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Tephra from Thera eruption found at Tel Al-Dafna

Volcanic ash from the volcanic eruption of Santorini, thought to have occurred around 1,500 BC, was discovered at the archaeological site of Tel Al-Dafna located on the western bank of the Suez Canal, Egypt’s Antiquities Ministry Mamdouh Eldamaty announced Tuesday.

Tephra from Thera eruption found at Tel Al-Dafna
Excavations by Egyptian mission at Tel Al-Dafna archaeological site 
[Credit: Paul Robinson]
“The eruption was not only the first natural disasters to hit the Mediterranean Sea but also was one of the largest volcanic events on the history of mankind. It has caused a severe damage to the ancient Greek Island of Thera (modern-day Santorini) along with agricultural communities on nearby islands,” said Damaty.

The oldest archaeological evidence discovered in Tel Al-Dafna dates back to the 26th Dynasty (664–525 BC), but the Theran tephra was found in a much deeper layer which is believed to date to the 16th cent. BC.

The expedition, headed by Dr. Muhammad Abd Al-Maksoud, has made many important discoveries which are shedding light on the Pelusium branch of the Nile and other archaeological sites on the Nile banks which have not yet been revealed.

Tephra from Thera eruption found at Tel Al-Dafna
View of the Tel Al-Dafna archaeological site 
[Credit: Ahram Online]
According to Dr. Muhammad Abd El-Maksoud, the expedition has also discovered part of a fortified island, surrounded by walls of clay and mud bricks which worked as a barrier to protect the island from potential tsunamis at the northwest part of the fortress.

The site at Tel Al-Dafna was one of three huge fortresses that were built by Psamtik I to protect the eastern entrance of Egypt. One of these fortresses was built at Maria to repel the Libyan attacks and another at Elephantine to protect Egypt from the Ethiopians.

At Tel Al-Dafna the walls are about 20m thick, with dimensions of 400mx800m, within which a number of fortified residences with thick walls have been discovered.

Abd El-Maksoud also added that remains of mastabas, workshops and kilns, used for melting metals and baking bread, have also been discovered at the site.

A collection of fish and crocodile fossils was also unearthed. 

Source: Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities [December 30, 2015]

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  1. This topic is of great interest to me. However, the article appears not to have benefited from the work of an editor. Not only does it contain confusing grammatical errors, but it also neglects to expand clearly and appropriately on its supposed topic. I very much would like to read an expanded and edited version of this article.

  2. The press release by the Egyptian Antiquities Ministry was indeed quite vague... insofar as the Tel Al-Dafna site is concerned all I can do is point you to this Wikipedia article...

  3. Unfortunately, the Theran eruption date doesn't match the GISP Ice Core signal, so the whole issue on when Thera happened is hanging in the air. Haven't found any alternative datings of the chemical composition of Theran tephra, I guess it is a scientific taboo to talk about redating of Theran eruption. So much for the "scientific approach".
    Thus, I wouldn't trust this ash to really be the Theran eruption out of hand.


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