Reinoud de Jonge
Homer (c. 8th cent. BC) is generally accepted as the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, regarded as the two greatest epic poems of ancient Greece. A recent study of the Greek used by Homer has enabled scientists from the University of Reading to confirm that the language used is compatible with that used in the 8th century BC, in fact dating it to around 762 BC(i).
Nevertheless, there are questions raised regarding the authorship of the ‘Homeric’ epics. For example, Andreas Pääbo is certain that the Odyssey and the Iliad came from two different authors(ar).
Even more extreme was the opinion of the ancient geographer, Eratosthenes who was a persistent critic of Homer, whom he considered to be a fantasist. Strabo reported what the geographer said in the late 3rd century BC: “You will find the scene of Odysseus’ wanderings when you find the cobbler who sewed up the bag of winds”(av).
Manolis Manoledakis, a professor of Classical Archaeology, in a paper(as) on the Academia website “examines an aspect of the broader issue of the geography of the Odyssey, the primary stimulus being the references of the poem to places that could be associated with the Black Sea, namely the Aeaea and the entrance to the Underworld. As we shall see, while these particular places are indeed relevant to the Black Sea region, they do not belong to the context of a specific journey with specific halts in a specific geographical sequence. The Odyssey is a synthesis of many different episodes, and there is no point in trying to trace a complete geographical course for Odysseus’ voyage.”
It should also be noted that over 130 quotations from the Illiad and Odyssey have been identified in Plato’s writings(s). George Edwin Howes (1865-1942), an American classicist, produced a dissertation+ on Homeric quotations in Plato and Aristotle.
Almost nothing is known of Homer’s life. He has been variously described as mad, blind and even mythical. Andrew Dalby, the English linguist, has gone so far as to claim that the author of the two famed epics was a woman! While in 1897 Samuel Butler, the novelist, was even more specific when he proposed that Homer was a Sicilian woman(j).
For centuries it was assumed that the content of these Homeric poems was the product of his imagination, just as the historical reality of Homer himself has been questioned. In 1795, F.A. Wolf, a German academic declared that ‘Homer’ was just a collective name applied to various poets whose works were finally combined into their present form in the 6th century BC. Wolf’s ideas sparked furious argument among Greek scholars that still resonates today. Now (2015), historian, Adam Nicholson has claimed that the author ‘Homer’ should not be thought of as a person but instead as a ‘culture’(o).
In a 2021 review of Victor Davis Hanson’s Who Killed Homer? , Adam Kirsch outlines how “Milman Perry proved that the Iliad and the Odyssey were not written by a lone genius(ah). They were originally not written at all, but through fieldwork in Yugoslavia, Perry (1902-1935) demonstrated how the Homeric epics were the result of traditional bardic storytelling. Wikipedia describes Perry as “an American Classicist whose theories on the origin of Homer’s works have revolutionized Homeric studies to such a fundamental degree that he has been described as the ‘Darwin of Homeric studies’.”
Ed Whelan, an Irish classical scholar, published a brief paper in 2021 that endorsed the Homeric ‘multiple authors’ theory(ap).
An anonymous author offered “Although there has been a great deal of controversy about the question of whether Homer alone wrote the two famous poems, much of the evidence points towards Homer being the author due to the consistent style of writing. Also, some analysts argue that Homer may have written one of the poems but not the other since both differ greatly in style. In contrast, the reason other analysts state for this difference is that Iliad was written in his youth while Odyssey was created during Homer’s years of age.” (aq).
The identification of the site at Hissarlik in modern Turkey as Troy by Heinrich Schliemann led to a complete re-appraisal of Homer’s work and, of course, further controversy. Homer’s Iliad is the story of the Trojan War and it has been suggested that in fact, he had compressed three or more Trojan wars into one narrative. What is not generally known is that there are also ancient non-Homeric accounts of the Trojan War(q).
Kenneth Wood and his wife Florence have built on the research of his mother-in-law, the late Edna Leigh, and produced Homer’s Secret Iliad, a book that attempts to prove that the Iliad was written as an aide-memoire for a wide range of astronomical data.
Allied to, but not directly comparable with, is the astronomical information identified in the Bible by the likes of E. W. Maunder (1851-1928).
