Archaeoastronomy is a relatively new scientific discipline, which as the name implies combines archaeology and astronomy, particularly in the study of ancient megalithic monuments and their possible alignment with various celestial bodies.
Arguably the most famous example is Stonehenge, but our globe is littered with ancient monuments incorporating solar, lunar or astral alignments. Not all are as impressive or accessible as Stonehenge, Callanish or Newgrange but in remote places such as Nabta Playa or Fajada Butte (see Hadingham[1308.152]).
The subject was initially considered by some to be a ‘fringe’ topic, but in 1999 Clive Ruggles was appointed Professor of Archaeoastronomy at the University of Leicester(a) and is the author of the encyclopedic Ancient Astronomy.
The University of Maryland has had a Center for Archaeoastronomy since 1978(c).
The subject has never been central to Atlantis studies, but has hovered in the background, with writers such a Egerton Sykes(b) and Graham Hancock who employed aspects of the discipline in their publications.
Giulio Magli (1964- ) is an Italian archaeaostronomer with a website in English(e) dedicated to the application of the discipline in Egypt. In 2013, Magli proposed that aspects of the Göbleki Tepe site are related to the recent appearance of Sirius in the night sky around 9300 BC(f) . Andrew Collins and Rodney Hale argue against this interpretation(g) , which is perhaps understandable as they support a linkage with the Cygnus constellation. A 2004 paper by Magli, on precessional effects in ancient astronomy(h) , has recently been applied by Lenie Reedijk to her contention that the Maltese temples were oriented to Sirius.
A further application of the discipline was employed by Martin Sweatman and Dimitrios Tsikritsis who used it to interpret the carved symbols at Göbekli Tepe. In a 2017 paper(d) they concluded that the pillars there were used to record meteor showers and cometary encounters. They believe that one such encounter involved the explosion or impact of part of Encke’s Comet around 13,000 years ago, which triggered the Younger Dryas Event that kick-started the Neolithic Revolution.*Scientists who have worked on the site responded critically (i), which in turn evoked further comments from Sweatman and Tsikritsis(j).*
Sweatman later expanded their theory in his book Prehistory Decoded .
Archaeoastronomy is one of only a few dozen words with four consecutive vowels.
(j) https://www.academia.edu/33931844/MORE_THAN_A_VULTURE_A_RESPONSE_TO_SWEATMAN_AND_TSIKRITSIS (See end of paper)*
Younger Dryas also known as Dryas III was a mini Ice Age that lasted from around 10,700 BC until around 9600 BC. It is named after a flower that flourished during this relatively short period. In Ireland the period is known as the Nahanagan Stadial and in Britain as the Loch Lomond Stadial. For about thirteen hundred years the glaciers had been slowly retreating until within a short time-span temperatures dropped and they began to advance again. The cause of this cooling is not absolutely clear. One view is that a sudden release into the North Atlantic of vast quantities of fresh water that had been contained by huge ice dams is assumed to have closed down the Gulf Stream, resulting in a twelve hundred year lowering of global temperatures. There is evidence that the change only took one or two decades. The same threat is said to exist today with the possibility of the melting of the Greenland ice cap.
The most recent theory, by Firestone, West and Warwick-Smith, links the onset of the Younger Dryas with the explosion of a comet over North America that led to the extinction of many species, the collapse of the Clovis culture(a)(b) as well as the creation of the Carolina Bays.
A 2014 paper(g) entitled Nanodiamond-Rich Layer Across Three Continents Consistent with Major Cosmic Impact at 12,800 Cal BP by Charles R. Kinzie et al, has developed further the idea of this event being associated with the Younger Dryas. In a similar vein is an article(h) from Megan Gannon.
*A recent application of archaeoastronomy by Martin Sweatman and Dimitrios Tsikritsis led them to conclude that the carved symbols at Göbekli Tepe recorded an encounter involving the explosion or impact of part of Encke’s Comet around 13,000 years ago, which triggered the Younger Dryas Event that provided the impetus for the Neolithic Revolution. Sweatman later expanded their work in his book Prehistory Decoded .
Kevin A. & Patrick J. Casey maintain that a globally catastrophic event occurred 13,000 years ago(l). The kernel of their theory is that originally the Earth had two moons that at some later point collided, producing our current Moon, while the remnant of the second one eventually exploded over North America kick-starting what we refer to as the cooler Younger Dryas period. They are adamant that it was not a comet or asteroid that caused the devastation, and so clash with the work of Richard Firestone and his colleagues.
In 2015 a paper constraining the impact date to within 100 years using Bayesian statistical analyses, now proposed as 12,835 -12,735 years ago(j).
