Adamantia (Amanda) Laoupi (1968- ) is a Greek archaeologist(a) responsible for defining a new interdisciplinary field of study – Disaster Archaeology, which is concerned with a range of subjects that includes earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and asteroidal/cometary impacts, together with their local, regional and global effects. Laoupi has now expanded her views on disaster archaeology with the publication of her latest book, Pushing the Limits.
A number of her papers are available on the Internet(f), one(b) deals with comets and diseases echoing some of the conclusions of Mike Baillie as well as those of Fred Hoyle & Chandra Wickramasinghe. 2013 saw further evidence published that suggested that comets may have seeded life on earth(d). Additional confirmation came from data transmitted from comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko 67P in 2015 that revealed the existence there of sixteen organic compounds(e).
Laoupi has also touched on the subject of Atlantis in a technical paper on catastrophist mythology[0629.9] presented to the 2005 Atlantis Conference. In her Disaster Archaeology website(c) she has 14 discussion headings relating to Atlantis. Her conclusion is that the Atlantis story is a mixture of fact and fiction and perhaps is best related in her own words:
“The worldwide legend of Atlantis is a multi-layered ‘anthropological’ myth with strong cross-cultural parallels that echoes humanity’s experiences on mega-archaeodisasters, that had been filtrated through different symbolic languages. So, in this point of view, Atlantis as described by Plato, didn’t exist exactly as a whole, but as hidden information of different origin (chronological, topographic, environmrental, archaeological, astronomical, etc), like the Homeric Epics and other famous literature of the ancient world.”
The Holocene Impact Working Group (HIWG)(a) was created by researchers into different aspects of geosciences, who believe that cometary impacts were more frequent during the recent past than generally accepted. It is concerned with the growing number of impact craters being discovered and the evidence of consequent mega tsunamis. Its membership includes Mike Baillie, Richard Firestone and Bruce Masse(b).
The New York Times reviewed the work of the HIWG in 2006(c).
William Whiston (1667-1752) was an English historian and theologian. In his 1696 book, A New Theory of the Earth, he contended that an encounter with a comet, in 2346 BC, caused the biblical Deluge, which in turn led to the destruction of Atlantis (p.262, 5th edition). His book is now freely available online as a pdf file(a). Both George Dodwell and Mike Baillie have also offered evidence for a globally catastrophic event in 2345 BC.
The ancient Chinese Huai-nan-tzu, recounts a legend of ten suns appearing in the sky, an account which might be related if the suggested(b) date of 2345 BC for the event could be verified.
He had the idea that the antediluvian population had been much greater than the present continents could accommodate and he reasoned that an additional landmass was required to cater for these additional people. Whiston took Plato’s description, of the submerged Atlantis being greater than Libya (North Africa) and Asia combined, at face value and assumed that such a large piece of extra territory would have been adequate to meet the needs of his presumed additional world population.
Thera is an ancient name for today’s Aegean archipelago of Santorini, which are the remains of a volcanic island.
Only two of the islands are inhabited, the main island, Santorini and Therasia, which had been joined before the 16th century BC eruption. Recent excavations have revealed a pre-eruption settlement on Therasia(x).
Although it exhibited low-level activity in 1939-41 and 1950-51, it was in 1926 when it last erupted violently, destroying many hundreds of buildings in less than a minute. Eruptions of similarity intensity occurred in 1650, 1707 and 1866. It was also the site of probably the most powerful and destructive volcanic explosion in the Mediterranean during the Bronze Age. Although the exact date of this event is still the subject of some controversy the most recent evidence(a) indicates a date around 1613 BC ±13years, while archaeologists are more supportive of a date circa 1500 BC. Professor Floyd McCoy is currently planning an eighteen-month study of the matter in Greece, in the hope of resolving this dating conflict. There was clearly a series of eruptions that ended with a final enormous explosion that has been linked to the ending of Minoan civilisation on Crete, the Plagues of Egypt and agricultural failures throughout the Eastern Mediterranean. For a geologist’s view of the island’s dramatic history, Walter Friedrich’s bookis hard to beat. His book supports a 1640 BC date for the eruption although he has subsequently revised this to 1613 BC. Sturt W. Manning supports a 1628 BC date and Mike Baillie has offered dendrochronological evidence for a 1628 BC eruption date to the 2011 Quantavolution conference in Athens(j). This converges with McCoy’s date above. However, the dating of the eruption continues to be controversial as this December 2012 link(i)demonstrates. At the heart of the problem is that acceptance of an early 17th century BC date for the event conflicts with established Egyptian chronology. While the exact year of the eruption continues to be debated, there is now scientific evidence that it occurred in early summer(s).
A 2014 paper published in Antiquity by Paolo Cherubini would appear to confirm the 16th century BC as the date of the catastrophic eruption ruling out an earlier date as untenable(o). In the same year, the University of Birmingham published a report(u) that supported the 1625 BC date. The earlier Antiquity paper prompted a response by a group, led by Sturt Manning later in 2014(y).
