Dr. Amanda Laoupi suggested a more thoroughly organized approach and evaluation of disaster information, which may be of varied origin. This information should be formed in few main groups: archaeognostic (archaeological, philological, historic, artistic, mythological), geological - physical, paleontological / biochemical and astrophysical / geochemical . The catalogue is not exhaustive, only some outstanding examples are given to facilitate a further discussion
The concept of accretion:
The visible or measurable transformation (in quality, quantity, context or composition) of material due to geological, biochemical and other processes:
- formation of annual ice-layers
- various lacustrine deposits
- geological formations (e.g. soil formation / pedogenesis & Loess, stalagmites & stalactites, speleothem)
- deep-Sea sediments / sapropels
- coral bands
- algal stromatolites
▪ Physical Stratigraphy
▪ Biostratigraphy and Ecostratigraphy
▪ Geochemical Stratigraphy
▪ Seismic Stratigraphy
▪ Bog Stratigraphy
▪ Archaeological Stratigraphy
Measuring Space and Time (after Dincauze, 2000)
Spatial Scales / Area ( km2 ) / Spatial Units
Mega - 5,1 x 10 8 EarthMega - 5,1 x 10 8 Earth
< 10 8 Continents, Hemispheres
Macro - 10 4 - 10 7 Physigraphic province, region
Meso - 10 2 - 10 4 Site catchment, area
1 - 10 2 Locality, city, large city
Micro - < 1 Locale, site, house, activity area
Temporal Scales / Duration or Frequancy ( yr ) / Spans
Mega - > 10 6 (1 ma) more than 1.000000 years
Macro - 10 4 - 10 6 (10 ka - 1ma) 10.000 to 1 million years
Meso - 10 2 - 10 4 (0,1 ka - 10 ka) centuries to 10.000 years (millennial)
Micro - < 10 2 (0,001 ka - 0,1 ka) less than one century (decadal)
★ Astrochronology The dating of sedimentary units by calibration with astronomically tuned timescales (i.e. Milankovic cycle s, sunspot cycles). When used in concert with radiometric dating, it allows the resolution of timescales to a high degree of accuracy
☉ Cyclostratigraphy The study of astronomically forced (variations of the Earth's orbit around the sun due to the gravitational interaction with other masses within the solar system) climate cycles within sedimentary successions. Due to this cyclicity, solar insolation differs through time on different hemispheres, and seasonality is affected as well, impacting, also on Earth's climate and on the deposition of sedimentary rocks. It can lead to accurate dating of events in the geological past, increases the understanding of cause and consequences of Earth's (climate) history and interprets more efficiently the depositional mechanisms of sediments and the acting of sedimentary systems
As the Earth spins around its axis and orbits around the Sun, several quasi-periodic variations occur. Although the curves have a large number of sinusoidal components, a few components are dominant. The main orbital cycles are :
➊ E centricity with at present main periods of around 100- kyr, 405-kyr and 2.4- myr
➋ Obliquity with at present main periods of 41- kyr and 1,2- myr
➌ Precession with at present main periods of 19- and 23- kyr
60Fe has recently been detected in a deep-ocean ferromanganese crust, isolated in layers dating from about 3 Myr ago. A near-Earth supernova is the only likely source for such a signal. A group of bright O and B stars(10–100 massive stars of spectral class O and B) passed within 150 light-years of Earth and one or more supernovae may have occurred in this group at that time. The Scorpius – Centaurus OB association had been discovered in 2002, gaving birth to SUPERNOVA ARCHAEOLOGY. Impact on the Plio/ Pleistocene Boundary (triggering mechanism for the onset of Ice Ages and acceleration of Hominization)
The Geminga SN explosion's first event (in the constellation Gemini) took place ca 340.000 BP. Bright as the full moon, it was one of the brightest celestial sources of gamma-ray radiation. That time, Homo erectus prospered in Africa, Europe and Asia. This event triggered another major Ice Age that lasted about 10,000 years. Neanderthals appeared and began to ʽreplaceʼ Homo erectus. Around 35.000 BC, a second Geminga shock wave reaches Earth. Microcephalin mutation occurs / advanced cognitive functions in modern Homo sapiens
Geminga pulsar. Image source
34,000-year-old mammoth tusks were found peppered with tiny impact craters. Evenmore, magnetic metal spherules had been detected in the sediment stratigraphies of nine 13,000-year-old Clovis sites in Michigan, Canada, Arizona, New Mexico and the Carolinas, along with low-density carbon spherules, charcoal, & excess radioactivity (Potassium-40). During the 2nd International Conference "The World of Elephants" in Hot Springs, SD, the nuclear scientist Richard Firestone of the U.S. Department of Energyʼs Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory & Arizona geologist Allen West attributed the facts to a distant supernova explosion ca 41 kya. Debris coalesced into low-density, comet-like objects that wreaked havoc on the solar system. It seemed that an intense blast (initial shockwave) of iron-rich grains, impacted the planet ca 34.000 years ago, and a second wave, ca 13 kya, caused the demise of mammoths & the abandonment of sites, in North America.
The Vela Pulsar and its surrounding pulsar wind nebula, Chandra X-Ray image. Image source
Large littoral debris and accompanying geomorphic features, along with minor bioconstructive forms in the littoral zone, are detected at Cabo de Trafalgar, that was located on the southern Spanish Atlantic coast, as well as 250 km southeast of the Algarve coast (Portugal). This tsunami had run up heights of more than 19 m and was generated at the Gorringe Bank, located 500 km west off the Cape.
