January 23, 1961
David W. Baker
Dear Dr. Baker:
I appreciate your intention to be of help in radiocarbon testing of some pivotal dates of Egyptian history.
Miss Elizabeth K. Ralph of the Physics Department of the University of Pennsylvania published in the October 15th issue of Nature, a British weekly, a report of the work done in Philadelphia. Following facts are stressed: The margin of error is much smaller (case of a royal tomb of Gordion of the last quarter of the eighth century) and sometimes is plus-minus 30 years only; the period 2000 to 4000 years before the present era gives very erratic readings (I would understand this by the fact that at that time cosmic ray influx was at a different rate, and by another fact that following great combustions of fossil fuel-esp. oil, and many volcanic eruptions, the ratio of Carbon 14 to Carbon 12 was very different); the Middle Kingdom dates are 180-250 years younger than accepted, which conforms with Ages in Chaos chronology ace. to which the Middle Kingdom ended after -1500, not -1680 or -1780; the only analysis of an object from the New Kingdom (a beam of Seti 1) is ca. 200 years younger, and this on the assumption that the beam was not a reused one, a possibility not excluded by Ralph; this case is therefore disturbing to her because she relies on historians who regard the date of Ramses I, father of Seti I, as fixed by astronomical means. Apparently many samples were rejected after the test was performed, because of a larger difference between the accepted and the carbon dates, under a suspicion of contamination.
If you wish to do something, here are several suggestions. First, to find out whether there were made more tests of the objects of the New Kingdom; how large was the difference before it was decided that the specimens were contaminated ; I have the suspicion that the so-called contaminated specimens in many cases reflect correct chronology; therefore it is good if I could know which objects were tested and rejected and how large was the discrepancy in age.
The Museum of the University of Pennsylvania has certainly many objects good for testing; but I would appreciate best some object of the 20th or 21st Dynasty; there I expect a difference of over 700 years; the period is also under discussion in my next book, The Peoples of the Sea, The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago made extensive digging in Medinet-Habu, near Karnak, where Ramses Ills palace was explored; yet I would not know whether they have found any amount of datable (by cartouche) organic objects. In the Cairo Museum is the mummy of Ramses III (Twentieth Dynasty, rewrapped under the Twenty-first Dynasty) -a few cubic centimeters of the body of the mummy or of the wrapping would suffice; but Dr. Selim Hassan, Director of the Museum, must be willing to cooperate. . . Miss Ralph actually appealed for datable samples of the New Kingdom, because of the divergence of the results (case of Seti I, and of the unpublished, yet hinted at, tests), and expressed the surmise that because of the date of Seti having been fixed astronomically the method must be reevaluated. under the suspicion that cosmic ray influx was different in ages past. As you realize, there are two different cases of discrepancy: in some cases the results of natural catastrophes and the change of the cosmic ray influx are the cause; in other cases, there is no error, and the result reflects a true but not accepted chronology. In the case of Ramses III who in my understanding lived three centuries after the last global catastrophe, we have the best possible case to bring out the error of the conventional chronology. An attempt at Chicago and another at Cairo, and much luck to you.
Very sincerely yours, Immanuel Velikovsky