Chronology

A combination of historical, archeological, and astronomical data is crucial to developing the chronology. Because of its continuity, the most important single source at this time is the Assyrian king list, known in several badly damaged copies and in a much better preserved list from Khorsabad, listing 107 kings, which was found in excavations in 1932-1933 and published by Poebel in 1952-1953. The text is clearly based on a number of different sources of different kinds, and the compiler may sometimes have erred in putting them together. The first section is a list of 17 kings said to have lived in tents; the second section gives the pedigree of the 26th king back to the last two kings of the first section; and the third section lists six kings mentioned on brick inscriptions. Starting with the 33rd king, the text gives the name of the ruler, the length of his reign, and (usually) his relationship to earlier kings. There are sometimes scribal errors and damage to the text; so the king-list does not give a completely full and accurate chronology, but its general accuracy is vouched for by its agreement with other sources. Many of the kings are known from their own inscriptions and from inscriptions of neighboring rulers, as well as from many kinds of private documents. It is known from later sources that there were an additional 10 (or possibly 11) kings to the final conquest of Assyria by the Babylonians in 608 b.c. There are cross-ties with Egypt, Israel, the Phoenician states, the Hittites, Elam, and, above all, with the Babylonians and Sumerians, which provide checks on the chronology. The earliest king of the list, Tudiya, usually regarded as a legendary figure when the list was first published, is now attested by contemporary records of Ebrum, king of Ebla. Tudiya and Ebrum were also contemporary with Sharrukin (Sargon), king of Akkad. In the early part of the list, the 30th to 35th kings of Assyria are now all attested by contemporary records that verify both their sequence and their genealogical relationships as given in the king list. A genealogy of the ancestors of the First Dynasty of Babylon claimed 11 of the first 12 kings of the Assyrian list as Babylonian ancestors, although not in the same order (Wilson 1977, pp. 106-113).

The latter part of the Assyrian list was tied down also by many copies of a list of high Assyrian officials, who gave their names to years. These are called limmu in Assyrian, usually translated "eponym," and the privilege of giving one's name to the year was determined by casting lots among the high officials. One entry reads (ff. Luckenbill 1929, p. 2, 435) "Bur (Ishdi)-Sagale (governor) of Guzana, revolt in city of Assur. In the month of Simanu an eclipse of the sun took place." Claudius Ptolemy gave a chronological list of Near Eastern rulers and associated astronomical events. His chronology of late Assyrian and Babylonian kings overlapped the limmu list and made it clear that this date should refer to 763 b.c. There was, in fact, an eclipse in the year 763 b.c.,9 and it occurred in the month Simanu, thus,

9 Although the 763 b.c. date was challenged by R.R. Newton as representing an "identification game," Ptolemy's Canon has been widely supported by detailed contemporary records, from late Assyrian times forward. Mitchell (1990, p. 23) shows that the magnitude of the 763 b.c.

verifying the chronological sequence of the list as then known from 1103 b.c. to 648 b.c.

The prophet Amos, who was active during the first 14 years of king Azariah (or Uzziah) of Judah, relates the impending disasters that were to overtake Israel, and its king, Jeroboam; he includes among them an eclipse10 that many think is this one. Azariah is referred to as Azriyau of Judah by the Assyrian king, Tiglath-Pileser (Tukulti-apil-esarra), in whose reign the Assyrian king list of Khorsabad was compiled. His brother had been ruling in 763 b.c. At the time that the Assyrian king list from Khorsabad was prepared, the Assyrian scribes apparently had access to limmu lists extending before 1800 b.c., but only fragments of the earlier sections are known to us. An interlocking mass of Assyro-Babylonian planetary data, historical references, and eclipses now verifies the chronology from the 8th to the 1st century b.c.

There was once a Babylonian king list as extensive as the Assyrian one, but only very incomplete versions survive. Early Sumerian king lists are also preserved, along with various synchronistic chronicles. Several archives and libraries are known that bear upon Mesopotamian chronology. The collection of letters from Mari was of particular importance, because it demonstrated that the Assyrian king Shamshi Adad (the 39th of the official list) was briefly an older contemporary of Hammurabi, of Babylon, and that Zimri Lim's reign fell entirely during the time span of Hammurabi. Unfortunately, the Assyrian king list was damaged so that the record of the lengths of the reigns of the 65th and 66th kings is unknown. Ashur-uballit of Assyria lived at the time of the Pharaoh Ikhnaten, a fact known from contemporary letters in the archives at El Amarna in Egypt. On Egyptian evidence, Hall (1913a, p. 262) dated Ikhnaten from 1380 to 1365 b.c. Poebel' s date for 73 Ashur-uballit (the only king of this name in the list), which can be modified only by choosing different variants of the copying errors, or rejecting the authority of the king list, was 1362 to 1327 b.c. The other possibilities are 1363-1328, 1353-1318, and 1352-1317 b.c. Later Egyptian evidence has suggested that Ikhnaten should be placed about 15 to 30 years later (Gardiner 1966 gives 1367-1350 b.c.; Aldred 1988 gives ~1352-1335 b.c.). See Bierbrier (1975/1993) for a fuller chronological discussion. Given the various uncertainties involved, this is very good mutual support (we argue in §8.1.5 that the reign of Ramses II began in 1290 b.c., which would certainly make Ikhnaten a contemporary of Ashur-uballit).

