The absolute chronology of the ancient Near East during the first millennium BCE is principally determined by Ptolemy's (Royal) Canon (see Depuydt 1995a), whose Babylonian segment establishes the onset of the first regnal year of king Nabu-nasir on 26 February 747 as the earliest secure historical date directly linked to the Julian calendar. The absolute chronology of Assyria may be extended back to the first regnal year of king Adad-nerari II in 911/0, as determined by the Assyrian Eponym (limu) Lists (Millard 1994), which may be cross-linked with the Canon by equating the solar eclipse noted during the eponymate of Bur-Saggile with that calculated to have been observable in 763, as first noted by H. C. Rawlinson (1867). On the basis of this Assyro-Babylonian chronological backbone, the earliest secure Julian-year dates in neighboring states may be determined: for example, the reign of King Ahab of Israel ended in 853 (Thiele 1983: 94-95); similarly, year 1 of Egyptian King Psammetichus I, founder of Dynasty XXVI, is 664 (Kitchen 2002: 5-6). All further proposed historical dates for these states, and those of neighboring regions whose chronologies are built upon them (e.g., the Aegean, Cyprus, Anatolia, Elam), prior to these earliest secure historical dates must be understood to be modern conventions for which at present no further direct confirmation, scientific or otherwise, exists.
The conventional Egyptian chronology (whether high or low) rests on the so-called Sothic hypothesis, wherein it is assumed that throughout the history of Dynastic Egypt the civil year was taken to be exactly 365 days long, and that as a result it slipped forward continuously across the seasons in a 1460-(Julian) year-long cycle (the period between successive heliacal risings of Sirius on the first day of the civil calendar) without a single adjustment of any sort ever. Leo Depuydt (1995b: 45 n. 1), writing in support of this postulate, acknowledges that the conventional Egyptian Bronze Age chronology can only be correct in the complete absence of any calendrical tampering. Peter James, in collaboration with I. J. Thorpe, Nikos Kokkinos, Robert Morkot, and John Frankish, in a volume entitled Centuries of Darkness: A Challenge to the Conventional Chronology of Old World Archaeology (London: Jonathan Cape, 1991), argued that the Dark Age at the transition from the Late Bronze to the Iron Age during the last two centuries of the second millennium BCE is largely an artifact of the overly long conventional reconstruction of the Egyptian Third Intermediate Period (Dynasties XXI-XXV)--the nearly five centuries prior to 664 in the conventional chronology--and that this Dark Age presents itself in any and every chronology from western Europe to Iran that is directly or indirectly linked to the Egyptian.
The central hypothesis of the Centuries of Darkness (CoD) model proposes specifically that there are significant misalignments and distortions present in the conventional chronology of the ancient Near East at large specifically caused by the currently accepted model for the reconstruction of the Egyptian Third Intermediate Period (TIP) and its relationship with the end of the New Kingdom's Dynasty XX. Its date, in turn, is ultimately dependent upon the Sothic hypothesis (James et al. 1991: 227-28). The standard model for this period is epitomized by Kenneth A. Kitchen's The Third Intermediate Period in Egypt (1100-650 BC), first published in 1973, with two revised editions following in 1986 and 1996. Centuries of Darkness presents a radical point-by-point summary and reappraisal of the transition from the Late Bronze Age (LBA) to the Iron Age (IA) across the eastern Mediterranean basin, northeast Africa, and west Asia. The CoD model has generated scores of widely divergent critical scholarly reviews, for a listing of which see http://www.centuries.co.uk/reviews.htm. This is hardly unexplored country, but the CoD's judicious removal of just over two centuries in total from the TIP--archaeologically, the equivalent of the LBA to IA transition in the Levant--achieved by overlapping portions of the relevant Egyptian Dynasties traditionally seen as successive (cf. Manetho, Aegyptiaca), the removal of spurious pharaohs, the shortening of others' ascribed reigns, and the necessarily concomitant shortening of the Iron IA-IIB Levantine archaeological periods, does provide an alternative footing upon which a testable framework might be rebuilt, one where proposed new insights might be subject to rigorous testing, without resorting to faith or authority for solutions.