*In August 2018, an interdisciplinary group led by dendrochronolist Charlotte L. Pearson published a paper(ab), which concluded that the eruption of Thera took place in the 16th century BC. This conclusion was the result of using a combination of dendrochronology along with high-resolution radiocarbon dating methods.*
October 2018 saw further evidence for an early 16th century BC date for the eruption emerge after the radiocarbon dating of some olive wood found on Therasia, one of the Santorini group(z). The same month saw the publication of a paper on the ResearchGate(aa) website date the event to 1727-1600 BC!
The doctoral thesis of Dr. David Sewell explores the cultural effects of the Theran eruption and can be read online(h).
The volcanic ash deposited by the Theran eruption was centuries later to be used in huge quantities to manufacture cement for the construction of the Suez Canal. It was during the mining of this material that workmen encountered large stone blocks under the layers of pumice, indicating buildings of a great age.
It is claimed by many that a garbled Egyptian description of this devastating event was the basis for the story of the destruction of Atlantis. Louis Figuier was the first, in 1872, to publicly link the demise of Atlantis with the explosion on Thera. Opponents of this theory counter it by pointing out that Plato describes the inundation of an island much larger than Santorini or Crete, located in the Atlantic following an earthquake, not a volcanic eruption many thousands of years earlier. Various attempts have been made to reconcile the Minoan Theory with these apparent inconsistencies with Plato’s text. They are discussed separately under
It was announced at the end of February 2010 that the BBC was about to air a dramatisation of the Theran disaster as well as a documentary on the eruption as its influence on the development of Plato’s story of Atlantis. June 2010 saw the historian, Bettany Hughes, front a disappointing BBC Timewatch Special, which also promoted the idea of the eruption on Thera as the inspiration for Plato’s story of Atlantis. The material introduced as evidence was highly selective and, for me, unconvincing. A few parallels between Thera and Plato’s description were trotted out, while the more numerous differences were ignored!
Alain Moreau has written a highly critical review(v) of the idea that the island of Thera/Santorini had been home to Atlantis.
Dr. Dora Constantinidis who studied under Prof. Christos Doumas delivered a lecture in Melbourne on May 29th 2014 with the inviting title of Unravelling the Atlantis Myth at Akrotiri. However, the primary purpose of the talk was not to advance our knowledge of Atlantis but to encourage the sale of Bronze Age inspired merchandise(p).
Another twist on the Thera explosion is offered by Andis Kaulins who suggests that there is a connection between that event and the Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah(g), while Riaan Booysen has linked two separate Theran eruptions with two Exodus events in the Bible(k), offering as evidence, the existence of two distinct Theran ash fallout areas, caused by different wind directions at the time of the events.
Initially, it was thought that the collapse of the Theran caldera generated very destructive tsunamis, but new studies have concluded(w) that instead that it was the violent entry of pyroclastic flows into the sea that triggered the tsunamis.
A further possible consequence of the Theran eruption(s) was proposed after the discovery of the Nebra Sky Disk(n), which was buried about 3,600 years ago. This is suggested to have resulted from the volcanic ash generated by the eruption blotting out the sun for up to 25 years. It is thought that the Disk had been used to synchronise the lunar and solar calendars(l) and when this was no longer possible the Disk was buried as some form as offering. A contrary view is offered elsewhere on the Internet(m), as well as further controversy(t) led by Peter Schauer from the University of Regensburg.
Andis Kaulins has also written an extensive paper on the Nebra Sky Disk. A 2014 update(r) on the Disk was posted by Claudia Bracholdt.
An extensive bibliography of books and articles on the subject of Thera can be found on the Internet(b).
(h) http://www.santorini-eruption.org.uk/ (offline June 2016)(see Archive 2199)
(i) http://www.heritagedaily.com/2013/10/debate-still-rages-over-date-of-thera-eruption/66777 (offline June 2015 see Archive 2200)
Andis Kaulins, Antiquity, Atlantis, Bettany Hughes, Bronze Age, Christos Doumas, Claudia Bracholdt, Crete, David Sewell, Dora Constantinidis, earthquakes, Floyd McCoy, Louis Figuier, Mike Baillie, Minoans, Nebra Sky Disk, Paolo Cherubini, Peter Schauer, Pillars of Heracles, Plagues of Egypt, Plato, Riaan Booysen, Santorini, size of atlantis, Stur W. Manning, Suez Canal, Thera, tsunamis, Walter Friedrich
Krakatoa, the Indonesian volcano that erupted so violently in 1883, produced many recorded effects that are frequently used as yardsticks when discussing the possible consequences of similar events in the past, particularly the second millennium BC destruction of Thera, a leading contender in the Atlantis stakes. The Krakatoan eruption had a detrimental effect on global climates for some years.
However, this was not the first time that the eruption of Krakatoa had calamitous global consequences. David Keys (image below), an archaeological journalist, details the effects of an eruption of Krakatoa in 534/5 AD, in his book, Catastrophe. This book was the subject of a documentary on the UK’s Channel Four(d). A few years before his book was published Keys wrote an article entitled: Comet may have caused catastrophe on Earth(e), in which he dismissed a volcanic eruption as the cause of the 6th century crop failures, plagues, wars, social unrest and widespread deaths, yet his subsequent book advocates[p.269] a massive eruption of Krakatoa as the culprit. Around the same time, Mike Baillie was about to publish his Exodus to Arthur in which he argued
strongly that the mid-6th century range of catastrophes were caused by a cometary impact. Five years later Baillie co-authored with Patrick McCafferty another book linking comets with Irish mythology, The Celtic Gods, in which they point out that Keys’ proposed huge eruption has not been reflected in any of the various Greenland ice cores in the form of a volcanic-acid spike[0112.164]!
