Skip to comments.Meteor Clue To End Of Middle East Civilisations
Posted on 06/08/2003 7:17:12 PM PDT by blam
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.
satellite images of southern Iraq have revealed a two-mile-wide impact crater caused by a meteor
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
I have a thread on that too.
Discovering Archeology, July/August 1999
Moses called down a host of calamities upon Egypt until the pharaoh finally freed the Israelites. Perhaps he had the help of a comet impact coupled with a volcano. A volcano destroyed the island of Santorini in the Aegean Sea (between today's Greece and Turkey) around the middle of the second millennium B.C. Researchers Val LaMarche and Kathy Hirschboeck suggest the volcano might be associated with tree-ring evidence for several years of intense cold beginning in 1627 B.C. Could that form the basis for strange meteorological phenomena recorded in the biblical book of Exodus?
In the book of Exodus, which describes events a few hundred kilometers from Santorini, we read of a pillar of cloud and fire, a lingering darkness, and the parting of the Red Sea. An enormous column of ash must have hung in the sky over the eruption (the Israelites pillar of cloud by day and fire by night?), and the volcano doubtless caused a tsunami, or tidal wave (which could have drowned a pharaoh's army). The Exodus story is traditionally dated to either the thirteenth or fifteenth century B.C. Those dates, however, depend ultimately on identifying the Pharaoh of the Oppression, and historians have never proven to which ruler that infamous title referred. Many biblical scholars will disagree, but I suggest that a seventeenth-century B.C. date is not impossible.
The argument can be bolstered. Equally catastrophic meteorological conditions are recorded in the Bible for the time of King David. Psalm 18, in reference to David, speaks of terrifying events: Earth shook and trembled. The foundations of the hills moved and were shaken. ... Smoke ... fire ... darkness ... dark waters ... thick clouds of the skies ... hailstones and coals of fire. On some chronologies, David is placed 470 years after the Exodus. The spacing between the two disastrous events recorded in Irish tree rings at 1628 and 1159 B.C. is 469 years. The Exodus story includes dust, several days of darkness, hail, dead fish, undrinkable water, cattle killed by hail, water breaking out of rocks, the earth opening, the sea parting as in a tsunami, and so on. Someone looking at the Exodus story and knowing descriptions of other distant volcanic effects might offer the possibility that the Israelites escaped from Egypt under the cover of a major natural catastrophe. There may be veiled references to comets in the biblical narrative, leading to the possibility that the Santorini eruption itself may have been triggered by a bolide (comet or asteroid) impact. David Levy, co-discoverer of the comet that bears his and Jean Shoemaker's names, has argued that the description of the angel of the Lord in the sky over Jerusalem with a drawn sword (1 Chronicles 21) could be a reference to a comet. The Angel of the Lord was, of course, also present at the Exodus, as it was traveling in front of Israel's army. Further, there are indications that as the Israelites left Egypt, the night was as bright as midday. The nights over Europe were reported to have been daytime-bright after the only known modern bolide impact, the Tunguska explosion over Siberia in 1908.
These stories raise the question of whether comets recorded by the Chinese at the start and end of the Shang Dynasty, at very near the same dates, were the same as the comets that may be recorded in the Old Testament. I believe that we know the answer: In the last five millennia, several dynastic changes and dark ages have been the direct result of impacts and/or volcanoes. The consequences of such events must have been devastating, leading to apocalyptic imagery in religious writing and predictions of the end of the world. Zachariah of Mitylene lived through the environmental disaster that began about 540 A.D. In the mid-550s, he wrote in his twelve-volume records of the trials the world had survived: In addition to all the fearful things described above, the earthquakes and famines and wars, ... there has also been fulfilled against us the curse of Moses in Deuteronomy." The curse included pestilence, consumption, fever, fiery blasts from the skies, mildew, a rain of powder and dust, and darkness. The curse of Moses must have seemed an appropriate description of life after the impact of a piece of a comet.
But don't let that stop you from being condescending as to real scientists - it helps identify which luddites shouldn't be listened to.
A good deal of speculation going on which is always fun; especially when ancient histories, lore, and cultures are involved. This article combined with the one about Iran opening up it's Persian past make for great reading. Thanks for the post.
"the one about Iran opening up it's Persian past make for great reading."
Do you have a link to this artricle?
Thanks, Encouraging, I agree.