III is in good harmony with my chronology.
What is not found in Libby's analyses, is some object from the 18th, 19th, or 20th Dynasty,--the New Kingdom--where my chronological scheme is five to seven hundred years out of line. I wonder whether the Museum under your care possesses a wooden coffin from one of those dynasties and would be interested to sacrifice a little piece for the purpose of the analysis. Actually all analyses made by Libby were performed on objects submitted by various scholars and institutions.
One object, though not from Egypt, showed a divergence by 800 years from the conventional chronology: it is wood from the foundation cribbing for a fortification wall of Alisar III. You will remember that the "Hittite" empire is recognized by me as 700 - 750 years younger than it is generally assumed. The analysis supports my dating. . .
With kind regards also from my wife, to you and Mrs. Pfeiffer,
P.S. The address of Libby: Research Institutes, the University of Chicago, 5640 Ellis Avenue, Chicago 37, Illinois. He admitted in his articles and his book (Radiocarbon Dating) that they are inclined to consider the accepted dates in their analyses as guides for selecting a date out of the range of uncertainty that sometimes is as high as 300 or 400 years. Therefore it would be good to have an object offered for analysis with a remark that two datings vie between themselves, and the analysis is requested to decide between these two datings.
November 7, 1953
DEAR DR. VELIKOVSKY:
Thank you for your good letter of the 4th. I was glad to receive it and to hear that the radio-carbon dating of Dr. W. F. Libby of the University of Chicago confirms some of your own new dates in Egyptian and Near Eastern history before the Persian Period.
I would be delighted to confirm your conclusions by sending to Dr. Libby some organic substance from an Egyptian object (such as an Egyptian mummy case) from the New Kingdom (18th to 20th dynasty) if I could find one in the Harvard Semitic Museum. Unfortunately we have nothing belonging to that period, most of our exhibits are much later or are made of non-organic matter...
February 23, 1954
DEAR PROFESSOR JOHNSON:
I have read the Chapter, "The Significance of the Dates for Archaeology and Geology" written by you and included in Libby's Radiocarbon Dating. I would like to inquire: Whether any objects dating from the New Kingdom in Egypt (Dynasties 18, 19, and 20) were tested by the radio-carbon method? If so, did not the method indicate a discrepancy with the accepted chronology and a need of a radical reduction of age for this period in history? The data published by Libby concerning Egypt have not even one case of New Kingdom. You, however, refer to "puzzling exceptions" and cases "when a valid radiocarbon date disagrees radically with an archaeological date." Are objects from Egypt or from the Middle or Near East in this category?
A second question: Did it occur that the method revealed a late date (say, 3500 years ago) for the survival of animals like mastodon or mammoth?
I would appreciate it very much if you could give me the required information.
March 12, 1954
DEAR DR. VELIKOVSKY:
It is impossible for me to give an intelligent answer to the questions concerning Egypt in your letter of February 23rd because I know very little about Egyptian archaeology. I suspect that no dates for objects from the New Kingdom in Egypt have been determined. The material that I do know of was presumed to be the oldest obtainable which, at the same time, could be dated fairly accurately in other ways. As I understand the situation, the radiocarbon dates from Egypt agree, at least in general, with some of the more widely accepted ideas concerning chronology as determined. by archaeological and other methods.
I do not have Libby's book at hand at the moment, but I believe that my reference to "puzzling exceptions" and so on refers more specifically to American archaeological problems. A number of dates were determined which were not at all compatible with ideas concerning age at the time. Work, particularly in the middle west, has produced a number of inferences concerning age and these were believed to have some validity. The radiocarbon dates were reason for questioning this. Later work has revealed the probability that the radiocarbon dates are more nearly correct and that previous interpretations need revision. The situation is not yet completely clear, but it seems possible that the difficulties will be resolved before long.
The major difficulty, not only in America, but all over the world, has been to secure samples which have not been "contaminated". In the early stages of development it was difficult to describe contamination. The difficulty still remains, but the definition of it is becoming clearer as work proceeds. I do remember some unfortunate cases where samples, even from the old world, were either taken from "fake" specimens in museums or which were otherwise not what they were supposed to be. These matters have as far as we know been clarified, but originally they caused some confusion.
This is not a very good answer to your questions, but I hope that in some measure it indicates the situation as far as it is known to me.
January 21, 1955
The seemingly irreconcilable difference in dating this period [New Kingdom] caused me to inquire whether any chronology had been substantiated through some means other than by philological or archaeological research. Therefore, I wrote to Mr. William C. Hayes, Curator of Egyptian Art of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, asking him if he knew whether any artifacts from the Eighteenth Dynasty, particularly of the Reigns of Hatshepsut or Menkeperre had been dated by the radio-carbon or carbon 14 method and if so, what the results were. He replied that he knew of none that had been tested in this way and that "in the light of the very complete knowledge we have on this tightly dated and closely recorded period, it would serve no useful purpose to have this done ". . .
Very truly yours,
February 7, 1955
DEAR MR. ASIP:
Would you please accept my apology for a somewhat retarded reply to your letter of January 21st. In that letter you have put the very proper question, could not the radiocarbon analysis settle the chronological problem raised by "Ages in Chaos"?
I have spent various efforts in this direction, up till now without success. Professor Robert Pfeiffer of the Semitic Museum of Harvard University, always very sympathetic to my work, answered that his Museum has no suitable material from the New Kingdom in Egypt. Professor Frederick Johnson, Chairman of the "Committee on Carbon 14" of the American Anthropological Association and the Geological Society of America, a committee that selects samples for analysis, answered with a letter that made me think that he did not grasp the problem: he said something to the effect that their paradoxical dates, as far as he can remember, relate to American prehistory; Libby himself answered that he knows practically nothing of Egyptian chronology; Professor Etienne Drioton, Curator of the Louvre Museum, who wrote me very encouragingly after reading the first volume of "Ages in Chaos" did not answer my letter on the subject of last December.
Maybe, you could do some additional tries, writing to various magazines, daily press, or members of the Committee on C14...
Very sincerely yours,
March 15, 1955
DEAR PROFESSOR PFEIFFER:
You may know that until now no radiocarbon test has been performed on any organic relic of the New Kingdom in Egypt-the period under investigation in "Ages in Chaos." In the light of the evidence presented there, you may agree on the importance of a laboratory test of the chronological datings of that period of the past. In the last years I made a few unsuccessful attempts to induce Chemists and historians to perform this analysis. Even independent of my theory, this important period of the past should not be excluded from the carbon test to which many periods of various local cultures all over the world were subjected.
Recently I received a letter from a gentleman who suggested this test to Hayes, Metropolitan Museum, before writing me. Hayes answered him that there is no need for a test of the New Kingdom datings: they are secure. This induced me to see Hayes.
After I have spent all my persuasive talent, I achieved that Hayes agreed that if I should bring him a letter from you (under the letterhead of the Semitic Museum) he would select three pieces--of the 18th, 19th, and 20th Dynasties--for a test on their radiocarbon. So important seemed to me this prospect that first I thought to travel to you to Cambridge. Then I decided to write to you and to ask to write a letter to Hayes and address it to me. I will bring it to him--I believe you would not refuse to write it and make it persuasive--together with a copy of "Ages," which he did not yet read.
It may interest you that Professor Einstein, in the last sixteen months, gave much time to studying with me the implications of my theory for geology, astronomy, and natural sciences in general--in exchange of letters and in a series of long sessions that usually run to midnight,--My "Earth in Upheaval" (geological aspect of the theory) is presently scheduled for the fall.
With kind regards, also from Mrs. Velikovsky, to Mrs. Pfeiffer.
P.S. In Hayes' opinion the tests should be performed at the request of institutions, not private scholars, like myself. His full name is William Christopher Hayes.
April 16, 1955
William Christopher Hayes
MY DEAR DR. HAYES:
You are undoubtedly familiar with the startlingly revolutionary revision of ancient chronology before Cyrus the Great, which Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky has suggested as correct in his volume, Ages in Chaos.
For students of ancient history, ancient civilization, ancient art, it is manifestly of capital importance to know whether Ramses II or Nebuchadnezzar are separated by about six centuries, according to the standard chronology, or are contemporaries, as Dr. Velikovsky is striving to prove.
The matter should be settled, if possible, once for all. It is so vital for all students of ancient history to have all doubts removed that the application of the radio-carbon test seems to be most desirable.
You would render us all an immense service if you submitted some datable objects from Mesopotamia and other ancient countries to the Libby test. Even though such a test has a margin of error, it would settle the matter once for all.
Thanking you in advance for your help, and with my kindest regards,
DEAR DR. HAYES:
I am writing to you at the request of Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky and. because, as the secretary to the late Professor Einstein I feel that I should inform you of the following matter.
During the Course of the last eighteen months Professor Einstein had several discussions with Dr. Velikovsky--with whom he had friendly personal relations--about the latter's work. The last such discussion took place on April 8th. In the course of this conversation Professor Einstein said that he would write to you and suggest that you should give Dr. Velikovsky an opportunity to have his theory subjected to a radiocarbon test.
As I was present at this discussion I can assure you that Professor Einstein did intend to write that suggestion to you and but for the lateness of the hour the letter to you would have been written then
June 3, 1955
DEAR DR. HAYES:
Following our conversation earlier in the spring I have mailed you a copy of "Ages in Chaos," vol. I. My intention in doing so was to give you the opportunity to judge for yourself my method and evidences in offering a reconstructed time table of ancient history. Although you have agreed to submit to a radiocarbon test a few samples dating from the 18th, 19th, and 20th dynasties, if a scholar representing some scientific institution should support my request,--and we had in mind Professor Pfeiffer,--I thought it proper that first you should know my published volume.
If you have turned to the pages 26-31 and compared the passages from the Papyrus Ipuwer in Gardiner's translation and from the King James version of Exodus, Chs. 7-12, you, most probably, became interested in the rest of the book. The entire work is built on collation of texts, in conventional chronology regularly separated by, over five centuries. The second volume of the work is presently in galleys. It covers the time from the end of the 18th Dynasty to the advent of Alexander.
