March 20, 1963
Translated from the German
Dear Dr. Velikovsky,
This morning we got back safely, and first on the list will be to write to you, for you will certainly have been waiting eagerly for news.
To enter straightway medias in res-a C-14 test can be made in Philadelphia! To be sure. for reasons presently to be explained I failed to get something from the period you mentioned, but got something instead from an absolutely sure source in a reign after your key-figure Hatshepsut, namely, from the tomb of Tutankhamun. And now a short chronological report. After failing to meet Dr. Zaki Iskander at first, because he had always just left the place where he was supposed to be, I was able to sec him the day before last in Cairo itself. He was exceedingly pleasant. Prof. Maliks letters from Princeton must have opened all the doors, for from the start I perceived his readiness to give me something. We talked at length about the mummy of Ramesses III, about the mummies of officials of his time and their discovery, the rewrapping with mummy-bandages during the XXII Dynasty (not the XXI Dynasty) etc., and I learned to my surprise, and I suppose yours too. that it is by no means certain that the mummy passed off as the mummy of Ramesses III is in fact his. At the time when the discovery was made (so he said) such an indescribable confusion prevailed, and the removal from the pit took place with so little discipline, that afterwards there was no longer any possibility of ascertaining from which coffin which mummy had been taken, not to mention the fact that already before, at the time of the XXII Dynasty, no order could have prevailed at the reburial. So Dr. Zaki Iskander thought that a test of any material from this pit would have to reckon with an improbability figure of about 300 years from the outset, apart from the uncertainty factor that attaches to every analysis of this kind anyway.
I was greatly perplexed and prepared to believe that this was equivalent to a downright refusal. But then Dr. Z. Iskander led me into an adjoining room which contained fragments from tombs in long rows under glass. He looked around for almost half an hour and finally led me to two pieces. One was a black lump of resin from the tomb of Merneptah, the oilier consisted of wooden fragments from the tomb of Tutankhamun. I was so to speak being asked to decide myself what to take, and was quite uncertain what to do. Finally I asked Dr. Z. 1. what he would prefer for the most unobjectionable test. and he said at once: the wood. When I asked why (since he might be less willing to give the resin bandages away) he explained to me that inside this lump of resin there were fragments of bandages and of other substances which might be considerably more ancient than the dead ruler himself, and that particularly the oil for anointing and the resinous substances might come from a more distant past, as for royal embalments preferably the most precious, most ancient ingredients were used: for this reason, then, a radiocarbon analysis would be liable to some degree of uncertainty from the outset, which could hardly be the case with the wood from the tomb of Tutankhamun, for he would pick out for me pieces which belonged to trees which at the time they were felled could not be old he spoke of an age of about 30 years!—so that on this basis a successful date might best be established.
Unfortunately there was not enough available from one tree, or rather from one kind of wood (i.e. 20 grains) but after some searching 25 grams were collected, which are made up as follows: 1) a larger piece is cedar wood, Cedrus Libani, 2) two smaller pieces arc Siddar wood, Zizyphus spina Christi-and from (1) he selected a piece with more widely separated annual rings which therefore come from a later period of growth of the cedar: to all three pieces Dr. Z. 1. gave a date not older than 30 years at the time they were used. He assured me several times that from these pieces a sure guarantee for dating could be obtained.
So I decided then for the wood. What Dr. Zaki Iskander said about the age of oils for anointing and essences, and the uncertainty factor that is a priori present through the differing ages of the various substances inside the lump of resin, made sense to me. Moreover, Hatshepsut can definitely be considered to be the key figure in your rearrangement of the chronology: once the dating of these pieces of wood establishes the incorrectness of the age of the reign of Tutankhamun, until now thought to be certain, in my opinion the chronology of the later rulers too must shift in the sense your views require.
Dr. Zaki. Iskander then showed me through the museum, handed me a short historical survey of Egypts past which comes from his pen, with a dedication, and was, I should like to emphasize again, exceedingly pleasant. I mentioned your name to him, and also brought up whether he would be interested in your book: he said neither yes nor no. merely that only during boat-trips to Luxor, Abu Simbel, etc. does he find time for reading anything oilier than what directly concerns his work: thus I should like to leave it to you or to Dr. Ralph to thank him in some way.
Without more for today, and awaiting your reply on how I am to ship the precious 25 grams of wood, I am
Yours, Ilse Fuhr