A critical review of Rolf Furuli’s 2nd volume on chronology:
Assyrian, Babylonian and Egyptian Chronology. Volume II of Assyrian, Babylonian, Egyptian, and Persian Chronology Compared with the Chronology of the Bible (Oslo: Awatu Publishers, 2007)
Part III: Are there about 90 “anomalous tablets”
from the Neo-Babylonian period?
© Carl Olof Jonsson, Göteborg, Sweden, June 2008
There are only two possible ways of extending the Neo-Babylonian period to include the 20 extra years required by the Watchtower Society’s chronology, and therefore also by Rolf Furuli’s so-called “Oslo Chronology”: (1) Either the known Neo-Babylonian kings ruled longer than indicated by Berossus, the Royal Canon (often misnamed “Ptolemy’s Canon”), and the Neo-Babylonian cuneiform documents, or (2) there were other, unknown kings who belonged to the Neo-Babylonian period in addition to those established by these ancient sources. Virtually all arguments set forth by Watchtower apologists like Rolf Furuli belong to one or both of these two categories. Upon closer examination, however, the arguments used turn out to be nothing but grasping at straws.
In chapter 3 of his second volume on chronology Furuli discusses the many dated contracts (business, legal, and administrative documents) from the Neo-Babylonian period (626-539 BCE). As tens of thousands of such dated tablets have been found from this 87-year period, there are hundreds of tablets dated to each of these years. Yet no tablets have been found so far that are dated to any of the 20 years that the Watchtower Society has added to the period. This creates an enormous problem for its chronology and therefore also for Furuli’s “Oslo Chronology.” Even if one or two tablets would be found one day with an odd year, this would not solve the problem, because thousands of tablets dated to this 20-year period should have been found. As Furuli himself admits, “one or two contradictory finds do not necessarily destroy a chronology that has been substantiated by hundreds of independent finds.” (Furuli, Persian Chronology and the Length of the Babylonian Exile of the Jews, Oslo, 2003, p. 22) The only reasonable explanation of a couple of such oddly dated tablets would be that the dates contain scribal errors.
Although no contract tablets have been found that add any extra years to the Neo-Babylonian period, there are some tablets that seem to add a few days, weeks, or – in two cases – some months to the known Neo-Babylonian reigns. Such odd dates may create a short overlap between the last year of a king and the accession-year of his successor. Furuli, who claims he has found “about 90” tablets from the Neo-Babylonian period with “anomalous dates” (pp. 65, 86), tries to use such short overlaps to argue that extra years should be inserted between the two kings. He says on page 18:
“The natural conclusion to draw when the first tablets of one king’s accession are dated earlier than the last tablets of the predecessor’s last year, is that the successor’s accession year is not the same as the predecessor’s year of death. In the case of Nebuchadnezzar II and Evil-Merodach such a conclusion would have destroyed Ptolemy’s chronology, and therefore the aforementioned scholars [R. H. Sack, D. J. Wiseman, S. Zawadzki] did not consider this most natural possibility.”
Furuli’s conclusion is far from being the “most natural” explanation of the short overlaps between the reigns of some Neo-Babylonian rulers. Nor have scholars rejected it because it “would have destroyed Ptolemy’s chronology,” as if the king list popularly but erroneously named “Ptolemy’s Canon” were the only or best evidence we have about the Neo-Babylonian reigns. The best evidence is provided by much earlier documents, including the cuneiform tablets, many of which are contemporary with the Neo-Babylonian period itself. The principal reason why modern scholars so highly regard the above-mentioned king list, more correctly known as the “Royal Canon,” used by Claudius Ptolemy and other ancient astronomers, is the fact that it agrees with the chronology established by earlier sources, including the cuneiform documents contemporary with the Neo-Babylonian and Persian periods.
These earlier sources include the lengths of Neo-Babylonian reigns attested by Berossus’ Babyloniaca, the Uruk king list, and Neo-Babylonian royal inscriptions; by prosopographical evidence provided by contemporary cuneiform documents, chronological interlocking joints provided by a number of contemporary tablets, synchronisms with the chronology of the contemporary 26th Egyptian dynasty, numerous Neo-Babylonian absolute dates established by at least ten astronomical cuneiform tablets, and also the Biblical information about the length of the reign of king Nebuchadnezzar. (2 Kings 24:12; 25:27) It is quite understandable that scholars who are aware of this enormous burden of evidence see no reason to accept Furuli’s far-fetched explanation of the brief overlaps of a few days, weeks, or months between some of the reigns of the Neo-Babylonian rulers.
In fact, most of the “odd dates” quoted by Furuli are not odd at all. Fresh collations have shown that most of them either contain scribal errors or have been misread by modern scholars, or have turned out to be modern copying, transcription, or printing errors. Furuli cautions against accepting dates uncritically, pointing out on page 54 that “dates that fall outside the traditional schemes must be very clear in order to be accepted.” That is why it is necessary to have supposedly “oddly dated” tablets collated afresh. Furuli quotes three examples from scholarly works of tablets that were found to have been misread by modern scholars.
Unfortunately, Furuli himself has not applied his “word of caution” to his own research. In the tables on pages 56-64 he presents a number of seemingly oddly dated tablets from the Neo-Babylonian period, most of which on fresh collation turn out to have been misinterpreted or misread. The question is why he has used these tablets in support of his “Oslo chronology” without having them collated. Basing a radical revision of the chronology established for one of the chronologically best established periods in antiquity on unchecked misreadings and misinterpretations of the documents used does not speak very well about the quality of the research performed.
Let us first take a look at the traditional chronology for the Neo-Babylonian dynasty:
|Kings:||Lengths of reign:||Years BCE:|
In the following discussion we will take a close look at each accession of a new monarch during the Neo-Babylonian period and the “overlaps” of reigns Furuli believes he has found.
(1) Kandalanu to Nabopolassar
Before Nabopolassar’s conquest of Babylon in 626 BCE the city and the country had been controlled by Assyria for most of the previous 120 years. After the death of the Assyrian king Esarhaddon in 669 BCE the Assyrian empire was ruled by two of his sons, Assurbanipal in Assyria and Šamaš-šum-ukin in Babylonia. After the death of Šamaš-šum-ukin in 648 BCE, Babylonia was ruled by an Assyrian puppet-king named Kandalanu, who died in his 21st regnal year, in 627 BCE. Assurbanipal to all appearances died in the same year.
The death of Kandalanu was followed by a period of general disorder and war between several pretenders to the throne in Babylon. One of them was Nabopolassar, the founder of the Neo-Babylonian dynasty, who succeeded in freeing Babylon from Assyrian control late in 626. The Babylonian chronicle BM 25127 states of the transition from Kandalanu to Nabopolassar:
“For one year there was no king in the country. In the month of Arahsamnu [= month VIII], the twenty-sixth day, Nabopolassar ascended to the throne” [= Nov. 23, 626 in the Julian calendar]. (Jean-Jacques Glassner, Mesopotamian Chronicles, Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2004, p. 217)
The Uruk king list, however, gives the kingless year to two Assyrian combatants, Sin-šum-lišir, a high Assyrian official, and Sin-šar-iškun, a son of Assurbanipal. Some scribes spanned the same year by artificially extending Kandalanu’s reign for another year after his death, the last of these tablets (BM 40039) being dated to day 2 of month VIII, shattu 22kam arki Kandalanu, i.e., “year 22 after Kandalanu.” This tablet, which is from Babylon, is dated 24 days before Nabopolassar was enthroned in that city on day 26 of month VIII according to the chronicle. – J. A. Brinkman & D. A. Kennedy, “Documentary Evidence for the Economic Base of Early Neo-Babylonian Society,” Journal of Cuneiform Studies, Vol. 35 (1983), p. 49.