Imbricated boulders of 1 to 10 tons of weight south of the Trafalgar headland. After Whelan & Kelletat, 2005. Image source
Older and Younger Fill
Two episodes of sedimentation in the Mediterranean valleys and plains:
A. during low sea-levels (cool phases of Ice Ages, highly oxidized geo-environments, irregular patterns of rainfall) B. Late Roman Era onwards (purely alluvial formations, excellent conditions for irrigation systems & rural cultivations (3rd – 6th cent. ACE). Aristotle, first observed the process on the Argolid plain (Laoupi, 1999). Later, on Claudio Vita – Finzi: 1969 (The Mediterranean Valleys , Cambridge) analysed the data
Location of Miletus at Maeander River's mouth. Image source. Ancient Miletus (Asia Minor, Aegean coast) today lays at a 20 km distance from the coast, with alluvial layers of 11 m. width. Recorded history of Miletus begins with the records of the Hittite Empire in the Late Bronze Age. The city once possessed a harbor, before it was clogged by alluvium brought by the Meander river. Sedimentation of the harbor began at about 1000 BC, and by 300 CE Lake Bafa had been created
A vector-borne infectious disease which is caused by protozoan parasites and widespread in tropical and subtropical regions, including parts of the Americas, Asia & Africa. Each year, there are approximately 515 million cases of malaria, killing between one and three million people. Malaria parasites are transmitted by female Anopheles mosquitoes. The term originates from Medieval Italian: mala aria — "bad air"; the disease was formerly called ague or marsh fever due to its association with swamps. Ancient accounts of malaria are found in Vedic writings of 1600 B.C. in India, and in the fifth century B.C. Greece, when the great Greek physician Hippocrates, often called “the Father of Medicine”, described the characteristics of the disease and related them to seasons & location. New paleopathological and genetic evidence shows that the young pharaoh Tutankhamun (1341 - 1324/3 BC) died of complications of malaria combined with Kohler disease II (Hawass et al., 2010). Evenmore, another team of Egyptian scientists concluded, based on the CT scan findings, that the pharaoh died of gangrene after breaking his leg, condition aggravated by severe cerebral malaria (Ashraf Selim, 2005). Cerebral malaria has been proposed as the main factor of ancient Greek population's physical & spiritual decline, and as the main cause of Greek coloniesʼ collapse in Southern Italy & Sicily. Some historians believe, also, that malaria epidemics greatly contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire.
Left: regions in Africa where falciparum malaria was transmitted before control was introduced. Right: frequencies of sickle-cell heterozygotes in indigenous African population. Image source. High levels of mortality and morbidity caused by malaria, caused the greatest selective pressure on the human genome in recent history. In populations where malaria is endemic, the frequency of sickle-cell genes is around 10% , a perfect example of heterozygote advantage
Life and Destruction from Space
The Greek philosopher Anaxagoras was the earliest recorded advocate of ʽPanspermiaʼ (“ life arrived in Earth fully developed in the form of micro-organisms”). later on, the French chemist Louis Pasteur, with his great experiment disproved spontaneous generation. The British physicist Lord Kelvin and the German physicist Hermann von Helmholtz:, in the 1870s, claimed that life could come from space. The Swedish chemist & Nobel laureate Svante Arrhenius, in 1907: ◗ suggested that microbes could have been hurled into near-planet space by storms, then propelled by radiation pressure, directly propagating life between planets; no comets or meteorites were required ◗ observed the ability of radiation pressure to transport cosmic material to explain comets, the corona, the aurora borealis & zodiacal light ◗ explained as space-induced the Ice Ages and other profound climatic changes undergone by the Earth's surface. The astronomers Sir Fred Hoyle & Chandra Wickramasinghe (1977 - 1987), consistent with the idea of panspermia , worked on the hypothesis of a comet tailʼs delivery systems for extraterrestrial biological visitors, taking as an example the influenza, that (at least in the beginning of a given flu season) breaks out in a sporadic manner, but doesn't spread easily. Brig Klyce (Cosmic Ancestry, 2001) assumed that life on Earth was seeded from space, even life's evolution to higher forms depends on genetic programs that come from space. Meanwhile, inspired researchers such Immanuel Velikovsky (1950), Alfred de Grazia (1983), Paul La Violette (1997), pointed out the interrelation of similar past events with the formation of myths in ancient societies. A cometary or planetary near-encounter results in falling of gases, hydrocarbons, burning pitch & stones. Those events are unknown to modern experience but are indicated by ancient legends from many places worldwide and by various geological & biological phenomena detected through geoarchaeological and bioarchaeological studies.
A fossil from the Murchison meteorite and a bacterium recovered in the high atmosphere, by Hans D. Pflug. Image source
In climate research, a proxy variable is something that is probably not in itself of any great interest, but from which a variable of interest can be obtained. Temperature proxies such as tree ring widths and ice core layering are used by climatologists to create a temperature record. The environmental isotopes are a subset of the isotopes, both stable & radioactive, which are the object of Isotope geochemistry. The most used environmental isotopes are: Deuterium, Tritium, Carbon -13, Carbon -14, Nitrogen -15, Oxygen -18, Silicon -29, Chlorine -36. Especially, Oxygen isotope ratio cycles are cyclical variations in the ratio of the mass of oxygen with an atomic weight of 18 to the mass of oxygen with an atomic weight of 16 present in some substance, such as polar ice or calcite in ocean core samples. The ratio is linked to water temperature of ancient oceans, which in turn reflects ancient climates. Cycles in the ratio mirror climate changes in geologic history, too.
Marine isotopic stages (MIS) are alternating warm and cool periods in the Earth's paleoclimate, deduced from oxygen isotope data reflecting temperature curves derived from data from deep sea core samples. Image source. The cycles were found to correspond to terrestrial evidence of glacials & interglacials. A graph of the entire series of stages then revealed unknown and unsuspected advances and retreats of ice and also filled in the details of the stadials & interstadials. Each stage represents a glacial, interglacial, stadial or interstadial. Each stage is a period of higher or lower temperature on a graph of mean temperature (y-axis) versus millions, hundreds of thousands or thousands of years (x-axis).
Modern scientists examine the influence of environmental chemical elements on the processes of hominization & encephalisation. Just like Calcium and Oxygen, Iodine contained in the Earth's crust and the oceans can be regarded as a stimulus to which the organisms react. Iodine follows a cycle to the sphere surface. The morphological and physiological iodine role in the organisms is significant. Iodine influence on the caudal or cerebral tissues development or regression is well-known. The thyroid hormone acts about on all tissues but with more effectiveness on bone and nervous tissues. Brain development claims higher amounts. The Iodine influence in the cerebral tissue development at the man was highlighted by many researchers (Pharoah, Ellis, Williams 1976). At the man, the adult organism contains from 15 to 20 mg iodine of which 70 % to 80 % is in the thyroid one (Underwood, 1989). The Iodine influence on the brain development is also well-known. Surprisingly, the Hominids evolution, since the Proconsul appearance approximately 7 mya (Lewin, 1996), and until the arrival of the Cro-Magnon type modern man, was carried out, in the vicinity and under the influence of the volcanic iodine sources. . In the same way, many probabilistic couples, physical stimuli/physiological reactions, should have played a significant role in the evolution(ie electromagnetic waves/vision, sonorous waves/hearing, pheromones/sense of smell, etc).
