Plagues of Egypt
Late Bronze Age Collapse of civilisations in the Eastern Mediterranean in the second half of the 2nd millennium BC has been variously attributed to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and severe climate change. It is extremely unlikely that all these occurred around the same time through coincidence. Unfortunately, it is not clear to what extent these events were interrelated. As I see it, political upheavals do not lead to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or drought and so can be safely viewed as an effect rather than a cause. Similarly, climate change is just as unlikely to have caused eruptions or seismic activity and so can also be classified as an effect. Consequently, we are left with earthquakes and volcanoes as the prime suspects for the catastrophic turmoil that took place in the Middle East between the 15th and 12th centuries BC. Nevertheless, August 2013 saw further evidence published which blamed climate change for demise of civilisations in the region.
Robert Drews dismisses any suggestion that Greece suffered a critical drought around 1200 BC, citing the absence of any supporting reference by Homer or Hesiod as evidence. He proposes that “the transition from chariot to infantry warfare as the primary cause of the Great Kingdoms’ downfall.”
This extended period of chaos began around 1450 BC when the eruptions on Thera took place. These caused the well-documented devastation in the region including the ending of the Minoan civilisation and probably the Exodus of the Bible and the Plagues of Egypt as well. According to the Parian Marble, the Flood of Deucalion probably took place around the same time.
Professor Stavros Papamarinopoulos has written of the ‘seismic storm’ that beset the Eastern Mediterranean between 1225 and 1175 BC(a). Similar ideas have been expressed by Amos Nur & Eric H.Cline(b)(c). The invasion of the Sea Peoples recorded by the Egyptians, and parts of Plato’s Atlantis story all appear to have taken place around this period. Plato refers to a spring on the Athenian acropolis (Crit.112d) that was destroyed during an earthquake. Rainer Kühne notes that this spring only existed for about 25 years but was rediscovered by the Swedish archaeologist, Oscar Broneer, who excavated there from 1959 to 1967. The destruction of the spring and barracks, by an earthquake, was confirmed as having occurring at the end of the 12th century BC.
(this is a shorter version of (c) below)
Dorothy B. Vitaliano (1916-2008) was a geologist who published Legends of the Earth in 1973 in which she discussed how catastrophic seismic or volcanic events were retained for posterity in the legends of the peoples who experienced them. She invented the term ‘geomythology’ to describe what she considered to be a distinct field of study.
Probably inspired by Vitaliano, Cindy Clendenon has promoted a new related field of study(c) that she calls ‘hydromythology’.
Vitaliano’s book included a chapter on Atlantis in which she expresses her opinion that there is nowhere in the Atlantic Ocean that Atlantis could have existed. Understandably, sceptics of an Atlantic Atlantis seized upon this statement, while those that adhere to the idea that it had been a large island in that ocean were understandably dismayed. Vitaliano also discussed the biblical Plagues of Egypt and their connection with the eruption of Thera in the second millennium BC.
Dorothy’s husband, Charles J. Vitaliano (1910-2000) was also a professor of geology and together they pursued the study of major geological events and their effect on ancient cultures.
There are two of Vitaliano’s papers that are available online(a)(b).
Thera is an ancient name for today’s Aegean archipelago of Santorini, which are the remains of a volcanic island.
Only two of the islands are inhabited, the main island, Santorini and Therasia, which had been joined before the 16th century BC eruption. Recent excavations have revealed a pre-eruption settlement on Therasia(x).
Although it exhibited low-level activity in 1939-41 and 1950-51, it was in 1926 when it last erupted violently, destroying many hundreds of buildings in less than a minute. Eruptions of similarity intensity occurred in 1650, 1707 and 1866. It was also the site of probably the most powerful and destructive volcanic explosion in the Mediterranean during the Bronze Age. Although the exact date of this event is still the subject of some controversy, the most recent evidence(a) indicates a date around 1613 BC ±13years, while archaeologists are more supportive of a date circa 1500 BC.
