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Did Volcanoes on the Other Side of the World Bring Down Ancient Egypt?

A recent study may have discovered the exact volcanic eruption that caused the downfall of Ancient Egypt, right around when the Roman Empire invaded near 30 BC.

When did the era we know and love and generalize as ‘ancient Egypt’ come to an end? Was it when the last native Egyptian king ruled and fled in 342 BC? Or when hieroglyphics stopped being used around 400 AD? Or was it the death of Cleopatra around 30 BC - followed by Ptolemaic Egypt's absorption into the Roman Empire? The latter had everything you need for an apocalyptic end of an era. Drama, romance, intrigue, and explosions.


Yes explosions! Or to be specific volcanic eruptions exploding on the other side of the world that bought ruin across the globe as volcanic fallout absorbed sunlight, cooled the Earth, and impeded the monsoons that normally brought summer rain to Africa, causing widespread drought, famine and socio-economic unrest that dominated Ptolemaic Egypt.


Over the past half decade scientists have been getting a clearer picture of the role volcanic eruptions played in Egyptian history, linking the dates of volcanic sulphur from Greenland ice cores to historical records of revolts between 305 BC and 30 BC (Manning & Ludlow, 2016). Thanks to a recent 2020 study by McConnel et al., we may have found the straw that broke the camel's back, the volcanic eruption that not only ended Ancient Egypt as the Ptolemaic kingdom knew it, but caused the transition from the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire that soon overtook Egypt. As it turned out, you can blame the fall of Egypt on Alaska. That's right. Alaska.


Alaska's Okmok volcano in the Aleutian islands experienced what could only be described as a "mega-eruption" in 43 BC. It is one of the biggest and most explosive eruptions in the past 2,500 years. Through comparisons with climate proxy records, scientists found that this coincided with some of the coldest years the Northern hemisphere has experienced in millenia. And it just so happened to occur around the same time Rome and Egypt underwent crop failures, famine and disease. The evidence paints a picture of global consequences through climate change, bringing about monumental shifts in power and civilization, all because of a massive natural event no one on the continent could have ever known about.