On the Care and Feeding of Revision Hypotheses

by Lisa Liel

A tremendous amount of work has been done on the revision of ancient history since Immanuel Velikovsky began to publish his Ages in Chaos series in 1952. As is often the case with new areas of endeavor, it has been somewhat of a free-for-all, with everyone running off in different directions. It is true that this is a natural reaction to the breaking of the bounds of establishment research. It is true as well that in such an old/new field of endeavor, where there is a danger of hidden assumptions of the old being perpetuated into the new and where the new itself is wholly uncharted, a relatively unstructured field can be beneficial, encouraging wild leaps of logical hunches and the like, which can then be tested. However, what we have is not a relatively unstructured field, but almost total anarchy.

With the large number of radically differing revision hypotheses floating around, it seems strange that no one - as far as I am aware - has made any attempt to analyse the workings of revision hypotheses in order that they might be checked against some kind of objective standard. This is what I would like to do.

Four Levels

The reconstruction of ancient history may be separated into four levels. These are the Global, the Dynastic, the Individual, and the Particular.

1. The Global Level

The Global level deals with the overall framework of ancient history. In the case of the ancient near east, there are few choices for a Global framework. The Bible is one. Archeology, by which I mean the stratigraphic sequence, is another. Egyptian chronology has been used as one, a point to which we shall return.

Perhaps "framework" does not convey the full sense of the Global level. It is a backbone, a yardstick against which and within which everything on lower levels must be measured and arranged. It is conceivable that a situation might arise in which there is no such framework. In such a case, the Global level would not exist, and we would have to make do with the best possible arrangement of lower levels.

The Global level may be a synthesis of several items, each filling holes left by others. For example, the stratigraphic sequence is clearly a Global item. But it lacks scale and absolute placement. In other words, there is no way to tell - internally - whether a particular phase of the stratigraphic sequence, such as the Iron Age, lasted 220 years or 700 years; whether it began in 1250 BCE or 770 BCE. It may therefore be combined with other Global items or even hypothetical arrangements of lower level items in order to arrive at a strong and useful framework.

2. The Dynastic Level

The Dynastic level is concerned with nations and phases of nations. Within a region, it involves placing each nation in its place, and within a nation, placing each dynasty or phase in proper relation to all the others.

It is usually at this level that Alter-Egos are proposed. We will discuss this concept further along.

3. The Individual Level

The Individual level, as its name suggests, deals with individuals. Because it was usually kings who were in a position to preserve the accounts of their deeds for posterity, the individuals in question were generally kings, although priests, nobles, architects and others have come down to us.

4. The Particular Level

The Particular level is the level at which year-by-year, event-by-event comparisons need to be made. Each level assumes the correctness of the level above it, yet it is dependant upon there being a valid arrangement on the levels below it. For example, an Individual item, such as the identification of Ramses II as Necho II, as was suggested by Immanuel Velikovsky, assumes that the Dynastic item identifying the 19th and 26th Egyptian dynasties was correct, but can only be maintained so long as there are no irreconcilable conflicts between the Particular events of the reigns of Ramses II and Necho II.

Applications of the Four Levels

1. Velikovsky and Alter-Egos

As mentioned above, Velikovsky did not relate to the Global level at all. Whether this was a result of his realization that no such level existed which did not rule out most of his revision or was simply an oversight is uncertain.

Velikovsky made wide use of Alter-Egos, or identifying two dynasties or nations as the same in order to facilitate the compression of ancient history. In doing so, he left a legacy which has wasted a good deal of productive energy in the area of revision hypotheses. This is because he did so uncritically. For example, his equation of the neo-Babylonian dynasty of Nebuchadnezzar with the Hittite dynasty of Hattusilis III was predicated on different names being used in different types of sources. In Babylon, he claimed, this dynasty called itself by Babylonian names, while in Asia Minor, it used Hittite ones. The Egyptians knew them as the Hittites and used their Hittite names. It is, however, a very different thing to claim, as he did, that two kings of Egypt, each with his own titulary, were the same, without providing any reasonable explanation for the two sets of names. Thus, Egypt casts a veto on the equation of the Hittites and Babylonians.

Of late, there has been a regular plague of "alter-ego" theories, all of which violate reason to an amazing degree. The greatest offender in this area until recently has been Professor Gunnar Heinsohn of the University of Bremen. He has identified Akhnaton and Necho II, Darius I and Hammurabi, Sargon of Akkad and Sargon II of Assyria, the neo-Babylonians and Kassites and neo-Sumerians of Ur III, and the list goes on and on. Recently, an even more bizarre proposal of Jesse Lasken had Ptolemy I, Horemheb, Ramses III and Thutmose III united into one outrageous compound creature.

