Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Posts on this blog

Over the past six years Dr. Willie Mc Loud (PhD in Physics, MA in philosophy, MBL, author of various books) has posted a wide variety of essays regarding science, philosophy, religion, current events, eschatology and other topics on this blog. In these essays he engages with all sorts of important questions regarding our human existence such as: Do we have good reasons to believe in God? and: Why should we trust the Christian narrative? Although the author is a committed Christian, his answers are not a rehearsal of traditional views and arguments. In fact, he presents new, relevant and sensible answers to the pressing issues of our day and age. A scientist-philosopher himself, he values the importance of good hermeneutics (interpretation) in answering questions regarding the Bible and science, history and so forth.

The blog is dedicated to all those skeptics who are willing to read with an open mind and carefully consider the various nuanced aspects of the issues at hand. When we really listen to each other, we may find true answers in real conversation. At the same time the essays provide Christians with the tools needed to engage with unbelievers in everyday conversations about their faith. To facilitate the reader's access to these essays, the most important ones (all with links to the essays) are listed below according to the topic they belong to. Readers are welcome to use the information, share or forward the essays and make use of them as they see fit as long as due recognition is given.

1. Science, Philosophy and God

Part 3: Science and metaphysics: in search of Russell's teapot
            Presenting a new argument for the existence of God
Part 5. In defense of the soul

A critique of archaeology as a science
An archaeological perspective on the Bible
Presenting a new ancient Middle Eastern chronology
A critique of Biblical Criticism as a scholarly discipline
A hermeneutical perspective on the Bible
Is the spirit world more than an idea?

2. Origins in the Book of Genesis

3. Eschatology

5. Discovering the Keystone, Solving the Riddle of The Red Serpent after 40 years by Guillaume Brouillard (Griffel Media, Cape Town, 2009). 

6. Spiritual/geestelik

Meeting God
The Power of God
Wrong choices
Something or Someone is missing? (Dr. Francois Carr)
A message for the church
God hoor
Die profeet

7. Dialogistics/Apologetics

Towards a new dialogistic approach
Engaging with atheists and agnostics
Biblical inspiration: in a postmodern world
Faith and reason: finding the balance
The importance of the Septuagint in Biblical studies
Darwin's Doubt (book review)
The God Impulse (book review)

8. Current events

Brexit: What to expect
A New Iranian Empire is rising
The European Union: forever rising
Is a Third World War brewing?

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

In defense of the soul

In this essay I argue that we have good reason to think that the soul exists. I use the Kantian conception of the soul as point of departure - and show how this may find its application in contemporary quantum physics. I discuss the Penrose-Hameroff theory of consciousness in which they understand the soul in terms of quantum information which may continue existing after death. This is the fifth part in the series Science, Philosophy and God.

Long ago there was a time when about everybody believed in the existence of the soul. Although the ancient peoples had various conceptions of the soul, they all believed that humans have souls which continue to exist after their death. In their view the body governs our interaction with the material world and the soul governs our interaction with the spiritual world (spirit world). In our own time the situation is very different. Whereas religious people in general believe in the existence of the soul, the non-religious does not.

One may propose that the soul is the great divider between believers (not only from the Christian faith) and atheists. The reason is that atheists in general do not believe in the existence of the human soul (there might be black swans!). Although atheism is often presented only in terms of non-belief (not believing in God or gods), the soul is part of a metaphysical worldview which is typically associated with religious belief. In spite of this, one may think that at least some atheists would try to understand any data that may be consistent with the religious conception of the soul within their own conceptual framework. We are, however, not even close to this happening and the purpose of the present essay is to present a working concept of the soul and then to argue that this is not only consistent with science, but also that we have - even at this early stage - good reason to think that the soul most probably exists.

The main question is: What would science be looking for insofar as the soul is concerned? What would be a sensible way to think of the soul which would allow scientific scrutiny thereof? As before in this series, I use the Kantian conceptual structure as point of departure. I show what the Kantian conception of the soul entails and also how that concept may find its empirical confirmation in science (although, as in the case of dark matter, I think that only indirect empirical confirmation would be possible). I then argue that our current scientific knowledge is more in line with the possible existence of the soul than in conflict with it.

The Kantian conception of the soul

Kant distinguishes between three concepts of the self, all of which are closely connected with his concept of the soul. These are the "self as appearance", the "logical self" and the "noumenal self". The first two concepts are part of Kant's epistemology (the study of knowledge claims) and the second of his moral philosophy. Even so, Kant discusses all of these in his critique of rational psychology in the second part of his famous Critique of Pure Reason which focuses on epistemology.

What does Kant mean by these concepts? By the "self as appearance" - also known as the "phenomenal self" - Kant means one's sense of oneself as one appears to oneself (in inner sense). Kant argues that all efforts to arrive at some knowledge about the soul through an analysis of the way in which we appear to ourselves are doomed to fail since insofar as such appearances are used to formulate a concept of our "logical self" (a pure analytic concept), which is then used to say something about the existence of the soul, that it is a step taken too far. Logical concepts do not necessarily imply a corresponding kind of existence!

We cannot proceed from an analytic judgement (i.e. from a judgement regarding pure concepts) to one which involves existence (for which a synthetic judgement is needed) without showing how that would be possible in the framework of our senses. We may formulate logical concepts but their reference to really existing things can only be established when these concepts are complimented by empirical data given in the senses (and by extension, in experiment). Knowledge about the soul - as (transcendental [1]) ground for the phenomenal self - would only be possible if we can apply that concept to data given in our senses in the framework of space/time. This cannot happen with regard to the soul (I discuss the Kantian conception of knowledge in [2]).

The second concept is that of the "logical self". In this case Kant refers to the "I" as logical or formal conception of the unity of consciousness. This is that self-consciousness (also called apperception) which produces the thought (representation) "I think". The "I think" must be able to accompany all my thoughts - otherwise it would not be the identical I. The one identical I which can logically be conceptualized as the self which underlies all my thoughts, is the "logical self". Although we can form a clear concept of this self within the wider context of our human ability to obtain knowledge of objects, we cannot in any way gain knowledge about this self itself for the reasons given above.

The third Kantian concept under discussion is that of the "noumenal self" (which corresponds with the traditional concept of the soul). The distinction that Kant makes between the phenomenal and noumenal realms underlies the difference between the phenomenal and noumenal selves. Whereas we all have some experience of the phenomenal self, we can only think about the possible existence of the noumenal self (the word "noumenal" is derived from the Greek word "nous", meaning mind). What distinguishes the noumenal self from the "logical self", is that the concept of this self involves the idea of freedom (of choice) within the context of Kant's practical/moral philosophy (the logical self is also produced through an "act of spontaneity", but this is understood in the context of Kant's epistemology).

In Kant's program, his epistemology and his moral philosophy stand very much apart. The first is discussed in the Critique of Pure Reason (the first Critique) and the second in his Critique of Practical Reason (the second Critique). Although Kant follows a transcendental approach (as he calls his philosophy [1]) to both, the points of departure and the way in which these are presented are very different. Whereas the "logical self" is the necessary thought of oneself as an identical self which may obtain "objective" [2] knowledge when certain epistemological conditions are in place, the "noumenal self" is the necessary thought of oneself as the agent of one's own actions in the framework of morality.

According to Kant there is a "gap" between our thinking about ourselves in the world of knowledge and science and our thinking about ourselves in the world of morality. This has led some interpreters to identify Kant's phenomenal and noumenal realms with the scientific and moral realms. One often finds that these are treated totally apart as if they do not impact on each other and theologians with a Kantian (or even German) philosophical background usually think in these terms. For them Kant's famous words in the preface to the second edition of the first Critique where he says that he had to "remove" knowledge (from the noumenal realm) in order to make space for belief implies this. And this is true: for Kant we have no sensible access of the noumenal realm and can therefore not say anything substantially about that in scientific terms.