Despite the different ways of spanning the year of interregnum, the year intended is the same in all these sources and corresponds to 626. Nabopolassar’s 1st year of reign began on Nisan 1 next year, 625 BCE.
Furuli claims that the date of Nabopolassar’s accession given by the Babylonian chronicle, day 26 of month VIII, is contradicted by two economic tablets that date his accession earlier:
“One tablet is dated to day 10 of month IV of his accession year, and another tablet, NCBT 557, which probably is from the reign of Nabopolassar, is dated to day ? in month II of his accession year”. (Furuli, p. 55)
In footnote 62 on the same page Furuli points out that the signs for the royal name on the second tablet are damaged and “could refer to Nabû-apla-iddina from the ninth century. However, no other economic texts are that old, so Beaulieu believes that the king is Nabû-apla-usur. This is accepted here.” This would create an overlap of about six months between the first tablet dated to Nabopolassar and the last tablet dated to arki (“after”) Kandalanu:
last date: VIII/02/22
Nabopolassar’s acc. year
first date: II/?/acc.
This is the first example where Furuli applies his thesis that an overlap of a few weeks or months between a king and his successor means that one or more extra years should be inserted between the two kings. He says:
“If we take the chronicle text that mentions one year without king at face value, there are not one but two lunisolar years between Nabopolassar and the king who preceeded him.” (Furuli, p. 56)
With respect to reading the royal name on NCBT 557 as Nabopolassar rather than Nabû-apla-iddina (887-855 BCE), Furuli has misunderstood Beaulieu. He does not say that “no other economic texts are that old.” The fact is that several economic texts have been found from the reign of Nabû-apla-iddina. On his web site (presently unavailable) Janos Everling listed 17 texts dated to the reign of Nabû-apla-iddina that had been published up to 2000. Of the texts in which the provenance is preserved all except one are from Babylon. The exception, OECT 1, pl.20f:W.-B. 10, seems to be from Uruk. What Beaulieu says is that no other tablets from Uruk have been found from his reign. (Paul-Alain Beaulieu, “The fourth year of hostilities in the land,” Baghdader Mitteilungen, Vol. 28, 1997, p. 369.) The text dated to day 10 of month IV of Nabopolassar’s accession year, PTS 2208, is from Uruk, and so is also NBCT 557 from the 2nd month.
If both of these tablets really belong to Nabopolassar, there is still no contradiction between their dates and the statement in the Babylonian chronicle BM 25127 that Nabopolassar was officially installed on the throne in Babylon some months later. As Beaulieu points out in the same article, “Uruk may have originally been the power base of Nabopolassar, and perhaps even his native city.” This had previously also been argued by Assyriologist W. G. Lambert. (Beaulieu, p. 391 + n. 56) If Nabopolassar’s rebellion started in Uruk, it is reasonable to conclude that he was first recognized as king there before he, after his capture of Babylon, could be installed on the throne in that city. This is a far more natural explanation of the “overlap” than Furuli’s theory that the “most natural” explanation of such overlaps is that “extra years” are to be added, an explanation that conflicts with other sources from the period and therefore must be rejected.
Two kingless years instead of one before Nabopolassar would not, of course, add any extra years to the Neo-Babylonian period, as this period began with Nabopolassar. Furuli’s “Oslo Chronology” requires that 20 extra years are added after the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, because in this chronology the desolation of Jerusalem in his 18th year is pushed back from 587 to 607 BCE. The result of this is that the 21-year reign of his father Nabopolassar is pushed back from 625-605 to 645-625 BCE. And this in turn would also push the beginning of Kandalanu’s reign 20 years backward, from 647 to 667 BCE.
Such a lengthening of the chronology, however, is blocked by astronomy. There are several cuneiform tablets containing records of astronomical observations dated to specific regnal years within the Neo-Babylonian period and earlier. One such tablet that consists of two broken pieces, BM 76738 and BM 76813, records consecutive observations of the positions of the planet Saturn at its first and last appearances dated to the first fourteen years of Kandalanu (647-634 BCE). Assyriologist C. B. F. Walker, who has examined and translated this tablet, points out that identical cycles of Saturn observations dated to the same dates within the Babylonian lunar calendar “recur at intervals of rather more than 17 centuries.” (C. B. F. Walker, “Babylonian observations of Saturn during the Reign of Kandalanu,” in N. M. Swerdlow [ed.], Ancient Astronomy and Celestial Divination, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London: The MIT Press, 2000, pp. 61-76.) In other words, the reign of Kandalanu is so firmly fixed by this tablet that it cannot be moved backwards or forwards even one year, far less 20.
To overcome this evidence, Furuli argues that Nabopolassar was no other than Kandalanu himself! According to this theory, the Saturn tablet moves the reign of Nabopolassar about 20 years backwards and identifies it with the reign of Kandalanu! (Furuli, pp. 128, 129, 329-343) This theory has been discussed and thoroughly refuted in Part II of this review.
(2) Nabopolassar to Nebuchadnezzar
According to the Babylonian Chronicle BM 21946 (= Chronicle 5 in A. K. Grayson, Assyrian and Babylonian Chronicles, 1975, pp. 99-102; henceforth referred to as “Grayson, ABC”) the transition from Nabopolassar to his son and successor Nebuchadnezzar was smooth and unproblematic. Furuli starts by referring to this chronicle:
“According to the Babylonian Chronicle 5, 9-11, Nabopolassar died on day 8 in month IV of his year 21, and Nebuchadnezzar II ascended to the royal throne on day 1 in month VI in the same year.” (Furuli, p. 57)
But Furuli immediately goes on to mention one tablet that seemingly creates a problem:
“However, there may be some problems with this succession as well. For example, there is one tablet dated after the death of Nabopolassar, on day 20 in month V of his year 21 (PTS 2761).” (Furuli, p. 57)
If Nabopolassar died “on day 8 in month IV”, how could a tablet still be dated to his reign 42 days (one month and 12 days) later, “on day 20 of month V”?
Unfortunately Furuli, undoubtedly accidentally, has misquoted the Babylonian Chronicle. It does not say that Nabopolassar died “in month IV” but in month V:
“For twenty-one years Nabopolassar ruled Babylon. On the eighth day of the month Ab [= month V] he died. In the month Elul [= month VI] Nebuchadnezzar (II) returned to Babylon and on the first day of the month Elul he ascended the royal throne in Babylon.” (Grayson, ABC, pp. 99, 100)
The tablet PTS 2761, then, is dated, not 42 but only 12 days after the death of Nabopolassar. Is this really an “overlap” with the reign of Nebuchadnezzar?
