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Debate Erupts Anew: Did Thera's Explosion Doom Minoan Crete?
International Herald Tribune ^ | 10-23-2003 | William J. Broad

Posted on 10/23/2003 2:47:33 PM PDT by blam

Debate erupts anew: Did Thera's explosion doom Minoan Crete?

William J. Broad
Thursday, October 23, 2003

For decades, scholars have debated whether the eruption of the Thera volcano in the Aegean more than 3,000 years ago brought about the mysterious collapse of Minoan civilization at the peak of its glory. The volcanic isle (whose remnants are known as Santorini) lay just 110 kilometers from Minoan Crete, so it seemed quite reasonable that its fury could have accounted for the fall of that celebrated people.

. This idea suffered a blow in 1987 when Danish scientists studying cores from the Greenland ice cap reported evidence that Thera exploded in 1645 B.C., some 150 years before the usually accepted date. That put so much time between the natural disaster and the Minoan decline that the linkage came to be widely doubted, seeming far-fetched at best.

. Now, scientists at Columbia University, the University of Hawaii and other institutions are renewing the proposed connection.

. New findings, they say, show that Thera's upheaval was far more violent than was previously calculated (many times larger than the 1883 Krakatoa eruption, which killed more than 36,000 people). They say the blast's cultural repercussions were equally large, rippling across the eastern Mediterranean for decades and perhaps centuries.

. "It had to have had a huge impact," said Floyd McCoy, a geologist at the University of Hawaii who has studied the eruption for decades and recently proposed that it was much more violent than had been previously thought.

. The scientists say Thera's outburst produced deadly waves and dense clouds of volcanic ash over a vast region, crippling ancient cities and fleets, setting off climate changes, ruining crops and sowing wide political unrest. For Minoan Crete, the scientists see direct and indirect consequences. McCoy discovered that towering waves from the eruption that hit Crete were up to 15 meters high, about 50 feet, smashing ports and fleets and severely damaging the maritime economy.

. Other scientists found indirect, long-term damage. Ash and global cooling from the volcanic pall caused wide crop failures in the eastern Mediterranean, they said, and the agricultural woes in turn set off political upheavals that undid Minoan friends and trade.

. "Imagine island states without links to the outside world," William Ryan, a geologist at Columbia's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, told a meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

. Scientists who link Thera to the Minoan decline say the evidence is still emerging and in some cases sketchy. Even so, they say it is already compelling enough to have convinced many archaeologists, geologists and historians that the repercussions probably amounted to a death blow for Minoan Crete.

. Rich and sensual, sophisticated and artistic, Minoan culture flourished in the Bronze Age between roughly 3,000 and 1,400 B.C., the first high civilization of Europe. It developed an early form of writing and used maritime skill to found colonies and a trade empire.

. The British archaeologist Arthur Evans called the civilization Minoan, after Minos, the legendary king. His unearthed palace was huge and intricate, and had clearly been weakened by upheavals, including fire and earthquakes. Nearby on the volcanic island of Thera, or Santorini, archaeologists dug up Minoan buildings, artifacts and a whole city, Akrotiri, buried under volcanic ash, like Pompeii. Some of its beautifully preserved frescoes depicted Egyptian motifs and animals, suggesting significant contact between the two peoples.

. In 1939, Spyridon Marinatos, a Greek archaeologist, proposed that the eruption wrecked Minoan culture on Thera and Crete. He envisioned the damage as done by associated earthquakes and tsunamis. While geologists found tsunamis credible, they doubted the destructive power of Thera's earthquakes, saying volcanic ones tend to be relatively mild. The debate simmered for decades.

. In the mid-1960's, scientists dredging up ooze from the bottom of the Mediterranean began to notice a thick layer of ash that they linked to Thera's eruption. They tracked it over thousands of square miles. McCoy of the University of Hawaii, then at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, took part in these discoveries, starting a lifelong interest in Thera. By the early 1980's, he was publishing papers on the ash distribution.

. Such clues helped geologists estimate the amount of material Thera spewed into the sky and the height of its eruption cloud - main factors in the Volcanic Explosivity Index. Its scale goes from zero to eight and is logarithmic, so each unit represents a tenfold increase in explosive power. Thera was given a VEI of 6.0, on a par with Krakatoa in 1883.

