Thursday, August 25, 2016

Velikovsky and the Mesopotamians




 Damien F. Mackey





Thanks to the efforts of Dr. I. Velikovsky and his historical classic, Ages in Chaos I (1952), and also his fascinating, Oedipus and Akhnaton (1960), the El-Amarna [EA] archive of the influential 18th dynasty pharaohs, Amenhotep III and IV (Akhnaton), conventionally dated to the mid-C14th BC, would at last find its proper historical locus in the mid-C9th BC.

This was no small contribution to our knowledge of ancient history in its relation to the Bible.

But Velikovsky encountered a real problem in trying to account for the Mesopotamian rulers.


Considering the achievement of Dr. Velikovsky, despite the many flaws that exist in his revision - as becomes clear with the benefit of hindsight - I felt inclined to express indignation, in my article:


Distancing Oneself from Velikovsky



at such of those more recent revisionists who I thought were not giving Velikovsky sufficient acknowledgement.

Thus I wrote:


… the UK (in particular) revisionists, aware that Velikovsky was regarded with contempt by the conventional scholars, whose system they themselves were completely undermining - though perhaps also seeking some academic respectability - and aware that Velikovsky’s latter phase revision, e.g. the 19th dynasty of Egypt, was archaeologically untenable (though loyal Velikovskians have clung to it), sought to distance themselves from Velikovsky completely, they hardly at all, or at least very scarcely, even mentioning him in their later  books and publications. And when they did mention him, they laughed him off as a “wayward polymath”, or “maverick”. Now, whilst these epithets can be appropriate in the right context, they are mean and miserable when revisionists fail to admit their owing a debt to Velikovsky.


The most arrogant example of this, which is not only unjust to Velikovsky but which demeans all those others who have put a lot of effort into a revision of ancient history – as well as the writings of ‘Creationists’ - was this piece in the flyleaf introducing David Rohl’s The Lost Testament (Century, 2002) as if the revision recognizing the over-extension of chronology by modern researchers had begun with him in 1995 (forgetting Velikovsky’s beginnings in the 1940’s):


 The earliest part of the bible is recognised as the foundation-stone of three great religions Judaism, Christianity and Islam yet over the last century archaeologists and historians have signally failed to find any evidence to confirm the events described in the ‘book of books’. As a consequence, many scholars took the view that the Old Testament was little more than a work or fiction. The testimony of biblical history had, in effect, been lost.


Then, in 1995, this scholarly skepticism over the historicity of the Bible was suddenly challenged when Egyptologist and historian, David Rohl, burst onto the scene with a new theory. He suggested that modern researchers had constructed an artificially long chronology for the ancient world - a false time-line which had dislocated the Old Testament events from their real historical setting. The alternative ‘New Chronology’ - first published in A Test of Time: The Bible From Myth to History - created a world-wide sensation and was fiercely resisted by the more conservative elements within academia. Seven years on, however, the chronological reconstruction has developed apace and numerous new discoveries have been made.


[End of quote]


Velikovsky - partly right, partly wrong


As one might reasonably expect from a pioneering work, and one involving such a massive historical shift, mistakes and imprecisions must surely occur – presuming the basic thrust of the 500-year downward shift be correct.

Velikovsky, perhaps justifiably labelled a “polymath”, might also be called a “maverick” with regard to, for instance, his lack of knowledge of the Egyptian hieroglyphics, or his sometimes casual disregard for the archaeological evidence. 

Let us re-assess things here.


  • The Egyptians


Velikovsky was on safe ground with the Egyptian rulers of EA, Nimmuria and Naphuria, these being recognizable attempts to record the throne names of Amenhotep III and IV, respectively, Nebmaatre, and Neferkheperre.  