When his father died, Nebuchadnezzar was occupied with a military campaign in Syria (and, probably, Palestine). When he was informed about the death of his father, Nebuchadnezzar hastened back to Babylon as fast as he could (by crossing the desert with a few companions, according to Berossus). He was enthroned, says the Chronicle, on Elul 1, i.e., 22 days after his father’s death. As tablet PTS 2761 is dated 10 days before Nebuchadnezzar’s coronation, it does not witness to any overlap between the two kings. It was only natural for the scribes to continue to date their documents to Nabopolassar until his successor had arrived and been installed on the throne.
Furuli, finally, refers to four other tablets that give dates both in the reign of Nabopolassar and in the reign of Nebuchadnezzar:
“Some tablets also mention both Nabopolassar and Nebuchadnezzar: BM 92742 mentions month II, year 21, of Nabopolassar, and month VII, accession year of Nebuchadnezzar; BM 51072 mentions year 21 of Nabopolassar, and year 4 of Nebuchadnezzar; RSM 1889.103 mentions year 21 of Nabopolassar, and years 1-4 of Nebuchadnezzar; BE 7447 mentions day 24, month XII, accession year of Nebuchadnezzar, and year 19 of Nabopolassar.” (Furuli, p. 57)
It is strange that Furuli refers to these tablets, as none of them indicates there was an overlap between the two kings. Furuli admits that, “The data suggest that Nebuchadnezzar started to reign in the same year that his father died,” yet he goes on to claim that “the data above may also suggest that there was some kind of coregency, or that there was one year between them.”
It is clear that Furuli has not checked any of these four tablets, which he also indirectly admits by stating in note 68 on the same page (p. 57) that all tablets are mentioned in the catalogue by D. A. Kennedy published in the Journal of Cuneiform Studies, Vol. 38/2, 1986, pp. 211, 215. Only one of the dates on each tablet refers to the date of the tablet. The other dates refer to events dealt with in the text. The last of the four tablets (BE 7447), for example, deals with the purchase of a house in Babylon. The tablet is dated on day 24 of month XII, accession-year of Nebuchadnezzar, but it ends with the information that payment for the house had been received about two years earlier, on the 24th of month VIII in the 19th year of Nabopolassar. (Eckhard Unger, Babylon, Berlin und Leipzig: Walter de Gruyter & Co., 1931, pp. 308, 309) Nothing of this suggests “some kind of coregency” or an extra year between these kings.
As the data presented by Furuli do not suggest anything of this, his statement is nothing but unfounded wishful thinking, contradicted by all the evidence we have about the transition of reign from Nabopolassar to Nebuchadnezzar.
(3) Nebuchadnezzar to Evil-Merodach (Awel-Marduk)
(A) The “ledger” NBC 4897:
Furuli deals with the transfer of reign from Nebuchadnezzar to his son Evil-Merodach on pages 57-59 of his book. He starts by commenting on the cuneiform tablet NBC 4897, a “ledger” covering ten successive years, from the 37th year of Nebuchadnezzar to the 1st year of Neriglissar. The “ledger,” which is briefly discussed on pages 131-133 in my book, The Gentile Times Reconsidered (4th edition, 2004; hereafter referred to as GTR4), stretches a chronological bridge between the reigns of Nebuchadnezzar, Evil-Merodach, and Neriglissar. Furuli, of course, cannot accept the clear witness of this “ledger”:
“To the best of my knowledge, there is just one cuneiform tablet, NBC 4897, whose contents can be used to argue that Evil-Merodach succeeded Nebuchadnezzar II in his year 43, that Evil-Merodach reigned for 2 years, and that Neriglissar succeeded him in his second year. However, a close scrutiny of that tablet shows that it has little value as a chronological witness.” (Furuli, p. 57)
These statements contain two errors. Firstly, as far as the transition from Nebuchadnezzar to Evil-Merodach is concerned, I presented not just one but four different cuneiform tablets, all of which show that Evil-Merodach succeeded Nebuchadnezzar in his 43rd regnal year. (GTR4, pp. 129-133) Furuli has chosen to ignore all but one of the four tablets. Secondly, his claim that NBC 4897 “has little value as a chronological witness” is false. His few critical assertions on the next page (58) are followed by a reference to “Appendix A for a detailed analysis of the contents of NBC 4897.” This Appendix with its slanted analysis and baseless conclusions will be critically examined in another part of this review.
(B) Biblical versus Babylonian dating methods:
Furuli next tries to find support in the Bible for his idea that Nebuchadnezzar ruled longer than 43 years. He refers to the first capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, which the Babylonian Chronicle BM 21946 dates to his “seventh year.” The Chronicle states that in this year the king of Babylon “encamped against the city of Judah and on the second day of the month Adar he captured the city (and) seized (its) king,” that is, king Jehoiachin, the next to the last king of Judah. – Grayson, ABC, p. 102.
As the month Adar was the 12th and last month of the Babylonian regnal year, Jehoiachin was taken prisoner nearly a whole month before the end of Nebuchadnezzar’s seventh regnal year.
The Bible gives a similar description of the same events at 2 Kings 24:10-12:
”At that time the servants of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came up to Jerusalem and the city was besieged. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to the city while his servants were besieging it; King Jehoiachin of Judah gave himself up to the king of Babylon, himself, his mother, his servants, his officers, and his palace officials. The king of Babylon took him prisoner in the eighth year of his reign.”
Both records emphasize that the Judean king was “seized” or “taken” prisoner, but only the Babylonian Chronicle gives the month and day of the event, showing it happened nearly one month before the end of Nebuchadnezzar’s seventh year. The most conspicuous difference, however, is that according to the Biblical book of 2 Kings it happened, not in the seventh but in the eighth year of Nebuchadnezzar. The best explanation of this one-year difference is, as many scholars have argued, that Judah did not apply the accession-year system but counted the year of accession as the first regnal year. (GTR4, pp. 314-320; see also the detailed and convincing discussion by Dr. Rodger Young: http://home.swbell.net/rcyoung8/jerusalem.pdf )
Furuli gives no explanation for this one-year difference between the Biblical and Babylonian way of counting regnal years but chooses to ignore the date of the Babylonian Chronicle. This enables him to increase the reign of Nebuchadnezzar from 43 to 44 years. He says:
“Jeremiah 52:28-31 mentions that Jehoiachin was released from prison in year 37 of his exile, in the year when Evil-Merodach became king. The word galut means ‘exile,’ and the most likely starting point of the period of 37 years must be when Jehoiachin came to Babylon and his exile started or, less likely, when he was captured. Both events occurred in year 8 of Nebuchadnezzar, and 37 years from that time would end in year 44 of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign and not in year 43 when he is supposed to have died.” (Furuli, p. 58. Emphasis added. In footnote 70 on the same page Furuli approvingly quotes J. Morgenstern’s calculation of the 37th year, but he ignores the fact that Morgenstern held that the Judean regnal years were counted from Tishri, not Nisan.)
However, the one-year discrepancy between the Babylonian and Biblical way of counting regnal years cannot be ignored. As has often been pointed out, the same discrepancy is also found elsewhere in the Bible. Another example is the battle at Carchemish, when Pharaoh Necho of Egypt was decisively defeated by Nebuchadnezzar “in the fourth year of King Jehoiakim.” (Jeremiah 46:2) This “fourth year of king Jehoiakim” is equated with “the first year of King Nebuchadnezzar” at Jeremiah 25:1.
