Discoveries made by University of Groningen archaeologist Dr Jaap van Dijk have caused quite a stir amongst Egyptologists. His findings necessitate an adjustment to the chronology of ancient Egypt and the Middle East.
By Ernst Arbouw
Dr van Dijk has spent three seasons doing excavation work in the tomb of Pharaoh Horemheb in the Egyptian Valley of the Kings, where he found pottery sherds which strongly suggest that the Pharaoh reigned for a period of fourteen to sixteen years shorter than is generally assumed. The evidence was found on the labels of broken wine jars, Van Dijk explains.
The Egyptian calendar started counting from zero every time a new Pharaoh was crowned, and in the tomb of Horemheb there are no wine labels with a higher date than year fourteen of his reign. “This makes it highly likely that he died before the harvest of year fifteen. Wine in ancient Egypt had a very limited storage life and the wine jars you find in tombs are usually from the last, or perhaps the last two harvests”, says Van Dijk.
“Moreover, when Horemheb died the decoration of his tomb was still unfinished, whereas King Seti I, who reigned shortly afterwards, managed to completely finish his tomb, which is the same size as that of Horemheb, within 10 years”. Up to now, many scholars have assumed Horemheb reigned for 27 to 30 years.
An abstract from Van Dijk’s research was published online recently in preparation for the International Congress of Egyptologists on the Greek island of Rhodes at the end of May. The publication sparked off a lively debate amongst his colleagues because the inevitable consequence of the work is a major adjustment to the chronology of ancient Egypt.The current Egyptian chronology at this particular period is linked to the known lists of Babylonian kings. “At this moment, it is not yet possible to see all the implications, but making an adjustment to the chronology of ancient Egypt could have far-reaching consequences for the history of neighbouring civilizations”, says Van Dijk. The archeologist says he’s not nervous about presenting his conclusions to his peers at the congress on Rhodes. “Quite the contrary: I’m really looking forward to it.”
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