A new translation of words that exist on an ancient Egyptian calcite block could potentially rewrite a part of history. Scholars from the University of Chicago have studied an inscription on a 3,500-year-old block located at the Tempest Stela. The inscription's new translation could change what has been believed to be Bronze Age chronology.
A new translation
Two scholars from University of Chicago's Oriental Institute, Nadine Moeller and Robert Ritner, took a close look at the 6-foot-tall calcite block at Tempest Stela. The inscription is 40 lines and describes conditions of rain and darkness. The pair of scholars have interpreted it to say: "the sky being in storm without cessation, louder than the cries of the masses," according to an April 1, 2014 University of Chicago News report.
It is believed the weather patterns, described by the university as "unusual", were directly related to the volcanic eruption at Thera as the translation indicates the storm was not a normal one for Egypt.
Nadine Moeller is an assistant professor of Egyptian archaeology at the Oriental Institute. Dr. Robert Ritner is Professor of Egyptology.
If this "weather report" is related to Thera, this means what is believed to the timeline in ancient history could change. Tempest Stela is dated to the reign of Ahmose, the first pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty during the Bronze Age. The block that contains the inscription was found in Thebes, where the pharaoh ruled. If this inscription is related to Thera, it could shift history by about 30 to 50 years, indicating Ahmose's rule was earlier than currently believed.
"This is important to scholars of the ancient Near East and eastern Mediterranean, generally because the chronology that archaeologists use is based on the lists of Egyptian pharaohs, and this new information could adjust those dates," said Moeller, according to University of Chicago News.
Until now there has been some mystery and seemingly discrepancy in the timeline. Radio carbon dating of an olive tree embedded in volcanic remains was dated to be 1621-1605 B.C., but other archaeological evidence of the massive eruption didn't quite align.
This recent discovery could potentially resolve the issue if Ahmose ruled at an earlier time as the new translation indicates. If this is the case, that means other historical events may shift as well, but be presented in a more logical fashion. It also fits with other text, the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus, that was written during this time frame and included weather indicators.
The massive eruption that occurred at Thera, which is the current-day Santorini in the Mediterranean Sea, has been described as changing the world, as Live Science noted in 2008. That eruption severely impacted populations, such as the Minoans, and also had long-stretching consequences for other areas of the world - including Egypt as volcanic eruptions can cause far and long reaching havoc. Red Orbit noted as a more modern-day example, the 1883 explosion in Indonesia at Krakatoa caused severe devastation in the vicinity and had effects on areas far away from the actual eruption, and also changed weather patterns for years. That massive explosion was heard 3,000 miles away.
If this transcription is related to Thera, it could be the "world's oldest weather report", as media reports indicate. And it also shows the Thera explosion had far reaching impact.
The full research from Nadine Moeller and Robert Ritner appears in the Journal of Near Eastern Studies, spring edition. The journal is published twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall.