Gunung Padang is a megalithic site on the Indonesian island of Java, which was first surveyed in 1914 by the Dutch colonial authorities and published as Rapporten van de Oudheidkundige Dienst (Report of the Department of Antiquities). A post-war Australian investigation concluded that the site was much older than previously believed. Now, with presidential support, local archaeologists are carrying out an extensive investigation of the site.
The site has recently been claimed as part of Atlantis. A few years ago the late Arysio dos Santos was the leading proponent of Sundaland, which included Indonesia, as Atlantis. Now Danny Hilman Natawidjaja an Indonesian geologist has made a similar claim in his Kindle ebook, Plato Never Lied: Atlantis Is in Indonesia. In it Gunung Padang plays an important role. Mount Padang has also been claimed as the world’s oldest pyramid!
Nevertheless, a recent (May 2017) assault on Natawidjaja’s theories in an open letter(i) from Rebecca Bradley has laid bare the weaknesses in his claims.
Andrew Collins has now added an article(h). to his website that examines the preliminary claim that the lower levels at the site could be 12,000 years older than Gobekli Tepe. If confirmed, it will undoubtedly require some rewriting of history books. Do not lose sight of the fact that radiocarbon dating has limitations, being accurate for up to around 6,000 years with increasing unreliability up to perhaps 50,000 BC after which it is generally useless.
We now (Nov. ’14) have a report(e) that some type of ‘electrical device’ has been discovered at the site ‘made out of gold and copper and seems to resemble a primitive electrical capacitator.’ Until further information is available this claim must be treated with caution.
There are, however, dissenting voices as reported by journalist, Michael Bachelard(g), such as vulcanologist Sutikno Bronto, who says “Gunung Padang is simply the neck of a nearby volcano, not an ancient pyramid.Danny Hilman is not a vulcanologist. I am.” As for the carbon-dated cement between the stones, on which Hilman relies for his claims about the age of the site, Sutikno believes it is simply the byproduct of a natural weathering process, ”not man-made”. Other sceptics are even tougher. One archaeologist, who does not wish to be named since the President took such an interest, says the presidential taskforce is deluding itself. ”In the Pawon cave in Padalarang [about 45 kilometres from Gunung Padang], we found some human bones and tools made of bones about 9500 years ago, or about 7000 BCE. So, if at 7000 BCE our technology was only producing tools of bones, how can people from 20,000 BCE obtain the technology to build a pyramid?” the archaeologist asks.
Dating Techniques have improved in leaps and bounds since the 19thcentury when Charles Lyell first gave stratigraphy widespread publicity as a means of dating archaeological finds, if only relatively. Nicolas Steno had laid the foundations of this discipline two centuries earlier(j).
In very simple terms, generally it means that as you dig, older objects will be found under younger ones. For over a century this was one of the few dating methods available to archaeologists, but unfortunately it could not offer specific dates.
Another early dating method was ‘typology’(d), defined as the classification of artefacts according to their physical characteristics.
This approach can be traced back to the 16th century, when John Leland (1503-1552) began classifying bricks according to size and shape(I).
Arguably the best known uses of the method relate to Stone Age implements and later to pottery. Relating to Atlantis studies, we find that Jürgen Spanuth applied typology to the weaponry and dress of the Sea Peoples as portrayed at Medinet Habu to support his theory that they came from Northern Europe.
Absolute dating began with the introduction of radiometric dating methods beginning with radiocarbon dating developed by Willard Libby in 1949. Around the same time dendrochronology was being refined as a dating method with a margin of error less than that of radiometry, which requires expensive equipment and potentially has a greater risk of contamination. This was followed by thermoluminescence (1957) for dating pottery and more recently optical thermoluminescence (1994) has been developed, enabling the dating of building stone.
Dating objects between 50,000 and 100,000 years old has been difficult as most methods have questionable reliability for this period. However, in 2004 a new method, known as quartz hydration dating was developed at UC Irvine(f).
All the above methods have varying margins of error that are continually being reduced and no doubt will improve further. These enhancements together with new exciting dating methods that can be expected to emerge, will undoubtedly have a profound influence on our understanding of prehistory. Consider how improvements in DNA analysis have enabled the solving of crimes years after cases had gone ‘cold’.
More cautionary offerings(a)(c) came from the catastrophist website, thunderbolts.info., in which events involving influences outside our planet might affect the assumptions upon which some of our radiometrics are based. Since these events are not frequent occurrences we do not, as yet, have enough data to develop more reliable calibration charts.
In May 2012, the journal Nature, Ewen Callaway has an article(b) which further highlights potential weaknesses that may be encountered with radiocarbon dating.
The fascinating CAIS website offers a good overview(e) of the range of sophisticated dating techniques available today. We can reasonably expect it to expand.
A July 2015 article(g) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. has highlighted a new threat that the burning of fossil fuels has introduced into the reliability of radiocarbon dating.
“As carbon-14 decays over time the fraction will decrease so that’s how we use it for dating,” the paper’s author Dr Heather Graven told BBC News.
“But we can also change this ratio of radioactive carbon to total carbon, if we are adding non-radioactive carbon and that’s what’s happening with fossil fuels, we get this dilution effect.”
“At current rates of emissions increase”, according to the research, “a new piece of clothing in 2050 would have the same carbon date as a robe worn by William the Conqueror 1,000 years earlier.”
The latest dating method, proposed by Michael Dee and Benjamin Pope(h) combines dendrochronology with radiocarbon dating and is designed to identify specific years based on spikes in the carbon14 found in specific growth rings, caused by energy discharges during solar storms. Dee and Pope have called this new science ‘astrochronology’ and anticipate that its application will tie down the so-called ‘floating chronologies’ of ancient Egypt and elsewhere.
Emmet John Sweeney is a Scottish historian, who graduated from the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland. He has followed the lead of Immanuel Velikovsky and produced a number of books arguing for a radical revision of the generally accepted chronologies of the early civilisations of the Eastern Mediterranean.
He controversially claims that “all the civilisations on both sides of the Atlantic arose more or less simultaneously, sometime between 1100 and 1200 BC” [700.202]. He further claims that Atlantis was destroyed around 800 BC! This date is significant as it coincides with an event that led to devastation in Southern Germany and the Alps involving huge inundations and tilting of lake shorelines which could only be brought about by a very powerful seismic upheaval(b).
He has also tackled the Arthurian legend, regarding which he considers Stonehenge to have been Arthur’s ‘round table’. The blurb for his 2001 book Arthur and Stonehenge goes further stating that “As for Arthur himself, he was the primitive bear-god “Artos”, the Celtic version of Hercules. Originally portrayed with a bear-skin over his head and shoulders and carrying a great oaken club, he became the prototype of the Greek Hercules when Hellenic traders, braving the wild waters of the Atlantic in search of tin, heard his story from the Britons.”
Sweeney has now ventured beyond his comfort zone and devoted his talents to the Atlantis question. He argues for the existence of a large island in the Atlantic, whose remnants today are Azores. He sees this island as a stepping-stone to the Americas, that is necessary to explain the evidence of transatlantic contacts in the very distant past. He also takes the opportunity to highlight weaknesses in radiocarbon dating (p218).
The Washington Times, which is owned by the ‘Moonies’, gave his book a favourable review(a)! The reviewer, Martin Sieff, a native of Belfast and Velikovskian catastrophist, is accused by Jason Colavito of using his critique to promote Sweeney more as a catastrophist rather than as an atlantologist and does so without revealing Sieff’s own catastrophist
A more critical review of his work can also be found elsewhere on the Internet(c).
(b) H. Gams and R. Nordhagen, Mitteil. der Geograph. Ges. in Munchen, XVI, H. 2 (1923), pp. 13-348. R. Sernander, ‘Klimaverschlechterung, Postglaciale’ in Reallexikon der Vorgeschichte, VII (1926); O. Paret, Das Neue Bild der Vorgeschuchte (1948), p.44.
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
Radiocarbon Dating was developed by a team led by Willard F. Libby (1908-1980) just after World War II and won him a Nobel Prize for the work. However, in his acceptance speech Libby generously acknowledged the contribution made by the earlier work of Serge Korff (1906-1989).
Radiocarbon Dating is based on the fact that when organisms die the amount of Carbon-14 in the remains decay at a fixed rate. Although initially hailed as a definitive dating method for organic remains, it soon became obvious that it was not quite as reliable a tool as initially thought, although still widely used.
Originally a Carbon-14 half-life of 5568±30 years was used and is known as the Libby half-life. Later this was revised to 5730±40 years and is known as the Cambridge half-life. The initial theory was based on the assumption that Carbon-14 was being produced at a constant rate. However, this constancy has been questioned, as it can vary as a result of changes in the earth’s magnetic field. The intervention of man in the form of atomic bomb tests briefly doubled the amount of Carbon-14 produced(I). Local events can also have a dramatic effect on measurements; for example, the Tunguska explosion left the soil there so enriched with Carbon-14 that it gives a date in the future (1)! Emilio Spedicato has also pointed out that Carbon-14 can be created in the atmosphere by any cometary or asteroidal impact and so alter the assumed constant ratio of C12 to C14.
Immanuel Velikovsky offered the following valuable observation(j) “as the method was refined, it started to show rather regular anomalies. First, it was noticed that, when radiocarbon dated, wood grown in the 20th century appears more ancient than wood grown in the 19th century. Suess explained the phenomenon by the fact that the increased industrial use of fossil carbon in coal and in oil changed the ratio between the dead carbon C12 and the C14 (radiocarbon) in the atmosphere and therefore also in the biosphere. In centuries to come a body of a man or animal who lived and died in the 20th century would appear paradoxically of greater age since death than the body of a man or animal of the 19th century, and if the process of industrial use of fossil, therefore dead, carbon continues to increase, as it is expected will be the case, the paradox will continue into the forthcoming centuries.”
