Damien F. Mackey
Whilst the conventional Sothic chronology would have pharaoh Ramses II, “the Great”,
occupying almost the entire C13th BC, the evidence would set him 500 years later than that.
The long-reigning Ramses (Rameses) II (66-67 years), often thought to have been the biblical Pharaoh of the Exodus, actually belongs to c. 800 BC according to the findings of my university thesis,
A Revised History of the Era of King Hezekiah of Judah
and its Background
In arriving at this conclusion, the Byblite evidence was crucial.
King Ahiram of Byblos
Dr Immanuel Velikovsky, who had wisely rejected the Sothic system, and its consequent chronology for Ramses II, had tried his hand at re-locating this important 19th dynasty pharaoh in his controversial book, Ramses II and His Time (Sidgwick and Jackson, London, 1978). And, whilst I had to reject – e.g., on archaeological grounds – his late placement of Ramses II as a contemporary of Nebuchednezzar II, I was struck by Velikovsky’s compelling evidence for a later date (than conventionally) for the pharaoh based upon epigraphical evidence. I wrote about it as follows (Volume 1, Ch. 11, pp. 292-294):
Velikovsky had shown that Hebrew inscriptions pertaining to Ramses II, and also to [pharaoh] Shoshenq I, fall in a writing style that can be firmly dated stylistically between c. 850 BC and c. 700 BC (the time of Hezekiah). Now this is the very era within which, according to the Ramesside and TIP [Third Intermediate Period] model that I am – and shall be in the case of Shoshenq I – developing, that Ramses II, c. 843-776 BC must have belonged!
In his chapter [iii] “The Tomb of King Ahiram” … Velikovsky had provided strong evidence from inscriptions at the entrance to the tomb, and on the sarcophagus, of this king of Byblos, suggesting the need for a much later than conventional dating of Ramses II.
Pierre Montet he wrote, digging at Byblos in 1921, had discovered the tomb of one king Ahiram (Hiram) that his son, Ithobaal (Ethbaal), had prepared for him. A short Hebrew inscription was cut into the southern wall of the shaft leading into the burial chamber:
“Attention! Behold, thou shalt come to grief below here!”
Velikovsky told of the Ramesside connection with this Ahiram [p. 81]:
Near the entrance to the burial chamber several fragments of an alabaster vase were found, and one of them bore the name and royal nomen of Ramses II. Another fragment, also of alabaster, with Ramses II’s cartouche was in the chamber …. The scholars had to decide on the time in which King Ahiram lived. The Phoenician inscriptions on the sarcophagus did not reveal it. Montet … assigned the tomb to the time of Ramses II, thus to the thirteenth century. He subscribed to the view that all the objects in the tomb, the Cyprian vases included, were of the time of Ramses II. But the age of the Cyprian pottery was claimed by other scholars to be that of the seventh century. Dussaud, a leading French orientalist, agreed that the tomb dated from the thirteenth century, the time of Ramses II, but he insisted that the Cyprian ware was of the seventh century.
Dussaud had concluded, based on obvious signs of intrusion and violation of the tomb,
that, in the C7th BC, tomb robbers had broken in and left pottery of their own age.
Velikovsky’s response to this was [pp. 82-83]:
Even if it were possible to explain the presence of the Cyprian vessels in the tomb of Ahiram as the work of thieves, there was something in the tomb that could not be attributed to the looters: the inscriptions. An inscription in Hebrew letters at the entrance warns against any sacrilegious act and invokes a curse on any king, soldier, or other person who should disturb the peace of the sepulchre. The other inscription, on the sarcophagus, says that a king, whose name is read Ithobaal and who speaks in the first person, built the sarcophagus for his father, Ahiram, king of Gwal (Byblos). The two inscriptions are carved in the same characters and are of one age. If the tomb was prepared in the days of Ramses II the inscriptions were written in his time. But inscriptions in Hebrew characters in the time of Ramses II, in the thirteenth century, were quite unexpected.
Velikovsky went on to tell of a hotly waged dispute ensuing upon Montet’s discovery that had not by then been concluded, and, in the process, he revealed the closeness in time between Ramses II, the Libyan dynasty, and, indeed, king Hezekiah of Judah [p. 83]:
On one side were the archaeologists, who regarded the archaeological proofs of the origin of the tomb under the Nineteenth Dynasty, or in the thirteenth century BC, as conclusive. On the other side were the epigraphists, who would not concede that the inscriptions of Ahiram’s tomb were of a period as early as the thirteenth century; they found a close similarity between these characters and the characters inscribed by Abibaal and Elibaal, Phoenician kings, on statues of their patrons, the pharaohs of the Libyan Dynasty, Shoshenq and Osorkon respectively, presumably of the tenth to the ninth centuries.
From the time the inscribed statues of Shoshenq and Osorkon came to the notice of scientists until the discovery of Ahiram’s tomb, the dedications on these statues in the names of Abibaal and Elibaal were supposed not to have been contemporaneous with the statues themselves: the letters of the dedication were intermediate between the Mesha stele letters of about -850 and the Hezekiah letters chiselled into the rock wall of a water conduit of the Shiloah spring near Jerusalem, of about -700, and must have been written between these two time points. ….
This epigraphical evidence, along with a perceived similarity between the great triumph scene of Shoshenq I at Karnak and that of Merenptah at Karnak … might perhaps suggest a far closer proximity in time between Shoshenq I and both Ramses II and his son, Merenptah, than is allowable by the conventional chronology, which has both the 20th and 21st dynasties (a span of about two to three centuries) separating Shoshenq I from these two 19th dynasty pharaohs.
