One thing leads to another. Sometimes things “weave” together, attracted by some unknown force, so two topics keep dancing together, often from an unseen connection. Then there are the just random sporadic connections.
It looks like Iceland and Egypt (and the rest of the EU for that matter…) are tied in one of those pairings. For Hekla in particular, the Egypt connection might be a ‘one off’, or it might be something bigger.
Second, I was looking up some Egyptian history related to the Santorini eruption and landed on a paper that claims to have done C-14 dating such that the 200 year “issue” in some of the Egyptian dates might be resolved… but at the cost of needing to change some of the existing ideas about what happened in particular times…
Digging into exactly which episode ended up where relative to what ;-) I discovered an interesting bit of “connection” to Hekla…
The last “great” pharaoh from the New Kingdom is widely regarded to be Ramesses III, a Twentieth Dynasty pharaoh who reigned several decades after Ramesses II.
In the eighth year of his reign the Sea Peoples invaded Egypt by land and sea. Ramesses III defeated them in two great land and sea battles. He claimed that he incorporated them as subject peoples and settled them in Southern Canaan although there is evidence that they forced their way into Canaan. Their presence in Canaan may have contributed to the formation of new states, such as Philistia, in this region after the collapse of the Egyptian Empire. He was also compelled to fight invading Libyan tribesmen in two major campaigns in Egypt’s Western Delta in his sixth year and eleventh year respectively.
The heavy cost of these battles slowly exhausted Egypt’s treasury and contributed to the gradual decline of the Egyptian Empire in Asia. The severity of these difficulties is stressed by the fact that the first known labor strike in recorded history occurred during the 29th year of Ramesses III’s reign, when the food rations for Egypt’s favored and elite royal tomb-builders and artisans in the village of Deir el Medina could not be provisioned. Something in the air prevented much sunlight from reaching the ground and also arrested global tree growth for almost two full decades until 1140 BC. One proposed cause is the Hekla 3 eruption of the Hekla volcano in Iceland but the dating of this remains disputed.
Well, a “dating dispute” and a “New Dating with C-14” and a “Hekla” now vs a “Hekla then” is just too much to pass up!
Did Hekla punctuate the Invasion Of The Sea People, and the Last “Great” Pharaoh? If so, what might this “different” Hekla eruption mean for us?
Following Rameses III’s death there was endless bickering among his heirs. Three of his sons would go on to assume power as Ramesses IV, Rameses VI and Rameses VIII, respectively. However, at this time Egypt was also increasingly beset by a series of droughts, below-normal flooding of the Nile, famine, civil unrest and official corruption. The power of the last pharaoh, Ramesses XI, grew so weak that in the south the High Priests of Amun at Thebes became the effective de facto rulers of Upper Egypt while Smendes controlled Lower Egypt even before Rameses XI’s death. Menes eventually founded the Twenty-First dynasty at Tanis.
So something bad happened, and things were pretty bad for a couple of generations after. Hekla blew up ‘about then’, but was it causal, or just coincidental, with the droughts? Could it have caused the sunlight deficit, but left the droughts as due to a Sleepy Sun (rather like ours, now…)
In short: Is past prologue?
There’s a wiki on the eruption from then. It doesn’t say much, so I’ll quote it in full:
The Hekla 3 eruption (H-3) circa 1000 BC is considered the most severe eruption of Hekla during the Holocene. It threw about 7.3 km3 of volcanic rock into the atmosphere, placing its Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) at 5. This would have cooled temperatures in the northern parts of the globe for a few years afterwards.
An eighteen-year span of climate worsening is recorded in Irish bog oaks, and H-3 was blamed for it.
The eruption is detectable in Greenland ice-cores, the bristlecone pine sequence, and the Irish oak sequence of extremely narrow growth rings. Baker’s team dated it to 1021 + 130/-100 BC.
Baker preferred a “high chronology” (earlier) interpretation of these results. In Sutherland, northwest Scotland, a spurt of four years of doubled annual luminescent growth banding of calcite in a stalagmite is datable to 1135 ± 130 BC. A rival, “low-chronology” interpretation of the eruption comes from Dugmore, 2879 BP = 929 BC ± 34.
