The Worst Time in History to Be Alive

Nicholas C. Rossis

The ninth plague of Egypt was complete darkness that lasted for three days. But in 536 A.D., much of the world went dark for a full 18 months, as a mysterious fog rolled over Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Asia. The fog blocked the sun during the day, causing temperatures to drop, crops to fail and people to die. It was, you might say, the literal Dark Age.

Now, researchers have discovered one of the main sources of that fog, as Becky LIttle and Brian Fuggle report. The team reported in Antiquity that a volcanic eruption in Iceland in early 536 helped spread ash across the Northern Hemisphere, creating the fog. Like the 1815 Mount Tambora eruption—the deadliest volcanic eruption on record—this eruption was big enough to alter global climate patterns, causing years of famine.

What exactly did the first 18 months of darkness look like? The Byzantine…

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