A Survey of Archaeological Evidence for a Revised Chronology

John J. Bimson

Delivered at the SIS Silver Jubilee Conference,
Friday 17th - Sunday 19th September 1999

June 1999

Summary

A number of archaeological problems are surveyed, from the Middle Bronze Age to the end of the Iron Age, all of which point to the need for a revised chronology. In particular, problems occurring throughout the Iron Age in Palestine provide consistent evidence for lower dates than those currently in use. The changes needed to resolve these difficulties cannot be achieved without shortening the accepted Egyptian chronology. Where the evidence permits a comparison of the revisions offered in Centuries of Darkness and A Test of Time, the former emerges as the stronger candidate.

John Bimson has been a member of the SIS since its inception, and contributed his first article to the SIS Review in 1976. He is the author of Redating the Exodus and Conquest (Sheffield Academic Press, 1978), based on his PhD research into the archaeological setting of the Israelite entry into Canaan. Since 1981 he has lectured in Old Testament Studies at Trinity College, Bristol. He has recently published his first novel (The Prophet Motive, Minerva Press, 2000).

Full article includes:

 

  • Introduction: setting limits to the survey
  1. Israel in Egypt
  2. The Conquest of Canaan
  3. Chronological tensions in the Arabah
  4. LBA Jerusalem
  5. Jericho and Samaria in the early Iron Age
  6. The Tel Dan Inscription
  7. Iron Age IIC and the Persian Period

Conclusions

It should be evident even from this very incomplete survey that a revised chronology is supported - even demanded - by a wide range of archaeological evidence. In particular, chronological problems occurring throughout the Iron Age in Palestine point consistently to the need for lower dates. The changes needed to resolve these difficulties are on such a scale (two centuries and more in some cases) that they cannot be achieved if Egyptian chronology remains as it is.

I have noted some instances in which the evidence supports the revision put forward in Centuries of Darkness over that contained in A Test of Time, i.e. with Ramesses III in the role of the biblical Shishak. While the matter cannot be settled on the basis of this evidence alone, the balance of probabilities may currently be said to favour the less drastic of those two revisions.