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Author Topic: "Biblical Plagues" on the National Geographic Channel  (Read 17621 times)
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« on: March 30, 2010, 09:11:38 PM »

Well, it's almost Easter, so National Geographic has trotted out the latest episode in their Mysteries of the Bible series.  It's a two-part (two-hour) feature called "Biblical Plagues".


I caught an encore presentation late last night.

It is essentially a rehash of Hans Goedicke's theory linking the Exodus to the eruption of Thera on Santorini, although I don't recall Goedicke being mentioned at all in the program.

The reason for the renewed interest in Santorini is the find of a good size olive tree branch in the ash layer at Santorini.  The wood dated to the 17th Century BC (1630-1600 BC), and so this apparently settles the debate over the date of the eruption.  However, the Santorini ash layer has not yet been found (as far as I know) in the Greenland ice cores, so until then it will probably remain controversial.

The eruption of Santorini undoubtedly did cause an exodus, but what exodus?  Goedicke (and the NatGeo program after him) concluded "the Exodus" could have been associated with the "Expulsion of the Hyksos", which is the right time frame in the standard academic chronology.  However, the standard chronology is way off, so debate over a Hyksos context for the Exodus is moot.

It is still possible (even probable) that the Santorini eruption influenced the Exodus account of the Bible.  But what was the correct time frame.  Did it occur during the dynastic period, just prior to the dynastic period, or well before the dynastic period.  If the dynastic period began in 1159 BC, then the eruption of Thera was not likely associated with that particular time of upheaval.  If the dynastic period began in 1628 BC, then Thera was a major cause of the upheaval that ended the so-called time of the gods.  In that case, the disaster of 1159 BC coincided with the end of the Egyptian Old Kingdom.

Since we still don't have a correlation of the carbon dated olive branch with an ice core date (or a tree ring date), I'm still reluctant to draw any firm conclusions.  I think it would tend to argue for 1628 BC as the start of the dynastic period.  But carbon dating is only a relative dating technique.  I don't know if carbon dating has been recalibrated to be consistent with dendrology and ice core "fixed points" or whether those can even be trusted!

An interesting aspect of the program was the use of stalagmite analysis to track climate change in Egypt over thousands of years (by a "paleoclimatologist", Augusto Mangini of the University of Heidelberg in Germany).


I would very much like to have the chart they showed in the program showing rainfall conditions over time.  (However, it should be noted that the welfare of Egypt depended far more on rainfall much further to the south in Africa.  Too much or too little spelled disaster.)
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