Skip to comments.Disaster That Struck The Ancients
Posted on 12/08/2001 2:51:43 PM PST by blam
Thursday, 26 July, 2001, 12:12 GMT 13:12 UK
Disaster that struck the ancients
The pharaohs of the Egyptian Old Kingdom had built the mightiest legacy of the ancient world - the pyramids at Giza. But after nearly a thousand years of stability, central authority disintegrated and the country collapsed into chaos for more than a 100 years.
What happened, and why, has remained a huge controversy. But Professor Fekri Hassan, from University College London, UK, wanted to solve the mystery, by gathering together scientific clues.
His inspiration was the little known tomb in southern Egypt of a regional governor, Ankhtifi. The hieroglyphs there reported "all of Upper Egypt was dying of hunger to such a degree that everyone had come to eating their children".
Dismissed as exaggeration and fantasy by most other Egyptologists, Fekri was determined to prove the writings were true and accurate. He also had to find a culprit capable of producing such misery.
Stalactites and stalagmites
"My hunch from the beginning was that it had to do with the environment in which the Egyptians lived." Fekri felt sure the Nile, the river that has always been at the heart of Egyptian life, was implicated.
He studied the meticulous records, kept since the 7th Century, of Nile floods. He was amazed to see that there was a huge variation in the size of the annual Nile floods - the floods that were vital for irrigating the land.
But no records existed for 2,200BC. Then came a breakthrough - a new discovery in the hills of neighbouring Israel. Mira Bar-Matthews of the Geological Survey of Israel had found a unique record of past climates, locked in the stalactites and stalagmites of a cave near Tel Aviv.
What they show is a sudden and dramatic drop in rainfall, by 20%. It is the largest climate event in 5,000 years. And the date? 2,200 BC.
As Israel and Egypt are in different weather systems, Fekri needed evidence of some worldwide climate event to link this to the collapse of the Old Kingdom. And the evidence came out of the blue.
Geologist Gerard Bond, of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, US, looks for climate evidence in the icebergs of Iceland. As they melt on their journey south, they leave shards of volcanic ash on the ocean floor.
How far they travelled before melting tells him how cold it was. Cores of mud from the ocean floor revealed to him regular periods of extreme cold - mini ice ages - in Europe every 1,500 years, and lasting 200 years. And one mini ice age occurred at 2,200 BC.
Fekri Hassan: Looked at lake-bed cores
Gerard's colleague, Peter deMenocal, looked at climate records for the rest of the world at exactly the same time. From pollen records to sand, the story was the same - a dramatic climate change from Indonesia to the Mediterranean, Greenland to North America.
Scientists were confirming everything Fekri believed - severe climate change causing widespread human misery 4,200 years ago, misery we are only now learning about for the first time.
Back in Egypt, Fekri wanted to put the last piece of the puzzle in place. He wanted direct evidence of this severe climate change in the Nile. And he found it drilling cores in a large lake that had been fed by a tributary of the Nile in ancient times.
He discovered in the critical period, as the Old Kingdom collapsed, the lake had dried up completely - the only time in the whole history of this lake that this had happened. At last, Fekri felt he had proved that the writings on Ankhtifi's tomb were really true. It was nature that had driven people to desperation.
Those pyramids should stand as an eternal monument to the inherent folly of government spending. It may keep people busy, and it may look like things are getting done, but it merely squanders human and physical resources, and is inherently uneconomic. A collossal waste of productive human energy -- and for what? To assuage the ego of some delusional tyrant.
Just think how that society would have thrived if all those poor souls assigned to monument building and similar tasks had been allowed to pursue their own individual talents and goals.
I don't know much about Egyptian history, but obviously it was doomed to failure from the getgo.
Clearly, you DON'T know ANYTHING about Egyptian history.
I do know that a hell of a lot of lives and resources were wasted in the building of some of the most wasteful structures in human history.
I take it that you are describing the buildings holding our current government bureaucracies, right? The Egyptian people freely gave their services to honor their conception of God, and to express their loyalty to him and their nation. Of course I have noticed a few folks around here lately to whom the concepts of honor, loyalty, and patriotism are at least as foreign as ancient Egypt.
I'm pretty sure the article said the problem was an environmental event. Albeit, I do agree with your politics.
Meteor clue to end of Middle East civilisations
By Robert Matthews, Science Correspondent
SCIENTISTS have found the first evidence that a devastating meteor impact in the Middle East might have triggered the mysterious collapse of civilisations more than 4,000 years ago.
Studies of satellite images of southern Iraq have revealed a two-mile-wide circular depression which scientists say bears all the hallmarks of an impact crater. If confirmed, it would point to the Middle East being struck by a meteor with the violence equivalent to hundreds of nuclear bombs.
Today's crater lies on what would have been shallow sea 4,000 years ago, and any impact would have caused devastating fires and flooding.
The catastrophic effect of these could explain the mystery of why so many early cultures went into sudden decline around 2300 BC.
They include the demise of the Akkad culture of central Iraq, with its mysterious semi-mythological emperor Sargon; the end of the fifth dynasty of Egypt's Old Kingdom, following the building of the Great Pyramids and the sudden disappearance of hundreds of early settlements in the Holy Land.
Until now, archaeologists have put forward a host of separate explanations for these events, from local wars to environmental changes. Recently, some astronomers have suggested that meteor impacts could explain such historical mysteries.
The crater's faint outline was found by Dr Sharad Master, a geologist at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, on satellite images of the Al 'Amarah region, about 10 miles north-west of the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates and home of the Marsh Arabs.
