Velikovsky and those ‘Peleset’
Damien F. Mackey
Even many revisionist scholars consider that Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky made a massive error in his bold attempt to locate the ‘Sea Peoples’ – at the time of the 20th Dynasty pharaoh, Ramses III – as late as the Persian period.
But was Velikovsky right, nevertheless, in his opinion about the similarity between the Peleset ‘Sea Peoples’ and the Pereset (Persians) mentioned on the Decree of Canopus?
Dr. Velikovsky’s everlasting contribution to ancient history was, in my opinion, to recognise that the highly important Eighteenth Dynasty, which saw the commencement of Egypt’s so-called ‘New Kingdom’, had begun at the same approximate time as the United Kingdom of Israel (kings Saul, David and Solomon). This meant that the conventional estimation of the mid-C16th BC for the beginning of the reign of the first Eighteenth Dynasty ruler, pharaoh Ahmose, must now be lowered by some 500 years, to the mid-C11th BC.
Velikovsky had also recognised that the Sothic based mathematico-astronomical system upon which Egyptian chronology had been erected was an entirely flawed system.
Much of what Velikovsky discovered within his new paradigm has served as a solid foundation for my own historical reconstructions.
Far less successful was he, though, when attempting to ‘squeeze’ the remaining New Kingdom dynasties, Nineteenth and Twentieth, into what was now, by conventional comparison, a greatly reduced chronological space. Velikovsky was, of course, clever enough to engineer a ‘solution’ to such a difficulty. But it unfortunately appears to have been a ‘solution’ as artificial and archaeologically impossible as was the conventional system that he was seeking to overhaul. He, completely disregarding archaeological, geographical and genealogical fact, (i) wrenched the Nineteenth Dynasty right away from the Eighteenth, and (ii) pitched the Twentieth Dynasty down into the Persian era. His expediency of identifying the formerly (conventional) C12th BC Peleset (usually identified as Philistines), belonging to the ‘Sea Peoples’, with the C4th BC Pereset (usually identified as Persians) of the Canopus Decree, was a case of taking revisionism to an unrealistic extreme.
However, as we are going to find, there is good evidence to suggest that pharaoh Ramses III, and hence the ‘Sea Peoples’, did belong to an era significantly later than the C12th BC – but definitely not as late as the C4th BC.
Many of the more able revisionist scholars who had been keenly following Velikovsky’s early revision, particularly his Ages in Chaos, I (1952), and Oedipus and Akhnaton (1960), would fairly smartly reject his Nineteenth and Twentieth Dynasty efforts, Peoples of the Sea (1977), and Ramses II and his Time (1978). And I, too, felt it necessary in my university thesis:
A Revised History of the Era of King Hezekiah of Judah
and its Background
to show the impossibility of Velikovsky’s later reconstructions. Archaeologically, for Velikovsky, these were a disaster. And, genealogically, they left Egyptian officials running into an unrealistically old age.
However, there were also embarrassing problems here for the conventional system. This is apparent from the following section of my thesis in which I also allude to the important findings of Dr. Donovan Courville, who wrote The Exodus Problem and its Ramifications, I-II (1971). Thus I wrote (thesis, Volume One, beginning on p. 351):
More Genealogical and Art-Historical Anomalies
On a genealogical note, Courville has made a telling point in regard to what had appeared to be the following severe genealogical problem with the current chronological setting of Ramses III in relation to the early 19th dynasty: ….
The case of Bokenkonsu, the architect under Seti I, presents another anomaly, by current views, which is eliminated by the altered placements …. Bokenkonsu
lived to have his statue carved under Rameses III …. By current views, Bokenkonsu must have lived at least to an age of 118 years … even if the “many years” of the Harris Papyrus are limited to the brief reign of Siptah as proposed by Petrie. The more time that is allotted to this “many years” only makes the necessary age of Bokenkonsu more and more improbable.
Bierbrier had also included treatment of Bokenkonsu and his family amongst his case
studies (“The Bakenkhons Family” ….). And here, once again, we encounter the apparently extreme age of an Egyptian official even when minimal conventional date
estimates are used. There is no stretch at all, though, with my arrangement that has
Ramses III a slightly later contemporary of Seti I.
