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Tempest Stela

7 December 2017

It seems the Tempest stela of Ahmose, first king of dynasty 18, belongs to a delicate stage in the removal of the Hyksos from the delta region in Egypt. The city of Avaris was under seige by the army of Ahmose, king of Upper Egypt. As such, the tempest was influential in the events that followed, culminating in the expulsion of the Hyksos from Lower Egypt. The big question is – did the tempest have anything to do with the eruption of the Thera volcano in the Aegean. It is thought the ash cloud primarily moved eastwards across southern Anatolia. This is deduced from the amount of ash found in soil and archaeological contexts. However, may some of that ash and debris also have affected northern Egypt, accounting for the darkness as portrayed on the stela inscription. More importantly, did a tsunami wave run through the channels that make up the fan shaped delta of the Nile causing Ahmose to retreat to Thebes. 

Pumice from Thera has been found in Egyptian workshops from roughly the time of Thutmose III, apparently finding their way into the delta system as a result of a tsunami. That does not mean the volcano dates from the reign of Thutmose III, or his predecessor, Hatshepsut, as some historians have suggested. The pumice could have been picked up at any time, once a use for it had been invented. It is not impossible that the pumice was floating around in the water, or along the sides of the channels, for a considerable period of time – even perhaps as long ago as the reign of Ahmose (a 100 to 150 years previously). The stela also records flooding – which is what caused Ahmose to retreat southwards, but the flooding also affected Upper Egypt, the Nile overflowing its banks and inundating fields out of season. Thera pumice has been found in Crete, Anatolia as well as Egypt. The eruption is dated to Late Minoan IA – too early for Thutmose III. Jovan has suggested a tsunami wave entering the flat delta zone would have raced across it and would have brought a halt to the flow of the Nile river above the delta, causing the Nile flow to back up and flood Upper Egypt. Is this what happened? The inscripion on the Tempest Stela has been translated by several people and different meanings have been gleaned – as the text is broken or damaged in places. It appears to refer to rain – but it is not clear if wet rain was meant or a rain of something else, such as ash and volcanic dust. The assumption of the translators has been that rain was meant in order to account for the flooding – but is that likely, in Egypt. Torrential rain is known in Egypt, but rarely. It depends if you view the stela as portraying an abnormal storm – or something more dramatic. Why set up a stela to record a heavy rainstorm?

The idea that Thera erupted in 1628BC, or a bit earlier, is a theory depending on linking an acid signal in ice cores with a low growth tree ring event, 1628-5BC, which may be linked to a volcano. It has been suggested another volcano, somewhere closer to Greenland and the North Pole, was involved, rather than a Mediterranean eruption. Alaska has been suggested. Manetho claimed that a Blast from God preceded the arrival of the Hyksos. This might be interpreted as an atmospheric explosion of a bolide. Did another disaster occur and lead to the expulsion of the Hyksos – a tsunami wave.

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