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Open letter to science editors


A Reply to Stiebing
Immanuel Velikovsky

Copyright 1974 by Immanuel Velikovsky

Ages in Chaos and the stratigraphical record

In issue #5 of the Pensée series dedicated to the reexamination of my theses, W. H. Stiebing arrived at the conclusion that the historical reconstruction of Ages in Chaos "cannot be reconciled with the stratigraphical evidence of archaeology." By stratigraphical evidence are usually meant mute artifacts, mostly pottery. The effort in my reconstruction was in shifting the emphasis to archaeological literary evidence. It is from the literary evidence that the artifacts originally obtained their meaning as chronological indicators; but whereas at the base of the "orthodox" approach to historiography the reliance was mainly on such literary (non-contemporaneous) sources as the dynastic lists of Manetho (who wrote in the third pre-Christian century), my novel approach was to search for and find contemporaneous literary synchronisms. Thus, I juxtapose many sentences in the Papyrus Ipuwer with almost identical sentences from a few chapters of the Book of Exodus to establish the contemporaneity of the Exodus with the events that took place at the close of the Middle Kingdom in Egypt. Or I compare the surviving pictures and accompanying texts of Queen Hatshepsut's expedition to "God's Land" with the description of the visit of the Queen of the South (in Hebrew: Queenshwa); or I scrutinize the detailed bas-reliefs of the Temple booty of Pharoah Thutmose III that he brought from Palestine (called by him, too, "God's Land"), which are supplied with descriptions by the artist, with the equally detailed description of those temple and palace vessels and furniture of Solomon which were carried away, five years after Solomon's death, by the invading King of Egypt (called in the Scriptures Shishak), as found in I Kings.

The readers are left to use their own judgment as to the validity and impressiveness of these remarkable parallels. The juxtaposition of many passages in the letters of el-Amarna and of the texts in the Book of Kings leave no unbiased reader with any choice but to agree that the parallels, which start with the comparison of the texts of the Papyrus Ipuwer and of the Naos of el-Arish with the book of Exodus, are followed by equally persuasive parallels from generation to generation and from century to century, always confirming the soundness of the reconstruction. For instance, literally hundreds of episodes described in the el-Amarna letters as having taken place in Palestine in the days the letters were written are also found described in I and II Kings-having occurred in the same geographical localities and in many instances to persons carrying the same rather unusual names in the Scriptures and in the letters (like the three generals of King Jehoshaphat: Ben-Zikhri [Ben Zukhru], Yehozabad [Yahzibadal and Adaia).

It was always recognized that in the final analysis pottery and other mute witnesses are secondary to the literary evidence, and thus certain Mycenaean ware found in profusion in Akhet-Aton (Tell el-Amarna) defines the age of this pottery wherever else it is found, on the assumption that from texts of boundary steles of Akhet-Aton and other surviving inscriptions and portraits it is known that the place was built by Akhnaton, and on the further assumption that we know the age of Akhnaton as belonging to the first half of the fourteenth century before the present era. But how do we know this? The reader who carefully studies "Astronomy and Chronology" in the spring-summer issue (#4) of Pensée learns that there is nothing but mistaken assumptions to prop up this dating.

However, if such is the case, then unavoidably stratigraphical archaeology cannot but enmesh itself in a great number of conflicting situations. To this subject I have dedicated a great number of sections in the four not-yet-published sequel-volumes of Ages in Chaos. It was, therefore, also from this point of view, premature to pronounce a verdict, apart from the fact that the historical and literary evidence employed in volume I of Ages in Chaos was sufficient to start an unbiased student of ancient history on the way to questioning the stability of the conventional scheme of things.