In case you have not yet found incentive strong enough to familiarize yourself with the first volume of "Ages," the attached here photostat of a letter by Etienne Drioton--with his immediate reaction as expressed upon reading the first volume--may still induce you to follow his example.
I assume also that you have received a letter from Miss H. Dukas, secretary to the late Einstein. Since November 1953 Einstein spent many hours in discussing with me various aspects of my theories; at our last meeting, on April 8th, he was very emphatic in his desire to help me that a radio-carbon test should be performed to check on my chronology.
As promised, I enclose a letter from Professor Pfeiffer of the Semitic Museum of Harvard University. Since 1942 he closely followed the progress of my work on ancient history, and also read it in manuscript, in the first draft, in interim versions, and in its final form. Excerpts from his letters and statements, authorized by him, were printed on the dust jacket when the first volume was published in 1952. Yet he must not be considered as siding with me in my reconstruction.
Finally I enclose here a short chapter, from the second volume of "Ages," dealing with the stele of Maunier. Should you be interested to see how I bring my reconstruction to conclusion, I would gladly let you see the second volume in page proofs.
As to the tests, I would suggest that three objects, one dating from the 18th Dynasty, the second from the 19th Dynasty, and the third from the 20th Dynasty, all as far as possible excluding the chance of "contamination" should be subjected to radiocarbon analysis. As you know, this method of dating may be not as secure for absolute dates as it is for relative dating. Therefore I would ask the inclusion of some object of the Ethiopian (or Libyan) period in Egypt: For the control purpose an object of the Ethiopian period would be very good, since there is no disagreement in my scheme as to the dating of this period When compared with the conventional scheme.
Finally I lodge with you a statement of what I expect as a result of the required tests.
P.S. It would be very desirable, if permissible, for complete objectivity, that the laboratory should know the samples as 1, 2, 3, and 4, and their dating from the 18th-20th dynasties should be known presently only to you and your colleagues in the Museum.
June 22, 1955
DEAR PROFESSOR PFEIFFER,
Replying to your letter of April 16th, which I have just this minute received, I think we may have some small organic samples datable to the New Kingdom which I can let you have in your official capacity as Curator of Harvard University's Semitic Museum. I assume that the request is made in behalf of Harvard University, as we do not, of course, hand out material to private individuals for their own uses. Upon assurance from you that this is the case I shall see what I can do about finding the material.
Since I am leaving within a few days on a rather prolonged vacation and since during the summer we operate on a skeleton staff it will not, in any case, be possible to rout the material out of storage until the Fall.
I should also doubt very much if we have anything later in date than Dyn. XVIII, most of our later material having been acquired, not from our excavations, but through purchase, a circumstance which makes it unlikely that it includes expendable organic samples.
[Handwritten note in margin:] Dear Dr. Velikovsky: Sorry about this. With all good wishes. Yours cordially, [signed] Robert H. Pfeiffer.
June 30, 1955
MY DEAR MR. HAYES:
Thank you for your letter of the 22nd, which was forwarded to me in Nantucket.
I had written you in April to find out whether you could make the radio-carbon test on some ancient Egyptian objects known to come from a given dynasty.
It is very good of you to offer me such objects, but unfortunately they would be of no use to me. I have no facilities for making such a test, and I could easily obtain such objects from Dews Dunham at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
Under the circumstances you need make no arrangements to have such objects sent to me in the fall. Thanking you for your courtesy and with kindest regards,
July 11, 1955
DEAR PROFESSOR PFEIFFER:
You were kind to mail me a carbon copy of your reply to Dr. Hayes of the Metropolitan Museum. I believe that there is a little misunderstanding, for which I am prepared to take the blame, since I have, apparently, not explained the situation in a proper way.
For a long time I have made efforts to have a radiocarbon test of some relies of the 18th, 19th, and 20th Dynasties of Egypt as to their antiquity. Once I have written to you, too; at that time you have informed me that your Museum has no organic material from Egypt. Continuing my efforts, I met Dr. Hayes at the Metropolitan Museum, and as I have written to you after that meeting, he agreed to supply a few objects for the analysis. But he made a condition: the request should not come from me, a private person, but from an official institution, like a museum; we agreed that I will supply him with a request from you.
Your kind letter to Dr. Hayes of April I gave him only much later; one of the reasons was my desire that he should do what he intended in a belief that it is worthwhile, and therefore I have mailed him a copy of my "Ages" that he should read it before he sees your letter. When finally I have mailed him your letter with an expose [a statement] of what I expect from the analyses, he answered you that he is prepared to search for the required material after the vacation and then to place it to your disposal.
Neither you nor he is a physicist; the analyses should be made in, most probably, the Univ. of Chicago laboratory, where Dr. W. F. Libby developed the radiocarbon test. I do not think that Hayes had in mind that you would do the analysis. He apparently preferred that the request for the test should come from you, and that he would only supply the material.
In your answer to Hayes, you have written that he does not need to send the material to you and that you can obtain such objects from Dews Dunham at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. If this is so then the matter is simplified. Do they have in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts suitable objects of their own digging, where no doubt of the origin of the objects exists? Hayes stressed in his letter to you this point.
I would be very much obliged to you if you could arrange that the Boston Museum sacrifices a few objects of the mentioned dynasties together with some objects of the Ethiopian and 30th Dynasties-for a comparison test. As the things now stand I cannot expect that Dr. Hayes would go on with his promise conditioned on your request.
The laboratory of the University of Chicago performs the tests on objects submitted by scholars in different fields and then publishes, once or twice a year, the results of all tests made. They have a committee for selection of tests from those submitted, and at the head of the Committee on Carbon 14 associated with Libby's laboratory stands Professor Frederick Johnson, of one of the scientific institutions in Massachusetts.
I believe, I made now the issue clear. There is such a simple method to "disprove Velikovsky," who has a large following. So why not to make the test? From your letter to Hayes, I see that you are able to obtain necessary objects in Boston. Therefore, I feel assured that the tests will be made. As I have written, I believe, the radiocarbon analysis has only a relative value-its absolute dating may be mistaken, but its relative dating must be a good criterion. Here is a case where an honest science must put its chronology, and mine, on the scales.
With all good wishes, also for Mrs. Pfeiffer,
August 13, 1955
Dr. Dows Dunham, curator
We have had some requests to have a radio-carbon test made of some ancient Egyptian objects of certain dynasties, to see if the new dates proposed by Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky are valid.
Some "expendable" organic (wood, cloth, etc.) objects of the following dynasties are needed: Dynasties 18, 19, 20, 25, 30.
If the Museum of Fine Arts is willing to sacrifice some bits of material of these dynasties and if it can arrange to have these tests made, we are willing to bear the costs-provided they are not beyond our means.
With my kindest regards and best wishes,
August 16, 1955
I have your letter of August 13 with regard to the possibility of supplying expendable organic material of the 18th, 19th, 20th, 25th or 30th Dynasties for radiocarbon tests in connection with Dr. Velikovsky's new ideas about dating.
We have very little material of a suitable nature of the periods mentioned although we have plenty of wood of the 12th Dynasty from excavations at Bersheh. The only material I can think of would be chips of ivory from our excavations at El Kurru of which we have a number of fragments which are useless to us. These are presumed to be slightly earlier than the 25th Dynasty (see my publication of El Kurru). If a few samples of these would be useful to you for your purposes I should be glad to put them at your disposal if the Semitic Museum wants to have the tests made. Personally I am rather skeptical about its being worthwhile and am not inclined to take the time to do much about it as we are short-handed and overloaded with more important matters.
Please let me know if you want some samples of this ivory which was excavated by us at El Kurru, the provenance of which is certain.
With all best wishes and hoping that you are not finding the heat of Cambridge too trying,
August 24, 1955
DEAR DR. VELIKOVSKY:
Here is Dews Dunham's letter; please do not return it to me unless you wish me to ask him for some objects.
If you wish I shall ask him for ivory fragments from El Kurru (slightly earlier than the 25th Dynasty) and send them to you. I have no way to use them for the radio-carbon dating test and you are better able to arrange the matter. At most the Semitic Museum would contribute part of the expense.
With my kindest regards,
September 1, 1955
DEAR PROFESSOR PFEIFFER:
There is no luck to my trying to have a radiocarbon test performed on objects dating from the New Kingdom. The Boston Museum of Fine Arts has no suitable objects; the Metropolitan Museum, after the exchange of letters the earlier part of the summer will be reluctant to renew their promise made to me once.
As I have explained, they do not do the tests; neither does any other museum. The radiocarbon laboratories of the Chicago University, of Columbia and of Geological Survey in Washington, D.C., as I understand, do not require any fees for the tests; but only such tests are made which are of scientific value.
Apart from my books, it is difficult to understand that any [no] objects of 18th or 19th Dynasty were submitted to the analysis, when very many trivial things were dated by this method. What can I do? In the Foreword to the second volume of Ages (spring 1956) I will explain the delay of the book as the result of my wish to see the test performed, and will challenge the archaeologists to provide the material for the analysis. Actually I will do it already earlier: in my forthcoming (November, by Doubleday), "Earth in Upheaval."
If some new idea shall come to you, as to who, University, Museum, or private source, would sacrifice the necessary pieces of organic material, you will certainly keep me informed. In the meantime, have my many thanks for your trials on my behalf. At the final count, it will be on the behalf of archaeology, which will either get rid of a nuisance such as Velikovsky's theory, or will have a new chronology.
July 16, 1960
DEAR DR. VELIKOVSKY:
And now I must say what is in my heart. Although I believe a prolonged and strongest possible effort should be made to bring about the tests, I fear that this effort will be doomed to failure. The trouble is that everyone concerned really "knows" you are right and are actually resisting actively in a most effective way, by surrounding you with silence and nothingness. You have carefully divided up your discoveries into separate compartments, but they are not deceived for a moment. They didn't say a word about Oedipus and Akhnaton but not for the sake of the thesis of that book. If they let you in on any front, all hell might break loose. If you break through in the chronology question, Worlds in Collision is only a step away. You are like a building inspector who has just found out that the Empire State Building must come down; it is unsafe. The careers and books of celebrated men are in danger of being reduced to meaninglessness and there is a cruelty and sadness in it. They will resist perhaps even at the risk, when all is said and done, of doing so lunatic a thing as refusing to take a piece of wood from some museum into the laboratory and finding out how old it is, falsifying results or declaring them to be invalid on one pretext or another.
