Just when did Egyptian pharaohs such as King Tut and Rameses II rule? Historians have heatedly debated the exact dates. Now a radiocarbon study concludes that much of the assumed chronology was right, though it corrects some controversial dates and may overturn a few pet theories.
"This is an extremely important piece of research that shows clearly that historical dating methods and radiocarbon dates are compatible for ancient Egypt," says Kate Spence, an archaeologist at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.
Egyptian records, such as the writings of the 3rd century B.C.E. historian Manetho and inscriptions found at key sites such as Saqqara and Karnak, provide what are called "floating chronologies" because they are internally consistent but not anchored to absolute dates. On the other hand, they sometimes refer to astronomical events whose dates can be calculated today. Thus, scholars are confident that they are not wildly off the mark. But it's difficult to be precise.
AFP / Google
Scientists have established for the first time clear dates for the ruling dynasties of ancient Egypt after carbon dating plant remains, according to research published Thursday.
The results will force historians to revise their records for the two millennia when ancient Egypt dominated the Mediterranean world and hopefully end debate once and for all between rival Egyptologists.
Led by Professor Christopher Ramsey of Britain's Oxford University, an international team tested seeds, baskets, textiles, plant stems and fruit obtained from museums in the United States and Europe for the landmark study.
"For the first time, radiocarbon dating has become precise enough to constrain the history of ancient Egypt to very specific dates," said Ramsey.
"I think scholars and scientists will be glad to hear that our small team of researchers has independently corroborated a century of scholarship in just three years."