Exodus 7:21...there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt. Papyrus 2:5-6 Plague is throughout the land. Blood is everywhere.
Exodus 7:20...all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood. Papyrus 2:10 The river is blood.
Exodus 7:24 And all the Egyptians digged round about the river for water to drink; for they could not drink of the water of the river. Papyrus 2:10 Men shrink from tasting-human beings, and thirst after water.
Exodus 7:21...and the river stank. Papyrus 3:10-13 That is our water! That is our happiness! What shall we do in respect thereof? All is ruin!
Exodus 9:25...and the hail smote every herb of the field, and brake every tree of the field. Papyrus 4:14 Trees are destroyed.

Papyrus 6:1 No fruit nor herbs are found

Exodus 9:23-24...the fire ran along upon the ground. ... there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, very grievous. Papyrus 2:10 Forsooth, gates, columns and walls are consumed by fire.
Exodus 7:21 And the fish that was in the river died. Papyrus 10:3-6 Lower Egypt weeps... The entire palace is without its revenues. To it belong (by right) wheat and barley, geese and fish.
Exodus 10:15...there remained not any green thing in the trees, or in the herbs of the fields, through all the land of Egypt. Papyrus 6:3 Forsooth, grain has perished on every side.


Papyrus 5:12 Forsooth, that has perished which yesterday was seen. The land is left over to its weariness like the cutting of flax.

Exodus 9:3...the hand of the Lord is upon thy cattle which is in the field... there shall be a very grievous murrain. Papyrus 5:5 All animals, their hearts weep. Cattle moan...
Exodus 9:19... gather thy cattle, and all that thou hast in the field.


Exodus 9:21 And he that regarded not the word of the Lord left his servants and his cattle in the field.

Papyrus 9:2-3 Behold, cattle are left to stray, and there is none to gather them together. Each man fetches for himself those that are branded with his name.
Exodus 10:22...and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt. Papyrus 9:11 The land is not light ...
Exodus 12:29 And it came to pass, that at midnight the Lord smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon. Papyrus 5:3; 5:6 Forsooth, the children of princes are dashed against the walls.


Papyrus 6:12 Forsooth, the children of princes are cast out in the streets.

Exodus 12:30...there was not a house where there was not one dead. Papyrus 2:13 He who places his brother in the ground is everywhere.
Exodus 12:30...there was a great cry in Egypt. Papyrus 3:14 It is groaning that is throughout the land, mingled with lamentations.
Exodus 13:21...by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night. Papyrus 7:1 Behold, the fire has mounted up


on high. Its burning goes forth against the enemies of the land.

From the King James Version. From A. Gardiner's translation of the Leiden Papyrus. He did not observe the similarities.

Of the counterarguments offered by Dr. Stiebing, the strongest appears to be the following: Egyptian scarabs or seals and other objects of the 18th Dynasty, specifically those of Thutmose III or Amenhotep III, are not found in the excavated strata in Israel dating from the time of the monarchy (from David to Jehoshaphat, the period covered in Ages in Chaos 1); neither have seals of Ramses II of the 19th Dynasty turned up in Palestine of the Divided Kingdom or in Syria of the Iron Age.

The factual situation is the opposite of this statement by Dr. Stiebing. The scarabs found in Palestine and elsewhere are in the greatest number of cases disregarded by archaeologists as to their chronological value. The reader can obtain some insight from perusing the following section ("Scarabs") written as early as 1951 for the sequel volume of Ages in Chaos.

Since the establishment of the Israeli state and the great vogue enjoyed by archaeology in that land, the perennial finds of 18th Dynasty scarabs in an Iron Age context (undivided and then divided monarchy) are so often related in archaeological reports that nobody reading them could miss the true situation.

In the third volume of the archaeological report on Lachish (ed. O. Tufnell, 1953) on p. 361 one reads of "south Palestine, where Mn-hpr-R' [Thutmose III] scarabs are common and are almost exclusively associated, as far as the Iron Age is concerned, with pottery ascribed to the eleventh-ninth centuries B.C."

