Volcanic suppression of Nile summer flooding triggers revolt and constrains interstate conflict in ancient Egypt
Joseph G. Manning 1,2, Francis Ludlow 3,4, Alexander R. Stine 5, William R. Boos 6,7, Michael Sigl 8,9 & Jennifer R. Marlon 10
Volcanic eruptions provide tests of human and natural system
sensitivity to abrupt shocks because their repeated occurrence
allows the identification of systematic relationships in the
presence of random variability. Here we show a suppression of
Nile summer flooding via the radiative and dynamical impacts of
explosive volcanism on the African monsoon, using cli- mate model
output, ice-core-based volcanic forcing data, Nilometer
measurements, and ancient Egyptian writings. We then examine the
response of Ptolemaic Egypt (305–30 BCE), one of the
best-documented ancient superpowers, to volcanically induced Nile
suppression. Eruptions are associated with revolt onset against
elite rule, and the cessation of Ptolemaic state warfare with
their great rival, the Seleukid Empire. Eruptions are also
followed by socioeconomic stress with increased hereditary land
sales, and the issuance of priestly decrees to reinforce elite
authority. Ptolemaic vulnerability to volcanic eruptions offers a
caution for all monsoon-dependent agricultural regions, presently
including 70% of world population.
1 Departments of History and Classics, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.
2 Yale Law School, New Haven, CT 06511, USA.
3 Yale Climate & Energy Institute and Department of History, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06511, USA.
4 Department of History, School of Histories & Humanities, Trinity College, Dublin 2, Ireland.
5 Department of Earth & Climate Sciences, San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA 94132, USA.
6 Department of Earth and Planetary Science, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.
7 Climate and Ecosystem Sciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.
8 Laboratory of Environmental Chemistry, Paul Scherrer Institute, 5232 Villigen, Switzerland.
9 Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Bern, Bern 3012, Switzerland.
10 School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06511, USA.
Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to F.L. (email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
NATURE COMMUNICATIONS | 8: 900
| DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-00957-y | www.nature.com/naturecommunications
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