So, the problem is the following: in Kant's epistemology the "logical self" does not necessitate the existence of the soul nor does his moral philosophy. There is no possible way to know whether the soul really exists. Kant writes: "[T]he conclusion is that in no way whatsoever can we cognize [gain knowledge of] anything about the constitution of our soul that in any way at all concerns the possibility of its separate existence" (B420). So, why is the soul important in Kant's metaphysics (which is not a dogmatic metaphysics)? The reason is that the noumenal self or soul allows us to introduce the concept of free choice in morality. Since the soul's existence would be in the noumenal realm outside nature where determinism (mechanism) rules, it is not contradictory to ascribe freedom (free action) to the soul.

The Kantian philosopher Udo Thiel states it nicely: "If I think of myself as a noumenon, I think of myself as existing independently of the conditions of our experience (space and time), and, consequently, I think of myself as not being affected by spatiotemporal determinations and in that sense as 'free' (B310)" [3]. So, even though we can never gain any knowledge of the soul in Kant's system, we can form a clear concept of the soul as existing outside the phenomenal realm and as such as governed by another principle, namely spontaneity (for Kant spontaneity underlies freedom to act [4]).

Kant's relevance for today

The problem for the Kantian position is that Kant acknowledges that we cannot gain any knowledge about the possible existence of the soul. Although we may form a coherent concept about the soul, as existing in the noumenal realm, we cannot "know" whether the soul really exists. For Kant our human senses are just not able to confirm or deny that. In the view of atheists, this is a very comfortable position: arguing that the soul may exist but that we can never empirically establish its existence. For them this comes close to a "God in the gap" position, even though Kant gave very good reasons for his position.

Although Kant acknowledged that there is a"gap" between the world of experience (science) and that of morality, he also presented a scientific philosophy in which this gap is closed. He did this in his Critique of the Power of Judgement (the third Critique). In this (final) Critique Kant introduced another approach, which actually lies at the basis of all our interaction with both nature and morality, namely that as humans (with our kind of constitution) we have no choice but to introduce certain regulative ideas (guiding ideas; hypotheses) which can never be confirmed or denied, but which regulate the conceptual framework through which we engage with the world. In science, for example, we need the regulative idea that the world is ordered even though this can never be proven empirically [2]. In fact, this is the basis of all science. For Kant, the soul is another such regulative idea (although this is not discussed in the third Critique). Kant also introduced the idea of reflective judgement, which is not determinative (providing final outcomes) but which serves merely as an estimation of what the world may be like [5]. This kind of judgment operates together with regulative concepts.

The third Critique provides the basis from which we may consider the issue of the existence of the human soul. In the spirit of this Critique we may regard the existence of the soul as a working hypothesis in science. But how could we overcome the problem that all knowledge of the soul is ruled out in Kant's philosophical system? There is actually a way out. I have proposed that Kant's system may be reworked to bring it in line with contemporary scientific thought [6]. This may be done when we allow that time be combined not only with proper space as we find in the Kantian system, but also with ideal (conceptual) space as we find in quantum physics, where time is coupled with Hilbert (abstract) space.

When we introduce this change, we find that Kant's noumenal realm - called the supersensible realm in this Critique - is consistent with our current conception of the quantum realm (in both quantum mechanics and quantum field theory). This way of presenting the noumenal realm in the context of science is also in the spirit of the third Critique, where Kant introduced the noumenal realm within the framework of his philosophy of science. There he states quite unequivocal: "The power of judgment, through its a priori principle of judging nature in accordance with possible particular laws for it, provides for its supersensible substratum (in us as well as outside us) determinability [i.e. that it can determine outcomes as phenomena] through the intellectual faculty [i.e. we can think it]' (5:196)" (my accentuation).

I previously argued that Kant's noumenal realm is confirmed in quantum physics in the sense that his conceptualization thereof is in line with our theoretical (mathematical) and experimental understanding of the quantum realm [5]. Now we may recast the Kantian concept of the soul in such a quantum context. The soul as noumenal self would be that part of humans which exists in the quantum realm, which allows us to make free choices and which continue to exist after our death. This means that the soul is within the framework of scientific inquiry - something that Kant never thought would be possible. Although we may never be able to empirically demonstrate the existence of the soul (as Kant believed), we may be able to indirectly establish its existence in a similar way that we (indirectly) establish the existence of quantum particles even though they are not within experimental reach in their pre-measurement phase.  

Searching for the soul

Since the time of Kant science has established that the most important characteristic that Kant ascribes to the soul, namely spontaneity, is indeed to be found in the context of the quantum realm [7]. One should remember that it was to account for freedom of choice (grounded in spontaneity), that Kant introduced the concept of the noumenal self in the first place. Although this in itself obviously does not necessarily mean that the soul exists, it is nonetheless significant that spontaneity exists in our world in line with Kant's suggestion - and also that it exists exactly in the quantum realm which corresponds with Kant's noumenal realm. 

What would scientists be looking for when they search for evidence of the soul? According to the Kantian conception of the soul, they would be searching for an integrated part of our human existence which lies beyond our material bodies in the quantum realm, but which are nonetheless closely interwoven with the body in the context of consciousness, for example. The soul would involve a coherent, permanent form of existence which goes beyond mere quantum particles - one may suggest some kind of quantum "body", i.e. a non-material body, which corresponds with the pre-measurement state of quantum entities in the sense that it is not an appearance in space-time. (The soul would include aspects that are beyond the current scientific understanding in quantum physics; it may even include aspects that go beyond quantum physics itself). For the soul to continue existing after death with some kind of conscious mind, this quantum body must be able to store information independently from the body. Although the soul would be outside the direct reach of our senses and instruments, it may be within the reach of indirect empirical confirmation.

The British scientist-philosopher Sir Roger Penrose, who is an emeritus professor from Oxford University, together with Stuart Hameroff, emeritus professor at the University of Arizona, have developed a quantum theory of consciousness which they understand in terms of the soul. According to their neurological theory, consciousness is explained in terms of packets of information stored on the quantum level in microtubules in the brain [8]. In fact, we should not only think of consciousness as a packet of information stored in quantum states in the brain, but also that this information may survive death. Regarding the soul, Hameroff said in the documentary Through the Wormhole, which was aired in 2012 on the Science Channel: "If the patient dies, it is possible that this quantum information can exist outside the body, perhaps indefinitely, as the the soul" [9]. Insofar as their theory ascribes the soul to the quantum level, their view is consistent with mine.  

Image result for penrose soul
Sir Roger Penrose
In my view the possible confirmation of the soul is something which lies in the distant future - although arguments for believing therein may soon become part of current scientific debate. One may, for example, think that the soul exists in the framework of black matter - where theoretical scientists have proposed that humans have a body similar to our physical body existing of black matter [10]. As such this would be a quantum body, which is beyond direct empirical observation, but which nevertheless exists as part of our human existence. Although science cannot as yet determine whether this is indeed the case, there cannot be any doubt that scientific debate has changed dramatically over the last few years and that the existence of the soul as working hypothesis to explain things such as consciousness and freedom of choice (as a pillar of our justice system), makes good sense. 

The existence of the soul would negate atheism. It would support the religious worldview. If confirmed, the current conflict between religious and atheistic narratives would probably be superseded by one in which the various religious narratives are closely scrutinized for their consistency with reality. This is where the ascription of spontaneity and freedom of choice to the soul is particularly important. In the Judaeo-Christian view this is the basic requirement for the soul which allows humans to live up to the God-given moral law [11]. If we do not have free choice, this requirement is nonsensical. If the soul is indeed found to exist in the quantum realm where spontaneity rules, it would serve as a major confirmation of the Judaeo-Christian worldview. Then the quest would be to show how the soul interacts with the body to allow for free choice [12]. 

One may in fact argue that since spontaneity has been confirmed in the context of the quantum realm, that we have good reason to think that humans have freedom of choice (it is consistent evidence since the first is a necessary requirement for the second). But for humans to have freedom of choice, they would need a very complicated quantum aspect operating in the context of the human body which allows for such choice to become possible. Such a quantum aspect is consistent with our conception of the human soul - especially when viewed in terms of Kant's noumenal self. This means that we have good reason to think that humans have souls (the opposing view which rejects the possibility of the soul based on the metaphysical view that the universe is deterministic, has become untenable.)


Although we cannot as yet confirm or deny the existence of the human soul, the total rejection of this idea which characterized modernist times is long gone. We may proceed within the context of Kant's third Critique to present the noumenal self or soul (and even the logical self insofar as consciousness is concerned) as a sensible hypothesis which may govern a coherent scientific project. Science has already established that spontaneity is part of our world on the quantum level in accordance with Kant's proposal in this regard. It may soon establish that coherent "quantum bodies" exist and eventually that such a body (presumably a very complex one) is an integral part of our human existence.

Modernist man took a very superior position with regard to the ancients. The soul was one of the things - together with God - that they rejected as untenable. Now, everything has changed. If (when?) science establishes that such a quantum body underlies our physical body, the acknowledgement that science only presents us with a very reductive view of our world would be dramatically exhibited. In fact, since spontaneity would be an integrated part of such a quantum body (since it belongs to the quantum realm!), the case for God as giver of the moral law (for which freedom of choice is necessary) would become very strong indeed. Readers should ask themselves whether they would bet their eternal happiness on science not finding evidence for the soul over the next one hundred years? If the soul exists, life after death does - and from the Judaeo-Christian standpoint one have much to gain from belief in God [13].

[1] Kant calls his philosophy 'transcendental idealism'. By 'transcendental' Kant means that his idealism is concerned with the possibility of and conditions for (objective) experience, and as such with a priori cognition.
[2] See part 2 of this series
[3] Thiel, U. 2010. The Critique of Rational Psychology. In Graham Bird (ed.) A Companion to Kant. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
[4] Kant writes: "It is especially noteworthy that it is this transcendental idea of freedom [i.e. absolute spontaneity] on which the practical concept of freedom is grounded, and the former constitutes the real moment of the difficulties of the latter, which have long surrounded the question of its possibility" (A534/B562, B461-2; my accentuation).
[5] I simplify the Kantian conceptions such that lay readers would find them easier to understand.
[6] See part 3 of this series
[7] See part 1 of this series
[8] Stuart Hameroff summarizes the Penrose-Hameroff theory in an academic article in Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience: "The Penrose–Hameroff theory of 'orchestrated objective reduction (Orch OR)' identifies discrete conscious moments with quantum computations in microtubules inside brain neurons, e.g., 40/s in concert with gamma synchrony EEG. Microtubules organize neuronal interiors and regulate synapses. In Orch OR, microtubule quantum computations occur in integration phases in dendrites and cell bodies of integrate-and-fire brain neurons connected and synchronized by gap junctions, allowing entanglement of microtubules among many neurons. Quantum computations in entangled microtubules terminate by Penrose 'objective reduction (OR),' a proposal for quantum state reduction and conscious moments linked to fundamental spacetime geometry. Each OR reduction selects microtubule states which can trigger axonal firings, and control behavior. The quantum computations are 'orchestrated' by synaptic inputs and memory (thus “Orch OR”)." (in Front Integr Neurosci, Vol 6, 2012. See
[10] See, for example,
[11] Some moral philosophers and theologians may argue that equating the soul with a quantum body as part of our human existence, would lead to the infringement of science on the moral terrain. Although my approach do away with the strict divide between the scientific and moral realms typical of Kantian (and German) thinking, it does not undermine the validity of our moral existence. In my view we should not ground morality on the Kantian divide between the realms of science and morality, but rather on the divide between humans and animals. Although one may argue that human morality got some of its features from animal behavior (as some atheists do), it is exactly our human dignity (menswaardigheid) which grounds human morality. And this is the very essence of Christianity - we have value because God loves us in a special way.
[12] In the above-mentioned article [8] Hameroff argues that free will may be accounted for on the quantum level insofar as "conscious free will" is concerned. He writes " Regarding consciousness occurring 'too late,' quantum state reductions seem to involve temporal non-locality, able to refer quantum information both forward and backward in what we perceive as time, enabling real-time conscious causal action. Quantum brain biology and Orch OR can thus rescue free will." Although the spontaneity observed in quantum physics is harnessed to explain free will as I propose, there cannot be any doubt that we are still far from a full understanding of free will. In my view, one would require a much more complex quantum structure in line with my idea of a "quantum body" to explain that.
[13] Although my view comes close to identifying the quantum realm with the spirit world (spiritual world; see part 4 of this series), I do not in fact equate them. Rather, I argue that the quantum realm is not only consistent with our basic conceptualization of the spirit world (as the noumenal world), but is also our first level of contact with that world in the context of science. As such the soul as quantum body does not mean that the soul is only a quantum body. No, it may include aspects that go even beyond the quantum realm.
Nonetheless, the identification of the soul/spirit (we may distinguish the soul and the spirit but cannot separate these from each other - it is the spirit that gives the human soul its eternal dimension) with a quantum entity opens the question regarding the Spirit of God. Does He also belong to the quantum realm? One may propose that in the same way that Jesus Christ is the incarnation of God in the flesh, that His Spirit realizes His presence in the spirit realm - which in the context of our present discussion implies that He operates in some way within the quantum realm. One of the features of the quantum realm is that entities are connected non-locally - which on some level may imply being present everywhere.
One may argue that insofar as God exists outside his creation, He even stands outside the spirit realm - that is, if we view it as part of God's creation (it involves spiritual entities as created beings). This would mean that when we read that "God is spirit" (Joh. 4:24), it merely means that God manifests Himself as Spirit and that this is the way in which we as humans have communion with Him. 

Author: Dr Willie Mc Loud (Ref.

The author is a scientist-philosopher (PhD in Physics, MA in Philosophy). He writes on issues of religion, philosophy and science.

Science, Philosophy and God. Part 1: The problem of spontaneity in quantum mechanics
Science, Philosophy and God. Part 2: Science and our restricted human understanding
Science, Philosophy and God. Part 3: Science and metaphysics: in search of Russell's teapot
                                                      A new argument for the existence of God
Science, Philosophy and God. Part 4. Science and the spiritual realm

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Presenting a new ancient Middle Eastern chronology

In this essay I argue for a new ancient Middle Eastern chronology in which the Mesopotamian "high" chronology is used in correlation with K. A. Kitchen's "low" chronology for the Egyptian Twelve Dynasty. Although my primary focus is on the Akkadian empire and the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties in Egypt, I also show that this chronological reconciliation obtains widespread consistency with data over the total period of Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilization throughout the third and second millennia BC. I also discuss the Hebrew chronology in the framework of this new ME chronology. 

After centuries of archaeological endeavor in the Middle East there is still no consensus about the dating of the early Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilizations – both in absolute terms as well as in relation to each other. In this essay I make a new proposal using well-established chronologies, namely that the Mesopotamian high chronology should be correlated with K. A. Kitchen's low chronology for the Egyptian Twelve Dynasty (Kitchen 1987; Ward 1992) [1]. In this chronological reconciliation, the Akkadian empire (2370-2190 BC) is taken to have been simultaneous with the Fifth and early Sixth Dynasties in Egypt (2385-2120 BC) [2]. This period is the main concern of this essay.

