April 2, 1962
Dear Dr. Velikovsky:
Please excuse my delay in sending you this report of my inquiries concerning radiocarbon dating of New Kingdom Egyptian materials at the University of Pennsylvania. Due to the absence from Philadelphia of several key people I was delayed in making my inquiries. Afterward I tried to contact you by telephone so as to give you a very prompt report, but was unable to reach you. Then I was taken out of town for several days. And all in all, a much longer period of time has elapsed since our initial discussion of this project than ever I anticipated. However, a sound and successful approach has been made. And I shall not hesitate to return again and again, fully assured of the greatest kindness, helpfulness, and understanding on the part of the University. So perhaps the delay has not been without value.
Mutual friends secured for me a most favorable introduction to Dr. Froelich Rainey, Director of the Museum of the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Rainey is a vigorous, enthusiastic, obviously very well informed, courteous gentleman in his late middle years. At no time was your name brought up by me or by anyone else at the University. I told Dr. Rainey that I was interested in the latest findings that have bearing on the date of the Exodus. My position as a professor of religion in Ursinus College and a long-time interest in the matter had prompted my quest for information in this area. . .
The dating of Egyptian history, said Dr. Rainey, is one of the most controversial matters in the whole realm of Archaeology today. On the basis of radiocarbon dating we have come up with a very serious difference of 600 years between the old chronology and the radiocarbon evidence! We do not know how to account for it. It seems to extend throughout Egyptian history, but the earlier dates are off more than more recent ones. Fortunately we have an astronomical fix in the time of Seti I, so we are pretty sure of his date, but before him we are in real trouble. Right now our Museum, the British Museum, and the University of Leiden are working furiously to try to find out the cause of the discrepancy.
Until now, we have had no real radiocarbon yardstick. But lately we have found a special kind of old pine tree in Arizona which we are pretty sure is at least 4200 years old, and we are in the process of taking serial samples of this tree, correlating it with the tree rings, and getting a workable standard. There is some talk of attempting to set up a standard for the radiocarbon dating of that whole area by gathering together and correlating all the radiocarbon dates and tree ring evidence we can obtain from every possible fragment of wood in Ancient Egypt—cedars of Lebanon, and so forth.
Is it your opinion then, I asked Dr. Rainey, that we may expect some very drastic changes in the dates of early Egyptian history in the next few years? He replied: Yes. And not only in Egypt, but in the dating of the entire Ancient World, especially the Near East.
Dr. Rainey then called Miss Elizabeth K. Ralph who is in charge of the Radiocarbon Laboratory of the University of Pennsylvania. This laboratory is located in marvelous quarters in the basement of the new Physics Building. A special guide took me to Miss Ralph.
Miss Ralph is a deeply serious, dedicated scientist, whose whole life is bound up with her work. She received me most kindly, was in no wise hurried in answering my inquiries, and most willingly answered all my questions and gave me access to all the information she had!
In addition to confirming everything that Dr. Rainey told me, she furnished me a wealth of other information. She did not seem to be aware of the 600 year discrepancy, as such, and knew not of the work of the British Museum and the University of Leiden in conjunction with the University of Pennsylvania. She suggested that it must be in connection with a radiocarbon lab not operated by the University of Leiden but located in the Netherlands, for that is the only lab capable of doing such research there.
However, Miss Ralph was insistent on the wide gap between the so-called archaeological dates of Egyptian history and those derived from radiocarbon dated materials. In almost every case the radiocarbon dates are significantly younger. Today, they feel they can date to within an accuracy of 25 years in some instances. I found her working on a huge graph on which she had entered every reported item of radiocarbon Egyptian evidence, plotted against the archaeologically determined dates for the same materials. This graph shows a very unmistakable trend throughout Egyptian history in the interest of younger dates. She is trying to ascertain what the cause may be. This is proving to be a very difficult task. For one thing all the data are not of equal purity, nor of equal value, due to lab errors. The methods of undertaking radiocarbon dating have not been standardized. She said that the Bureau of Standards had re-determined the half-life of Carbon-14 and suggested a revised figure of 5800 years. She said she felt that a more accurate figure would be between that and the old figure of 5568 years.
She too mentioned the pine tree. The tree in question is the Bristle Cone Pine, pinus aristata. This tree shows a very small annual growth—quite unlike the giant redwoods. And there have been found to be 6 years per century when no ring of growth is formed. This introduces an error of 6%. But they arc hopeful, and still working. . .
Miss Ralph said that everything that she has tested of Egyptian materials has been published. We would be only too glad to test such material, but it simply has not been given us. The present Egyptologist at the University is not much interested. In the future it may be different. . . .
Very sincerely yours, David W. Baker