I am not joking when I say that I think that you, singlehanded, probably severely limited the extent of radiocarbon dating in the Middle East by placing terrible psychological obstacles in the way of investigators.
All this may be imaginary. I hope it is.
Very truly yours,
July 22, 1960
D. J. Wiseman
DEAR DR. WISEMAN:
Almost two years ago I had your favor and help in obtaining some photographs of several tiles of Ramses III. I wish I could know whether, per chance, there exists among the tiles of Ramses III in the Museum one that would show the name (or figure) of Ramses III on its face and a 'Greek' letter (preferably alpha) on its back.
My next book, "The Peoples of the Sea" will deal with the period of Ramses III. At this occasion I observe that, strange as it is, but from the entire period of the New Kingdom in Egypt (and of the Late Period as well) there are no radiocarbon datings: Libby published three datings relating to the Old Kingdom, one to the Middle Kingdom, and the next one of the Ptolemaic period. Thus over 1200 years of conventional history are not yet tested; and I am not aware whether any RC dating from -1580 to -332 was ever made on any sample from any other country of the Ancient East.
Would you think that the British Museum could be interested to have some datings performed by this method? Possibly you are acquainted with my thesis ("Ages in Chaos") that a synchronization of the histories of Egypt and of other lands of antiquity requires a drastic shortening of the Egyptian history. Would it be possible to sacrifice some organic relics from the 19th and especially from the 20th Dynasty for such analysis?
I have asked my publisher in London, Sidgwick and Jackson, to mail you a copy of my last book, "Oedipus and Akhnaton."
Very sincerely yours,
11th August, 1960
Your letter of July 22nd addressed to Dr. Wiseman has been referred to me...
There has been so far as I am aware no radiocarbon dating of objects from the New Kingdom. I do not think that such a test, given the necessary measure of tolerance which must be allowed, is likely at the moment to give a chronology for the New Kingdom which is any more certain than a chronology deduced by historical methods.
August 18, 1960
Mr. A. F. Shore
I thank you for your letter of August 11th. You regard RC tests as superfluous since these dates were secured by historical methods, more exact than the RC method.
If this is the case, then a radiocarbon test of some relics dating from the New Kingdom is even more desirable for the purpose of testing the test itself. When Professor W. F. Libby devised the method, he felt the need to check it on some well established data, three to five thousand years old, before offering it as a generally reliable method of dating. For that purpose he tested an acacia beam from the tomb of Zoser at Sakkara, a cypress beam from the tomb of Sneferu at Meydum, and wood of the funerary ship from the tomb of Sesostris III.
It is agreed among the Egyptologists that the dates of the Old and Middle Kingdoms are not so certain as the dates of the New Kingdom, even if the long chronology of Flinders Petrie is no more in discussion. I assume that having been asked to submit material of established dates you would have preferred to select a relic of the 18th, 19th, or 20th Dynasty. By now the margin of error of the test is much narrower; but the prime objective to check the method on a known date was never fulfilled.
I am writing to Mr. Wiseman and mailing him a copy of this letter.
August 18, 1960
DEAR MR. WISEMAN:
I still like to hope that I shall be able to include in the forthcoming sequel volume to Ages in Chaos some results of RC dating. An absolute dating is less certain by RC than a comparative dating. From the first volume of Ages you may know that I brought arguments for a synchronization of Shalmanassar III and Ahab with the kings of the closing 18th Dynasty. If it could be arranged that several Assyrian and Babylonian objects from -860 down to the end of the Neo-Babylonian kingdom could be compared by RC with the dates of the New Kingdom, I would expect some surprising results, with Egyptian and Hittite Empire relics showing a contemporaneity with much younger Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian objects. I would be greatly obliged, and I think the studies of the Ancient East would profit, if such comparative dating were performed. I even expect a greater discord in the datings of Ramses II and Merneptah (also Seti I) of the 19th Dynasty and Ramses III of the 20th Dynasty than I believe to have shown for the 18th Dynasty.
I receive many letters with this very inquiry, also from some places of learning and I have to answer that no radiocarbon tests pertaining to the problems raised in Ages in Chaos were ever performed, thus leaving 1200 years of conventional history untested. Could you be of help?
16th September, 1960
Your letter of August 18th has been referred to me by my colleague, Mr. Wiseman.
As Chairman of the Radio Carbon Dating Advisory Screening Committee of this Museum I have had some connection with the experiments carried out in the Research Laboratory of this Museum. Some day we hope to be able to conduct experiments on well dated material of the New Kingdom, but for some time to come I fear that our efforts must be directed to endeavouring to determine the dates of the earlier periods. These experiments will cover a wide area of the Middle East and the results will be available in the American Journal of Science and the British Museum Quarterly. .
November 3, 1960
Professor I. E. S. Edwards
"One of the first questions which occur to the mind of anyone looking at the ancient monument is its date. In the case of Egyptian monuments it is often difficult, and sometimes impossible, to answer the question in terms of years before the beginning of the Christian era, because our knowledge of Egyptian chronology, especially in the early periods, is still very incomplete. . An exact chronology will not be possible until the discovery of material of a different and more precisely datable character than anything found hitherto."
When in 1947 you have written these lines and opened with them your book on The Pyramids of Egypt, the radiocarbon method of dating was not yet Worked out. Since 1948, however, in twelve years very many samples of all kinds of origin and date were tested, but not a single one dating from between the end of the Middle Kingdom and the time of the Ptolemies, more than twelve hundred years, a period so long and important of a country so dominant in ancient history. Although the margin of error of the method makes it hardly suitable for finer datings, it could be of decisive value where the chronological problem involved is in excess of that margin of inexactitude.
Tombs near Tell el Yahudieh were assigned by Ll. Griffith to the 12th century and by E. Naville of the same expedition to the Hellenistic age; the difference is of ca. 800 years or even more. Do you possess at the Museum anything from this excavation that could solve the problem?
Not only Egypt of 1680 to 332, but the entire Ancient East is left out of RC analysis and testing. At Carchemish, Sir Leonard Woolley was baffled by young objects in old tombs, six to seven centuries intervening. Also the Herald Wall is very differently dated by Woolley and Güterbock. Should not some organic object from the tombs of Carchemish be tested in RC count?
The British Museum must be especially interested to clear the name of A. S. Murray who was accused of ignorance (Enkomi) for finding Assyrian objects of the seventh century in tombs contemporaneous with the 13th century Egypt.
Why not to test by RC the old dispute between Dörpfeld and Furtwängler as to the relative age of the Geometric and the Mycenaean ware (Olympia)? Or the age of the temple in the megaron of the Tiryns palace--is it Greek or Mycenaean? Or to investigate the relative age of Gordion tumuli and of Hittite relics of the Empire period? I could enlarge the list by many other cases. (Ahiram's tomb dated to 13th, 10th, and 7th centuries is one of such cases. Ivory of the 9th century [Samaria] and, presumably, of 14th century [tomb of Tutankhamen], also of Nimrud and Megiddo is a very suitable material for tests).
Is not the find of a piece of wood from under Alisar III fortress wall that came out 800 years too recent (W. F. Libby, Radiocarbon Dating, 1952, pp. 71 and 102) by itself an invitation to undertake a survey of all debated and unsolved chronological problems where datings differ by centuries?
The problem of the so-called Dark Ages in the Near East, for five centuries following -1200 could be greatly illuminated, also the question of the true interval between the Mycenaean and the Greek Ages, and the Homeric question tied to it.
This morning the radio announced that W. F. Libby was awarded the Nobel prize in chemistry. With this letter I make one last effort to convey to you that problems of great importance and urgency should not be left undecided and waiting their turn for the Carbon test till after the determination of dates of the earlier periods from a "wide area of the Middle East," as you put, it in your letter to me on September 16th.
Very sincerely yours,
15th November, 1960
Thank you for your letter of November 3rd.
I should like first to assure you that I am in complete agreement with your views about the desirability of conducting as many tests as possible on material from Egypt of all dates and not merely the earliest periods.
We in this Museum, however, are faced with two difficulties. The first and greater is the smallness of the scale on which we can conduct our tests, and the second is the lack of really safe, uncontaminated material. If I mention that during the past six months it has only been possible to complete four tests you will understand how slow progress must be. Furthermore, the claims of European archaeology, to say nothing of the Far East are as pressing as those of the Middle East.
I feel sure that the Middle Eastern tests will be carried out but the work must be spread over, the various laboratories which are now able to undertake Carbon 14 tests. It cannot all be done in this Museum.
I shall pass on your letter to my colleagues in the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities. Perhaps they will be able to suggest some suitable material for settling the questions relating to their fields.
I had not noticed that Professor Libby had been awarded the Nobel Prize. I feel it is a very meritorious award and I am grateful to you for informing me about it.
18th November, 1960
Your letter to Mr. Edwards of 3rd November has been passed to this Department for our observations on the sections which concern us. Murray's reasons for believing the Mycenaean period to have immediately preceded the Orientalizing were reasonable enough in 1900 when he wrote, but later excavations and research have shown that there was an interval of some centuries between these two periods.
I regret that we have no material in this Department from either period suitable for Radiocarbon analysis.
As for the building overlying the Megaron at Tiryns, the position (as outlined in Nilssen, Minoan-Mycenaean Religion, pp. 475 ff.) is indeed unsatisfactory. But it seems to me most unlikely that there is any material from it suitable for Radiocarbon examination.
September 29, 1960
DEAR DR. VELIKOVSKY:
I'm not sure whether I told you that I was referred by Dr. Frederick Johnson of Phillips Academy to a Dr. Robert Heizer of the University of California for what information I might be able to get from his file on radio-carbon datings. I wrote to Dr. Heizer. He was away in Europe and another member of the Department of Anthropology answered his letter and gave me the information that he had checked the Eighteenth, Nineteenth, and Twentieth Dynasties of Egypt and found no references to C-14 dates from any of these tiles. He suggested that I write to Professor Jacob J. Finkelstein in the Department of Near Eastern Languages for any information that might be more-recent than what he had on file. From that department I had an answer from the Assistant Professor of Egyptology, Dr. Klaus Baer. This short letter I quote in full.