In my reconstruction, the time of Thutmose III is the tenth century. In the accepted chronology he is relegated to the fifteenth century. We read in the same report also of the futile efforts to explain the consistent finding of the scarabs of Thutmose III in the Iron Age level in Palestine: ". . . it has long been assumed that such scarabs were either heirlooms or re-issues to commemorate this king. It would be surprising if local memory in south Palestine had so far venerated Thotmes III [Thutmose III] as to reproduce his scarabs in some quantity after a lapse of five hundred years . . ." [1].

Seals of Thutmose III more than of any other pharaoh were found in Palestine. But it is not different with the seals of other pharaohs of the 18th Dynasty. Dr. Stiebing mentions, besides Thutmose III, also Amenhotep III (Amenophis III); as indicated by his footnote 14, his main authority is G. E. Wright in the 1961 volume, The Bible and the Ancient Near East. Stiebing, relying on the authority of Wright, says that "what is important for the chronology is not whether the names 'Bronze Age' or 'Iron Age' are justified, but rather that the characteristic artifacts of the Palestinian culture that the archaeologists designate as "Late Bronze" occur repeatedly in tells below the floors of buildings containing characteristic artifacts of the culture labeled 'Iron Age'." On this score I will have quite a number of chapters in the sequel volumes of Ages in Chaos now being prepared for print.

But five or six years later, Wright, in a "Confidential Newsletter #2, 1966/67 from the Jerusalem School of the American School of Oriental Research," in a report on his excavation of the ancient Shechem (Tell Balata), states:

"It seems clear now that the level at which Late Bronze changes to Iron I ... is much lower than we thought in 1962... Of interest also, although certainly not found in its original historical context was the Amenophis (III or IV) stamp seal from one of the early Iron levels . . ."

The correspondent who in January, 1967, supplied me with this information, an Israeli writer on archaeology, wrote: "Maybe you could explain why it [Amenhophis' seal] was found 'not in its original context'?"

In the sequel volumes to Ages in Chaos now in preparation for print, the chapters on the Tomb of Ahiram (Byblos in Phoenicia) and Lachish in Palestine, among others, have abundant material on seals and stamps of Ramses II of the 19th Dynasty in the Iron Age deposit, that caused an unending debate among archaeologists and historians, much disagreement and personal accusations, all because one and the same period was considered as of the 13th century, following the Egyptian scheme of the orthodox school, and of the 7th century, following the concomitant finds, and none could be explained away.

Stiebing refers to Alalakh in Syria as supplying evidence for correlating (not directly but through a third area) the Late Bronze Age ware found in levels VI-V with the pre-Iron Palestine. He also maintains that the "increase in the number of personal names in the Hurrian language at Alalakh" points in the same direction, though the line of argument is not entirely clear.

But whoever had in his hands L. Woolley's Alalakh (Excavations 1937-1949), published in 1955, could not but be disturbed by the very great number of stratigraphical and chronological difficulties that embarrassed the excavator. Nouguyrol, in his review of Woolley's Alalakh, writes of numerous chronological difficulties and singles out the content of pages 7, 8, 86, 198, 241, 365, 373, 379, 380, among others [2].

As to the "Hurrians," regularly equated to the Biblical Horites or Troglodites: the reader of Ages in Chaos, in the chapter "Ras Shamra," is entertained to the view prevalent among leading historians that the Troglodites or cave dwellers composed the multi-language lexicons of Ugarit. In the section "Troglodytes or Carians?", I showed rather conclusively that the Egyptian Khar or Khur (made by linguists to "Hurrians") were not Troglodytes but Carians; actually the Egyptians called the Mediterranean the Sea of Khar, and they did not mean the Sea of Troglodytes, but the Sea of Carians (see also Herodotus about Carian navigation).

I quoted numerous expressions in the Hebrew texts written in cuneiform letters found in the supposedly 14th century Ugarit with phrases and turns of speech of the Old Testament books. "The intimate relationship existing between the Ras Shamra tablets and the Old Testament" provoked much surprise, wrote Claude F. A. Schaeffer, the excavator of Ugarit [3]. "There are innumerable parallels with the Old Testament in vocabulary and poetic style," echoed Albright [4], and there was no valid explanation: the Old Testament is supposed to have originated much later than the 14th century.

