Skip to comments.Comet or Meteorite Impact Events in 1178AD?
Posted on 01/03/2005 3:59:02 PM PST by blam
As related by Clube and Napier in their monograph The Cosmic Winter, see , in the year 1178 A.D. four wise men of Canterbury were sitting outside on a clear and calm 18th June night, a half Moon standing placidly in the starry sky. Suddenly they noticed a flame jutting out of a horn of the Moon. Then they saw the Moon tremble and its colour change slowly from light brilliant to a darker reddish tone. Such a colour remained for all the time the Moon was visible during that phase. This story is found in a manuscript version of Canterbury annals, that was shown to Clube by a medieval English history specialist.
When the hidden face of the Moon was first photographed by a lunar mission, a large and clearly very recently produced crater was visible near the lunar north polar region. It was named the Giordano Bruno crater. Its recent origin is shown by the absence of secondary superimposed craters. The crater is considered to have been produced by a cometary or meteoritic impact with a body of 2-3 kilometers size, implying an energy in the range of hundred of million of megatons. The year of the impact might well be 1178 A.D., thereby explaining the observations recorded in the Canterbury annals, as first proposed apparently by Hartung .
Now it is known that cometary or meteoritic impacts do not happen on a purely stochastic way and that almost contemporary multiple impacts are a rather common event. This follows from the fact that the impacting bodies are often part of a stream of objects (comets, Apollos,...) produced by the disintegration of an initially larger body, by causes like internal instability or disrupting tidal forces by planets near which the object has passed. While the stream tends with time to expand and dissolve, its existence is nonetheless the reason for a likely multiplicity of impacts (notice for instance that the Wien University geologists Alexander and Edith Tollmann in  have given geological arguments for a seven-fold multiple cometary impact over Earth oceans at circa 6500 B.C.) and for an enhanced probability of impacts at the time the Earth is crossing the stream region.
By the above arguments, the following question naturally arises: was planet Earth, whose cross section is much larger than the Moon's (by a factor about 15), also impacted around the year 1178? Preliminary to this question: was the Earth crossing a stream around 1178? Then, if the Earth was hit, where was the event or the events and which were the consequences?
In the following nine sections we give arguments for likely multiple impacts over the Pacific basin, with dramatic consequences for the people living in that area and some, albeit delayed, dramatic consequences also for the Mediterranean region.
2. Evidence of the crossing of a cometary stream in the year 1178 A.D.
There are at least two pieces of information that indicate that the Earth crossed a cometary stream during the late 11th and the 12th century, with a peak around the half of the 12th century.
The first information comes from European history. Frequent and scaring appearances of large comets were indeed a main factor that contributed to the special psychological climate that led to the Crusades, which were often seen, at least at the popular level, as a means for atonement of sins, the divine wrath expressing itself through the menacing comets. A great comet appeared during a meeting of bishops, where a decision had to be taken for starting the first Crusade, and was a final argument in favour of the Crusade.
The second piece comes from Chinese astronomers, who were routinely recording comets and fireballs. Such recordings have been the object of a study by Clube . They show a very clear peak of sightings around the middle of the 12th century, the peak being over ten times higher than the average background. It is interesting to notice that a similar peak is also present at about half the 6th century, a time when, according to several Byzanthin historians quoted by Gibbon , e. g. Malala, Procopius and Theophanes, many scaring comets appeared in the sky. That was also the time of the great Justinian plague, which decimated the population of the Mediterranean region, killing up to 90% of the population according to some estimates. This depopulation was certainly a major factor which facilitated the Arab expansion some three generations later.
3. Arguments from New Zealand Maori legends
From New Zealand two arguments come. First we have the Maori legends stating that, several centuries ago, fire came from the sky, burned most of the forests and killed the Moa birds (the Maori adamantly reject the western scholars opinion that overhunting was the reason for the Moa disappearance). Secondly there is the recent finding of a number of shallow and definitely very recent impact craters, named the Tapanui craters, in the South Island. Additionally, layers of soot, datable at the cratering time, have been detected in several places. The Tapanui craters and the presence of soot can be taken as a confirmation that "fire" came from the sky, burned the forests and killed the Moas, as the Maori legends state. The time of the event has been estimated at circa 800 years ago, therefore falling at our proposed date. For more information on the event see Steel and Snow  and Pajak [7,8].