. The similarity to Krakatoa, which lies between Sumatra and Java, helped experts better envision Thera's wrath. Despite the power of Thera, the Danish scientists' evidence raised doubts about its links to the Minoan decline. Their date for Thera's explosion, 1645 B.C., based on frozen ash in Greenland, is some 150 years earlier than the usual date. Given that the Minoan fall was usually dated to 1450 B.C., the gap between cause and effect seemed too large.

. Another blow landed in 1989 when scholars on Crete found, above a Thera ash layer, a house that had been substantially rebuilt in the Minoan style. It suggested at least partial cultural survival.

. By 1996, experts like Jeremy Rutter, head of classics at Dartmouth, judged the chronological gap too extreme for any linkage. "No direct correlation can be established" between the volcano and the Minoan decline, he concluded.

. Amid doubts about the tie, scientists kept finding more evidence suggesting that Thera's eruption had been unusually violent and disruptive over wide areas. Scientific maps drawn in the 1960's and 1970's showed its ash as falling mostly over nearby waters and Aegean islands. By the 1990's, however, affected areas had mushroomed to include lands of the eastern Mediterranean from Anatolia to Egypt. Scientists found ash from Thera at the bottom of the Black Sea and Nile delta.

. Peter Kuniholm, an expert at Cornell on using tree rings to establish dates, found ancient trees in a burial mound in Anatolia, what now is in the Asian part of Turkey. For half a decade those trees had grown three times as fast as normal - apparently because Thera's volcanic pall turned hot, dry summers into seasons that were unusually cool and wet.

. More intrigued than ever, McCoy of the University of Hawaii two years ago stumbled on more evidence suggesting that Thera's ash fall had been unusually wide and heavy. During a field trip to Anafi, an island some 20 miles east of Thera, he found to his delight that the authorities had just cut fresh roads that exposed layers of Thera ash up to 10 feet thick - a surprising amount that distance from the eruption. And Greek colleagues showed him new seabed samples taken off the Greek mainland, suggesting that more ash blew westward than scientists had realized.

. Factoring in such evidence, McCoy calculated that Thera had a VEI of 7.0 - what geologists call colossal and exceedingly rare. In the past 10,000 years only one other volcano has exploded with that kind of gargantuan violence: Tambora, in Indonesia, in 1816, It produced an ash cloud in the upper atmosphere that reflected sunlight back into space and produced the year without a summer. The cold led to ruinous harvests, hunger and even famine in the United States, Europe and Russia.

. "I presented this evidence last summer at a meeting," McCoy recalled, "and the comment from the other volcanologists was, 'Hey, it was probably larger than Tambora.'"

. In scholarly articles, Jan Driessen, an archaeologist at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, and Colin MacDonald, an archaeologist at the British School in Athens, Greece, have argued that changes to Cretan architecture, storage, food production, artistic output and the distribution of riches imply major social dislocations, and perhaps civil war.

. By 1450 B.C., Mycenaean invaders from mainland Greece seized control of Crete, ending the Minoan era.

. Thera's destructiveness was probably the catalyst, Driessen and MacDonald wrote, "that culminated in Crete being absorbed to a greater or lesser extent into the Mycenaean, and therefore, the Greek world."


TOPICS: News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: aegean; anew; calliste; crete; debate; doom; erupts; exodus; explosive; ggg; godsgravesglyphs; minoan; minoans; mycenaean; mycenaeans; santorini; thera; theras
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It is my opinion that this explosion provided all the plagues and imagery for the Exodus. The volcano plume would have had to be 30 miles high to have been seen in Egypt, "staff by day, torch by night." The most recent large volcano, Pinatubo in the Phillipines, had a plume 26 miles high. The earthquakes and tsunamis probably caused the 'parting of the sea.'
1 posted on 10/23/2003 2:47:34 PM PDT by blam
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To: farmfriend; RightWhale
Worldwide tree rings record this event at 1628BC. (+ -)
2 posted on 10/23/2003 2:49:23 PM PDT by blam
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To: blam
Bump.
3 posted on 10/23/2003 2:51:40 PM PDT by SevenDaysInMay (Federal judges and justices serve for periods of good behavior, not life. Article III sec. 1)
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To: blam
This thesis was thoroughly explored by Joseph Alsop in From the Silent Earth, a very clever book that was assigned by my Classical Archaeology professor back in '74 or '75. I have a copy around here somewhere . . .

