The Scientific Explanation Behind The Plagues That Hit Ancient Egypt
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The Scientific Explanation Behind The Plagues That Hit Ancient Egypt

Avatar of Gustavo Lopez

By: Gustavo Lopez

January 30, 2017

What's on The Scientific Explanation Behind The Plagues That Hit Ancient Egypt
Avatar of Gustavo Lopez

By: Gustavo Lopez

January 30, 2017

“Well there’s this passage I’ve got memorized – sort of fits this occasion. Ezekiel 25:17.
The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.”

–Pulp Fiction

The scene in Quentin Tarantino’s film that includes this exaltation by Samuel L. Jackson’s Jules Winnfield is often quoted as taken directly from the Bible. Actually, it's a mashup of different excerpts that ends with the actual reference. However, there’s something particularly engaging about this recitation that has made it into an iconic speech in film history.

plagues ancient egypt science

This scene always reminds me of Moses and God’s unsuspecting rage, whose result was the destructing wrath unleashed upon Pharaoh and the Egyptian people in order to bring freedom to the Israelites. After Moses asks for his people to be released, Pharaoh refuses. It’s only until ten plagues ravage the land that he allows the enslaved Hebrews to leave for their promised land.

Archaeologists have recently been able to explain the scientific reasons behind each of the plagues. So, regardless of whether the story of these divine tragedies is a metaphor or reality, there's new evidence of how these events occurred. Scientists believe the disasters were chain reactions of natural phenomena brought forth by climate change and even volcanic activity.

Apparently the city of Pi-Rameses in the Nile Delta, capital of the Egyptian kingdom rules by Ramesses II, was abandoned 3 thousand years ago due to the ecological consequences that came with the plagues that hit the region in 1200 BC.

plagues ancient egypt

It all began with the continuous temperature raise in Egypt, not unlike the global warming phenomena currently affecting our world. This then led to the Nile’s water rising, resulting in its current slowing down and its waters turning muddy. That was how the water turned into blood, or more likely a reddish color created by toxic algae, also known as Burgundy Blood, which began to rot.

The following plagues, frogs, locusts, and insects were an environmental consequence of the river’s unbalance. The frogs would’ve come first after losing their ecosystem because of the algae. Without the presence of their main predator and given the amount of sludgy water, insects were able to proliferate uncontrollably.

plagues ancient egypt locusts

These invasions led to hygiene issues, in the form of disease for livestock and humans. Illness, boils, and incurable rashes are what came with the fifth and sixth plague. Back in 1200 BC there was no such thing as penicillin or antibiotics. An ailment that can easily be cured today could prove deadly then.

The fiery hail can be explained through sediments found in the region. One of the greatest lava eruptions in history occurred about 250 miles from Pi-Ramses. The Thera Volcano released billions of pyroclastic flows into the atmosphere. German researches believe the ash clashed with a storm nearby, causing the sky to darken and black hail to rain on the city.

plagues ancient egypt frogs

This ash, combined with the raised humidity levels, provoked abnormal behavior from animals, such as the locusts. This created further consequences in the area.

Then there’s the final plague, the angel of death’s passing to kill all firstborns. The reasoning behind this event could lie in poisoned grains which only the Egyptian citizens would’ve had access to. Firstborn sons would’ve had the privilege of eating first. The lamb’s blood on the door was simply a symbolic detail to cause an even more devastating effect on the Pharaoh’s psyche after losing his son.

plagues ancient egypt blood water

Perhaps these recent discoveries change the perception of several events narrated in the Bible. We might begin to see it as a historical book with answers to events in history rather than just a compendium on issues of morality and ethics, answered from one religious perspective.

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Translated by María Suárez