Graham Phillips mentions that ‘recent evidence suggests that that the level of Carbon 14 in the atmosphere may have decreased permanently around 3,500 years ago due to changes in the earth’s magnetic field.’ This has resulted in dates around that period being up to 500 year out. Calibration figures are now available to take account of some of these deviations based on data from dendrochronology, ice and sediment cores and coral samples. Further refinements are not to be ruled out.
These weaknesses in radiocarbon dating have been seized upon by some fundamentalist Christian groups determined to justify their ‘young earth’ beliefs(d). However, attacks on the basic concepts underlying radiocarbon dating have been refuted by its supporters(e).
In 774/5 AD an increase of 1.2% of Carbon14 was detected through tree ring studies(c). This is thought to be the result of an external event such as a supernova or solar flare. Since many other episodes of a lesser or greater intensity have probably occurred, a growing shadow is being cast over the reliability of radiocarbon dating that may only be dissipated by further studies. Clearly, further complex recalibration is not to be ruled out, as it is highly unlikely that this eight century event was the only such occurrence.
A recent report(h) has drawn attention to the danger of using fossil fuels, as it pumps a type of carbon into the atmosphere that confuses the dating technique. Scientists say that by 2050, new clothes could have the same radiocarbon date as items 1,000 years old!
Radiocarbon dating is only useful up to a maximum of around 50,000 years. In February 2010, researchers at Queens University Belfast announced a new calibration curve that extends back over the 50 millennia. The production of this calibration curve is the result of 30 years research into the variations in atmospheric Carbon 14 caused by solar activity, the earth’s magnetic field and the oceans. Other radiometric dating methods are now available to deal with dates beyond this limit.
2010 also saw another important refinement of radiocarbon dating with the development of a ‘non-destructive carbon dating’ method which will enable the dating of very delicate, rare or highly valuable artefacts, without having to destroy any samples from them, as is required at present(a).
One strong dissenting voice was that of archaeologist, Zahi Hawass, former Secretary General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities who said “Carbon-14 dating has a margin of error of 100 years. In order to date Egyptian dynasties, we need to have specific dates; you cannot use carbon dating,” Hawass explained further to Al-Masry Al-Youm. “This technique shouldn’t be used at all in making changes to the chronology of the ancient Egypt, not even as a helpful addition.”(b). Incidentally, in April 2015, Hawass walked out of a debate with Graham Hancock over the inclusion of an image of Robert Bauval in Hancock’s presentation(g).
Emmet Sweeney tells a disturbing story of how some establishments have treated inconvenient C14 results, recounting[700.221] “the fate of samples from the tomb of Tutankhamun subjected by the British Museum to radiocarbon testing. The samples, consisting of fibers of a reed mat and a palm kernel, produced dates of 844BC and 899BC respectively. These were broadly in line with the date for Tutankhamun predicted by Velikovsky, but roughly 500 years too recent for textbook chronology. In spite of assurances given to Velikovsky that the results would be published, they never saw the light of day.” [758.xvi]
In Forgotten Civilization and his earlier Pyramid Quest, Robert Schoch has drawn attention to a number of difficulties that have arisen with radiocarbon dating and the implications for Egyptology. A warning about future difficulties with the reliability of radiocarbon dating has been issued by Heather Graven, a climate-physics researcher at Imperial College London. She has found that the rate of fossil-fuel emissions is skewing the carbon ratios used to determine an object’s age. She estimates that by 2050 atmospheric carbon dioxide will make new organic material appear to be 1,000 years old(2). Graham Hancock has also expressed reservations regarding the use of radiocarbon dating, urging both caution and open-mindedness(m).
An even more jaundiced view of current dating difficulties is expressed(l) by Jonathan Gray.
One of these, namely, the potassium/argon method has been claimed by writers such as Richard Milton to have its own inherent problems and must be treated with caution. It appears that although dating methods have advanced greatly further improvements can be expected.
The latest refinement of radiocarbon dating techniques has shortened the time taken from six days to two and additionally, now allows on-site testing(f).
The Malagabay website(n) posted a series of blogs through April 2017 under the heading of ‘Deranged Dating’ highlighting weaknesses in radiocarbon dating!
There is now a valuable list of papers(o), with links, devoted to the many problems that have gradually emerged in relation to radiocarbon dating. This just part of the ‘A New Chronology’ website(p).
June 2018 saw a report issued from Cornell University that highlighted some inaccuracies that have been found in dates relating to the southern Levant region, which includes parts of Jordan, Israel and Egypt.Archaeologist Sturt Manning and his colleagues “have revealed variations in the radiocarbon cycle at certain periods of time, affecting frequently cited standards used in archaeological and historical research.” (q)
Currently, standard calibration curves assume that at any given time radiocarbon levels are similar and stable everywhere across each hemisphere. It seems therefore that the calibration of radiocarbon dates will have to take regional factors into consideration in future.
(1) New Scientist (7/9/02, p.14)
(2) Fortean Times (FT340) May 2016, p.16