4. Arguments from Polynesia
It is known, see Heyerdahl  and Fornander , that at the end of the 12th century there have been severe disruptions throughout the archipelagos in Polynesia, leading to discontinuities in the local dinasties and to generalized migrations, mainly in the direction from North America to the Hawaiis and to the other islands. Heyerdahl writes (see quoted monograph, pp. 169,170): A. Fornander, a notable early Polynesian genealogist, after a life-long study of Polynesian tribe history claimed that about 30 generations reckoned from the end of the last century bring us back to a period when the aristocracy in almost all groups took, so to say, a new departure. From then on, during a period of a few generations, all royal lines were interrupted and substituted by new ones. A migratory wave swept the island world of the Pacific, embracing in its vortex all the principal groups, and probably all the smaller. Its traces were deep and indelible. It modified the ancient customs, creed and polity. It even affected the speech of the people.... new tutelar gods succeeded the earlier deities, new place names replaced old ones... the construction of the pyramidal stone platforms also seemed to have ceased during this period... traditional narratives show that an early people were found in Hawaii, Cook Islands and New Zealand by the later Polynesians...the later immingrants conquered their predecessors, who were not exterminated but absorbed.} The date of the events can be set between the years 1100 and 1200, see also the work of another Polynesian genealogist, Percy Smith , an interval which brackets our proposed date 1178.
To this time it is also possible to relate the migration that, according again to Heyerdahl [12,13], brought a community of Melanesian people to Easter Island, which at that time was inhabited by a completely different type of people (high stature, reddish hair, europoid features) and a more advanced culture, one of whose main elements was the construction of the famous giants. For several centuries the Melanesian people lived as slaves and worked in the quarries to build the statues. Then, probably in the year 1670, they rebelled and killed most of their masters (apparently only one adult male was left alive).
5. Arguments from South America
In South America we first observe, at the time under discussion, the rather sudden demise of the great coastal civilizations (Mochicas, Chimus,...), that, inter alia, had build huge pyramids (the largest of the Tucume pyramid, near the northern Peru town of Lambayeque, had a square basis with a side of about 800 meters; while only about 70 meters high, its total volume was about 30% greater than that of the great Giza pyramid) and a complex system of canals for irrigation. The demise was sudden and without recovery. It was also associated to substantial ruin of the pyramids, by evident erosion by flood (the pyramids were not build in stone but with compacted soil), and of the irrigation system.
Secondly, we observe, immediately following the demise of the coastal civilization, the rise, in the high Andine range, of the new Incas civilization. The Incas, in the course of three centuries, till they collapsed under the Spaniard aggression, probably benefiting to a large extent of the construction techniques previously developed by the coastal people, founded a great empire extending from present Colombia to Chile, well connected by an efficient road system. The Incas royal family claimed a very ancient origin and also differenciated itself from the common people by the use of a special form of language (the royal Quechua). According to a recently found manuscript dated to the year 1611 and containing information attributed to Blas Valera, (see Laurencich Minelli et al. ), a Jesuit with a Spanish father and an Incas mother, the Incas royal family traced its origin to the 6th century (quite intriguingly, a time of great cometary activity and of the Justinian plague), when two groups of migrating people are claimed to have reached South America, one from the West (Tartaria) and one from the East, these last people being called Viracochas and being white dressed. A fighting followed their meeting and most of the Viracochas were killed. The royal Incas family descended from intermarriages between the people from the West and the surviving Viracochas.
The development at this time, after the collapse of the coastal civilization, of a civilization of essentially high mountains can be intriguingly explained if the coastal civilization was destroyed by a natural catastrophical event, like a great tsunami, which scared enormously the survivors and the neighbouring people. The coastal area was then abandoned and the civilization restarted on higher, presumibly safer, land. Effects of wheather changes, e.g. drier conditions along the coast, may also have contributed to this geographical displacement.
Thirdly, analysis of past El Niño behaviour indicates unusual conditions at the time under consideration. Information on past intensity of El Niño can be obtained by analysis of the oceanic sediments, particularly by the relative abundances of certain shellfish which develop only when the water temperature rises above a certain level (the El Niño current is cold, so a strong El Niño wipes out most of this shellfish). Recent analysis, see Heyerdahl , has shown that El Niño activity has dramatically peaked around the middle of the 12th century. An unusually strong El Niñno not only would result in a disruption of the normal local Pacific fauna, but would provoke very strong torrential rains over the usually dry Peruvian coastal region. This may have been the main cause of the observed strong erosion of the Tucume pyramids and a factor for disruption of the local irrigation system. We however suspect that the demise of the coastal civilization has to be related to a very dramatic and killing tsunamic wave.