This debate regarding the cause of the global catastrophes in the mid-6th century would appear to be far from over. A 2015 report(f) suggests that a series of North American volcanic eruptions in 536 AD had such a detrimental effect on the climate of Europe that it contributed to the final demise of the Roman Empire. Furthermore, there is now evidence(g) that the eruption of the El Chicon volcano in Southern Mexico around 540 AD led to the disruption of the Maya civilisation. Matthew Toohey from the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany, has suggested the possibility of a double event!
Early in the 19thcentury the eruption of Tambora, also in Indonesia, was even more powerful(a). However, the most violent eruption of the last two million years also took place in Indonesia 74,000 years ago, when Mt. Toba erupted with devastating consequences for the Indian sub-continent and further afield(b). The Toba caldera is now Lake Toba. A recent study suggested(c) that the Mt.Toba event led to the near extinction of humans.
The Theran eruption was equivalent to the 19th century Krakatoa event when measured according to a volcanic explosivity index (VEI), based on quantitative criteria, as discussed in Walter Friedrich’s book on Thera.
Today, when we watch the 20th century eruption of Mt. St. Helens or the Montserrat volcanoes on our televisions, it gives no real notion of the incredible power of these events or the absolute terror that was experienced by those living close by.
*(d) http://www.davidkeys.co.uk/davids-documentaries/ (Link broken Nov. 2018)*
George F. Dodwell (1879-1963) was a leading Australian astronomer, who made an extensive study of ancient gnomons and discovered that they deviated from the expected. A gnomon is the part of a sundial that casts the shadow. He concluded that there was consistent evidence that the tilt of the earth’s rotational axis was altered around 2345 BC. This view supported those that have claimed that the poles shifted within the memory of man, possibly as a result of a close encounter or impact with an extraterrestrial body such as a comet. Some have gone further and attribute the destruction of Atlantis to this clash. Dodwell’s complete work on the subject can now be read on Barry Setterfield’s website(a).
Dodwell, a devout Christian, concluded that it was this sudden shift of the earth’s axis that led to the Flood of Noah. Rene Noorbergen (1928-1995) mentions in his Secrets of the Lost Races[612.20] that Dodwell wrote to Professor Arthur J. Brandenberger of Ohio State University, outling his theory in the following manner; “I have been making during the last 26 years an extensive investigation of what we know in astronomy as the secular variation of the obliquity of the ecliptic. From a study of the available ancient observations of the position of the sun at the solstices during the last three thousand years, I find a curve which, after allowing for all known changes, shows a typical exponential curve of recovery of the Earth’s axis after a sudden change from a former nearly vertical position to an inclination of 26½ degrees, from which it was returned to an equilibrium at the present inclination of 23½ degrees during the interval of the succeeding 3,194 years to A.D. 1850. The date of the change in the Earth’s axis, 2345 B.C., is none other than that of the flood recorded in the Bible, and the resulting conclusion is that the Biblical account of the flood as a universal one, together with its story of Noah’s Ark, is historically true’.
Dodwell referred to a paper of F.S.Richards on the orientation of the Temple of Ammon at Karnak(b), which indicated an anomalous obliquity of the ecliptic of 25°9’55”. This led to considerable debate(c) regarding the age of the temple. William Fix drew attention[871.264] to the widespread reuse of very ancient sacred sites by successive cultures, which might explain the incompatibility between the apparent age of the most recent temple and the greater antiquity suggested by the obliquity of the ecliptic. Alternatively, it might also indicate an encounter with an extraterrestrial body that affected the Earth’s axis and caused widespread destruction, including, according to some theories, the destruction of Atlantis!
In the interests of balance, I must refer readers to an extensive 2013 paper(f) by a creationist, Dr. Danny Faulkner, who has cast doubts on Dodwell’s conclusions.
Another interesting comment is offered by Barry Setterfield, who wrote(a) that “ Dodwell has assumed here that the original axis tilt of the earth, before 2345 B.C., was nearly upright. For that reason, he supposed a very strong impact was necessary to jolt the earth from that position to its current 23.5 degree tilt. This is why a number of astronomers have rejected Dodwell’s work in this area. However, if the axis tilt was greater than its current axis tilt before 2345 B.C., then an impact of much less force would have been required to restore the earth to a slightly more upright position. The evidence for this greater axis tilt may be seen in the evidence of the ice age which covered most of Europe prior to 2345 B.C.”
In 2011 Mike Baillie, the renowned dendrochronologist, gave a PowerPoint presentation(d) at the Quantavolution Conference in Athens, which offered tree-ring evidence that clearly demonstrated an ‘event’ in 2345BC, which has counterparts in early Chinese and Middle East records suggesting a cometary encounter/impact! Baillie also notes that Isaac Newton and Edmund Halley both thought that Archbishop Ussher’s Flood of 2349 BC was due to a comet.
