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Natural Catastrophes during Bronze Age Civilisations

10 Jul 1997 Conference

11th-13th July 1997. The 2nd SIS Cambridge Conference, Fitzwilliam College.
(Organised by The Society for Interdisciplinary Studies)

Natural Catastrophes during Bronze Age Civilisations: Archaeological, Geological and Astronomical Perspectives

  • Welcome Address: Prof Trevor Palmer (Nottingham Trent University and SIS Chairman)
  • Keynote Address: Robert Matthews, FRAS (Science Correspondent, The Sunday Telegraph)

Saturday, 12th July

  • Morning Session: ASTRONOMY
    • Chair: Dr Jasper Wall (Royal Greenwich Observatory, Cambridge)
    • Prof Mark Bailey (Armagh Observatory): Sources and Populations of Near-Earth Objects: Recent Findings and Historical Implications
    • Dr Bill Napier (Armagh Observatory): Cometary Catastrophes, Cosmic Dust and Ecological Disasters in Historical Times
    • Dr Duncan Steel (Spaceguard Australia): Before the Stones: Stonehenge I as a Cometary Catastrophe Predictor?
    • Prof Gerrit Verschuur (Memphis University): Our Place in Space: The Implications of Impact Catastrophes on Human Thought and Behaviour
  • Afternoon Session: ARCHAEOLOGY, GEOLOGY & CLIMATOLOGY
    • Dr Marie-Agnes Courty (Institut Natinal Agronomique Paris-Grignon): Causes And Effects Of The 2350 BC Middle East Anomaly Evidenced By Micro-debris Fallout, Surface Combustion And Soil Explosion
    • Prof Mike Baillie (Queen’s University Belfast): Tree-Ring Evidence for Environmental Disasters during the Bronze Age: Causes and Effects
    • Dr Benny J Peiser (Liverpool John Moores University): Comparative Stratigraphy of Bronze Age Destruction Layers around the World: Archaeological Evidence and Methodological Problems
    • Dr Bruce Masse (University of Hawaii): Earth, Air, Fire and Water: The Archaeology of Bronze Age Cosmic Catastrophes
    • Dr Bas van Geel (University of Amsterdam): The Impact of Abrupt Climate Change around 2650 BP in NW-Europe: Evidence for Climatic Teleconnections and a tentative Explanation

Sunday, 13th July

  • Morning Session HISTORY & CULTURE
    • Dr Victor Clube (Oxford University): Predestination and the Problem of Historical Catastrophism
    • Prof Bill Mullen (Bard College): The Agenda of the Milesian School: The Post-Catastrophic Paradigm Shift in Ancient Greece
    • Prof David Pankenier (Lehigh University): Heaven-sent: Understanding Disaster in Chinese Mythology and Tradition
    • Prof Gunnar Heinsohn (University of Bremen): The Catastrophic Emergence of Civilisation: The Coming of the Bronze Age Cultures
  • Afternoon Session ARCHAEOLOGY & HISTORY
    • Prof Amos Nur (Stanford University): The Collapse of Ancient Societies by Great Earthquakes
    • Dr Euan MacKie (Hunterian Museum, Glasgow University): The End of the Upper Palaeolithic in the Dordogne and the ‘Vitrified Forts’ in Scotland
    • Prof Irving Wolfe (University of Montreal): The ‘Kultursturz’ at the Bronze Age – Iron Age Boundary
    • Benny J Peiser: Closing Address

See also: Proceedings of the Second SIS Cambridge Conference

The second SIS Cambridge Conference brought together historians, archaeologists, climatologists and astronomers in order to discuss whether the ‘giant comet’ hyopothesis brought forward by neo-catastrophist astronomers such as Victor Clube, Bill Napier, Sir Fred Hoyle, David Asher, Mark Bailey, Duncan Steel et al. can be substantiated by the archaeological, climatological and historical record.

Archaeology and Geology

Ever since Claude Schaeffer published his book “Stratigraphie Comparee et Chronologie L’Asie Occidentale” in 1948, there had been continuous scientific debate about the nature and extent of the destructions of Bronze Age civilisations. Schaeffer claimed that the repeated collapses of Bronze Age cultures were not caused by the action of man but instead by seismic activity. During the last decade, eminent archaeologists have substantiated his claim and have linked destruction layers in Aegean and Near Eastern sites with natural disasters rather than with military conquests. The interpretation, however, which maintains that destruction layers are caused by seismic catastrophes, has been disputed due to the ambiguity of the stratigraphical record. The need for an accurate methodology of verifying the actual cause, extent and synchronicity of Bronze Age destructions was therefore considered to be essential.

