I. The Sons of Japheth
1. Gomer = Cimmerians
2. Magog = Sythians? (northern barbarian tribes: Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, I,vi,1; from a resemblance between the name Gog [see Ezek. 38:2; 39:6] and Gyges [Gugu], king of Lydia, some have suggested that Magog is Lydia.
3. Madai = Medes
4. Javan = Ionians (Greeks)
5. Tubal = Tabali (first mentioned by Tiglath-Pileser I, c.
6. Meshech = Mushki (first mentioned by Shalmeneser III, c.
7. Tiras = Tursenoi (inhabitants of the northern shores and
islands off the Aegean Sea)
A. Sons of Gomer:
1. Ashkenaz = Sythians; occurs in Jer. 51:27 in connection with the kingdoms of Ararat and Minni, suggesting a location around Armenia.
2. Riphath = inhabitants of Riphaean Mountains
3. Togarmah = Tegarama (Armenians)
B. Sons of Javan:
1. Elishah = Cyprus (Alishia in the Amarna Letters)
2. Tarshish = Phoenicians (they had a smelting center by this name located at Tartessus in southern Spain near Gibraltar)
3. Kittim = Kiti (in Phoenician inscriptions)
4. Rodanim = Rhodes
II. Sons of Ham:
Begins with those of the south and proceeds northward.
1. Cush = Ethiopia
2. Mizraim = Egypt
3. Put = Libya
4. Canaan = Canaan
A. Sons of Cush:
1. Seba = Saba (in southern Arabia)
2. Havilah = a district in southern Arabia
3. Sabtah = Shabwat (an ancient metropolis in
Hazarmaveth [Gen. 10:26], in southern Arabia)
4. Raamah = a place in southern Arabia
5. Sabtecah = a place in southern Arabia; recently Glazer (Skizze, II, 252) has revived a suggestion of Bochart that it is to be identified with Samydake in Carmania on the eastern side of the Persian Gulf. This seems to rest on nothing more than superficial resemblance of the names; but the phonetic changes involved are difficult.
6. Nimrod = Sumerians (the founder of the cities of Babylon [Akk. Bab-ilu: Gate of God], Erech [Akk. Uruk], Akkad [Akk. Agade], and Calneh in Shinar. He also built the cities of Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah and Resen in northern Mesopotamia).
B. Sons of Mizraim:
Mostly located on the southeastern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean.
1. Ludites = Lydia
2. Anamites =
3. Lehabites = Libya
4. Naphtuhites = a district of Egypt
5. Pathrusites = a district of Egypt
6. Casluhites = Philistines
7. Caphtorites = Cretans
C. Sons of Canaan
1. Sidon = Sidon (city)
2. Hittites = Hittites
3. Jebusites = Jebusites (Jerusalem area)
4. Amorites = Amorites
5. Girgashites = Girgashites (near Lebanon)
6. Hivites = Hurrians
7. Arkites = Arkites (near Lebanon)
8. Sinites = Sinites (near Lebanon)
9. Arvadites = Arvadites (the coast of Palestine)
10. Zemarites = Zemarites
11. Hamathites = Hamathites (capital Hamath)
III. Sons of Shem
1. Elam = Elam
2. Asshur = Assyria
3. Arphaxad =tribe and region of Northern Assyria; Chaldeans
4. Lud = Lydia
5. Aram = Arameans
A. Sons of Aram:
1. Uz = Gen 10:23; the home of Job -- see Job 1:1; Jer 25:20 "all the kings of the land of Uz"; Lam. 4:21 "daughter of Edom, that dwells in the land of Uz." Gen 2:21, the son of Nahor by Milcah, and the elder brother of Buz. Gen 36:28, a son of Dishan, son of Seir the Horite. The land of Uz was probably the pastureland inhabited by one of the tribes of that name. From the book of Job, we know that the land was subject to raids by the Chaldeans and the Sabaeans (Job 1:15, 17); Job's three friends were a Temanite, a Naamathite and a Shuite (2:11). Elihu was a Buzite (32:2) and Job himself is called one of the children of the East (Kedhem). The Chaldaeans (Kasdim, descendants of Chesed, son of Nahor, Gen. 22:22), inhabited Mesopotamia; a branch of the Sabaeans also appears to have taken up its abode in Northern Arabia. Teman (Gen. 36:11) is often synonymous with Edom. The meaning of the designation Naamathite is unknown, but Shuah was a son of Keturah the wife of Abraham (Gen. 25:2), and so connected with Nahor. Shuah is identified with Suhu, mentioned by Tiglath-pileser I as lying one day's journey from Carchemish; and a "land of Uzza" is named by Shalmaneser II as being in the same neighborhood. Buz is a brother of Uz ("huz," Gen. 22:21) and son of Nahor. Esar-haddon, in an expedition toward the west, passed through Bazu and Hazu, no doubt the same tribes. Abraham sent his children, other than Isaac (so including Shuah), "eastward to the land of "Kedhem" (Gen. 25:6). These factors point to the land of Uz as lying somewhere to the northeast of Palestine. Tradition supports such a site. Josephus says "Uz founded Trachonitis and Damascus" (Antiquities, I, vi, 4).