More recently, Andrew Bourmistroff, a Russian researcher, has determined that the orientation of the Great Pyramid at Giza is off by 9.85 degrees west of true north(e). The significance, if any, of all these details has yet to be fully determined.
(c) http://infinitybiblecode.zoomshare.com/files/2345bc_Dodwells_Graph_Showing_Earth_Tilt.html (offline July 2015)
Dendrochronology is the science of dating the age of timber by comparing the sequence of its tree-ring width variations with that of timbers of a known date, ideally belonging to the same species and from the same location. As with any science it is not without its difficulties(c), but is generally considered to be more accurate than radiocarbon dating, which is frequently calibrated using dendrochronology. Fully anchored chronologies now exist for river oaks in parts of Germany dating back over 10,000 years and a similar chronology extending back 6500 years exists for the bristlecone pine of California’s White Mountains. A new project(b) involving the Kauri trees of New Zealand has commenced, which should give an accurate climate record for the past 30,000 years. Some of these trees are dated to 130,000 years ago.
Professor Mike Baillie, one of the leading dendrochronologists in Europe, has written about ‘dendro’ evidence of cometary impacts. One such impact has been suggested by a number of commentators, as the possible cause of the demise of Atlantis.
While the science of dendrochronology is perfectly sound there can a need for fine tuning to take account of unexpected factors like the nibbling of tree trunks by animals such as sheep. Recent studies in Norway(d) over a nine year period provided data enabling appropriate calibration to be achieved.
In 2014, Gunnar Heinsohn, a German chronology revisionist, questioned the value of dendrochronology, which was followed by a rebuttal from Mike Baillie(e).*This debate continues, with many specific details far from resolved (f).*
Professor Henri D. Grissino-Mayer, of the University of Tennessee, has a most informative website(a) on dendrochronology.
(c) http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~wd/courses/373F/notes/lec20den.html (offline May 2016)
^see Archive 3046
Catastrophism today is the name given to a school of thought that supports the idea that the history of the Earth has been punctuated by natural events such as floods, fires and asteroid strikes that have caused widespread if not global devastation and that some of these events occurred within the memory of man and are recorded in worldwide mythologies.
Georges Cuvier (1768-1832) is sometimes referred to as ‘the father of paleontology’ and an early exponent of catastrophism.
Worryingly, it is now more generally accepted that further catastrophes will occur as a result of future cometary/asteroidal strikes. One such close encounter, around 2800 BC, was considered by the christian catastrophist, Donald W. Patten, to have generated the Deluge of Noah(j) and was the source of the flood legends found around the world! Patten nominates Mars as the intruder(l), an idea also advocated by Elsar Orkan, who, however, proposes a date of around 8000 BC for this encounter.
Some readers may think that the subject has no direct connection with Plato’s Atlantis, however, his text refers to a number of catastrophic events that clearly brought devastation to Athens, Atlantis and beyond. The Flood of Deucalion and earlier inundations, Phaeton and other cosmic encounters, plus conflagrations and earthquakes all point to periods of great instability in the early prehistory of the Aegean region and quite probably much further afield.
Jürgen Spanuth devotes chapter 4 of his Atlantis of the North to an examination of “the natural catastrophes of the 13th century BC” that deals with Phaeton and the blizzard of floods, earthquakes and eruptions that beset the Eastern Mediterranean at the end of the 2nd millennium BC. Some of these matters have been recently expanded upon by Nur & Cline(f)(g) and endorsed by Stavros Papamarinopoulos[0750.73].
August 2013 saw studies published(h) which pointed the finger at climate change as the cause of the widespread political instability in that region during the second millennium BC.
Claude Schaeffer, a celebrated French archaeologist, declared in 1948 that on at least five occasions during the Bronze Age the Middle East had been subjected to widespread catastrophic destruction as a result of natural events rather than human activity.
Immanuel Velikovsky is arguably the best know of the 20th century catastrophists, who published two books in the 1950’s that provoked widespread controversy that continues today. There is an interesting albeit a sceptical review of catastrophism in the last century by Patrick Moore & Bob Forrest in Chapter 14 of More Things in Heaven and Earth.(k)
In 1964, the Belgian mathematician René Gallant (1908-1985) published Bombarded Earth which dealt in great detail with the consequences of meterorite impacts with the earth. Gallant, perhaps because of his amateur status as a geologist, never received the attention he deserved.
More recently Allan & Delair produced another book that identified 9500 BC as the date of a global catastrophe following an encounter with a comet. Their conclusions are at variance with Velikovsky’s, particularly regarding dates. Professor Mike Baillie of Queens University, Belfast is a well-known dendrochronologist who has recently entered the debate with his book, Exodus to Arthur that adds evidence from his discipline to support the theory of cometary or asteroidal impacts with the Earth. Unfortunately his work is confined to the last 4,500 years and so casts no further light on the 9,500 BC date apart from offering support for the possibility of extraterrestrial impacts.
However, Richard Firestone and his co-authors have researched an impact ‘Event’ the occurred 13,000 years ago and caused devastation in North America including the creation of the hundreds of thousands of Carolina Bays and some of the outbursts of Lake Missoula. Like Baillie, they claim that a memory of this event has been preserved in the folktales of many of the North American Indians. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in the latest developments in catastrophist research.
