The oldest solar eclipse ever recorded has been pinpointed to a specific date more than 3,000 years ago, helping historians to date the Egyptian pharaohs.
Cambridge University researchers believe that the eclipse occurred on 30 October 1207 BC and is referenced in the bible.
They said the discovery helps explain text in the Old Testament book of Joshua that has puzzled biblical scholars for centuries.
The book states that after Joshua led the people of Israel into Canaan – a region of the ancient Near East that covered modern-day Israel and Palestine – he prayed: “Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and Moon, in the Valley of Aijalon. And the Sun stood still, and the Moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies.”
Prof Sir Colin Humphreys from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Materials Science & Metallurgy, said that if these words were describing a real observation, “a major astronomical event” was taking place.
“Modern English translations, which follow the King James translation of 1611, usually interpret this text to mean that the sun and moon stopped moving,” he said.
“But going back to the original Hebrew text, we determined that an alternative meaning could be that the sun and moon just stopped doing what they normally do: they stopped shining.”
Prof Humphreys and co-author Graeme Waddington are not the first to suggest that the biblical text may refer to an eclipse. But earlier historians claimed it was impossible to investigate the possibility due to the laborious calculations required.
Earlier researchers also only looked at total eclipses, failing to consider that the text may refer to an annular eclipse, in which the moon passes directly in front of the sun, but is too far away to cover the disc completely, they said.
In order to date the eclipse, the Cambridge researchers developed a new “eclipse code” which examined variations in the Earth’s rotation over time.
From their calculations, they determined that the only annular eclipse visible from Canaan between 1500 and 1050 BC was on 30 October 1207 BC, in the afternoon.
Historical evidence from the Merneptah Stele, a text from the reign of the Pharaoh Merneptah, shows that the Israelites were in Canaan between 1500 and 1050 BC.
Solar eclipse February 2017, in pictures
The large granite block held in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo says that it was carved in the fifth year of Merneptah’s reign and mentions a campaign in Canaan in which he defeated the people of Israel.
If correct, the discovery not only marks the oldest solar eclipse recorded but also enables academics to date the reigns of Ramesses the Great and his son Merneptah to within a year.
Prof Humphreys added: “Solar eclipses are often used as a fixed point to date events in the ancient world.
“Using these new calculations, the reign of Merneptah began in 1210 or 1209 BC. As it is known from Egyptian texts how long he and his father reigned for, it would mean that Ramesses the Great reigned from 1276-1210 BC, with a precision of plus or minus one year, the most accurate dates available.
“The precise dates of the pharaohs have been subject to some uncertainty among Egyptologists, but this new calculation, if accepted, could lead to an adjustment in the dates of several of their reigns and enable us to date them precisely.”
Previous claims of the earliest recorded eclipse include images carved into stone cairns at Loughcrew in Co Meath, Ireland, more than 5,000 years ago while Greek astronomer Ptolemy claimed that the first recorded eclipse was observed by the Babylonians in March 721 BC.
The results are published in the Royal Astronomical Society journal Astronomy & Geophysics.
What creates a total solar eclipse
This news collected from :Source link