" As far as I know there are no radiocarbon datings of any objects from the New Kingdom. However, since the chronology of ancient Egypt is quite closely fixed by astronomical evidence from the Eleventh Dynasty onward, in part, to the nearest year, radiocarbon, with its substantial margin of error, could hardly add anything to our knowledge of the chronology of the New Kingdom. Hayes, The Sceptre of Egypt, Vol. II, dates Rameses III to 1192-1160 B.C., and this date is not likely to contain a margin of error greater than about five years each way."
This letter is no doubt intended by Dr. Baer to close the matter. I cannot very well re-open it without betraying the fact that I have serious doubts about his "astronomical evidence." Where do we go from here?
Jan. 30, 1961
Rev. Warner Sizemore
DEAR MR. SIZEMORE:
Your letter of Jan. 16 has been referred to me for reply.
We have never received any request from Dr. Albert Einstein for material from our Egyptian collection for use in Radio Carbon analysis. We did, however, in 1947 provide samples from various periods of Egyptian civilization, including the New Kingdom, for analysis by Dr. Willard Libby and his colleagues of the Institute for Nuclear Studies at the University of Chicago.
As I understand it, the contamination which has occurred in the process of handling, exhibiting and storing Museum objects does not allow for an accurate reading of their date in Radio Carbon tests.
April 4, 1961
DEAR MISS BURTON:
Some time ago I wrote your museum inquiring if Dr. Einstein had ever made a request for samples of the New Kingdom in Egypt to be subjected to radiocarbon tests and if the request was ever granted. Your letter (a copy of which is enclosed) indicates that the Museum never received such a request. In a technical sense this is correct but I have been able to obtain a photostat of a letter written by Dr. Einstein's secretary making the request in his behalf shortly after his death. I am not out to "prove" anything one way or the other but I am greatly interested in this period of history and it is strange that in over 15 years (since the method of carbon dating was developed) few if any tests have been conducted on samples dating from that period, whether from your Museum or from others. Also enclosed is a photostat of the letter written by Miss Dukas.
With kindest regards,
Apr. 20, 1961
DEAR REV. SIZEMORE:
I find in our Departmental files a letter from Dr. Velikovsky written on June 13, 1955 requesting objects from the Egyptian collection for Radio Carbon dating. There is also a letter from Professor Robert Pfeiffer, Curator of the Semitic Museum, Harvard University written in behalf of Dr. Velikovsky and also requesting objects. Dr. Hayes, Curator of the Egyptian Department replied to Dr. Pfeiffer that we could possibly provide organic samples datable to the New Kingdom if the request was made in his official capacity as Curator and in behalf of Harvard University as we are not allowed to give material to private individuals. Since I find no reply from Dr. Pfeiffer, I gather that the matter was dropped there.
Over the years during which the Radio Carbon method has been developed, all excavations in Egypt have been under the jurisdiction of the Egyptian Government and no objects have been released to foreign institutions with the result that datable material for Radio Carbon tests has been virtually nonexistent ... outside of Egypt. And I do not know whether the Egyptian Department of Antiquities has conducted any tests. Excavated material from the earlier years when foreign excavators were allowed to take home 50 per cent of the finds is most often contaminated from handling, storing, exhibiting, etc., and it is not worth chancing the destruction of valuable objects only to produce valueless readings. In our particular case material from the Egyptian Expedition, which was conducted between 1906 and 1936, was given to the Institute of Nuclear Studies in 1947.
In the last two years the Egyptian Government has begun to offer excavation concessions to foreign countries in connection with the flooding which will occur when the new High Dam is completed at Aswan. If, then, there is a resumption of excavation activities, there is a good chance that reliable tests could be made not only in the period in which you are interested, but in all periods of Egyptian history.
I hope the above will clarify the situation.
The second phase of the story, starting in 1959 and running to 1965, has a dramatic unity all its own. Its focus is the Museum at the University of Pennsylvania, whose radiocarbon dating laboratory has become one of the world's finest. Velikovsky's hopes for it seem first to have been awakened by an article in Nature (Oct. 15, 1960) by Dr. Elizabeth K. Ralph, reporting on work at the laboratory and appealing for datable samples from the New Kingdom. Ralph, a physicist at the University of Pennsylvania, was then and remains the museum's principal radiocarbon investigator. Lynne Ramer and Dr. David Baker, sympathetic readers of Ages in Chaos, helped Velikovsky sound out further the Museum's attitude towards New Kingdom dating, and Professor Claude Schaeffer, the prominent French Orientalist and archaeologist, also made offers of assistance.
These preliminary contacts came to fruition when Velikovsky visited Ralph in February, 1963, and learned that she would perform a test on the mummy of Ramses III if he could provide her with the material. A few weeks earlier he had written to Frau Ilse Fuhr, the German translator of two of his books, who was preparing to make a trip to Egypt, and asked her if she might be of help in obtaining the Ramses III samples from the Cairo Museum through intermediaries. Frau Fuhr promised to do what she could, but when her pre-arranged interview at the Cairo Museum at last took place, she was informed by Dr. Zaki Iskander, the chief chemist there, that the attribution of the mummy in question to Ramses III was in fact by no means certain. He offered her instead three pieces of wood from the tomb of Tutankhamen, which she accepted.
In February, 1964, Ralph wrote Velikovsky the results of the test, which dated the wood to 1030 B.C. (1120 B.C. when calculated with the 5730 radiocarbon half-life), midway between the conventional 14th century dating and Velikovsky's proposed 9th century dating. It was immediately clear to him that the radiocarbon date reflected the time when the timber was first growing. Since it was partly Cedar of Lebanon known for its long life, he pointed out to a number of correspondents that while Tutankhamen could easily have had wood carved from a tree several hundred years old, he could hardly have it carved from a tree which would not begin to grow till two centuries after his death. Because this was the first New Kingdom object dated as a result of Velikovsky's efforts, it is easy to understand the tone of exhilaration in his letters immediately after the results were announced.
These results were published in Radiocarbon (Yale University), 1965. Ed.
October 7, 1959
Lynne O. Ramer
DEAR MR. RAMER:
This is in reference to yours of September 30th concerning Carbon-14 Dating in the Near East. I'm completely puzzled by Professor Velikovsky's claim that there is intentional skipping of carbon-14 dating of certain periods. We, ourselves, have a Radiocarbon dating laboratory here working on long term chronology for the Near East and we have a great many dates for all periods. Together with several other laboratories in the world, we are also trying to coordinate on a firm chronology for Egypt. There are many serious problems in the Carbon-14 method and we know of many Libby dates now in error. Certainly there is nothing we know of now in all periods which reflects the catastrophes of Velikovsky's theory. By and large the hundreds of dates we now have from Carbon-14 confirm fairly closely the chronologies worked out by the archaeologists.
Several years ago we here at the Museum discussed preparing an answer to Velikovsky's claims and we all decided it was not worthwhile. At this late date in archaeology, there is not much point in tilting at windmills.
Very best wishes,
January 23, 1961
David W. Baker
DEAR DR. BAKER:
I appreciate your intention to be of help in radiocarbon testing of some pivotal dates of Egyptian history.
Miss Elizabeth K. Ralph of the Physics Department of the University of Pennsylvania published in the October 15th issue of Nature, a British weekly, a report of the work done in Philadelphia. Following facts are stressed: The margin of error is much smaller (case of a royal tomb of Gordion of the last quarter of the eighth century) and sometimes is plus-minus 30 years only; the period 2000 to 4000 years before the present era gives very erratic readings (I would understand this by the fact that at that time cosmic ray influx was at a different rate, and by another fact that following great combustions of fossil fuel-esp. oil, and many volcanic eruptions, the ratio of Carbon 14 to Carbon 12 was very different); the Middle Kingdom dates are 180-250 years younger than accepted, which conforms with Ages in Chaos chronology acc. to which the Middle Kingdom ended after -1500, not -1680 or -1780; the only analysis of an object from the New Kingdom (a beam of Seti I) is ca. 200 years younger, and this on the assumption that the beam was not a reused one, a possibility not excluded by Ralph; this case is therefore disturbing to her because she relies on historians who regard the date of Ramses I, father of Seti I, as fixed by astronomical means. Apparently many samples were rejected after the test was performed, because of a larger difference between the accepted and the carbon dates, under a suspicion of contamination.
If you wish to do something, here are several suggestions. First, to find out whether there were made more tests of the objects of the New Kingdom; how large was the difference before it was decided that the specimens were "contaminated"; I have the suspicion that the so-called contaminated specimens in many cases reflect correct chronology; therefore it is good if I could know which objects were tested and rejected and how large was the discrepancy in age.
The Museum of the University of Pennsylvania has certainly many objects good for testing; but I would appreciate best some object of the 20th or 21st Dynasty; there I expect a difference of over 700 years; the period is also under discussion in my next book, The Peoples of the Sea. The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago made extensive digging in Medinet-Habu, near Karnak, where Ramses III's palace was explored; yet I would not know whether they have found any amount of datable (by cartouche) organic objects. In the Cairo Museum is the mummy of Ramses III (Twentieth Dynasty, rewrapped under the Twenty-first Dynasty)--a few cubic centimeters of the body of the mummy or of the wrapping would suffice; but Dr. Selim Hassan, Director of the Museum, must be willing to cooperate ... Miss Ralph actually appealed for datable samples of the New Kingdom, because of the divergence of the results (case of Seti I, and of the unpublished, yet hinted at, tests), and expressed the surmise that because of the date of Seti having been fixed astronomically the method must be reevaluated, under the suspicion that cosmic ray influx was different in ages past. As you realize, there are two different cases of discrepancy: in some cases the results of natural catastrophes and the change of the cosmic ray influx are the cause; in other cases, there is no error, and the result reflects a true but not accepted chronology. In the case of Ramses III who in my understanding lived three centuries after the last global catastrophe, we have the best possible case to bring out the error of the conventional chronology. An attempt at Chicago and another at Cairo, and much luck to you.