I'm not sure if it's the same Joseph Alsop who wrote the political column with his brother back in the 50s . . . certainly it's well written and with an immediacy of description that might indicate the journalist.

4 posted on 10/23/2003 2:54:38 PM PDT by AnAmericanMother (. . . sed, ut scis, quis homines huiusmodi intellegere potest?. . .)
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To: blam
If it's true that it happened in the early 1400's BC, this would corroborate the theory since the Exodus was probably about this time.
5 posted on 10/23/2003 2:57:18 PM PDT by what's up
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To: blam
Interesting connection with Moses et al.
6 posted on 10/23/2003 2:59:57 PM PDT by expatpat
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To: what's up
"If it's true that it happened in the early 1400's BC, this would corroborate the theory since the Exodus was probably about this time."

I read (somewhere?) that charred grain had been found above this ash layer and under the collapsed walls of Jerico. The charred grain dated within the 1628BC time frame. The accepted date(s) for the Exodus will have to be changed.

7 posted on 10/23/2003 3:02:38 PM PDT by blam
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To: blam
Worldwide tree rings record this event at 1628BC. (+ -)

What does + or - mean? That they don't know if it was March or October?

8 posted on 10/23/2003 3:03:42 PM PDT by RightWhale (Repeal the Law of the Excluded Middle)
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To: blam
Where the Red Sea parted, if indeed that was a historical event, the sea is shallow. A tsunami wouldn't have had much room to get going in that region. There was a tidal wave at Valdez during the Good Friday earthquake that moved the water of Prince William Sound substantially, and the associated earth movement would have been impossible to overlook.
9 posted on 10/23/2003 3:09:33 PM PDT by RightWhale (Repeal the Law of the Excluded Middle)
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To: blam
If the charred grain is under the walls of Jericho, that would mean a fire took place before Joshua. May not the fire have been in 1628? The Exodus could still have happened, thus, in 1440 BC.
10 posted on 10/23/2003 3:10:19 PM PDT by what's up
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To: blam
The volcano plume would have had to be 30 miles high to have been seen in Egypt...

A plume 158,000 ft. (30 miles) high could only have been seen in northernmost Egypt, and nowhere else along the eastern Mediterranian coast. The equation is: square root of the altitude in feet times 1.23 equals the distance to the horizon in nautical miles.

It wouldn't have stayed up there very long, either; 30 miles up is a pretty good vacuum. So I doubt it 'led' Moses and the Hebrews anywhere... or if it did, God must have been pissed off at them for not heading for Thera.

Probably the plume left a big impression all around the Aegean that later got incorporated into the Exodus story as 'staff and torch'.

11 posted on 10/23/2003 3:38:20 PM PDT by Grut
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To: blam
If nothing else, it sure didn't do the poor schmucks living on Santorini any favors.
12 posted on 10/23/2003 3:40:09 PM PDT by Poohbah ("Would you mind not shooting at the thermonuclear weapons?" -- Major Vic Deakins, USAF)
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To: what's up
"If the charred grain is under the walls of Jericho, that would mean a fire took place before Joshua. May not the fire have been in 1628? The Exodus could still have happened, thus, in 1440 BC."

The grain and the 1628BC ash layer were both under the collapsed wall. The 1450BC date for Exodus is based on the Egyptian Kings List...and more and more researchers are finding that the list is flawed.

13 posted on 10/23/2003 3:42:33 PM PDT by blam
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To: RightWhale
"What does + or - mean? That they don't know if it was March or October?"

