Reaching the end of this book, all I could think was, “this is blowing my mind.” Not to be overwrought, but Barbara Sivertsen’s The Parting of the Sea rewrites the major story of the Jewish people, that of the Exodus from Egypt. Assembling and interpreting a dizzying amount of scientific material, Sivertsen documents how earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and a tsunami played key roles in establishing Jewish people in the land of Canaan. She backs up the geological data with meticulously detailed archaeological evidence. In a book 262 pages in length, supporting documentation begins on page 157.
Spoiler alert: The major hypothesis of Sivertsens’ work is that the Jewish people did not experience a single exodus from Egypt, but rather two. The first exodus was aided by a massive volcanic eruption on the island of Santorini, from which spewed clouds of noxious gas causing boils to erupt on cows and poisoning the waters from which the frogs hopped. One hundred seventy eight years later, a second exodus was abetted by a volcanic eruption from the island of Yali, slinging a soldier-drowning tsunami toward the Egyptian coast.
Sivertsen’s book is a scholarly and sober work. As such, the reading requires commitment; this is not a pop-science jaunt. However, the effort pays off: you can’t imagine how the walls of Jericho actually came tumbling down. Abbreviations, appendix, bibliography, index, glossary, maps, notes, tables.