6. Arguments from Central America
The fifth argument comes from Central America, relating to the origin of the Aztec civilization and to some extent explaining the Aztec obsession with human sacrifice.
When Cortes reached central Mexico, he met there the stronghold of the Aztects, who were living in a rather small region west of the great Popocatepl--Ixtacihuatl volcanic range, in a bowl shaped region of circa 2.000 square kilometers, completely surrounded by mountains, the local rivers sending their waters not to the ocean but to a marshy lake at the center of the region, lake Texcoco (now almost completely dried up). In the middle of the lake, on a number of small islets, the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan was build, counting at Cortes time possibly over one million people (in one of his letters to Charles 5th, the Spanish emperor, Cortes, see , claimed that over 400.000 persons in the city had died of the epidemics, smallpox, brought by the Spaniards; due to the ferocity of the fighting possibly more people died of wounds and several thousands survived the destruction).
It appears from geography that the Aztects had chosen to live and in particular to build their capital in a region whose main feature, from the point of view of the presently discussed scenario, was to be well protected, thanks to its elevation and to the surrounding mountain ranges, by a possible rise of the ocean, or a possible tsunamic wave.
Now it is known from several sources, particularly from one of the few surviving codices, namely the so called codex Ramirez, see , that the Aztecs were not native of central Mexico, but had reached that region only a few centuries before Cortes's arrival. Their original place, named Aztlan, was located on the Pacific coast, probably near the present city of Mazatlan, some 300 km. north--west of Guadalajara. According to studies by Vaillant  and Brundage , their migration started around the middle of the 12th century, Brundage actually proposing the date 1168, which is amazingly close to the date we are considering (and since this date is an estimate, one cannot exclude that the correct year was indeed 1178).
Why did the Aztecs move from a coastal region to a high land? We conjecture that, similarly to what happened to the coastal region of Peru, also the Pacific coastal region of Mexico was affected by a huge tsunami. The surviving people were immensely scared and took refuge up to the Mexican plateau in the marshes of Lake Texcoco. Probably they interpreted the catastrophe in religious terms as a punishment by their gods for not being sufficiently pious. Thus they adopted a policy of strong piety, meaning in their religion a policy of human sacrifices, which scandalized the Spaniards, but whose roots can probably be traced in the reenactment of past catastrophical events in the solar system...
7. Arguments from Japan
Around 1178 there is an important political discontinuity in the Japanese history, given by the passage of the political power, after a period of intense fighting, from the southern Taira dynasty (with capital Miako, now Kyoto), to the northern Minamoto dynasty (with capital Kamakura, near Edo, now Tokyo). Termination of the fighting is around the year 1182. This political event may certainly be a chance occurrence in our context, save for a possible hint to unusual meteorological conditions. A major event of the war was the unexpected destruction of the southern fleet by a very violent typhoon. This too could be a chance event, but the similar fate meeting not many years later the Chinese--Mongolian fleet sent by Khubilai Khan to attempt the conquest of Japan, as related by Marco Polo, may be taken as suggestive of unusually irregular and strong typhoons in the north-west quadrant of the Pacific basin, thereby parallelizing the unusual behaviour of El Niño at that time around the coasts of Peru.
8. Arguments from northern China
The 12th century is a critical time in northern China. From a political point of view the corrupt and decaying regime of the late Song dinasty leads to social unrest and widely spread rebellions, so graphically described in the great Chinese classic novel The Water Margins (probably written later, but there is no consensus on either the author or the time of writing). Northern China was occupied by Juchen tribes from Machuria in the second half of that century. Additionally natural disasters at unprecedented level affected the region, among which main was the flood of the Huang He (the Yellow River). So catastrophical was this flood that the previous northern Song capital, the great city of Kaifeng, was almost completely destroyed and, moreover, the river changed its exit into the sea, moving it in 1194 from a location north of the Shandong peninsula to one south of it, hundreds of kilometers away (the river has returned to its previous exit in 1852 after another severe flood). Whether the natural disasters at this time are a chance event or are correlated with the other observed events, in particular with a possible modification of the typhoon regime and the strong increase of El Niño, is a question that deserves further study.