Iodine's appearance is of a lustrous metallic gray, violet as a gas. Image source
About 12 kya , the valleys of Western Montana lay beneath a lake nearly 800 m. deep. The rising water behind the glacial dam weakened it until water burst through in a catastrophic flood that raced across Idaho, Oregon and Washington toward the Pacific Ocean. So, thundering waves & chunks of ice tore away soils and mountainsides, deposited giant ripple marks. The flood waters ran with the force equal to 60 Amazon Rivers. These floods are noteworthy for producing canyons and other large geologic features through cataclysms rather than through gradual processes. Car-sized boulders embedded in ice floated some 750 km they can still be seen today! This was one of the largest floods in Earthʼs history. Over the course of centuries, Glacial Lake Missoula filled and emptied in repeated cycles, leaving its story embedded in the land.
The 5.9 kiloyear climatic event
One of the most intense aridification events during the Holocene. It ended the Neolithic Subpluvial and probably initiated the desiccation of the Sahara desert. It also triggered world wide migration to river valleys and led to the emergence of first complex, highly organised, state-level societies. Bond et at. (1997) identified a North Atlantic cooling episode at 5.9 kya from ice- rafted debris. This event was even recorded as a cold event in the Erhai Lake (SW China) sediments. In the Middle East, the 5.9 kiloyear event led to the abrupt end of the Ubaid period. The Ubaid culture had a long duration beginning before 5300 BC and lasting until the beginning of the Uruk period, ca 4100 BC. The invention of the wheel & the beginning of the Chalcolithic period fall into the Ubaid period. The tell (mound) of Ubaid near Ur in southern Iraq , has given its name to the prehistoric Pottery Neolithic to Chalcolithic culture. In fact, it represents the earliest settlement on the alluvial plain of southern Mesopotamia.
Pottery jar from Late Ubaid Period. Image source
A global coupled ocean-atmosphere phenomenon. The Pacific ocean signatures (El Niño / La Niña) are important temperature fluctuations in surface waters of the tropical Eastern Pacific Ocean. The name El Niño (< Spanish for "the little boy“ ) , refers to the Christ child, because the phenomenon is usually noticed around Christmas time in the Pacific Ocean off the west coast of South America. These effects were first described in 1923 by Sir Gilbert Thomas Walker. ENSO is associated with floods, droughts and other disturbances in a range of locations around the world, being the most prominent known source of inter-annual variability in weather and climate around the world. ENSO has signatures in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans. There is evidence for strong El Niño events during the early Holocene + ENSO-like climate variability during near-peak glacial conditions, at least existing for the past 130 kya. It might, also, be disappeared for decades, causing cold episodes (e.g. Younger Dryas). The farmers of the Andean altiplano used to correlate the luminosity / visibility of Pleiadesʼ cluster during June to rainfall intensity during the coming sawing season between October and May. But similar observations had been made by the ancient Greek farmers, sailors and rural people of Eastern Mediterranean thousand years before (see: Theophrastus, On Signs , 6 -7, 24 , 29, 43; Laoupi, 2005), proving the interconnections between ENSO and Earthʼs albedo, cloud coverage, annual rainfall patterns, and the capacity of astronomical observations used for agricultural purposes by ancient people all over the world.
The Bolivian Altiplano at approximately 14,000 feet. In the background rise the snow covered peaks of the Cordillera Real. Image source. Lake Titicaca is its best known geographical feature. Tiwanaku culture is recognized by Andean scholars as one of the most important precursors to the Inca Empire. The lake was the centre of religious worship and mercantile trade from circa 200 AD to its collapse between 1000 and 1200 AD. The most popular theories for collapse refer to a major drought lasting several years that would have been very damaging to Tiwanaku agriculture.
Usselo Horizon and the Global Conflagration
Hans Kloosterman (early 1970ʼs) characterized a global geological feature as the Usselo Horizon. It was a "black horizon" of soil "that seems to have been covered with sediments immediately after its formation" from Southern England to the Great Lakes of North America; a "dark bank" in Brazil , "no charcoal-rich layer is formed anywhere; the ash is incorporated into the human layer or washed away“ ; a burnt layer appears over a large region of the Upper Nile Valley - Egypt . Evidence had been collected by Wendorf, Said and Schild and dated at ca 10,550 B.C. ☼ This evidence resulted form one tragic solar flare event ca 12.9 kya. This involved the release of an immense coronal mass ejection which engulfed the Earth and induced a mass animal extinction (la Violette theory). Other scientists, too, claim that the Usselo soil represents an event layer from rapid aeolian sedimentation caused by an extraterrestrial, but there is a different explanation also.
Two successive photos of a solar flare phenomenon evolving on the sun. The solar disk was blocked in these photos for better visualization of the flare. Image source
Dramatic changes in early human evolution occurred in East and South Africa during the last ca. 5 Ma., for example, the gradual emergence of larger and bigger brained species, the first appearance of our genus, Homo, and the development of stone tools near ca. 2.6 Ma. The fossil record in full agreement with the paleoclimatic evidence from East and South Africa, suggests that African fauna, along the drying of its climate, evolved in series of "pulses", near ca. 2.8 Ma, 1.8 Ma, and 1.0 Mya, that were major ecological shifts. The evolution of hominids and other African vertebrates may have been strongly shaped by these past changes in African climate.
