What is it like to date in Egypt

Chronology of Ancient Egypt newly fixed with 14C dates

The historical chronology of the dynastic time period of Egypt is based on the duration of the reigns of the individual pharaohs, which was derived from written records and from archaeological information. This relative chronology is fixed in time by some astronomical observations, which are also described in the written records of that time. However, since there are certain temporal uncertainties in the interpretation of the traditional celestial phenomena, it seemed desirable to create an absolute chronology independent of this for the pharaonic times of Egypt.

211 "Time Samples" from European and North American museums
This has now been achieved in a three-year project under the direction of Christopher Bronk Ramsey, Director of the Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit at Oxford University, by an international team of researchers from Great Britain, Austria, France and Israel using the radiocarbon method. For this purpose, 211 samples from various European and North American museums were 14C-dated. The prerequisite for the selection of the samples was that they could be clearly assigned to a specific time period within the historical Egyptian chronology, such as the reign of a pharaoh or the time when a temple was built. The 14C dating was carried out with Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) at the University of Oxford, the University of Vienna and the research laboratory in Saclay / France.

Result: The previous dating has been shifted in some time ranges
Eva Maria Wild, head of the 14C program of the accelerator facility at the VERA laboratory and deputy spokesperson for the isotope research group at the University of Vienna, made a significant contribution to this study. She explains the results: "The chronology of the pharaonic times of Egypt based on 14C measurements essentially confirms the historical Egyptian chronology, but shows a somewhat higher age for the so-called Old Kingdom than was assumed by some Egyptologists the beginning of the reign of Djoser (3rd dynasty) is dated to the period from 2691 to 2625 BC The beginning of the New Kingdom is also slightly dated, to the period from 1570 to 1544 BC This result will certainly be significant contribute to the clarification of the previously existing, different opinions about the temporal fixation of the historical Egyptian chronology. "

Using the information known from the royal lists about the chronological sequence of the rehearsals and taking into account the reigns of the individual pharaohs, which are also known to be known, the 14C data could be calibrated very precisely (allocated to calendar time ranges). In this way, a chronology could be created for the New Kingdom that is accurate to about 24 years. This accuracy was not achieved for the older dynasties because of the lower number of samples available, but considerable improvements in accuracy were achieved in this time range compared to a single measurement.

14C dating projects at the University of Vienna
The accelerator laboratory at the University of Vienna is one of the leading international laboratories in the field of 14C dating. In addition to international project participation, the most important research cooperation of a similar type is the Special Research Area (SFB) SCIEM2000. This research project - led by Manfred Bietak, professor emeritus for Egyptology at the University of Vienna - aims to synchronize cultures in the eastern Mediterranean during the Bronze Age. There are also collaborations with the fields of anthropology, archeology, prehistory and early history, botany and paleontology at the University of Vienna and other Austrian universities. There are also collaborations with museums, above all the Natural History Museum in Vienna.

Christopher Bronk Ramsey, Michael W. Dee, Joanne M. Rowland, Thomas FG Higham, Stephen A. Harris, Fiona Brock, Anita Quiles, Eva M. Wild, Ezra S. Marcus & Andrew J. Shortland: Radiocarbon Based Chronology for Dynastic Egypt , Science, June 18, 2010.

Ao. Univ.-Prof. Mag. Dr. Eva Maria Wild
Deputy group spokesperson for isotope research
University of Vienna
1090 Vienna, Währinger Strasse 17
T + 43-1-4277-517 56
T + 43-1-4277-517 04
M + 43-664-602 77-517 04
eva.maria.wild (at) univie.ac.at

Consultation notice
Mag. Veronika Schallhart
public relation
University of Vienna
1010 Vienna, Dr.-Karl-Lueger-Ring 1
T + 43-1-4277-175 30
M + 43-664-602 77-175 30
veronika.schallhart (at) univie.ac.at

Picture descriptions (Photos: University of Vienna):

Eva-Maria-Wild: Eva Maria Wild in the VERA laboratory

Papyrus_MMA: A papyrus from the Metropolitan Museum of Art is analyzed in the VERA laboratory.

VERA laboratory: Accelerator facility of the VERA laboratory