Courtesy of Alan Millard

An ordinary clay tablet from Assyria offers a crucial historical clue that enables scholars to construct a chronology for the reigns of the Assyrian kings from 910 to 649 B.C.E. The tablet lists, year by year, the name of the eponym (a royal official appointed for one year only) and any important events that occurred in the given year. One entry reads: “In the eponymate of Bur-sagale, of Guzan, revolt in the citadel of Assur; in the month of Siwan there was an eclipse of the sun.” This solar eclipse is dated astronomically to June 15th or 16th, 763 B.C.E. With this event as an anchor, the other entries in the list can be dated accordingly. Such synchronisms, Halpern argues, are invaluable for dating Biblical events and texts.