The destruction of Atlantis has been linked to a number of possible catastrophic events including earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods and asteroid strikes. Plato’s account cites a flood as the immediate cause of the disappearance of Atlantis. In the 18th century Giovanni Carli was probably the first to link a cometary encounter with the Earth as the cause of Atlantis’ demise. This idea has been supported by numerous writers ever since with Emilio Spedicato being one of its leading exponents today.
There are numerous sites on the Internet relating to catastrophism of which one(a) can be recommended as a good starting point for further study. Andy Blackard has listed(b) events connected with global upheavals around 3200 and 2000 BC. An Australian archaeologist, Peter Jupp, is the creator of the Ancient Destructions website(e) which deals with a number of historical mysteries including, Baalbek and Antarctica.
A more recent book by Robert Argod postulates that many of these historical catastrophes were caused by an irregular series of accelerated tectonic movements, although he does not offer a credible mechanism to explain the triggering of such upheavals. Is it possible that the strikes by or near misses with extraterrestrial objects, proposed by so many, generated the tectonic shifts proposed by Argod?
Professor Trevor Palmer has written a comprehensive history of catastrophes and catastrophism from the earliest times and its relevance today. His Perilous Planet Earth includes a couple of chapters in which he reviews Atlantis theories in the context of catastrophism.
Dr Michel-Alain Combes has a PhD in astronomy from the Université Pierre et Marie Curie (Paris VI). He has an extensive website(i) dealing with catastrophism, which translates quite well.
2012 was been promoted as the date of the next worldwide catastrophe based on a highly questionable interpretation of the Mayan calendar. New Age gurus were promising a change in global consciousness, whatever that means. If interested you can read more of this nonsense online(c) or consider a more balanced view(d).
A huge catastrophist bibliography is available online(m)
(i) http://www.astrosurf.com/macombes/index.html (French)
Mike Baillie is Emeritus Professor of Palaeoecology in the School of Archaeology and Palaeoecology, Queen’s University, Belfast. He is a dendrochronologist of world renown, who outlined in his recent book  the evidence for catastrophic encounters with asteroids or comets over the past five millennia that opened a whole new chapter in the search for the truth about our past. Baillie ascribes these events to 2354-2345 BC, 1628-1623 BC, 1159-1141 BC, 208-204 BC and 536-545 AD. He touches on a number of legendary and historical events such as the Deluge, the Exodus and King Arthur, but seems to studiously avoid any direct reference to Atlantis. Nevertheless, his theory in conjunction with the suggestions of writers such as Emilio Spedicato enhances the possibility of the destruction of Atlantis being a consequence of a more widespread catastrophe.
In 2004 it was revealed that a very large comet or asteroid, estimated to be ¾ of a mile in diameter, crashed into what is now Germany. The date is calculated at 200 BC, which coincides with one of Baillie’s dated catastrophes. A crater field stretching from the town of Altoetting to Lake Chiemsee is all that remains today.
Perhaps even more relevant to our study was a PowerPoint presentation(b) from Baillie to a Quantavolution Conference in Athens in 2011, which offered compelling evidence for a catastrophic event in 2345 BC. His data reinforces the work of George Dodwell who demonstrated with his study of ancient gnomons, decades earlier, that something dramatic happened to the rotational axis of the Earth in 2345 BC, which is possibly the same 2346 BC encounter with a comet proposed by William Whiston in 1696. At the same conference Baillie also presented evidence for dating the eruption of Thera to 1628 BC.
Baillie is also co-author with Patrick McCafferty of a fascinating work that reinterprets some of the heroes and gods of Celtic mythology as a coded account of our ancestors’ observation of a close encounter or impact of comets with the Earth. However, Baillie’s books should be read in conjunction with an equally compelling volume(a) by David Talbot and Wallace Thornhill who offer a complementary but rather than conflicting interpretation of early man’s perception of highly visible cosmic events. Talbot and Thornhill have linked ancient myths and thousands of petroglyphs with their view of an electric universe, where large-scale plasma phenomena were witnessed and recorded by preliterate man. Their book has drawn extensively on the work of Dr. Anthony Peratt, who has gathered and classified an enormous database of petroglyphs from all over the world that are apparently a record of celestial demonstration(s) of plasma physics.
(c) http://www.cais-soas.com/CAIS/Religions/non-iranian/Judaism/Persian_Judaism/book6/pt1.htm (half way down page)
Asteroids, Comets and Meteoroids are all relatively small objects that inhabit our Solar System. When any of them have orbits that intersect with that of the Earth they are known as Near Earth Objects or NEOs. Asteroids (a word coined by William Herschel [1738-1822]) used to be known as minor planets while meteoroids is the name applied to asteroids that are less than 50 metres in diameter, although some use 10 metres as the classification threshold.
Meteorites have had a history of being considered divine in origin, leading to different levels of veneration in various cultures(v). In the 2nd century, Clement of Alexandria is said to have concluded that “the worship of such stones to have been the first, and earliest idolatry, in the world.”
What is probably the first recorded death from a meteorite strike took place in India in February 2016(z).
