Dr. W.F. Albright’s Game-Changing Chronological Shift



 Damien F. Mackey



If Dr. Albright was correct in his view that the Egyptian Manium (or Mannu), against whom the Akkadian potentate Naram-Sin (c. 2200 BC conventional dating) successfully waged war, was none other than the legendary first pharaoh Menes, himself, then that must lead to the shocking conclusion that the beginning of the Egyptian dynastic history (c. 3100 BC conventional dating) is a millennium out of whack with Akkadian history.


Then Dr. Albright had estimated that the “Mani lord of Magan” whom Naram-Sin claimed to have smote, could not have been any petty ruler, given that Naram-Sin called him “mighty” (… Mannu dannu šar Magan). (“Menes and Naram-Sin”, JEA, Vol. 6, No. 2, Apr., 1920). And so Albright wrote (p. 89):

The fact that king Mannu here is called dannu, ‘mighty’, is very important, as no other of the princes conquered by Narâm-Sin has this honorific title in his inscriptions except the latter himself who, in common with the others of his dynasty, affixes dan(n)u … to his name: Narâm-Sin dan(n)u … Narâm-Sin, the mighty …. The lord of Magan must have been a powerful ruler to receive so illustrious an appellative.

And, whilst admitting on the same page that: “It may possibly be that we are dealing with a mere coincidence, extraordinary perhaps, but fallacious, and that the supporting indications will reveal themselves as  conspirators against the truth”, he nonetheless proceeded to make this strong statement in favour of his thesis: “Yet the lines of evidence, geographical, historical, chronological and archaeological, converge so remarkably in the direction of our thesis that we ought not shrink from the test – o bere o affogare!”

My Conclusions


I have fully accepted by now that Albright’s “lines of evidence” do lead to the conclusion that Naram-Sin’s foe, Mannu, was Menes, the first pharaoh, and that Mannu’s country of “Magan” was – as it always is in the ancient Syro-Mesopotamian records: Egypt.

And I have taken these identifications and implications further in various articles, such as my three-part series:

Narmer a Contemporary of Patriarch Abraham





For instance, following the tradition that Abram (later Abraham) was a contemporary of pharaoh Menes (Min), I have been able further chronologically to reduce the era of the clash between Naram-Sin and Menes to the time of Abram (c. 1900 BC).

And, given that Abram was – from archaeological evidence – a contemporary of Narmer’s (see my):


Bible Bending Pharaonic Egypt. Part One: Abraham to Exodus.


I have ventured to identify the enigmatic Narmer (sometimes considered to have been Menes) as the Akkadian Naram-Sin, enemy of Menes.

Furthermore, in “Narmer” (Part One) I had concluded that there were “several powerful forces in the land at the time of Abra[ha]m: namely,

“Pharaoh [of Egypt]” ([Genesis]12:15);

“Amraphel king of Shinar” (14:1); and

“Abimelech king of Gerar” (20:2)”.

And I asked: “Could any one of these have been Narmer?”

But I then noted that I had already concluded in articles that “Pharaoh” and “Abimelech” were one and the same ruler.

So the question really became whether Narmer could have been either:

Abram’s Pharaoh, or

Abram’s foe, Amraphel, the invading king of Shinar.In Egyptian dynastic terms, my preference for Pharaoh (= “Abimelech”) has been the long-reigning pharaoh, Hor-Aha (c. 3100, or 3000 BC, conventional dating). Hor-Aha, in turn, is often considered – based on his nomen – to have been the same as the legendary “Menes”. Phouka, for instance, presents pharaoh Hor-Aha’s “Nomen [as] Mn, Menes, ‘Established’.” (http://www.phouka.com/pharaoh/pharaoh/dynasties/dyn01/01me).So what makes most intriguing a possible collision of the semi-legendary pharaoh of Egypt, Menes, with a Shinarian potentate (and possibly “Amraphel” himself – as discussed in “Narmer” Part Three), is the emphatic view of Dr. W. F. Albright that Naram-Sin (of Akkad) had conquered Egypt, and that the “Manium” whom Naram-Sin boasts he had vanquished was in fact Menes himself. This, as we can appreciate, was an extremely radical conclusion for a scholar such as Albright to have reached. And Albright’s opening words reveal that he was completely aware of that fact: “Before proposing a synchronism between the first dynastic king of Egypt and the greatest of early Babylonian kings, one cannot but hesitate, fearful of seeming reckless”.    [End of quote]The Might and Power of Naram-SinM. van de Mieroop tells us of the extent of Naram-Sin’s mighty reach, though typically understated without the inclusion of Egypt and Ethiopia (A History of the Ancient Near East. Ca. 3000-323 BC, Blackwell, 2004, p. 63):The statements of Sargon and Naram-Sin stand out, however, because of their wide geographical range: these were certainly the greatest military men of the time. Yet, as Naram-Sin had to repeat many of his grandfather’s campaigns, it seems these often amounted to no more than raids.The accounts mention many places even more remote, such as the cedar forests in Lebanon, the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in eastern Turkey, Marhashi, east of Elam, and areas across the “Lower Sea,” i.e., the Persian Gulf. These were reached in far-flung forays for the procurement of rare goods, hard stone, wood, or silver. Booty from these areas was brought to Babylonia. Several stone vessels excavated at Ur and Nippur were inscribed with the statement that they were booty from Magan, for instance. It seems unlikely, however, that these areas were subsequently controlled by Akkad.Local circumstances determined to a great extent how Akkadian presence was maintained in this wide region. We observe a variety of interactions. At Susa in western Iran, for instance, the language of bureaucracy became Akkadian and the local rulers were referred to with Sumerian titles, such as governor (ensi) or general (shagina), which imply a full dependence on the kings of Akkad. On the other hand, the rulers of Susa retained some degree of authority.In Syria the Akkadians established footholds in certain existing centers, indicated by the presence of military garrisons or trade representatives there.  ‘Naram-Sin, the strong one, king of Akkad: when the four corners (of the universe) together were hostile to him, he remained victorious in nine battles in a single year because of the love Ishtar bore for him, and he took captive those kings who had risen against him. Because he had been able to preserve his city in the time of crisis, (the inhabitants of) his city asked from Ishtar in Eanna, from Enlil in Nippur, from Dagan in Turrul, from Ninhursaga in Kesh, from Enki in Eridu, from Sin in Ur, from Shamash in Sippar, and from Nergal in Kutha, that he be the god of their city Akkad, and they built a temple for him in the midst of Akkad.’Conceptually, this placed him in a very different realm from previous rulers. Earlier kings had been offered a cult after death, but Naram-Sin received one while he was still alive. The court initiated a process of royal glorification through other means as well. Perhaps the most visible of these efforts was in the arts. Stylistic changes originating in the reign of Sargon culminated in amazing refinement, naturalism, and spontaneity during Naram-Sin’s reign.[End of quote]

