Ice cores, tree rings, radiocarbon ... in the News

6 Sep 2014

Doug Keenan refers Bob Porter to an article in the Journal of Geophysics Research 117 (2012), 'Holocene tephras highlight complexity of volcanic signals in Greenland ice cores' at NewChronology [at] yahoogroups [dot] com

In the past, volcanic eruptions have been located in ice cores by their acidity signals - but the method of doing this is interesting. They find variations in electrical conductivity along the ice core (and assume high acidity is due to the effect of eruptions). A strong acid signal is then linked to a known eruption - such as Thera, Hekla, Vesuvius etc., of approximately the same date. Hence, the date of Thera is often married to the biggest acid signal in the second millennium BC. Thera was big - it must show up in ice cores, even though Greenland is a long way away from the central Mediterranean region. 

Analysing ice cores for tephra (which can be matched to individual  volcanoes in the field) is much more expensive than checking the ice core against the C14/tree ring calibrated model. Presumably this is why the process is rarely mentioned in the literature.

The authors of the paper are all well known in ice core and dendro circles - such as Mike Baillie and HB Clausen (among others). In the paper they emphasize 'a more cautious approach in the attribution of acid signals' is desirable. In other  words acid signals and tephra analysis do not always match - in fact they seem very often not to match. For example, they do not appear to find any tephra from the eruption of Vesuvius in AD79 in the ice cores, the foundation eruption on which the ice core ediface is standing. In addition, the acid signal usually attributed to Thera is, according to some scientists, due to the eruption of Aniakchak in Alaska. If that is so there is no other eruption, or acid signal, that would pan out with the C14 date derived from a branch of an olive tree on Santorini (buried under pumice and tephra). Bob Porter is encouraged by this as in the New Chronology Thera would have erupted hundreds of years later than the 17th century.

Now, it so happens that Ann-Marie has a post up at (the de Grazia web site) by Mike Baillie - concerning AD revisions (and in this instance, a response to Gunnar Heinsohn). He provides graphs of tree rings that were C14 date (calibrated) that purport to show it is not possible to have a hole in chronology in the first millennium AD - or in the AD period as a whole. Baillie says that independant dendros from Belfast, by Pearson et al, in the 1970s and 1980s, duplicates the Bristlecone Pine and Sequoia dendros that are basic to the calibration construct. He adds, 'any way this figure is viewed the block of radiocarbon dates on Roman wood samples, measured by Pearson, cannot be moved forward in time to comply with the phantom time hypothesis'. Over at ... Tim Cullen takes a swing at orthodox dating methods, adding Illig and Hunnivari into the Heinsohn theme tune. He begins by making an interesting point to ponder. Augustine died in AD14 (19th August) according to the orthodox dating model. Shortly thereafter there was a total eclipse of the Sun - and parts of the sky appear to have been on fire. Glowing embers wee seen falling from the Sun and blood red comets were visible in the sky. No such eclipse occurred over Italy at that time, and more importantly, no annular solar eclipse. Firstly, we don't know that an annular eclipse was being described - embers sounds more like meteorites. Red comets, on the other hand, appear to signify a portent of some kind, an unfavourable event (in this instance the loss of Augustus Caeser). One can easily spot similarities with the story of the Crucifixion, the sky darkening at midday (and so on). If so we would have a vindication of Steve Mitchell's deduction there was a 15 year discrepancy between the calendar of Rome and that of Byzantium. He gnawed away at post Roman history and tried to understand how Bede came to calculate the date AD he was living in. To do so he had to marry Roman dates to those of the Anglo Saxon world of Bede - divided by the AD536-45 catastrophe (as evidenced in tree rings and described by Mike Baillie in books and articles, and by David Keys in Catastrophe: the origins of the Modern World). Mitchell therefore perceived a dividing line between Rome and the early medieval period, a line that Bede had difficulty in bridging. In fact, he may not have bridged it at all as there remains around 150 years he does not account for (in the opinion of Mitchell).

We'll come back to that in a moment. Now, if there was a 15 year difference between the calendars of Rome and Byzantium (the latter based on an Alexandrian calendar in use in Egypt) and the two systems were brought together by the problem of calculating the date of Easter on a year by year process, we have an interesting possibility. AD 14 + 15 years = 29AD (the crucifixion). Jesus lived 33 years (a symbolic number) bringing us down to 4BC, the most favoured date worked out for the birth of Jesus (although 5BC and 8BC have been brought to the table). Several other parallels exist between the Jesus story and Augustus - presumably added after Rome adopted Christianity. 

Note ... I am not disputing the existence of Jesus. All I am doing is interpreting some of the symbolism as a result of Roman influence.

Tim Cullen goes on to look at Illig and Hunnivari and Niemitz, revisionist predecessors of Heinsohn. They tuned into the occasional paradox in the orthodox dating scheme. For instance, the population and good fortune of Byzantium rose and fell on several occasions in the first millennium AD, at one time the city is said to have been virtually empty of people. Do we actually have physical evidence of this? No, Istanbul is a modern city that is bigger than the old Constantinople/Byzantium. Not much arcaheology has been done - why would they want to promote Christian history. Heinsohn is able to flourish as we have a sort of vacuum in knowledge - a dark age. We may also note the Anglo Saxons had an origin in Denmark, and that part of Germany up against the border of Denmark. They spoke a language very similar to that spoken by the Vikings. In fact, they could be described as an early manifestation of the Viking phenomenon. The English language is close to that of the Frisians - who lived a few miles away on the other side of the North Sea basin as it narrows just before entering the Channel. The Anglo Saxon ruling elite clearly could not have spoken English and neither did the Normans (who spoke French). When the English language arrived in Britain is a subject ignored by mainstream - content to keep on telling us it was introduced by the Anglo Saxons. In addition, the Vikings settled in precisely the same places as the Anglo Saxons (apart from their travels and settlements in the western Celtic fringe). The latter mostly had an origin in Norway. The Vikings known as the Danes (from Denmark) settled in East Anglia, Northumbria and Mercia. Hence, it could be argued the Danes were the Anglo Saxons of the 6th and 7th centuries - but where does that leave Bede? He clearly saw himself as Anglo Saxon - and we all know the Vikings came like thieves in the night and burnt down monasteries and killed the monks - including Bede's monastery in Co Durham. Then we have Alfred the Great - the king of Essex and founder of an Anglo Saxon dynasty, who raised up an army to combat the Vikings, and built fortified places along the Thames valley (at Cookham in Berkshire for example) in order to maintain a boundary between Wessex and the Danes, and keep them at bay. Alfred controlled the West Country and Powys (the Welsh Marches) and was influential in southern Wales, his strongest allies. In effect, his story has parallels with that of Arthur - the Welsh equivalent, it might be said, a story about a long struggle against an invasion from the east that had overrun great swathes of lowland England. Arthur was supposed to have been successful - but the Anglo Saxons could not have been swept aside as they are still there, thriving in some respects. What if?

In Illig's revision we learn that Byzantium counted the years via Alexander. Not the death of Alexander but the visit by Augustus to the tomb of Alexander, which occurred in 30BC. This was the time when the Roman Empire absorbed Alexandria - and what had formerly been a Greek dominated Near East. It was perceived in the popular mind as a turning point in history. Other calendars were in use at Alexandria (in fact the Romans used a variety of calendars with starting points involving their own emperors). At Alexandria there were two other interesting ways to calculate the past, one of which was based on the Era of the Seleucids, which began in 312BC. The most interesting one though was that known as the Philippian Era, which was based on the death of Alexander in 323BC. Christians were aware Jesus was born in the reign of Augustus - and they were also aware of the calendar based on Alexander's death. According to Illig, the difference between 323 and 30BC is the limit of the revision, and goes back to Otto III who was crowned in 701AD. Illig claims this was declared as 1001AD, and Otto III saw himself as king in a new millennium - a sort of messiah figure. He achieved the magic trick by simply transferring time from the Alexandrian calendar (beginning in 30BC) to that of the Philippian Era (beginning in 323BC), a period of 294 years, This is clearly quite a different number to that of Heinsohn.

Unfortunately, the theory of revision in AD has to then interpret the Carolingian dynasty in France as the alter egos of the earlier Merovingian dynasty, and most of the documented history between 700 and 1000AD is said to be misplaced - or a forgery. It is true that forgeries of historical documents are recognised by scholars - even Asser's account of the Life of Alfred is said to be a medieval forgery by some scholars. The big drawback in English history would be the monk Bede. He is redated by Illig to the 11th century - which is difficult to digest. Steve Mitchell drew notice to an uncertain period of 150 years when history from before Bede could not be joined up with history following Bede. This is quite different form Illig's proposal. Bede, in such a revision, would have been faced with the task of making sense of the 294 year dark age created by Otto III and the incumbent Pope, which is quite different to what actually seems to have happened. Bede describes the various ethnic groups living in Britain during his lifetime - and none of them conform to the Normans. The bigger problem is that Heinsohn has extended the revision to a massive dark age of 700 years. Mitchell found Illig's 294 years wanting - and therefore would not have found Heinsohn's scheme at all feasible. One problem is that Heinsohn has revised Roman history by telescoping two catastrophic events into one. We may note there is a distinct lack of events to date between 450 and 600AD (in Britain) and a similar hiatus in Ireland. This is prior to 450AD and in contrast with England, has a well documented history between 450 and 600AD. Could there have been a re-arrangement of time? Mike Baillie doesn't think so and he is somebody that has been willing to accept catastrophic events in the past, has taken mythology at face value, and has even embraced the idea of epidemics with an origin in space. His daytime job was and remains dendrochronology and he therefore has a stake in its validity. He thinks the calibrated model is reliable and he trusts what Pearson et al did when they created the Belfast dendro - aligned as it is with the calibrated C14/tree ring chronology.