Comets, until recently, were generally thought to be composed of just dust and ice, ‘dirty snowballs’, which have orbits that periodically bring them close to the sun at which stage the interaction of the comet’s dust trail with the solar wind produces a highly visible coma or tail. The nucleus can have a diameter of a couple of kilometres.
The chemical composition of comets is now known to be varied and much more complex than previously believed. In 2015, Comet Lovejoy was ejecting the equivalent of “500 bottles of wine every second” when it was closest to the sun, in the form of ethyl alcohol(w). A close encounter with the Earth would have been interesting!
In 1883 a large comet is estimated to have come within a few hundred miles of Earth. It was photographed and some years later the image was hailed as the first image of an UFO!
In recent years comets have come to been seen as potentially more dangerous than asteroids in the event of a collision. This view was graphically demonstrated when the Levy-Shoemaker comet crashed spectacularly into Jupiter in 1994, after breaking up into as many as 21 large pieces before impacting. This comet was originally about 20 km in diameter.
In 1752, the French astronomer, Pierre-Louis Moreau de Maupertuis, expressed the view that “However dangerous might be the shock of a comet, it might be so slight, that it would only do damage at the part of the Earth where it actually struck” and with coincidental foresight added “ Perhaps we should be very surprised to find that the debris of these masses that we despised were formed of gold and diamonds” considering how Richard Firestone and his associates more recently used the existence of nanodiamonds to confirm the cometary impact of 11,000 BC over North America.
Asteroids and comets have blamed for the demise of Atlantis since the end of the 18th century. It was the Italian polymath, Giovanni Rinaldo Carli, who in 1788 declared that part of a passing comet hit the Earth and was responsible for the destruction of Atlantis. A century later in his second book on Atlantis, Ignatius Donnelly similarly claimed that a comet’s collision was the cause of Atlantis’ destruction. Comets rather than asteroids were initially blamed because of their high visibility. However, as our technology advanced and we gradually became aware of the number of large asteroids that intersect with the Earth’s orbit they replaced comets as the more likely cause of historical impacts.
The early part of the 20th century saw the eccentric William Comyns Beaumontand the mysterious Hans Schlindler Bellamy both supporting the idea of Atlantis being destroyed by an encounter with an extraterrestrial object. The theory has been adopted by a growing number of popular modern writers such as Otto Muck, Egerton Sykes, Andrew Collins, Paul Dunbavin, Karl Jürgen Hepke(a), Frank Joseph explains[102.108] how a number of scholars encouraged by Muck, came forward to publicly state their belief that Atlantis had been destroyed by an extraterrestrial impact or impacts: “They included the world’s foremost authority on Halley’s Comet, Dr. M.M. Kamienski, a member of the Polish Academy of Sciences; Professor N. Bonev, one of the 20th century’s leading astronomers at the University of Sofia, in Bulgaria; and Jack Hills, of the prestigious Los Alamos National Laboratory”.
Emilio Spedicato of the University of Bergamo has written(b) and lectured widely on his hypothesis that the last Ice Age was started by an extraterrestrial impact over a continent and ended with a similar event over an ocean. This second impact was the cause of Atlantis’ destruction and Spedicato specifies Hispaniola as containing the location of its capital.
Spedicato is not alone in believing that impacts by large objects have been responsible for the triggering of past Ice Ages. As we have seen a large number of writers have suggested an impact with the Earth as the primary or at least the secondary cause of the destruction of Atlantis(d). These cosmic collisions have occurred throughout the history of our planet, continuing to this day. Most of the impact material is small and burns up in the atmosphere. Some low-density objects have penetrated the atmosphere, but disintegrated before actually impacting, generating powerful shock waves commensurate with their size. Such an event was the well know Tunguska(i)explosion over that area of Siberia in 1908.
*Commenting on the Tunguska event Stephen E. Franklin added that “Less than five hours after the Tunguska object exploded at 7:14 AM local time in Siberia, another fireball was seen over Kagarlyk near Kiev in what is now Ukraine (then part of the Russian Empire) at around 7:00 AM local time followed by the impact of a 1.912 kg stony meteorite.”(ad) *
Two similar explosions occurred over South America in the 1930’s. However, some are large enough to survive the journey to the surface. Depending on the size, density, speed and angle of approach, the consequences of a large impact are difficult for the average person to appreciate. As Austen Atkinson wrote “A single impact by a rock the size of (London’s) Millennium Dome could devastate the surface of the globe with an explosive release of energy five times more powerful than the entire world’s nuclear arsenal. On 19 May 1996, just such an object came within 280,000 miles of Earth: six hours from collision. Humankind could have been eradicated.”
The most famous impact is probably that which in the Yucatan took place 66 million years ago and wiped out the dinosaurs. 11 million years later another impact in the Atlantic is credited with the expansion of the mammals according to a new study by co-author, Dennis Kent from Rutgers University.
An online calculator of impact effects was developed by scientists at Purdue University and Imperial College, London was first published in 2004 and recently updated(g).