In my approach I argue that we should make the following identifications regarding geographical terms: 1) the Mesopotamian name Makkan, which is nowadays often identified with Oman, refers to Egypt 2) the Egyptian name Punt refers to the island of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf, which was called Dilmun in Mesopotamia and 3) the Egyptian name ssmt, which is usually identified with the Sinai, refers to Sumer. I argue that the first appearance of iconography that is associated with the ssmt land during the reign of Sahure, the second king of the Fifth Dynasty – which was closely associated with a sudden burst of copper mining activity in the Sinai – corresponds with the newly founded Akkadian empire's relations with the copper-mining land of Makkan during the reign of Sargon the Great.

After discussing these terms and presenting the arguments for my view, I show how the rest of ancient Middle Eastern chronology is influenced by this approach. I also consider the Hebrew chronology and shows that a remarkable match with the dating in the Septuagint is obtained. All in all, my approach is able to obtain widespread consistency with data over the total period of the Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations throughout the third and second millennia BC.

The land of Makkan

The land of Makkan is first mentioned during the reign of Sargon the Great (2370-2310 BC), the founder of the Akkadian empire. Sargon mentioned it together with two other countries, namely Dilmun and Meluhha: “Sargon, king of the world, was victorious in 34 battles. He destroyed their city walls as far as the shore of the sea. He moored ships of Meluhha, Magan and Dilmun at the quay of Agade [Akkade]” (Frayne 1993:29). I assume that Dilmun refers to the island of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf, which Sargon is said to have conquered, and that Meluhha refers to the pre-Vedic Harappan civilization that flourished at that time in the great Indus valley (Potts 1982:280).

The next Akkadian king who mentioned Makkan, was Naram-Sin. He was the fourth Akkadian king and came to the throne in about 2290 BC, 80 years after Sargon founded the empire. He is said to have conquered Makkan during the time of the Great Revolt against him. He wrote in an inscription: “(When) all the four quarters together revolted against him and confronted him… Further he crossed the sea and conquered Magan [Makkan], in the midst of the sea, and washed his weapons in the Lower Sea [the Persian Gulf]” (Frayne 1993:97). He also captured Manium, the ruler of Makkan, and is said to have quarried diorite in those mountains for a statue of himself, which he dedicated to the god Dagan (Frayne 1993:117).

In the last mentioned inscription Naram-Sin is said to have crossed from Makkan to the Persian Gulf. Although one may take this as implying that Makkan was located in the Persian Gulf area, it is also consistent with Makkan being Egypt if we reconstruct Naram-Sin’s route as follows: after he conquered the northern regions towards the Mediterranean Sea during the first part of the rebellion, he proceeded to Egypt and then from there down to the Persian Gulf [3].

Such a northern location of Makkan would be consistent with another inscription, presumably by Naram-Sin, in which Makkan is grouped with the northern lands: “E(bl)a, Mari, Tuttul… Urkis, Mukis… Abarum and the land where the cedars are cut down, along with their provinces. The land of Subartum on the shores of the (Up)per Se(a), and Magan [Makkan], along with (its) province(s)… the other side of the se(a)” (Frayne 1993:163).

In my view there are various other reasons to also go with Thorkild Jacobsen and others in identifying Makkan with Egypt:

1. Egypt is the only location that has ever been identified beyond reasonable doubt with this name, namely during the reign of Takulti-Ninurta I, king of Assyria (1243-1207 BC).

2. Although Makkan was primarily associated with copper, Naram-Sin also mentioned that he obtained diorite for a statue from there. Since the diorite deposits of Oman are not found in large enough blocks to be used for the carving of statues, it has been suggested that Makkan included areas on the Makuran coast (the southern parts of present day Iran and Pakistan) across the Strait of Hormus (Possehl 1996:136). The problem for this view is that another Akkadian king, named Manishtushu, who got his diorite from there, never called this area Makkan (Frayne 1993:76). In fact, in one of his inscriptions it is associated with Meluhha (Possehl 1996:141), which corresponds with the fact that archaeological evidence shows that it belonged to the Meluhha cultural sphere (as did Oman) (Dales 1962:5; Vogt 1996:110, 119). On the other hand, we know that high quality diorite statues were synonymous with Egypt since early times.

3. The name Makkan is for the first time mentioned by Sargon (Cleuziou 1986:148). This is quite significant because the Sumerians got their copper from Oman since they first used the metal – and it would be strange indeed if it is first mentioned in Akkadian times. We also find that Makkan is mentioned only by the two most prominent of the Akkadian rulers (although it is also mentioned by the later Ur III rulers) – whereas Meluhha is mentioned already in the previous period. Makkan is also not mentioned as often as Meluhha (Possehl 1996:145). These points suggest that it was a much longer journey to Makkan which was made less frequently – only during those periods when the Akkadian empire reached its greatest extend.

4. The alabaster vase that Naram-Sin inscribed with the words “booty of Makkan” is distinctly similar to vases from the late Fifth and Sixth Dynasties (Edwards 1971:445). Alabaster vases from Egyptian origin (from the Fifth and Sixth Dynastic Period) were also found at the Barbar temple on Bahrain (level IIa), which suggests that contact with Egypt happened during the Akkadian period via the sea route (Mortensen 1986:184).

After the Akkadian period, the contact with Makkan was re-established during the Ur III period (2168-2060 BC). During this time two kings, namely Amar-Sin and his brother Su-Sin, mention that Makkan recognized their rule (Astour 2002:101)! We also read that a governor (ensi) ruled over Makkan in the name of the king during Amar-Sin’s rule. Now, although such claims would be nonsensical in orthodox chronology if Makkan is taken as referring to Egypt (since that would be during the Old Kingdom period), in my chronological reconstruction it makes sense: Amar-Sin (2096-2088 BC) and Su-Sin (2087-2079 BC) ruled during the chaotic period which followed the fall of the Old Kingdom in 2120 BC until the Ninth Dynasty was established in 2080 BC.

The Ur III dynasty also had some control over Byblos on the Canaanite coast and a governor (ensi) is even said to have ruled this city on their behalf (Sollberger 1959-60:122). A cuneiform tablet dating from that period was discovered there (Albright 1961:45) as well as an inscribed seal of a merchant (Malamat 1975:373). The lady of Byblos (Baalat) was even worshipped at that time at Ur in Sumer (Dalley 1998:15). In fact, it seems that she was also worshipped in the Sinai in the form of Hathor, who had the epithet nbt kpn, which may be an Egyptian translation of Baalat Gebal (Baalat of Byblos; Giveon 1978:61). This Hathor was also called Lady of Punt, which was located down the Red Sea route. This suggests that the sea route was used to travel from Byblos to the Sinai and from there to Ur [4].

The ssmt land

The iconography associated with the ssmt land appears for the first time in Egypt during the reign of king Sahure (2378-2366 BC), second king of the Sixth Dynasty. There can be no doubt that the name ssmt was somehow related to the copper mining activities in the Sinai that commenced at this time and which are attested for nearly two hundred years. As such depictions of boats appear in the funerary temple of Sahure and again in the Causeway of Unas, the last king of the Sixth Dynasty, whereas inscriptions appear at the mining areas in the Sinai during the reign of Djedkare Isesi, the second-last king of the Fifth Dynasty, as well as during the reigns of Pepi I and Pepi II, the third and fifth kings of the Sixth Dynasty.