Guy Gervis has adopted some of their work and, in a lengthy article, specifies a date of around 2300 BC for the events described in the Iliad and Odyssey, based on an analysis of this astronomical data(n). Harald A.T. Reiche held similar views which followed some of the ideas expressed in Hamlet’s Mill by Santillana & Dechend who were colleagues of Reiche at M.I.T. They also claimed that “myths were vehicles for memorising and transmitting certain kinds of astronomical and cosmological information.”
Much has been written about the historicity of Homer’s epic accounts, including a good overview on Wikipedia(ab). Many have concluded that Homer did use real events, even if they were frequently dressed in mythological clothing compatible with the literary conventions of his day. I consider Plato to have treated the story of Atlantis similarly.
A recent study of solar eclipses recorded in Odyssey using data from NASA has confirmed that Odysseus returned to Ithaca on the 25th of October 1207 BC(r).
Scholars have generally supported the idea that Homer’s works have a Mediterranean backdrop with regular attempts to reconcile his geography with modern locations, such as the claim in 2005 by Robert Brittlestone, a British investigator to have located the site of Ithaca, the homeland of Odysseus, on the Greek island of Cephalonia. This popular idea should be put alongside the views of Zlatko Mandzuka who maintains that all the locations mentioned in the Odyssey can be identified in the Adriatic.
Kazmer Ujvarosy of San Francisco State University, has noted that there are 22 different places currently on offer as the location of Ithaca(ax).
Nevertheless, there has been a growing body of opinion that insists that this Mediterranean identification is impossible. A range of alternative regions has been proposed(f) as the setting for the epics, which extend from Portugal as far northward as the Baltic.
In his Odyssey (VII: 80), Homer wrote about the island of Scheria in the western sea. His description of the island has been compared with Plato’s description of Atlantis and has led to the theory that they refer to the same place. There is little doubt that both the detailed geography and climatic descriptions that are provided by Homer cannot be easily reconciled with that of the Mediterranean. Consequently, the Odyssey has had many interpretations, ranging from Tim Severin’s conclusion that it refers entirely to the Eastern Mediterranean to Iman Wilkens’ book, Where Troy Once Stood, which has the voyage include the west coast of Africa, then across to the West Indies and following the Gulf Stream returns to Troy which he locates in Britain.
Location is not a problem exclusive to the writings of Plato. Wilkins’s claims are a reflection of similar ideas expressed by Théophile Cailleux in the 19th century. Gilbert Pillot has also argued for voyages of Ulysses having taken him into the North Atlantic . A Spanish review of Pillot’s book is available(ag). In 1973, Ernst Gideon (? – 1975) wrote in a similar vein in Homerus Zanger der Kelten, reprinted later as Troje Lag in Engelan.
It is worth noting that Bernard Jones in The Discovery of Troy has recently moved Troy to Britain, probably in the vicinity of Cambridge, a location also preferred by Wilkens! Like many others, he argues that Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey were not set in the Mediterranean as so many of the details that he provides are incompatible with the characteristics of that sea. However, Jones has gone further and claimed that there are details in Virgil’s Aeneid, which are equally inconsistent with the Mediterranean [p.6-10], requiring a new location! Jones’ book has been reviewed on the Hall of Maat website(at) as well as by Jason Colavito(au).
An interesting overview of the various attempts to transfer the Odyssey from the Mediterranean to Northern Europe is available(w). Damien Mackey has also endorsed the idea of a Northern European backdrop to Homer’s Odyssey(aa).
Another researcher who places most of Odysseus’ travels in the eastern Atlantic is Gerard. W.J. Janssen of Leiden University on the academia.edu website(v). In a series of six papers(ai-an), he systematically reviews Homer’s geography, identifying locations referred to by him with places in the Atlantic. He compares his identifications with other commentators including Iman Wilkens and Théophile Cailleux. His website, with an English translation, offers additional information, including the suggestion(ao) that Homer’s Laestrygonians were to be found in Cuba, an interpretation also offered by Cailleux and Wilkens. They also claim that Odysseus’ Caribbean trip included a visit to Saba, a Dutch possession, which is identified as the Aeolian Isle!