2. Hul = city near Sea of Galilee
3. Gether = tribe of Aram
4. Mash = Mash, a city west of Babylonia
B. Sons of Arphaxad
Shelah = probably a city or region of Assyria
Eber = Eber is the founding monarch of Ebla (probably not the same person, however as the Eber in Genesis)
C. Sons of Eber
Peleg = (Tower of Babel incident perhaps occurred during his lifetime; or it may refer to the period when the fertilizing watercourses were first constructed (one of their names is pelegh); or to the time when Babylonia was divided into a number of small states)
Joktan = Arabia?
D-1. Sons of Joktan
Almodad = a south Arabian name pointing to a south Arabian tribe
Sheleph = the name of a Yemenite tribe or district, named on Sabaean inscriptions and also by Arabian geographers, located in Southern Arabia.
Hazarmaveth = clan or district in South Arabia. It is represented by the modern Hadramaut, a broad and fruitful valley running nearly parallel with the coast for about 100 miles, north of el-Yemen. The ruins and inscriptions found by Glaser show that it was once the home of a great civilization, the capital being Sabata (Gen. 10:7)
Jerah = (moon); southern Arabia worshipped the moon and there are several place names linked to the moon as a result; in Yemen there is a place called Yurakh and in Hijaz there is a Yarah.
Hadoram = Arabia?
Uzal = the name is identical with the Arabic `Auzal, the old capital of Yemen, later called San`a'. San`a' is described as standing high above sea-level in a fertile land, and traversed by a river bed which in the rainy season becomes a torrent. Under the Himyarite dynasty is succeeded Zafar as the residence of the Tubba`s. If it is the same place as the Audzara or Ausara of the classics, it is clear why Arabic geographers dwell upon its great antiquity. The most celebrated feature of the town was Ghumdan, an immense palace, the building of which tradition ascribes to Shorahbil, the sixth known king of the Himyarites. According to Ibn Khaldoun this building had four fronts in color red, white, yellow and green respectively. In the midst rose a tower of seven stories, the topmost being entirely of marble (Caussin de Perceval, Essai, II, 75). In the seventh century AD the town became the capital of the Zaidite Imams, and the place was destroyed toward the middle of that century by order of the caliph Othman.
Diklah = (place of palms) south Arabia
Obal = (or Ebal); south Arabia
Abimael = south Arabian name pointing to a south Arabian tribe
Sheba = Saba
Ophir = Gen. 10:29. the name of a land or city somewhere to the south or southeast of Palestine for which Solomon's ships along with Phoenician vessels set out from Ezion-geber at the head of the Gulf of Akabah, returning with great stores of gold, precious stones and "almug" wood (1 Kings 9:28; 10:11; 2 Chron. 9:10; 1 Kings 22:48; 2 Chron. 8:18). The gold from Ophir was proverbial for its purity (Ps. 45:9; Job 28:16; Isa 13:12; 1 Chron. 29:4). In Job 22:24, the word Ophir is used for the fine gold itself.
The geographical location of Ophir has been the subject of much debate with three regions being principally advanced: India and the Far East; Africa; and Arabia.
The wares mentioned as coming from Ophir are appropriate to that part of the world.
"Almug" wood is conjectured to be Indian sandal-wood.
Another argument is based on the resemblance between the LXX form of the word (Sophera) and the Coptic name for India (Sophir).