  • The Syrians


So effectively I thought did Velikovsky manage to argue a link between the successive EA kings of Amurru, Abdi-ashirta and Aziru, with the biblical Syrians, respectively, Ben-hadad I and Hazael, that this became a very foundation stone of my university thesis:


A Revised History of the Era of King Hezekiah of Judah

and its Background



And thus I wrote (Volume One, p. 52):


A Solid Starting Point


We are now in the C9th BC, about 500 years after the well-documented EA period of the 18th dynasty pharaohs AMENHOTEP III (c. 1390-1352 BC) and AMENHOTEP IV [Akhnaton] (c. 1352-1348 BC), according to the Sothic chronology, but squarely within EA according to Velikovsky’s revision.135 Courville had accepted Velikovsky’s basic 18th dynasty scenario, without adding much to it. My starting point here will be with what competent revisionists in the late 1970’s to early 1980’s, who had followed Velikovsky, considered to have been a most convincing aspect of Velikovsky’s EA restructuring: namely, his identification of the two chief EA correspondents from Amurru, Abdi-ashirta and Aziru, with two successive Syrian kings of the Old Testament in the C9th BC, respectively, Ben-Hadad I (c. 880-841 BC, conventional dates) and Hazael (c. 841-806 BC, conventional dates). Thus James had written, favourably: ….


With [these] two identifications [Velikovsky] seems to be on the firmest ground, in that we have a succession of two rulers, both of whom are characterised in the letters and the Scriptures as powerful rulers who made frequent armed excursions - and conquests - in the territories to the south of their own kingdom. In the letters their domain is described as “Amurru” - a term used, as Velikovsky has pointed out ... by Shalmaneser III for Syria in general, the whole area being dominated by the two successive kings in “both” the el-Amarna period and the mid-9th century.


From Assyrian evidence it is known that Hazael succeeded to the throne between 845 and 841 BC, and thus we have a reasonably precise floruit for those el-Amarna correspondents who relate the deeds of Abdi-Ashirta and Azaru [Aziru], particularly for Rib-Addi, whose letters report the death of Abdi-Ashirta and the accession of Azaru [Aziru].

[End of quote]


See also my more recent:


Is El Amarna’s Aziru Biblically Identifiable?



And Velikovsky may have perhaps also struck gold with his proposal that the important EA official, Iaanhamu, was the biblical Syrian captain, Na’aman. See my:   




  • Judah and the Judaeans


In Velikovsky’s new context, the somewhat meaningless phrase, Bit Šulmáni, of EA 74 and 290, all of a sudden would become pregnant with significance. Velikovsky wrote of it as follows (


The Šulmán Temple in Jerusalem


In the el-Amarna letters No. 74 and 290 there is reference to a place read (by Knudtzon) Bet-NIN.IB. In Ages in Chaos, following Knudtzon, I understood that the reference was to Assyria (House of Nineveh).(1) I was unaware of an article by the eminent Assyriologist, Professor Jules Lewy, printed in the Journal of Biblical Literature under the title: “The Šulmán Temple in Jerusalem.”(2)


From a certain passage in letter No. 290, written by the king of Jerusalem to the Pharaoh, Lewy concluded that this city was known at that time also by the name “Temple of Šulmán.” Actually, Lewy read the ideogram that had much puzzled the researchers before him.(3) After complaining that the land was falling to the invading bands (habiru), the king of Jerusalem wrote: “. . . and now, in addition, the capital of the country of Jerusalem — its name is Bit Šulmáni —, the king’s city, has broken away . . .”(4) Beth Šulmán in Hebrew, as Professor Lewy correctly translated, is Temple of Šulmán. But, of course, writing in 1940, Lewy could not surmise that the edifice was the Temple of Solomon and therefore made the supposition that it was a place of worship (in Canaanite times) of a god found in Akkadian sources as Shelmi, Shulmanu, or Salamu.


The correction of the reading of Knudtzon (who was uncertain of his reading) fits well with the chronological reconstruction of the period. In Ages in Chaos (chapters vi-viii) I deal with the el-Amarna letters; there it is shown that the king of Jerusalem whose name is variously read Ebed-Tov, Abdi-Hiba, etc. was King Jehoshaphat (ninth century). It was only to be expected that there would be in some of his letters a reference to the Temple of Solomon.                                                                                            

  [End of quote]


Revisionists have since noted that this phrase should be emended to read, “House of Solomon”, meaning Solomon’s kingdom, since the Temple of Yahweh in Jerusalem was never actually referred to as the Temple of Solomon.


