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Volcanic shards from Santorini (Upper Minoan ash) in the Nile Delta, Egypt

Abstract

One of the largest volcanic outbursts recorded in early human history is the cataclysmic eruption of Santorini (Thera) which occurred about 35 centuries ago in the southern Aegean Sea. This explosive event, termed Upper Minoan (or Upper Thera), produced a tephra-fall believed by archaeologists and volcanologists to have been widespread in the eastern Mediterranean1–4. Upper Minoan ash has been found on land in the Aegean and Hellenic Arc regions including Crete5,6 and Rhodes7. To date, however, there has been no confirmed observation of this ash on land across the Mediterranean in North Africa. We now report evidence for the presence of ash ejected from this explosion in sediment cores recovered in the eastern Nile Delta of Egypt. This discovery of Upper Minoan glass shards extends considerably the zone of confirmed ash fall to the southeast of Santorini, and serves as evidence of a major natural phenomenon affecting Egypt during the reign of Pharaohs in the Eighteenth Dynasty. It is quite possible that this ash-fall event may have given rise to texts pertaining to darkening of the sky and veiling of the Sun in early historic records.

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Stanley, D., Sheng, H. Volcanic shards from Santorini (Upper Minoan ash) in the Nile Delta, Egypt. Nature 320, 733–735 (1986). https://doi.org/10.1038/320733a0

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