Velikovsky’s observation on the archaeological dilemma presented by Ahiram’s tomb was as follows [ibid.]:
According to the conventional chronology, Ahiram, being a contemporary of Ramses II, must have lived and died almost four centuries before Shoshenq and Osorkon. In four centuries a script must have undergone considerable change. But there were no marked changes in the characters from the time of Ahiram to that of
Abibaal and Elibaal.
[End of quotes]
I returned to the Byblite evidence later on in this same chapter, in which I attempted further to re-align the above-mentioned kings of Byblos with the Ramessides, and with the TIP pharaohs Shoshenq I and Osorkon I (pp. 325-326):
The Byblite Succession
A strong reason why revisionists tend to have both Shoshenq I and his son, Osorkon I, ruling prior to the 730’s – hence militating against any possibility of revising Shoshenq I
from convention’s [biblical] ‘Shishak’ [king of Egypt] to [biblical] ‘So’ [king of Egypt], in about 725 BC – is due to their interpretation of the known connection between these 22nd dynasty pharaohs [Shoshenq I and Osorkon I] and the kings of Byblos thought to be prior to Tiglath-pileser III. I give here first of all Dirkzwager’s explanation of all this [A. Dirkzwager, ‘Pharaoh So and the Libyan Dynasty’, C and AH, vol. iii, pt., 1, p. 22-23]:
Now we will turn to more evidence on the times of Sheshonq [Shoshenq] I and Osorkon I. Statues of these pharaohs were used by kings of Byblos in Phoenicia in order to dedicate them to Baalat, the goddess of Byblos. The inscriptions of the Phoenician kings are made by Abibaal (statue of Sheshonq I) and by Elibaal (statue of Osorkon I). Elibaal is a son of Yehimilk; of Abibaal no father’s name is known. Moscati made him the predecessor of Yehimilk, whereas Albright put him between Yehimilk and Elibaal. Abibaal and Elibaal are made contemporaries of the pharaohs of the statues they used. …. For our purpose it is not very important where we place Abibaal. About Elibaal we know more: he had a son called Shipitbaal. So we have three generations of kings of Byblos: Yehimilk, Elibaal, and Shipitbaal. Abibaal must have lived somewhere before Elibaal. ….
In the annals of the Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III we read, in the account of the year 739, about King Sibitti-bi’li of Byblos! This Sibitti-bi’li, who is of course identical to Shipitbaal, was the son of Elibaal, the contemporary of Osorkon I.
A connection between Shipitbaal, son of Elibaal, and the Byblite king, Sibitti-bi’li, contemporary of Tiglath-pileser III, allowable according to Dirkzwager’s chronology, is one of course that cannot possibly be made in the context of the conventional scheme, according to which the Sibitti-bi’li of Tiglath-pileser’s time must be a Shipitbaal II.
From information such as Dirkzwager’s, revisionists arrive at a Byblite succession somewhat along the lines of this one given by Rohl [D. Rohl, ‘The Bubasite Portal: Evidence Against Velikovsky’s Placement of Ramesses II in the Late 7th Century’, SIS Review, vol. viii, 1986, p. 34]: … “Zikarbaal (14? years); Abibaal (14? years); Yehimilk (8? years) Elibaal (30? years) Shipitbaal (25? years)”, with the last Byblite king here being the one contemporaneous with Tiglath-pileser III. Rohl does not include in his sequence Ahiram of Byblos, whose tomb I discussed archaeologically, in a Velikovskian context, on pp. 292-294. Furthermore, not all revisionists would agree with Rohl’s view that the Byblite king, Zakar-baal [Rohl’s ‘Zikarbaal’], whom Wenamun would visit in his famous adventure, had actually preceded these other kings. (For my discussion of the era of Wenamun and Zakar-baal, see Chapter 12, 7).
If indeed, not only Shoshenq I’s, but even Osorkon I’s, contact with Byblos belonged before Tiglath-pileser III’s encounter with Sibitti-bi’li [Shipitbaal] of Byblos, in aproximately the 730’s BC, then this would definitely seem to negate the Velikovsky-based view (that I myself have also long favoured) that Shoshenq I, father of Osorkon I, could have been ‘King So of Egypt’, due to the very tight and seemingly impossible chronology (as explained by Dirkzwager above) that would require Shoshenq I as ‘So’ at c. 730 BC, but his son, Osorkon I, still before c. 739 BC. And thus we have found Sieff [M. Sieff, 1986, ‘The Libyans in Egypt: Resolving the Third Intermediate Period’, C and AH, vol. viii, 1986, pp. 29-39], who does accept the basic Byblite synchronization with the Libyan pharaohs as outlined by Dirkzwager, logically (in Sieff’s context) locating Shoshenq I to an era about half a century earlier than ‘So’. Similarly, Rohl has placed Shoshenq I and Osorkon I much earlier than the era of Tiglath-pileser III, and has instead designated Shoshenq III – as separate from Shoshenq I – as biblical ‘So’. I shall be returning to this in Chapter 12, 1.
I then concluded regarding this difficult subject:
The Byblite succession in relation to the chronology of the 22nd dynasty (and its presumed link with the Old Testament for those who equate Shoshenq I with ‘So’) is certainly a problem with which I, too, have had to grapple. But with my re-dating now of Shoshenq I to c. 800 BC, then there is plenty of chronological space for he and his son, Osorkon I (still to be considered) to have reigned before Tiglath-pileser III, an older contemporary of Hezekiah.