Chronologies of ancient oriental historiography

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The chronologies of ancient oriental historiography are time grids that are intended to enable events in ancient oriental history before the middle of the 15th century BC to be recorded. BC, which otherwise could only be dated relatively, can also be dated absolutely .

Chronological approaches

The years used in modern western history books refer to the zero point of the Gregorian calendar according to ISO 8601 . In historical science, this information is often referred to as an absolute chronology in order to distinguish it from other time calculations. The years used by ancient oriental rulers, however, refer (in the best case) to the beginning of their own reign. In addition, there are individual periods of time in ancient oriental history from which we have extensive written source material, but which are embedded in longer periods of relative source poverty. The latter present us with considerable problems both in terms of their own dating and in terms of the dating of the phases preceding them. The dendrochronology does this because of the rarity of the usable material and the 14 C-dating because of insufficient measurement accuracy is very inadequate for historical standards services.

Fixed points

All dating of historical events from the early dynastic period of Sumer to the middle of the 15th century BC BC (even those that rely on astronomical data) are therefore based on estimates using general historical considerations. On the other hand, it is sometimes possible to reconstruct complete chronologies of individual time islands for this period. For this purpose, historians have various types of sources at their disposal, such as reports on events that stretched over several years, lists of eponyms and kings, or details of years of government. The temporal position of these islands to each other can only be given relatively . This means that a certain island of time can be said to precede or follow another island of time, but not how many years lie between the two.

Another fixed point is the peace treaty of the Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II with the Hittite king Hattušili III. represents, which between 1271 BC. BC and 1258 BC Was completed.

Ideally, the linking of such time islands by means of synchronisms should result in an uninterrupted sequence from the most recent to the earliest epochs. It was thus possible to identify complexes of historical events that lasted up to the middle of the 15th century BC. To connect with each other in such a way that they connect to the absolute chronology. In addition, the sequence and reign of the kings of the first dynasty of Larsa and the first dynasty of Babylonia are so well known that we get a consistently coherent temporal complex of a little over 400 years. However, there is a gap between the end of the last ruler of the first Babylonian dynasty, Šamšu-ditana, and the middle of the 15th century.


The information in the Venus tables of the Ammi-saduqa had prompted the historians to initially set four points in time for establishing the chronology, although the astronomical 584-day interval of Venus has the same constellation every 8 years :

  • 1703 BC Chr. Corner point for the long chronology
  • 1639 BC Chr. Corner point for the middle chronology
  • 1575 BC Chr. Corner point for the short chronology
  • 1543 BC Chr. Corner point for the ultra-short chronology

In the following, three important key dates of this temporal island are presented in all four chronologies:

event Long medium Short Ultra short
1st Dynasty of Babylonia 1950–1651 BC Chr. 1894–1595 BC Chr. 1830-1531 BC Chr. 1798-1499 BC Chr.
Hammurabi government 1848-1806 BC Chr. 1792-1750 BC Chr. 1728–1686 BC Chr. 1696-1654 BC Chr.
Fall of Babylonia 1651 BC Chr. 1595 BC Chr. 1531 BC Chr. 1499 BC Chr.

Different historians arrive at different approaches to dating. In addition, due to the lack of sufficiently concrete synchronisms, a lot of data also varies from author to author within these time blocks. The long chronology is seldom used, while the short and ultra-short have followers until very recently.

The mean chronology created on the basis of the Venus tables is now often used as a time grid for dating because it has the least difficulty in comparing and synchronizing between Assyrian and ancient Egyptian history. Numerous findings from other dating methods can also be easily classified using this chronology. Even if some historians are now of the opinion that the Venus tablets themselves are useless for dating purposes, the middle chronology serves not only for dating in the narrower sense, but also as a practical convention for understanding ancient oriental historical processes.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Hans Jörg Nissen : History of the ancient Near East . Oldenbourg Verlag, 2nd edition 2012, Munich. ISBN 3-486-59223-8 .