A closer identification is sought with Abhira, a people dwelling at the mouth of the Indus. Supara, an ancient city on the west coast of India near modern Goa is also suggested.
Some believe the name denotes a vague extension eastward, perhaps as far as China.
This region of the globe is the greatest gold producing region of the three. Sofala, a seaport near Mozambique on the east coast of Africa, has been advanced as the site of Ophir, both on linguistic grounds and from the nature of its products, for there all the articles of 1 Kings 10:22 could be procured. But Gesenius shows that Sofala is merely the Arabic form of the Hebrew Shephelah. Interest in this region as the land of Ophir was renewed, however by Mauch's discover at Zimbabwe of great ruins and signs of old Phoenician civilization and worked-out gold mines. According to Bruce (I, 440), a voyage from Sofala to Ezion-geber would have occupied three years because of the monsoons.
The claim of Southeastern Arabia as the land of Ophir has on the whole more to support it than that of India or Africa. The Ophir region of Genesis 10:29 beyond doubt belonged to this region and the search for Ophir in more distant lands can be made only on the precarious assumption that the Ophir of Kings is not the same as the Ophir of Genesis. Of the various products mentioned, the only one which from the OT notices can be regarded as clearly native to Ophir is the gold, and according to Pliny and Strabo, the region of Southeastern Arabia bordering on the Persian Gulf was a famous gold-producing country. The other wares were not necessarily produced in Ophir, but were probably brought there from more distant lands and from there conveyed by Solomon's merchant men to Ezion-geber. If the duration of the voyage (three years) be used as evidence, it favors this location of Ophir as much as that on the east coast of Africa. It seems therefore the least assailable view that Ophir was a district on the Persian Gulf in Southeastern Arabia and served in ancient times as an emporium of trade between East and West.
Havilah = both the son of Cush (Gen. 10:7 and the son of Joctan Gen. 10:29. He is mentioned with Shur as one of the limits of the territory of the Ishmaelites (Gen. 25:18); cf. the same limits of the land of the Amalekites (1 Sam. 15:7) where, however, the text is doubtful. It is described in Gen. 2:11 and 12 as bounded by the river Pishon and as being rich in gold, bdellium and "shoham-stone". The shoham-stone was perhaps the Assyrian samtu, probably the malachite or turquoise. The mention of a Cushite Havilah is explained by the fact that the Arabian tribes at an early time migrated to the coast of Africa. The context of Gen. 10:7 thus favors a situation on the Ethiopian shore and the name is perhaps preserved in the kiopos Aualites and in the tribe Abalitani on the southern side of the straits of Bab-el-Mandeb. Or possibly a trace of the name appears in the classical Aualis, now Zeila` in Somalia. But its occurrence among the Yoktanite Arabs (Gen. 10:29) suggests a location in Arabia. South Arabian inscriptions mention a district of Khaulan (Haulan) and a place of this name is found both in Tihama and southeast of San`a'. Again Strabo's Chaulotaioi and Huwaila in Bahrein point to a district on the Arabian shores of the Persian Gulf.
Jobab = in Gen. 36:33-34 and 1 Chron. 1:44-45 the name is used in reference to an Edomite king. In Josh. 11:1 it refers to the King of Madon (Madon is a royal city of the Canaanites named along with Hazor of Galilee. El-Medineh, "the City" on the heights west of the Sea of Galilee, with which it might be identified, dates only from Moslem times. It seems likely that the common confusion of the Hebrew daleth for resh has occurred and that we should read Maron. The place may then be identified with Meiron, a village with ancient ruins and rock tombs at the foot of Jebel Jermuk, a little to the northwest of Safed.
D-2. Sons of Peleg
Reu = probably somewhere in Mesopotamia, based on Peleg's location. Nothing definite, however.
other sons and daughters
E. Sons of Reu
Serug = probably somewhere in Mesopotamia, based on Peleg's location; also we should take into consideration where his descendants (Abram, especially) originated.
other sons and daughters
F. Sons of Serug
Nahor = a city by this name is mentioned in Gen. 24:10 (see below)
other sons and daughters
G. Sons of Nahor
Terah = Abram's father, a Mesopotamian. According to Josh. 24:2 he was an idolator. Later Jewish tradition actually has him as an idol maker.
other sons and daughters
H. Sons of Terah
Abram = Israel, Edom
Nahor = Son of Serug and grandfather of Abraham (Gen. 11:22-25; 1 Chron. 1:26); also, here, the son of Terah and brother of Abraham (Gen. 11:26-29; 22:20, 23' 24:15, 24, 47; 29:5; Josh 24:2. A city of Nahor is mentioned in Gen. 24:10; the God of Nahor in Gen. 31:53.