Human societies have evolved through a complex system of climate and ecological interactions. Known records suggest intimate relationship of adaptations, mitigations and migrations to climate extremes leaving their impacts on human societies. Research all over the world has shown that massive outflow of population occurred during the critical periods, in an environment of cold and dry climate signalled by the regressions of the seas. The expansion of farming proceeded during warm and wet periods coeval with the sea-level rise. Before LGM, humans had spread all over the world, as the antrhopological evidence testifies. During the Last Glaciation Maximum (LGM), ice sheets covered the whole of Iceland and all but the southern extremity of the British Isles. Northern Europe was largely covered, the southern boundary passing through Germany and Poland. In North America, the ice covered essentially all of Canada and extended roughly to the Missouri and Ohio Rivers, and eastward to New York City. Ice sheets also covered Tibet (scientists continue to debate the extent to which the Tibetan Plateau was covered with ice), Baltistan, Ladakh and the Andean altiplano. In Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, many smaller mountain glaciers formed, especially in the Atlas, the Bale Mountains & New Guinea. The Indonesian islands as far east as Borneo & Bali were connected to the Asian continent in a landmass called Sundaland. Australia & New Guinea were connected forming Sahulland.
Later on, at the end of the 2nd millennium BC, a combination of environmental factors, triggered by space invadors and seismic storms, led to the Sea People migration and the collapse of the circum-Mediterranean empires.
The 1st Millennium that coincided with the Greek Colonization and the expansion of Greek ccivilization, was marked by the Iron Age Cold Epoch (Iron Age climate pessimum or Iron Age neoglaciation), lasting from about 900 BC to about 300 BC.
During the Medieval Warm Period Medieval (MWP) or Medieval / Little Optimum(MO), lasted ca from AD 800 to AD 1320, a time of unusually warm climate in the North Atlantic region, took place the colonization of Greenland by Islander Viking Red Eric, and the formation of European woods.
2nd to 5th century Migration Period. Image source
The Black Sea case
During Pleistocene, there existed one vast Ponto - Aralian Mediterranean, covering a vast extent of Eastern Europe and Western Central Asia. Into this huge reservoir, the lowest part of the lip of which was probably situated somewhat more than 65 m. asl, poured their waters the largest rivers of Europe (Danube, Volga) and great rivers of Asia, (Oxus , Jaxartes) with all the intermediate affluents. Moreover, it received the overflow of Lake Balkash (then much larger), and, probably, that of the inland sea of Mongolia. At that time, the level of the Sea of Aral stood at least 20 m. higher than it does at present, but, Black, Caspian & Aral seas were separated (the Black & Caspian Seas were vast freshwater lakes). Somewhat between 9.000 - 8.000 BC, begun the outflow of Black Sea toward Northern Aegean. During the period between 8.000 - 6.000 BC, due to climatic fluctuations, the rising rainfall patterns and the rising run off , turned the waters in Aegean into a brackish state (like Ambrakikos Gulf and the Black Sea today). About 5600 BC, Aegean waters broke the natural ʽbarrierʼ of Bosporus and overflooded Black Sea (15 m. lower sea-level than Aegean then). The geologists William Ryan & Walter Pitman (Columbia University, 1997), with their studies, confirmed that a massive flood through the Bosporus occurred, indeed, in ancient times. When the Mediterranean spilled over a rocky sill at the Bosporus, it created the current communication between the Black & Mediterranean Seas with a current volume of 50.000 m 3 / day, and a sea-level rise rate at 15cm / day. later on, a team of marine archaeologists led by Robert Ballard, with a series of expeditions, brought to light - in roughly 91 m of water off the Black Sea coast of modern Turkey: ancient shorelines, freshwater snail shells, drowned river valleys, tool - worked timbers and man -made structures. The Radiocarbon dating of freshwater mollusc remains indicated an age of about seven thousand years.
The Bosporus area before and after the deluge. United States NOAA. Image source
Herodotus and Plato cited Egyptian sources recording occasions when the Sun changed directions and arose in the West instead of the East. In fifteen spectacular pages , I. Velikovsky (Worlds in Collision : 105-20) cites other indications in legends and writing of a reversal of directions that could only come with the Earth turning upside down. Indications are strong in favour of heavy magnetic disturbances in the mid-first and mid-second millennia B.C., with ceramic, clay, rock, biostratigraphic, legendary, and historical contributions. P.L. Marcanton (1907) using Folgheraiter's method, demonstrated magnetic reversal and intensity changes by studies of the magnetic inclinations imprinted upon Bavarian and Etruscan vases of the period 600-800 B.C. K. Games (1981) reported upon a similar investigation of Egyptian pottery over a 3000 year period, concluding: "Clearly, the geomagnetic field in Egypt has varied rapidly and by large amounts. The greatest rate of change, which occurred around the maximum at about 1400 B.C. was about 140 manoteslas/year... and lasted about 300 years either side of the maximum ” . A.W. Perrins (1980) also observed: the reversed burials of the Pharaohs, the inscription of Horemheb 's tomb that the Sun rises in the West and Rameses II at Abu Simbel facing East rather than the orthodox western way to where, with his false beard, he should be oriented.