The AD revision has similarities with the ancient history revision as envisioned by Velikovsky. Ages in Chaos gave birth to lots of eager beavers - all coming up with slightly different versions. The most famous, from a Joe Public angle, is the New Chronology (previously mentioned in association with Bob Porter). It is however closely connected with David Rohl who wrote a series of best selling books on the back of it - such as 'A Test of Time' and 'Lords of Avaris' and 'The Lost Testament'. Actual archaeological evidence, however, would better fit with Peter James and his 'Centuries of Darkness', also popular in some circles. Bernard Newgrosh, in 'Chronology at the Crossroads' revised Assyrian history in a manner that did not really fit either of the above and would most likely better fit Nick Thom's 'History Unwritten', a tome that is mostly ignored by the revisionist community as it allows just a mere 150 years amputation of the orthodox framework. Currently, SIS is publishing articles by a group of revisionists that have gone back to Velikovsky's scheme - overriding all the research that went before. How did this happen? Well, one reason was that there developed a fly in the ointment - Gunnar Heinsohn. He has moved into the AD revision debate but he has form in the BC revision arena. Basically, he extended the hole in the 2nd and 1st millennniums BC as created by Velikovsky, much in the same way he has widened the hole in the revisions of Illig and Hunnivari etc. In the process he brought serious research into a revision into disrepute. Likewise, as in his AD revision, he found allies, and these included Emmet Sweeney who went on to develop his own version of Heinsohn and a web site (in the pattern of James and Rohl) and four books - plus numerous articles in organs such as SIS.

Heinsohn's revisions are somewhat short on hard facts and big with lots of hand waving. His AD revision will lead to incredulity and a general rejection of any kind of AD revision. I have wondered if that is really his intention - to foul the revision of ancient history, and now to foul the AD revision by muddying the waters of a genuine puzzle. What was really happening in the dark ages, and is there really a gap between Roman history and medieval history? Heinsohn is almost certainly innocent of the charge just made but it does illustrate what can happen when someone is too enthusiastic and too liberal with the chopper. Lots of other babies get washed out with the water guzzling down the sink hole.

A few hours later.

Having done all that Tim Cullen has now put up a post responding to Mike Baillie - go to ... which is recommended reading by anyone interested in the subject of revisions of history. He is not impressed about Mike Baillie not being impressed. Baillie dismisses the idea of phantom years as 'semantic games with historical documents' - and there is an element of truth in that position. However, his main argument is focussed around the dendros - in his perspective, from the angle of the European oak chronologies. Tim Cullen, on the other hand, claims there is a similar saw tooth pattern in Irish oak chronology (the Belfast dendro) as that in the Bristlecone Pine and Sequoia chronologies in N America. He says the casual observer might wonder if the data has been sliced and diced to fit a pre-conceived construct - in particular a young to older inversion of between 350 years between 700 and 1000BC (the switch between raw and calibrated dates). He also says a casual observer (meaning, himself) could also mistakenly assume the growing gap in C14 chronology in the first millennium BC means that Irish oaks absconded from Ireland for a hundred years on two different occasions. This appears to refer to the two low growth tree ring events that show up - and which may have been accompanied by a spike in C14 that has been ironed out. Anyway, a casual observer might also assume oak trees were at those times thin on the ground in Ireland at those points in history - even though wood was still being used in construction projects.

This is an interesting point. The raw C14 data went out of fashion for a reason - it was throwing up dates historians and chronologists thought were too young. They did not always fit snugly into the orthodox framework. Were tree rings manipulated in order to accommodate a more amenable model - one that conformed to the mainstream view of when events happened in the past, one that did this by stretching episodes of C14 influx into the atmosphere. Archaeology in Britain is a case in point. The Iron Age has some problems in that there is not enough activity going on - as far as can be recognised by some archaeologists on the ground. In reality, they live with the situation and work around the problem.

Tim Cullen goes on to say C14 continues to rise in the calibrated Irish oak chronology all the way back to 4500BC, and adds, 'only a crazed catastrophist could imagine that the Earth was closer to the Sun in 4500BC (with a year of 360 days) and then begin to slowly drift away from the Sun until about 324AD' and 'only a crazed catastrophist could imagine the C14 data supports the notion the Earth experienced a series of catastrophes (as per Velikovsky) between 1000BC and 234AD ...' and 'only a crazed catastrophist could imagine that data had been spliced into Heinsohn's phantom years ...'.