*Professor Floyd McCoy of the University of Hawaii has written and broadcast extensively on the matter of the Late Bonze Age eruption of Thera, including a paper delivered to the 2005 Atlantis Conference. In it, he noted that “New finds of tephra – ash and pumice – both on land and on the seafloor indicate a far larger eruption than previously assumed, suggesting a volume of at least 100 km3 of tephra (bulk volume) ejected, perhaps more. Such a volume ranks the eruption on the Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) at 7.0, equivalent or larger than the 1815 eruption of Tambora (‘the year without a summer’), ten times larger than the eruption of Krakatau in 1883, and approximately 100 times that of Mt. St. Helens in 1980.”[629.311]*
There was clearly a series of eruptions that ended with a final enormous explosion that has been linked to the ending of Minoan civilisation on Crete, the Plagues of Egypt and agricultural failures throughout the Eastern Mediterranean. For a geologist’s view of the island’s dramatic history, Walter Friedrich’s bookis hard to beat. His book supports a 1640 BC date for the eruption although he has subsequently revised this to 1613 BC. Sturt W. Manning supports a 1628 BC date and Mike Baillie has offered dendrochronological evidence for a 1628 BC eruption date at the 2011 Quantavolution conference in Athens(j). This converges with McCoy’s date above. However, the dating of the eruption continues to be controversial as this December 2012 link(i)demonstrates. At the heart of the problem is that acceptance of an early 17th century BC date for the event conflicts with established Egyptian chronology. While the exact year of the eruption continues to be debated, there is now scientific evidence that it occurred in early summer(s).
A 2014 paper published in Antiquity by Paolo Cherubini would appear to confirm the 16th century BC as the date of the catastrophic eruption ruling out an earlier date as untenable(o). In the same year, the University of Birmingham published a report(u) that supported the 1625 BC date. The earlier Antiquity paper prompted a response by a group, led by Sturt Manning later in 2014(y).
In August 2018, an interdisciplinary group led by dendrochronolist Charlotte L. Pearson published a paper(ab), which concluded that the eruption of Thera took place in the 16th century BC. This conclusion was the result of using a combination of dendrochronology along with high-resolution radiocarbon dating methods.
October 2018 saw further evidence for an early 16th century BC date for the eruption emerge after the radiocarbon dating of some olive wood found on Therasia, one of the Santorini group(z). The same month saw the publication of a paper on the ResearchGate(aa) website date the event to 1727-1600 BC!
The doctoral thesis of Dr. David Sewell explores the cultural effects of the Theran eruption and can be read online(h).
The volcanic ash deposited by the Theran eruption was centuries later to be used in huge quantities to manufacture cement for the construction of the Suez Canal. It was during the mining of this material that workmen encountered large stone blocks under the layers of pumice, indicating buildings of a great age.
It is claimed by many that a garbled Egyptian description of this devastating event was the basis for the story of the destruction of Atlantis. Louis Figuier was the first, in 1872, to publicly link the demise of Atlantis with the explosion on Thera. Opponents of this theory counter it by pointing out that Plato describes the inundation of an island much larger than Santorini or Crete, located in the Atlantic following an earthquake, not a volcanic eruption many thousands of years earlier. Various attempts have been made to reconcile the Minoan Theory with these apparent inconsistencies with Plato’s text. They are discussed separately under
It was announced at the end of February 2010 that the BBC was about to air a dramatisation of the Theran disaster as well as a documentary on the eruption as its influence on the development of Plato’s story of Atlantis. June 2010 saw the historian, Bettany Hughes, front a disappointing BBC Timewatch Special, which also promoted the idea of the eruption on Thera as the inspiration for Plato’s story of Atlantis. The material introduced as evidence was highly selective and, for me, unconvincing. A few parallels between Thera and Plato’s description were trotted out, while the more numerous differences were ignored!
Alain Moreau has written a highly critical review(v) of the idea that the island of Thera/Santorini had been home to Atlantis.
Dr. Dora Constantinidis who studied under Prof. Christos Doumas delivered a lecture in Melbourne on May 29th 2014 with the inviting title of Unravelling the Atlantis Myth at Akrotiri. However, the primary purpose of the talk was not to advance our knowledge of Atlantis but to encourage the sale of Bronze Age inspired merchandise(p).
