Tempest Stele

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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]

The stele

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][3]

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.[4]

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...



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] This would constitute an official re-writing of history, for which there are other parallels, such as Hatshepsut's Speos Artemidos, which records "storms" that similarly destroyed temples[not in citation given], which she restored during her reign, while pointedly cursing the Hyksos and "toppling what had been made" there.[5][6]

Thera eruption

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.[7] Others argue that given the description in the stele, this is unlikely.[6] Radiocarbondating suggests a date between about 1628 and 1600 for the eruption with 1628 being a possible date.[8]

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.[9][10]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Shaw, Ian. The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. p. 209−210 Oxford University Press. 2000. ISBN 0-19-280458-8
  2. Claude Vandersleyen, « Deux nouveaux fragments de la stèle d’Amosis relatant une tempête », RdE 20, 1968, p. 127-134.
  3. Claude Vandersleyen, « Une tempête sous le règne d’Amosis », RdE 19, 1967, p. 123−159.
  4. 4.0 4.1 A Storm in Egypt during the Reign of Ahmose Description and translation of the stele.
  5. The Speos Artemidos Inscription of Hatshepsut at the Wayback Machine (archived April 13, 2005), accessed May 26, 2013.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  7. PDF file Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  8. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  9. Ancient stormy weather: World's oldest weather report could revise bronze age chronology. sciencedaily.com, April 2014
  10. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.

Further reading

  • Davis, E. N., "A Storm in Egypt during the Reign of Ahmose" in D.A.Hardy and A. C. Renfrew, eds.,"Thera and the Aegean World III", Volume Three: "Chronology" Proceedings of the Third International Congress, Santorini, Greece, 3–9 September 1989. The Thera Foundation, 1990, ISBN 978-0-9506133-7-6

External links