The idea of an Atlantic backdrop to the Homeric epics will not go away. The Dutch researcher, N.R. De Graaf(ae). continues to write extensively on his Homeros Explorations website(ad)(x) regarding many of the specifics in Homer’s accounts. He has proposed Lanzarote in the Canaries as the location of Scheria, which concurs with the views of Wilkens and Janssen. Other specifics are that Ithaca was near Cadiz and that Sparta was Cordoba, while the ancient city of Carmona on the plains of Andalucia are, for De Graaf, Mycenae!(af)
E.J. de Meester also argued(ac) for the British Isles as the location of many of Homer’s references. It struck me as quite remarkable that the level of debate regarding the date, source and geographical details of Homer’s works is rather similar to the controversy surrounding Plato’s Atlantis in Timaeus and Critias. The late Edo Nyland was another researcher who had also opted for a Scottish backdrop to the Odyssey and had recently published his views.
Felice Vinci also supports a Northern European background to the Iliad and Odyssey. However, in Vinci’s case, Scandinavia, and in particular the Baltic Sea, is identified as the location for the adventures in Homer’s classic. An English language synopsis of his book is available on the Internet. The persuasiveness of Vinci’s argument has recently renewed interest in the idea of a Baltic Atlantis. The assumption is that if Troy could be located in the Baltic, so might Atlantis. Vinci’s views are comparable with those of J. Rendel Harris expressed in a lecture delivered in 1924(p) in which he claims that “we are entitled to take Homer and his Odysseus out of the Mediterranean or the Black Sea, and to allow them excursions into Northern latitudes.”
However, a scathing review of Vinci’s book can be found on the Internet(d) and in issue 216 (2006) of Fortean Times written by Marinus Anthony van der Sluijs.
Further support for a Northern European Troy has come from the historian Edward Furlong, a former naval navigation officer, who has advocated for over twenty years that the journey of Odysseus went as far north as Norway. His particular views are outlined on the Internet(c).
Other writers, such as the late Henrietta Mertz [0396/7], have suggested that Homer’s epic refers to a trip to North America. Professor Enrico Mattievich Kucich of Lima University is also certain that the ancient Greeks discovered America America. However revolutionary this idea may seem it shows how this particular subject is growing and would probably justify a reference book of its own.
The idea of an Atlantic backdrop to the Homeric epics will not go away. The Dutch researcher, N.R. De Graaf continues to write extensively on his Homeros Explorations website(x) regarding many of the specifics in Homer’s accounts.
In 1973, James Bailey also proposed in his well-received The God-Kings and the Titans that the Odyssey recorded a trans-Atlantic trip. Evidence exists for large-scale mining in the Americas as early as the 5th millennium BC. Bailey maintained that the Europeans imported enormous quantities of copper and tin from Central and South America to feed the demands of the Old World Bronze Age, an idea that was later heavily promoted by Frank Joseph and in great, if overly speculative, detail by Reinoud de Jong(y).
Finally, the Atlantis connection with this entry is that if, as now appears to be at least a possibility, Homer’s Odyssey was about a journey to the North Sea then the possibility of the North Sea setting for the Atlantis story is somewhat reinforced.
A recent book by Steven Sora has developed the Atlantic notion further with the suggestion that not only was Troy located outside the Strait of Gibraltar but that both Homer’s Trojan War and Plato’s Atlantean war are two versions of the same war with the understandable distortions and embellishments that can occur with a narrative, probably involving some degree of oral transmission and then written down hundreds of years after the events concerned.
Ukraine is soon to be added to the growing list of alternative locations for the setting of Homer’s epics with the publication of Homer, The Immanent Biography, a book by A.I. Zolotukhin(g). He claims that Homer was born in Alibant (Mykolayiv, Ukraine) on September 14, 657 BC(t). He follows the views of Karl Ernst von Baer (1792-1876) who believed that most of Odysseus’s travels took place in the Black Sea rather than the Mediterranean. Additionally, he locates Atlantis in the western Crimean area of Evpatoria(l). His 60-page book is available on his website(m).
An interesting paper(e) by the German historian, Armin Wolf, relates how his research over 40 years unearthed 80 theories on the geography of the Odyssey, of which around 30 were accompanied by maps. One of the earliest maps of the travels of Odysseus was produced by Abraham Ortelius in 1597(u), in which the adventures of Odysseus all take place within the Central and Eastern Mediterranean, arguably reflecting the maritime limits of Greek experience at the time of Homer or his sources! Another website(z) by Jonathan S. Burgess, Professor of Classics at the University of Toronto offers further information on this, including some informative bibliographical material.