Haran = Moab, Ammon
How Should We Understand the Genealogies in Genesis?
Arguments in favor of a stict chronology:
1. It seems the most natural reading of the text.
To postulate gaps is to read the text in an unnatural way. The average reader would have no reason to believe that there were gaps, or that the text was saying anything other than what it appears on the surface to be saying.
Arguments for rejecting Genesis 11 as a strict chronology:
1. From silence:
If the list of names and ages in Genesis 11 has been given to us for the purpose of constructing a pre-Abrahamic chronology, it is strange that Moses failed to give the total number of years from the flood to Abraham.
The objection raised to this point is that Moses expected the reader to do his own totaling and therefore did not add unnecessary words.
The answer: Moses took nothing for granted in the reader's ability to add just two numbers in the life of each antediluvian patriarch (Gen. 5) in order to ascertain their total life-spans. If the time span of the whole period was one of the important reasons for giving the genealogy, how simple it would have been to give the total, as he did in Exodus 12:40 for the time of Israel's sojourn in Egypt.
2. Genesis 5 and 11 are perfectly symmetrical in form.
It is important to deal with a matter of textual criticism here. In Genesis 11:12-13 the LXX reads a little different than the MT:
When Arphaxad had lived 35 years, he became the father of Cainan.
And after he became the father of Cainan, Arphaxad lived 430 years and had other sons and daughters. When Cainan had lived 130 years, he became the father of Shelah. And after he became the father of Shelah, Cainan lived 330 years, and had other sons and daughters.
Compare this with the MT:
When Arphaxad had lived 35 years, he became the father of Shelah. And after he became the father of Shelah, Arphaxad lived 403 years and had other sons and daughters.
Cainan occurs in the LXX of Gen. 10:24, 11:12-13, and 1 Chron. 1:18. It also occurs in the Book of Jubilees, and in Demetrius of the 3rd century BC, according to Polyhistor and Theophilus of Antioch. It also occurs in Luke 3:36 in all the manuscripts except for Codex Bezae.
The manuscripts without Cainan include all passages of the Hebrew text (Gen. 10:24; 11:12-13; 1 Chron. 1:18, 24); the Samaritan Pentateuch; 1 Chron. 1:24 in the LXX; the Targums of Jonathan and Onkelos; the Syriac Peshitta; and the Latin Vulgate.
Because Luke 3:36 has the name Cainan in it, the LXX reading would
seem to be correct and preferable. Furthermore, it is difficult
to figure out why the LXX would ADD a name, while it is easy to
understand how a name could drop out.
With the addition of Cainan, the two genealogies in Genesis 5 and 11 are perfectly symmetrical. In each case, there are ten patriarchs, with the tenth patriarch having three important sons:
Genesis 5 Genesis 11
1. Adam Shem
2. Seth Arphaxad
3. Enosh Cainan
4. Kenan Shelah
5. Mahalalel Eber
6. Jared Peleg
7. Enoch Reu
8. Methuselah Serug
9. Lamech Nahor
10. Noah Terah
(Shem, Ham, Japheth) (Abram, Nahor, Haran)
This symmetrical arrangement is of great importance in enabling us to determine one important purpose of these genealogies, because a study of the closest parallel to this phenomenon in Scripture, namely, that of the three groups of fourteen names in the first chapter of Matthew, reveals the purposely symmetrical character of such an arrangement of names, possibly as an aid to memorization. And Matthew's symmetrical arrangement was achieved at the cost of leaving out several names.
3. Information is given concerning each patriarch which is irrelevant to a strict chronology.
Genesis 5:6-8 states that:
When Seth had lived 105 years, he became the father of Enosh. And after he became the father of Enosh, Seth lived 807 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Seth lived 912 years, and then he died.
