Ancient Egypt Cities Leveled by Massive Volcano, Ash Find Suggests
- Ancient Egypt Cities Leveled by Massive Volcano, Ash Find Suggests Dan
Morrison in Cairo
for National Geographic News <http://news.nationalgeographic.com/>
April 2, 2007
Egyptian archaeologists today announced that they have unearthed traces of
volcanic ash on the northern coast of Sinai that date to around 1500
accounts that a number of ancient Egyptian settlements were buried by a
massive volcanic eruption in the Mediterranean.
The archaeological team, led by Mohamed Abdel Maqsoud of Egypt's Supreme
Council for Antiquities, found houses, military structures, and tombs
encased in ash near the ancient Egyptian fortress of Tharo, on the Horus
military road. Tharo is located close to El Qantara, where the Nile Delta
meets the Sinai peninsula (Eygpt
According to Zahi Hawass, secretary general of the council, the ash hails
from Santorini, an eastern Mediterranean volcano that has been linked to the
myth of Atlantis. (Related: "'Atlantis' Eruption Twice as Big as Previously
The new find seems to confirm accounts from ancient artwork and documents
that recount the destruction of coastal cities in Egypt and Palestine during
the 15th dynasty (1650-1550 B.C.), when foreigners known as the Hyksos ruled
The scientists suggest that trade winds may have carried a blizzard of ash
to Egypt from Santorini, located about 700 miles (1,100 kilometers) from
*"Very Significant" Find*
The archaeological mission also found a fort with four mud-brick towers
dating to Egypt's 18th dynasty (around 1550 to 1307 B.C.).
Hawass said the fort corresponded to reliefs found in the ancient temple of
Karnak in Luxor. The sculptures describe Egypt's strategy to defend its
eastern borders against future invasions by the Hyksos, who are thought to
have been Semitic nomads from Syria and Palestine.
"It's very significant," said Salima Ikram, a professor of Egyptology at the
American University in Cairo. "There are only a limited number of sites
linked to the Hyksos."
Ikram said the archaeological team had used "holistic
archaeology"�incorporating geology and climatology in addition to
archaeology, linguistics, and art history�"to bring a more concrete tale of
the past." Ikram added that the site also contains some of the earliest
known remains of horses found in Egypt.
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- Organic matter proximal to a volcanic eruption can provide an age determination,which is too old,because carbon dioxide can enter the organic matter prior to the eruption.The pumice at Avaris might [?] be from a subsequent eruption at Thera or one or both of the age estimates is erroneous.
Katarzyna Zeman <elf_cath@...> wrote:
Science 312 (28 April 2006), 547-65:
cover abstract: "New Carbon Dates Support Revised History of Ancient Mediterranean," by Michael Balter
article: "Chronology for the Aegean Late Bronze Age 1700-1400 B.C.," by Sturt W. Manning, Christoper B. Ramsey, Walter Kutschera, Thomas Higham, Bernd Kromer, Peter Steier, and Eva M. Wild
back abstract: "Santorini Eruption Radiocarbon Dated to 1627-1600 B.C.," by Wlater L. Friedrich, Bernd Kromer, Michael Friedrick, Jan Heinemeier, Tom Pfeiffer, and Sahra Talamo
In short: the early date for the eruption of Santorini (mid 16th c. BCE, ~1560) is now moved up to the late 17th c. (1621-1605 BCE).
One team led by Sturt Manning, new director of the Aegean Dendrochronology Project at Cornell, produced 127 new C14 dates from Akrotiri (and other Aegean BA sites: seeds, groups of seeds, twig) that span a period from ca. 1700 to 1400 BCE. These new dates also date the eruption to between 1660 and 1613 with 95% confidence, and within 1639-1616 with 68% confidence.
Another team, led by Walter Friedrich (University of Aarhus), radiocarbon dated the olive branch (discovered in 2002 by Tom Pfeiffer, complete with remnants of leaves and twigs, buried alive in the eruption) to 1627-1600 according to its outermost ring, again with 95% confidence (1621-1605 with slightly less confidence). Although Peter Kuniholm, past director of the ADP-Cornell, cautions that it is more difficult to date olive rings than conifers or oaks, nonetheless the date seems trustworthy.
Such an early date for the Santorini eruption, and for LM IA pottery, conflicts with the traditional dates assigned to LM IA pottery and its correlation with Egypt's early New Kingdom, especially Pharaoh Ahmose, dated conventionally to the 3rd quarter of the 16th century (~1550-1525).
Instead, the new dates suggest that LM IA (and the Mycenae Shaft Graves) is contemporary with Egypt's Hyksos period which preceded Ahmose's re-establishment of power.
This conflict between the scientific dates and the conventional dates "suggests either a defect in the conventional linkages to the Egyptian historical chronology in the mid-second millennium B.C. or a failing in the Egyptian chronology itself. Because the Egyptian historical chronology is widely considered relatively robust and in the 14th century B.C. (Amarna period) it correleates well both with the independent Mesopotamian historical chronology and 14C evidence, the problem more likely relates to the interculture linkages in the mid-second millennium B.C. [or, less likely, some chronolgoical flaw affecting specifically mid-second millennium B.C. Egyptian dates]."
The article goes on to suggest that other dates, proposed earlier, are now unlikely to be correct (e.g., 1645 based on ice-core evidence [perhaps now reflecting an eruption of Aniakchak).
This new evidence makes "the formation and high point of the New Palace period ... the linked Shaft Grave period ... and Middle Cypriot III-Late Cypriot IA all before ~1600 B.C." - and Hyksos Egypt.
The article concludes with calling for reassessments of the Akrotiri frescoes within a 17th c. context, MM III as a short phase dating to mid- to late 18th c., and the conventional date of the LM IB destructions (1490/1470) as now dating earlier, e.g., 1522-1456 (14C at Myrtos-Pyrgos), and contemporary with the early New Kingdom in Egypt (~1550/1540).
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