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

King Senebkay of ‘Lost’ Abydos Dynasty Died in Battle

Who Were the Minoans?

The Last Days of Hattusa

Bronze Age Collapse: Pollen Study Highlights Late Bronze Age Drought
 


 

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