Some Revised (and Tentative)   

Biblico-Historical Correspondences

Late Chalcolithic/Early Bronze I/Ur III


Abram (Abraham)


“Pharaoh” (“Abimelech”) = Hor-Aha (Menes, Min) = Mannu (Manium)


(“Amraphel”?); Naram-Sin = Narmer


Most impressive is his victory stele, a 2-meter-high stone carved in bas-relief depicting the king leading his troops in battle in the mountains. Naram-Sin dominates the composition in a pose of grandeur, and is much larger than those surrounding him. Wearing the insignia of royalty – bow, arrow, and battle ax – he is also crowned with the symbol of divinity, the horned helmet.

Henceforth his name appeared in texts preceded by the cuneiform sign derived from the image of a star, which functioned as the indicator that what followed was the name of a god.

Already under Sargon the traditional title “King of Kish” came to mean “king of the world,” using the similarity of the name of the city of Kish and the Akkadian term for “the entire inhabited world,” kishshatum. Naram-Sin took such self-glorification to an extreme. First, he introduced a new title, “king of the four corners (of the universe).” His military successes led him to proclaim an even more exalted status. After crushing a major rebellion in the entirety of Babylonia, he took the unprecedented step in Mesopotamian history of making himself a god. A unique inscription found in northern Iraq, but not necessarily put there in Naram-Sin’s days, describes this act as requested by the citizens of the capital:

So mighty did Naram-Sin become that he even began to think of himself as a divine being (ibid., pp. 64-65):

At … modern Tell Brak … a monumental building was erected with bricks stamped with the name of Naram-Sin. ….

Naram-Sin concluded a treaty with an unnamed ruler or high official of Susa, a document written in the Elamite language. The agreement specified no submission to Akkad, only a promise by the Elamite to regard Naram-Sin’s enemies as his own. The autonomy of Elam should not be underestimated.

Rather, the raids aimed at monopolizing access to trade routes. Ships from overseas areas, such as Dilmun (Bahrain), Magan … and Meluhha … are said to have moored in Akkad’s harbor. So when Naram-Sin claims that he conquered Magan, it seems more likely that he used his military might to guarantee access to its resources.

The Akkadian kings focused their military attention on the regions of western Iran and northern Syria. In the east they encountered a number of states or cities, such as Elam, Parahshum, and Simurrum …. In the north they entered the upper Euphrates area, reaching the city of Tuttul at the confluence with the Balikh river, the cult center of Dagan that acted as a central focus of northern and western Syria. Mari and Ebla, the most prominent political centers of the region up till then, were destroyed. These places, which had been so close to northern Babylonia in cultural terms during the Early Dynastic period, were now considered to be major enemies.


Of particular importance for the late 3rd millennium Akkadian Period was Mallowan’s excavation of the ‘Palace’ (actually a fortified storehouse) of Naram-Sin, a grandson of Sargon of Agade. This building provided the first known evidence for South Mesopotamian control in the area. During the 1980s-90s, further important early Akkadian Period buildings were investigated, including a unique audience hall and temple together with administrative and ‘industrial’ areas near the Naram-Sin Palace (Area SS), and a temple and possible ‘way station’ near the north gate of the city (Area FS). Cuneiform tablets and sealed bullae from these buildings tell us something of the Akkadian and later administration.

Habermehl’s preference for the mysterious Akkad, now, in this new environment, is the most ancient site of Tell Brak. (See Abstract to her article). Naram Sin and the Akkadians were indeed prominent at this site (http://www.tellbrak.mcdonald.cam.ac.uk/occupation.html):


Where in the World Is the Tower of Babel?

Whilst Dr. Albright naturally adopted the standard view that, with the yet undiscovered city of Akkad thought to lie somewhere in Sumer (southern Babylonia), Naram-Sin was essentially a Mesopotamian (“Babylonian”) king, I myself have recently moved away from this, based on Anne Habermehl’s marvellous re-location of biblical “Shinar” (long thought to be Sumer) to the Sinjar (= Shinar) region in NE Syria. See her:

And, given the legendary association of Abraham with Menes, as already mentioned, I myself am inclined to think that the Egyptian identity of Abram’s (biblical) “Pharaoh” was Menes. Now, whilst pharaoh Hor-Aha (Menes) can also loom as a possible candidate for Narmer – {Phouka, though, suggests Narmer instead as a “presumed” father of Hor-Aha} – my preference is for Narmer as a king of Shinar, rather than as a pharaoh of Egypt.



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