The tomb of Sen-en-mut (he was an 18th dynasty Egyptian architect & government official; he may also have been the lover of the female pharaoh Hatshepsut), located as Tomb TT353 at Del el-Bahri, Egypt, has what is regarded to be the world's oldest Zodiac inscribed on its ceiling - the next one was found in the tomb of Sethi I. The ceiling is divided into two sections representing the northern & southern skies. The southern - upper part shown in the picture above - is decorated with a list of decanal stars, as well as constellations of the southern sky belonging to it like Orion and Sothis (Sopdet). Furthermore, the planets Jupiter, Saturn, Mercury and Venus are shown and associated deities who are travelling in small boats over the sky. Thus, the southern ceiling marks the hours of the night. The astronomical ceiling of TT-353 dates the tomb to the eve of 15th November, 1463 BC. Image source
The year of 360 days
All Veda texts (all the Brahmanas) speak uniformly and exclusively of a year of 360 days. This Hindu year of 360 days is divided into twelve months of thirty days each. The texts describe the moon as crescent for fifteen days & waning for another fifteen days. They also say that the sun moved for six months or 180 days to the north and for the same number of days to the south. From ca the 7th cent. BC onwards, the year of the Hindus became 365 and a quarter days long, but for temple purposes the old year of 360 days was also observed, and this year is called ʽsavana. The year of the Israelites was composed of 360 days, from the 15th to the 8th cent. BC. The month was equal to 30 days, and 12 months comprised a year ; there is no mention of months shorter than thirty days, nor of a year longer than twelve months. The ancient Persian year was composed of 360 days twelve months of thirty days each. In the 7th cent. BC, five 'Gatha' days were added to the calendar. In the Bundahis (a sacred book of the Persians, an Origin of Creation), the 180 successive appearances of the sun from the winter solstice to the summer solstice and from the summer solstice to the next winter solstice are described. The Assyrian year consisted of 360 days, and the decade was called a 'sarus;' (consisted of 3,600 days). The old Babylonian year was composed of 360 days. Ctesias wrote that the walls of Babylon were 360 furlongs in compass, "as many as there had been days in the year" . The zodiac of the Babylonians was divided into 36 decans (the space the sun covered in relation to fixed stars during a ten-day period). The Egyptian year was composed of 360 days, before it became 365 by the addition of five days. The calendar of the Ebers Papyrus (a document of the New Kingdom), has a year of twelve months of thirty days each. A serious calendar reform took place in Egypt (9th cent. BC), after the cataclysm during the reign of the Pharaoh Osorkon II of the Libyan Dynasty : "In the year 15, fourth month of the third season, 25th day, under the majesty of his august father, the divine ruler of Thebes, before heaven devoured (or not devoured) the moon, great wrath arose in this land" ; soon thereafter Osorkon "introduced a new calendar of offerings". The ancient Romans reckoned 360 days to the year. Plutarch wrote in his "Life of Numa" that in the time of Romulus, in the 8th cent. BC, the Romans had a year of 360 days only ; various Latin authors say that the ancient month was composed of thirty days. One time during the century of perturbations (747 BC – 23 March 687 BC), for a period between two catastrophes, the moon receded to an orbit of thirty-five to thirty-six days duration ("the 33rd day of the month" cited in the Babylonian tablets of that period), remaining in such an orbit for a few decades until, at the next upheaval, it was carried to an orbit of twenty-nine and a half days' duration, on which it has proceeded since then. These "perturbed months" occurred in the second half of the 8th cent. BC, at the beginning of Roman history. The Mayan year consisted also of 360 days. Later on, when five days were added, the year was a 'tun' (360-day period) and five days (every fourth year another day was added to the year). In China, the astronomer Y-hang in the year 721 BC, announced to the Emperor Hiuen-tsong that the order of the sky and the movements of the planets had changed, which made it impossible to predict eclipses, and explained that the course of the planet Venus changed in the days of Tsin. Tsin (the planet Venus) used to move 40 degrees to the south of the ecliptic and eclipse the star Sirius.
Aztec calendar: one of the most accurate calendars ever invented. Measuring about 3.6 metres in diameter, 1.22 metres in thickness and weighing 24 tons, the original basalt version is presently on display at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City's Chapultepec Park. It had been discovered on December 17, 1790 at El Zócalo, Mexico City. Image source
The study of ancient earthquakes based on their effects on human constructions, found in the archaeological record, is called archaeoseismology. As archaeological sites that are built over active faults are unique, they yield the precise date & magnitude of individual historical earthquakes. In fact, the age + areal distribution of earthquake-damaged features can help modern scientists refine the epicentral location of past earthquakes. Some characteristic structural damage and failure of constructions (collapsed walls, patched walls, offset walls, opened vertical joints and horizontally slided parts of walls in dry masonry walls, diagonal cracks in rigid walls, triangular missing parts in corners of masonry buildings, inclined or subvertical cracks in the upper parts of rigid arches, vaults & domes, or their partial collapse along these cracks, slipped keystones in dry masonry arches and vaults, cracks at the base or top of masonry columns and piers, displaced drums of dry masonry columns, neat rows of parallel fallen columns, frequently with their drums in a domino-style arrangement, constructions deformed as if by horizontal forces (e.g. rectangles transformed to parallelograms), are used as the main criteria for the identification of possible earthquake damage in antiquity (after Stiros, 1996: appendix 2 and Nur & Ron, 1997).
Misaligned wall at Ugarit, attributed to the earthquake of 1365 BC (after Schaeffer, 1948: fig. 1). Image source
Newhall and Self (1982) integrated quantitative data with the subjective descriptions of observers. VEI is a simple 0-to-8 index of increasing explosivity, with each successive integer representing about an order of magnitude increase. Criteria for VEI assignments are 'translated' into examples of eruptions in different VEI size classes. VEI assignments have been updated from those in Newhall & Self (1982) and Simkin & Siebert (1994). Vast igneous/flood basalt provinces (ie the Siberian Traps, the Deccan Traps, before human presence on the planet), rhyolite caldera compleces (they are the most explosive of Earth's volcanoes but often don't even look like volcanoes), huge amount of volcanic origin's marine sediments, the mid-oceanic ridges, cinder cones and stratovolcanoes, fluid lava flows (ie Hawaiian volcanicity), monogenetic fields, maars and tuffs, solfatara fields and thick layers of volcanic ejecta (ie in Santorini island after the Minoan eruption of ca 1628 BC), volcanic by-products (ie obsidian, alum, Melian earth) used by our ancestors, buried cities (ie Akrotiri in the Cycladic Thera, Pompei and Herculaneum in Italy) and shocking recording by witnesses in historic times, even stratospheric dust and H2SO4 aerosols trapped on ice, and entire geographic areas that vanished from the surface of Earth, are prominent geological structures / markers that echo past destructive volcanicity with a huge impact on human evolution and civilization.