Very sincerely yours,
April 17, 1961
Claude F. A. Schaeffer
DEAR FRIEND, PROFESSOR SCHAEFFER:
My last letter of February 25th raised once more the question: What is the result of the radiocarbon test on your Merneptah specimen? I have not heard from you. Here is an issue on which we agreed long ago to test the accepted chronology. You first wrote me in July 1956, five years ago almost, and these are your words:
"I offer you gladly the material I have from dated Ras Shamra levels of the time of Amenophis III, IV (Akhnaton), and Ramses II. I could send it over to you for analyses by radiocarbon or, better, you come to collect it in Paris. Your dating could thus be proved or disproved. The lowering of the accepted chronology by 5 to 7 centuries is perhaps not impossible, but seems at the present state of our knowledge improbable. But tests as you suggest (Earth in Upheaval, p. 278) would decide."
Since then I have not left you in peace. Even from my hospital bed in Haifa after surgery I wrote you reminding you your spontaneous offer you made me upon reading my Forum Lecture before the Graduate College of Princeton University, printed as a supplement in Earth in Upheaval, with the challenge that radiocarbon on New Kingdom in Egypt should be performed.
Finally in July and August of 1960 you let me know that material is being processed in Philadelphia. You expected the answer by the end of the year (1960). 1 have not heard from you save in the letter of February 10th that there is no answer yet from Philadelphia. In the meantime it transpired that more than one sample dating from the New Kingdom was examined--also in Chicago--and no test was ever published, apparently under pretext of a suspicion of "contamination" by carbon of other epochs. It [would be] a great service to science if all these "contaminated" cases were, made public and thus subjected to scrutiny: Is not a single pattern in the age-displacement?
As long ago as 1950 the Metropolitan Museum of Art sent to Dr. Libby specimens of the New Kingdom; but in eleven years a period of 1350 years in conventional history (-1680 to -330) remained excluded from published results of radiocarbon. Lately, one strange case with a cartouche of Seti I was made known.
Here is a case for you to go to the roots of the issue. Then also you may know whether Velikovsky was right or wrong in a problem that cannot be foreign to you...
One of the most amazing spectacles that I have observed is this: Those very men who observed and described the great catastrophes fall back and defend the theory of uniformity with even greater jealousy than their colleagues who never wavered and never were even tempted to question the ever harmonious run of centuries. Here is the case of Professor F. Rainey, presently with the University of Pennsylvania; him I quoted on p. 1 of "Earth in Upheaval" and please look up: "Wide cuts, often several miles in length" are sliced by giant machines in Alaska; "This 'muck' contains enormous numbers of frozen bones of extinct animals such as the mammoth, mastodon, super-bison and horse" (Rainey).
I am in the possession of a letter by Prof. Rainey, whom I just quoted, and it was written to one of my readers. But how different from his own observations. The idea of great catastrophes is entirely strange to him and he asserts that Velikovsky was completely disproven by radiocarbon especially in Egyptian chronology which was proven very exact and many times so in their laboratory and in many other places. Do you know why such proofs were not made public? According to Rainey, the idea they had at the Museum (Penn. University) to write a collective work against Velikovsky is no more necessary, and was dropped...
Don't let the people at Philadelphia pass on another test without a public report or even a report to you. Although in my lecture I did not deal with Ages in Chaos and with the problem of chronology, but it is a high time to disclose the results of radiocarbon tests on objects dating from the New Kingdom. A 'pseudoscientist' demands, now for eight years, a laboratory test of his theory; the true scientists evade the issue supplying instead personal evaluations of their opponent...
26 IV [April] 1961
Thank you for your letter of April 17th. As the Univ. of Pennsylvania Dept. of Physics has informed me on Feb. 16th that the Ras Shamra samples have accidentally been contaminated with tritium, I have got another lot of samples prepared which will leave in a week or so by ship. On the other hand, there is now a French laboratory going into operation and I have given them a parallel collection of samples. Both results can then be compared later.
I repeat my promise. You will be the first among those who get the information before my publication. Don't worry and be patient. In any case I certainly will not hesitate to publish the results whatever they may be. Because I am not concerned with opinions and chronological schemes, but only with the advance of our knowledge ... Go on with your research, keep in good health, don't shorten your life by working too strenuously. The truth needs time to sink in. And so we must be in a position to wait.
February 13, 1962
DEAR DR. BAKER:
May I burden you with a task of importance for the scientific progress? Could you obtain from the Museum, University of Pennsylvania, in an urgent manner, a list of all tests made on objects of the New Kingdom in Egypt (Dynasties 18, 19, and 20) and the radiocarbon results obtained? With the exception of one case (a beam with the name of Seti I of the 19th Dyn.) no result was ever published by the Museum or elsewhere; but it is known that many tests were made on objects dating from the New Kingdom and the results being not in agreement with the accepted chronology were discarded under the assumption of 'contamination.' Such was also the case with a sample of Pharaoh Merneptah of the 19th Dyn. sent to Phila. from Paris by Prof. Claude Schaeffer (excavator of -Ras-Shamra-Ugarith). The reply mailed to him read: the object became contaminated in the laboratory. A new portion of the same sample was sent by Prof. Schaeffer more than six months ago and this week Prof. Schaeffer informed me that he has yet no answer.
In my understanding, objects from the New Kingdom must show a younger age, by full 540 years (18th Dyn.), 700 years (19th Dynasty, thus also Merneptah) and even more so in the case of the 20th Dynasty.
A list of all 'unsatisfactory' results covering the New Kingdom in Egypt (in the accepted chronology -1580 to -1140) may happen to suit well the revised chronology (Ages in Chaos)...
It is certainly most unusual that until today a very important segment of history was left without announced results as to radiocarbon dating.
I wish also to draw your attention to my letter to you on the same subject of January 23, a year ago. If, Dr. Baker, you do not feel that the task offered here can be tackled by you or by your relatives, Family Pew, during the next fortnight, would you kindly let me know so that very precious time should not be lost; then I shall inquire of other possibilities and there will be no overlapping of efforts. I can only assure you that behind this request there is a complex of scientific problems the importance of which cannot be overemphasized.
With kind regards,
DEAR DR. VELIKOVSKY,
Please excuse my delay in sending you this report of my inquiries concerning radiocarbon dating of New Kingdom Egyptian materials at the University of Pennsylvania. Due to the absence from Philadelphia of several key people I was delayed in making my inquiries. Afterward I tried to contact you by telephone so as to give you a very prompt report, but was unable to reach you. Then I was taken out of town for several days. And all in all, a much longer period of time has elapsed since our initial discussion of this project than ever I anticipated. However, a sound and successful approach has been made. And I shall not hesitate to return again and again, fully assured of the greatest kindness, helpfulness, and understanding on the part of the University. So perhaps the delay has not been without value.
Mutual friends secured for me a most favorable introduction to Dr. Froelich Rainey, Director of the Museum of the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Rainey is a vigorous, enthusiastic, obviously very well informed, courteous gentleman in his late middle years. At no time was your name brought up by me or by anyone else at the University. I told Dr. Rainey that I was interested in the latest findings that have bearing on the date of the Exodus. My position as a professor of religion in Ursinus College and a long-time interest in the matter had prompted my quest for information in this area. . .
"The dating of Egyptian history," said Dr. Rainey, "is one of the most controversial matters in the whole realm of Archaeology today. On the basis of radiocarbon dating we have come up with a very serious difference of 600 years between the old chronology and the radiocarbon evidence! We do not know how to account for it. It seems to extend throughout Egyptian history, but the earlier dates are off more than more recent ones. Fortunately we have an astronomical fix in the time of Seti I, so we are pretty sure of his date, but before him we are in real trouble. Right now our Museum, the British Museum, and the University of Leiden are working furiously to try to find out the cause of the discrepancy.
"Until now, we have had no real radiocarbon yardstick. But lately we have found a special kind of old pine tree in Arizona which we are pretty sure is at least 4200 years old, and we are in the process of taking serial samples of this tree, correlating it with the tree rings, and getting a workable standard. There is some talk of attempting to set up a standard for the radiocarbon dating of that whole area by gathering together and correlating all the radiocarbon dates and tree ring evidence we can obtain from every possible fragment of wood in Ancient Egypt-cedars of Lebanon, and so forth."
"Is it your opinion then," I asked Dr. Rainey, "that we may expect some very drastic changes in the dates of early Egyptian history in the next few years?" He replied: "Yes. And not only in Egypt, but in the dating of the entire Ancient World, especially the Near East."
Dr. Rainey then called Miss Elizabeth K. Ralph who is in charge of the Radiocarbon Laboratory of the University of Pennsylvania. This laboratory is located in marvelous quarters in the basement of the new Physics Building. A special guide took me to Miss Ralph.
Miss Ralph is a deeply serious, dedicated scientist, whose whole life is bound up with her work. She received me most kindly, was in no wise hurried in answering my inquiries, and most willingly answered all my questions and gave me access to all the information she had!
In addition to confirming everything that Dr. Rainey told me, she furnished me a wealth of other information. She did not seem to be aware of the 600 year discrepancy, as such, and knew not of the work of the British Museum and the University of Leiden in conjunction with the University of Pennsylvania. She suggested that it must be in connection with a radiocarbon lab not operated by the University of Leiden but located in the Netherlands, for that is the only lab capable of doing such research there.
However, Miss Ralph was insistent on the wide gap between the so-called archaeological dates of Egyptian history and those derived from radiocarbon dated materials. In almost every case the radiocarbon dates are significantly younger. Today, they feel they can date to within an accuracy of 25 years in some instances. I found her working on a huge graph on which she had entered every reported item of radiocarbon Egyptian evidence, plotted against the archaeologically determined dates for the same materials. This graph shows a very unmistakable trend throughout Egyptian history in the interest of younger dates. She is trying to ascertain what the cause may be. This is proving to be a very difficult task. For one thing all the data are not of equal purity, nor of equal value, due to lab errors. The methods of undertaking radiocarbon dating have not been standardized. She said that the Bureau of Standards had re-determined the half-life of Carbon-14 and suggested a revised figure of 5860 years. She said she felt that a more accurate figure would be between that and the old figure of 5568 years.