The hogging-truss on the boats show that these were seafaring boats which were able to carry huge loads (Nibbi 1975:131). Both Egyptians and Asiatics are shown on the boats and there are specific reference to translators, which may imply that the Asiatics came from elsewhere to work the mines in the Sinai (Nibbi 1975:131). These boat depictions are consistent with the inscriptions in the Sinai in which reference is made to copper, scribes, translators, pilots of boats and other naval officials (Cerny 1955:61). The depicted boats clearly transported copper – presumably to the land from where these Asiatics came.

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Figure 1. Depiction of a boat with Asiatics from Sahure’s funeral temple.
At the same time that these mining activities commenced, another remarkable figure makes his appearance (in the funeral temple of Sahure). He is called Sopdu and appears again during the Fifth Dynasty in the funerary temple of Neuserre, the sixth ruler of the dynasty (Nibbi 1981:35). He is also mentioned in the Pyramid Texts inscribed in the funeral temples of the kings of the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties since the time of Unas to Pepi II. In later periods he is also attested in the Sinai as one would expect (although this is attested only from the Twelve Dynasty).

Sopdu is depicted with naked upper body, wig, curly beard, collar, kilt as well as an ankh in the one hand and a w3s-septer (“power” or “dominion”) in the other. On his head are two straight feathers. The kilt is fastened with a girdle from which tassels hang. This girdle or apron is called the “ssmt-apron” and is identified with the ssmt land (Nibbi 1981:34). This depiction is consistent with those of the spirits/souls of (deceased) divinised kings, except for the headpiece and the tasseled girdle (Frankfort 1948:97; Baines 1985:35, 38) [5]. Sopdu is afforded the following titles: “lord of foreign lands”, “lord of the ssmt land”, “lord of the east” (Cerny 1955:42).

Who is Sopdu? The fact that Sopdu is associated with the Sinai obviously does not imply that he was a local lord of that region; rather, one would think that he may be the ruler or god of those Asiatics who were active in the Sinai. In fact, the first depiction of this figure shows him as a great conquering warrior-god-king. He walks behind Seth and his captives are shown in a panel underneath them. According to this depiction it was the god Seth who gave him the victory. The inscription above identifies him as “lord of foreign lands”. Obviously Sopdu was not a local king associated with the Sinai since no signs of such a kingdom have been found. We never find any suggestions that such mighty kings ruled from the Sinai during the Old Kingdom period.

Figure 2. Sopdu as conquering god-king
Sopdu seems to be a representation of Asiatic kings who ruled somewhere in the east over the ssmt land. They did not always had peaceful relations with Egypt since we read in the Pyramid Texts of Unas that Sopdu was the one who killed that king: “Sopdu he (who resides) under his kesbet-tree. Has he killed you (the king) after his heart told him that you shall die through him? Lo, you come into being against him as the Bull of the wild bulls, who remained (after the fight). He remains, he remains, the bull who remained, and you will also remain, Unas, at their head, at the head of the spirits forever” (utterance 306).

In my view there are various reasons to think that Sopdu was originally a representation of the Akkadian king and that the ssmt land refers to Sumer:

1. The copper mining activities in the Sinai during the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties correspond with the Akkadian reference to boats from Makkan, where copper was mined during the empire period. In my chronology the Akkadian empire does not only co-existed with these dynasties; the duration of these activities over a period of about two hundred years is consistent with the duration of that empire. Furthermore, translators and escorts (viaticum) on boats are also attested in Akkadian relations with Meluhha (Glassner 1996:235/6).

2. Sopdu as conquering king is consistent with the traditions about Sargon, who conquered the outlaying areas of northern Mesopotamia. According to the omen tradition, “He (Sargon) crossed the sea of the west [Mediterranean Sea] and in the 3rd year his hand conquered the land of the west to its full extend, he made its mouth to be one (i.e. he made it obedient to him); he erected his steles in the west; their booty he brought over (the sea) in rafts” (Malamat 1975:366; Edwards 1971:425).

Sargon says in an inscription: “Sargon, the king, bowed down to the god Dagan in Tuttul. He [the god Dagan] gave to him [Sargon] the upper land: Mari, Jarmuti and Ebla as far as the Cedar Forest [the Amanus] and the Silver Mountains [the Taurus mountains in southern Turkey]” (Frayne 1993:29). If the Jarmuti referred to is the same one that is mentioned in the Amarna letters, Sargon’s conquest brought him south of Byblos or maybe even to the Nile delta, depending on where this city was located (Astour 2002:70).

Of special interest is the reference to the western weather god Dagan who gave these victories to Sargon. If we take Seth as being identified with the western weather god since the time of Sahure (as he was later during the Middle Kingdom), then the depiction of Seth leading Sopdu to victory is consistent with Dagan leading Sargon to victory! We find consistent with this that steles of Sopdu was later placed next to that of Baal (and Anat), when this god supplanted Dagan as the Canaanite weather god.

3. Sopdu is depicted as a divinised king. This is also what we know about Sargon, for example on his victory stele, where he is identified with the god Ningirsu. On this stele he is shown standing before the enthroned Istar, holding a net in which his enemies were caught. This depiction is taken over from an earlier pre-dynastic stele erected by king Eanatum where Ningirsu held the enemies of the king in a net (ca. 2500 BC). In this case Sargon himself does not only hold the net, he is even depicted in the pose of the god, which led Lorenzo Nigro to write: “Sargon presents himself in the classic position of a city-god” (1998:87). Naram-Sin was also famously declared to be a god after his victory in the rebellion.

4. Sopdu’s tasseled girdle is identified with the ssmt land. Such a tussle on a girdle is also shown on a statue of the funerary priest Kaemqed, which dates from Fifth Dynasty. What is especially interesting about the priest is the way in which his hands are folded together. It had been observed by the French scholar Pierre Gilbert that it is in typical Sumerian convention (Gilbert 1960:101). Usually the Egyptian priests hold their hands apart. This may imply that the tasseled girdle is also of Sumerian origin. 

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Figure 3. Kaemqed
Since the girdle is the only item (with the feathers) that distinguishes Sopdu from the (deceased) divinised Egyptian kings, we may ask if this piece of clothing was part of the Akkadian royal dress. We do in fact find that such tasseled girdles were worn by the so-called lahmu’s (hairies) on Akkadian seals. One can even see such a belt with tassels on Naram-Sin’s Bassetki sculpture. A variation on this figure is the naked bearded hero who is shown in the Akkadian period as a “royal hero”, with a flat cap, long hair, beard and fringed kilt (Costello 2010). This royal dress may reflect the king’s participation in the cult. The dress of the “royal hero”, with tasseled belt and kilt (and the long hair and beard), looks distinctly similar to that of Sopdu [6] (except for the feathered headpiece which had some special significance for the Egyptians [7]).

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Figure 4. A seal from Ur showing the "royal hero" (ca. 2200 BC)
5. What is especially significant is that Sumerian iconography appears in Egypt exactly in the period that the relations with the ssmt land commences. Pierre Gilbert mentions, apart from the posture of the priest Kaemqed, the depiction of twin lions looking in opposite directions that appear during the reign of Sahure. This depiction is in accordance with Sumerian iconography that goes back to the royal tombs of Ur in pre-Akkadian times (Gilbert 1960:95; Frankfort 1939:98).

There cannot be any reasonable doubt that this confirms that contact between Egypt and Sumer happened during Sahure’s reign. Gilbert suggests that these Sumerian influences in Egypt which appear since the time of Sahure is connected with the boat depictions in his funeral temple. One may suggest that the reason why we find Sumerian influences instead of Akkadian ones even though this corresponds with the early Akkadian period in my reconstruction of events, is that Sargon visited the northern lands early in his reign (in his third year, according to the omen tradition). His usage of Sumerian motifs is also visible on his victory stele discussed above. One should also note that the name ssmt corresponds with Sumer if the feminine t-ending is ignored.

6. The appearance of Sopdu during Sahure’s reign (in about 2367 BC) and the death of Unas by Sopdu’s hand (in about 2282 BC) is consistent with Sargon and Naram-Sin’s visits to the northern lands (Makkan). Sargon’s campaign took him to the Mediterranean Sea in about the eleventh year of Sahure’s reign (if we assume it was in Sargon’s third year) whereas Naram-Sin’s conquest of Makkan took place after his victory over the northern rebels led by the city of Apisal in the north (in about the eighth year of his reign), which would correspond with the end of Unas’s reign (and the end of the Fifth Dynasty) [8, 9]. Although Naram-Sin calls the conquered king of Makkan Manium, this name is similar to Maneros, the name under which the Egyptian kings were bewailed in the Osiris cult.

These points provide substantial evidence that the ssmt land refers to Sumer. One of the main aims of the Akkadian king’s military campaigns to far-away regions was to establish supplies of metals. Their visits to Egypt would have led to Sinai copper being shipped to southern Mesopotamia through the southern sea route. An important intermediate stop on this route would have been Bahrain, which the Sumerians called Dilmun. In my view this island was called Punt by the Egyptians.

The island state of Punt

There is another land that also for the first time became significant since the reign of Sahure, namely Punt (Kitchen 1982:1198) – which is only mentioned once before in connection with a Puntite slave in the time of king Khufu. What is significant about Punt, is that it was reached with the sea route down the Red Sea and that it seems to have been located within the geographical sphere of influence of the ssmt land. As Punt is mentioned more often in inscriptions we may assume that it was located closer to Egypt than the ssmt land.

Kings who are associated with Punt are Djedkare Isesi of the Fifth Dynasty and Pepi II of the Sixth Dynasty. Of special interest is the fact that only kings that are associated with depictions of the mentioned boats or inscriptions in the Sinai, are associated with Punt! Mereruka, a high official of Teti, first king of the Sixth Dynasty, probably also undertook expeditions to Punt. In his mastaba is a depiction of a flotilla of more than 20 boats. Also shown are dwarfs in a metal working context. Another official who visited both Punt and Byblos was Khnumhotep, high official of Pepi II (Kitchen 1982:1199). The inhabitants of Punt are called the “bearded ones” (Nibbi 1981:51). Various esoteric products have been associated with Punt which may imply that it was a great trading centre.

A particularly colourful story about Punt from a later period (Middle Kingdom), is about the “shipwrecked sailor”. According to this story a sailor was on his way to certain mines on the king’s behalf, when his boat sunk during a storm and he was washed ashore on an island situated about two months sailing from Egypt. The lord of the island is described as a snakelike figure who showed him hospitality and pronounced that he will be found by sailors from his homeland in four month’s time. When that day eventually came, the lord gave the sailor all sorts of precious gifts including spices, incense, elephants' tusks, greyhounds and baboons.

In my view there are various reasons to accept the identification of Punt with Bahrain:

1. The only place that fits the description of Punt in the story of the “shipwrecked sailor” – and with which a snake-cult was associated – is Bahrain (Dilmun). Michael Rice, who has done a lot of research about the relations between Egypt and the Gulf, writes: “Dilmun is the only example in the Old World of an island-based society [my accentuation]… To anyone familiar with Dilmun’s customary merchandise the gifts [from the serpent-king to the sailor] make interesting reading for they are all products for which the island’s trade was later celebrated” (Rice 1986:204, 123). The mentioned mines would refer to that of Oman.

2. Bahrain is the only known island state that could have had substantial trading relations with Egypt consistent with boats carrying copper to that destination (which seems to be a sensible deduction in the light of the discussion above). After the Akkadian conquest, Bahrain became the centre of a node of trading relations that stretched to distant lands. The scholar Gregory Possehl, who studied this period extensively, writes: “In the ancient texts there is talk of Dilmun merchants and, as noted, many references to this place as a commercial centre. One gets a sense that Dilmun was the operational ‘nerve-centre’ for this early Gulf and Arabian Sea Trade” (Possehl 1996:147).

3. Towards the end of the Old Kingdom [i.e. the end of the Sixth Dynasty] we read about the so-called Fenekhu and “bow-people” who appeared in the Nile delta from the east. We read in the last Pyramid Texts about “the Ram gate which repulses the Fenekhu” and “fear of me extends to heaven… my slaughter impresses the Fenekhu” (Redford 1992:63). The name Fenekhu shows close correspondence with that of the later Phoenicians. It seems likely that it refers to early forefathers of the Phoenicians who appeared in Canaan since the early Middle Bronze Period (since the end of the Old Kingdom). What is important for our purposes, is that the name Fenekhu also corresponds with the name “Punt”.

There is an ancient tradition that the forefathers of the Phoenicians came from the Persian Gulf to settle on the Canaanite coast. The Greek historian Herodotus wrote, for example: “[The Phoenicians, they say,] came to our seas [the eastern Mediterranean] from the Erythrean Sea [Persian Gulf], and having settled in the country which they still occupy, at once began to make long voyages”. This tradition explains why the names of the Phoenician cities correspond with similar names in the Gulf as Strabo mentions: “On sailing further [down the Erythrean Sea], one comes to the other islands, I mean Tyre [Dilmun] and Aradus, which have temples like those of the Phoenicians. It is asserted, at least by the inhabitants of the islands, that the islands and cities of the Phoenicians which bear the same name are their colonies”.

If we take the forefathers of the Phoenicians as the Fenekhu of the last Pyramid Texts, then their origin from Punt (from which the name Fenekhu seems to be derived) is consistent with that island being the Dilmun of the Phoenicians traditions. This would reaffirm that Punt refers to the island of Bahrain (Dilmun) [11].

Other considerations

I have now argued that we have good reasons to assume that the Akkadian empire co-existed with the Fifth and early Sixth Dynasties in Egypt. What about the earlier period? Is this dating – which uses astronomical data (the observations of Venus in Mesopotamia and that of Sirius in Egypt) – consistent with other such data from earlier periods? In my view it is.

The most important archaeoastronomical monument in Egypt is the Great Pyramid, which was built during the reign of Khufu, the second king of the Fourth Dynasty. Although the pyramid has a very special design that blends in with the particular orientation of the shafts in the Queen’s and King’s Chambers, I do not believe that these should only be considered as an architectonic feature. Rather, I believe that their alignment with certain stars (within the range of error that is to be expected) is a perfectly legitimate way of dating that beautiful structure.

Chronological dating based on the alignment of the shafts with those stars gives a date of about 2450 BC. This corresponds very well with dating of the pyramid that supposes that it was aligned with the cardinal points, namely 2480 BC (Nature, Nov. 2000). Although these dates are about 150 years later than that which is usually assumed, they are consistent with each other and also fits in very well with Kitchen’s low chronology.

I acknowledge that the shafts are not perfectly straight and that their alignment with the relevant stars are not exact, but we know that we cannot expect German precision for a monument that is about 4500 years old! Realistically, we know that all ancient archaeoastronomical alignments involve a degree of error due to 1) the restricted measurement and building tools available at that time and 2) imperfections due to aging.

The point is that the agreement is good enough to assume an archaeoastronomical basis – especially since the relevant stars also play an important role in the Pyramid Texts. This is why scholars such as I. E. S. Edwards had no problem accepting the usage of these shafts for archaeoastronomical dating [12]. Based on these archaeoastronomical considerations I date the beginning of Khufu’s reign to about 2470 BC, which is 100 years before the start of the Akkadian empire according to the high chronology of Mesopotamian dating.