The Assyrian king list shows 296 years from the beginning of the reign of 39, Shamshi-Adad, to the end of the reign of 64, Ashur-Shaduni, who was succeeded by his uncle, Ashur-Rabi followed by his son, 66, Ashur-nadin-akhe II, the two kings whose reigns are missing because of damage in the existing king list. Venus observations, combined with lunar eclipse was greater than that of any suggested alternative eclipse and that it fits better with other calculations of clock time error than do any of the other proposals. See also Stephenson (1997, pp. 125-127).

10 "And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord God, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day" (King James Version, Amos 8:9).

data and presumed historical limitations, have suggested four possible chronologies that will be considered in more detail later. With the Short Chronology, these two reigns would cover 20-30 years, which is very reasonable. With the later of the two Middle chronologies, this would be increased to about 75-85 years, with the earlier chronology to ~85-95 years. For the Long Chronology, the two would reign about 140-150 years and Ashur-nadin-akhe was followed by his two brothers for 13 years so that two generations would span a total of 150 years of reign. Biologically, this span is not impossible, but is not seen anywhere else in the king list and is inherently unlikely. Defenders of the Middle and Long Chronologies have tended to attack the validity of the Assyrian King List, particularly because the official list does not include all known claimants to rule. However, this is true of most king lists. It seems unwarranted to postulate the Long Chronology unless other evidence is compelling.

In Anatolia, a great deal of work has been done on tree ring dating (c.f. §4.3). A 1503-year "floating" sequence of tree rings has been placed in real time by Kuniholm et al. (1996). The sequence starts with tree ring year no. 262 and continues to tree ring year no. 1764. The latter marks the outside ring of logs cut for the building of a massive Phrygian tomb at Gordion. An extended series of 18 sequential 14C dates on a single log that covered 350 years suggested a range of about 1170 b.c. to 820 b.c. for that segment of the sequence, rings 1325-1675, respectively. The tie-down to specific years is provided by the calibration of the Anatolian to western European tree ring sequences. There are two major times of abnormal growth, one at ring 854 and one at ring 1324, separated by 470 years. In the tree ring sequence of western Europe, there are major anomalies at 1628 b.c., and at 1159 b.c., separated by 469 years. There are several possible explanations of the one-year time difference, either through local variation in determining the tree rings or in delays in the solar screening effects of particles in the upper atmosphere. The anomaly of 1159 b.c. coincides with the eruption of Hekla III in Iceland, and it has been widely accepted that the origin of the growth anomaly of 1628 was due to the eruption of Thera (Santorini in the Aegean).11 Therefore, the hypothesis that ring 854 of the Anatolian sequence corresponds to 1628 b.c. seems highly likely.

The tree ring sequences also provide precise connections with other chronological evidence. Among them are the dating of the Amarna period and the kingdom of Phrygia and a tie-in for the Babylonian chronology.

Of great interest is the date 1316 b.c., of the outermost preserved ring of wood being carried as cargo in a ship wrecked off the Anatolian coast. The ship was carrying a gold ring bearing the name of Nefertiti, wife of Ikhnaton. The ship's cargo also included Helladic IIIB pottery, typical of the time just after the intense international contacts of the Amarna period of Egypt. Hence, the tree ring dates, like the Assyrian king list and the usual interpretation of the Egyptian evidence, put the Amarna period somewhat before

11 The eruption of Thera marked the end of the Late Minoan IA period. Pottery above the eruption layer is consistently of Late Minoan IB style.

1300 b.c. Regardless of the precise placement of the tree ring dates, they indicate a difference of ~600 years between the Amarna period dates and the Phrygian kingdom. This difference is in agreement with accepted chronologies. The tree ring chronology puts the building of the Phrygian mound in 718 b.c. during the rule of King Midas (Mita). The tree ring date of 1810 b.c. for the building of the Warsama palace at Kultepe makes the Babylonian Short Chronology far more likely than the Long Chronology.

Rohl (1996) has emphasized the importance of a possible synchronism between Neferhotep I of the 13th Dynasty and Hammurabi of Babylon. Hayes (1971) had pointed out that Neferhotep I, whose reign he places at about 1740-1730 b.c., seemed to be recognized as overlord by Yantin, the ruler of Byblos. Rohl points out that Albright had suggested that this Yantin of Byblos is identical with Yantin-Ammu, ruler of Byblos, who gave a gold cup to Zimri-Lin of Mari, whose reign fell within that of Hammurabi of Babylon. In the Short Chronology, the reign of Hammurabi began in 1728 b.c. Although the identity of the pharaoh Neferhotep of the Byblos monument is not absolutely certain, and it is not impossible that there were two rulers named Yantin, the identification does offer historical support for the Short Chronology. Next, we discuss the astronomical evidence.

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