Ancient Egypt Not So ‘Ancient:’ Radiocarbon Dating Shows First Pharaoh Dynasty Started 300 Years Later Than Previously Thought

By Philip Ross on September 4, 2013 12:53 PM EDT

ancient egypt
Ancient Egypt isn’t as ancient as we think, and actually grew into a thriving civilization much faster than previously estimated. (Photo: Reuters)

Ancient Egypt isn't as "ancient" as we think. Clearly it's still pretty old, but new research has shed light on ancient Egypt's obscure timeline, especially when it began. According to New Scientist, ancient Egypt is about 300 to 400 years younger than scholars estimate.

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That means it took just a few centuries to build the powerful civilization that became the world's first territorial state with centralized administration, strict borders and extensive agriculture, New Scientist notes.

Scientists from the Research Laboratory for Archaeology at the University of Oxford used radiocarbon dating on human hairs, bones and plants excavated from archaeological digs where Egypt's first kings are buried. They then used computer models to compare archaeological evidence to map when exactly the ancient civilization rose to power.

They discovered that Egypt's first settlers began to form a civilization near the Nile around 3700 to 3600 BC - about 300 to 400 years later than previously thought. According to MSN, until now, scholars believed settlers arrived around the Nile around 4000 BC.

"Trying to understand what happened in human history to lead people to establish this sort of polity we felt was a gap in understanding that needed to be filled," Dr. Michael Dee, the study's lead researcher, told The BBC.

In the past, ancient Egypt's timeline has been somewhat of a guessing game. There are virtually no written records from the earliest periods of Egypt's history; estimates of when Egypt began were based on the evolution of ceramics uncovered from burial sites, according to The BBC.    

"This is highly significant work, which pulls the beginnings of Egypt's dynastic history into much sharper focus - it is tremendously valuable to have such a precise timeline for Egypt's first rulers," Prof Joann Fletcher from the department of archaeology at the University of York, said.

Read more from iScience Times:

Oldest Known Iron Jewelry Came From Space: Did 'Alien' Encounters Help Craft Ancient Egyptian Culture?

Boy Finds Mummy In Germany: Did Alexander Kettler Discover An Authentic Ancient Egyptian Corpse?

Spinning Statue: 4,000-Year-Old Egyptian Relic Mysteriously Rotates On Its Own [VIDEO]

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