More like years. The cooling that would have affected the trees worldwide took some time after the initial event. (Frankly, I forgot the details and I have that book, Exodus To Arthur, that contains the details, loaned out)

14 posted on 10/23/2003 3:46:44 PM PDT by blam
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To: Poohbah
I think the eruption gave enough warning that the residents escaped. Of course that little favor was balanced by destroying their homes.
15 posted on 10/23/2003 3:47:35 PM PDT by yarddog
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To: blam; *Gods, Graves, Glyphs; Alas Babylon!; annyokie; bd476; BiffWondercat; Bilbo Baggins; billl; ..
Gods, Graves, Glyphs
List for articles regarding early civilizations , life of all forms, - dinosaurs - etc.

Let me know if you wish to be added or removed from this ping list.

For real time political chat - Radio Free Republic chat room
And you won't miss a thread on FR because e-bot will keep you informed.

16 posted on 10/23/2003 3:47:48 PM PDT by farmfriend ( Isaiah 55:10,11)
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To: blam
I understand the 1628 ash layer and grain are under the wall. What is your point in saying that?
17 posted on 10/23/2003 3:48:49 PM PDT by what's up
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To: blam
BTW, I think this explains atlantis as well.
18 posted on 10/23/2003 3:50:14 PM PDT by rmlew (Peaceniks and isolationists are objectively pro-Terrorist)
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To: blam
It has been many years since I was a classics major and I don't even recall us discussing the eruption but I think there was at one time a belief that mainland Greece, particularly Mycenae and Tiryns, simply became the dominant power in the Mediteraranean world.

This was what caused Minoan civilization to decline. I do know there was some similarities between Mycenaean writing and Cretan. I have long forgotten the nuances of Linear A, B etc.

19 posted on 10/23/2003 3:52:27 PM PDT by yarddog
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To: RightWhale
"Where the Red Sea parted, if indeed that was a historical event, the sea is shallow. A tsunami wouldn't have had much room to get going in that region. "

Earthquake?

Remember this map that shows the ocean level during the Ice Age? Well, it shows the Red Sea as an isolated body of water and this event (Thera) may have 'reconnected' the dessicated Red Sea to the world's oceans.

BTW, During the Ice Age, the Nile Valley would have looked like the Grand Canyon, a river vally 300-500ft lower than today.

20 posted on 10/23/2003 3:57:17 PM PDT by blam
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To: rmlew
I think the evidience is good that Thera was Atlantis and was later embellished with additional details. I've seen an interesting reconstruction that suggested a harbor and island sitting within the volcanic cone that was essentially blasted out by the volcano.
21 posted on 10/23/2003 3:59:15 PM PDT by Question_Assumptions
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To: blam
Very interesting. Thanks for posting.
22 posted on 10/23/2003 4:04:21 PM PDT by livius
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To: what's up
"I understand the 1628 ash layer and grain are under the wall. What is your point in saying that?"

Oh, you're saying that the wall fell 178 years after the ash and the grain was charred?

It's been a while since I read the article about the grain but, if I remember correctly, they placed the collapsed wall and the charred grain at the same time and implied a 'sacked' city.

23 posted on 10/23/2003 4:08:44 PM PDT by blam
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To: blam
Worldwide tree rings record this event at 1628BC. (+ -)

...at about 3pm
24 posted on 10/23/2003 4:10:23 PM PDT by Chinito ("Too close for missles....switching to guns!")
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To: Question_Assumptions; rmlew
"I think the evidience is good that Thera was Atlantis and was later embellished with additional details. I've seen an interesting reconstruction that suggested a harbor and island sitting within the volcanic cone that was essentially blasted out by the volcano."

I once thought this too. I've come to believe that Atlantis was far, far in the past, maybe, 9-12,000 years ago...at the beginning of the end of the Ice Age. If it was Akatori, we'd know a lot more about it, huh? Remember, the Atlantis story originated with an Egyptian high priest, not the Greeks.

25 posted on 10/23/2003 4:17:00 PM PDT by blam
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To: blam
I toured Crete and the Greek islands by ferry in the 70's, it's a most beautiful area.
26 posted on 10/23/2003 4:22:46 PM PDT by Ciexyz
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To: Grut
A plume 158,000 ft. (30 miles) high could only have been seen in northernmost Egypt, and nowhere else along the eastern Mediterranian coast. The equation is: square root of the altitude in feet times 1.23 equals the distance to the horizon in nautical miles.

