Rethinking Ancient Near East Chronology



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Preface: It Never Hurts to Take a Fresh Look … page 1
Chapter One: A Tug-of-War in the Sands of Time … page 3
Chapter Two: The New Hebrew Kings Chronology … page 9
Chapter Three: Looking Anew at Old Assumptions … page 25
Chapter Four: Contemporaneous ANE Chronologies … page 35
Chapter Five: Anchor Points and Cross-checks … page 39
Chapter Six: Synchronized ANE Chronology Tables … page 41
Chapter Seven: Assyrian-Urartian Synchronization … page 71
Chapter Eight: Supplemental Notes and Comments … page 89
Index of Names: Kings, Queen, Pharaohs, Lords … page 107

Excerpt – Preface: It Never Hurts to Take a Fresh Look

This book presents chronological speculations that require temporarily setting aside established assumptions about the history and chronology of the ancient Near East so as to consider an alternative timeline that claims to reflect a better interpretation of the available historical data. Without intent to call anyone’s scholarship into question, this book is intended to raise reasonable doubt about the validity of Ancient Near East chronology as currently understood. It does so by calling attention to the period encompassing the reigns of Shalmaneser III and Tiglath-pileser III, and to the fact that Assyrian chronology does not harmonize with the more accurate chronology of the Hebrew kings preserved in the Bible, the latter of which is in agreement with Egyptian chronology during that same period. This book asserts that the traditional Assyrian chronology features an incomplete timeline that has led to misunderstanding of the ANE region’s history prior to 745 BCE (after that year, all chronologies agree).

The methodology used in this book hearkens back to a premise popular in ages past, namely, that the Holy Bible is a trustworthy source of chronological and historical data, a source text that can be used with confidence by chronologists and historians to calibrate a timeline for the ancient Near East kingdoms of Israel, Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Levant. That latter idea will no doubt be viewed with skepticism, especially by those who have placed their faith in the absolute reliability of the Assyrian Eponym List and Chronicles as providing the only true base timeline for aligning all chronologies for the region’s ancient kingdoms. However, the current Assyrian-based ANE timeline being used throughout academia exhibits contradictions prior to 745 bce that have yet to be satisfactorily explained. Finding a basis for constructing a new chronology that allows all timelines to perfectly harmonize is a goal that scholars everywhere should be able to support.

As a first step in that process, this book’s New Hebrew Kings Chronology has been harmonized with the independently assembled timeline for ancient Egypt. That both the Hebrew and Egyptian timelines align with one another, while the Assyrian timeline exhibits disharmony when compared to them, suggests that it is the Assyrian chronology in need of revision. By identifying places where adjustments to the Assyrian timeline can produce the desired harmony, this book calls for revising Ancient Near East chronology.

Your author is on firm ground when interpreting the Bible’s chronological data, not as much so when venturing into the intricacies and vagaries of the chronologies of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Tyre, and Urartu that were contemporaneous with those of Israel and Judah during the period covered by this book, the years from 1,006 BCE to 560 BCE. Thus, reliance on the published works of many scholars—archaeologists, linguists, Egyptologists, Assyriologists, and historians in related disciplines who have assembled the often sparse and disparate pieces of the Ancient Near East chronological and historical puzzle into a coherent whole is readily acknowledged. And, your author is quick to admit that, when reading a seminal work like George Smith’s The Assyrian Eponym Canon, for example, or when studying a more recent work, such as Ken Kitchen’s The Third Intermediate Period in Egypt 1100-650 B.C., he always marvels at the years of research and insight that have produced such repositories of knowledge.

Still, it never hurts to take a fresh look at accepted assumptions established by past researchers when new information and insights become available, as is the case in this instance. Even when a scholar’s research has gained acceptance, your author is certain that, if faced with a choice between maintaining that research as the “final word” or recognizing a newer truth resulting from new evidence and new research, the most respected scholars involved in doing chronological research today will choose the latter. It is with full confidence in that spirit of truth-seeking, no matter where the evidence originates or leads, that the ancient Near East chronological speculations in this book are put forth for consideration and debate.

—Dan Bruce, Author