One unfortunate consequence of this has been to discredit the idea of alter-egos altogether in the eyes of some. And it is true that prudence would dictate extreme care when making use of such a device. But the possibility of different points of view resulting in an artificial doubling of individuals or dynasties cannot simply be dismissed, as easily abused as it is.

2. Egyptian Chronology as a Pseudo-Global Item

Egyptian chronology was mentioned above as something which has been used as a Global framework, but it was implied that this was not entirely correct. The problem is that Egyptian chronology, per se, simply does not exist. What we call Egyptian chronology is the reconstruction of modern scholars, and incorporates the conclusions of archeology and other disciplines of ancient history, something which is often overlooked. As a result of this, when other disciplines attempt to use Egyptian chronology as a Global framework, they are often engaging unbeknowestly in circular reasoning. Worse, the elements of their own disciplines which are being fed back into themselves may be ones which have been superseded, but this has not yet had the proper effect on Egyptian chronology.

Another point is that what passes for a Global chronology is actually a collection of Dynastic chronologies linked together. It is given scale and placement in time through linkages with stratigraphic sequences (primarily of the Land of Israel) and the Dynastic chronologies of other nations, and by the use of highly theoretical interpretations of astronomical data. But there is no coherent source which can be said to provide a reliable account of ancient Egyptian history, and without such a source, it is hard to see how Egyptian chronology can be seen as a true Global item.

Of course, it is not a given that a Global level will always be available. As mentioned above, if there is none, the alternative is to do the best we can with lower levels. This is what has been done with Egyptian chronology.

3. The Jerusalem Ancient History (JAH)

The Jerusalem Ancient History (JAH) operates on the basis of all four levels.

A. Global

On the Global level, the stratigraphic sequence of the Land of Israel is used, given scale and absolute placement by the internal biblical chronology. The Bible has two qualifications in this area. First, it is the local history of the Land of Israel. When seeking a history which can be used to fortify and concretize a stratigraphic sequence, it is always best to find a local one. This is due to it being more likely that witnesses close to the events which took place are more likely to get details right than those far away. Thus, the Bible is more appropriate as a historical source for the Land of Israel than is Egypt. Second, it provides a coherant history of the Land of Israel from the beginning of the formation of nation-states almost through the end of the Persian period, complete with chronological notes which may be used for cross-checking, to insure that there are no gaps or overlaps which could could invalidate the chronology. This makes it ideal for the purpose assigned it in the JAH.

The Global level of the JAH is called the Biblically Linked Stratigraphy (BLS), in contrast to the Egyptologically Linked Stratigraphy (ELS), or the Internally Dated Stratigraphy (IDS), in contrast to the Externally Dated Stratigraphy (EDS). Its details are these:

All of these equations of biblical and archeological periods are approximate. For example, the Canaanites managed to retain control over certain areas of the Land of Israel at least until the time of Deborah and Barak, and the Early Bronze Age may therefore have continued at these sites until a later date ("may" because we cannot rule out cultural diffusion from the Israelites to the Canaanite remnants). And there is considerable evidence for an overlap of the Late Bronze Age I and the Middle Bronze Age IIB,C, to the point where is is possible that Late Bronze I was the rural culture at the time that Middle Bronze IIB,C was the imperial culture. One repercussion of such a thing would be the realization that the Late Bronze I followed the Middle Bronze IIA immediately, and that Middle Bronze IIB,C was a national style that was only mostly coeval with Late Bronze I. The great cultic center of this style found at Shilo, therefore, may be identified with the Mishkan at Shilo, and the fortress of this style found at Jericho may be seen as a late usage of the style by Hiel the Bethelite, in the days of Ahab.

B. Dynastic

The Dynastic level of the JAH, obviously, is made up of many sections. The six major arenas of activity in the ancient near east were Egypt (including Libya and Ethiopia), Israel (including Syria, Phoenicia, Philistia and the Transjordan), Mesopotamia (including Assyria and Babylonia), Elam (including Medea and Persia), Turkey (including Asia Minor and Armenia, and Greece (including Etruria and Cyprus and Crete).

i. Egypt

By virtue of its having been used as a pseudo-Global framework for the history of the ancient near east, Egyptian history is the one which has had the most attention paid to it by revisionists. The following is the current state of affairs regarding Egypt in the JAH:

The Old Kingdom in Egypt is linked to the Early Bronze Age. The exact arrangement of the Old Kingdom Dynasties (1-6) is still under study, but the existence of a dual kingship, with the Pharoah and the king of Egypt distinct individuals, throughout the bulk of this period (as related in Jewish sources) is likely. It has been suggested that Imhotep, the architect of the Djoser Step Pyramid in the 3rd Dynasty, was Joseph, but there is growing reason to believe that Djoser himself was Joseph.

