Review of program "Pharaohs and Kings" telecast on Discovery Channel

The theme of the program was challenging "accepted" Egyptian archeology with "new evidence" which could overturn conventional ideas regarding Egyptian chronology. This appears to me to be an exaggeration. No one has ever claimed that the dates in the "conventional" chronology were well established. Egyptian chronology has never been considered to be known for certain. The dates for the time of Narmer, for example, are only approximately known and may be off by more than one or two centuries.

There is no "new evidence" involved. The producer and narrator, David M. Rohl, merely examines the old evidence and proposes another theory regarding the Chronology of the New Kingdom and post-New Kingdom eras. That is not to say that he could not be correct; he may very well be. Nevertheless, there are a lot of assumptions involved in his theories. The fact remains that there are other theories, and the evidence supporting these other theories might very well be just as convincing as that supporting Mr. Rohl's theory. There is an enormous amount of detail involved in the study of 3000 years of ancient Egyptian history and all the artifacts associated with it. Therefore I would be reluctant to jump to any conclusions from this video alone.

Inasmuch as I am not an expert on ancient Egypt, my comments must be restricted to what was presented in the video only.

The video cites three anomalies: the Apis Bull steles, the "second burial" pit, and the the "notching" of the tombs of Psusennes and Osorkon II.

The Apis Bull Steles Anomaly

The Apis Bull steles were found in an underground "bull mortuary" created for sending selected sacred bulls to that happy pasture in the sky. The stele contained the names of the pharaohs who ruled during the lifetime of the bulls and at the time the bulls were interred. Rohl makes a number of assumptions, but doesn't provide any convincing evidence to back up his assumptions. (That doesn't necessarily mean that the evidence doesn't exist: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.) Nevertheless, I can only go by what the video presents, and this is what it has to say:

Seven dynasties were represented by the Apis Bull steles. One dynasty was missing; there were no steles for the pharaohs of the 21st dynasty. Based on the names of the pharaohs on the steles, the over-all time period represented should be 600 years. Twenty-two bull steles were found. The tomb had sustained a great deal of destruction, so it is possible that some steles had been broken up and buried. However, Rohl assumed that there could be no more than an additional three steles unaccounted for. Therefore there should have been no more than 25 steles originally present. Rohl apparently assumed that a new bull was "consecrated" when the old bull was mummified. Assuming an average life span of 18 years per bull, he calculated 18 X 25 = 450 years, approximately. That would leave 150 years unaccounted for, including the 21st dynasty.

At 18 years per bull, an unbroken line of sacred bulls for 600 years would require 33 bulls. Subtracting 25 from 33, we get 8 Apis bull steles missing. So we have a missing 21st dynasty, and also missing are the 8 steles that would correspond to it.

In summary, Rohl's Apis Bull theory is based on the following unproved assumptions: (1) A new bull was "consecrated" when the old bull died; (2) the average life span of the bulls was 18 years; (3) the pharaohs names recorded on the steles should represent an unbroken line of succession; (4) there are no missing steles. (5) The 21st Dynasty was not included in the collection. (5) The time period was not 600 years, but rather 450 years, so the 21st Dynasty must have coexisted "in parallel" with another Dynasty.

The Re-Burial Pit Anomaly

After the time of Rameses III, Egypt had fallen on hard times. It was no longer prosperous, and there was a widespread breakdown of law and order. Tomb robbing was rampant. Therefore the decision was made to move the bodies of the pharaohs to a remote burial chamber which tunneled horizontally from the bottom of a deep pit. The coffins into which the mummies were placed were dated at the time they were interred in the new location. In the 19th century this pit was opened and the mummies moved to the Cairo Museum. Near the entrance to the chamber, just off the bottom of the pit, was the coffin of Seti I. The date on the coffin indicated that it was placed there in 968 BC. Further down the tunnel leading from the pit was the coffin of a minor official. The mummy wrappings on this individual were dated; the date corresponded to a date of 934 BC.

The conclusion was that the minor official had to be placed in the tomb before Seti I, because there was no room to move his coffin past that of Seti I. Therefore the date on the coffin of Seti I (based ultimately on the chronology of Pharaoh succession) must be in error. Therefore the sequence of succession must be incorrect.

I must confess that it was unclear to me what this evidence proves. There are too many uncertainties concerning when the coffins were placed, the dates on the coffins and mummy wrappings, and the recorded data on their actual positions in the tomb.

Tombs of Psusennes and Osorkon II

The tomb of Psusennes (21st dynasty) is "notched into" the tomb of Osorkon II (22nd dynasty). The conclusion of the video is that the tomb of Osorkon II was constructed before the tomb of Psusennes, and therefore the 21st and 22nd dynasties co-existed. This would confirm the conclusion of the Apis Bull Steles theory that the 21st dynasty coexisted at some other location.

The video displayed a corner stone that had been notched out to accommodate the corner of the other tomb. However it is entirely possible that either: (1) the stone was part of the old building, and was notched out to accommodate the new building, as the video claims, or (2) the stone was part of a new building which was improperly aligned and had to be cut to fit around the old building. Whichever option you choose, the conclusion is the same: somebody goofed and made the new tomb too close to the old.

Royal Architect's Genealogy

In the year 496 BC a royal architect with time on his hands carved a long genealogy in a rock cliff in the Nile valley. The date is confirmed and documented by the date of a Persian occupation. The video assumes a time span of 20 years per generation with no evidence to corroborate this assumption. The genealogy covered 14 generations and goes back to Sheshonk. Since 20 X 14 = 280 years, that would place Sheshonk at 496 + 280 = 776 BC. This does not correspond to the Biblical Shishak.

Ramses Monument Records

By this time I was getting pretty bored with the video, so my recollections may not be completely accurate. The video presented evidence that proclamations recorded on the monuments of Rameses II showed that he had conquered and looted Shalem (spelling?), the ancient name of Jerusalem. No records that Sheshonk had looted the city of Jerusalem were to be found on Sheshonk's monuments. The conclusion was that the Biblical Shishak is not Sheshonk, but rather Rameses II.