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The natural disaster of the bronze age reported in an Egyptian stele

Fragments of the Storm Stele were found in the third pylon of the Temple of Karnak, Thebes, between 1947 and 1951. The stele dates back to the reign of Pharaoh Ahmose, first pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty. A translation of the reported inscription describes intense rain, darkness and “the stormy sky, without ceasing, with cries louder than those of the masses”.

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Published in 
 · 3 Feb 2024
The natural disaster of the bronze age reported in an Egyptian stele
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The unusual climate patterns described in the Storm Stele are probably the result of the catastrophic eruption of the Thera's volcano (now Santorini island in the Mediterranean Sea). Since geology and meteorology have concluded that massive volcanic eruptions can have significant effects on weather conditions, the Thera explosion likely had its effects felt in Egypt as well.

The volcanic event, also known as the “Minoan Eruption,” was one of the largest historically documented eruptions to occur on Earth. According to some scholars, the eruption was so catastrophic that it inspired certain Greek myths and perhaps, although less likely, Plato's own ideas about Atlantis.

The Storm Stele found in Thebes, modern Luxor between 1947 and 1951.
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The Storm Stele found in Thebes, modern Luxor between 1947 and 1951.

The fragments of the Storm Stele were found by a group of French archaeologists between 1947 and 1951, and are part of a stela dating back to the reign of Pharaoh Ahmose, the first of the 18th Dynasty. The blocks were found in Thebes, modern Luxor. The translation of the Storm Stele suggests that Pharaoh Ahmose ruled Egypt much closer to the eruption of Thera.

If the climatic upheavals reported in the stele do not describe the consequences of the Thera catastrophe, then its dating is contemporary with the reign of Ahmose, around 1550 BC. If instead the facts reported by the stele are those caused by the Minoan eruption, then it means that the Ahmose's reign must be anticipated by at least 50 years.

In 2006 radiocarbon tests carried out on an olive tree buried under residues of volcanic origin placed the eruption of Thera at 1621-1605 BC. According to scholars, the revised dating of Ahmose's reign helps to fit together the dates of other events in the ancient Near East are more logical.

For example, the dates of important events such as the fall of the Canaanites and the collapse of the Babylonian empire are realigned.

For a long time, researchers considered the Storm Stele to be merely a metaphorical tale describing the impact of the Hyksos invasion. The translation underlines that the text refers to events affecting both the delta region and the area of ​​Egypt further south along the Nile.

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