The same Babylonian Chronicle quoted above (BM 21946) also records this decisive battle at Carchemish. But there it is dated, not to the first year of Nebuchadnezzar but to the 21st and last year of his father Nabopolassar. At that time Nebuchadnezzar is still said to be “his eldest son (and) the crown prince.” Later in the same year Nabopolassar died, and Nebuchadnezzar succeeded him in what from then on is called his “accession year,” not his first year as does Jeremiah. – Grayson, ABC, pp. 99, 100.
When, therefore, the Bible dates the battle at Carchemish to the first year of Nebuchadnezzar, this has to be understood as his accession-year in the Babylonian dating system. And when the Bible states that Jehoiachin was taken prisoner and brought into exile in the eighth year of Nebuchadnezzar, this has to be understood as his seventh year in the Babylonian accession year system. As Jehoiachin’s exile began in the 7th year of Nebuchadnezzar, the 37th year of exile covered parts of the 43rd regnal year of Nebuchadnezzar and the accession-year of Evil-Merodach. When the difference between the Biblical and Babylonian methods of reckoning regnal years is taken into consideration, the Bible and the extra-Biblical documents are seen to be in full agreement. Only by ignoring this difference is Furuli able to increase the reign of Nebuchadnezzar from 43 to 44 years. (For a more detailed discussion of this difference, see GTR4, pp. 314-320.)
(C) Nine supposedly “anomalous tablets” from the accession year of Evil-Merodach
In a table on page 59 (“Table 3.3”) Furuli lists nine tablets from the accession year of Evil-Merodach that he claims are dated before the last tablets dated to the reign of his father Nebuchadnezzar. He concludes:
“These nine tablets represent strong evidence in favour of an expansion of the years of the Neo-Babylonian Empire.” (Furuli, p. 59)
The table starts with five tablets dated to month IV and four tablets dated to month V of Evil-Merodach’s accession year, followed by three tablets dated to months VI, VIII, and X of Nebuchadnezzar’s 43rd regnal year. If all these 12 dates were real, they would indicate an overlap between the reigns of Nebuchadnezzar and Evil-Merodach of six months.
Furuli’s table, however, is totally misleading. The main reason for this is that Furuli has not cared to collate the dates on the original tablets, nor has he asked professional experts on cuneiform to do this for him. Had he done this, he would have discovered that most of the dates he has published are wrong.
The first five tablets in his table, dated to month IV of the accession year of Evil-Merodach, are:
Month/day/year: Tablet no.:
IV/?/acc. BM 66846
IV (orVI)/?/acc. BM 65270
IV/5/acc. BM 65270
IV/20/acc. BM 80920
IV/29/acc. UCBC 378
All tablets except the last one is listed in the British Museum’s CBT catalogues Vols. VI-VIII, 1986-1988. (CBT = Catalogue of the Babylonian Tablets in the British Museum.) The dates on the BM tablets were collated afresh already back in 1990, with the following results:
When C. B. F. Walker at the British Museum collated the date on this tablet back in 1990 he found that the day number is “1”, but that the month name is damaged and illegible. The tablet, therefore, does not support the date given in Furuli’s table, IV/?/acc. (C. B. F. Walker, “Corrections and additions to CBT 6-8,” 1996, p. 6)
BM 65270 (listed twice):
Strangely, Furuli lists this tablet twice, with three different dates! This confusion is probably due to the fact that the month is damaged and difficult to read. After repeated collations Walker stated that “it is perhaps most likely that the month is 7 rather than 4.” (Letter Walker-Jonsson, Nov. 13, 1990; cf. GTR4, p. 323, n. 28; see also Walker in “Corrections …,” 1996, p. 5: “the month is damaged; possibly month 7; not month 6 as previously suggested.”) On p. 1 of his “Corrections” list of 1996 Walker gives the following warning:
“Note that in Neo-Babylonian texts there is always the possibility of confusion (because of inaccuracy in either reading or writing) between months IV, VII and XI, between months V and X, and between months IX and XII. The handbooks which suggest that these month-names are clearly distinguishable in the cuneiform script do not give warning of the range of possible error that arises from sloppy, defective or cursive writing. Readings which are critical for chronology should be collated again and again, preferably by different Assyriologists experienced in working with Neo-Babylonian texts.”
Another Assyriologist, Stefan Zawadzki, also collated tablet BM 65270. He rejects month 4 (IV) and translates the date on the tablet as “the fifth [day] of the month Ululu/Tašritu(?) [month 6 or 7] of the accession year of Amel-Marduk, king of Babylon.” (Stefan Zawadzki, “Two Neo-Babylonian Documents from 562 B.C.,” Zeitschrift für Assyriologie, Band 86, 1996, p. 218)
The date, IV/29/acc., is that read by R. H. Sack in his work on Evil-Merodach (Amel-Marduk 562-560 B.C. [= AOATS 4], 1972, text no. 56). The CBT VIII catalogue, p. 245, however, has month VII, and on collation Walker found that the latter is correct. The month is 7, not 4, thus VII/20/acc. “AOAT 4 no. 56 is to be corrected,” he says. (Walker, “Corrections …”, 1996, p. 8; see also GTR4, p. 323, n. 28.)
The fourth tablet in Furuli’s table, UCBC 378, dated to “IV.29.00” in the copy by Henry Frederick Lutz, was published in 1931. (H. F. Lutz, Selected Cuneiform Texts, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1931, pp. 53 + 94, 95.) The full number of the published text is “UCP 9-1-2, 29.” The present museum number is HMA 9-02507 (HMA = Hearst Museum of Anthropology). The number used by Furuli, “UCBC 378,” was a provisional number used by Lutz, who kept the tablets in his office and used his own number system before the tablets he translated were officially accessioned.
A transliteration with a translation by R. H. Sack was published in 1972 as text No. 70 in Sack’s work on Evil-Merodach (op. cit., pp. 99-100). R. H. Sack does not seem to have checked the original tablet, but based his translation on H. Lutz’s copy. Sack, too, gives the same date as Lutz, “month of Du’uzu [month 4], twenty-ninth day, accession year of Amel-Marduk, king of Babylon.”
In order to have the original tablet collated afresh, a correspondent of mine sent an email to Niek Veldhuis, Associate Professor of Assyriology at the Department of Near Eastern Studies, University of California, Berkeley, and asked if the date may have been misread by Lutz. In an email dated October 3, 2007, Veldhuis said:
“I looked at the piece yesterday and you may very well be right. The two month names (4 and 7) are rather similar in cuneiform writing, one written SHU, the other DU6. The tablet is eroded and the sign is not very clear. I have little experience in this period – so I’ll have to look at it again, but I can certainly not exclude reading DU6 (that is, month 7).”
Thus the date on this tablet, too, is damaged, and the month may very well be 7, not 4. The claim that the date is anomalous, then, cannot be proven.
In conclusion none of these tablets can be shown to be dated as early as month IV of the accession year of Evil-Merocach. The earliest tablet from his reign with a clear date is still BM 75322, dated to month V, day 20 of his accession year, as is also shown in GTR4, pp. 323, 324.
What about the three tablets dated to the reign of Nebuchadnezzar after the accession of Evil-Merodach in month V? According to Furuli’s table, these three tablets are dated to months VI, VIII, and X of the 43d year of Nebuchadnezzar:
Month/day/year: Tablet no.:
VI/26/43 Contenau XII.58
VIII/?/43 Krückmann 238
X/?/43 BM 55806
I will start with the last of the three tablets.