The penultimate king of the Old Kingdom, Pepi II, is attested by Egyptian sources as having reigned from the age of 6 to 100, a datum which is also given by Jewish midrashim, which name this king Malul. The Ipuwer Papyrus describes an Egypt still reeling from the aftermath of the plagues and the Exodus. The Amu who invaded Egypt in the First Intermediate Period were the Amalekites, who were eventually put down, but not expelled, by Mentuhotep II of the 11th Dynasty, founder of the Middle Kingdom.

The Middle Kingdom was coevel with the period of the Judges. It came to an end when the Amalekites had gained control once more of Egypt, and a native dynasty (the 17th) declared war against it. The 18th Dynasty under Ahmose I succeeded the 18th, and together with King Saul of Israel destroyed the Amalekites.

Hatshepsut, queen of Thebes, was the Queen of Sheba mentioned in the books of Kings and Chronicles (the city Wísa (Waset) was pronounced Shíva in Hebrew (due to metathesis) and Thíva in Phoenician, and when the Phoenician Cadmus founded the city of Thebes in Greece, he named it after the capital of Egypt).

Thutmose III was Shishak, who sacked Jerusalem following the death of King Solomon. The kings of Jerusalem and Samaria at the time of the Amarna correspondence were Jehoram ben Ahab and Jehoram ben Jehoshaphat, although Jehu and Athaliah both appear in these letters. "Labaya" is to be read "Muíabaya" and was Mesha. Tagi, also called SHU-wardata, king of Gath, was the king of Libnah who revolted after the rebellion of Edom.

The 19th Dynasty followed the 18th directly. Merneptah son of Ramses II left the "Israel Stele," which mentions Israel. This dates to his 5th year, and based on its content should be dated to the year in which Jeroboam II of Israel died and Israel was ruled by Zechariah, Shallum and Menahem, four kings in the space of a single year. This is an important synchronism between Egypt and Israel.

Merneptah fled when Uzziah of Judah captured the eastern Delta, where the 19th Dynasty capital Tanis was located. This was preserved as the invasion of the lepers of Jerusalem, and as the occupation of Arzu, a Syrian. When the Judahite occupation was ended, the last kings of the 19th Dynasty reigned in parallel with the early kings of the 20th Dynasty. When the 19th Dynasty ended, the Libyans of the 22nd and 23rd Dynasties began their rule, also in parallel with the 20th and later the 21st Dynasties.

Egypt was eventually reunited under the 26th Dynasty, except for the remnant of the 21st Dynasty priest-kings, who continued until the reign of Ahmose II.

ii. Israel

As mentioned above.

iii. Mesopotamia

The issue of Mesopotamia is more complicated than that of Egypt due to the multitude of nations there. In Mesopotamia there were three primary ethnicities: Hurrian, Aramean and Chaldean (Sumerian). The mix of these cultures is responsible to a large extent for much of the confusion in this area.

The Early Bronze Age was the period of the Old Sumerians. The Akkadian period seems to have straddled the Early and Middle Bronze Ages. Aside from the archeological placement, there are Akkadian omen texts which refer to strange and intense darkness at the time of Sargon (which may be connected with the plague of darkness or the clouds cover that lasted from the Exodus to the death of Aaron), while his son (or grandson) Naram-Sin confronted an Egyptian king named Mannu, who was likely the Mentuhotep II mentioned above.

The neo-Sumerian dynasty of Ur III dates to the beginning of the Judges period, from roughly 90 years after the Exodus, and was not the Ur which Abraham left (the best candidate for Ur Kasdim is Nippur, the cultic center of Sumer). The law code of Ibbi-Sin, which is held to have been one of the earliest prototypes for what eventually became the Bible, dates to this period.

The Amorite kingdom of Hammurabi dates to the mid-Judges period, and the Ibni-Hadad king of Hazor who was a contemporary of Hammurabi was the Jabin king of Hazor at the time of Deborah. The chronology of this period seems on the face of it to be somewhat short for all the long reigning kings of Babylon, but it has been noted that the New Year, or Akitu festival, later celebrated only on the 1st of Nisan, was in earlier times celebrated both on the 1st of Nisan and the 1st of Tishrei. This might mean that the "long reigning kings of Babylon" were not really, and that their "years" were actually half-years. This needs to be checked, and a project to do so is in the planning stages. The famous Code of Hammurabi was compiled about two centuries after the Exodus.