9. Arguments from Mongolia
In the annals of Khubilai Khan, the Yuan dinasty emperor of the second generation after Gengis Khan, well known as the host of Marco Polo, it is written that "my great ancestor Gengis Khan saw a sign of change in the sky ... and arose in the North", as in the annals translation made by the Eastern Cultures curator of the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto and available in the library of that museum (the above sentence is actually readable in a poster in the room devoted to China). Now Gengish Khan, firstly named Temujin, is believed to have been born in 1165, hence in 1178 he would have been 13 years old. He might have observed one of the great fireballs or falling comets or asteroids, which were recorded with unusually high frequency at that time by Chinese astronomers.
The conquest of the greater part of Asia and even of part of Europe by the Mongolian horsemen in the space of one generation is one of the great events of history. The extraordinary personality of Gengis Khan, a man with enormous intelligence, will, long range planning and additionally shamanistic powers, was certainly a main factor behind the Mongolian expansion. In the Secret History of the Mongols, see , the Mongolian drive tends to be explained in terms of avenging wrongs, including the destruction of the family of Gengis Khan (he survived by hiding himself in the waters of a river) and the wrongs that his tribe suffered by the nearby ( Christian Nestorian) Tayichud and Kereit tribes. The attack of the Mongolians against Persia, then a huge empire, under Selgiuchid sultans control, stretching from Anatolia to Central Asia and including Afghanistan and part of India, which led to some of the worst massacres in history and to such a devastation of Central Asia that these countries have not yet recovered, is similarly explained in terms of a vengeance against the sultan Jalal--ad--Din, who had ordered the murder of peaceful Mongolian merchants, see Ata Malik Al Juvaini . However behind these personal and very classical motivations there are probably other more objective reasons that made it almost necessary for the Mongolians to leave their original land (a high plateau with continental climate and very cold winters, particularly in the region where Gengis Khan was born, north-west Mongolia, partly now belonging to Siberia) for other lands with a better climate. Here we suggest that the main reason was indeed an unexpected and dramatic change of climate in Mongolia, with winters much colder and more snowy than usual, the snow cover probably not melting during the summer, thereby making the normal pastoral life almost impossible. An indication that such was the case, and that the deteriorated wheather conditions lasted for about two generations, can be found in the quoted work of Ata Malik al Juvaini. This Persian author, born in a Khorasan family, became governor of Persia after the conquest by the Mongolians. He wrote a rather monumental history of the Mongolian conquest, around 1260, after the Alamut fortress, the stronghold of the Ishmaelites (the Assassins), was taken (the Alamut castle had one of the greatest libraries of medieval times; most books were burnt, but Al Juvaini personally selected a number to be saved. Which ones.....? Maybe here is the origin of maps like the Piri Reis map, and of exoteric books upon which Blavatsky claimed to base her ideas). In his history Al Juvaini states that at about the time of the fall of Alamut it had again become possible to grow apple trees in Mongolia, a fact, he explicitly notes, wich had not been possible for two generations. This is a definitive indication of a very severe wheather deterioration in the Mongolian plateau starting from about our date 1178. Apple trees are indeed resistant to very cold temperatures, at least in many varieties cultivated for ages throughout Europe and Asia. In 1979 a cold wave swept throughout Russia, temperatures dropping to --50 centigrades in Moscow (water pipes inside the building of the Computing Center of the Academy of Sciences froze and exploded; thus no water was available for sanitation.... fortunately my arrival there was at the beginning of May, when temperature in one week passed from freezing to over 40 centigrades...). In Kirov, some 600 km. north--east of Moscow, temperature dropped to --55 centigrades. Apple trees survived in the Moscow region, but were killed in the Kirov region.
If a severe weather problem was behind the Mongolian expansion, a similar reason may have been behind other great migrations and wars involving the pastoral people, e.g. the Huns and the Scythians. In particular there are arguments that this may have been the case concerning the great Scythian invasion of Middle East and Egypt, referred to by Diodorus. In a future paper we will argument that the Hyksos who invaded Egypt at the time of Dudimose (Tutimaios in Manetho), just after the Hebrew escaped under Moses leadership, as Velikovsky argumented, see , and Rohl  has confirmed, were Scythians, as wild and destructive as the Mongolians at the time of Gengis Khan, and that their name means exactly it the clan of the horsemen.