In 2009, Wolf published, Homers Reise: Auf den Spuren des Odysseus a German-language book that expands on the subject, also locating all the travels of Odysseus within the Central and Eastern Mediterranean.
Wolf’s ideas were enthusiastically adopted by Wolfgang Geisthövel in Homer’s Mediterranean, who also concurs with the opinion of J.V. Luce , who proposed that Homer was “describing fictional events against authentic backgrounds.” This would be comparable to a James Bond movie, which has an invented storyline set in actual exotic locations around the world.
Perhaps the most radical suggestion has come from the Italian writer, Michele Manher, who has proposed(h) that Homer’s Iliad originated in India where elements of it can be identified in the Mahabharata!
In August 2015, a fifteen-hour reading of the Iliad was performed in London.
(e) https://authorzilla.com/9AbvV/armin-wolf-mapping-homer-39-s-odyssey-research-notebooks.html (link broken)*
(ag) Perijóresis: Odisea (perijoresis.blogspot.com) (Spanish)
(av) Strabo 1.2.15
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).
Immanuel Velikovsky, in his unpublished book, In the Beginning(d), has pointed out that Whiston conclusions were strongly influenced by several earlier writers, particularly mentioning Abraham Rockenbach (1536-1611).
Both George Dodwell and Mike Baillie have also offered evidence for a globally catastrophic event in 2345 BC. The ancient Chinese document, 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.
Reinoud de Jonge offered a paper(c) linking petroglyphs found at Mougau-Bihan in Brittany with a cosmic catastrophe circa 2345 BC. He associated the event with the biblical Deluge.
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 extra 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 enlarged world population.
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.
The largest known meteorite is the Hoba Meteorite near Groodfontein, Namibia, which weighs over 60 tons and is calculated to have landed less than 80,000 years ago(ax) and is composed of about 84% iron and 16% nickel, with traces of cobalt(ay). Before man learned how to smelt iron the only source of the metal was from meteorites that were used to craft ornaments or weapons, such as the beautifully crafted knife buried with Tutankhamun. It is also reported that meteoric iron was used to fashion an arrowhead from a meteor that landed 3,500 years ago(az).
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 a UFO!
In recent years comets have come to be 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. However, the distinction between comets and asteroids has been blurred by asteroids sometimes displaying the features of comets, such as asteroid P2013/P5, which in 2013 produced six cometary-like tails.
In 2022, a report offered evidence that major cometary or asteroidal impacts or airbursts have been more frequent than previously thought. University of Cincinnati’s Professor Kenneth Tankersley and his colleagues have listed many such events that are known to have occurred since one apparently wiped out the dinosaurs. The most disturbing fact is the number of encounters experienced within historical times, for example – “Archaeologists have found meteorites, microspherules, iridium and platinum anomalies, and burned charcoal-rich habitation surfaces at 11 archaeological sites of the Hopewell culture in three states stretching across the Ohio River Valley. While Hopewell people survived the catastrophic event, which occurred between 252 and 383 CE, it likely contributed to their cultural decline.” (as) Jason Colavito is critical of this claim “because the Hopewell did not enter a terminal decline after their proposed impact date of c. 255-300 CE but flourished for another 200 years.”(at)
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 been blamed by a number of researchers 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 with Earth was the cause of Atlantis’ destruction(af). 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.
For some decades, Bob Kobres has been studying the evidence for cometary encounters contained in ancient mythologies and their possible association with known events(ah) such as the creation of the Carolina Bays or the Bronze Age Collapse(ag).
The early part of the 20th century saw the eccentric William Comyns Beaumontand the mysterious Hans Schindler 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”.
