Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Centuries of Darkness

Centuries of Darkness, written in 1991 by five archaeologists, was received with mixed reviews by fellow archaeologists, some welcoming it as a much needed challenge to the accepted chronology, others condemning it as too radical to be taken seriously.  As they explain in their preface,

When the authors of this book met at the London Institute of Archaeology in 1985, we discovered a mutual scepticism of the claimed accuracy for the timetables of Old World archaeology. Above all, we became increasingly convinced that something was seriously wrong with the conventional picture of a centuries-long Dark Age descending over a vast area at the end of the Late Bronze Age c. 1200 BC. With a background of research in many different but related fields (specifically prehistoric Britain, Minoan Crete, Mycenaean Greece, biblical archaeology and Pharaonic Nubia), we pooled our resources and began an in-depth investigation of the archaeological chronology of the entire ancient Mediterranean and Near East. Everything we found confirmed our suspicion that the original spanner in the works was the Egyptian time-scale, and that the 'centuries of darkness' inserted into the histories of so many areas between 1200 and 700 BC were largely illusory.

I've found their book to be a little too technical to take in all the details, but clearly they've been very thorough, covering the entire ancient Mediterranean and Near East in making their case that the accepted chronology has created myriad problems in dating for every ancient archaeological find in those geographical areas.  Clearly It seems very clear to me that it's time for a major revision of that chronology.  And if the authors' suggested revision takes place, the Biblical narratives of the Exodus, conquest of Canaan, and the United Kingdom of Israel fit in rather well with the archaeological data.


JDB said...

I generally find these sorts of books almost impossible to evaluate as a layperson, even one with an undergraduate degree in Near Eastern Studies. This is how I feel about e.g. Kitchen's On the Reliability of the Old Testament and Provan et al's A Biblical History of Israel. That being said, they are fun to read.

I have one question. You write, "Clearly it's time for a major revision of that chronology." What are your grounds for making this assertion, and even thinking it's truth is "clear"?

[Just to potentially speed things up: suppose you say, "I read the book and the arguments seemed serious." Then I'll ask something like, "Given that the details - which no doubt are essential - are too technical, how can you know the arguments are worth other scholars delving into (beyond offering book reviews)? Have you, for example, read into the standard scholarship in this area that disagree with this book and found it wanting? If so, what have you read and why is it wanting?" Okay - this potentially speeds things up because perhaps that wouldn't have been your response.]

Bilbo said...

Let me revise my post.

JDB said...

Lol, nicely done. Never has an argument of mine been defeated by so subtle a move.

Bilbo said...

I had meant to be as modest in my claims as I could be, but obviously blew it the first time.