If the purpose of this genealogy was to provide us with a chronology, all we would need is that "Seth lived 105 years and became the father of Enosh". But the additional facts which are provided concerning each patriarch indicated that the purpose of these genealogies was to show us how faithfully God guarded the Messianic line (Gen. 3:14; 9:26) even in ages of universal apostasy (Gen. 6:1-12; 11:1-9); to impress upon us the vigor and grandeur of humanity in those old days of the world's prime; to demonstrate the fulfillment of the curse of Genesis 2:17 by the melancholy repetition of the phrase "and he died"; to show by the shorter life spans of post diluvian patriarchs and by the omission of their total years of life the tightening grip of the curse upon the human body; and to make "the record end in terms of the command of 9:1, which was so vitally important in view of the flood, by omitting the words "and he died" in the genealogy of Genesis 11. Since, therefore, so many pedagogical purposes are evident in these two genealogies that have nothing to do with the actual length of the overall period, it is unnecessary to press them into a rigid chronological system.
4. The Post-Flood patriarchs could not have been contemporaries of Abram
If the strict chronology interpretation of Genesis 11 is correct, all the postdiluvian patriarchs, including Noah, would still have been living when Abram was fifty years old; three of those who were born before the tower of Babel would have actually outlived Abram; and Eber, the father of Peleg, not only would have outlived Abram, but would have lived for two years after Jacob arrived in Mesopotamia to work for Laban.
This, on the face of it, seems strange. Also note Joshua 24:2, 14, 15 that Abraham's fathers, including Terah, were idolaters when the dwelt "of old time beyond the River". The statements in Joshua would seem to indicate that, if the patriarchs Noah and Shem were still alive, they had fallen into idolatry by then.
5. The flood would have occurred about 2500 BC.
This is unlikely because archaeologically, it is clear that Mesopotamean and Egyptian civilizations were in full bloom during this period, and there are no breaks in the records; 2500 BC simply is not a reasonable or possible date for the flood.
NOTES ON ANE CHRONOLOGY
Egyptian historical chronology, which begins approximately 3100 BC, is based on the arrangement of rulers into approximate family groups, known as dynasties. These dynasties were used by the Graeco-Egyptian priest, Manetho, in preparing a history of Egypt in the early third century BC. His dynastic lists have survived only in the abridged versions of the Christian historians, Africanus (early third century AD), Eusebius (early fourth century AD) and a much later compiler known as Syncellus (c. AD 800). Other parts of Manetho's history are preserved in the work of Josephus (first century AD). For convenience, these dynasties have been grouped into blocks:
Old Kingdom (I-VI Dynasty, c. 3100-2181 BC)
Middle Kingdom (XI-XII Dynasty c. 2133-1786 BC)
New Kingdom (XVIII-XX Dynasty c. 1567-1085 BC)
Late Period (XXVI-XXXI Dynasty c. 664-330 BC)
The intervals of anarchy, foreign invasion and general political disruption are arbitrarily termed Intermediate periods.
First Intermediate (VII-X Dynasty c. 2181-2040 BC, overlapping XI Dynasty)
Second Intermediate (XIII-XVII, c. 1786-1567 BC)
Third Intermediate (XXI-XXV, c. 1085-664 BC)
It is during these periods that the overlapping of dynasties provides particular chronological difficulties and it may turn out that they were shorter than is at present assumed.
Virtually nothing has survived of the ancient sources available to Manetho. Only two documents, the "Royal Canon" of Turin compiled in the reign of Ramses II (c. 1290-1223 BC) and the much earlier "Palermo Stone" with related fragments inscribed during the V Dynasty (c. 2490-2340 BC), illustrate the kind of ancient annals he might have used. Three other lists, of kings' names only, inscribed on monuments at Abydos, Saqqara and Karnak during the New Kingdom (c. 1567-1085 BC) , though selective, provide valuable comparative evidence. These may be supplemented in some cases by contemporary historical records, by biographical inscriptions, and by literary works with relevant historical information. These lists of king's names in the order of their succession provide only a relative chronology. The establishment of an absolute chronology in regnal years is a complex process. Although some ancient records give the length of reigns, the uneven character of the surviving evidence and the possibility of partly contemporaneous, rather than consecutive, dynasties, means that dates before about 1550 BC may only be approximate, and even thereafter there may be a margin of decades in certain cases. Astronomical observations provide crucial, if isolated, fixed points.
