The first solar eclipse that is recorded seems to be described in a biblical account, which also helps in the precise dating of the reign of Ramesses II and his son.
Probably the oldest solar eclipse ever recorded. It happened on October 30, 1207 BC. , and it is mentioned in the Bible itself.
The date when it would be the oldest solar eclipse in history (to prove it) is known because of an investigation conducted in 2017, which was published in the journal Astronomy & Geophysics, where, using a combination of two texts, a biblical one and the other Egyptian, scientists were able to define the dates that the pharaohs ruled, especially the exact date of the reign of Rameses II.
The first text: the book of Joshua
The biblical texts analyzed come from the Old Testament and note that after Joshua led the people of Israel to Canaan (a region of the ancient Near East that occupied modern Israel and Palestine), he declared: “And the sun was paralyzed, and the moon stopped. until the nations have avenged their enemies. “
“These words describe a real observation; therefore, a considerable astronomical event had to happen ” , interprets one of the authors of the article, Professor Colin Humphreys of the University of Cambrige , who works on the scientific knowledge of biblical texts.
Modern English translations of the Bible , which have their predecessors in King John’s translation of 1611, normally interpret this text as the fact that the Sun and Moon have stopped moving, “adds Humphreys. “But going back to the original Hebrew text, I came with an alternate meaning, which would be that the Sun and Moon simply stopped doing what they normally do: they shine. In this context, the words of the Hebrew text could refer to a solar eclipse: when the Moon passes between Earth and the Sun, the Sun does not seem to shine anymore, because the disc is covered. “
The interpretation of the research team is reinforced by the fact that the Hebrew word translated into English as motionless (something as paralyzing) has the same meaning as a Babylonian word used by ancient astronomical texts to describe eclipses.
Humphreys’s team is not the first to suggest that this biblical text may refer to an eclipse; however, some historians say that it is not possible to investigate this fact, because of the laborious calculations that should be made to verify whether, in fact, this event occurred.
The eclipse took place on October 30, 1207 BC, in the afternoon.
Second text: an Egyptian engraving
There is additional evidence, besides this text, that the Israelites were in Canaan between 1500 and 1050 BC: it is an Egyptian engraving of the kingdom of Pharaoh Merneptah, the son of one of the most famous pharaohs, Rameses II . The text is engraved on a large granite block, which can now be found in the Cairo Museum, and mentions a campaign in Canaan that defeated the people of Israel .
Previous researchers have used these two texts to try to date the possible eclipse, but they have not succeeded, because they have only searched for total eclipses, in which the solar disk appears completely covered by the Moon.
What the previous historians did not take into account was that it was a ring eclipse, in which the Moon passes directly in front of the Sun, leaving it with the characteristic form of “ring of fire”. But the same term was used in the ancient world for total eclipses.
The new survey established that the only visible annular eclipse in Canaan between 1500 and 1050 BC. it was on October 30, 1207 BC, in the afternoon.
If their calculations are correct, not only as the oldest recorded solar eclipse, but would allow and researchers to date the reign of Ramses II rigorously and his son Merneptah.
And the results are quite consistent with the information available.
Using these new calculations, the reign of Merneptah began in 1210 or 1209 BC, and Rameses II reigned in the period 1276-1210 BC. , with a margin of error of 1 year, as is known from ancient Egyptian texts .
The exact dates of the reign of the Pharaohs have always been subject to uncertainty among Egyptologists; but this new calculation, if accepted, could lead to a readjustment in the data of several of his rulers and will allow us to give them with absolute precision.