Another twist on the Thera explosion is offered by Andis Kaulins who suggests that there is a connection between that event and the Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah(g), while Riaan Booysen has linked two separate Theran eruptions with two Exodus events in the Bible(k), offering as evidence, the existence of two distinct Theran ash fallout areas, caused by different wind directions at the time of the events.
Initially, it was thought that the collapse of the Theran caldera generated very destructive tsunamis, but new studies have concluded(w) that instead that it was the violent entry of pyroclastic flows into the sea that triggered the tsunamis.
A further possible consequence of the Theran eruption(s) was proposed after the discovery of the Nebra Sky Disk(n), which was buried about 3,600 years ago. This is suggested to have resulted from the volcanic ash generated by the eruption blotting out the sun for up to 25 years. It is thought that the Disk had been used to synchronise the lunar and solar calendars(l) and when this was no longer possible the Disk was buried as some form as offering. A contrary view is offered elsewhere on the Internet(m), as well as further controversy(t) led by Peter Schauer from the University of Regensburg.
Andis Kaulins has also written an extensive paper on the Nebra Sky Disk. A 2014 update(r) on the Disk was posted by Claudia Bracholdt.
An extensive bibliography of books and articles on the subject of Thera can be found on the Internet(b).
(h) http://www.santorini-eruption.org.uk/ (offline June 2016)(see Archive 2199)
(i) http://www.heritagedaily.com/2013/10/debate-still-rages-over-date-of-thera-eruption/66777 (offline June 2015 see Archive 2200)
Fire in the Sea: The Santorini Volcano: Natural History and the Legend of Atlantis  was written by the German, Walter Friedrich, who is now Professor of Geology at the University of Aarhus in Denmark. The book has now been translated by American Professor of Geology, Alexander McBirney.
The book tells the story of one of the most famous islands in the Aegean, Santorini, and its possible connection with the even more famous Atlantis. Santorini has had many names over the millennia; to the ancient Greeks it was Calliste, later becoming Thera and today is Santorini, from the Italian, Santa Irene.
The island of Thera exploded in the second millennium BC with a degree of ferocity, that fortunately, has not been seen since, with the exception of the 1815 explosion on the Indonesian island of Tambora. It not only devastated the island itself, but probably led to the collapse of the Minoan civilisation centred on nearby Crete. This is disputed by some, who date the Minoan collapse to around one hundred and fifty years before the Theran eruption(s). Its effects were felt across large swathes of the Eastern Mediterranean region leading to crop failures and civil unrest. The eruption has been linked with the Biblical plagues of Egypt, but this is still the subject of debate as is the precise date of the eruption/s.
Friedrich considers the evidence for linking Atlantis with Thera and concludes that the question is still open and may be resolved through the ongoing excavations on the island at Akrotiri and in the Nile Delta.
The focus of the book is on the geology of the island and is written in a very readable style and excellently illustrated. Geologists, historians and the general public will find this a fascinating tome. It is a must for anyone interested in the history of the eastern Mediterranean and Atlantis.
The Biblical Exodus has been linked by some with the time of the destruction of Atlantis. J. G. Bennett has firmly identified the 2nd millennium BC eruption of Thera with the destruction of Atlantis(f) and in turn the effect of the volcanic fallout on the Egyptian nation generating the Plagues of Egypt recorded in Exodus.
Dr. Hans Goedicke, a leading Austrian Egyptologist, expressed a similar view regarding an Exodus link in a 1981 lecture, leading to quite a media stir(c). Ian Wilson, best known for The Turin Shroud, has calculated that the volcanic plume from the Theran eruption would have been clearly visible from the Nile Delta[979.112].
Riaan Booysen believes(b) that there were two Exodus events that can be linked with three possible Theran eruptions and has identified the Israelites as the Hyksos. Ralph Ellis has also linked the biblical Exodus with the expulsios of the Hyksos and devoted a short book to the idea.
Immanuel Velikovsky and others believed that the controversial Ipuwer Papyrus provides evidence in support of the biblical Exodus as well as the ‘Plagues of Egypt’(d).