When we go further back to the beginning of the dynastic period, we find that these dates are consistent with that period commencing with the Sothic New Year on 17 July 2781 BC. Since the Egyptians observed the heliacal rising of Sirius at that time as can be seen from an inscription on an ivory tablet from the time of king Djer, the successor of king Horus-Aha, we may assume that the Egyptians probably made a big deal of this rare event when the heliacal rising of Sirius occurred on the New Year’s day – planning the unification of the lands to coincide therewith.

Insofar as the pre-dynastic period is concerned, there are a lot of archaeological evidence for contact with Sumer which has been extensively studied and is not our concern here. When considered in the context of my chronological reconstruction, the end of the Uruk period in Mesopotamia may be dated to about 2850 BC [13].

Hebrew chronology

When we move in the opposite direction to investigate later periods, there is not a lot to go on in searching to reconcile Egyptian and Mesopotamian chronology for the next few centuries [14]. One group that did interact with both lands is the Abrahamic family. According to the Hebrew Bible Abraham, who came from Ur in Sumer, journeyed to Canaan and visited Egypt. Of particular importance in this respect is an Elamite incursion that is said to have happened in the period after Abraham migrated from Harran (where he and his family stayed for some time) to Canaan.

We are in the fortunate position that we do not only know that such an incursion of the Elamites into north-western Syria actually took place during that time, but also when, namely in 1822 BC (it happened only once during that period). Although some scholars are suspicious about the historicity of Abraham, the historicity of this event suggests that the story of Abraham is also based on real events. In fact, the date of this event is consistent with the Septuagint dating of Abraham’s arrival in Canaan, namely in 1837 BC [15, 16].

The Elamite incursion would have happened 15 years after Abraham’s arrival in Canaan, during the reign of Siwe-palar-huppak, king of Elam (1826-1799 BC), which is about 19 years before Hammurabi became overlord of Mesopotamia in 1818 BC after his victory over Rim-Sin of Larsa in Sumer. The northern invaders might have marched under the leadership of Kudu-zulus, the brother of the king, who ruled in Esnunna (Van de Mieroop 2005:17). One may suggest that the name “Kedor” in Kedor-Laómer, the name of the leader of the invaders according to the Biblical narrative, goes back to “Kudu” in Kudu-zulus because these names have the same root form K-d.

Another interesting piece of information in the Hebrew Bible, is that Abraham journeyed to Egypt – seemingly directly after his first arrival in Canaan because there was famine in the land (see Gen. 12:5-10). According to the Septuagint this would have happened in about 1836 BC, which is consistent with the well-known depiction at Beni Hassan in Egypt of a man called Abishai/r, the Amorite form of Abraham (Hoffmeier 2008:42), who came with his entourage from Canaan to Egypt in the sixth year of king Senusert II in about 1836 BC [17]. Since Abraham is said to have been a “mighty prince” (Gen. 28:6), it is reasonable to think that his arrival might have been noticed by the ruling class in Egypt (as the Biblical tale also mentions). As such the Beni Hassan depiction might indeed be that of the Biblical Abraham.

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Figure 5. Abishai and his entourage arriving in Egypt from Canaan
What we find, is that the events ascribed to the Biblical Abraham is in agreement with my chronological reconstruction – both insofar as the Elamite incursion as well as his visit to Egypt is concerned. 

We may also consider the Biblical information about the exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt. According to the Septuagint that happened 430 years after Abraham’s departure from Harran to Canaan, which would be in 1408 BC. When we compare that with Kitchen’s low chronology, this happened during the reign of Amenhotep II (1427-1401 BC).

Insofar as Israel's residence in Egypt is concerned, one may mention depictions from the time of Thutmose III (1481-1427 BC) showing foreigners making bricks in which a clear distinction is made between west Asian Semites, African Nubians and the Egyptian taskmasters, some of whom are shown with sticks prodding the workers. This is consistent with the Biblical description of the final years of Israel's stay in Egypt. 

Scholars who take the Biblical chronology serious, often assume - consistent with my position - that his son Amenhotep II was the pharaoh of the exodus [18]. During the time of Merneptah, son and successor of Raamsses II (from the Nineteenth Dynasty), Israel was already established in the land of Canaan since he mentions them in a stele in 1208 BC as already living there (Hoffmeier 2008:51).


In this short essay I present arguments for a new ancient Middle Eastern chronology in which the Mesopotamian high chronology is used with Kitchen’s low chronology for the Egyptian Twelfth Dynasty. I propose that the Akkadian empire co-existed with the Fifth and early Sixth Dynasties in Egypt. In my view the land Makkan refers to Egypt whereas the ssmt land and Punt refers to Sumer and Dilmun respectively. I discuss a wide range of data to show that this position is not merely consistent with the evidence, but also explains data that has until now merely been ignored, such as the Sumerian influences in Egypt during the reign of Sahure.

I also explain why a conquering divinised king, namely Sopdu, who was the “lord of foreign countries”, appeared in Egypt in exactly the same time when large scale copper mining activities commenced in the Sinai. In my view this king is Sargon the Great and the copper was shipped eastwards to the island of Bahrain and also to Sumer. My view also explains the extremely strange statement in the Pyramid Texts of Unas that he was killed by Sopdu. I show that this is consistent with Naram-Sin’s conquest of Makkan. In general, I show that this chronological reconciliation is consistent with the Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations for other relevant periods.

[1] Kitchen’s low chronology is consistent with Rolf Krauss’s (1985) assumption that the observation of the heliacal rising of the star Sirius in the seventh year of king Senusert III of the Twelve Dynasty, was made at Elephantine – which gives a date of 1830 BC. In Kitchen’s low chronology the Twelve Dynasty is dated to 1937-1759 BC (Ward 1992:63).
[2] Using Kitchen’s low chronology as basis, we may proceed as follow to obtain these dates: The Eleventh Dynasty lasted for 143 years according to the Royal Canon, which brings us to a date of about 2080 BC for the beginning of that dynasty. The Tenth and Ninth Dynasties, situated at Heracleopolis, coexisted with the Eleventh Dynasty based at Thebes (both the Heracleopolitan and Thebean dynasties commencing in 2080 BC, but the first mentioned ended earlier). One may assume that the Eight Dynasty lasted only for about 21 years. The Seventh and Sixth Dynasties together lasted for 181 years according to Royal Canon. This gives a date of about 2282 BC for the beginning of the Sixth Dynasty. For the Fifth Dynasty, the Royal Canon lists nine kings of whom seven's reign-lengths are preserved giving 96 years. If we assume that the Fifth Dynasty lasted about 103 years (which would be necessary for a reconciliation with the Akkadian chronology), then it began in 2385 BC. Khufu’s reign started about 85 years earlier in 2470 BC.]
[3] There is literary evidence which suggests that the sea route from the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf was known at that time. In the Sargon birth legend we read: “The entire sea I went around, Dilmun did submit to me”. The words “the entire sea I went around” implies that Sargon traveled by sea around the known world. The Akkadian word used literally means “surrounded” (Lewis 1980:64), which means that he went around the entire sea. We find this same picture of the world being surrounded by the sea in the story of Etana – that great Kishite hero who became very popular during the Akkadian period (Horowitz 1998:60; Frankfort 1939:137). According to the story Etana saw the world from above when he looked down from the back of the eagle. It looked like an “animal enclosure”, surrounded by the ocean (Wiggermann 1996:209). This suggests that the general opinion at that time was that the sea surrounds the Mesopotamian world. Consistent with this view, it might have been possible at that time to sail from the Mediterranean Sea through the Nile delta, the Wadi Tumilat and the Eastern Lakes to the Red Sea (Nibbi 1975:18).
[4] A seal from the Ur III period which belonged the merchant Shukur-ili, who might have been an agent of a Mesopotamian trading firm, was discovered in Egypt (Smith 1922:209).
[5] Two divinised ancestor-kings are shown on the doorjambs of Sahure’s temple. This is the first time that they are depicted in this form and may have reference to two statues of such kings. Dual statues are also attested in Sumer, where two of them stood before the Enlil temple at Nippur in pre-Sargonic times (Hallo 1992:390).