We know next to nothing about Mesopotamia between the fall of the Amorite kingdom and the rise of the Hittite New Kingdom, a period lasting from the latter part of the Judges period almost to the time of Jehoshaphat. This may have something to do with the campaigns of David, who crossed the Euphrates (according to Jewish sources), but it may also have to do with the rise of the kingdom of Mitanni.

The Mitannians were originally Hurrian subjects of Assyria, which had risen as a kingdom sometime after the time of Hammurabi. Under what seems to be Indo-Aryan leadership, Mitanni, also known as Hanigalbat (or Hani-rabbat: "Greater Hana"), conquered its former masters. They took Assyrian throne names and claimed to be the true kings of Assyria, as opposed to the now defeated kings in the city of Ashur. We donít know precisely at what point this occurred, but the "Assyrian" kings from Shalmaneser III until Ashur-Dan V were kings of Mitanni. Shalmaneser III himself was Tushratta of Mitanni, known from the Amarna correspondance, while his son and successor Ashur-danin-apli was the "patricide prince" Shattiwaza (also called Mattiwaza or Kurtiwaza - a matter of older and newer readings of the name). The wars of "Assyria" and Urartu were actually those the Hittites recorded as being between Hatti and Mitanni.

With the death of Tushratta/Shalmaneser III, the Assyrians of Ashur began to rise once more under their king Ashuruballit I, and under Tukulti-Nimrud (also read: Tukulti-Ninurta), they put an end to the kingdom of Mitanni. It was Tukulti-Nimrudís son Ashur-nadin-apli who was the King Pul mentioned in the Bible, although he only reigned as king for the last three years of the thirty between the fall of Mitanni and the brief restoration of Mitanni under Tiglath-Pileser III and Shalmaneser V.

When we say that the Mitannians were not Assyrians, we are speaking only in an ethnic sense. They had Assyrian throne names and reigned over the territory of Assyria. They were thus kings of Assyria. A good parallel would be the Ethiopian kings of Egypt in the 25th Dynasty. Were they Pharoahs? Kings of Egypt? Certainly. Yet they were also Ethiopians, and the enemies of the native Egyptian dynasties. So too the Mitannian kings of Assyria.

When Sargon II of Assyria usurped the throne from Shalmaneser V, he was actually conquering the kingdom back from what he saw as a foreign dynasty of Mitannians. That the Medean tribes were first united around this time, combined with the ethnic similarity between the Mitannian leadership (the maryannu, an Assyrian corruption of aryan, the Indo-Iranian for "ruler"), suggests that the Medean rulers were exiled Mitannians. This would account to some extent for the almost hysterical Medean obsession with the conquest of Assyria, and the fact that the kingdom of Medea, once established, received as its territory what had once been the Assyrian empire. The arrangement of the Babylonian dynasties and the early Assyrian ones is difficult due to a lack of source material. One avenue which has been suggested is to use the synchronisms between Elam and Mesopotamia as a key.

iv. Elam

We know fairly little about the kingdom of Elam. Most of our knowledge comes into play after Elam fell to the Assyrians in the days of Ashurbanipal, shortly before Assyria fell itself, and during the Medean and Persian periods. What we do know, however, shows a collection of "dark ages" in Elam, separating it into periods. This is particularly valuable, as most fictitious "dark ages" appear in a single lump, such as those of Greece, Asia Minor and northern Syria. Because the multiple "dark ages" of Elam are separate, and because there are links in each period with Mesopotamia, Elam has the potential to serve as a guide for "folding" Mesopotamian history into its proper dimension.

The History of Elam

Conventional
Dates
JAH Dates
(Approximate)
Dynasty BCE-G BCE-J BCE-G BCE-J
The Kings of Awan 2600-2230 2434-2064 1898-1528 1732-1362
The Kings of Simishki 2038-1850 1872-1684 1528-1340 1362-1174
The Kings of the Eparti 1850-1505 1684-1339 1340-995 1174-829
The Igehalkids 1350-1210 1184-1044 995-855 829-689
The Shutrukids 1205-1110 1039-944 855-760 689-594
The Later Elamite Kings 760-644 594-478 760-644 594-478

The dates for the conventional history are taken from Walther Hinz's The Lost World of Elam (pages 180-185). The further back, of course, the vaguer the sources actually are, and the more conjectural the dates. But they have been taken as they are for purposes of illustration. Note that there are 682 years of "dark ages" between the various dynasties, although there is no evidence for this whatsoever, and despite the fact that Shutruk-Nahhunte II, one of the first of the later Elamite kings, claimed to be the son of Humban-nimena of the Shutrukid dynasty. The JAH dates are simply the result of eliminating these gaps. In a final revision, the early dynasties will need to be brought down a bit, simply because the last kings of Awan were contemporaries of the kings of Akkad, and the first kings of Simishki were contemporaries of the Ur III Dynasty. The dividing line between Akkad and Ur III falls roughly 90 years after the Exodus (1220 BCE-J; 1386 BCE-G).

