PerspectiveAnthropology

Dating Pharaonic Egypt

Science  18 Jun 2010:
Vol. 328, Issue 5985, pp. 1489-1490
DOI: 10.1126/science.1191410

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Summary

Ancient literary sources of Pharaonic Egypt constitute the historical cornerstone of time in the eastern Mediterranean region during the Bronze and Iron Ages (the third to first millennia B.C.E.). Historical chronologies for ancient Egypt are based on abundant but fragmentary written sources, and various chronological interpretations exist (15). Radio-carbon dating has the potential to verify those interpretations (6). On page 1554 of this issue, Bronk Ramsey et al. (7) present a comprehensive and sophisticated radiocarbon dating study on the chronology of Pharaonic Egypt, involving 211 samples. The short-lived plant samples for 14C dating were selected from individual funerary contexts in various museum collections. Each sample could be associated with the reign of a particular Pharaoh or with a specific section of the historical chronology.