The Desert of Paran is one of the places the Israelites spent part of their 40 years of wandering after the Exodus. The Paran plateau contains a lot of gravel due to the lack of rain and is located in the central-east part of the Sinai Peninsula.
If the biblical accounts described in the books of Exodus and Numbers have a historical relate, and if indeed an exodus from Egypt took place with stops at Mount Horeb and Kadesh-barnea, the chronological context may refer only to the phase BAC IV, around 2350-2000 BC.
Mount Karkom was a primary sacred mountain in that period, and the topography and archaeological evidence of its plateau reflect the location and scenario of the biblical Mount Sinai relates.
Emmanuel Anati found sanctuaries and altars located on the mountain and at its foot, as well many remains of nomads camps, all these tell us the story of a sacred mountain in the heart of the desert describe in the Exodus.
‘I‘m sure Karkom is the real mountain of God,’ Prof. Emmanuel Anati declares. ‘Israel should be proud.’
For over a century, archaeologists and exegetics have debated the question of the age during which the exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt towards the “Promised Land” took place. Some of them question the historical reliability of the biblical text. There were and are those who consider that the story of exodus is an historical document, others claim that the event concerned a small group of slaves fleeing from Egypt, presumably only a small part of the Hebrews there are people who believe that there have been several exoduses; and there are those who value the narration as the fruit of a myth without any historical base.
The problem of the chronology of exodus can exist only if one accepts that an exodus might indeed have taken place. There is however a question on the age of the myth or of the various elements included in the narration. Some of them may be late, some may be early. The earliest possible date of reference is obviously relevant for any historical reconstruction. Of course if one could demonstrate that nothing of the story of exodus could be earlier than the Iron age, this could have an impact in the historical reconstruction. Likewise, if it could be demonstrated that some elements of the story are consistently older, another base of historical reconstruction would become possible.
But Raamses, as a geographical area, is mentioned also in the book of Genesis, with reference to an epoch that all the exegetics would agree must have been well before the XIII century BC. The name of Raamses, in the book of Exodus and in that of Genesis, emerges as a geographical indication: it indicates the site where, according to tradition, the Hebrews were in Egypt. It is not necessarily the same name that the site must have had at the epoch of the Patriarchs or at the time of Moses. This is true also for the other names that the Bible uses in an anachronistic way. For example, “The way of the Country of the Philistines” could hardly have had this name before the Philistines arrived, while, at the epoch in which the text was put into writing, it undoubtedly had that name. It is a normal narrative process, as if we say: “the Neolithic people settled in the area of Tel Aviv”. This does not signify that the site was called “Tel Aviv” in the Neolithic period.
As a consequence of the preceding assumption, this exegetical chronology had fixed the limits between which the exodus should have taken place, between the building of the town of Raamses and the age of the stele of Mer-ne-Ptah, that is between 1292 and 1220 BC, in any case in the XIII century BC. In almost all the urban centres, the tells excavated in the Delta area, there are archaeological layers in the New Kingdom which overlap older levels. This is also the case in the suggested locations of the towns of Raamses and Pitom which may be identified with the archaeological sites of Kantir and of Tell el-Maskhuta, where there are also earlier archaeological levels. But the archaeological elements that accumulated in recent years, together with the comparative literature of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, create even more difficulties for the solution of this complex problem.
During the XVIII and XIX dynasty, in the Egyptian period of the New Kingdom (1550-1200 BC) the court of the Pharaoh was full of bureaucrats and intellectuals, and the state archives were worth every respect. If the episode of the flight from Egypt and the passage of the “Red Sea” referred to the New Kingdom, some traces should have been found in the Egyptian text, perhaps proposing a more brilliant version for the Egyptians. The lack of any reference has convinced some scholars that the biblical narration is pure mythology without any historical base.
The biblical episodes narrated in Egypt, the presence of notable groups of Asiatic people in the zone of the Delta, and the political changes that modified their social position, are subjects suitable for consideration in the Egyptian literature. And in our view they have been considered; however the pertinent texts do not belong to the New Kingdom but to the Old Kingdom. In other words they do not go back to the XIII century, but to the III millennium BC, one millennium before the contexts on which the biblical scholars have concentrated their research. The reader should not be scandalised now, but after reading and meditating this article to the end and after considering the proposed data.
During the VI dynasty, especially under the reign of Pepi I (2375-2350), the Egyptians conducted several punitive campaigns. A commander by the name of Uni immortalised the actions against the Asiatics “that live in the territory of sand” and describes situations comparable to those in the book of Exodus. From the accounts we get a picture of a world conceptually and contextually very near that described in the biblical narrations. The army of Uni devastated the animal enclosures, destroyed the huts, chopped down the figs and grape trees and safely came back to Egypt. The description could refer to one of the tribes of the pastoralists and incipient cultivators in the semi desert zone, like the Midianites or the Amelekites. It could also be a “war report” of an event in which, as usual, each one of the sides claimed success.