Previously assigned dates were used to narrow the focus of each radiocarbon test, for even if all the assumptions underlying interpretation of radiocarbon tests were verifiably accurate, results are not exact.9 The Royal Tombs at Abydos are associated with Egypt’s First Dynasty.
Many bits of organic material carbon-dated in the latest study of Egypt’s First Dynasty originally came from these tombs.
“The formation of Egypt was unique in the ancient world.
It was a territorial state; a state from which the moment it formed had established borders over a territory in much the same way we think of nations today,” Dee explained.
Much progress revising Egyptian chronology has come from comparisons with other ancient cultures.
The new study brings radiocarbon dating to the table.
“It ends up in crates in storage, but a lot of that is gold dust for radiocarbon dating.” Dee’s team chose bits of hair and bone as well as plant-based materials like seeds from granaries, reeds from baskets,8 and linen.
These samples had been assigned dates based on the usual pottery-based archaeological methods and comparison with other excavated layers (aka horizontal stratigraphy).
Samples that produced results more than 1,000 years different from those expected were excluded.Though widely acknowledged as the oldest state that fits our modern concept of a unified nation, the actual age of the ancient nation of Egypt remains uncertain.Radiocarbon dating of artifacts from Egypt’s Pre-dynastic period and First Dynasty, reported September 4th in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A by Michael Dee and colleagues, suggests Egypt is younger than previously thought.Egyptian monarchs didn’t start building pyramids until the Third Dynasty, conventionally dated around 2686 BC.11 Since the focus of the study was the First Dynasty, the researchers obtained most of their regnal results from the Royal Tombs at Umm el-Qaab, the sacred burial site of Abydos.Abydos had also been Egypt’s capital until a First Dynasty pharaoh moved it north to Memphis.By comparison with the fragmentary records of ancient Egypt, such as inscriptions on the Palermo Stone—containing some of the Royal Annals through the Fifth Dynasty—they estimated the accession dates of the reigns of eight First Dynasty monarchs.“We got a whole lot more dates, did the model, and got the computer to work out what this means for when things actually happened,” Dee explained.At Abydos, not only rulers but also many royal officials were interred.Bits of bone and hair and plant material associated with several individuals could therefore be expected to come from each monarch’s reign, helping mark out roughly how long each ruled.No result for the Pre-Dynastic periods older than 6500 BC or more recent than 2000 BC was included.Ignoring Egypt’s unifier Menes (aka Narmer, possibly), Aha—the first “official” pharaoh—acceded to the throne, the investigators concluded, around 3100 BC.