Reinterpreting the Tempest Stela

3,500-year-old Egyptian inscription could alter Middle Bronze Age chronology

Ahmose I

AHMOSE I. A new translation of the Tempest Stela from the reign of Pharaoh Ahmose I could revise the dates of major events in the Middle Bronze Age. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

A newly translated inscription on a stone block from Egypt could revise the chronology of major events in the Middle Bronze Age.

A study recently published by Nadine Moeller and Robert Ritner of the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute in the Journal of Near Eastern Studies offers a new translation of the 40-line inscription on the Tempest Stela, a six-foot-tall stone block dated to the reign of Pharaoh Ahmose I. The inscription describes a series of severe weather events, including the “sky being in storm” with “a tempest of rain” for a number of days. The text also eerily speaks of bodies floating down the Nile River like “skiffs of papyrus.”

The Oriental Institute researchers believe the Tempest Stela describes the catastrophic weather phenomena that resulted in the aftermath of the mid-second millennium B.C.E. volcanic eruption on the Minoan island of Thera.

If the researchers are correct, then the reign of Ahmose I—the first pharaoh of the 18th dynasty—would be dated closer to the Thera eruption than previously thought.
 


 
What can archaeology tell us about the historicity of the Biblical account of the Exodus? The free eBook Ancient Israel in Egypt and the Exodus considers textual and archaeological evidence from the second millennium B.C.E. that describe the Israelites in Egypt and the Exodus.
 

 
“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 in a University of Chicago press release.

“Tightening and correcting the dates of the reign of Ahmose would allow us to readjust our understanding of events and their inter-linkage throughout the region across the late second millennium B.C.E.,” explained Leslie Anne Warden, Egyptologist at Roanoke College, in an email to Bible History Daily.

According to Oriental Institute scholar David Schloen, the re-dating of Ahmose’s reign may help clarify how Ahmose was able to overthrow the Hyksos—the Canaanite rulers of Egypt—and lay the foundations for the New Kingdom of Egypt. The tsunami from the eruption at Thera would have dismantled the Hyksos’s ports, disrupting trade and weakening their sea power.

Read more about the new interpretation of the Tempest Stela.
 


 

More on the Mediterranean Bronze Age in Bible History Daily

The Expulsion of the Hyksos

The Thera Theories: Science and the Modern Reception History of the Exodus

Who Were the Minoans?

The Last Days of Hattusa

Bronze Age Collapse: Pollen Study Highlights Late Bronze Age Drought

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  1. Paul says

    I once saw an episode of “Secrets of the Dead” in which it documented the end of Minoan civilization, centered on the island of Crete, as having been brought about by a tsunami, possibly caused by an eruption at Thera. So it’s interesting to see that the end of the Hyksos control of northern Egypt may have been brought about with the demise of the Minoans, since it is known that the Hysos kings had relations with Minoan sea-farers. The Phillistines that Isaac encountered at Gerar may have been Minoans because the Phillistines are mentioned as originating from Caphtor (Crete) in Genesis 10:14. The actual city of Gerar was established by the Phillistines during the beginning of the Iron Age so these Phillistines that Isaac encountered during the Middle Bronze Age were probably established at the city of Shuruhen, where the Hyksos retreated to after their expulsion from Egypt.
    I get the sense that it was more than just envy the Phillistines had toward Isaac and it was likely commercial interests that pressured Isaac to relocate into the Negev. Minoan frescoes depict various stages of the production of the drug Saffron, making them a pharmaceutical giant, not to mention an elaborate wine-producing facility recently discovered on the Phoenician coast. Perhaps Isaac’s inexpensive herbal remedy that he used while meditating near Beer-lahai-roi (Genisis 24:62) and which also doubled as an entheogen was considered a threat to the Phillistine’s interests (and their monopoly on mind-control).
    Not too long ago the U.S. Attorney General exposed a conspiracy by pharmaceutical companies to push an anti-psychotic drug on patients who don’t need it. In case you have never had an anger- management problem which resulted in your being interred at a mental health facility for evaluation; the doctor immediately knows you need a drug called “Risperdal” and it would help you to “focus.” After signing the paper you realize that it should be called “RisperDULL” because it just makes you tired. On the day you are to appear before a judge in psycho-court, your dosage is doubled, making all that much harder to argue your case. So you accept the plea agreement in which you take the drug for a year in out-patient treatment. The doctor then receves a complimentary gift with the pharmaceutical logo label on it, and you get a rubber stamp on your forehead that says, “psychotic.”

  2. E. says

    Well, they’re wrong as the eruption took place nearly a century earlier. Also, Paul, the Minoan civilization didn’t collapse until the late 15th century BC, nearly two centuries after the eruption. Also, Gerar was a prominent Middle Bronze city-Finkelstein &Silberman point this out in an appendix.
    http://drchris.me/higgaion/?page_id=151

  3. Paul says

    Thank you E. and it’s reassuring that someone out there has sources not found in Wikipedia. As for my obvious mix-up with the end of Minoan civilization occuring in the 16th century B.C.E., I got blurred vision because Queen Hatepshut’s inscriptions give an account of what appears to be the expulsion of the Hyksos or it could have been an event such as the Biblical Exodus or something similar. I remember one version in which the Tsunami happened on her watch. I also can’t help but see the character of Moses as being based on part, on Ahmose I, thanks to this deeper revelation of a cataclismic event that would have caused horse and rider to be hurled into the sea (Exodus 15:21).

  4. Paul says

    It’s also an interesting link that E. provided with comparisons of the storm of Ahmose’s time with the ten plagues of Moses. Wouldn’t it be interesting if the Exodus account of the defeat of Egyptian forces in the Sea of Reeds was based on the description of a flood inundation of Egypt during the time of Ahmose I during the rise of the eighteenth dynasty? When Abraham was told his descendants would be enslaved and oppressed for 400 years (Gensis 15:13), it’s hard not to see the similarity with the inscription on a stela in Tanis in honor of the Pharaoh Seti I. The 400 Year Stela celebrates a 400 year era beginning with a Hyksos ruler, Opehtiset-Nubti. The Pharaohs of the nineteenth dynasty had apparently established a chronology of 400 years of rule from Tanis, the biblical Zoan, known as Avaris in the time of the Hyksos. You would suppose from a Hebrew point of view, Seti I and Ramsese II were the same as the Hyksos kings who ruled from Avaris, whose chief god was Set, the biblical Satan. The stela mentions Seti I’s father on the throne, Peramses, and his mother Teya; “born of the lady,, the musician of Re, Teya, triumphant.” Compare with Miriam the prophetess and her dance with a tambourine (Exodus 15:20).

  5. Peter says

    Senuseret II, Senuseret III – great agricultural projects… 300 years later Hyksos, the shepherd kings are hated and there comes Ahmose I, the new king, the new dynasty… Hatshepsut, favourable to people like Senmut, hated by Thutmose III for an unknown reason… Thutmose III, the long living king… Amenhotep II, the strongest and most powerful of all pharaohs, the heroic king (Egypt at its best)… Thutmose IV, the king who was not the firstborn, begs foreign kings for a wife to secure peace… Amenhotep III, his scarab was the last one to be found at Jericho’s cemetery… Amenhotep IV, Canaanite kings beg him for military support against Habiru, who are strong and skillful enough to conquer a number of cities, but the king instead of sending soldiers breaks with the religion of his fathers and begins to worship just one god manifesting himself as light and calls him Aton… more than 400 years later Sheshonq invades Judea…


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