She too mentioned the pine tree. The tree in question is the Bristle Cone Pine, pinus aristata. This tree shows a very small annual growth-quite unlike the giant redwoods. And there have been found to be 6 years per century when no ring of growth is formed. This introduces an error of 6%. But they are hopeful, and still working...
Miss Ralph said that everything that she has tested of Egyptian materials has been published. "We would be only too glad to test such material, but it simply has not been given us. The present Egyptologist at the University is not much interested. In the future it may be different."
Very sincerely yours,
January 21, 1963
DEAR MRS. FUHR:
Possibly you would be able to perform an important task while you are later in February in Cairo. Prof. Butrus Abd al Malik of Princeton University (Arabic) wrote yesterday to Dr. Zaki Iskander Hanna, the Chief Chemist of the Egyptian Museum (Cairo Museum) that you will visit him. He wrote that a friend of his (he purposely did not mention my name) is interested to perform radiocarbon test on a piece of the mummy of Ramses III for an important work on chronology. (In case it is impossible for him to supply us with a little piece of mummy, then we will need to acquiesce in a piece of wrapping from the mummy-the mummy was rewrapped under the 21st Dynasty.) Prof. al Malik is a friend of Dr. Hanna. . .
In the meantime I may visit in Philadelphia and see whether it will be possible to arrange the test there. The University Museum in Philadelphia (University of Pennsylvania) is the central place for analyses on Egyptology by radiocarbon. Generally it would be preferable that the specimen travel by air from one museum to another in order to avoid later any discussion of contamination.
It would be a great achievement should I be able to include in my forthcoming Peoples of the Sea a section on radiocarbon (performed) test.
Tomorrow I have a meeting with my British publisher (at the office of my American publisher)-they are very eager to have the manuscript of Peoples of the Sea. The lack of any test covering the period was one of the reasons why I have been so slow in producing the manuscript...
Jan. 26, 1963
Translated from the German
DEAR DR. VELIKOVSKY,
Yesterday I received your letter, which worries me a good deal: what do you believe I can do for you in this matter, if Prof. Butrus Abd el Malik is unable to get something from museum to museum for the purpose of a radiocarbon test? What do you imagine I can do for you? Urge Dr. Zaki I. Hanna to intercede in this matter with the Director of the Cairo Museum? Do you really trust me to be the right person for a matter of such importance? It goes without saying that I wish to help you as far as it lies within-my very modest capabilities; only you must indicate to me much more precisely what I am to discuss with Dr. Zaki I. Hanna. I would have to have your letter in my hands by Feb. 16 at the very latest.
The study group we are touring with has changed its plans, in order not to run into the too-hot season at Abu Simbel. As a result only one day is scheduled in Cairo at the beginning of the trip for visiting the pyramids and the necropolis. Only at the end of the trip, from March 12 through March 15, will we be back in Cairo, and then it would be possible to look up Dr. Zaki I. Hanna . . . I should call your attention to the fact that all letters are censored there--friends of mine who wrote in some detail had the experience that their mail never reached the addressees!--so that you would only be able to give me instructions couched in quite general terms, which I would nevertheless surely understand. Better to write me while I am still in Munich and outline in detail what I am to discuss with Dr. Zaki I. Hanna. He will surely be able to speak English, and I do have enough self-confidence for that.
Is the mummy of Ramesses III the only object from the period in question from which something should be requested for C-14 testing? I can imagine that it is considered so inviolable by the Museum officials that they will say no in advance. Are there mummies of his officials or officers which would satisfy the same requirements? Perhaps you could discuss this possibility with Dr. Federn, so that I could at least try to let the University of Pennsylvania have something from one of the less precious pieces. Isn't there anything in any of the other museums that might yield you the desired result if Cairo turns out to be a failure--e.g. British Museum, Louvre, New York? ...
February 8, 1963
DEAR MRS. FUHR:
I am sorry that my, last letter caused you some worry. This Tuesday I was in Philadelphia and spoke to Miss Elizabeth Ralph, the head physicist of the Radiocarbon Laboratory of the University of Pennsylvania. I knew her from her published works only; she is a very pleasant person. I was previously reluctant to contact her directly, since the director of the Museum of the University (under whom she works), Dr. Rainey, is unfavorable toward my theory.
Dr. Ralph is prepared to perform the carbon test on the mummy of Ramses III or on its Wrappings. Of the wrappings she would need 20 grams, but of the mummy 50 grams, since the latter material has less carbon per gram. Probably in Cairo they would be sooner prepared to sacrifice some wrapping of this mummy than a piece of itself. But who knows?
Dr. Ralph is reading now my "Ages" and "Earth." She knows Dr. Zaki Iskander Hanna (here they know him as Dr. Zaki Iskander); he spent some time in her laboratory during his stay in the States last year (he brought the Tuth-ankh-Amon exhibition). So if you see Dr. Iskander Hanna you may tell him that Dr. Ralph is rather eager to undertake this test (there is also a test on the mortuary boats that he asked her to perform). You have had a mistaken impression that there is some difficulty or refusal to have one Museum send the samples to the other Museum; it was not yet asked.
I met Prof. Butrus Abd al Malik, who teaches in Princeton, and who is a friend of Dr. Zaki Iskander Hanna; and al Malik wrote the letter that I have mentioned to you in which he asked on behalf of a friend and for a test of an important problem in chronology that he should, if possible, give you either a piece of mummy or of the wrappings. But, of course, Hanna may send the samples by mail (airmail) and he knows also how to wrap them. It is important that there should be later no suspicion of contamination. Therefore, it is even better if Hanna mails the samples directly to Dr. Ralph; only it is necessary that he does not postpone to do it; later he may forget. Dr. Ralph also told me that in this case there would be no fee charged because she is interested in the results.
Actually this is a fundamental test not only for my work but even more so for the testing of the test...
Have together with your husband a very enjoyable time on your excursion to Egypt. I will be very careful in view of the Egyptian censorship; and probably there will be no occasion for me to write to you there. But should there be such occasion, I shall be very conscious of the situation.
Should Dr. Hanna (or Dr. Iskander, if this is his last name) be willing to give you from the mummy of one of the officials of Ramses III instead of the king's, we will have to accept. I do not know how Dr. Hanna stands toward my work, and whether he knows it. If he will demand to know the name of al-Malik's friend, you may tell him...
I am certain that the voyage will be very impressive to you because of your interest in the land and its monuments, in art and nature, in history, and the warm climate will do you and your husband good. Much luck to you.
Translated from the German
DEAR DR. VELIKOVSKY, March 20, 1963
This morning we got back safety, and first on the list will be to write to you, for you will certainly have been waiting eagerly for news.
To enter straightway medias in res--a C-14 test can be made in Philadelphia! To be sure, for reasons presently to be explained I failed to get something from the period you mentioned, but got something instead from an absolutely sure source in a reign after your key-figure Hatshepsut, namely, from the tomb of Tutankhamun.
And now a short chronological report.
After failing to meet Dr. Zaki Iskander at first, because he had always just left the place where he was supposed to be, I was able to see him the day before last in Cairo itself. He was exceedingly pleasant, Prof. Malik's letters from Princeton must have opened all the doors, for from the start I perceived his readiness to give me something. We talked at length about the mummy of Ramesses III, about the mummies of officials of his time and their discovery, the rewrapping with mummy-bandages during the XXII Dynasty (not the XXI Dynasty) etc., and I learned to my surprise, and I suppose yours too, that it is by no means certain that the mummy passed off as the mummy of Ramesses III is in fact his. At the time when the discovery was made (so he said) such an indescribable confusion prevailed, and the removal from the pit took place with so little discipline, that afterwards there was no longer any possibility of ascertaining from which coffin which mummy had been taken, not to mention the fact that already before, at the time of the XXII Dynasty, no order could have prevailed at the reburial. So Dr. Zaki Iskander thought that a test of any material from this pit would have to reckon with an improbability figure of about 300 years from the outset, apart from the uncertainty factor that attaches to every analysis of this kind anyway.
I was greatly perplexed and prepared to believe that this was equivalent to a downright refusal. But then Dr. Z. Iskander led me into an adjoining room which contained fragments from tombs in long rows under glass. He looked around for almost half an hour and finally led me to two pieces. One was a black lump of resin from the tomb of Merneptah, the other consisted of wooden fragments from the tomb of Tutankhamun. I was so to speak being asked to decide myself what to take, and was quite uncertain what to do. Finally I asked Dr. Z. I. what he would prefer for the most unobjectionable test, and he said at once: the wood. When I asked why (since he might be less willing to give the resin bandages away) he explained to me that inside this lump of resin there were fragments of bandages and of other substances which might be considerably more ancient than the dead ruler himself, and that particularly the oil for anointing and the resinous substances might come from a more distant past, as for royal embalments preferably the most precious, most ancient ingredients were used; for this reason, then, a radiocarbon analysis would be liable to some degree of uncertainty from the outset, which could hardly be the case with the wood from the tomb of Tutankhamun, for he would pick out for me pieces which belonged to trees which at the time they were felled could not be old--he spoke of an age of about 30 years!--so that on this basis a successful date might best be established.
Unfortunately there was not enough available from one tree, or rather from one kind of wood (i.e. 20 grams) but after some searching 25 grams were collected, which are made up as follows: 1) a larger piece is cedar wood, Cedrus Libani, 2) two smaller pieces are Siddar wood, Zizyphus spina Christi-and from (1) he selected a piece with more widely separated annual rings which therefore come from a later period of growth of the cedar; to all three pieces Dr. Z. I. gave a date not older than 30 years at the time they were used. He assured me several times that from these pieces a sure guarantee for dating could be obtained.
So I decided then for the wood. What Dr. Zaki Iskander said about the age of oils for anointing and essences, and the uncertainty factor that is a priori present through the differing ages of the various substances inside the lump of resin, made sense to me. Moreover, Hatshepsut can definitely be considered to be the key figure in your rearrangement of the chronology; once the dating of these pieces of wood establishes the incorrectness of the age of the reign of Tutankhamun, until now thought to be certain, in my opinion the chronology of the later rulers too must shift in the sense your views require.
