A final scientific principle before I get to the fallacies is this. Sciences blend together and make use of each other’s results.
The best discussion of this that I can give is studies at Avaris.
One of the premier archaeologists working at this site has been Manfred Bietak, and his results include a conclusion that Ahmose chased the Hyksos out of Avaris about 1450 BCE.
I read his 1991 report for the American School of Oriental Research; it runs to 47 pages including the bibliography, and the whole time I read, I kept looking for radiometric dates for the site.
They aren’t in there.
In 2011 a journal called Archaeometry published a report which showed that radiometric dating applies consistently throughout Greece, Turkey, southwest Asia, Mesopotamia, and Egypt. It applies at all times, from the 2500s BCE on. It applies to all sites, no matter who is funding the research. The only archaeologist who has bucked the results of radiometric dating is Bietak, and radiometric dating shows that the site where he worked in Avaris came to an end at the same time as the Thera explosion, just after 1630 BCE.
Radiometric dating is part of a hard science, physics, and it has been applied successfully all over the world. For Bietak to claim something that doesn’t agree with radiometric dating requires other evidence and Bietak doesn’t give it.
One of the things that leads either to mistaken archaeological claims, or to misunderstanding of archaeological claims, is the idea that sciences are neatly marked off and never the twain shall meet. It’s the same assumption that says that it’s perfectly rational to get a flu shot every year because flu viruses mutate, but we have to reject that over a period of 4 billion years, complex life forms can develop from mutations. Or it’s perfectly rational to get radiation therapy for cancer, but we have to reject that the science underlying this treatment points to the accuracy of radiometric results for the age of the earth. As soon as Descartes used algebra to analyze geometry, the idea that fields of study have sharp and immoveable and impermeable delineators, and one conclusion has nothing to do with any of the others, crashed and burned.
We are only mortal and we can only understand as much as we study in the depth to which we study it. But trying to isolate fields of study from each other not only doesn’t work in the real world, it prevents isolationists from proving they have achieved accurate results. This will come up again toward the end of the blog.
Beitak failed to use a source of data that disagreed with him. He got an off the wall result. This is not what Richard Feynman meant when he talked about learning something new, because it’s the other archaeologists who have taught us something new: that events in this geographical area happened a century or two before the previously accepted dates. The reason Bietak didn’t get the same results as everybody else is that he didn’t do his work the way everybody else did.
Which feeds into next week’s post.
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