In 1971, Sykes’ Atlantis magazine devoted an entire issue to the matter of impact craters around the globe(ak), a subject that he also wrote about a few years earlier(av).>More up-to-date is a paper by Andrew Glikson published in August 2023. In it he notes that “Geophysical evidence suggests there is a massive, magnetized structure deep beneath Australia. Experts think it could be the remnants of the largest meteor crater on Earth.” This feature in New South Wales known as the Deniliquin structure may date to half a billion years and is “yet to be further tested by drilling, spans up to 520 kilometres in diameter. This exceeds the size of the near-300km-wide Vredefort impact structure in South Africa, which to date has been considered the world’s largest(ba).”<
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-known 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 Kyiv 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)
In 2001, Dr Luigi Forschini one of the leaders of an Italian expedition to the Tunguska region studied some of the 60,000 fallen trees and for the first time, they also had access to previously untranslated eye-witness accounts. They concluded that the object had arrived from the southeast at about 11 km per second and that an investigation of its likely orbit concluded that it was more likely that the intruder had been an asteroid rather than a comet. They speculated that it was probably not much more than ‘a pile of rubble’ that broke up completely, leaving no crater(aq).
>In 2013, Gernot Spielvogel co-authored Sonnenbomben  in which it is suggested that the Tunguska event was caused by a solar plasma ‘bomb’. Elsewhere, a YouTube video reviews the Tunguska event and concludes that many of the remaining mysteries associated with can be explained if it is treated as a major electrical discharge event(bb) between the Earth and an approaching asteroid or comet.<
The most recent (April 2020) Tunguska theory is that it could have been caused by an iron asteroid partially entering and then leaving the atmosphere!(aj) The most bizarre Tunguska suggestion is that it was the result of experiments carried out by Nikola Tesla(al). Another claim is that a massive explosion of escaping underground gas was the culprit(am). July 1st, 2021 another update on Tunguska theories revealed very little that was new(ao).
Two similar explosions occurred over South America in the 1930s(ar). 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 a collision. Humankind could have been eradicated.”
The most famous impact is probably that which is known as the Chicxulub Event in the Yucatan took place 66 million years ago and wiped out the dinosaurs. A 2017 update on Chicxulub studies was presented(ap) at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in New Orleans.
A more recent (2019) paper(ae) reports that “excavations in North Dakota reveal fossils of fish and trees that were blasted with rocky, glassy fragments that fell from the sky. The deposits show evidence also of having been swamped with water – the consequence of the colossal sea surge that was generated by the impact.”
The Chicxulub event may have been more complicated than generally thought, as a 2022 report revealed that “researchers have now uncovered another crater off the coast of Guinea that might well be Chicxulub’s cousin. The newly discovered feature, albeit much smaller, is also about 66 million years old. That’s a curious coincidence, and scientists are now wondering whether the two impact structures might be linked. Perhaps Chicxulub and the newly discovered feature—dubbed Nadir crater—formed from the breakup of a parent asteroid or as part of an impact cluster, the team suggested.”(aw)
The Yucatan impact has a rival claimant in the Indian Ocean as the dinosaur killer, known as the Shiva crater. This is claimed as the largest multi-ringed impact crater in the world(an).
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 and 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 of 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 how 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 more than 100m across with orbits 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 the impact itself is only the beginning of the story; tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and 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 1930s 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. The site is also known as Barringer Crater after the family who owns it. Until recently, it held the record for the largest impact crater less than 100,000 years old; it’s about 49,000 to 50,000 years old and measures 0.75 miles (1.2 km) in diameter. That is, until 2019, when the Yilan crater was discovered in China, which measures about 1.15 miles (1.85 km) across and likely formed about 46,000 to 53,000 years ago, based on radiocarbon dating of charcoal and organic lake sediments from the site, the NASA statement says(au).
It was also in the 1930s 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 is simply inevitable.
Until recently, statistical analysis indicates a major impact every 10,000 years; with the last such event occurring 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 years appears 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 and 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 of 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 1950s, 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 11,000 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(ai). Firestone’s tentative 11,000 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 affected any suggested Atlantis location. In 2007, at a news conference during the 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 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 that 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 several 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’s surface is exposed land, it is reasonable to conclude that 70% of impacts will have landed in 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 them date from around the third millennium BC, a period when there were widespread cultural collapses.
In a recent book the renowned dendrochronologist, Mike Baillie, has outlined compelling evidence from his 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 before 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 the 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 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 destroying 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 are 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, like others, is 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 are 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!
(i) https://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2008/30jun_tunguska/ (link broken) *
(q) BBC Focus Magazine, July 2014, page 67.
(ak) Atlantis, Volume 24, Nos 3/4, April-July, 1971.
(ay) National Geographic, June 2023 p.102