Whilst (once again with the advantage of hindsight) we may now recognize that Velikovsky may have just fallen just short with his proposed identification of the EA king of Urusalim: In Ages in Chaos (chapters vi-viii) I deal with the el-Amarna letters; there it is shown that the king of Jerusalem whose name is variously read Ebed-Tov, Abdi-Hiba, etc. was King Jehoshaphat (ninth century)”, he laid the ground here for the placement of another firm pillar of revisionism, as I explained in my:  


King Abdi-Hiba of Jerusalem Locked in as a ‘Pillar’ of Revised History



And Velikovsky may also have succeeded in identifying some of the king of Judah’s captains at the time with certain military officers of EA. He definitely appear to have scored a major goal at least with his connection of EA’s “son of Zuchru” as the biblical “son of Zichri”.

See my account of this in:


Is El Amarna’s “Son of Zuchru” Biblically Identifiable?



In other aspects, however, Velikovsky’s EA revision has not been able to stand up to the later intense scrutiny of it.


  • Ahab and Samaria


A notable example of this was Velikovsky’s hopeful identification of the most prolific of EA’s Syro-Palestinian correspondents, Rib-Addi of Gubla (thought to be Byblos), with king Ahab of Israel, and the Sumur (thought to be Simyra) mentioned by Rib-Addi, as Samaria.

Velikovsky, in the process of trying to make this apparently Phoenicia-based king fit the biblical mould of king Ahab, had had to get rid completely of Ahab’s son, Jehoram, as a “ghost”.  

I have discussed all of this in my article:


Is El Amarna’s Rib-Addi Biblically Identifable?



And I wrote (my thesis, p. 83):


Velikovsky, for his part, had, as already mentioned, looked to identify Ahab with Rib-Addi of Gubla, the most prolific Syro-Palestine correspondent to the EA pharaohs (over 50 letters in number). …And this was surely a big mistake. For, in order for him to ‘make’ Ahab, like Rib-Addi, a very old man at death, Velikovsky was prepared to fly in the face of the biblical data and completely re-cast the chronology of Ahab’s life. He had convinced himself that there existed a contradiction between the accounts of Ahab in Kings and Chronicles so that, as he claimed, Ahab did not die at the battle of Ramoth-gilead as is stated in 1 Kings 22 (cf. vv. 6, 29 & 37), but rather reigned on for a further 8-10 years. Thus, according to Velikovsky’s view, king Jehoram of Israel (c. 853-841 BC, conventional dates), never truly existed, but was a ghost.


From a biblical point of view, the fact that Rib-Addi had been able to report the death of Abdi-Ashirta (Velikovsky’s Ben-Hadad I) meant that Velikovsky was quite wrong in identifying Rib-Addi with king Ahab; since Ahab’s death preceded that of Ben-Hadad (cf. 1 Kings 22:40 & 2 Kings 8:15). But this was Velikovsky in his favourite rôle as “the arbiter of history”, according to Sieff … forcing historical data to fit a pre-conceived idea. Velikovsky called this Rib-Addi king of Gubla and Sumur (var. Sumura) … which EA cities he had tried to equate with Ahab’s chief cities of, respectively, Jezreel and Samaria; though they are usually identified with the coastal cities of Byblos (Gebal) and Simyra. Moreover, letters from Egypt may indicate that Sumur was not really Rib-Addi’s concern at all. …. Velikovsky greatly confused the issue of Ahab of Israel for those coming after him, since Rib-Addi was chronologically and geographically unsuitable for Ahab. ….


  • The Mesopotamians


To account adequately for the EA rulers of Assyria and Babylonia in his revised context would turn out to be by far the greatest challenge to Dr. Velikovsky and to subsequent revisionists.


