Text #8990"Tempest Stele", in .
The Tempest Stele (alt. Storm Stele) was erected by Ahmose I early in the eighteenth dynasty of Egypt, circa 1550 BCE. The stele describes a great storm striking Egypt during this time, destroying tombs, temples and pyramids in the Theban region and the work of restoration ordered by the king.1
Broken pieces of this stele were found in the 3rd Pylon of the temple of Karnak at Thebes between 1947 and 1951 by French archaeologists. It was restored and published by Claude Vandersleyen in 1967 and 1968.2
Unfortunately, the part of the stele that describes the storm, itself, is the most damaged part of the stele, with many lacunae in the meteorological description. The other parts of the stele are much better preserved.3
Here are some descriptions of the storm.
(7) … the gods expressed
(8) their discontent … The gods (made?) the sky come with a tempest of (rain?); it caused darkness in the Western region; the sky was
(9) unleashed, without … … more than the roar of the crowd; … was powerful… on the mountains more than the turbulence of the
(10) cataract which is at Elephantine. Each house, … each shelter (or each covered place) that they reached…
(11) … were floating in the water like the barks of papyrus (on the outside?) of the royal residence for … day(s),
(12) with no one able to light the torch anywhere. Then His Majesty said ‘How these (events) surpass the power of the great god and the wills of the divinities!’ And His Majesty descended
(13) in his boat, his council following him. The (people were?) at the east and the west, silent, for they had no more clothes (?) on them
(14) after the power of the god was manifested. Then His Majesty arrived in Thebes … this statue; it received what it had desired.
(15) His Majesty set about to strengthen the two lands, to cause the water to evacuate without (the aid of) his (men?), to provide them with silver,
(16) with gold, with copper, with oil, with clothing, with all the products they desired; after which His Majesty rested in the palace - life, health, strength.
(17) It was then that His Majesty was informed that the funerary concessions had been invaded (by the water), that the sepulchral chambers had been damaged, that the structures of funerary enclosures had been undermined, that the pyramids had collapsed?
(18) all that existed had been annihilated. His Majesty then ordered the repair of the chapels which had fallen in ruins in all the country, restoration of the
(19) monuments of the gods, the re-erection of their precincts, the replacement of the sacred objects in the room of appearances, the re-closing of the secret place, the re-introduction
(20) into their naoi of the statues which were lying on the ground, the re-erection of the fire altars, the replacement of the offering tables back on their feet, to assure them the provision of offerings,
(21) the augmentation of the revenues of the personnel, the restoration of the country to its former state. They carried out everything, as the king had ordered it.
There are Egyptologists who believe the stele to be propaganda put out by the pharaoh, the “tempest” being the depredations of officials of the embattled seventeenth dynasty of Egypt drawing upon the financial resources of the temples during the escalating conflict with the Hyksos. 1 …
The argument has been made that there was “a meteorological event of far-reaching proportions, one of the major aftereffects, we strongly suspect, of the Thera eruption” and that the stele reflects an eye-witness account of the eruption.4 Others argue that given the description in the stele, this is unlikely.5 Radiocarbondating suggests a date between about 1628 and 1600 for the eruption with 1628 being a possible date.
In 2014, Nadine Moeller and Robert Ritner offered a new translation of the Tempest Stela. They believe the unusual weather patterns described on the slab were the result of a massive volcano explosion at Thera. They also suggest that the Egyptian pharaoh Ahmose I ruled at a time closer to the Thera eruption than previously thought.6
Ritner, Robert K.; Nadine Moeller (April 2014). “The Ahmose ‘Tempest Stela’, Thera and Comparative Chronology”. Journal of Near Eastern Studies 73 (1).
Claude Vandersleyen, « Deux nouveaux fragments de la stèle d’Amosis relatant une tempête », RdE 20, 1968, p. 127-134. Claude Vandersleyen, « Une tempête sous le règne d’Amosis », RdE 19, 1967, p. 123−159. ↩
http://web.archive.org/web/20111227182804/http://www.therafoundation.org/articles/chronololy/astorminegyptduringthereignofahmose/view?searchterm= “As Vandersleyen has pointed out, this elaborate account of a storm and its damages is unique among Egyptian records (1967, 156-157). It is possible that such an unusually violent storm resulted from the Santorini eruption. Such storms can result from volcanic eruptions when temperatures are lowered due to emissions of dust into the atmosphere. The major evidence for this is the Tambora eruption on Sumbawa in Indonesia in 1815, which results in almost continual rains from England to the Baltic in the summer of 1816 (Bullard, 1984 ,512; Lamb 1972). Widespread violent storms and dark skies for periods of days are also documented for volcanic eruptions observed in modern times.” ↩
Foster, Karen Plinger; Ritner, Robert K.; Foster, Benjamin R. (1996). “Text, Storms and the Thera Eruption”. Journal of Near Eastern Studies 55 (1): 1–14. ↩
Wiener, Malcolm H.; James P. Allen (1998). “Separate Lives: The Ahmose Tempest Stela and the Theran Eruption”. Journal of Near Eastern Studies 57 (1): 1–28 ↩
Ancient stormy weather: World’s oldest weather report could revise bronze age chronology. sciencedaily.com, April 2014 ↩