I suggested to the editors of Pensée to ask Dr. Eva Danelius of Israel, author of several original studies printed in journals dedicated to the history and archaeology of Israel, to share the burden of answering various points raised in Stiebing's article by supplying the latest data from Israel. She writes:

"At the 19th Congress of the Israel Society for Biblical Research held in Jerusalem in 1971 and dedicated to problems connected with the writings of the so-called 'minor prophets', a young Israeli scientist, Izhaq Avishur, gave a lecture (published in Hebrew in Beth Mikra Vol. 48 (1), 1971, pp. 36-50) concerning 'The similarity of style and language between the Book of Hosea and the literature of Ugarit'. Quoting scores of examples from both sources, the lecturer showed the amazing identity of symbols, expressions, connections of words--some words being hapax legomena in the Old Testament--as proof for the close relationship between the language of the Ugaritic texts and that used by the prophet. Now, Hosea lived and preached in the 8th century B.C., while the Ugaritic epic of Keret, for instance, has been dated by experts to the 14th century B.C. The interesting part of it is, however, that Hosea is the only one among all Biblical prophets who is supposed to have lived in and hailed from the Northern Kingdom which had a common border with Sidon, the capital of King Keret."

I showed that the poem of Keret found in Ugarit tells of the very events described in the I Book of Kings, namely the invasion by Amenhotep II, known in the Ugaritic poem as Terah and in Scriptures as Zerah in the days of King Asa of Jerusalem.

In the same chapter on Ras Shamra-Ugarit I brought evidence from archaeological literature that the 8th century Cyprian vaulted tombs have exact replicas across the strait in the 14th century Ugaritic tombs, a stultifying fact for the archaeologists who discussed the subject. Dr. Danelius writes:

"Recently, the same kind of sepulchral chambers has been detected in the necropolis opposite David's city of Jerusalem, on the eastern slope of the Kidron valley within the area of the present-day village of Silwan (David Ussishkin, "The Necropolis from the Time of the Kingdom of Judah at Silwan, Jerusalem," The Biblical Archaeologist, Vol. 33, 1970, pp. 34-36). Nearly forty tombs could still be located, all dating from the time of the First Temple. The dates suggested for these tombs are the ninth to the seventh centuries B.C. The archaeologist who investigated them suggests that their origin should be looked for in Phoenicia from where they seem to have spread to other countries, among them Asia Minor (Phrygia, Lydia, Caria and Tycia) and Cyprus (Salamis). Most surprisingly, a resemblance between the tombs at Jerusalem and the royal tombs of the kings of Urartu in Van, Armenia, could also be established. 'Thus, in the 8th century B.C., we have a clear cultural link between the kingdom of Urartu and Judah.' (ibid. pp. 45-46) And the question asked by Velikovsky comes again to mind: how to explain that similar burial customs were observed in all the lands surrounding Ugarit in the 8th century while the Ugaritic tombs are ascribed to the 14th century B.C.? Shouldn't it be expected that Ugarit's culture was contemporary with that of its neighbouring countries, with which it kept in constant touch?"

Thus Alalakh and Ras Shamra-Ugarit are not suitable sites to bring us evidence against the reconstruction.

In the chapter, "Astronomy and Chronology," I showed on what unfirm foundations the chronology of Egypt has been erected and how chronologies of countries that do not possess an absolute chronology of their own are built on the chronology of Egypt by the strength of archaeologically discovered contacts, and thus these chronologies, too, are subject to unwarranted lengthening. In this way Mycenaean (in Greece) and Minoan (on Crete) civilizations were ascribed to centuries dictated by such contacts. It follows that there are not independent chronological evidences from Mycenaean, Minoan, or Ugaritic civilizations and thus it cannot be claimed , as Stiebing does, that Mycenae and Tiryns support the orthodox chronology: "The palaces of Mycenae and Tiryns could not have been constructed in the eighth century." (In my reconstruction, it is not claimed that they were built in the eighth century, but that they found their end then.)