Emilio Spedicato links the biblical Exodus with the explosion of Phaëton in 1447 BC, without any reference to the destruction of Atlantis, which, based on his interpretation of Plato’s text, he associates with a much earlier catastrophe(a).
Alfred de Grazia offers a radical interpretation of the Exodus in God’s Fire , in which he saw the Exodus as a highly organised, rather than an opportunistic event. He also attributed some level of electrical knowledge to Moses, whom he credits with the construction of the Ark of the Covenant, if not the ‘invention’ of Yahweh himself!
Perhaps the most extreme Exodus theory has been presented if by Finkelstein & Silberman, who have claimed that “the saga of Israel’s Exodus from Egypt is neither historical truth nor literary fiction” [280.70]. However, the same disbelieving Finkelstein is now going on a search for the Ark of the Covenant(e) !
Flavio Barbiero has now produced an extensive paper(g) in which he precisely dates the Exodus to the night between the 14th and 15th of July of 1208 B.C. (2/3 July of today).
The Hyksos is the name applied to two dynasties of foreign kings who ruled Egypt around 1650-1530 BC(a). They are generally accepted to have been a Semitic people, from an unknown land, who invaded Egypt around 1710 BC. They ruled for over a hundred years until defeated by the Egyptian Pharaoh Amasis I.
Their name was originally taken to mean ‘Shepherd Kings, but more recently, it is accepted that the Egyptian term ‘heqa-khase’ which means ‘rulers of foreign lands’ gives us a simple but credible title of ‘Foreign Kings’. It has been suggested by David J. Gibson (1904-1966) that the modern interpretation indicated that the Hyksos ruled a vast empire and has devoted a book to justifying this view(g).
Walter Baucum summarises his view on the subject as follows, “The Early Hyksos Shepherd Rulers of Egypt were descendants of Shem and identical with Typhon and the Titans, the peoples of Set, and to some degree with the Hebrews. The early Hyksos were to a large degree Israelites but after they left, the Amalekites conquered Egypt and were also referred to as Hyksos”.
There have also been persistent suggestions that there were strong links between the Hyksos and Crete, as referred to below, but the exact nature of the links is unclear and may not be more than you get between nations trading over an extended period. The relevance of such links, if they were ever shown to be political rather than commercial, would take on new significance for supporters of the Minoan Hypothesis. Time will tell.
E. J. de Meester has suggested links between Crete and the Hyksos, an idea an included in an article by Philip Coppens(b). In a similar vein Diaz-Montexano claims that a study of the names of the Hyksos pharaohs suggests to him that they were proto-Greek or Mycenaeans.
An example of the diversity of opinions regards the origins of the Hyksos is a brief article written by Emilio Spedicato who identifies them with the Scythians. Perhaps even more radical is the suggestion by Riaan Booysen that the Hyksos were the fleeing Israelites in the biblical Exodus story(c). In fact he claims that there were two ‘exoduses’ which coincided with two separate eruptions on Thera. This idea is not as new as it might seems as something similar was proposed by the 1st century AD Jewish historian Josephus(d).
*Nick Austin also identifies the Hyksos as Jews [1661.184], but is more generous than Booysen claiming that there were four separate eruptions of Thera. Like many others he has also associated the biblical Exodus and the Plagues of Egypt with the Theran eruptions.*
Ralph Ellis, among others, has endorsed(e)(f) the idea that the biblical Exodus and the historical Expulsion of the Hyksos describe the same event.
There are theories, many and varied, regarding the origins and post-Egyptian settlement of the Hyksos. Arguably, the most exotic was put forward by a Chinese geochemist, Sun Weidong, who proposed that Hyksos migrants were responsible for the founding of the Chinese civilisation!(h)(i)
(b) See: Archive 2133
(g) See: Archive 3468
Planet X,also known as Nibiru, Draco or Plutinos, was first introduced to the world over 30 years ago by Zecharia Sitchin. He claimed that this planet has an orbit that takes it to the outer reaches of our solar system returning to the inner planets, including earth, every 3,600 years. He further claimed, based on his interpretation of Sumerian texts, that a superior civilisation developed on Planet X and that on one of their periodic visits near earth they landed here and created Man becoming his gods. This outlandish idea was taken up by others and embellished further, sometimes changing the periodicity of the planet, claiming that various catastrophic events such as the Flood of Noah, the Plagues of Egypt and the destruction of Atlantis were caused by a close encounter with planet X and promising(a) further devastation when it returns in 2012. Books purporting to be guides for surviving this event were widely promoted. It would seem that the use of fear is an effective way of selling books.