To quote the editors of the volume under review, Peter James (also the principal author of Centuries of Darkness) and Peter G. van der Veen,
BICANE is the acronym for the study group formed to make a fundamental review of "Bronze to Iron Age Chronology of the Ancient Near East." While not a formally constituted body, it is an umbrella for a collaboration between an increasing number of scholars working together on the chronological interrelations between the archaeology and history of the Aegean, north-east Africa (Libya, Egypt and Nubia) and Western Asia... during the Late Bronze and Iron Ages, (p. ix) The papers presented in Solomon and Shishak center around a single but central postulate of the CoD model: that the biblical Egyptian King Shishak (1 Kings 14:25-26; 2 Chron. 12:2-9), who raided Judah, seizing its fortified cities and besieging Jerusalem in Rehoboam's fifth regnal year, circa 925, is--despite the obvious similarities in the names and the fact that both kings campaigned in the Levant--to be clearly distinguished from Hedjkheperre Sho-shenq I, the Libyan founder of the Egyptian Dynasty XXII, whose triumphal reliefs next to the Bubastite Gate at Karnak describe his campaigns in Syria, Canaan, the Negev, and Trans-jordan. Based on the archaeological, art-historical, and philological evidence first presented in CoD, significantly updated and expanded here, the historical Shoshenq I is rather to be sought in the later ninth century, in an "Omride"--rather than "Solomonic"--Iron Age IIA period, as argued for in Israel Finkelstein's (1995, 1996) "Low Chronology." (Finkelstein's Low Chronology has also generated dozens of widely divergent critical reviews, for a listing of which see http://www.cjconroy.net/bib/chron-low.htm.) Further evidence is presented in support of the identification of the biblical Shishak with Egyptian king Ramesses III, ruling at the onset of the Iron IA period in the later tenth century. Finally, Davidic and Solomonic Israel is identified in the terminal period of Late Bronze IIB, here re-dated to the eleventh and tenth centuries.
The colloquium's three sessions were entitled: 1) Is the Biblical Shishak the Same as the Egyptian Pharaoh Shoshenq I? (ten papers); 2) The Glorious Reign of Solomon, Fact or Fiction? Archaeological and Historical Reflections (six papers); and 3) The Egyptians and Jerusalem (four papers). Some of these papers are critical of the original model, while others offer refinements, additional support, as well as improvements to it.
In the opening essay "Shishak and Shoshenq: A Chronological Cornerstone or Stumbling-block?" John J. Bimson provides a historical overview of the central arguments for and against this identification, which was first proposed by Jean-Francois Champollion in 1828, at the dawn of the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphics (Champollion 1868: 81). The identification is held as confirmed by Kenneth A. Kitchen (1996: 72-76) through his method of "dead-reckoning" back from a claimed fixed point in 716 BCE, despite the significant incongruities in the two kings' itineraries and the absence of any mention of Jerusalem and of all but one of Rehoboam's fifteen fortified Judean towns, Aijalon (2 Chron. 11:5-12), in the admittedly damaged Egyptian record. Bimson stresses (pp. 4-5) that, given the hostility of the Deuteronomist towards Jeroboam I and his perceived failings, the Bible's silence on the supposed need of the Israelite king for Shishak's Egyptian army to deliver to him his claimed kingdom is not easily accounted for. This is not argumentum ex silentio: the picture outlined by the events of 1 Kings 12:1-32, where Jeroboam is summoned from Egypt to join the assembly at Shechem to voice objection to Rehoboam's continuation of Solomon's obnoxious policies, followed by Jeroboam's divinely sanctioned and militarily unopposed secession, is substantially different from and, in fact, irreconcilable with the conventional view. The fragment of a monumental commemorative stele of Shoshenq I found in 1925 at Megiddo among unstratified debris in a spoil heap left by German archaeologists excavating there between 1903 and 1905 (cf. Chapman 2009) is in conformity with that king's inscription at Karnak, but is of no chronological value.
Aidan Dodson responds with "Shoshenq I: A Conventional(ish) View." Accepting the equation of Shishak and Shoshenq I, Dodson acknowledges the absence of Jerusalem on the legible parts of the unfinished Bubastite Portal at Karnak. Reinterpreting the evidence provided by Stele 100 at the Gebel el-Silsila quarries, dated year 21 Shoshenq I, Dodson proposes that Shoshenq may have campaigned more than once in the Levant, speculating that the campaign to Jerusalem occurred too close to the king's death to have been added to the soon to be abandoned construction. Dodson's appended chronological table (pp. 12-16) represents only a slight modification of Kitchen's conventional chronology. The addition here of the regnal dates of the kings of Assyria offers an unwarranted air of accuracy; the assignment of the year 824, the last year of the reign of Shalmaneser III, to the usurper "Ashurdaninapal" (cf. RIMA 3 [BM 118892] i 39, 52: [.sup.md]as-sur-KAL-in-A) is an unnecessary interpolation of the Assyrian evidence.
Shirly Ben-Dor Evian, in "Shoshenq I and the Levant: Synchronizing...