Coincidentally, Professor Emilio Spedicato independently arrived at the conclusion that it was a cometary impact in the North Atlantic that was responsible for the Younger Dryas. Subsequently, when temperatures rose again it resulted in the flooding of vast areas of low-lying landmasses that in Spedicato’s opinion, included Atlantis, which he locates in Hispaniola.
Conflicting evidence regarding the possibility of the Younger Dryas being caused by such an impact is impartially outlined on the internet(c).
December 2014 saw Graham Hancock raising the issue of a cometary cause for the Younger Dryas and its possible association with ancient Egypt(f).
The November 2013 issue of the BBC Focus magazine (p.30) had a brief article on the impact theory, noting that the northern hemisphere saw a drop of as much as 15°C around 11,000BC. In the absence of a suitable impact crater there is still much scientific scepticism(d).
However in early 2017, further possible evidence of an impact at the start of the Younger Dryas was offered by a team led by Christopher Moore of the University of South Carolina, when they identified a distinct layer of platinum in the soil that coincided with the start of YD. Commenting on this anomaly Moore noted that “Platinum is very rare in the Earth’s crust, but it is common in asteroids and comets.”(i)
In early 2018, two papers were published online(k), reinforcing the YD impact theory and adding evidence that the event resulted in a conflagration that “may have consumed ?10 million km2, or ?9% of Earth’s terrestrial biomass.”
Ice cores from Greenland indicate a further cooling period circa 6200 BC that may be related to the abandonment of many Neolithic settlements during this period. Other periods of abrupt climate change have been identified from 3800 BC to 3500 BC and 2800 BC to 2000 BC.
The fact that Plato’s apparent date for the demise of Atlantis, circa 9600 BC, roughly corresponds with the current, best estimate for the date of the Younger Dryas is interesting but unfortunately not conclusive proof of any direct connection. In the absence of any supportive archaeological evidence, a linkage between Atlantis and the Younger Dryas will have to remain a matter of faith rather than fact. Interesting but inconclusive.
Recent discoveries in northern Sudan of dozens of skeletons, the majority of whom were apparently killed by flint-tipped arrows, have led to the suggestion(e) they were the result of food shortages resulting from the Younger Dryas that in turn led to warfare over diminished food availability.
*(c) http://blogs.nicholas.duke.edu/thegreengrok/climatedebate/ (offline Dec. 2016) See: https://web.archive.org/web/20130310032309/http://blogs.nicholas.duke.edu/thegreengrok/climatedebate/*
Duncan Steel (1955- ) is an astrophysicist who has worked in the USA, New Zealand and is currently director of Spaceguard Australia. Dr. Steel has been employed by both NASA and the ESA. In 1995 he suggested that Stonehenge I had been constructed as a predictor of the Earth’s intersection with the path of a comet and its attendant debris, with a 19-year periodicity(a). This controversial idea named Encke’s Comet and the Taurid meteor shower as the principal culprits and dated the first encounters to around 3100 BC. This date coincides with the conclusions of David Furlong and Timo Niroma who note cultural and meteorological upheavals at that same time.
Steel has his own website(b).
(a) http://www.archaeologyuk.org/ba/ba45/ba45feat.html (Offline Mar. 2016) see Archive 2657
Graham Hancock the well-known investigator of prehistoric mysteries has never discussed the Atlantis enigma in depth. In fact, he once remarked on BBC Television that he avoids using the word ‘Atlantis’ in his books because “because most people when they hear the word Atlantis immediately think that they’re dealing with the lunatic fringe”.
In his tome on civilisations submerged at the end of the last Ice Age he briefly discusses the subject of Atlantis. He seems somewhat ambivalent regarding the Atlantic as the most likely location of Plato’s submerged civilisation. However, in an earlier work, The Sign and the Seal[678.319] he clearly discounts the Atlantic as the home of Atlantis. Furthermore, he emphasises the potential value of myths as transmitters of historical facts, albeit distorted.
Hancock maintains an interesting website(a) that is regularly updated with contributions from a wide range of contributors. His bestselling Fingerprints of the Gods is now available online(b).
The other side of the coin is that Hancock’s evidence supporting his theories has been heavily criticised as flawed(g) and misleadingly presented(h).
Jason Colavito has written(c) a critical review of Hancock’s work and his recent advocacy “for ayahuasca, a South American hallucinogen. Since taking the drug for his 2005 book Supernatural, Hancock has supported the concept that mind-altering substances give their users access to a spirit world where one can commune directly with the ‘gods’.”
