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Radiocarbon dating sheds light on ancient Egyptian rulers

18th June 2010

An accurate chronology of the pharaohs of ancient Egypt has been created from radiocarbon analysis of plant remains.

Egyptologists have previously been forced to rely on different chronologies for rulers of the country's Old, Middle and New Kingdoms, due to a lack of solid evidence on the dating of events.

The new research, which was carried out by an international team and is published in the Science journal, radiocarbon dated 211 plant remains such as seeds, stems and textiles. These remains, taken from museum collections, are directly linked to the reigns of individual ancient Egyptian kings, helping determine an accurate chronology.

While the results fit broadly with many of the previous estimates, some timelines have been ruled out. For example, the Old Kingdom pharaoh Djoser, who is credited with commissioning the first pyramid, was shown to have been on the throne between 2,691 and 2,625 BCE - 50 to 100 years earlier than previous estimates.

Christopher Ramsey, professor of archaeological science at the University of Oxford, said: 'For the first time, radiocarbon dating has become precise enough to constrain the history of ancient Egypt to very specific dates.'

Earlier this month, archaeologists revealed that the world's oldest leather shoe had been discovered in a cave in Armenia. At 5,500 years old, the perfectly preserved shoe is 1,000 years older than Egypt's Great Pyramid of Giza.

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