But what might appear to be a significant difficulty for the conventional chronology becomes a complete impossibility in Velikovsky’s context, as already argued. More positively for Velikovsky, both he … and Courville … had rightly insisted upon a dating much later than that conventionally given for Ramses III on the basis of Greek
writing on the backs of Ramses III’s building tiles. I take here Courville’s very brief account of it, beginning with his quoting of Petrie:
“… A subject of much difficulty in the earlier accounts of the objects was the marking of “Greek letters” on the backs of many of the tiles; but as we know that such signs were used long before the XXth dynasty, they only show that foreigners were employed as workmen in making these tiles”.
About which Courville then commented: …. “The difficulty with this explanation is that it does not explain the use of Greek letters centuries before the Greeks adopted the
alphabet …. Hence the dating of Rameses III in the 11th century is a gross anachronism”. With Ramses III re-located to about the mid C8th BC though – and given also the influx during his reign of ‘Sea Peoples’, likely including Greeks – then the ‘anachronism’ readily dissolves.
Whether or not my own efforts to fit the Twentieth Dynasty into the new scheme of things turns out to be realistic, I believe (naturally) that it is certainly more so than the conventional system. And I give archaeological reasons for this conviction also in my thesis.
Now, based upon the following, I have no doubts whatsoever that my estimation for the era of Ramses III is far more realistic, at least, than was Velikovsky’s:
Velikovsky had brought some surprising evidence in support of his sensational view that Ramses III had actually belonged as late as the Persian period, with his identification of the Peleset arm of the ‘Sea Peoples’ – generally considered to indicate Philistines – as Persians. …. This Velikovsky did through comparisons between the Peleset, as shown on Ramses III’s Medinet Habu reliefs, and depictions of Persians for instance at Persepolis, both revealing a distinctive crown-like headgear. And he also compared Ramses III’s references to the Peleset to the naming of Persians as P-r-s-tt (Pereset) in the C3rd BC Decree of Canopus.
Continuing with the thesis:
My explanation though for this undeniable similarity would be, not that Ramses III had belonged to the classical Persian era, but that the ‘Indo-European’ Persians were related to the waves of immigrants, hence to the Mitannians (who may therefore connect with the Medes), but perhaps to the Philistines in particular. These ‘Indo Europeans’ had, as we read in Chapter 2, gradually progressed from Anatolia in a south-easterly direction. Eventually we find for instance Kurigalzu [II], set up on the throne of Babylon by the ‘Mitannian’ Assuruballit, conquering Elam (Persia) and ruling there for a time…..
So, though Velikovsky had pitched Ramses III and his Peleset (‘Sea Peoples’) opponents eight centuries too late (by conventional estimate), or about four centuries too late (my estimate), he may have been right insofar as he had perceived a visual and ethnic connection between the Peleset and the Pereset (Persians).
- Jones would come to light with some telling genealogical evidence against Velikovsky’s radical later New Kingdom revision (‘Some Detailed Evidence from Egypt Against Velikovsky’s Revised Chronology’, SIS Review, vol. vi, nos. 1-3, Glasgow Conference, 1978, p. 29). I told of this in my thesis (p. 353):
Jones has I believe produced some solid genealogical or bureaucratic evidence for why Velikovsky’s late location of Ramses III to the Persian era is impossible. …. The career of the Chief Workman Paneb for instance, according to the Salt Papyrus, “can be traced from the 66th year of Ramesses II to the 6th year of Ramesses III”, Jones has written. …. This, a span in conventional terms of a bit over thirty years (c. 1212-1180 BC), is most reasonable. But Velikovsky’s span for Workman Paneb, with Ramses III located by him to the Persian era, would be biologically impossible. And the same applies to the situation of other workmen (e.g. Neferhotep and Sennedjem) investigated by Jones, following Bierbrier, the connections of which workmen are between the 18th and 19th dynasties that Velikovsky had also well separated. Thus Jones can rightly conclude in this instance: ….
… the earliest members of these two families, Neferhotep and Sennedjem …. link the reign of Horemheb and the XVIIIth Dynasty with the reigns of the XIXth Dynasty, without any intervening years. A similar condition can be observed in the transition from the XIXth to the XXth Dynasty. If an interregnum had occurred then, the workmen first attested under Ramesses II, Merenptah and Seti II would all have been extremely old men by the time they ended their lives in the later years of Ramesses III …. If the hundred years proposed by Dr Velikovsky had taken place, none of them would have been alive at all.
[End of quotes]
Obviously a satisfactory revision has to be fully cohesive – easier said than done, of course. And Velikovsky and Courville, being pioneers, could be excused for many of their mistakes. Still, though Velikovsky may have been wrong in his chronological estimation of the Peleset, he may still have made a useful point about them.