It wouldn't have stayed up there very long, either; 30 miles up is a pretty good vacuum. So I doubt it 'led' Moses and the Hebrews anywhere... or if it did, God must have been pissed off at them for not heading for Thera.

I read a theory a few years back that asserted the crossing of the Red Sea by the Hebrews was actually nearer the mouth of the Nile in an area called the "Reed Sea" which was more of a marsh and only a couple feet deep in some parts, but also much wider. It is based on a theory that the original Hebrew was misinterpreted and mistranslated (Of course, the similarities of "Red" and "Reed" are apparent in ENGLISH...what about Hebrew?).

This of course would all jibe with the Thera theory. If the plume did reach at least 30 miles (or higher, who knows?) it could have been seen by the Hebrews near the Nile Delta and might have appeared as a smokey staff by day and a torch by nite. If it continued to erupt and spew for several days or weeks, the light could have been reflected off the smoke particles forming the plume to a significant height.

One other issue that supports this theory is the Exodus story relating to how the Pharoahs men and chariots were caught in the rising sea. The popular locations of this at the Red Sea are fairly narrow and would have allowed them time to retreat safely to the shore, even if the were forced to abandon their chariots. If it happened near the "Reed Sea" at the Delta, it could have been tens of miles wide. As the Hebrews were exiting the east side the Pharoahs men could have been nearer the middle and would not have time to exit prior to being swamped.

One other note. The actual falling and rising of the Red Sea is a matter of contention. However, the Thera theory might explain this. As the initial tsunami hit the coast and then retreated, it would have drawn the water out of the Delta. There is an effect called "the Washbasin" where the water advances, retreats and advances again. With the "Reed Sea" so shallow , it would not have been unreasonable to see it drop to a level navigable on foot. As the washbasin effect takes place (or a secondary explosion at Thera that produced a second tsunami), the water would fill up again to a greater depth than normal, trapping the Pharoahs forces and drowning them.

Sorry if this is a known theory, I'm just an interested amatuer.

27 posted on 10/23/2003 4:23:29 PM PDT by Bob J
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To: blam
Exodus to Arthur bump!
28 posted on 10/23/2003 4:24:27 PM PDT by aruanan
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To: blam
Yes, the charring obviously was before the collapse, so the fire could very well have taken place in 1628, and the collapse of the wall almost 200 years later.

An Exodus date of 1440 BC lines up with 1 Kings 6:1 which says that the temple was begun 480 years after the Exodus. Many anti-Biblical "scholars" try to disprove this by pointing to either a 17th century or 13th century date. However, 15th century seems to proven again and again...even in the article you posted. All the best.

29 posted on 10/23/2003 4:25:43 PM PDT by what's up
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To: blam
Right... And it was placed BEYOND the Pillars of Hercules, i.e., Gibraltar. That is no where near the Agean.

BTW, I've been to the Palace of Knossos on Crete. Beautiful place. If the waves had been 50 feet high then they would have almost made it to the front gate!.

30 posted on 10/23/2003 4:28:34 PM PDT by Alas Babylon!
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To: blam
I was always taught Thera->direct correlation to the downfall of Crete.

Further, I was always taught that Thera was the origin of the Atlantis myth. Plato got everything right EXCEPT for the location of the island. Its an interesting argument, but it really pains me to think Plato could be wrong ...

31 posted on 10/23/2003 4:30:31 PM PDT by Utopia
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To: Alas Babylon!
Right... And it was placed BEYOND the Pillars of Hercules, i.e., Gibraltar. That is no where near the Agean.

It has been documented that Plato (+- 400 BC) got the original Atlantis concept from a relative who referenced stories passed down from Solon, who heard it in Egypt (+- 600 BC) where he studied. It is possible the original Egyptian story involved an island civilization beyond the mouth of the Nile (since the Egyptians had never sailed to the Atlantic), and then Plato sexed it up to the "Pillars of Hercules" since he was writing to Greek audience.

Since it has been proven that there was significant contact between the Minoans and Egypt, the theory while unproven, is still quite interesting.