By 2009 175 large impact craters have been discovered all over our planet, many more are undiscovered having been destroyed over time by wind and water erosion or hidden by vegetation. In 2006, a crater with a diameter of 30 km was discovered in the Southern Egyptian desert. This discovery may solve a mystery in the same region that has baffled science for over seventy years, namely, the Libyan desert glass that covers an area 60 x 100 km. However, the largest known impact crater is the Vredefort crater in South Africa with a diameter of 300 km (186 miles). But this may have to take second place to the 300 mile wide crater identified in Hudson Bay in North America.
The spectacular collision of Comet Shoemaker-Levy with Jupiter in July 1994 and the manner in which it disintegrated into a number of huge pieces before impacting over seven days, may offer one possible explanation for the mechanism that could produce the apparent clustering of 3rd millennium BC impacts on Earth.
The current estimate is that there are more than 2,000 asteroids exceeding a kilometre in size together with 10,000 over half a kilometre plus millions of smaller items in Earth-crossing orbits; collectively known as ‘Apollo objects‘. The meteor that exploded over central Russia in February 2013 belonged to this Apollo group. Add to this the risk from comets, normally larger than asteroids, and it is obvious that large-scale impacts are inevitable, however infrequent. The good news is that in 2011 it was reported that a NASA space telescope recorded a 40% reduction in their earlier calculation(j) which should be compared with the assessment referred to(f) at the end of the last paragraph of this entry. May 2012 saw further estimates being published(l).
Terminology, definitions and number estimates are constantly changing. Asteroids that are in excess of 100m across with orbits that that come within 7.5 million km of Earth are now referred to as PHAs (Potentially Hazardous Asteroids). As of June 2014 the IAU has listed 1,466 PHAs, while NASA estimates put the actual total in excess of 4,700(q).
As recently as 1953 an asteroid impact with the Moon was photographed as a flash and only in 2002 was the resulting 2Km- wide crater identified. The estimated energy released by this 300 metre wide object on impact would have been half a Megaton of TNT (35 times the Hiroshima bomb). A hit of this magnitude on Earth could have wiped out a large city.
It must be kept in mind that the immediate damage caused by actual impact itself is only the beginning of the story; tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes together with worldwide long-term dust veils could trigger climate change leading to ongoing adverse effects on vegetation and animal life. For humans this meant death, destruction, floods, repeated crop failures and probably a breakdown in any existing civil order.
It was as recent as the 1930’s that geologists were being told that Meteor Crater in the Arizona desert was the only known evidence that an impact, with worldwide consequences, had ever taken place. It was also in the 1930’s that the first of the Apollo objects were identified. Since then, the number of large identifiable impact craters grew to hundreds and the number of Apollo objects, whose impact would have global implications, became thousands. It then became obvious that the Earth as we know it is at serious risk. World authorities are slowly realising that the probability of similar impacts in the future are simply inevitable.
Until recently, statistical analysis indicates a major impact every 10,000 years; with the last such event occurred 12,000 years ago possibly destroying Atlantis, directly or indirectly. However, in 2006, this estimate was revised downward to a major collision every 1,000 years with the last impact having taken place around 2800 BC, in the Indian Ocean, where an 18-mile diameter crater has been discovered at a depth of 12,500 feet.
However, a paper(x) published in October 2015 has suggested that a study of mass extinctions over the past 260 million year appear to have taken place every 26 million years coinciding with major asteroid/comet impacts.
So far 175 large impact craters(e) have been discovered all over our planet, many more are undiscovered having been destroyed over time by wind and water erosion or hidden by vegetation. In 2006, a crater with a diameter of 30km was discovered in the southern Egyptian desert. This discovery may solve a mystery in the same region that has baffled science for over seventy years, namely, the Libyan desert glass that covers an area 60 x 100 km. However, the largest known impact crater is the Vredefort crater n South Africa with a diameter of 300km (186 miles). But this may have to take second place to the 300 mile wide crater identified in Hudson Bay in North America. A 2015 report tells of two impact zones that total more than 400 kilometres across, which were identified in the Warburton Basin in Central Australia(t).
Although it appears that similar suggestions have been made since the 1950’s, the debate has now reached a new level. The Hudson Bay feature has generated even greater interest since Richard Firestone, a nuclear physicist together with Allen West and Simon Warwick-Smith published their claim that it was created around 11000 BC and had human witnesses who preserved their memory of it in their local folklore and that may have been responsible for the extermination of the Clovis people. Firestone’s tentative 11000 BC date for this event is earlier than Plato’s even more questionable 9600 BC date for the destruction of Atlantis might be connected since the event described by Firestone & Co. would have had global consequences and could have effected any suggested Atlantis location. In 2007, at a news conference during Joint Assembly of the American Geophysical Union, in Acapulco, Mexico, two archaeologists from the University of Oregon, Douglas J. Kennett and Jon M. Erlandson added geological evidence to support to Firestone’s thesis. In 2008 evidence of an exploding comet/asteroid over Canada during the same period was presented(c)by other academics from the University of Cincinnati. However, it must be noted that the Firestone hypothesis has encountered some criticism since the start of 2009 and must therefore be treated with due caution. This criticism appears to be gaining support according to a May 2011 report(h). In June 2012, James Kennett, son of Douglas Kennet mentioned above, was part of a team who announced further evidence of a major impact event 13,000 years ago extending from Pennsylvania and South Carolina as far as Syria(m).