Next, I shall consider what sort of a fist I think Velikovsky was able to make of this most difficult of tasks.







Whilst I think that Dr. I. Velikovsky made something of a mess of the El-Amarna [EA] rulers of Mesopotamia, he can readily be excused considering the immense difficulty of the problem and the fact that no revisionist since, apparently, has been able to provide a proper solution.




  • Assuruballit (Ashuruballit)


Velikovsky, having chronologically lowered the EA era from the C14th BC to the C9th BC, now found himself faced with some real difficulties. One of them was king Assuruballit, writer of EA 15 and 16.

Velikovsky asked the question (




Was Assuruballit I, son of Eriba-Adad of the 14th century, the king who wrote to Akhnaton?

In the Assyrian sources there is no reference to any contact of the king Assuruballit, son of Eriba-Adad, with Amenhotep III or Akhnaton, and nothing that would substantiate the claim that he was the author of two letters in the el-Amarna collection.

All her history long, Assyria was an important kingdom in the ancient world. Assuruballit, son of Eriba-Adad of the king list, is regarded as one of the greatest kings of ancient Assyria,(18) and his grandson Adad-Nirari was proud to be an offspring of this great king. The letters of Assuruballit in the el-Amarna collection do not convey the impression of their author being an important suzerain. It is worthwhile to compare the meek way of writing of Assuruballit, and the self-assured way of Burraburiash. And letters of other kings on the Near Eastern scene, extensive as they are, make it by contrast little probable that Assuruballit was an important king. But decisive is the fact that the author of very extensive letters, Burraburiash, clearly refers to his “Assyrian subjects”.

Assuruballit, son of Assur-nadin-ahe, could have been a provincial prince, or a pretender to the crown of Assyria. In a later age we find a prince Assuruballit installed by his brother Assurbanipal as the governor of the Harran province. Assuruballit could have been a provincial pretender in the days of Burraburiash; and Burraburiash actually complained to the pharaoh Akhnaton for entering into direct relations with some Assyrian potentates, despite the fact that he, Burraburiash, is the lord of Assyria.


Letter 9: Burraburiash to Amenophis IV
31 - Now as to the Assyrians, my subjects
32 - have I not written thee? So is the situation!
33 - Why have they come into the land?
34 - If thou lovest me, they should not carry on any business.
35 - Let them accomplish nothing.(19)


[End of quotes]


The inconvenient Assuruballit, whom Velikovsky attempted to brush out of the way: “Assuruballit, son of Assur-nadin-ahe, could have been a provincial prince, or a pretender to the crown of Assyria”, cannot be so lightly dismissed, however. In EA 15 and 16 he titles himself as “the king of the land of Ashur”; “king of Assyria”; and “Great King”:


EA 15


1 To the king of the land of Egypt 2 speak!
3 So (says) Ashur-uballit, the king of the land of Ashur ….


EA 16


To Napkhororia [1], Great King, king of Egypt, my brother, thus speaks Ashur-uballit [2], king of Assyria, Great King, your brother ….


Those are not the words of some mere “provincial prince”!


My own proposed solution to EA’s Assuruballit as given in my university thesis:


A Revised History of the Era of King Hezekiah of Judah

and its Background



had actually been to extend Velikovsky’s very solid identification of EA’s Aziru with the biblical Syrian king, Hazael, thereby now enabling for


  1. the Aziru of the Harris Papyrus, who came to Egypt, to be both EA’s Aziru and the king Assuruballit of Assyria, who according to the latter’s descendant Adad-nirari, had conquered Egypt; and for
  2. Assuruballit, son of Eriba-Adad of the king list, to be Hazael, son of Ben-hadad I.     


We are dealing here with no lightweight king, but one befitting EA’s “Ashur-uballit, king of Assyria, Great King, your brother …”.

More recently, I have expanded upon these multi-identifications in my series:



Dr. I. Velikovsky (Ages in Chaos, I, 1952) really nailed this one, I believe, with three enthralling biblico-historical correspondences.