In 1999 Dugmore suggested a non-volcanic explanation for the Scottish results. In 2000 skepticism concerning conclusions about connecting Hekla 3 and Hekla 4 eruptions with paleoenvironmental events and archaeologically attested abandonment of settlement sites in northern Scotland was expressed by John P. Grattan and David D. Gilbertson.
Some Egyptologists in 1999 firmly dated the eruption to 1159 BC and blamed it for famines under Ramesses III during the wider Bronze Age collapse. Dugmore dismissed this notion and maintains his dating to this day. Other scholars have held off on this dispute, preferring the neutral and vague “3000 BP”.
So some folks have it at 1265 BC to 1005 BC. Others have it a bit later at 929 BC, and the Egyptologists have it at 1159 BC whacking Ramesses III.
Into The Carbon Fourteen
This paper is rather interesting. The guys looked around for bits of stuff that was NOT wood (as that gets cut at one time, and sometimes actually used to make things centuries later) like food and baskets. Dated it, and made the first fairly comprehensive C-14 series for Egypt. They find a near 200 year “issue” in some of the Egyptologists dates…
Comparison of these 14C results with the 14C investigation by Bronk Ramsey et al. of dynastic Egypt gives rise to a problem. Phases D1.2-1.1 of Tell el-Dabca are associated with the beginning of the New Kingdom, dated by Bietak ( 13, 14) on historical-archaeological considerations to ca. 1530 to 1480 B.C.E. However, the calibrated 14C age range for these strata, after sequencing, is ca. 1720 to 1640 B.C.E. ( 14), which is much older than the results by Bronk Ramsey et al. for the beginning of the New Kingdom, ca. 1550 to 1560 B.C.E. Hence, a time difference of ~90 to 170 years exists between two investigations for the beginning of the 18th Dynasty.
What is erroneous here—the 14C dates by one study ( 7) or the other ( 14)? or the associations between the Tell el-Dabca archaeological phases and dynastic history, as the 14C results from Tell el-Dabca are systematically older by ca. 100 to 200 years than the Egyptian historical chronology ( 13, 14)? or the associations between the various funerary archaeological contexts from museum collections and dynastic history ( 7)? The last possibility seems unlikely, given the coherence between the 14C dating results from multiple archaeological sources. On the other hand, Tell el-Dabca has detailed archaeological linkages with the Aegean and the Near East ( 13, 14). Therefore, not only Tell el-Dabca is involved in this enigma, but the Middle and Late Bronze Age archaeology of the Aegean and the Levant as well.
The paper has an interesting graph in it:
This shows the traditional Egyptology dates in blue, and the Carbon 14 dates in yellow. Notice that each of those C-14 dates has a width that overlaps the neighbors. That is because each is a distinct sample with an error band. Notice, too, that the C-14 dates move things back in time about 200 years. Now Santorini is in the period just before 1600 BC, instead of in 14xx BC. It also has moved more into the end dynasties of the Second Intermediate Period, though all those Dynasties are now earlier in time.
On final note: Santorini in 17xx BC is about 700 years before Heckla-3. That “Half Bond Event” interval…
In any case, we now have Santorini in the middle of the “Second Intermediate Period” when things were unstable and a bit of a mess; and we’ve got Ramesses III at about the time of the Hekla eruption having a hard time feeding his folks. Clearly volcanoes in the Mediterranean area are coincident with bad crop yields in Egypt and instability.
And right now we have Hekla getting grumpy.
From that article about Hekla:
In 2004 Hekla had received as much new magma as was discharged during the 2000 eruption and sometime during late 2008 to early 2009 that figure had doubled. After that the inflation stagnated and no real uplift was measured at the GPS-stations with the exception of what was most likely magma moving between the different magma chambers.
During the summer of 2011 earthquakes was registered and a public safety alert was issued stating that Hekla was close to erupting. From then on Hekla has had earthquakes ranging from miniscule to 2M+ without erupting. For those who are not familiar with Hekla one should notice that she normally is aseismic, or in other words, that she does not have a lot of earthquakes.
From 2010 and onwards Hekla started to show a new feature that I dubbed “transients”. The transients are sudden rapid drops in the strain measured at the borehole strainmeters. These transients have only been seen before as Hekla erupted. They had before 2010 never been seen without an eruption occurring. A transient is in short happening as the mountain strains to open up.