Dr. Zaki Iskander then showed me through the museum, handed me a short historical survey of Egypt's past which comes from his pen, with a dedication, and was, I should like to emphasize again, exceedingly pleasant. I mentioned your name to him, and also brought up whether he would be interested in your book; he said neither yes nor no, merely that only during boat-trips to Luxor, Abu Simbel, etc. does he find time for reading anything other than what directly concerns his work; thus I should like to leave it to you or to Dr. Ralph to thank him in some way.
Without more for today, and awaiting your reply on how I am to ship the precious 25 grams of wood, I am
DEAR MRS. FUHR:
I wish I could plant a kiss on your forehead: not just for your achievement in bringing from Cairo a sample of wood that was found in Tutenkhamen tomb, but even more so for the eagerness and the sense of responsibility with which you pursued the task and which were evident from your letters.
Miss Elizabeth Ralph left during last week or the one before for Rome and I understand that she will have work and rest there ... It is only on August 1st that Ralph will resume the work in the Lab of the Museum of the University of Pennsylvania. I will write to Mr. Robert Stuckenrath, her assistant, and inquire how we should proceed with the sample and whether tests will be made in Ralph's absence.
In no case would I like to have the wood sent to me. Since I am an interested party, I must be left out of contact with the sample. In the meantime, please, keep it well protected from contamination,
which is understood...
I feel that you and your husband enjoyed very much the visit to Cairo and that your interest in Egyptology prepared you to view the monuments intelligently, always with a set of two time-tables in your mind. Thanks again!
P.S. I have thought of a piece of mummy or of a piece of linen: the latter is usually of recent origin and is derived from a one-year plant; wood can be of an old tree, and the lumber could have been reused, because of the scarcity of trees in Egypt. Lebanon cedars are very old trees. But after having had a start with Dr. Iskander he may be helpful also in the future. The time of Tutenkhamen is certainly affected by an error of chronology and in my estimate instead of -1350 we should expect -820, before a correction due to the age of the tree. In the case of Ramses III we are much closer to our time (in my estimate the first half of the fourth century--an alterego of Nectanebo I), and the difference, besides, is almost 800 years between the two schemes. Also my next book will deal with Ramses III. On the other hand, the reading public heard more of Tutenkhamen.
August 4, 1963
Robert Stuckenrath, Jr.
DEAR MR. STUCKENRATH:
Mrs. Ilse Fuhr wrote me that on June 20th she had mailed 3 pieces of wood (Cedrus Libani and Zizyphus spina Christi), given to her by Dr. Zaki Iskander Hanna of the Cairo Museum, to you by registered airmail (parcel post). It is possible that you are in the process of testing these samples.
According to Dr. Iskander these pieces of wood are from the tomb of Tutankhamen of the 18th Dynasty. The conventional dating of Tutankhamen places him ca. 1358 before the present era. He reigned for seven or eight years.
In my "Ages in Chaos," a work of a reconstruction and synchronization of ancient history I derived a much more recent time schedule for the 18th Dynasty, and the time of Tutankhamon--acc. to this chronology--falls into the ninth century, the difference being 540 or 530 years. I have left with Dr. E. Ralph a copy of "Ages in Chaos" and I would like to mail you a copy of this work if you wish to have one. The entire work will comprise three, or possibly, four volumes, and a volume dealing with the 20th Dynasty will soon be given to my publisher.
My original purpose was to have radiocarbon test performed on a mummy, or on wrappings of a mummy, dating from the 20th Dynasty. Wood could be old when cut down and, besides, it could be re-used in a tree-scarce country that Egypt is and was. The great conflagrations that accompanied global upheavals could introduce fossil carbon into the atmosphere. To my understanding, the 20th Dynasty was well removed by several centuries from the last chance of such contamination. But Dr. Iskander chose wood from a well authenticated source (grave of Tutankhamen). My interest in the results of your tests is easily understood.
Mrs. Fuhr will be back to Munich in a few days (August 8th). Acc. to your letter Dr. Ralph is expected back from Europe about this time. Please give her my regards.
August 7, 1963
DEAR DR. VELIKOVSKY.
We have received the wood samples sent by Mrs. Ilse Fuhr, but have not dated them yet. We are still in the midst of a long series of samples from the Arctic, and the various Egyptian samples already accepted are scheduled for the late autumn.
As to the new samples from Mrs. Fuhr, we must have the approval of the Director of the University Museum before dating them. I shall bring the matter to his attention when he returns to the Museum after September 1st.
Very truly yours,
November 6, 1963
DEAR MR. FISCHER:
As you may possibly know, the Radiocarbon Laboratory of the University of PA is about to start the Egyptological series tests. Its programme on tree-rings completed the next few weeks will be dedicated to testing relics from Egypt. You may also know that for many years I have tried to have certain tests performed in order to check on the accepted timetable and on my revision of it. Dr. Elizabeth Ralph graciously agreed to have a number of samples included in the series which should clarify the issue.
As I see it, the relics of the 18th and 19th dynasties will not disclose their absolute dates by Carbon-14 method, and this because of the effects of a disbalance in the C14-Cl2 ratio due to catastrophic events with subsequent invasion of fossil carbon from conflagrations into the atmosphere; yet for the purpose of checking on synchronisms, suitable specimens from these dynasties could be compared with Assyrian specimens five to six centuries more recent acc. to the established chronology; should the views expressed in Ages in Chaos vol. I have substance, organic relics from these two countries may divulge contemporaneity where no such synchronism is expected.
It is different with the specimens dating from the 20th Dynasty; I assume that absolute dating is possible by the means of carbon tests and I expect substantially more recent dates than the 12th century.
Three little pieces of wood from the tomb of Tutenkhamen will be tested by Dr. Ralph and should some specimens of the time of Shalmanessar III be included in the test there would be a way to check on the accepted dates.
Dr. Ralph agreed to make the tests without a fee since the need was felt in checking Egyptological chronology on the carbon method and vice versa.
I write to you in the hope that the Metropolitan Museum of Art will show interest in exploiting the offered facilities and that you would be willing to select some organic specimens, if the Museum possesses them, of the 20th Dynasty; a piece of mummy would be a very suitable object, though as Dr. Ralph told me, because of the limited quantity of ash resulting, a little more of a mummy would be necessary than of wood or linen. Linen of the 20th (or 21st) Dynasty would be also a good object because it is derived from a one-year harvest, whereas a tree may have been reused, or its provenience from inside of a trunk or from an outside part of it--or branches, may reflect on the results.
Should you be agreeable to have the Museum part with a few specimens, each of a well determined age as to the dynasties and rulers, please direct them to Dr. Ralph who starts the series test in a matter of a week or so-and please instruct me of your decision.
December 10, 1963
DEAR DR. VELIKOVSKY,
As an old friend of Miss Ralph and a former staff member of the University Museum, I am sorry to say that we cannot supply your needs for the series of carbon-14 tests that she is about to undertake. The enormous amount of material that this department has disposed of during the past ten years, through a series of sales to other museums and to the public, has depleted our reserves to the point that we are no longer in a position to supply adequate samples of well-dated wood or linen such as you describe.
February 25, 1964
[On February 25, 1964, Dr. Ralph wrote to Velikovsky, informing him of the following results(*):
She noted that the dates calculated with the 5730 half-life are the preferred ones, and that, according to Zaki Iskander, the historical date for P-726 is 1343 B.C. She further wrote that "Since we prefer to release only series of C-14 dates rather than one or two isolated ones, I have included a list and a graph of other C-14 dates for samples from Egypt which have been published previously."]
*The letter is not reprinted here owing to the objection of the author. Ed.
March 2, 1964
DEAR DR. RALPH:
I need many words to express to you my thanks; not to be effusive, I shall say only that the test now performed and reported by you is to me the first achievement in many efforts that span more than a decade, the goal of which was to have the New and Late Kingdoms of Egypt checked by RC.
The answer I usually received was an assertion that the error--margin of the method exceeds by far any uncertainty in historical datings and that therefore the tests are not needed for the period I was concerned with. Now it is clear that the conventional dates for this period, too, are by centuries out of conformity with carbon dates whereas the uncertainty of the method is counted only in decades.
The date you have obtained for the wood from the tomb of Tutenkhamen (either 1030 or 1120, or a figure in between) ties half-way between that of the conventional chronology (-1343) and its revision (ca. -840) as offered in Ages in Chaos. But you have not incalculated the age of lumber at the time it was used. Dr. Iskander Hanna said to Mrs. Fuhr that he thought the lumber's age could be 30 years.
Would you kindly tell me: 1) whether the specimens of the two different trees (Cedrus Libani and Zizyphus spina Christi) were tested separately or summarily, and if separately, what was the carbon age of each of the fragments,
2) whether generally the wood from the inner and the outer rings and from the trunk and the branches show the same carbon age and if not, whether the differences reflect the age of formation (rings)?
March 2, 1964
DEAR MRS. FUHR:
I received from Dr. Elizabeth Ralph the long awaited report and I send you a photocopy. As you see the carbon age is half-way between the orthodox (14th century) and the revised (9th century) dates for Tutenkhamen. In her estimate Miss Ralph did not take into consideration the age of the timber at the time of its use for the tomb. I inquired of her whether or not the two kinds of wood were tested separately. Anyway, the result is in the desirable direction and the adherents of the conventional time table have to explain why the age of the trees is younger by centuries than the presumed date of Tutenkhamen's entombment. . .
If you are going to write to D. Wiseman, let him know the results of the now performed test. You have played an important role in obtaining the samples. All of it reads like a very adventurous tale.
March 2, 1964
DEAR FRIEND, PROFESSOR SCHAEFFER:
I enclose here a copy of the letter that I have received from the University Museum in Philadelphia. As you see, the carbon age of Tutenkhamen's tomb is ca. 250 years younger than its historical age and is placed half-way between 1360 (Iskander: 1343) and 840 where the reconstruction ("Ages in Chaos") would place it. But one obvious factor is not incalculated in Ralph's figures--the age of wood when used. Dr. Iskander giving the three little pieces of wood to Mrs. Fuhr told her that in his opinion the wood had been not more than 30 years old when used: but how could he know?