Yellowstone. Columnar basalt near Tower Falls; large floods of basalt and other lava types preceded mega-eruptions of superheated ash and pumice. Image source. This volcanic region has evolved through 3 cycles of Pleistocene voluminous outpourings of rhyolite lava and volcanic ash, each of them climaxing with one of Earth's greatest pyroclastic-flow eruptions and the resulting collapse of a central area to form a large caldera. Other eruptions have poured out basalt lava flows around the margins of the volcanic field
The impact craters in Al Amarah marshes of Iraq are dated to 2.000 B.C. During the years 1.900 - 1.800 B.C. the Harappan culture in the Indus valley collapsed. The impact signal of the 4kyr B.P. event has been proved to happened throughout land and seas (Courty et al., 2005), exhibiting some characteristics: a) the co-occurrence in distant regions of flow-glass debris with similar petrographical and geochemical characteristics, and b) the distinctive heated soil surface, both identified the distal dispersion of an impact ejecta. The facies, petrography and geochemistry of the distinguishing features are compared from sedimentary records in soils, ancient habitations, lakes and deep-sea cores in various regions of the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. The best-preserved record of the ejecta dispersion (nearly intact signals) is observed in continental deposits at specific locations where the impact-related surface were rapidly buried. On the other hand , Sanskrit literature of ancient and medieval India is rich in information about environmental sciences .In several texts a natural event is mentioned, referring to a nova or brightening of a star in the cluster of Pleiades . There is also a story about a strange fire associated with this cluster. For example, there are several different versions of the same celestial event in Mahabharata, describing the inversion of dual phenomena (the summer became winter and winter became summer) as a war broken between gods and demons. Fiery celestial body fallen on Earth, earthquakes, rise of sea-level, draught of rivers, lakes and wells, destruction from heaven, severe famine are some of the implications related to the Pleiades ("..a demon has born in the Pleiades.."). These disasters should have taken place in the north-western part of India (23.5º N, 71.5º E), where river Sarasvati joined the sea. The whole plain, now an arid area known as the Thar Desert, was once a very fertile plain traversed by this great river. In those days of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, the area was one of the richest places in the world.. A first statement on the dating for these celestial phenomena would declare the attempt impossible. Nevertheless, some details of the texts have provided the modern scientists with methodological tools. Renowned scholars, planetarium softwares and astronomical calculations date the impact crater and the falling meteors around 1800 - 2200 B.C. (Iyengar, 2004; Valdiya, 2002).
Troy IIg conflagration (first fall) produced an up to 6 m. bed of ashes and a layer of calcined debris up to 3 m. high. Experts on wild fires claim that there was never seen ‘red ashes of wood in natural fires, because ash residue from the burning of a city is measured in inches, rather than feet’. The mysterious melted copper and lead which covered a large area, according to Schliemann, might have originally been deposits that contributed to the attractiveness of the site for lightning discharges. After Schliemann’s observations on this destruction layer of the ‘burnt city’, the Cincinnati archaeologists, under the leadership of Carl Blegen, examined closely the ruins of the Burnt City-Level IIg by their code. The stratum of Troy IIg had an average thickness of more than 1 m.; it consisted mainly of ashes, charred matter, and burned debris. This deposit apparently extended uniformly over the entire site, eloquent evidence that the settlement perished in a vast conflagration from which no buildings escaped ruin.The catastrophe struck suddenly, without warning, giving the inhabitants little or no time to collect and save their most treasured belongings before they fled. Moreover, the Cincinnati team mentions several places of the greenish-yellow discoloration (? sulphur oxides). The calcinated debris of the old city was strong enough to become the foundation of the new city walls of Troy III. In 1948, Professor Schaeffer, excavator of Ras Shamra-Ugarit, published a treatise on comparative stratigraphy of the Near and Middle East during the Bronze Ages of the 2nd millennium B.C. , in which he includes the permanent destructions of settlements from Troy and Egypt to Persia, and even beyond into China [de Grazia, 1984].During the disasters of Exodus, several documents give indications of radiation effects (de Grazia, 1983): the widespread "leprosy“ effect may denote radiation disease, eating fallen quail killed many persons, reports Jewish legend, the Egyptian Ipuwer papyrus conveys the impression that women became barren, people lost their hai, the cattle herds died of scabrous diseases, the manna that had to be eaten under supervision (edible and poisonous), could be produced with the aid of cosmic lightning ( ? Formaldehyde = a compound of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen). Velikovsky's theory of petroleum origins introduces a frightful deluge of oil, built on references in legends and scriptures to the fall of naphtha, sometimes blazing, and of brimstone, often rendered otherwise as a rain of hail. In fact, the tails of comets are composed mainly of carbon and hydrogen gases. Lacking oxygen, they do not burn in flight, but the inflammable gases, passing through an atmosphere containing oxygen, will be set on fire.
When Alexander the Great asked some Celtic leaders in 325 B.C. what they most feared, expecting them to reply Alexander himself, they said it was that the skies might fall on their heads. In the most ancient legends it is common to find references to more than comets and deluges of water. Deluges from the sky consist also of dust, loess, stones, glass, tar, oil, salt, gold, iron, ashes, carbohydrates. The Abkasian, a people famous for their long life-spans, convey a story about a fall-out of cotton, which caught fire and burned the Earth; perhaps it was "cotton-candy" mixed with hydrocarbon. The ancient bible of Mesoamerica, the Popul Vuh, tells of the fate of the people of that age: “And so they were killed; They were overwhelmed. There came a great rain of glue Down from the sky”. That aweful "glue" is still found in the land of the Olmecs. William Mullen comments on the work of the pioneer excavators, who collected radiocarbon samples that were contaminated by asphalt.
Açem Höyük, 'vitrified Bronge Age walls'. Ancient Hittite Empire/ Asia Minor. Courtesy: Robert A. Brigdes, Jr. - ASCSA
Our ancestors lived in highly active volcanic environments, since Lower Pleistocene. Three and a half million years ago (geologic dating) in a location now known as Tanzania, the Sadiman palaeovolcano erupted surrounding the area with ash. The rain that followed the event, created a natural type of cement which fossilized the footprints of any species that may have walked over the wet ash (Agnew, Demas, Leakey, 2007). One of these species happened to be a hominid. This fossilized footprint pattern indicated the animal was a bipedal animal, turning this evidence into a tremendous discovery which uncovered when in hominid history our ancestors began walking on two legs. Fossils of the hominid Australopithecus afarensis dating to 3.8 to 3.6 mya, were found in the surrounding areas, so the scientists identified these tracks. Scientists have also found even more evidence for bipedalism in A. afarensis , because he had special anatomy of the shin bone that indicated an upright posture (Johanson, Lenora, and Bart Marable, 2007). Unfortunately , these footprints are in danger of being destroyed.