What would have been an impossible connection according to Dr. I. Velikovsky’s radical reconstruction of Egypt’s New Kingdom - that El Amarna’s [EA’s] Aziru was the same person as the Aziru of the Papyrus Harris - becomes inevitable now according to my revision.



When an early King of Assyria subdued the land of Musru [Egypt] ….



Aziru of the El Amarna [EA] Era, whom I have identified as the biblical Hazael, following Dr. I. Velikovsky (Ages in Chaos, I, 1952), here acquires an identity in Egypt’s history.



Velikovsky’s hopeful solution to EA’S Assuruballit has not at all convinced some of the best minds amongst the revisionists - it having since become known as “The Assuruballit Problem [TAP]”.


Shalmaneser III


The problem was that there was a very powerful and long-reigning king of Assyria, Shalmaneser III, apparently sitting right in the middle of the C9th BC, wherein Velikovsky had located the EA era.

In my university thesis I summarised TAP as follows (Volume One, p. 230):


TAP is this:


If EA is to be lowered to the mid-C9th BC, as Velikovsky had argued, why then is EA’s ‘king of Assyria’ called ‘Assuruballit’ (EA 15 & 16), and not ‘Shalmaneser’, since Shalmaneser III – by current reckoning – completely straddles the middle part of this century (c. 858-824 BC)?


Velikovsky, never stuck for a solution of one kind or another, found typically ingenious ways to account for Shalmaneser III. These I shall discuss in Part Two (b).





Velikovsky attempted to account for Shalmaneser III, a truly prominent king of Assyria, by identifying him with both El-Amarna [EA]’s Kassite ruler of Karduniash (Babylonia), Burnaburiash (Burraburiash), and with the ‘Shalmaiati’ of the EA correspondence.


  • Burnaburiash


In the following piece, “The Ivory of Shalmaneser III”, we read about Velikovsky’s ingenious ploy to absorb the mighty Shalmaneser III, occupier of Babylon, into EA’s strong Kassite ruler of Babylon, Burnaburiash (




In Ages in Chaos, in chapters Vl-VIII, it is claimed that Shalmaneser III, was a contemporary of Kings Amenhotep III and Akhnaton, and that Burraburiash must have been the Babylonian name of Shalmaneser III, who had actually occupied Babylon. To the reader of these lines, if unfamiliar with Ages in Chaos (and he should judge the discussion only upon its reading), it is not superfluous to report that the kings of Mesopotamia regularly applied to themselves different names in Assyria and in Babylonia. In the el-Amarna correspondence, he signed his Babylonian name (used more in the sense of a title) also on the tablet in which he referred to his Assyrian subjects (letter no. 9).

Our identifying Shalmaneser III as Burraburiash of the letters and as a contemporary and correspondent of Akhnaton(20) could receive direct archaeological verification. In the section “The Age of Ivory”, I quoted from the letters of Burraburiash in which he demanded as presents, more in the nature of a tribute, ivory objects of art, “looking like plants and land and water animals”, and from letters of Akhnaton in which he enumerated the very many objects of ivory art, vases, and carved likenesses of animals of land and water and of paints that were sent by him to Burraburiash.

Calakh (Nimrud) was the headquarters of Shalmaneser: what could we wish for more than that ivory objects made in Egypt in the time of Akhnaton should be found there. This also happened.

The excavation project at Nimrud on the Tigris in Iraq was initiated by M. E. L. Mallowan (1959) and continued by David Gates. Recent excavations there have been carried on in Fort Shalmaneser III that served as headquarters from the ninth to the end of the eighth century before the present era.

The reader of The New York Times of November 26, 1961,(21) must have been surprised to find a news story titled “Ancient Swindle is Dug Up in Iraq” . The report carried news of the finds of the British School of Archaeology’s Nimrud Expedition:

When archaeologists dug into the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud in Iraq earlier this year, they were surprised to find not Assyrian but “Egyptian” carvings. . .
The explanation given . . . by David Oates, director of the British School of Archaeology’s Nimrud Expedition, is that the archaeologists had dug into an ancient Assyrian antique shop. The “Egyptian” carvings had been cut by local craftsmen . . . to satisfy their rich clients’ demands for foreign “antiquities” .