In April 2015, Hancock was due to engage in debate Zahi Hawass on the subject of their conflicting views of ancient history. However, when Hawass saw that Hancock included an image of Robert Bauval in his presentation, he refused to continue with the arranged format(d).
In September 2015, Hancock published his latest book, Magicians of the Gods, which worryingly sounds like a von Däniken book title! Already, he is trailing this publication with teasers, such as a claim that he has finally identified the ‘smoking gun’ that demonstrates that a cometary impact destroyed an advanced civilisation in the Antarctic 12,800 years ago(e) Shortly after the initial report was published, Hancock had to correct errors in it(f), the principal one being that the impact site was the North American ice cap NOT Antarctica. An interview with Hancock shortly before the publication of ‘Magicians’(n) is online as is also a review of the book itself(o).
Hancock also climbed aboard the Gobekli Tepe bandwagon, incorporating it along with Noah’s Ark and Atlantis into one narrative(p).
Hancock’s book also engages in scaremongering, with a sales-boosting prediction that an asteroid impact is possible in 2030, when the Earth once again enters the orbit of the remains of Encke’s Comet!
Jason Colavitos’s critical review of ‘Magicians‘ is now online(j). A more favourable evaluation of his book is now available from Dr. Jon Epstein of Greensboro College, who expresses some interesting views on the closed mindedness of many academics(k). Epstein’s review prompted further comments from Colavito(l). Following correspondence between Epstein and Colavito, additional claims of academic conspiracy to block Hancock have emerged.
Hancock recently received the endorsement of the South African Professor of Philosophy, Bert Olivier, which swiftly produced a response from Colavito(q).
*Hancock’s next book, America Before, due out in April 2019, apparently proposes that North America was inhabited 130,000 years ago and was home to an advanced civilisation which was destroyed by a cometary impact at the end of the Younger Dryas period, around 10,000 BC.*
(o) http://disinfo.com/2016/02/magicians-gods-proves-graham-hancock-indiana-jones/2/ (link broken Sept 2018) See: Archive 2904
Encke’s Comet has the shortest orbital period of just over three years and was the second comet after Halley’s to have its period determined. It is named after the German astronomer Johann Franz Encke (1792-1865) who announced its periodicity in 1819. More information about Encke’s Comet is available on Kevin Curran’s website(f), which promotes his book, Fall of a Thousand Suns, in which he analyses the effects that cometary encounters have had on religious beliefs.
One website(c) suggests that Encke was only part of an even larger comet, proto-Encke, sometimes identified as Tiamat in Babylonian mythology and that Encke gave birth to the Taurid meteor shower.
Victor Clube and Bill Napier published their groundbreaking book in 1982 in which they identify Encke’s Comet or more correctly its larger progenitor as having had catastrophic close encounters with the earth in the past. They expanded their book in 1990.
*Martin Sweatman is a University of Edinburgh scientist and the author of Prehistory Decoded . Building on the work of Clube & Napier he believes that around 10,900 BC an encounter with a fragment of Encke that led to catastrophic climate change of the Younger Dryas and kick-started the Neolithic Revolution. After an in-depth study of the carvings at Göbekli Tepe he believes that they record astronomical events and in a 2017 joint paper with Dimitrios Tsikritsis, published in Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry, (Vol. 17, No 1) offers an illustrated outline of this theory.(g)*
A number of investigators, including Frank Joseph have adopted their findings and have attributed the destruction of Atlantis, among other disasters, such as the eruption of Thera, to the repeated near misses by proto-Encke. In his latest literary recycling Joseph claims that Comet Encke in 1198 BC “scores a number of meteoric hits along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and possibly on Atlantis itself, which perishes ‘in a single day and night’, according to Plato. The catastrophe is global, encompassing the destruction of the biblical Sodom and Gomorrah.” Joseph bases this claim on the conclusions of two Swedish geologists, Thomas B. Larsson and Lars Franzén.
Another writer, Martin Gray, claimed that in 3113 BC proto-Encke collided with asteroids in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter causing extensive meteor showers that punctuated the Bronze Age, including the partial destruction of Atlantis(a) . Without hard evidence we must treat this as nothing more than interesting conjecture.
A fully illustrated article detailing an encounter with Comet Encke is offered by Stuart Harris(b) who dates this event to 8366 BC and which led to catastrophic destruction across Europe. Harris also offered the possibility of a return visit during August-September 2012, if the Cluster still exists. He added further data in 2013(d).
Graham Hancock has gone further and suggested that 2030 will possibly have another catastrophic encounter with Encke, hidden in the Taurid meteor shower. This ‘prediction’ in his Magician of the Gods(e) will do no harm to sales figures!