T. de Jong
- A new look at the Venus observations of Ammisaduqa: traces of the Santorini eruption in the atmosphere of Babylon?
- Jaarbericht van het Vooraziatisch-Egyptisch Genootschap "Ex Oriente Lux"
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy (API)
The chronology of the ancient Near East (2000-1500 B.C.) is not well established. A much debated anchor point for this chronology is provided by a series of observed dates of the first appearance and the disappearance of the planet Venus during the reign of the Babylonian king Ammisaduqa. The Venus observations allow four different chronologies: Ammisaduqa year 1 = 1702 B.C. (the Long Chronology), 1646 and 1638 B.C. (the High and Low Middle Chronologies), and 1582 B.C. (the Short Chronology). In this paper we reanalyse the Venus observations using a physical model of the visibility of Venus in a twilight atmosphere. Although there are small differences between the quality of fit for the four different chronologies, the results do not allow us to make a decisive choice. This is reflected in the average visual extinction in the atmosphere of Babylon which varies from 0.25 ± 0.07 to 0.28 ± 0.11 magnitudes per airmass for the four different Venus chronologies. These extinction values are identical (within the standard deviations) to those found in earlier studies based on first and last appearances of stars and planets in Babylon in the 13th and 7th century B.C. The analysis further shows that there is a cluster of observations with enhanced extinction values in the 12th and 13th years of the reign of Ammisaduqa. These observations were discarded in previous studies as corrupted by scribal errors. In this paper we attribute these enhanced extinction values to the eruption of the volcano on the Greek island Thera (present-day Santorini). From the magnitude of the excess extinction we find that about 45 Megatons of aerosols were ejected into the Earth stratosphere in the eruption, and that the strength of the eruption was comparable to that of Krakatau (Indonesia, 1883). The Santorini eruption serves as an important calibration point for the Aegean Late Bronze Age chronology (1700-1400 B.C.). By connecting the chronologies of the ancient Near East and of the Aegean Late Bronze Age in this way, we are able to show that there are two possibilities: (i) the eruption occurred in 1628/1627 B.C., consistent with the radiocarbon dating window of the eruption, supporting the Low Middle Chronology of the ancient Near East (Ammisaduqa 1 = 1638 B.C.), or (ii) the eruption occurred in 1692/1691 B.C. when we adopt the Long Chronology of the ancient Near East (Ammisaduqa 1 = 1702 B.C.) based on the Old Babylonian month length calibration.
- ID: 612
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