Feeble attempts were made to give this daft idea a scientific basis, such as when it was suggested that anomalies in the orbits of Uranus and Neptune could only be explained by the gravitational pull of Planet X. However, in 1993 it was found that these ‘anomalies’ were the result of orbital computation errors. Furthermore, the idea that this ‘12th planet’ harboured life similar to our own is an even greater nonsense. Life on earth would cease if we were deprived of the sun’s heat and light for a short period, so to suggest that a planet could wander off into the outer reaches of the solar system for thousands of years and sustain life as we know it, is as stupid an idea as that of a flat earth.
Nevertheless, early January 2016 saw a claim(c) that a large planet probably exists in the outer reaches of our solar system, as it is the most likely explanation for unexpected movements by objects in the Kuiper Belt. The search for Planet Nine seems to have intensified as astronomers suggested(g) that the unusual ’tilt’ of our sun may be caused by this very large planet! New Scientist of 30th January 2016, explores the possible existence of this ‘Planet Nine’(f). The difficulty in locating such a planet may be explained by a snippet (p.7) in the same magazine which refers to an exoplanet with an orbit one trillion kilometres from its star.
In the same month, Daniel Whitmire, a retired astrophysics professor, “published findings in the January issue of Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society that the as yet undiscovered “Planet X” triggers comet showers linked to mass extinctions on Earth at intervals of approximately 27 million years.”(d) This was not a new claim from him as he “and his colleague, John Matese, first published research on the connection between Planet X and mass extinctions in the journal Nature in 1985 while working as astrophysicists at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Their work was featured in a 1985 Time magazine cover story titled, “Did Comets Kill the Dinosaurs? A Bold New Theory About Mass Extinctions.”
An extensive review(e) of Sitchin’s theory and astronomical data that seems to support the existence of another planet in the outer reaches of our solar system, concluded that “Quite simply, Zecharia Sitchin’s Nibiru, does not exist…”
Nevertheless, in 2016 two astronomers independently proposed that Planet 9 (should that be Planet IX?) was possibly responsible for changing the axial tilt of the other planets relative to the axis of our sun(h).
*More recently an object with the exciting name of 2015 TG387, probably a dwarf planet, about 300 km in diameter, had its 40,000-year orbit determined. However, aberrations in that orbit are claimed by some to be evidence for a large distant body; the hypothesised Planet X(i)!*
(a) http://www.2012.com.au/PlanetX.html (offline 17.07.14)
(f) New Scientist No. 3058, Jan. 30 2016 (p.8)
Graham Phillips is a British investigator with a number of books on ‘alternative history’ to his credit. One of his books originally entitled Act of God was republished in the USA with the title of Atlantis and the Ten Plagues of Egypt. This 358-page volume contains just TWO pages on Atlantis where the author suggests that the 2nd millennium BC eruption of Thera was the cause of the destruction of Atlantis. This unscrupulous retitling is a sad reflection on the standards of the American publishers.
His most recent book offers evidence of a close encounter between the earth and a comet in 1485 BC that produced an apparition that may have appeared twenty times the size of a full moon. Phillips claims that it had a profound effect on those that witnessed it and led to widespread forms of monotheism, including that of Moses and Akhenaten. What is even more radical is his claim that the comet’s tail contained an amino acid such as vasopressin that can make humans more aggressive and which led to a simultaneous outbreak of wars in many parts of the world between nations that had previously lived in harmony with each other. This particular aggressive phase appears to have subsided after a period of about ten years.
Graham Phillips has also an official website(a).