Scientists Argue That Asteroids May Have Affected Several Mysterious Ages
By Michael H. Brown
A growing number of astronomers, archeologists,
and historians are arguing that several historical epochs which ended in a
mysterious style may have been affected by small asteroid and comet bombardments
-- including the time of the Egyptian pyramids, which is now also thought to
have been the time of Sodom and Gomorrah.
The focus is on societies that existed around 2350, 1500, and 1000 B.C. -- indicating, some say, that earth regularly passes through a train of debris that showers it with meteorites, asteroids, zodiacal dust, and small comets every 500 to 1,500 years. The debris is called the Taurid stream and may be the remains of a giant comet called Encke that disintegrated long ago.
Scientists in Ireland believe such an event may also have occurred at the end of the Roman Empire -- an issue we'll look at next week.
The theory that small bombardments have affected life on earth more frequently than we have hitherto realized is posited by Dr. Victor Clube of Oxford and Dr. Bill Napier of the Armagh Observatory in Ireland -- the scientists whose ideas in the late 1970s led to the now-famous conclusion that a large asteroid or comet ended the age of dinosaurs.
The question now is whether smaller bombardments have affected man himself.
Clube, Napier, and others who argue in favor of this radical new theory (called "catastrophism") cite drastic weather fluctuations in those ancient periods. Around 2350 B.C. there was a sudden shift in global climate (in this case global cooling) that altered wind patterns, changed storm systems, and caused extremes of flooding in one part of the world while it led to searing drought in the Mideast.
So dry was the region that cropland was destroyed and rivers dried – including the Nile.
There was a “drastic reduction of normal winter rainfall and an increase in erratic, torrential heavy rainstorms,” said Dr. Harvey Weiss of Yale, who told Spirit Daily the drought, as shown from ancient samples of dust not only in old land deposits but also at the bottom of the Gulf of Oman, may have lasted for 300 years.
Suddenly, every known settlement in that part of the world was abandoned. People fled the Habur and Assyrian plains, and the Old World collapsed. It was part of a major chastisement. The world’s first urban civilizations – the Old Kingdom in Egypt, the Akkadian Empire in Mesopotamia, the early societies in Greece, Turkey, and Israel – all fell at once in what has long been an archeological mystery. There was drought at one time or one place while storms, flood, and tidal surges haunted other places. In ancient texts are references to a time when dust blotted out the sun, when “the sun is occluded and will not shine that men may see, [so that] none may know that it is midday and the sun will cast no shadow.” At the same time is a reference indicating fear as people beheld smoke arising from the south.
It was an era in which crude astronomical observatories suddenly were constructed with a flurry that extended from Egypt to Britain -- the result of an ancient attempt to forecast future cosmic destruction, argues Dr. Napier.
Stars were said to have fallen from the sky during this period, and what was known as the Curse of Akkad alluded to “flaming potsherds raining from the sky.”
So severe was the change in climate that Egyptians were able to cross the Nile on foot.
“In Mesopotamia, vast areas of land appear to have been devastated, inundated, or totally burned,” said another scientist, Dr. Benny Peiser in England.
While the area near the Dead Sea (where Sodom and Gomorrah is believed to have been located) was described at one time as “well-watered” and “like the Lord’s own garden,” it became the desert we know today. From east to west, from north to south, the climate changed. Although focused in the Mideast, it was a global event. Lakes throughout Europe, China, and Africa shriveled up.
Was all this a quirk of climate? A flux in the earth’s tilt? Or the result of a comet storm?
We think it was a combination of events. We think such events came as divine purification. But asteroids may have played a role in at least one of the episodes. When Weiss and Marie-Agnes Courty, a researcher at France’s Center for Scientific Research, investigated the Mesopotamian mega-drought, they found a strange layer of dust – fine spherules of silica and calcite, black carbonate, and packed crystals – in the same area where the drought occurred.
While Dr. Courty initially thought the soot was from a volcano (which could also have altered climate by blotting out sunlight), she has since come to believe that it was the result of an “extra-terrestrial projectile.”
That conclusion was sparked when Courty analyzed what is known as an uncommon “petrographic” assemblage of the area: silica spherules mixed with black vesicular material, carbonate, and coarse crystallized rock noted by its angular fragments.
All these particles were present only in a specific layer and were finely mixed with mudbrick debris, suggesting “disintegration of the mud-brick construction by an air blast.”
In virgin soil the burnt “horizon” contained black soot and graphite – and appeared to have fossilized instantaneously.
Clearly, there had a fallout of melted glasslike particles. The evidence for exceptionally heavy rains suggested short-term effects consistent with climate perturbation induced by “massive smoke and dust injection into the atmosphere,” said Courty. "We speculate on the special circumstances that produced at the same time a massive dust increase generated by pulverization of the local soils together with an exogenous component, wildfires, and subsequent heavy rains, and envisage a cosmic hypothesis” [my emphasis].
There are indications that other small asteroid strikes affected our planet in the centuries afterward. Around 1500 and then 1000 B.C. the world again encountered a baffling series of events – extremes in temperature, exceptional rain, floods. There was a violent increase in the volume of rivers. Great tidal surges were hurled at Florida. A vast area of low-lying land went under water on the Hungarian plain. “From many other sources of information it is obvious that these events were sudden and occurred worldwide,” say two Swedish researchers, Lars Franzen and Thomas B. Larsson. “The material, although scattered in time due to uncertainties in the dating methods used, was surprisingly unequivocal in pointing to excess water, cooling, and indicating that two natural catastrophes with global dimensions took place somewhere within the period of 1600-1400 B.C. and in another bracketed within the dates of 1200-800 B.C.”
The latter period included a “dark age.” A stormy period began. In Central Europe there was a dramatic, inexplicable downturn in weather. Like the preceding era, it was an exceptionally cold, unsettled period. Populations vanished with little explanation in Hungary and other parts. Greece saw major flooding and an unsolved mystery: collapse of the famous and exotic Mycenaean culture. “During these generations the changes that came about are little short of fantastic,” wrote famed historian V. R. Desborough.
It was no normal shift in climate, said Larrson and Franzen, who studied deposits from the period and found what looked like marine aerosols that somehow had been injected into the atmosphere before falling upon the land. Playa and alluvial deposits in Tunisia, along with peat in Sweden, pointed to a turbulent time -- “and several sudden and dramatic events.” Once more glassy spherules were found in the geology of this time -- and once more they could not be connected to volcanism.
Franzen’s and Larsson’s conclusion: that “asteroids or comets (about 0.5 kilometers diameter) hit somewhere in the eastern Atlantic, possibly at the shelf of the Atlantic west coast of Africa and Europe around 1500 B.C. and 1000-950 B.C., mainly affecting the British Isles, central and southeastern Europe, the North African countries, and the Near and Middle East,” but also having global effects.
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