A Chronology of Crazy

The article by William Ward on Egyptian chronology basically took my brain and twisted it into a trillion knots. The concept of actually figuring out Egyptian chronology is comparable to attempting to nail jello to a tree. Why? Because it’s not just a matter of a few minor details that bring scholars to hotly debate this issue, it’s a whole mess of things. Ward’s article poses that scholars are looking to find an absolute chronology. And in that is where I find the biggest problem. How absolute are these scholars looking to get?

Ancient Egyptian chronology started just there, in ancient Egypt. So, there too is where the problem started. The Egyptians had different calendars for different reason e.g. one for agriculture and one for religious purposes. The civil calendar was based off the inundation of the Nile and used for the purposes of the state like recording the years of a king’s reign. However, this type of calendar is severely different than the modern ones used today.  Even so, scholars have been able to come up with various templates for what they believe the correct chronology is. None of them are able to be 100% on the money but some have spots where the window for an event can be only three to four years difference while others are decades apart. Ward suggests that some scholars just leave it up to personal judgement. To me that would be like driving on the opposite side of the road; it gets you no where and cause trouble.

I’m not saying that it’s pointless to continually search for an answer because frankly I think it’s very positive road to travel. This kind of debate and search for answers will keep those studying Egyptian chronology on their toes. It could even bring about new ideas that no one has ever even thought of before.

Ok so here is what I would propose. There should be a giant convention in which scholars of this field come together. Not necessarily to try and negotiate a single “absolute” chronology, but rather, to establish  two or three or five or however many  chronology sets they deem as contenders. These would then be the only ones to be considered when a scholar is doing research. They either have to choose only one to deal with or explore all options.

2 thoughts on “A Chronology of Crazy

  1. I find the chronology of ancient Egypt absolutely fascinating, yet I agree that there are a lot of grey areas around the subject. The Egyptian calendars were created for specific events in time, sometimes created around an ancient God. Because of this fact, it is hard to say if the chronologies are accurate to when events actually happened. Yet, with more advanced technologies, such as absolute dating (e.g. radiocarbon dating), chronologies can become more accurate if artifacts accompany an event. Leaving dates of events up to personal judgement is becoming counterproductive with these incredible advancements in technology. I do understand though, that some chronologies will never be absolute. Knowing that the calendars created by the ancient Egyptians had different meanings or purposes, it is silly to think that the information we have gathered through years of research can be fact.

    I like your idea of high scholars coming together for a convention to hash out this issue. Yet, I may have to disagree about coming up with one absolute chronology. A lot of things in archaeology are mysteries, and my anthropological mind tells me that every possibility or chronology should be taken into consideration. Anthropological research shouldn’t start with a specific event or fact, but should grow and come into view after consideration of everything discovered.

  2. Working backwards, I think your proposal for a set of chronologies is actually a great idea. The ancient Egyptians being such a complex society, even disregarding their age, are extremely difficult to study. By establishing some sort of system, archaeologists and other academics would be able to better organize their research, thus creating a more focused conclusion to their work.

    With so much missing information, scholars are struggling to puzzle the bits of knowledge we do have into a mold that does not yet exist. How can a researcher be sure of anything if there is no way to organize their findings? Then surely there would be no chance to create analytical inferences about that information and place that into a further category.

    In addition, even the artifacts and digs that have been recovered pose a problem on Egyptian chronology because they were originally completed with historical omissions. King lists were created while the ancient Egyptian society still thrived, and even those are purposely missing chunks of time.

    I think that in order to ensure a more successful study of the ancient Egyptian people, some sort of chronology system is imperative. I had never really thought of the issue before reading this post, but it is such an important problem that needs solving. We will never reach our highest potential regarding knowledge of ancient Egypt until we devise a way to organize and order out thoughts into a universal, or at least widely accepted system.

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