There could be no question that this was Shalmaneser’s loot or collection, for in one of the storage rooms was found his statue and an inscription attests to the king’s approval of the portrait as “a very good likeness of himself” .

Although the cut-away skirts worn by the bearers are typically Assyrian, the carvings are of a style that antedates by hundreds of years the period in which they were made. If found elsewhere, they would have been identified as Egyptian . . . they are considered to be “manufactured antiquities”, designed to satisfy a rich man’s taste for antiques.

The quantity of ivory found was so great that, in three seasons, the excavating team did not empty the first of the three storage rooms. The excavators strained their wits to understand why so much ivory work reflecting Egyptian styles of over five hundred years earlier should fill, of all places, the military headquarters of Shalmaneser III. Mallowan and his representative archaeologist on the site, David Oates, could not come up with anything better than the theory that, in the military headquarters of Shalmaneser, a factory for manufacturing fake antiques had been established.

No better explanation was in sight. Neither did the late Agatha Christie (the spouse of Mallowan), who took an intense interest in the archaeological work of her husband, know of a better solution to the mystery. Yet, the first volume of Ages in Chaos, with its el-Amarna chapters, had been on the shelves since 1952.

In complete accord with our historical scheme, Egyptian art of Akhnaton was found in the headquarters of Shalmaneser III. I could not say, “as we expected”, because this was too much to expect. From the point of view of the reconstruction, we could only wish that these objects would be found in Assyria, but we could hardly expect that they would be found almost intact in the fort of Shalmaneser III. Again it is too much to expect, but maybe there will still be found, in the same compound or in a room of archives to be discovered in Nimrud, original el-Amarna letters.

 [End of quote]


At the time of writing of my university thesis:


A Revised History of the Era of King Hezekiah of Judah

and its Background



this explanation of Velikovsky’s for Shalmaneser III was the one that I had accepted, then thinking that Shalmaneser III was absolutely fixed to the mid-C9th BC - where the conventional history also has him. Shalmaneser’s Annals, as it then seemed to me, fixed him to several biblical characters of that era, such as Ahab and Ben-hadad I (battle of Qarqar); Hazael (Damascus), and king Jehu of Israel.

I have since had reason to question all of this, as I shall explain at the end of this article.

Less compelling, though, was Velikovsky’s view that the ‘Shalmaiati’ of the EA correspondence was also Shalmaneser III.


  • Shalmaiati


EA 155 is a letter from king Abi milki of Tyre. The phrase found therein, “Servant of Mayati”, which name Velikovsky took as being Shalmaiati, hence Shalmaneser III (= Burnaburiash), is generally considered to be a hypocoristicon reference to an Egyptian princess, to Meritaten, a daughter of pharaoh Akhnaton.


Comments: In line 41 (Mercer, line 44 others) the cuneiform transliteration is given as "ù àš-šù mârti-ka mimma i-ia-[a-n]u ki-i eš-mu-ù". The form in red is also given as "ma-i-ia-[(a)-ti]mi" which Albright translated as Mayati to be read as Meritaten, daughter of Akhnaton, and Velikovsky as `Shalmaiati' to mean `Shalmaneser III'.


Velikovsky’s lack of detailed knowledge of Egyptian history would sometimes vitiate his sincere efforts to construct a more accurate ancient history.



+ + + + +


TAP solved?


I am hopeful that I may recently have solved TAP, or at least blown a big hole into it, by showing that Shalmaneser III is by no means fixed securely to the mid-C9th BC, but that he may actually belong about a century later:




The supposedly mid-C9th BC Assyrian king, Shalmaneser III, lies at the heart of one of the revision’s most awkward conundrums, now known as “The Assuruballit Problem” [TAP].








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