In The Dark Ages of Greece, one of the sequel volumes of Ages in Chaos, on the evidence coming from practically every excavated place in the Aegean area, the old chronological dependence of ancient Greece on Egyptian datings will be discontinued and the classical studies will be freed from the perennially discussed, and never really solved "Homeric question." To illustrate the issue on one

example I let the editors of Pensée have the section dealing with Tiryns [following "Scarabs," ed.], the place named by Stiebing.

Finally, Stiebing refers to Hammurabi, the king-lawgiver of the First Babylonian Dynasty and says that Moses could not have been as early as Hammurabi, as if I claimed it.

He says: "the Age of Hammurabi (or of his contemporary, Shamshi-Adad of Assyria) must be about the seventeenth century B.C. or earlier." Yet, "it is almost impossible to place the Hebrew Exodus as early as the seventeenth century B.C." But I placed the Exodus ca. -1450. Stiebing also commits an error by placing the Hyksos period as contemporary with the First Babylonian Dynasty (from Hammurabi to Ammisaduqa); the Hyksos period in Egypt followed the Middle Kingdom and is contemporaneous with the Kassite period in Mesopotamia.

Since Stiebing also stresses the great reliance of the chronology of the Ancient World on the Assyrian King-lists, a lesson needs to be drawn. Only a few decades ago Hammurabi and his contemporary, the Assyrian king Shamshi-Adad, were placed in the twenty-second century. Then, following a discovery at Platanos on Crete, where a seal of Hammurabi was found with seals of the Egyptian 12th Dynasty (of the Middle Kingdom), a revision was undertaken, and the date of both Hammurabi and Shamshi-Adad was reduced by almost five hundred years, so that the reign of Hammurabi was placed by Sydney Smith into the late eighteenth century and by Albright into the early seventeenth century B.C. And since lately the students of Egyptology turn for support to the Assyrian King-Lists, a strongly critical recent stand towards the chronological value of the king-lists by a few Assyriologists needs to be pointed out. Professor Lewis Greenberg draws attention to E. J. Bickerman, Chronology of the Ancient World (Cornell University Press) pp. 83-85, and G. Roux, Ancient Iraq (Penguin Books), pp. 40-41.

With hardly any exceptions, the counterarguments quoted by Stiebing could have come from any historian of the old school who did not care to read the first volume of Ages in Chaos but believed that what he learned in school and read thereafter suffices to devastate my thesis. But undertaking to do so for the readers of Pensée, the critic was required to watch for fairness in presenting the evidence of Ages in Chaos. The reader of that article may think that the Ipuwer Papyrus in my view might have reflected the "plagues of Egypt," and that from there Velikovsky "goes on to equate Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt with the Queen of Sheba who visited Solomon, thus moving Egyptian chronology forward in time by about 600 years, Amenhotep III and Akhnaton become contemporaries of Jehosephat of Judah and Ahab of Israel."

Does not each chapter stand on its own evidence? Is not, for instance, the chapter on Thutmose III who, according to the reconstruction, sacked the Temple of Jerusalem in the fifth year after Solomon's death, by itself strong enough in its comparison of the Pharaoh's booty with its reproduction on the wall of the Karnak temple? In these scenes various kinds of objects are depicted and named as to their number (When, for instance, in the Scriptures it is told of 300 gold shields, taken away by the pharaoh Thutmose lets the artist depict shields and write "300 of gold," etc.) or as to their material (doors clad in copper in both sources), and more and more. Where in the entire archaeological literature is found an equally detailed and exact comparison between two sets of objects, as described in detail in the chapter, "The Temple in Jerusalem"? But in Stiebing's "exposition" of my thesis, Thutmose III is not even mentioned.

The very foundations of Stiebing's arguments are not well thought through, for they are based on familiar text-books, whereas I in my reconstruction disagree with the chronology used by these books.

