Egyptian C14 dates are right according to new analysis

19 Jun 2010

BBC News Thursday June 17th ... experts have used scientific dating techniques to show the chronology of ancient Egypt is largely right. C14 was used to date material from museums around the world and the OK, MK and NK dates as devised by academics over the years have proved to be spot on - hardly a variation of note. However, it was not C14 as it was formerly used, which tended to produce somewhat erratic dates, but a new C14 technique by a laboratory regarded as state of the art. It is called statistical C14 and although the publicity does not say Bayesian one can suspect that is the magic formulae, basically a technique to produce an average date. As unsurprising as the results may be, and the word whitewash comes to mind, never the less it may still prove to be controversial - they are presumably desperate to keep the conventional chronology but the spectre of dating Thera is a glaring red thumb in the centre of the result. Hence, they have decided to make Manfred Bietak's excavation and chronology at Tell ed D'aba the sacrificial lamb. Will archaeologists take the academic line meekly or will there be mutterings in the background. The average archaeologist is not in a position to challenge the academic model simply because that is not their field - they are digging holes in the ground rather than poring over documents and reading hieroglyphics. On the other hand, I suppose ... the C14 analysis might be right.

King Djoser of dynasty 3 has been firmly dated between 2691 and 2625BC, making him slightly earlier - which is not a surprise. The NK is now said to have begun between 1570 and 1544, a short range that makes it almost certain a Bayesian methodology was used. That does not of course mean C14 itself is reliable any more than it did previously, only that C14 dates can be produced without wideranging plus and minus variables. Anyway, this was probably quite satisfying to the academics as they could distance themselves from the 1628-5BC ice core/tree ring event, widely believed to mark the date of the Thera eruption. One can see this as an unholy conspiracy and a smack in the eye for Bietak who has been so evasive of late on revised dates for his strata at Tel ed D'aba, as it does get the academics off the hook. The inference now is that Thera blew in the late Hyksos period - and this may account for the collapse in Hyksos fortunes leading up to the NK. What do we make of the pumice that turned up in mid dynasty 18 contexts? We can imagine the academics saying, that is up to the archaeology boys to get their house in order, they must have it in the wrong strata. Academics don't of course have the same concept of reality as archaeologists we might imagine - a lump of pumice found here doesn't belong over there. They can of course conveniently forget about the pumice and fall into line with the new study. Interesting to see if any yelps of protest are forthcoming.

The same story in Science pops up at www.eurekalert.org June 17th where it says it is possible to redate the Thera volcano to the Hyksos period and the Eureka author goes on to criticise the Bietak chronology as found when he excavated the former Hyksos capital. It may be that Bietak is resented in some way as his work is widely used in the 'New Chronology' and other revisions of history - but not of course in the way Bietak dated the strata.