The Egyptian Civil Calendar (they also used two lunar religious ones) consisted of 12 months of 30 days each, to which were added five days to complete a 365 day year. Each period of 12 months was divided into 3 seasons, the year beginning in the season of Inundation. In the ideal year the first day of the year coincided with the first day on which the dog-star Sirius could be seen on the eastern horizon just before the rising of the sun (i.e. it rose helically), about 19 or 20 July in our calendar. The Egyptians of the dynastic period never introduced a leap year, so New Year's Day advanced by a whole day in relation to the natural year in every period of four years. Consequently New Year's Day and the day on which Sirius rose helically coincided for no more than four years in every period of about 1460 years (4 x 365). This is the Sothic Cycle regularly referred to in reference books.
As it is known from Roman sources that New Year's Day in AD 139 coincided with the rise of Sirius helically it may be calculated that this had happened previously, in the historic period, in 1322 and 2782 BC, or astronomically more precisely in 1314 and 2770 BC. Including the Roman record there are seven ancient Egyptian documents which give Sothic dates, but only two yield results in terms of regnal years. These allow us to calculate that the ninth regnal year of Amenophis I of the XVIII Dynasty was in the range 1544-1437 BC and that year seven of the earlier Sesostris III, of the XII dynasty was 1872 BC. (The Illahun papyrus in question here does not give the name of the pharaoh; but other evidence from the same archive of papyri indicates Sesotris III. Calculations of lunar dates recorded in the same documents help to confirm the 1872 dating.) Even so, there is a possibility that these so-called Sothic dates may be 25 years or so too early, if the point of observation was Thebes and not the region of Memphis-Heliopolis, further north, as is commonly assumed.
Although ancient Egyptian chronology is often referred to as "fixed", it will be apparent that this is a relative term. In so far as ancient historic chronologies go, before those of Greece and Rome, it is indeed well-established and for most archaeological purposes the margins of error are insignificant. But they most certainly exist, and not only in the third millennium BC. Regular minor modifications in Egyptian historic chronology in the New Kingdom and later have significant repercussions on the absolute chronology of Palestine in the time of the Judges and the Monarchy. Palestinian chronology at this time, and to a lesser extent, earlier, is fortunate in having another historic chronology, that of ancient Mesopotamia (Assyria and Babylonia), with which it may be linked. Distance and less intense commercial and diplomatic contact, made relations between Palestine and Mesopotamia less common than with Egypt. But in certain periods, notably in the later Middle Bronze Age (1750-1550 BC) and during the Assyrian and Babylonian invasions of Iron Age IIb-c (about 800-580 BC), the association was important.
Mesopotamian historic chronology
The foundations of modern knowledge of Mesopotamian absolute chronology were laid by a Greek astronomer Ptolemy, living in Alexandria in Egypt in the second century AD. In his System of Mathematics, known as the Almagest or "great work", he tells us that he had at hand records of lunar eclipses at Babylon back to the reign of King Nabonassar (c. 747-734 BC). These included an eclipse about 720 BC under a king named in Greek as Mardokempados (Marduk-apla-iddina = Merodach-Baladan II). Ptolemy's list of the kings of Babylon with their regnal years was not included in the Almagest, but has been preserved in the writings of the fourth century Alexandrian scholar Theon. He gives the regnal years of rulers at Babylon from Nabonassar down to Alexander the Great and his successors. Astronomical observations recorded on baked clay tablets found at Babylon provide evidence for an independent check on the accuracy of Ptolemy and Theon's absolute chronology back to the eighth century BC.
As certain kings of Assyria also claimed authority over Babylon at this tie, they appear in Theon's list, allowing it to be correlated with the much fuller surviving Assyrian King-lists, inscribed on clay tablets, running back to the fourteenth century BC. A solar eclipse recorded for the month of Sivan (May-June) in the tenth year of the Assyrian King Ashur-Dan II is identified with the astronomically computed eclipse of 15 June 763 BC. Before the fourteenth century BC the margin of error in absolute chronology in Mesopotamia rises appreciably. One problem in particular is critical and must be mentioned here as it is very relevant to correlations with Palestine in the later Middle Bronze Age. the date of the First Dynasty of Babylon, to which the famous King Hammurabi belonged still floats over a period of at least 120 years.