Back in 1987 I wrote to Professor D. J. Wiseman in London and asked him to collate about 20 oddly dated tablets I had found listed in the then recently published BM catalogue CBT VI (1987). Wiseman checked all the 20 tablets and sent me his observations in a letter dated October 7, 1987. Most of the dates turned out to be modern printing or reading errors. With respect to the date of 55806, X/?/43, Wiseman said that, “The reading seems to be ab (is this an error for shu?).”
Ab is month V, and Shu (SHU = Du’uzu) is month IV.
The tablet was also collated in 1990 by C. B. F. Walker, who gives the following comments in his list of “Corrections …,” p. 3:
“Month appears to be written ITU.AD; year number highly uncertain, and partly erased. Pinches, CT 55, 138, copied ITU.AB = month 10. If the year is really 43 then the month must be understood as AD = Abu.”
As shown by Walker’s comments, the date is severely damaged. Not only the day and the month, but also the year is highly uncertain. (This is actually admitted by Furuli himself on page 18!) Walker’s mentioning of CT 55 refers to volume 55 of a series of BM publications, Cuneiform Texts from Babylonian Tablets in the British Museum. Vols. 55, 56, and 57 contain economic texts copied by T. G. Pinches during the years 1892-1894, published 90 years later by the British Museum Publications Ltd in 1982. As shown above, collations of the original tablet by modern specialists show that Pinches evidently misread the month name, which most probably is V rather than X. The tablet cannot be shown to be dated after the accession of Evil-Merodach.
“Krückmann” refers to Oluf Krückmann, Neubabylonishe Rechts- und Verwaltungstexte, published in Leipzig 1933. It is also referred to as TuM 2/3 as it is Vol. 2/3 in the series Texte und Materialien der Frau Professor Hilprecht Collection of Babylonian Antiquities im Eigentum der Universität Jena. Vol. 2/3 contains copies of 289 cuneiform tablets, many of which are fragmentary. In a chronological table the tablets are briefly described, and when the dates, or at least parts of them, are legible, they are given in three separate columns (giving month, day, and year, respectively). No. 238 is listed on page 16 as one of the tablets dated to Nebuchadnezzar. The date is evidently very fragmentary, as Krückmann has put both the month and the year within parenthesis, while the day number is shown as illegible:
Monat Tag Jahr
(IX) – (42)
As can be seen, the suggested year number is "42", not "43".
So why does Furuli date the tablet to VIII/?/43? The reason obviously is that Furuli has never consulted Krückmann’s work. As I demonstrated in my review of volume I of Furuli’s work on ancient chronology, most of the dates presented in his tables had been simply borrowed from web lists published by the Hungarian Assyriologist Janos Everling. Everling’s lists (presently not available on the web) were based upon works that had been published all the way from the latter part of the 19th century and up to about 2000. The lists contain over 7,000 tablets from the Neo-Babylonian period alone. In the introduction to his lists Everling explicitly warned that the dates in the lists had neither been proof-read nor been compared with the original tablets. The result is that Everling’s lists contain numerous errors. In my review of Furuli’s volume I it was shown that he had borrowed extensively from Everling’s lists without collations, with the result that the errors in Everling’s lists were repeated in Furuli’s tables.
This is also true of Everling’s reference to Krückmann 238, whom he misquotes as follows:
“TuM 2/3, 238. (Nbk. 43.08.o, <N.>)”
Furuli seems to have simply taken the date from Everling’s lists without collation and without checking Krückmann’s work. If he had done anything of this, he would have discovered that Everling had misquoted Krückmann 238.
The date of this tablet, VI/26/43, is correct and is the latest dated tablet from the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. As the earliest known tablet from the accession year of Evil-Merodach is dated to V/20/acc (BM 75322), the overlap between the two rulers is reduced from six months as shown by Furuli’s tables to one month and 6 days, as is also shown in GTR4, page 324. As I argued on the same page, the reason for this brief overlap probably is that Nebuchadnezzar had died earlier, but that Evil-Merodach’s accession was not generally accepted immediately due to his wicked character. Some scribes, therefore, continued to date their tablets to the reign of Nebuchadnezzar for a few weeks. This is a much more natural explanation of the “overlap” than the idea that “extra years” have to be added between the two reigns – an idea that conflicts with all other relevant sources from this period.
(4) Evil-Merodach to Neriglissar
“90 anomalous tablets”?
As mentioned earlier, Rolf Furuli has repeatedly claimed, both in this book (pp. 65, 86) and elsewhere, that there are about 90 “anomalous tablets” that contradict the traditional Neo-Babylonian chronology and therefore requires an extension of this chronology. On page 86 he states that these 90 tablets are “mentioned in chapter 3.” About a dozen of such claimed anomalous tablets have already been discussed above, nine of which were presented in Furuli’s Table 3.3 on page 59. Fresh collations by competent scholars showed that most of them did not have any “anomalous dates” at all.
The longest table with such claimed “anomalous dates” however, is Table 3.4 on pages 60-62. It starts in the first two columns with 17 tablets, continuously dated in each of the months II, III, IV and V of the 2nd and last year of Evil-Merodach, the last of the tablets being dated to V/17/02 (month 5, day 17, year 2). These dates are then followed in the next two columns by 37 tablets, continuously dated in each of the months V, VI, VII, VIII and IX of the accession year of Neriglissar, the first tablet being dated to V/21/acc. or just four days after the last tablet from the reign of Evil-Merodach. This strongly indicates that the transition from Evil-Merodach to Neriglissar took place in the latter part of month V of Evil-Merodach’s 2nd year.
However, Furuli also lists nine other tablets that do not seem to fit into this pattern. The first two are dated in the first and early second months of Neriglissar’s accession year, i.e., before the 17 tablets dated to months II-V of Evil-Merodach’s 2nd and last year, seemingly creating an overlap of about four months between the two reigns. Normally, the two early dates would be viewed as anomalous. But Furuli evidently presupposes that the two dates are correct and counts the 17 following tablets as anomalous!
Further, Furuli lists three tablets dated to months X, XI, and XII of Evil-Merodach’s 2nd year, i. e., after the 37 tablets dated to months V-IX of Neriglissar. This would increase the overlap between the two reigns to more than ten months, from Neriglissar’s accession in month I to Evil-Merodach’s last tablet dated early in month XII. Instead of regarding the three tablets as anomalous, Furuli counts the preceding 37 tablets from the accession year of Neriglissar as anomalous!
Finally, Furuli lists in his table four other tablets that also seem to support an overlap between the two reigns. Two of them are placed early in month V of Neriglissar’s reign and two others in month VII of Evil-Merodach’s reign. According to Furuli’s way of reckoning, the two latter tablets would increase the number of anomalous tablets from the last months of Evil-Merodach’s last year of reign from 17 to 19. On the number of anomalous tablets from the accession year of Neriglissar Furuli states that there are “at least 41 tablets dated in the accession year of Neriglissar before the last tablet dated to Evil-Merodach.” (Furuli, p. 60) If these 41 tablets and also the previous 19 tablets are all counted as anomalous, we would get 60 “anomalous tablets” during the Evil-Merodach/Neriglissar overlap!
Thus, out of nine tablets with seemingly odd dates Furuli succeeds in creating 60 tablets with “anomalous dates”!
Let us take a closer look at the nine tablets that really seem to be oddly dated. They are:
Month/day/year: Tablet no.:
(1) I/26/acc. AOAT 236, 97
(2) II/04/acc. BM 75489
(3) V/?/acc. BM 60150
(4) V/06/acc. BM 30419
Month/day/year: Tablet no.:
(5) VII/08/02 BM 58580
(6) VII/08/02 BM 75106
(7) X/17/02 BM 61325
(8) XI/15/02 ?
(9) XII/02/03 BM 58580
It does not seem that Furuli has himself collated any of these tablets or has had them collated by experienced specialists on cuneiform. Had he done this, he would have discovered that most of the “odd dates” disappear.
Tablet no. 1 is published as no. 97 in a work by Ronald H. Sack in his work, Neriglissar – King of Babylon (Neukirchen-Vluyn, 1994). This is Band 236 in the series Alter Orient und Altes Testament, which explains the reference to the tablet as AOAT 236, 97. The museum number is BM 60231. Sack’s transliteration and translation of the tablet on page 235 reveals that the month sign is damaged. Sack, therefore, adds a question mark after the month name and puts it within half brackets: ⌐Nisanu(?)¬. Although Sack in a table on pages 59-61 gives the year, month, and day of the tablet as Acc/I/26, he leaves out the month altogether in his “Catalogue and Description of Datable Texts” on pages 49-54, giving the year/month/day as “Acc. … 25”. (Sack, p. 54)
To get to know just how damaged the month name on the tablet is, I sent an email to Dr. Jon Taylor, Curator at the Department of the Middle East at the British Museum, and asked him to check the date. In an email received on June 24, 2008, he explained:
“I've had a look at that tablet, and also shown it to several people with more experience in Neo-Babylonian texts than I have. The sign in question is not just damaged but also right on the corner of the tablet, and thus probably distorted. The more you look at it, the more signs it could be. None of us has been able to decide with certainty what it really is. I can send you a photo if you would like to see for yourself.”
Obviously, it cannot be claimed that the date on this tablet really is anomalous.
Tablet no. 2, BM 75489, is published as no. 91 in Sack’s work on Neriglissar. The tablet is clearly dated to month II, day 4, of Neriglissar’s accession year. This was confirmed by C. B. F. Walker, who collated the tablet several times, once together with two other Assyriologists, Dr. G. van Driel and Mr Bongenaar, on November 9, 1990. (Walker, “Corrections,” 1996, p. 7; cf. GTR4, p. 326, n. 33.) The date of this tablet, then, is clearly anomalous. Whether it is correct or a scribal error is, of course, another question.
Tablet no. 3, BM 60150, is dated to month V, but the day number is damaged and illegible. As the transition between Evil-Merodach and Neriglissar took place between day 17 and day 21 in the same month (month V), it cannot be shown that this tablet is dated earlier, and it would be wrong to claim that its date is anomalous.
Tablet no. 4, BM 30419, is dated by Furuli to month V, day 6, of Neriglissar’s accession year. This is also the date given by R. H. Sack in his book on Neriglissar (published as text no. 12, pp. 150, 151.) However, “month V (ITI.NE)” seems to be a modern misreading. The tablet was examined in 1990 by C. B. F. Walker together with another Assyriologist, Dr. van Driel. Walker explains that, “Only the beginning of the month name is preserved, but we both agree that ITI.N[E] seems to be out of the question and that ITI.Z[IZ], month XI, may be the best guess at the moment.” (Letter Walker-Jonsson, November 13, 1990, p. 2) Again, the tablet cannot be shown to be anomalous.
Tablet no. 5 and 9, BM 58580, is listed twice in Furuli’s table, but with two different dates: VII/08/02 and XII/02/03. Both dates are wrong. Professor D. J. Wiseman, who collated the tablet in 1987, wrote: “Not year 3 possibly 2/2/2” (day 2, month 2, Year 2). (Letter Wiseman-Jonsson, October 7, 1987) C. B. F. Walker, in “Corrections,” 1996, p. 3, confirms Wiseman’s reading “2/2/2”. The tablet, then, is not anomalous.
Tablet no. 6, BM 75106, dated VII/08/02 in Furuli’s table, is actually dated to month IV, according to C. B. F. Walker’s “Corrections,” 1996, p. 7. The date creates no problem.
Tablet no. 7, BM 61325, was collated by C. B. F. Walker, Dr. van Driel and Mr. Bongenaar on November 9, 1990. Walker says that, “The month is slightly damaged, but seems to be clearly ITI.AB (month X) rather than ITI.NE (month V). Not day 17 as previously stated.” The day number is 19. The date on this tablet, then, is X/19/02. This does not necessarily mean that it is correct. It may be a scribal error.
Tablet no. 8, finally, is dated to XI/15/02 in Furuli’s table. Furuli points out in a note (p. 62, n. 79) that the inventory number is missing, so he was unable to identify it. He refers, however, to W. St. Chad Boscawen’s table on page 52 of the Transactions of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, Vol. VI (London, January, 1878). The date there has day 5, not day 15 as in Furuli’s tablet.
Actually, a copy of this tablet by B. T. A. Evetts was published four years later as no. 66 in his Babylonische Texte (Leipzig, 1892). As shown on page 3 of the same work, Evetts read both the year number and the royal name differently: He dates it to XI/05/03 of Neriglissar, not of Evil-Merodach! A transliteration and translation of the same tablet by Ronald H. Sack has also been included in his recent work on Neriglissar – King of Babylon (= AOAT, Band 236. Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1994), pp. 205-206. The museum number is BM 30577. Sack, who collated the tablet afresh, confirms the reading of Evetts. Obviously, Boscawen had misread the tablet. Its date creates no problems.
In the discussion above, the 60 supposedly “anomalous tablets” dated to the transition from Evil-Merodach to Neriglissar presented in Furuli’s “Table 3.4” were first reduced to nine tablets that seemed to conflict with conventional chronology. Of these tablets only two could be demonstrated to have clear anomalous dates, i.e., no. 2 (BM 75489), dated to Neriglissar, II/04/acc. and no. 7 (BM 61325), dated to Evil-Merodach, X/19/02. This result is the same as that reached in GTR4 (pp. 325-327). How are the two tablets to be explained? Do they, as Furuli claims on page 60, “strongly suggest that the accession year of Neriglissar is not the same year as the second year of Evil-Merodach, but one or more years must have elapsed between their reigns”? This is certainly not the correct conclusion to draw, as this would contradict many other documents from the period, including the astronomical tablets.
It should be noticed that the dates on these two tablets stand isolated from the other dates in the transition between the two reigns. The tablet dated in month II of Neriglissar’s accession year is not followed by any tablets dated to his reign in the next two months, III and IV, while we have several tablets dated in every month of his accession year from month V and onward. Similarly, we have several published and unpublished tablets dated in every month of Evil-Merodach’s reign up to month V of his 2nd year, while the tablet from month X of his 2nd year is an isolated date that appears five months later. Normally, we should have several tablets from each of the four months between V and X dated to his reign, but we have none. What does this indicate?
Dr. G. van Driel, in his discussion of the first of the two tablets (AOAT 236, 91 = BM 75489), says:
“The Sippar text R. H. Sack, Neriglissar no. 91, dated to 4 II accession year, would suggest a considerable overlap with the preceding king Awil-Marduk, to whom later Sippar texts (listed by Sack, p. 26, n. 19) are dated. A mistake in the date of AOAT 236, no. 91 is the easiest solution. It should be noted that the Uruk kinglist (J. J. A. van Dijk, UVB 18  pp. 53-60 obv. 9) gives N. 3 years and 8 months, which could exceptionally refer to the actual reign and not to a reign starting with the beginning of the first full year.” – G. van Driel in Reallexikon der Assyriologie und Vorderasiatischen Archäologie, Band 9 (Berlin, New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1998-2001), p. 228. Emphasis added. (Cf. the similar comments in GTR4, pp. 326, 327. In note 35 on p. 327 an alternative solution is also discussed.)
The easiest and most natural explanation, then, is that the two odd dates are scribal errors. As Furuli himself admits in his first volume on chronology, “one or two contradictory finds do not necessarily destroy a chronology that has been substantiated by hundreds of independent finds.” (Rolf Furuli, Persian Chronology and the Length of the Babylonian Exile of the Jews, Oslo, 2003, p. 22) This is certainly true of the two anomalous tablets discussed above.
(5) Neriglissar to Labashi-Marduk
In Table 3.5 on page 62 of his book Furuli presents ten tablets which he claims overlap the end of the reign of Neriglissar with the reigns of the last two kings of in the Neo-Babylonian period, his son Labashi-Marduk and Nabonidus. The dates on the four last tablets from the 4th regnal year of Neriglissar listed in the table are:
Month/day/year: Tablet no.:
I/02/04 BM 41401
I?/06/04 YBC 3433
II/02/04 BM 30334
The earliest two tablets from the reign of Neriglissar’s successor Labashi-Marduk are dated I/11+/acc. (Pinches 55, 432 = BM 58432) and I/23/acc. (NBC 4534), which seems to be a few weeks earlier than the two latest tablets from the reign of Neriglissar in the table above, BM 30334 and “?”. Furuli says:
“The first tablet from the reign of Labashi-Merodach is dated to day 11+ of month I of his accession year, but this cannot be harmonized with the tablet dated to month II of year 4 of Neriglissar.”
The date of BM 30334 in Furuli’s table, however, is wrong. A copy of the tablet by B. T. A. Evetts was first published as no. 69 in Babylonische Texte (1892). In a table on page 3 he shows the date to be I/02/04. The date on the tablet was collated and confirmed by Ronald H. Sack, whose transliteration and translation of the tablet appears on page 208 of his work on Neriglissar – King of Babylon (1994). The date creates no overlap between the two reigns.
Unfortunately, the last tablet in Furuli’s table on Neriglissar, dated II/01/04, has no number. As Furuli admits on page 63 he has been unable to identify the tablet and verify the date. He has found the date in an old article by F. H. Weissbach published in Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, Band 62, 1908, page 630. But Weissbach gives no further reference. The date has probably turned out to be wrong. It was not included by R. A. Parker and W. H. Dubberstein in their Babylonian Chronology 626 B.C. – A.D. 75 (1956), nor has it been referred to in later articles on Neriglissar or in R. H. Sack’s work on this regent. The date has to be rejected until Furuli can prove its correctness. The conclusion on page 327 of my book (GTR4), therefore, still stands:
“The last two tablets known from the reign of Neriglissar are dated I/2/4 (April 12, 556 B.C.E.) and I?/6/4 (April 16). The first tablet known from the reign of his son and successor, Labashi-Marduk, is dated I/23/acc. (May 3, 556 B.C.E.), that is, twenty-one, or possibly only seventeen days later. These dates create no overlap between the two.”
(6) Labashi-Marduk to Nabonidus
According to Furuli’s Table 3.5, the latest tablet from the reign of Labashi-Marduk is dated III/12/acc., while the earliest tablet from the reign of his successor Nabonidus is dated in the previous month, on II/15/acc.:
The two latest tablets from the reign of Labashi-Marduk:
Month/day/year: Tablet no.:
III/11/acc. (= June 19) YBC 3817
III/12/acc. (= June 20) Evetts, Lab. No. 1 (PD p. 13)
The two earliest tablets from the reign of Nabonidus:
Month/day/year: Tablet no.:
II/15/acc. (= May 25) Clay 1908, 39 (= BE VIII, 39)
III/18/acc. (= June 26) Strassm. 1889, 1 (= Nbn 1)
At first glance these tablets seem to show an overlap of 26 days between the two reigns. But a closer examination of the texts shows that this is not the case if the provenance of the tablets is taken into consideration.
The Uruk king list credits Labashi-Marduk with a reign of only three months, which is confirmed by the contemporary contract tablets, which are dated only to (parts of) months I, II, and III. According to Berossus he was plotted against and killed because of his wicked behaviour. The rebellion broke out almost immediately after his accession, evidently before he had gained control over the whole kingdom. This conclusion is supported by the fact that the tablets dated to his reign come from only four places: Babylon, Uruk, Sippar, and (one tablet) Borsippa.
The earliest tablet dated to Nabonidus is from Nippur. No tablets dated to Labashi-Marduk are from that city. And the latest tablets dated to him from Babylon, Uruk, Sippar, and Borsippa are all earlier than the earliest tablets from these cities dated to Nabonidus. Thus there are no overlaps between the two kings at any of these places. Professor Wolfgang Röllig concludes:
“Both, then, have ruled, or laid claim to the throne, at the same time, although at different places.” – W. Röllig in Reallexikon der Assyriologie und vorderasiatischen Archäologie, Band 6 (Berlin and New York, 1980), p. 409. Emphasis added. (Cf. also GTR4, pp. 327, 328)
This is shown in the following table:
Labashi-Marduk, latest tablets
(= June 1)
(= June 19)
(= June 20)
(= June 5)
Nabonidus, earliest tablets
(= May 25)
(= July 1)
(= June 26)
(= Oct. 31)
* PD p. 13 mentions a text, VAS VI 65, dated to III/01/acc. (June 9, 556) of Nabonidus. Although Sippar is not mentioned in the text, the inscription is reported to have been found there. It is a building inscription. Although it bears no date, F. X. Kugler (Sternkunde und Sterndienst in Babel, II:II:2, 1924, pp. 405-408) argued that it describes restoration work done in Sippar from day 1, month III of Nabonidus’ accession year onward. This view is rejected by P.-A- Beaulieu, whose careful study shows that restoration works took place in Sippar “in the second, the tenth, and the sixteenth year of Nabonidus”, but not in his accession year. (Beaulieu, The Reign of Nabonidus, King of Babylon 556-539 B.C., New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1989, p. 6. Cf. his Table 2 on p. 42.)
Furuli’s claim (p. 63), that “we can hardly avoid the conclusion that there was one or more years between Neriglissar and Nabonaid,” has no factual foundation. The supposed overlap between Neriglissar and Labashi-Marduk is based on misreading of tablets, and the Labashi-Marduk/Nabonidus “overlap,” which disappears on local level, is easily explained by the political circumstances that brought Nabonidus to the throne.
(7) Nabonidus to Cyrus
According to the Nabonidus Chronicle (translated by A. K. Grayson as Chronicle 7 in his Assyrian and Babylonian Chronicles, Locust Valley, New York: J.J. Augustin Publisher, 1975, pp. 104-111), Babylon was captured by the army of Cyrus on the 16th day of Tishri (= month VII), evidently in the 17th regnal year of Nabonidus (= October 11/12, 539 BCE; the year is damaged and illegible). This date, then, marked the end of the reign of Nabonidus. Cyrus himself entered Babylon on the 3rd day of month VIII, Arahsamnu (= October 28/29). The earliest tablet extant from the reign of Cyrus (CT 57:717) is dated to day 19, month VII (Tishri) of his accession-year, i.e., three days after the fall of Babylon.
Furuli, however, tries to argue that Nabonidus may have ruled longer than 17 years. He claims that, “Some anomalous tablets w[h]ere the reigns overlap do exist, but the dates of two [of] these tablets are explained away ad hoc by P&D, as the footnotes show.” (Furuli, p. 63) As will be demonstrated below this accusation is false.
In Table 3.6 on pages 63 and 64 he presents four tablets that he claims are dated to Nabonidus after the fall of Babylon on VII/16/17:
Month/day/year: Tablet no.:
VII/10/17 Strassm. Nab 1054
IX/xx/17 Strassm. Nab 1055
XII/17/17 CT 57.168
VI/06/18 Contenau 1927, 122
The first date contains a typing error and should be VIII/10/17. Actually, it has been known since 1990 that none of these four tablets have anomalous dates, and it is quite remarkable that Furuli does not know this. All dates are discussed, for example, in my book. All I can do, therefore, is to repeat the information presented in GTR4 on pages 356-358 and in note 62 on page 120:
“VIII/10/17” (Strassm. Nab 1054 =BM 74972):
As Furuli explains in note 84, PD rejected this date because “the month sign is shaded” in J. N. Strassmaier’s copy of the text published in 1889. (PD = Parker & Dubberstein, Babylonian Chronology, 1956, p. 13; the tablet is listed as no. 1054 in J. Strassmaier, Inschriften von Nabonidus, König von Babylon, Leipzig, 1889) They had good reasons for doing this because F. H. Weissbach, who collated the tablet in 1908, explained that the month name was highly uncertain and “in any case not Arahsamnu” (month VIII).
Actually, there is an even more serious error with the date. Back in 1990 I asked C. B. F. Walker at the British Museum to take another look at the date on the original tablet. He did this together with two other Assyriologists. They all agreed that the year is 16, not 17. Walker says:
“On the Nabonidus text no. 1054 mentioned by Parker and Dubberstein p. 13 and Kugler, SSB II 388, I have collated that tablet (BM 74972) and am satisfied that the year is 16, not 17. It has also been checked by Dr. G. Van Driel and Mr. Bongenaar, and they both agree with me.” – Letter Walker to Jonsson, 13 November 1990.
“IX/xx/17” (Strassm. Nab 1055):
This text does not give any day number, the date above just being given as “Kislimu [= month IX], year 17 of Nabonidus”. The text, in fact, contains four different dates of this kind, in the following chronological disorder: Months IX, I, XII, and VI of “year 17 of Nabonidus”. None of these dates refers to the time when the tablet was drawn up. Such a date is actually missing on the tablet. As F. X. Kugler explained, the tablet belongs to a category of texts containing instalment dates or delivery dates (maššartum). (F. X. Kugler, Sternkunde und Sterndienst in Babel, Vol. II:2, 1912, pp. 388, 389) Such dates were given at least one month, and often several months in advance. That is why Parker & Dubberstein explain that “this tablet is useless for dating purposes.” (Parker & Dubberstein, Babylonian Chronology, p. 14) As shown by its contents, No. 1055 is an administrative text giving the dates for deliveries of certain amounts of barley in year 17 of Nabonidus. - P.- A. Beaulieu in the Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Vol. 52:4 (1993), pp. 256, 258.
“XII/17 /17” (CT 57.168 = BM 55694):
This tablet was copied by T. G. Pinches in the 1890’s and was finally published in 1982 as CT 57:168. (CT 57:168 = Cuneiform Texts from Babylonian Tablets in the British Museum, Part. 57, 1982, No. 168) It is also listed in CBT 6 where the date is given as “Nb(-) 19/12/13+” (= day 19, month 12, year 13+). (Erle Leichty, ed., Catalogue of the Babylonian Tablets in the British Museum [CBT], Vol. 6, 1986, p. 184 [82-7-14, 51]) Both the royal name and the year number are obviously damaged and only partially legible. “Nb(-)” shows that the royal name begins with “Nabu-”. This could refer either to Nabopolassar, Nebuchadnezzar, or Nabonidus. If it is Nabonidus, the damaged year number, “13+”, may refer to any year between his 13th and 17th year.
“VI/06/18” (Contenau 1927, 122):
This tablet was copied by G. Contenau and was published as number 121 (“122” in Furuli’s table is an error) in his work Textes Cuneiformes, Tome XII, Contrats Néo-Babyloniens, I (Paris: Librarie Orientaliste, 1927), Pl. LVIII. Line 1 gives the date as “VI/06/17,” but when it is repeated in line 19 in the text it is given as “VI/6/18.” PD (Parker & Dubberstein, p. 13) assumed “either a scribal error or an error by Contenau.” The matter was settled by Dr. Béatrice André, who at my request collated the original at the Louvre Museum in Paris in 1990: “The last line has, like the first, the year 17, and the error comes from Contenau.” —Letter André-Jonsson, March 20, 1990. (See GTR4, p. 120, n. 62)
One could also mention another, similar error on page 117 in the latest CBT catalogue (M. Sigrist, R. Zadok, and C. B. F. Walker [eds.], Catalogue of the Babylonian Tablets in the British Museum, Vol. III, London: The British Museum Press, 2006), where text 486 (= BM 26668) is dated “Nbn 18/III/18” (= day 18, month III, year 18). On my request Dr. Jonathan Taylor, who is Curator at the Department of the Middle East at the British Museum, collated the tablet. In an email dated January 15, 2008, he explained:
“A year 18 for Nabonidus would indeed be very interesting. Unfortunately, the 18 is a typo here and the tablet is datable simply to year 8.”
None of the four tablets listed by Furuli have an anomalous date. None of them, therefore, may “suggest either that there was one or more years between Nabonaid and Cyrus, or that the regnal years of Nabonaid could be calculated in a way different from the expected one.” (Furuli, p. 63)
If a scholar believes it is possible to present a radical revision of the generally accepted chronology of an ancient, well known historical period, he/she should be able to present strong evidence of this, and he/she has to be very careful to check if his/her evidence is valid before it is published. Furuli has done nothing of this. His claim that there are “about 90 anomalous tablets” from the Neo-Babylonian period is demonstrably false. And most of the “anomalous dates” that he does quote have been proved not to be anomalous at all. Fresh collations have shown that most of them either contain scribal errors or have been misread by modern scholars, or have turned out to be modern copying, transcription, or printing errors.
The question is why Furuli has used such tablets in support of his “Oslo chronology” without having them collated. Basing a radical revision of the chronology established for one of the chronologically best established periods in antiquity on misreadings and misinterpretations of the documents used does not speak very well about the quality of the research performed.