Oldest recorded photo voltaic eclipse helps date the Egyptian pharaohs

Credit score: College of Cambridge

Researchers have pinpointed the date of what might be the oldest photo voltaic eclipse but recorded. The occasion, which occurred on 30 October 1207 BC, is talked about within the Bible, and will have penalties for the chronology of the traditional world.


Utilizing a mixture of the biblical textual content and an historical Egyptian textual content, the researchers had been then in a position to refine the dates of the Egyptian pharaohs, particularly the dates of the reign of Ramesses the Nice. The outcomes are revealed within the Royal Astronomical Society journal Astronomy & Geophysics.

The biblical textual content in query comes from the Previous Testomony e-book of Joshua and has puzzled biblical students for hundreds of years. It information that after Joshua led the folks of Israel into Canaan – a area of the traditional Close to East that lined modern-day Israel and Palestine – he prayed: “Solar, stand nonetheless at Gibeon, and Moon, within the Valley of Aijalon. And the Solar stood nonetheless, and the Moon stopped, till the nation took vengeance on their enemies.”

“If these phrases are describing an actual remark, then a serious astronomical occasion was going down – the query for us to determine is what the textual content truly means,” stated paper co-author Professor Sir Colin Humphreys from the College of Cambridge’s Division of Supplies Science & Metallurgy, who can also be fascinated about relating scientific information to the Bible.

“Fashionable English translations, which comply with the King James translation of 1611, often interpret this textual content to imply that the solar and moon stopped shifting,” stated Humphreys, who can also be a Fellow of Selwyn Faculty. “However going again to the unique Hebrew textual content, we decided that an alternate which means might be that the solar and moon simply stopped doing what they usually do: they stopped shining. On this context, the Hebrew phrases might be referring to a photo voltaic eclipse, when the moon pbades between the earth and the solar, and the solar seems to cease shining. This interpretation is supported by the truth that the Hebrew phrase translated ‘stand nonetheless’ has the identical root as a Babylonian phrase utilized in historical astronomical texts to explain eclipses.”

Humphreys and his co-author, Graeme Waddington, aren’t the primary to counsel that the biblical textual content could seek advice from an eclipse, nonetheless, earlier historians claimed that it was not attainable to research this risk additional as a result of laborious calculations that will have been required.

Impartial proof that the Israelites had been in Canaan between 1500 and 1050 BC may be discovered within the Merneptah Stele, an Egyptian textual content relationship from the reign of the Pharaoh Merneptah, son of the well-known Ramesses the Nice. The big granite block, held within the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, says that it was carved within the fifth yr of Merneptah’s reign and mentions a marketing campaign in Canaan by which he defeated the folks of Israel.

Earlier historians have used these two texts to attempt to date the attainable eclipse, however weren’t profitable as they had been solely whole eclipses, by which the disc of the solar seems to be fully lined by the moon because the moon pbades instantly between the earth and the solar. What the sooner historians failed to contemplate was that it was as a substitute an annular eclipse, by which the moon pbades instantly in entrance of the solar, however is simply too distant to cowl the disc fully, resulting in the attribute ‘ring of fireplace’ look. Within the historical world the identical phrase was used for each whole and annular eclipses.

The researchers developed a brand new eclipse code, which takes under consideration variations within the Earth’s rotation over time. From their calculations, they decided that the one annular eclipse seen from Canaan between 1500 and 1050 BC was on 30 October 1207 BC, within the afternoon. If their arguments are accepted, it might not solely be the oldest photo voltaic eclipse but recorded, it might additionally allow researchers to this point the reigns of Ramesses the Nice and his son Merneptah to inside a yr.

“Photo voltaic eclipses are sometimes used as a hard and fast level to this point occasions within the historical world,” stated Humphreys. Utilizing these new calculations, the reign of Merneptah started in 1210 or 1209 BC. As it’s recognized from Egyptian texts how lengthy he and his father reigned for, it might imply that Ramesses the Nice reigned from 1276-1210 BC, with a precision of plus or minus one yr, probably the most correct dates accessible. The exact dates of the pharaohs have been topic to some uncertainty amongst Egyptologists, however this new calculation, if accepted, might result in an adjustment within the dates of a number of of their reigns and allow us to this point them exactly.


Discover additional:
Partial eclipse of the solar seen throughout UK

Extra info:
Colin Humphreys et al, Photo voltaic eclipse of 1207 BC helps to this point pharaohs, Astronomy & Geophysics (2017). DOI: 10.1093/astrogeo/atx178

Offered by:
College of Cambridge


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