According to current understanding the end of this dynasty might
be either in 1650, 1594, 1586 or 1530 BC. these intervals are
governed by the primary surviving astronomical evidence. From
the reign of King Ammisaduqa, the tenth and penultimate ruler
of this dynasty, have survived records of the first and last visibility
of Venus as morning and evening star for 21 years of his reign.
This king began his reign 52 years before the end of the dynasty.
The records only survive in late, corrupt copies, but astronomical
calculations have corrected them where necessary. (A recent critical
edition of these texts suggests that they are so corrupt a record
as to be of very little use as the base for chronological calculations).
The dates of the first and last appearances of Venus in the intercalated
Babylonian lunar calendar virtually repeat every 56 plus or minus
8 years. With the help of the Venus Observations, and supplementary
archaeological and historical evidence from a wide variety of
sources, the majority of scholars have increasingly come to accept
the "Middle Chronology", ending the First Dynasty of
Babylon about 1595 BC and thereby dating Hammurabi c. 1792-1750
BC. This is the system adopted for the revised Cambridge Ancient
History. Students of Palestinian archaeology need to be aware
that Albright always argued for a lower chronology which sets
the end of the dynasty at about 1530 BC. As documents from the
great palace at Mari on the Euphrates in modern Syria reveal that
Hammurabi was a contemporary of King Shamshi-Adad I of Assyria,
the records of Assyria and Babylonia may thereby be linked.
King lists, year-names and occasional synchronisms allow for a plausible reconstruction of absolute chronology back another five hundred years or so from the beginning of the First Dynasty, on the Middle Chronology about 1890 BC to the time of the earliest kings in south Mesopotamia (Sumer) for whom contemporary inscriptions have survived. A crucial source in this reconstruction is an inscribed baked clay prism, named after its first modern owner Weld-Blundell, giving the best surviving copy of the Sumerian King-list. This remarkable document extends back to the mythological rulers of Sumer before the Flood and runs down to the seventh year of King Sinmagir of the city of Isin about 1817 BC. Use of such a list in reconstructing absolute chronologies is hampered by the recording in succession of dynasties that certainly overlapped and the inflated lengths give to the reigns of some rulers. the compilers were more interested in the sequence of events than in the intervals between them. Thus in Sumer, as in Egypt, it is the third Millennium BC that modern scientific aids for establishing absolute chronologies are as vital to the text-aided archaeologist as they are at all times to his text-free colleagues. Carbon 14 dating is still undoubtedly the most important of these for any but the more remote prehistoric periods.
Carbon 14 Dating
About 1946 Professor W.F. Libby of Chicago University discovered an aging process inherent in organic materials, outstandingly for archaeology, charcoal and bone, that within certain limits makes it possible to determine the age of samples in years. All living matter contains a small but practically constant proportion of the radioactive isotope of carbon, Carbon 14 (C14). This is produced by cosmic-ray bombardment of nitrogen atoms in the outer atmosphere. When an animal or plant dies the radioactive carbon in its tissue ceases to be replenished from the atmosphere. Indeed it disintegrates at a constant rate. After a certain length of time half will have disintegrated radioactively and half will be left in the original radioactive form. This time interval is known as the "half-life" originally determined for radiocarbon (Carbon 14) as 5568 (plus or minus 30) years. Thus, if measurement of the radioactivity of a sample may be set at two half-lifes or about 11,150 years BP (Before the Present).
All radiocarbon dates are published with a plus or minus figure, 1525 plus or minus 75 BC. This often leads to confusion since it expresses a statistical concept. It does not mean that the statistical uncertainty (commonly referred to as the "error") is precisely the amount quoted, nor that the proper reading must necessarily be within the limits apparently set. It indicates that the best estimate for the correct value is 1525 BC with a "standard deviation" of seventy-five years. This means more specifically that the correct value has a 66% probability of lying within the limits of two standard deviations, i.e. 1525 + 150 to 1525 - 150 BC, and a 99.5% probability of lying within three standard deviations. It will be immediately clear that this method is not likely to provide fundamental information for a Palestinian archaeological context where the Egyptian historical chronology may be applied.
