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Scientists May Have Source For A.D. 1257 'Mystery Eruption'

The Samalas volcanic crater at Rinjani National Park on Lombok Island, Indonesia.
Rinjani National Park, Indonesia
The Samalas volcanic crater at Rinjani National Park on Lombok Island, Indonesia.

Scientists think they've identified the source of a massive volcanic eruption that occurred in A.D. 1257 and spread telltale traces across the globe.

The culprit in the "mystery eruption" appears to be the Samalas volcano, part of the on Indonesia's Lombok Island, an international team of scientists publishing in PNAS journal says.

The team, led by geographer Franck Lavigne, says the previously unattributed eruption was "an estimated eight times as large as the famed Krakatau erpution of 1883 and twice as large as Tambora in 1815," according to National Geographic. Krakatau and Tambora are also located in Indonesia, which is a volcanic and seismic hot spot.

The team examined sulfur and dust traces found in polar ice that were similar to samples collected near Samalas and found a match.

An estimated 10 cubic miles of rock and ash may have been spewed from the volcano at the time of the eruption, causing a significant impact on the climate.

The BBC writes:

"Medieval texts describe atrocious weather the following summer in AD1258. It was cold, and the rain was unrelenting, leading to flooding.

"Archaeologists recently put a date of AD1258 on the skeletons of thousands of people who were buried in mass graves in London.

" 'We cannot say for sure these two events are linked but the populations would definitely have been stressed,' Prof Lavigne told BBC News."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
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