First alternative--it is assumed that the wood was over 140 years old when used. 1030 minus 50 (margin of error) minus 140 (age of the wood) = 840 before the present era.
Second alternative--it is assumed that the wood used for the- tomb was grown over 171 years after Tutenkhamen's death. 1120 plus 52 (margin of error) plus 171 = 1343 before the present era.
The assumption for the first alternative is reasonable. In Egypt, even stone, less precious, was often re-used. The assumption required for the second alternative is unreasonable.
As you see the result of the Tutenkhamen's probe practically disqualified the result of Seti's specimen. Already when first published, it was supplied with Ralph's cautious remark as to the probability that the branch with Seti's name was most probably re-used. The specimen you have supplied is not entered in Ralph's catalogue of Egyptian specimens because, most probably, there was not more than circumstantial evidence as to its dating in the reign of Merneptah.
There are no valid arguments anymore why the period in the Egyptian history from the end of the Middle Kingdom till the time of the Ptolemies should be excluded from most exhausting and repeated tests. Could you use your authority and influence in persuading the Louvre Museum to participate in such a program. To obtain results that would exclude the possible effects of global catastrophes (change in the influx of cosmic rays, invasion of fossil carbon into the atmosphere) and to tackle the chronological problem-the conventional and the reformed time-tables-some objects from the 9th century Assyria should be compared with the age of the Tutenkhamen's wood. I have also some other plans and I am going to write about them to Professor John Wilson at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.
Let us persist!
March 3, 1964
DEAR FRIEND, REVEREND SIZEMORE:
The attached is a copy of the report sent by the Museum in Phila. The age of the timber when put to use is taken for zero, though it must have been well seasoned, especially because of the purpose for which it was employed.
The adherents of the conventional chronology may claim catastrophes and a subsequent effect on carbon dates; thus they stand before the choice of accepting at least one of my theses--either of Worlds in Collision or of Ages in Chaos.
The effect of the catastrophes--increase in cosmic rays and an invasion of fossil carbon into the atmosphere (from conflagrations) of which the former would tend to decrease the carbon age and the latter to increase it-it can be followed up through a planned program of tests...
March 3, 1964
DEAR MR. FISCHER:
I thought that your answer of December 10 to my letter of November 6 would need no sequel. But I should not withhold from you the yet unpublished result of the carbon test of ca. 25 grams of wood from the tomb of Tutenkhamen. I enclose a copy of the letter I received from Miss Ralph.
I hope that the span of 1680 to 300 B.C.E. in conventional chronology will be submitted to more tests and I wish to believe that the Metropolitan Museum will not keep itself out of this effort only because of having disposed of large quantities of archaeologically suitable material to private hands and other museums, as you have explained in your letter.
Tutenkhamen could have been put to rest in seasoned timber but the wood used for his tomb could not have grown centuries after his death in the 14th century. Some ideas as to future tests are found in my previous letter.
March 5, 1964
DEAR DR. VELIKOVSKY,
Thank you for your letter of March 3rd and the enclosed information on carbon tests. I did not mean to imply, of course, that we are unwilling to accord Miss Ralph the same opportunity that we gave other institutions who benefited from our sale of surplus material. The difficulty is simply that the surplus is now exhausted.
March 5, 1964
On March 5, 1964, Dr. Ralph responded to Velikovsky's inquiry of March 2. She listed the weight of the wood for sample P-726:
11.5 grams Lebanese cedar, 1 piece
The three pieces were burned together, since neither type was large enough by itself.
"Various tests have indicated," she wrote, "that only the outer growth ring of a tree has a contemporaneous amount of C-14, that is, it is in equilibrium with the atmospheric C14O2. Except for a slight diffusion of sap inward, which seems to be insignificant, the inner rings have C-14 ages representative of the years that have elapsed since they were outer rings. Therefore, a C14 date for a sample from the inner part of a log would not be representative of the time of cutting of the tree.
"The magnitude of this error varies greatly in different regions and with different trees. Some examples of this possible error for samples from Gordion, Turkey are discussed on pp. 362-3 of the enclosed reprint. These logs, with extremely narrow growth rings, are exceptional. The woods which I have observed from Egyptian constructions have much wider rings."]
April 6, 1964
DEAR DR. RALPH:
Your kind letter of March 5 made it clear to me that we need to subtract from the date 1030 ± 50 B.C., or resp. 1120 ± 52 B.C., not only the years that have passed from the day the trees were cut to the day they were used for the tomb but, what is even more significant, also the years from the formation of the rings in the examined samples till the cutting of the trees. In the case of Lebanese cedar, famous for its longevity, no saplings would have been cut for export.
More tests on suitable objects from the New Kingdom are needed, preferably hide, mummy, grain, papyrus, or linen. How good it would be if the Cairo Museum would agree to sacrifice a little piece of the mummy of Ramses III: it is a dream, but it could solve fundamental questions in Egyptian chronology ...
A correspondent from overseas drew my attention to a paper by H. S. Smith in Antiquity (vol. 38, March 1964, pp. 32-37) in which the author-Egyptologist underlines the agreement between the radiocarbon and the "historical" dates back to 2000 B.C., and the "generally satisfactory sequence of dates before that. . ." It was printed about the time you let me have the results of Tutenkhamen's test.
In an earlier issue (vol. 37, 1963, pp. 213-219) Antiquity reprinted Libby's article in Science (April 19, 1963). Libby claimed agreement in historical and carbon dates for the New and Late Kingdoms, a period of over twelve hundred years, on the basis of one single test, that of Seti's wood; you have, however, in your report counted with the possibility that the wood had been re-used by Seti; even so, there was some disagreement between the carbon and the accepted dates; to it comes also the element of incertitude connected with the age of the tree-rings.
Libby counted with the possibility that "the whole historical Egyptian chronology is interlocking and subject to possible systematic errors."
The statement by Smith creates the impression that the radiocarbon analysis decided for the accepted dates, especially for the period under discussion in my work of reconstruction ("Ages in Chaos"), namely (in conventional chronology) from 1580 (or even 1680) to 330 before the present era, and that, therefore, my work is proven wrong. Under those circumstances I, of course, am desirous to see the result of the test on Tutenkhamen's wood made known.
May I inquire for when is the publication of the result planned? Would you possibly consider communicating it to Science before it is printed in the American Journal of Science (Radiocarbon)?
May 6, 1964
[On May 6, 1964, Dr. Ralph wrote Velikovsky "to say that Dr. Rainey is strongly opposed to the publication of single C-14 dates. For each site, structure, or whatever it is, we prefer to process a series of samples. We are planning to publish this in Radiocarbon only because it will be one of several from Egypt which we have published previously in this journal and it will also be part of several more recent series from various parts of the Near East. We plan to submit it in the fall for publication in the spring of 1965." She offered to date, "in the course of our present series," any additional Egyptian samples Velikovsky might obtain.]
A final strand of interest concerns two datings made by the British Museum and forwarded to the museum at the University of Pennsylvania by Professor L. E. S. Edwards, Keeper of the Department of Egyptian Antiquities (letter of April 6, 1971). Velikovsky, in a letter to Ralph (March 2, 1964), had stated his expectation that radiocarbon tests performed on short-lived materials from Tutankhamon's tomb should yield dates ca. 840 B.C. The British Museum samples, tested seven years later and consisting of reed and palm nut kernels, were dated to ca. 846 B.C. (BM 642A) and ca. 899 B.C. (BM 642B) respectively.
These dates, never published by the British Museum despite the assurance that they would find publication "shortly," were set forth in the May, 1972, issue of Pensée. They evoked the following letter exchange:
January 3, 1973
To the Editor of Pensée
In the May 1972 issue of Pensée (page 23) you mentioned a radiocarbon date of palm kernels and reeds from Tutankhamen's tomb. Unfortunately you did not mention the literature reference. We looked at the British Museum data in Radiocarbon but could not find it.
We should be very glad if you could give us the exact reference.
January 29, 1973
DEAR DR. VAN OOSTERHOUT:
Stephen Talbott, the editor of Pensée, has referred your letter of January 3 to me for reply. I am the coordinator of a Carbon 14 project which is sponsored by the Foundation for Studies of Modern Science, Inc. The project is being conducted by the Applied Science Center for Archaeology of the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania. They have been working along with the British Museum in obtaining data for the project.
Enclosed you will find a copy of a letter dated April 6, 1971, from Dr. I. E. S. Edwards, the keeper of Egyptology at the British Museum, addressed to Dr. Henry N. Michael at the University Museum, University of Pennsylvania. You will note the reference on page 2 to the samples #BM-642A and #BM-642B in which you expressed interest.
I have for some time been quite curious as to why these results had not been published in "Radiocarbon." In a conversation which I had last October with Mr. Burleigh, the director of the laboratory of the British Museum, he stated that he expected that the results would be published "shortly." Upon further questioning, he admitted that results which deviate substantially from what is expected are often discarded and never published. It is my personal opinion that that is what happened in this case.
Just for your further information, the #BM-658 and #BM-659 results differed from the University of Pennsylvania results from the same samples by more than three sigma.
I hope the enclosed information answers your questions. I would be most pleased if you would send me your reaction to the above information.
I travel to the Netherlands quite frequently. Perhaps we could meet sometime for a discussion, if you think that that might be profitable.
April 19, 1973
DEAR MR. MAINWARING,
Thank you very much for your letter of January 29th, 1973 on radiocarbon dates of material from Tutankhamun's tomb. In the mean time we got an answer from the British Museum: "Dear Sir: With reference to your enquiry of 3rd Jan. this laboratory has made no measurements on material from the tomb of Tutankhamun. Yours faithfully, H. Barker."
Apparently Mr. Barker does not know what's going on in his laboratory, to say it kindly. This is much worse than what you said. Deviating results are not only not published, it is even denied that they have been found...
For the present, at least, the recalcitrant dates have been swallowed up in considerable oblivion.
PENSEE Journal VI