32 posted on 10/23/2003 4:42:44 PM PDT by Bob J
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To: Utopia
There is little that Plato wrote that can be taken at face value. He consistently perverted common history in an effort to make allegorical points.
33 posted on 10/23/2003 4:45:48 PM PDT by Bob J
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To: Utopia
Plato's writings were not an attempt to document history, rather the myths in the dialogues were used as metaphors and allegories.
34 posted on 10/23/2003 4:48:23 PM PDT by Bob J
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To: Bob J
" It is possible the original Egyptian story involved an island civilization beyond the mouth of the Nile (since the Egyptians had never sailed to the Atlantic), and then Plato sexed it up to the "Pillars of Hercules" since he was writing to Greek audience."

I wonder where the Egyptians got the cocaine and nicotine then?

The Mystery Of The Cocaine Mummies

35 posted on 10/23/2003 5:00:34 PM PDT by blam
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To: Bob J

Statue unearthed by archaeologists in an Olmec (1200BC) site in Mexico.

36 posted on 10/23/2003 5:05:03 PM PDT by blam
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To: blam
Egyptian boats were flat and designed to sail the Nile and coastal areas on the Southern Mediterranean. Improved building and techniques might have come from other Med civilizations like the Minoans and Greeks, but I've never seen any evidence that Egyptian boats were built to survive the open Med much less the Atlantic.

From this article they suggest a tobacco type plant might have grown in Africa at the time of the Pharoahs (gone now), the same could be said for the coco plant.

Sure is a mystery.
37 posted on 10/23/2003 5:38:34 PM PDT by Bob J
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To: blam
There is more evidence for Asian influence in early American culture, but, anthropologists theorize these early americans crossed the bering straight from Asia during the last ice age. Could their cultural history have been brought with them and influenced their early art?

While this artifact suggests an Asian model, I'm not sure there is any evidence it was actually created in Asia.
38 posted on 10/23/2003 5:42:27 PM PDT by Bob J
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To: Bob J
You've apparently not read anything by Afro-centrist Clyde Winters
39 posted on 10/23/2003 5:48:42 PM PDT by blam
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To: Bob J
"There is more evidence for Asian influence in early American culture, but, anthropologists theorize these early americans crossed the bering straight from Asia during the last ice age"

You ought to spend more time on FR, lol

European DNA Found In 7-8,000 Year Old Skeleton In Florida (Windover)

Bye, Bye Beringia (8,000 Year Old Site In Florida)

40 posted on 10/23/2003 5:58:47 PM PDT by blam
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To: Straight Vermonter
Ping for home bookmarking.
41 posted on 10/23/2003 6:01:29 PM PDT by Straight Vermonter (We secretly switched ABC news with Al-Jazeera, lets see if these people can tell the difference.)
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To: blam
Looks like an education wasted.
42 posted on 10/23/2003 6:04:11 PM PDT by Bob J
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To: blam
Please add me to your list, if I'm not there already! Thanks!
43 posted on 10/23/2003 6:17:14 PM PDT by Bob J
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To: Poohbah
Blew most of the island out. Look at what's left today. Had a chance to vacation there years ago but didn't.


44 posted on 10/23/2003 6:35:10 PM PDT by tet68 (multiculturalism is an ideological academic fantasy maintained in obvious bad faith. M. Thompson)
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To: Utopia
Further, I was always taught that Thera was the origin of the Atlantis myth

OMG same here!

45 posted on 10/23/2003 6:37:37 PM PDT by MrsEmmaPeel
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To: Bob J
There is little that Plato wrote that can be taken at face value

What BS.

46 posted on 10/23/2003 6:41:13 PM PDT by Utopia
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To: Utopia
Un-un.
47 posted on 10/23/2003 7:29:25 PM PDT by Bob J
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To: Utopia
BTW - I thought that would be an appropriate response to your detailed counter argument.
48 posted on 10/23/2003 7:30:37 PM PDT by Bob J
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To: Bob J
As the keeper of blam's ping list, I will gladly add you. If you ever change your mind, just let me know.
49 posted on 10/23/2003 8:09:58 PM PDT by farmfriend ( Isaiah 55:10,11)
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To: farmfriend
Thanks!
50 posted on 10/23/2003 8:11:30 PM PDT by Bob J
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