So it is more full of magma this time, and gagging a bit…
After this Hekla entered into a new phase never seen before, this time a phase of very rapid and unbroken inflation started. What happened is most likely that the earthquake swarm removed blockages inside the deep feeder tubes of Hekla enabling fresh magma to flow into the volcanic system.
The rate of inflation varies a lot depending on where the GPS station is placed. The big exception is Mjóaskard situated to the west of Hekla. It has only suffered an uplift of 5mm in the last 5 weeks. For the other stations the rate of inflation is between 15mm in Hestáalda and 32mm at ISAK. Average uplift is 16mm, and 21mm if MJSK is not counted. This type of rapid inflation has so far never been measured at Hekla.
But perhaps such rapid inflation was seen back in the larger eruptions of ancient history. Like Heckla-3…
Which also begs the question “How soon?”
If the inflation continues at the current rate Hekla will erupt. When? Well I am not going to make any bets, but any time from 1 hour from when you read this to 4 weeks.
Oh Dear! As they say…
I personally would not at any cost get closer to Hekla then 10 km from now on. And then I would stay in the car on the road. If you are closer the chance of you surviving is not good and 5 km the chance of you surviving the initial blast is pretty much nill.
What will the eruption be like? Here I will be guessing since Hekla has changed her behavior compared to the last eruptions. I would say that Hekla has remobilized old evolved magma during all that moving of magma, and this latest inflation phase seems to fill up a lot of old magma chambers. This causes me to fear a rather explosive start of the eruption. I would also say that there is quite a high likelihood of there being more lava erupted then was seen during the last 3 eruptions. I will hedge my bet by saying that I would expect it to be anything between a VEI2 and a VEI4 on the volcanic explosivity index, and that Hekla will effuse between 0.1 to 2 cubic kilometers of lava.
The article also has more analysis and some nice graphs in it and a link to a site where you can monitor Hekla:
The C-14 doesn’t necessarily change the date for Ramesses III, but I think it does move Santorini back to an interesting point in time, and reorders some of the various Egyptology events vs the volcano. It also puts the Hekla-3 eruption as likely close to when Ramesses III was “having issues” and we’ve got 2 examples of volcanoes making a mess of things. Presently, for us, the volcanic activity looks like it is increasing, back to a level more like the 1800’s.
The implications of all that are pretty simple. It looks like when volcanic activity picks up, the people of Europe and the Middle East have a Very Bad Time. The “Sea People” who tore up the Mediterranean prior to being stopped by Ramesses III, were likely fleeing something. Bad times, cold, and crop failures in Northern Europe have frequently caused migrations toward the south. Visigoths and Ostrogoths, Huns and even Germans. (And in later years my Anglo-Irish ancestors fleeing to America in the Little Ice Age.)
So what happens when Heckla blows? Depends on “how big”. If it is a “Hekla-3” size, with a sleepy sun and already cold winters, things could get a little grim. If it’s “like last time but a bit more”, an annoyance.
In some way, the more distressing thing, is just seeing once again that 700 year “Half Bond Event” timing and increased volcanic activity in cold times pattern come around again.
So keep an eye on Iceland, and Mediterranean volcanoes, and ponder what happens next in Egypt if things go “bump in the might”.
We already have Israel bombing Syria a couple of times, and the Egyptian Police protecting “protesters” as they attack Christians and Christian Churches. It’s gotten so complicated in Syria I can’t even start to sort out who all the factions are and what side is allied with whom… Is Israel aligned with the rebels in Syria? Or with Assad? Or none of the above? Is Iran shipping arms to ‘the rebels’? Or to Hezbola? Or “The Egyptian Brotherhood” (who effectively run Egypt now and have strong position in Libya…) There are at least 7 competing interests I can count, not including the EU, UK, USA, Russia or China.
We’ve got something of a powder keg, with a lit fuse, and folks with cans of kerosene standing around looking to toss them. And now; now, we might have Hekla blowing a big ball of fire into the mix?
I just really don’t like the way these historical patterns are rhyming at the moment…
Update Iceland Quake Map
I’m adding a screen capture of the image that R. de Haan linked in comments. Notice all those green star for “Greater than Mag 3 quakes”?