Chedorlaomar king of Elam, who lived in the time of Abraham, appears to have preceded the written history of Elam.

v. Turkey

The "discovery" of the Hittite Empire in Asia Minor was a bit of a revolution among ancient historians. All of a sudden, a new field was born. Reputations were made. And the truth is that the discovery deserved all that attention and credit. On the other hand, it was not a forgotten empire, as was and still is claimed. The Hittites of archeology were the Phrygians of Greek literature. The "dark age" of Asia Minor, which lasted from the fall of the Hittite Empire at the end of the Late Bronze Age until the emergence of the Lydians at the time of Sargon II of Assyria never happened.

This places the imperial phase of the Hittite New Kingdom contemporaneous with the Mitanni/Assyrian empire from the time of Shalmaneser III/Tushratta. The conflicts that Shalmaneser III recorded as having occurred between Assyria and Urartu and those which the Hittites recorded as having occurred between themselves and Mitanni are identical. It is known that the Hittites had a second capital of what they called "the Upper Land." This is the Urartian capitol by Lake Van in Armenia. The Hittites used Luwian throne names in Asia Minor, not apparently their native tongue. So too, they used Hurrian throne names in Urartu.

The Hittite empire was a conglomeration of various tribes, ruled by a dynasty which called itself "the Dynasty of Kushara." These were most likely the Hittites who fled following the Israelite invasion of Canaan. Towards the end of the Hittite empire, the chief of one of these tribes, named Mita of Mushki, led a revolt against the rulers. This was the famous Midas, king of Phrygia. Mita of Mushki is mentioned both in late Hittite records and in the inscriptions of Sargon II, something which helps tie the two times together. The federation led by Midas called itself the Lydians, after the ancient name of Asia Minor (Lud in the Bible). But Midasís hope of establishing a dynasty were dashed when another Lydian named Gyges (Gugu in Assyrian records; Gog in the Bible), succeeded in a coup. Later Greek writers assumed that Midas was a Phrygian, since Gyges the Lydian deposed him. This was a mistake. The Phrygians were the imperial Hittites.

The actual fall of the Hittite empire seems to have been caused by three factors. First was the local unrest of the tribes which eventually became Lydia. This seems to have started in the wake of the Trojan War, which took place roughly 584 BCE-J (750 BCE-G). Next were the incursions of Sargon II at the very least against the Hittite "Upper Land" of Urartu. We know that Sargon captured Rusas II, who was the alter-ego of the last Hittite emperor, Suppiluliumas II (with all that was said about alter-egos above, the entire kingdom of Urartu, from Sarduris I to Rusas II, has a one to one correspondence with the Hittite emperors from Suppiluliumas I to Suppiluliumas II; the use of alter-egos on the Dynastic level is therefore supported by the evidence of the Individual level, and in some cases even the Particular level). Lastly, there were apparently invasion of Cimmerians from the north and northeast. These three factors ended the Hittite empire for all time.

Following the fall of the Hittites, a reduced kingdom of Urartu continued in Armenia until it was conquered by the Medes, while a single post Hittite king named Myrsilus, apparently Mursilis IV, reigned until removed by Midas. The Lydians continued until conquered by Cyrus the Persian.

vi. Greece

Greece lies outside the main focus of the JAH until the time of Nebuchadnezzar, and the beginnings of conflicts between Medea/Persia and Greece. Since this is dealt with in detail in the Heifetz revision, it need not concern us here. The main issue is the dating of the various periods of Greek history. Once the beginning of the Iron Age in the Land of Israel is brought down to the time of the Assyrian invasions, the "dark age" of Greece closes.

C. Individual

The Individual level is outside the scope of this overview.

D. Particular

The Particular level is even further outside the scope of this overview.


[1] The bulk of the JAH revision is independant of the Heifetz revision of Persian history. Thus, there is a difference between the traditional Jewish date of the destruction of the First Temple: 421 BCE-J, and the date of this event as derived from the Greek accounts of the Persian period: 586 BCE-G. The notations BCE-J and BCE-G are intended to differentiate between these two views. The JAH, at the time of this writing, tends strongly towards the acceptance of the Heifetz revision, but there is no reason to thereby prejudice those who differ from the remainder of the JAH.
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© 1995 by Lisa Liel
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