Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Constraining the reign of ancient Egypt: Radiocarbon dating helps to nail down the chronology of kings, researchers say

Date:
June 18, 2010
Source:
American Association for the Advancement of Science
Summary:
For several thousands of years, ancient Egypt dominated the Mediterranean world -- and scholars across the globe have spent more than a century trying to document the reigns of the various rulers of Egypt's Old, Middle and New Kingdoms. Now, a detailed radiocarbon analysis of short-lived plant remains from the region is providing scientists with a long and accurate chronology of ancient Egyptian dynasties that agrees with most previous estimates but also imposes some historic revisions.

Illahun Papyrus
Credit: Courtesy of the University of Haifa

For several thousands of years, ancient Egypt dominated the Mediterranean world -- and scholars across the globe have spent more than a century trying to document the reigns of the various rulers of Egypt's Old, Middle and New Kingdoms. Now, a detailed radiocarbon analysis of short-lived plant remains from the region is providing scientists with a long and accurate chronology of ancient Egyptian dynasties that agrees with most previous estimates but also imposes some historic revisions.

Although previous chronologies have been precise in relative ways, assigning absolute dates to specific events in ancient Egyptian history has been an extremely contentious undertaking. This new study tightly constrains those previous predictions, especially for the Old Kingdom, which was determined to be slightly older than some scholars had believed. The study will also allow for more accurate historical comparisons to surrounding areas, like Libya and Sudan, which have been subject to many radiocarbon dating techniques in the past.

Christopher Bronk Ramsey and colleagues from the Universities of Oxford and Cranfield in England, along with a team of researchers from France, Austria and Israel, collected radiocarbon measurements from 211 various plants -- obtained from museum collections in the form of seeds, baskets, textiles, plant stems and fruits -- that were directly associated with particular reigns of ancient Egyptian kings. They then combined their radiocarbon data with historical information about the order and length of each king's reign to make a complete chronology of ancient Egyptian dynasties.

Their research is published in the June 18 issue of Science.

"My colleague, Joanne Rowland, went to a lot of museums, explaining what we were doing and asking for their participation," Bronk Ramsey said. "The museums were all very helpful in providing material we were interested in -- especially important since export of samples from Egypt is currently prohibited. Fortunately, we only needed samples that were about the same size as a grain of wheat."

The researchers' new chronology does indicate that a few events occurred earlier than previously predicted. It suggests, for example, that the reign of Djoser in the Old Kingdom actually started between 2691 and 2625 B.C. and that the New Kingdom began between 1570 and 1544 B.C.

Bronk Ramsey and his colleagues also found some discrepancies in the radiocarbon levels of the Nile Valley, but they suggest that these are due to ancient Egypt's unusual growing season, which is concentrated in the winter months.

For the most part, the new chronology simply narrows down the various historical scenarios that researchers have been considering for ancient Egypt.

"For the first time, radiocarbon dating has become precise enough to constrain the history of ancient Egypt to very specific dates," said Bronk 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."

This report by Bronk Ramsey et al. was funded by the Leverhulme Trust with additional financial support from the German-Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research and Development, NERC, CNRS, CEA, IRSN, IRD, and Ministθre de La Culture.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Association for the Advancement of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Christopher Bronk Ramsey, Michael W. Dee, Joanne M. Rowland, Thomas F. G. Higham, Stephen A. Harris, Fiona Brock, Anita Quiles, Eva M. Wild, Ezra S. Marcus, and Andrew J. Shortland. Radiocarbon-Based Chronology for Dynastic Egypt. Science, 2010; 328 (5985): 1554-1557 DOI: 10.1126/science.1189395

Cite This Page:

American Association for the Advancement of Science. "Constraining the reign of ancient Egypt: Radiocarbon dating helps to nail down the chronology of kings, researchers say." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 June 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100617143926.htm>.
American Association for the Advancement of Science. (2010, June 18). Constraining the reign of ancient Egypt: Radiocarbon dating helps to nail down the chronology of kings, researchers say. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100617143926.htm
American Association for the Advancement of Science. "Constraining the reign of ancient Egypt: Radiocarbon dating helps to nail down the chronology of kings, researchers say." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100617143926.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Fossils & Ruins News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Did ISIS Destroy Jonah's Tomb?

Did ISIS Destroy Jonah's Tomb?

Newsy (July 25, 2014) — Unverified footage posted to YouTube purportedly shows ISIS militants destroying a shrine widely believed to be the tomb of the prophet Jonah. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Europe's Highest Train Turns 80 in French Pyrenees

Europe's Highest Train Turns 80 in French Pyrenees

AFP (July 25, 2014) — Europe's highest train, the little train of Artouste in the French Pyrenees, celebrates its 80th birthday. Duration: 01:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Richard III's Car Park Burial Site Opens to Public

Richard III's Car Park Burial Site Opens to Public

AFP (July 25, 2014) — Visitors will be able to look down from a glass walkway on the grave of King Richard III when a new centre opens in the English cathedral city of Leicester, where the infamous hunchback was found under a car park in 2012. Duration: 00:35 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mobile App Gives Tour of Battle of Atlanta Sites

Mobile App Gives Tour of Battle of Atlanta Sites

AP (July 25, 2014) — Emory University's Center for Digital Scholarship has launched a self-guided mobile tour app to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the Civil War's Battle of Atlanta. (July 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins