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The astronomical event, which took place on October 30, 1207, BC, could affect the chronology of the ancient world in more ways than we ever imagined.
Scientists at the University of Cambridge have combined a passage from the Bible and an Egyptian text to determine the date of what could be the oldest recorded solar eclipse, according to a study published in the journal Astronomy & Geophysics.
In their research, experts have specified the dates when certain Egyptian pharaohs reigned – in particular, Ramses the Great – and, if the scientific community accepts their new study version, it could lead to a readjustment in the calculations of the Egyptologists, hence rewriting history.
In the Old Testament, the book of Joshua explains that, after he led the people of Israel to Canaan, a region of the ancient Middle East that covered present-day Israel and Palestine Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel:
“Sun, stand still over Gibeon, and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon. 13 So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar.” The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day.14 There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a human being. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel!
“If these words are describing a real observation, then a major astronomical event was taking place – the question for us to figure out is what the text actually means,” said paper co-author Professor Sir Colin Humphreys from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Materials Science & Metallurgy, in a statement.
Normally, “translations into modern English” interpret that “the Sun and the Moon stopped moving” but, according to the original Hebrew text, “we determined that an alternative meaning” could be that the Sun and the Moon “stopped shining” , explains Humphreys.
The phenomenon could have been a solar eclipse – when the Moon finds itself on the path between the Earth and the Sun – an interpretation supported by the fact that the Hebrew word translated “stay still” has the same root as a Babylonian term that appears in ancient astronomical texts to describe eclipses.
Other evidence that the Israelites were in Canaan between 1500 and 1050 BC appears in a written Egyptian text of Pharaoh Merneptah, son of Ramses the Great.
That slab of granite, which is stored in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, indicates that it was carved in the fifth year of the reign and mentions a campaign in Canaan in which Merneptah defeated the people of Israel.
According to experts, the only annular solar eclipse visible from Canaan between 1500 and 1050 BC happened on October 30, 1207, BC.
If this fact is confirmed, not only would it be the oldest recorded event, but it would allow to date the reigns of Ramses the Great and his son Merneptah with an almost exact precision.