Humans left, also, tracks ( 20 cm ) in the volcanic ash of the Roccamonfina volcano in Campania – Southern Italy (41.3 N, 14.9 E), dated at 348–340 kya (refined 40 Ar / 39 Ar dating). The scientists measured the dimensions of the tracks and estimated that the individuals who made them were no taller than 1.5 meters in height. These footprints were made awfully close to the Climatic Termination IV, a time at which the global ecosystem was making transition between a glacial maximum and the sudden establishment of warmer conditions.
During another Upper Palaeolithic eruption, ca at 38 .000 BC, the fallen ash (type of volcanic tuff is known as the Xalnene) trapped and fossilized the human footprints. In 2003, British scientists found them, in central Mexico , in an abandoned quarry close to the Cerro Toluquilla volcano (near Puebla, Mexico City). This date indicates humans were in the Americas 25 ky before the coalescence dates from the most recent genetic studies, and 27 ky before the Clovis culture.
Ice Age humans’ footprints (more than 700!) were also discovered in the area of Willandra Lakes ( SE Australia), dated at ca 20 kya. They show aboriginal children, teenagers, and adults walking around in what was once a wetland swamp but now is a dried-up lake bed. The Willandra Lakes Region is an extensive area that contains a system of ancient lakes formed over the last two million years, most of which are fringed by a crescent shaped dune or lunette. Aborigines lived on the shores of the lakes for at least 50,000 years, and the remains of a 40,000 year old female found in the dunes of Lake Mungo are believed to be the oldest ritual cremation site in the world. It was one of 15 World Heritage places included in the National Heritage List on 21 May 2007.
Finally, in the area of Vesuvius, Italy, a volcanic catastrophe even more devastating than the famous anno Domini 79 Pompeii eruption occurred. According to the scientists, the 3780-yr-B.P. Avellino Plinian eruption produced an early violent pumice fallout and a late pyroclastic surge sequence that covered the volcano surroundings as far as 25 km away, burying land and villages. Palaeoanthropological evidence shows that a sudden, en masse evacuation of thousands of people occurred at the beginning of the eruption, before the last destructive column collapse. Although most of the fugitives likely survived, the desertification of the total habitat caused a social–demographic collapse and the abandonment of the entire area for centuries. At present, at least 3 million people live within the area destroyed by the Avellino Plinian eruption.
Right human footprint, showing figure of eight shape, Toluquilla quarry, Mexico. Image source.
Comments by Roman authors (Strabo 5, 4,8; Vitruvius 2, 6, 1-2) indicate a memory of Vesuvius' eruptions which were probably pre- Roman. Volcanological and archaeological evidence identify the last prehistoric eruption in the early 1st millenium BC. Later written reports indicate that eruptions occurred in the 2nd, 4th, 9th and17th centuries AD and in the early and mid-20th century, but, Vesuvius' eruption on August 24, AD 79, during the early Roman Empire, is the best known of all. The AD 79 eruption of Mt Vesuvius had a devastating effect on the populations of Pompeii, Herculaneum, Stabiae and the rural villas which lay to the west and southwest of the mountain. Much of the material remains of these populated areas had been completely and irretrievably covered by the volcanic debris. These material remains were preserved largely intact for nearly 2,000 years, before being revealed to the modern western intellectual world in the early to mid-18th century.
"Garden of the Fugitives". Plaster casts of victims still in situ; many casts are in the Archaeological Museum of Naples. Image source
Archanes is a municipality in the Heraklion Prefecture, Crete, Greece. It is also the archaeological site of an ancient Minoan settlement in central Crete. Since 1966, Archanes has been excavated by the Greek Archaeaological Society under the supervision of John and Efi Sapouna-Sakellaraki. Anemospilia (means 'caves of the wind') was first excavated in 1979 by J. Sakellarakis. The temple was destroyed by a volcanic eruption (? the 1628 BC event) and the resulting earthquakes. Traces of ash and charcoal were found on the ground, and from this, one can postulate that the building was burnt down. The temple is set out with three chambers and one annex that leads into them. It is located on the northern end of Mount Juktas (legendary birthplace of Zeus). Modern Heraklion can be seen from the site (about 7 kilometers from Knossos). It was on a hillside facing north towards the palace complexes of Knossos. In the western chamber, two skeletons were found on the floor. One body was of a 28 year old female (high priestess). The other skeleton was that of a male, he was aged in his late thirties, and about 180cm tall, and powerfully built, he was lying on his back with his hands covering his face, as if to protect it. His legs were broken and his body was found near the centre of the room next to a platform, at the base of the platform was a trough. On top of the platform another body was found, one of an 18 year old male; he was found in the foetal position, lying on his right side. Amongst the bones was found an ornately engraved knife. His legs were forced back so that his heels were almost touching his thigh, indicating that they were tied there. His jaw was closed. The priest and priestess seemed to be only half way through the ceremony when the body caught fire.
View of Anemospilia from the south. Image source
‘Doreen’, a female smashed skeleton found in 1992 by archaeologists, during the excavation of Dor 25 km west of Megiddo (Phoenician city), was an earthquake's victim. The event was dated at about 1050 BC. Widespread devastation contemporaneous with that of Dor, was testified at other sites, too (Akhziv, Tell Keisan, Tell Abu Hawam, Tel Mikhal, Yokneam, Afula, Bet Shean). They were all destroyed together within seconds by a magnitude 5.5 - 6.5 earthquake on the nearby Carmel fault, or magnitude 6.3 - 7.0 on the more distant Dead Sea fault. The excavator, Andrew Stewart (University of California, Berkeley) describes the scene: "She seems frozen in surprise and fright. Her body is twisted and her hands cover her face. The earthquake apparently sent a six-foot stone wall tumbling down on her and on a storage bin full of pottery. Two boulders crushed Doreen's skull, and a jagged pottery fragment pierced her head as she fell. A rock struck her right hand and drove a finger into her nose. Her spinal column was pushed up into her brain case".