Two of the assumptions underlying Libby's development of radiocarbon dating require further comment. First, it was assumed that Carbon 14 has a single, fixed half-life. This view still stands, although laboratory measurement of it has been refined in recent years. The best available estimate of the half-life is now set at 5730 plus or minus 30 years, about 3.4% longer than the previous value established by Libby. Ages calculated on the old 5568 half life (in years BP, Before Present, conventionally taken as 1950) may be adjusted through multiplication by 1.03. If the figure to be recalculated is already give in years BC, the adjustment requires multiplication of 1.03 and the addition of 66 years. Clearly, it is very important when quoting Carbon 14 to make clear which half-life value has been used. It has been agreed that dates should be quoted with the old Libby half-life of 5568 to avoid confusion. This should be assumed unless otherwise clearly stated.
The second of Libby's assumptions, that the proportion of radiocarbon to ordinary carbon ( the common stable isotope, Carbon 12) has remained constant through time, has been shown to be erroneous. The deviations before about 1000 BC are so great as to make significant differences in date determinations. Appreciation of this variation has led to a major reappraisal of radiocarbon chronologies in the last couple of decades. Since the late 1950s radio carbon determinations radiocarbon determinations of wood from the very long lived bristle cone pine growing in the White Mountains of California, dated independently by counting its annual growth rings, have indicated that the concentration of radiocarbon in the atmosphere, and thus in living things, has varied considerably. It was much higher 6000 years ago than it is now. Using Libby's assumption of constancy dates had been determined that were misleadingly recent. Libby himself had already seen that something was amiss when he realized that radiocarbon determinations for Egyptian samples were consistently too recent by comparison with the local historical chronology. It was to become clear that it was the radiocarbon calendar, not the historical chronology for Egypt, which was in error.
Now, through radiocarbon determinations of tree-ring samples of known date from the bristle cone pine, graphs have been constructed which may be used to convert radiocarbon dates, in radiocarbon years, to true, or tree-ring dates in calendar years BC/AD. This calibration process, though still a matter of debate and research, has become a necessary part of Carbon 14 studies. All who use radiocarbon dates need to be aware of it. It is increasingly the convention that bc is written when using simple, uncalibrated radiocarbon dates, and the capitals BC only when the dates are expressed in calendar years after calibration. The situation is made more complex for the non specialist by the existence of several calibration curves or graphs, each differing slightly in the results given, since much more information on short term Carbon 14 fluctuations is still needed in many areas. It is all the more important then that any sue of radiocarbon date determinations should give as many details as possible: what type of material was samples (charcoal, bone, etc.); what its precise archaeological context was; what the original radiocarbon date (BP) was, with its laboratory code number; which half-life and which calibration curve was used in determining the value in years BC/AD.
In using radiocarbon dates amateurs and professionals alike all too often ignore the fundamental fact that radiocarbon measurements date the age of the organic tissue of the sample -- the time when it originated. It is quite possible that the tissue of a sample from a specific archaeological context might have been biologically dead for several decades or even centuries before ancient man used it, whether in building or for fuel. A distinction between potentially young material, say charred grain, and potentially old material, such as structural timbers, may be crucial. Single dates must always be treated with the greatest caution. As Carbon 14 dating is based on statistical calculations, it is always best to examine a range of samples from the same context in order to analyze the spread of dates. For the present, the importance of radiocarbon dating for Palestine is concentrated on the prehistoric periods and the third millennium BC, where the independent historic chronologies are either unavailable or known to be fallible. In a careful review of all the Carbon 14 dates available up to 1976 for the Palestinian Early Bronze Age, Callaway and Weinstein were able to show that they indicated a higher chronology for the beginning of the period (c. 3300 BC) than Albright and other Palestinian archaeologists had previously argued. This was found to be consonant with the latest information available through controlled stratigraphic excavation.
In summary, chronology in Palestine rests on three largely independent foundations: Egyptian chronology, Mesopotamian chronology and Radiocarbon dating. By careful correlation of the relative sequence of levels on each excavated site a composite picture is built up for a specific period across Palestine.
Then foreign synchronisms are established, if possible through inscriptions, if not through imported seals, pottery or other small objects, which link levels on Palestinian sites to the absolute historic chronologies of Egypt or Mesopotamia. In the example given above, for example, there is a broad correlation between Early Bronze II in Palestine and the Pharaohs of Egypt from Djer, the third ruler of the First Dynasty, to Khasekhem, penultimate ruler of the Second Dynasty. Their dates may be established through Egyptian records, as indicated above (I-VI Dynasty, c. 3100-2181 BC), and then correlated as appropriate with Carbon 14 datings.
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