Figure 6. Divinised ancestor-kings: Sahure's temple
[7] These two feathers signify the two divine eyes, the sun and moon (Richter 2012:108). It probably appears on Sopdu’s head to show his remarkable greatness and glory [6]. As far as I know, Sumer is the only place where the tasseled belt is attested in iconographic depictions of this early period.
[8] In my view Sargon came to the throne in about 2370 BC in accordance with the high chronology. If he visited (conquered?) Egypt during his campaign to the Mediterranean Sea in the third year of his reign, that would have been in 2367 BC. In my version of the Egyptian chronology, this would have been in the 11th year of the reign of Sahure, who came to the throne 7 years after the commencement of the Fifth Dynasty. 
According to the Sumerian King List Naram-Sin came to the throne 80 years after the beginning of the Akkadian empire, that is, in 2290 BC. That would be about eight years before the end of Unas’s rule in 2282 BC. This date is consistent with archaeological data from the destruction of the north-Syrian city of Ebla by Naram-Sin. That conquest could not have taken place before the reign of Pepi I, third king of the Sixth Dynasty, since an alabaster vase bearing his titles that was found in the ruins. If we allow that Pepi I’s two predecessors as kings of that dynasty ruled for about 14 years in total, then Naram-Sin would have conquered Ebla some time after his twenty-second year. This is consistent with the reconstruction of the events during his reign done by Douglas Frayne.
[9] There has been a lot of debate about the dating of Ebla's destruction in the Akkadian period. Is the archaeological evidence consistent with a destruction during Sargon's time or during that of Naram-Sin? Paolo Matthiae, who excavated the ruins, dated the palace on stylistic grounds to the time of Naram-Sin (Matthiae 1977:92,159). The excavated Ebla archives, however, belong to an earlier period and some have used that to argue that the destruction took place in the time of Sargon (Archi & Biga 2003:13). In this regard one should remember that archaeological remains always provide us with an incomplete picture of the events of that time. In my view Naram-Sin would not have boasted in an inscription and introduced a new title for himself regarding such a great and remarkable victory if it did not really happen.
[10] Anchor stones in front of Mereruka’s mastaba show a remarkable correspondence with similar ones from the same period at the Barbar temple (level II) on Bahrain (Mortensen 1986:184).
[11] There is substantial archaeological evidence that Canaanite migrants came from southern Mesopotamia and the Persian Gulf during the early Middle Bronze Period. One may mention the stone-built corbel-vaulted tombs that now appear in Canaan and which are known from Bahrain and even Ur where such mud-brick tombs also appear under the floors (Weadock 1975:109), the practice of placing anchors at temples such as those at the Baal temple at Ras Shamra and at the Barbar temple on Bahrain (Mortensen 1986:184), the Canaanite bull-cult which had a long history in the Gulf, seals with Gulf designs that appear not only in Egypt but also in Syria-Cappadocia (Kjaerum 1986:275) as well as seals with mixed Egyptian-Gulf designs that were found in the Gulf (Frankfort 1939:297; Rice 1994:282).
Scholars such as Michael Rice (1994) and Poul Kjaerum (1986) made a convincing case that people from the Gulf had migrated through the Nile Delta to Canaan during the First Intermediary Period (which includes the Seventh to Tenth Dynasties) in Egypt.
[12] One may even assume that the shafts have historically been used to establish the traditional chronology because those dates are perfectly consistent with previous calculations of their orientation – giving a date of about 150 years earlier than 2450 BC.
[13] Although this date is substantially later than dendrochronologically obtained dates, this is not a problem for my position because such dates can never be more than relative dates. In his book A Slice through Time the dendrochronologist M.G.L. Baillie acknowledges that the master chronologies "are not 100% matches" and that the application of the technique is based on subjective judgement: “The practiced dendrochronologist is looking for matches that he/she is willing to accept, based on experience, as correct matches between long ring patterns”.
In his review of this book, Ron Tappy wrote: "This subjective intuitive aspect of dendrochronology might easily fail to satisfy the tolerances and significance levels expected by statisticians... Recognition of this subjective human element and the inconclusiveness of many of the case studies introduced in the course of the book dampen somewhat one’s appreciation for the purportedly absolute precision of the science. Various factors, such as the loss of the outermost layers of unconsolidated sapwood from a collective sample, seem to compromise the accuracy of the overall method” (Tappy 2001:215).
Dating archaeological layers have other problems as well. Sometimes the dendrochronologically derived at dates for samples from the same archaeological layer differ substantially. So, for example, the grain and charcoal samples taken under well-controlled circumstances from the destruction signifying the end of layer 6 at Tell Brak (this is the period just before the Naram-Sin palace) gave dates of 2023 BC and 2662 BC respectively (Oates 1985:144). Archaeologists normally assign the reign of the Akkadian ruler Naram-Sin somewhere between these dates. Many similar examples can be added.
[14] I agree with Ward (1992) that the identification of Yantin-hammu of Byblos, who lived during Hammurabi’s reign, with E/Antin of Byblos who lived during the reign of Neferhotep I, the twenty-first king of the Thirteenth Dynasty, is based on “questionable reconstructions of damaged texts” (Ward 1992:54).
[15] The Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible made during the third to second centuries BC.
[16] According to the Septuagint, Abraham’s journey from Harran in upper-Syria to Canaan took place 430 years before the exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt (Ex. 12:40), which in turn happened 440 years before Solomon commenced with the building of the temple in 967 BC (1 Ki. 6:1). This gives a date of 1837 BC for Abraham’s arrival in Canaan. According to the Masoretic text, the 430 years commenced much later, namely with Israel's migration to Egypt. The text reads (the differences with the Septuagint are shown in italics): "And the sojourning of the children of Israel, and of their fathers, while they sojourned in the land of Canaan and in the land of Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years".
[17] I assume that Senusert II ruled for only 6 years in accordance with Kitchen's dating of his rule to 1842-1836 BC (see note 1). He might have started some of his building projects while he was co-regent with his father. This means that the depiction at Beni Hassan of Abishai/r arriving in the sixth year of king Senusert II from Canaan, would place this event in 1836 BC. This is consistent with the Hebrew chronology in the Septuagint. 
[18] Amenhotep II is also suggested as the pharaoh of the exodus by some scholars who use the Egyptian high chronology together with the Masoretic text of the Bible. In this case Amenhotep II’s rule may be dated to 1455-1418 BC whereas the exodus may be placed in 1446 BC. For a detailed discussion of the consistency of Amenhotep II’s reign with the Biblical details of the exodus, see Douglas Petrovich’s thesis, Amenhotep II and the historicity of the exodus-pharaoh, Novosibirsk (2006).


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Author: Dr Willie Mc Loud (Ref.

The author has written a book on the Sumerian roots of the early Biblical tradition (Abraham en sy God (Griffel, 2012)) and is a scientist-philosopher (PhD in Physics, MA in philosophy). He writes on issues of religion, philosophy, science and eschatology.

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An archaeological perspective on the Bible