The Biblical Plagues

2 Apr 2010

At March 30th ... 'Biblical Plagues really happened say scientists' - apparently, the Biblical plagues were the result of global warming which triggered a series of environmental disasters and natural disasters such as volcanoes. The evidence will be broadcast on the National Geographic Channel on Easter Sunday - but were oil and coal the bogeyman? Archaeologists, it is said, think the plagues occurred at the city of Pi-Ramesses, the capital city of Rameses II (1279-1213BC). The city was abandoned 3000 years ago, the spin continues, and a group of scientists think the plagues may offer an explanation for that. A dramatic shift in climate occurred towards the end of the reign of Ramesses II and using stalagmites as evidence of weather patterns they found his reign coincided with a warm and wet climate. This weather switched rather dramatically to a dry climate as the curve fell sharply - especially during late dynasty 19. We may note that in Irish tree rings, and by inference those elsewhere, the sharp fall probably coincided with the low growth event at 1159-41BC - which implies the orthodox chronology is at least 70 years out of alignment with the natural world. The switch in climate was the trigger for the plagues - they speculate (and this depends on whether Ramesses II was the pharaoh of the Exodus - which is exceedingly unlikely). The dry weather could have caused the Nile to dry up (where is the evidence?) - but the Nile is fed by monsoons much further south. They explain the Nile turning to blood as due to toxic algae, the plague of frogs, lice and fleas to hormones that speed up under duress, and so on. A natural disaster 400 miles away is thought to be responsible for the seventh, eighth and ninth plagues - the Thera volcano (although pumice from the volcano has been found in dynasty 18 contexts). Volcanic ash and thunderstorms are invoked to create dramatic hail storms and the cause of the tenth plague, the death of the first born, is attributed to a fungus that poisoned grain in storage. None of these explanations for the plagues are in any way novel - they have been aired sometimes on many occasions. The Thera eruption is usually dated to somewhat before the reign of Ramesses II, and there is no evidence of an Exodus in what was a highly successful phase of Egyptian history. However, the study will be fascinating in another way as it may be able to tell us something useful about the late dynasty 19 period - which involved a roughly 20 year period of upheaval or unusual weather, and one cannot help but note the 1159-41BC low growth tree ring event would fit that scenario quite perfectly.