Dr Reinoud de Jonge has written a number of articles(d) that drew on petroglyphs in Brittany to support his contention that the Earth had an encounter with a cometary body in 2345 BC. This would appear to complement the work of Mike Baillie and George Dodwell, who echoed William Whiston’s proposed date of 2346 BC, for an encounter with a comet that caused the biblical Deluge.
Since only 30% of our globe is exposed land, it is reasonable to conclude that 70% of impacts will have hit water, leaving little lasting evidence. However, at least ten of these identified impact craters occurred after the last Ice Age and at least seven of which date from around the third millennium BC, at period when there were widespread cultural collapses.
In a recent book the renowned dendrochronologist, Mike Baillie, has outlined compelling evidence from his own discipline combined with ancient mythologies to support the idea of extraterrestrial impacts in early historical times. May I suggest that the mythologies that possibly relate to multiple impacts are in fact recollections of a comet that had been visible for some time before breaking up under the gravitational influence of our planet prior to impact? This idea was developed by Baillie in a subsequent book written with Patrick McCafferty that focused on Celtic mythological figures. Comets rather than asteroids are more likely to have contributed to the development of myths since an asteroid would not have been visible long enough for it to develop an identity that would be remembered in legend. Graham Phillips has gone further and proposed that a close encounter with a comet in the middle of the 2nd millennium BC triggered the development of monotheism at that time. Furthermore, he contends that as the Earth passed through this comet’s tail, it introduced large quantities of an amino acid, vasopressin that heightened aggression in humans leading to large scale conflicts worldwide. This comet, 12P/Pons-Brooks is due for another close encounter with Earth in 2024.
A 2012 paper(o) by Fernando Coimbra investigates the influence of unusual astronomical events, in particular comets, on the subject matter of rock art. An earlier paper(p) by Coimbra looks at the swastika as a specific example of a reflection of such an event.
Mythologies, worldwide, offer evidence of these impacts and have been subsequently reinforced by classical writers who describe in non-scientific terms the effects of these extraterrestrial assaults. Pliny wrote in his Natural History (Book II, sec 91) of ‘A terrible comet was seen by the people of Ethiopia and Egypt, to which Typhon, the king of that period, gave his name; it had a fiery appearance and was twisted like a coil, and it was very grim to behold: it was not really a star so much as what might be called a ball of fire.’
Similarly the Greek myth of Phaëton has been interpreted as a record of an encounter with a comet. Edith and Alexander Tollmann also identified an 11,000 BC impact with the Köfels region of the Austrian Tyrol as one of the impact zones. The interpretation of ancient legends and myths is obviously a matter of subjective response, but the volume of such evidence is so great that the probability of a number of major impacts being within the memory of man, who relayed the experience down to us through the medium of tradition, is quite high.
The fact that our Earth is continually at risk of a cosmic collision, the physical evidence of recent and past collisions, the recording of impacts on the Moon and Jupiter compounded with stories in ancient mythologies offer strong grounds for accepting the possibility of Atlantis being destroyed as a result of a collision with an extraterrestrial object as a credible working hypothesis.
While an asteroid impact causing the destruction of Atlantis is relatively easy to accept, some authors have proposed even more dramatic scenarios where the impact was so great that it caused the Poles to change position and/or the Earth’s outer mantle to move relative to the inner core. There is little doubt that cosmic collisions of all the possible natural catastrophes pose the greatest possible threat to life on earth. There is an interesting website(c) that discusses both catastrophes and Atlantis. Another site(e) has a small collection of images of impact craters as seen from space. 2010 produced a frightening upward reassessment of the asteroid threat(f).
In 2001 NASA(k) identified 1,000 asteroids and comets orbiting close to Earth that are capable of causing catastrophic damage to our planet in the event of a collision. An interesting map was published(n) in February 2013 showing the locations of 34,513 impacts dating back to 2300 BC.
Recent deliberate encounters with comets and asteroids have produced images and data that have raised questions about the traditional description of comets being composed of ice and rock. The lines between asteroids and comets are becoming increasingly blurred and new definitions required(r). The trend now is to see asteroids and comets as part of a continuum. Evidence is emerging that the H20 previously associated with comets may have been OH radicals(s).
The 2014 landing on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko would appear to have destroyed the ‘dirty snowball’ description of comets, coined in 1950 by the noted astronomer, Fred Whipple, and should now be abandoned.
Although large asteroids or comets have caused and will again cause global catastrophes on a scale that we can only imagine, they are not the greatest potential threat to our existence. It is estimated that our galaxy, as in others, are also home to free-floating giant gas planets untethered to any star, which, if they wandered our way, could not only obliterate our planet but de-stabilise our solar system.(u)
Terry Westerman offers a fascinating overview of possible global impact sites on his fully illustrated website(y).
Fortunately, the death and destruction caused by comets is balanced by the probability that they are also the source of life on our planet. This idea is gaining greater acceptance with a further paper(aa) offering additional supportive evidence published in April 2016.
Nevertheless, improved vigilance is required if we are to believe Peter Brown of the University of Western Ontario, whose research in 2014 concluded(ab) that hazardous asteroids are 10 times more likely to hit Earth than previously thought!
(q) BBC Focus Magazine, July 2014, page 67.