Doreen in situ. Image source
The great earthquake in Kourion near Limassol, Cyprus (not far away from the Holyland), known as the 21 July AD 365 event, caused devastation across Eastern Mediterranean, being part of the Early Byzantine Tectonic paroxysm (EBTP: mid-fourth to the mid-sixth centuries). The first skeletons were unearthed at the site in 1934. Decades later, archaeologists found a skeleton of a couple with their baby, crushed under their collapsed house while asleep (David Soren, University of Arizona, 1985). The excavator, Caterina Dias, found the woman, estimated to be about 19 years old, who clutched a small child of about 18 months of age to her chest. Her arms were raised to protect the child's head, which was tucked under her chin. The man shielded the woman with his body, stretching his left arm across her to hold the child's back and putting his left leg up over hers.The event was described by the eyewitness record of Ammianus Marcellinus: “ For a little after daybreak... the whole of the firm ...earth...trembled, the sea... was driven back... from the land, so that in the abyss...thus revealed, men saw... sea creatures stuck in the slime; and vast mountains and deep valleys, which nature, the creator, had hidden in the unplumbed depth, then, as one might believe, first saw the beams of the sun... For the great mass of waters, returning when it was least expected, killed many thousands of men by drowning; and by swift recoil of the eddying tides of a number of ships... have been destroyed, and the lifeless bodies of the shipwrecked persons lay floating on their backs or on their faces. Other great ships... landed on the tops of buildings (as happened in Alexandria), and some were driven almost miles inland...”.
Family victims of the destructive seismic event, at the 'Earthquake House', on one of ancient Kourion’s south-east facing slopes overlooking the coast. Image source
The Athenian Plague of 5th cent. B.C., was a devastating epidemic which hit the city-state of Athens in ancient Greece, during the second year of the Peloponnesian War (430 BC), when an Athenian victory still seemed within reach. It is believed to have entered Athens through Piraeus, the city's port and sole source of food and supplies. The city-state of Sparta, and much of the Eastern Mediterranean, was also struck by the disease. The plague returned twice more, in 429 BC, and in the winter of 427/6 BC.
In his History of the Peloponnesian War, the contemporary historian Thucydides described the coming of an epidemic disease which began in Ethiopia, passed through Egypt and Libya, and then to the Greek world: "As a rule, however, there was no ostensible cause; but people in good health were all of a sudden attacked by violent heats in the head, and redness and inflammation in the eyes, the inward parts, such as the throat or tongue, becoming bloody and emitting an unnatural and fetid breath. These symptoms were followed by sneezing and hoarseness, after which the pain soon reached the chest, and produced a hard cough. When it fixed in the stomach, it upset it; and discharges of bile of every kind named by physicians ensued, accompanied by very great distress. In most cases also an ineffectual retching followed, producing violent spasms, which in some cases ceased soon after, in others much later. Externally the body was not very hot to the touch, nor pale in its appearance, but reddish, livid, and breaking out into small pustules and ulcers. But internally it burned so that the patient could not bear to have on him clothing or linen even of the very lightest description; or indeed to be otherwise than stark naked. What they would have liked best would have been to throw themselves into cold water; as indeed was done by some of the neglected sick, who plunged into the rain-tanks in their agonies of unquenchable thirst; though it made no difference whether they drank little or much. Besides this, the miserable feeling of not being able to rest or sleep never ceased to torment them. The body meanwhile did not waste away so long as the distemper was at its height, but held out to a marvel against its ravages; so that when they succumbed, as in most cases, on the seventh or eighth day to the internal inflammation, they had still some strength in them. But if they passed this stage, and the disease descended further into the bowels, inducing a violent ulceration there accompanied by severe diarrhea, this brought on a weakness which was generally fatal. For the disorder first settled in the head, ran its course from thence through the whole of the body, and everywhere it did not prove mortal, it still left its mark on the extremities; for it settled in the privy parts, the fingers and the toes, and many escaped with the loss of these, some too with that of their eyes. Others again were seized with an entire loss of memory on their first recovery, and did not know either themselves or their friends".
Then, Athens lost perhaps one third of the people sheltered within its walls. the epidemic killed many of Athens's infantry, some expert seamen and their leader Pericles, who died during one of the secondary outbreaks in 429 BC. , and both of Pericles' legitimate sons. It was not until 415 BC , that the Athenian population had recovered sufficiently to mount the disastrous Sicilian Expedition
☠ A number of diseases have been proposed by modern scientists in their effort to explain the mystery (Epidemic typhus fever, Cholera, Malaria, Smallpox, Bubonic Plague, Herpes Simplex, Toxic Shock Syndrome, Ebola, Influenza + toxin - producing staphylococci, Measles, Ergotism, Rift Valley Fever, Anthrax, Glanders, Tuberculosis, Cowpox, Catscratch).
But, a mass burial pit containing at least 150 bodies with few burial offerings, that had been discovered during the excavational season of 1994 – 1995 by the 4th Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities Ephorate (Athens), seems to solve the mystery. Deep beneath the Kerameikos cemetery in Athens, the palaeopathological evidence offered tools for Molecular Biologyʼs analyses (DNA PCR and sequencing techniques). The dental pulp extracted from victims (Manolis Papagrigorakis of the University of Athens) showed a positive reaction for Salomonella enterica serovar Typhi, identifying Typhoid fever as the main suspect of Athenian plague.
The site of the Athenian mass grave at Kerameikos. Photo by Nikos Axarlis. Image source. In 2010, the reconstruction by scientists of an 11-year-old Athenian girl ('Myrtis') that lived and died in ancient Athens during the 5th century BC, a victim of a plague, is exhibited at the Goulandris Natural History Museum. Her bones were discovered in the mass grave with another 150 bodies, during work to build the metro station in Kerameikos
The bubonic plague was the most commonly seen form of the Black Death. The mortality rate was 30-75%. The symptoms were enlarged & inflamed lymph nodes (around arm pits, neck and groin). The term 'bubonic' refers to the characteristic bubo or enlarged lymphatic gland. Victims were subject to headaches, nausea, aching joints, fever of 38〫- 41〫C degrees, vomiting, and a general feeling of illness. Symptoms took from 1-7 days to appear.