Of course, historians thought to have it easy--when, in 1952, Ages in Chaos was published, a definite group among the astronomers succeeded (not by thought-through arguments but by means of which none of the participants can be proud) to alienate the author from the scholarly profession. Historians did not need to take Ages in Chaos to heart. However, with the years and the accumulated evidence, mainly from the results of the International Geophysical Year and the Space Age, the astronomical and geophysical texts are being rewritten, new periodicals appear in great numbers dealing with mutations and evolution, paroxysms in nature, electrical and magnetic fields and forces in the solar system and in the universe in general--and not one of the advance claims of Worlds in Collision or Earth in Upheaval went wrong. The physicists and astronomers have second thoughts on the validity of my work.

In the meantime the disregard for Ages in Chaos by the writers in history took a heavy toll. Volumes on excavations were published and conflicting evidence is growing embarrassingly heavy. At Jericho there were no walls to fall when the Israelites approached the city, according to Miss Kathleen Kenyon, the excavator of the city besieged by Joshua. She followed the accepted chronology. And Hazor, the great fortress in Galilee at the head of the Canaanite league against Joshua, excavated by Y. Yadin, was but a hamlet at the time when, according to the orthodox chronology, the Israelites battled the league, and was still a deserted place when Deborah raised an army of rebellion against the King of Hazor with his 800 chariots. Kenyon and Yadin bewailed their finds as contradicting the Old Testament, not having learned that, in the reconstructed chronology, Jericho has great walls to fall, and Hazor was a very great fortress in the days of Joshua and also in the days of Deborah, as narrated by the Old Testament.

As a self-inflicted punishment and monument to a work antiquated on the day of its publication, stands the new edition of the Cambridge Ancient History.

The disinterest of the professionals was not shared by the young students of history and Bible; in whatever classes on the campuses both versions were taught simultaneously to students without preconceived ideas, the students clearly leaned towards the history that presented points of contact between the Biblical and Egyptian past in every century, generation, decade and almost in every year-while the conventionally written history is lacking a single contact between these two chronologies on the long expanse of many centuries. And as with those two lands and their histories, the entire Ancient East is emerging in the reconstruction free from innumerable problems and confusion which I elucidate in Ages in Chaos.

With this the challenge by Dr. Stiebing is answered in the main. A much more massive evidence will come with the publication of the four sequel volumes of Ages in Chaos. Here it remains to clear up some incorrect information and deductions. It is not claimed that in the "early seventh century Venus and Mars collided." Whether my reconstruction of ancient history depends on my reconstruction of cosmological events is also irrelevant and contrary to Stiebing's claim. The reconstruction could have had its starting point in the el-Amarna correspondence or in the invasion of Palestine by Thutmose III or in the identification of the Amalekites with the Hyksos, to take only a few leads from volume one of Ages in Chaos. As it happened I have developed the plan of Ages in Chaos on the understanding that at the time of the Exodus there occurred a natural catastrophe--this in advance of my realization of the global nature of the catastrophe that served as an opening for Worlds in Collision, as is told in the preface to the latter. In my article "Astronomy and Chronology," intended as a supplement to Peoples of the Sea (one of the sequel volumes), I wrote: "But purposely I undertook to probe the validity of the Sothic period [and thus the foundation of the orthodox chronology] without recourse to the arguments rooted in my other books." It is also not reasonable to "prove" my reconstruction wrong because of my not adhering to the dates that my work is called for to overthrow, a work in which literary contemporary documents, but also mute artifacts, serve as tools.


[1] M. A. Murray, "Hieroglyphic and Ornamental Seals," in O. Tufnell, Lachish III (1953), p. 360.
[2] Nouguyrol, "Review of L. Woolley, Alalakh" in Revue Orientale (1958).
[3] Claude F. A. Schaeffer, excavator of Ras Shamra-Ugarit, Cuneiform Texts, p. 77.
[4] Albright, Archaeology and the Religion of Israel, p. 38.


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