10. Arguments from Europe
Apparently there are no particular discontinuities in Europe in the second half of the 12th century, a period of rather intensive economic growth, a fact therefore indicating that, if a catastrophe hit the Pacific basin, it did not affect the opposite hemisphere. However at the beginning of the 14th century Europe is affected by the great Black Death epidemics, usually attributed to the bacterium of plague ( bacillus pestis ), which, albeit certainly not as destructive as the Justinian plague, still killed an estimated 30% of the total population (this percentage varying from place to place, Bohemia quite intriguingly escaping almost completely). The plague seems to have started in Mediterranean ports, involved in trade with the East, and along the caravan roads leading to central Asia. While Hoyle and Wickramasinghe  have suggested that the agents of the plague were bacterial material arrived from the sky and brought by comets (and that was a time of intense cometary activity....) the general consensus is that the plague came from Mongolia, where bacillus pestis is a common host in a variety of rats (and, be careful if you want to caress them, in Californian squirrels too...). In our proposed scenario of a severe wheather disruption in the Mongolian region, it may be surmised that the bacteria became more virulent and/or had easier access to a population immunologically weakened by famine and other difficulties. Or, and here we take the Hoyle et al. suggestion, the bodies impacting in the Pacific region, including the northern China and Mongolian region, may have brought a fresh resupply of bacterial material, possibly characterized by mutations. Such bacteria may have again found their usual host, the rats, and attacked more easily a population weakened by climate changes, famine and war and not yet immunized against the new mutation.
11. Final conclusions
In the previous sections we have given a number of intriguing arguments supporting the hypothesis that around the year 1178 the Pacific basin was subject to catastrophical events, of a probable extraterrestrial origin:
a -- political discontinuities (in Peru, Mexico, north-east Asia, Polynesia, Easter Island)
b -- abundance of unusually strong "signs in the sky ", in the Maori legends, the Chinese astronomers records, the Mongolian annals
c -- unusual wheather conditions, very strong El Niño, probable irregular beheviour of the typhoons near Japan, catastrophical flooding in Northern China and unusually severe cold in Mongolia.
The above evidence has not been collected via a systematic study of the people of the Pacific region at that time, but has come via rather casual readings, hence a systematic survey of the possible sources is almost certainly bound to provide further confirmation. For instance, the rather sudden and puzzling disappearance of many of the pueblo people in the southwest of northern America, which can be traced back to that time, might be associated with the global catastrophe that apparently affected the Pacific region.
The author is deeply indebted, for stimulating discussions and the provided information, to dr. Thor Heyerdahl, whom he was allowed to visit in his beautiful manshion in Guimar, Tenerife, to prof. Victor Clube, whom he visited in Oxford, and to prof. Dixon, whose wide range and deep critical knowledge in so many areas has been a driving factor behind his work in this area.
This work has been partially supported by ex 60% University of Bergamo funds.
Patched together from an old thread and re-posted.
Very neat. I've only just scanned the article, will definitely read it in full later, but where precisely is the comet/meteor supposed to have landed?
Have you read "Worlds in Collision" by Imanuel Velikosvky (sp?)?
What about the "Mini-Ice Age" which occured in the Late Middle Ages? Could something like this have cause what we would now call nuclear winter effect?
Part 2 - "Decimate" means to destroy every tenth part - therefore, when 90% of the population is killed, then there is no "decimation"...
Interesting article...and to think people still call on the stars for guidance after all of these years.
Yes. Many years ago.
It is always a mystery to me how we as historians cannot so easily accept historical events or processes which we have not seen ourselves...so muych of our history is "polictical" or "religious," and we tend to downplay the role that our geography and geology plays in the history of mankind and of the Earth. We are especially hard-pressed to accept catastrophic events, except in those times during which we have witnessed something horrific on our own.
10% or 90% is a rather large difference.
I believe that was the Krakatoa(sp) volcano. Not sure though.
Or, and here we take the Hoyle et al. suggestion, the bodies impacting in the Pacific region, including the northern China and Mongolian region, may have brought a fresh resupply of bacterial material, possibly characterized by mutations.
Is that saying that the extraterretrial bodies carried bacteria from outer space?
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