"It was a purely accidental discovery," Dr Master told The Telegraph last week. "I was reading a magazine article about the canal-building projects of Saddam Hussein, and there was a photograph showing lots of formations - one of which was very, very circular."
Detailed analysis of other satellite images taken since the mid-1980s showed that for many years the crater contained a small lake.
The draining of the region, as part of Saddam's campaign against the Marsh Arabs, has since caused the lake to recede, revealing a ring-like ridge inside the larger bowl-like depression - a classic feature of meteor impact craters. The crater also appears to be, in geological terms, very recent. Dr Master said: "The sediments in this region are very young, so whatever caused the crater-like structure, it must have happened within the past 6,000 years."
Reporting his finding in the latest issue of the journal Meteoritics & Planetary Science, Dr Master suggests that a recent meteor impact is the most plausible explanation for the structure.
A survey of the crater itself could reveal tell-tale melted rock. "If we could find fragments of impact glass, we could date them using radioactive dating techniques," he said.
A date of around 2300 BC for the impact may also cast new light on the legend of Gilgamesh, dating from the same period. The legend talks of "the Seven Judges of Hell", who raised their torches, lighting the land with flame, and a storm that turned day into night, "smashed the land like a cup", and flooded the area.
The discovery of the crater has sparked great interest among scientists. Dr Benny Peiser, who lectures on the effects of meteor impacts at John Moores University, Liverpool, said it was one of the most significant discoveries in recent years and would corroborate research he and others have done.
He said that craters recently found in Argentina date from around the same period - suggesting that the Earth may have been hit by a shower of large meteors at about the same time.
(The tree ring data indicates that there was a worldwide 'near extinction' event at 2354BC)
I see someone posted the pic from that thread, but the link to the thread is here. Sorry if someone beat me to it and this is a duplicate. Hope it's the one you're looking for blam. I'm interested in this too, and am starting to build some reference links. If you have any interesting links, I'd appreciate a copy of them.
Then perhaps you should have allowed yourself
the luxury of an unexpressed thought and maybe
All those years...and the Egyptians never sold out naming rights to a corporate sponsor!
Check the bookmarks on my profile page.
Very probably this event, to whatever extent natural or man-made, was the same event that devastated Biblical Sodom and Gomorrah and which seems to have virtually melted certain areas of the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt.
This may also have changed world climates and caused rainfall in Egypt to cease, made the Sahara a true desert, etc.
Its about the The Armies of Sumer and Akkad, 3500-2200 B.C.
Mike G L Baillie
Palaeoecology Centre, School of Geosciences, Queen's University, Belfast, Northern Ireland
In 1988 the observation was made that narrowest-ring events in Irish sub-fossil oak chronologies appeared to line up with large acidities in the Greenland ice records from Camp Century and Dye3. Three of the events, at tree-ring ages 2345 BC, 1628 BC and 1159 BC turned out to be of particular interest as they contributed to debates on the Hekla 4 eruption in Iceland, dated to 2310±20 CalBC, Santorini in the Aegean, dated to circa 1670-1530 CalBC, and, possibly, Hekla 3, linked by Hammer and colleagues to their 1120±30 BC acid layer. It quickly became apparent, most notably through comments from Kevin Pang, that the two later events might relate in some way to the start and end of the Chinese Shang dynasty. It is equally of interest that the Egyptian New Kingdom traditionally spans the approximate range 1570 to 1080 BC. So the question arose whether these two volcano-related events could have caused widespread dynastic change. In order to proceed with this debate it is necessary to attempt to get a better handle on the nature of the effects. This paper will look at information from American and Fennoscandian tree-ring records and make some attempt to define the nature of the 1628 BC and 1159 BC events; are they truly abrupt, as would be expected with volcanoes, or are they imposed on pre-existing downturns. Existing exidence suggests that the latter may be the case. If this is correct, it seems appropriate to ask what might have caused the downturns? This question leads logically to the speculation that loading of the atmosphere from space might be a significant factor in the environmental downturns.
MIKE BAILLIE is a professor in the Palaeoecology Centre, School of Geosciences, Queen's University, Belfast, N. Ireland. After reading physics at Queen's he moved into Archaeology and Palaeoecology taking a particular interest in chronology. His specialism is dendrochronology, and he has been involved in the construction of some of the first, long, oak chronologies. Using information from tree-ring records, he has attempted to identify abrupt environmental downturns in the past and to demonstrate their effects on past human populations. He publishes widely on these and related topics and is the author of A Slice Through Time: dendrochronology and precision dating (London: Routledge 1995).
It looks like there could have been a solar minimum, a major volcanic eruption and a meteor impact all at about the same time.
Geez.... Me too!! I read a follow up report on this incident about how everyone was suprised that the ejecta went back into space 2,000 miles, about 10 times greater than the model forecasted.
Take the Mississippi, which is so important to the lives and fortunes of people who live on its banks, and transport it to a much drier climate -- or consider the Colorado, and the use made of its water -- and you get an idea of how important the river was, and how difficult it would be to have the whole process in private hands in ancient times.
Ancient civizations lasted for a very long time with all the faults that we'd attribute their fall to. Rome is another example. What we see as Roman decadence lasted centuries before the empire fell.
Judging by your links, you'll like this site.
Unless you know the facts you don't have the right to have an opinion.
Thanks. Very good article.
I love this one. Another bookmark. lol (mucho thanks)
For all we know (since we know very little) it provided employment for lots of people, feeding lots of families, straightening lots of teeth, and making lots of chariot payments. Anything beyond that is probably just speculation...
That's very interesting. Happened within perhaps a hundred years of the birth of Abraham, in Ur, Iraq.