17 Mar 2010

An interesting web site to view is at which has four maps of the world. On them are marked confirmed impact structures, some 180 of them on the continental surfaces and just 24 known from beneath the oceans. The maps also mark out evidence of historical tsunami events.  On the same web site, the Holocene Impact Working Group, are a number of interesting pages including a Timeline of Activities.

At the site is devoted to Geomythology (geology and myth), a sort of clearing house for new ideas, references, and questioning of connections between geology, myth and ancient history. It invites comments and suggestions and is run by J Tepper who teaches a course with the title, 'Geomythology of Ancient Catastrophes' and one click away is a discussion document with the title, 'Garden of Eden' which hypothesizes that it existed on what is now the bottom of the Persian Gulf. I haven't looked at this as a list of other geo-myths with connections to volcanoes, earthquakes, and flooding, are given - such as Hesiod, Jason and the Argonauts, the Exodus plagues, Sodom and Gomorrah, the Epic of Gilgamesh, and the disappearance of various cities -swallowed up by the ground.

At 'Do Global Myths reflect an Ancient Disaster?' by Thomas King, commenting on Luigi Piccardi and Bruce Masse, co editors of Myth and Geology (2007), the first professional textbook on geomythology. King comments on a chapter by Masse in the book, Comet/ Asteroid Impacts and Human Society (2007) edited by geologist P Brobowski and astronomer Hans Rickman. Arcaheologist Bruce Masse thinks cosmic events are much more frequent than scientists currently envisage. Masse works at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and looks after 2000 archaeologically significant sites on land belonging to the Laboratory. His passion, however, is the archaeological and anthropological record of celestial phenomena and early catastrophes. He quotes evidence to show how they may be linked through the course of the whole Quaternary Period, some 2.6 million years. Masse became interested in the subject while doing  research on Hawaii in the late 1980s. The genealogical traditions of Hawaiian royalty, he found, were full of descriptions of things that happened in the sky - comets, meteor showers, eclipse, supernovae. Some of the events are also described in historical European, Chines and Muslim records. Masse was able to plot dozens of precise matches between Hawaiian traditions and astronomical observations of literate sky watchers elsewhere in the world. The closer he looked at myth the less 'mythical' it seemed to him - especially where celestial phenomena was concerned. When he thought about who creates and sustains myths it made sense they would encode the more impressive and hard to account for events. A myth, he claims, is a analogical story created by skilled cultural knowledge experts (such as priests and story tellers) using supernatural images in order to explain the inexplicable.

King's article continues by saying Masse began to compile the results of ethnographic and historical and archaeological studies in areas near Holocene impact sites. An island of the coast of Estonia was one example, where there is a crater dated somewhere between 6000BC and 400BC. Hhe claims it can be connected to a local myth of a god  that flew to the region along a track the meteor could have taken and this included landscape fires. Archaeology and Palaeobotanical evidence suggests there was a break in occupation of the island by farmers between 800-400BC. Now, making a connection with an impact is not quite so simple as that period is generally associated with a climatic anomaly, cold and wet weather in NW Europe. Hence, there is every likelihood that it was the climate downturn that led to an abandonment of farming during those centuries, or a part thereof.  However, Baillie has indicated a cosmic event may have ushered in the climatic anomaly as there is a cold blip in tree rings at around 800BC - and another one somewhat later, during the sequence (coinciding with historical problems in the Persian and Greek worlds).  Hence, a connection with the crater in Estonia is unproven - and coincidentally has been criticised. Masse also cites a crater field in Argentina littered with small meteorites which have been dates some time between 2200 and 2700BC. However, the centre of interest for the moment is a possible impact crater on the sea floor SE of Madagascar - the Bruckle Crater. It was discovered by Dallas Abbot, a colleague of Masse, and chevron shaped dune alignments of possible tsunami origin have been found on Madagascar which may indicate waves higher than 200m in height.