chapter  5
40 Pages

Establishing archaeological chronologies

WithAnthony Harding

The writings of the biblical genealogists and of Archbishop Ussher represent two quite separate aspects to the establishment of a chronology. On the one hand, the chronicler of ancient times was concerned to record the events of his or previous ages, in relation to certain fixed points, in a way which other people of his own or later generations could understand. On the other hand, the historian of later

times needs to be able to ‘read’ the chronicle, and to reconstruct both the fixed points and the system of reference which alone will guarantee success in arriving at ‘dates’ — periods of time elapsed since the events in question. These two activities are quite different, though they are often collated or even confused in writings on the subject. If all ancient chronicles were immediately intelligible in their chronological aspects, the problem would hardly arise, but in fact archaeologists and historians have to spend much time simply in reconstructing the nature and meaning of ancient chronological systems before they can move on to matters of greater significance for the understanding of ancient societies.