Astronomy

Research in the field of astronomical neo-catastrophism and impact cratering had quickened its pace since the early 1980s. An increasing number of astronomers had suggested that a series of cosmic disasters punctuated the Earth in prehistoric times. Scholars such as Victor Clube, Bill Napier, Mark Bailey, Fred Hoyle, David Asher and Duncan Steel claimed that a more ‘active’ and threatening sky might have caused major cultural changes of Bronze Age civilisations, belief systems and religious rituals. Could the astronomical evidence brought forward by these astronomers be substantiated by historical, archaeological and climatological evidence?

Culture

In light of new astronomical and archaeological theories and the emergence of scientific neo-catastrophism, it seemed necessary to re-assess the origins and cultural implications of apocalyptic religions and catastrophe traditions in ancient mythologies and rituals. In particular, the significant cultural and religious changes at the beginning of the Bronze Age and those which occurred after its final collapse would be re-evaluated.

Organising Committee

  • Prof Mark Bailey (Armagh Observatory)
  • Prof Trevor Palmer (Nottingham Trent University)
  • Dr Benny J Peiser (Liverpool John Moores University)

For further details, contact

Dr Benny J Peiser
Liverpool John Moores University
School of Human Sciences
Byrom Street
Liverpool L3 3AF
United Kingdom

Tel 0151-231 2490. Fax 0151 298 1261
Email:

Speakers & Abstracts

PROGRAMME

Friday, 11th July 1997
Contents
Welcome Address: Prof Trevor Palmer (Nottingham Trent University and SIS Chairman) Introduction (Prof Mark Bailey, Prof Trevor Palmer, Dr Benny J Peiser)

Keynote Address: Robert Matthews, FRAS (Science Correspondent, The Sunday Telegraph) “The Past is Our Future

Saturday, 12th July
Morning Session: ASTRONOMY
Chair: Dr Jasper Wall (Royal Greenwich Observatory, Cambridge)
Prof Mark Bailey (Armagh Observatory): Sources and Populations of Near-Earth Objects: Recent Findings and Historical Implications
Discussion
Dr Bill Napier (Armagh Observatory): Cometary Catastrophes, Cosmic Dust and Ecological Disasters in Historical Times
Discussion
Dr Duncan Steel (Spaceguard Australia): Before the Stones: Stonehenge I as a Cometary Catastrophe Predictor?
Discussion
Prof Gerrit Verschuur (Memphis University): Our Place in Space: The Implications of Impact Catastrophes on Human Thought and Behaviour
Discussion
Afternoon Session: ARCHAEOLOGY, GEOLOGY & CLIMATOLOGY
Chair: Prof Bill McGuire (University College London)
Dr Marie-Agnes Courty (Institut Natinal Agronomique Paris-Grignon): Causes And Effects Of The 2350 BC Middle East Anomaly Evidenced By Micro-debris Fallout, Surface Combustion And Soil Explosion | Published as “The Soil Record of an Exceptional Event at 4000 B.P. in the Middle East
Discussion
Prof Mike Baillie (Queen’s University Belfast): Tree-Ring Evidence for Environmental Disasters during the Bronze Age: Causes and Effects | Published as “Hints that Cometary Debris played some Role in several Tree-Ring dated Environmental Downturns in the Bronze Age
Discussion
Dr Benny J Peiser (Liverpool John Moores University): Comparative Stratigraphy of Bronze Age Destruction Layers around the World: Archaeological Evidence and Methodological Problems
Discussion
Dr Bruce Masse (University of Hawaii): Earth, Air, Fire and Water: The Archaeology of Bronze Age Cosmic Catastrophes
Discussion
Dr Bas van Geel (University of Amsterdam): The Impact of Abrupt Climate Change around 2650 BP in NW-Europe: Evidence for Climatic Teleconnections and a tentative Explanation | Published as “Solar forcing of abrupt Climate Change around 850 calendar years BC
Discussion
Poster Presentations & Discussion
Film (by Amos Nur and Chris MacAskill): The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Earthquakes in the Holy Land
Sunday, 13th July
Morning Session HISTORY & CULTURE
Chair: Brian Moore (SIS)
Dr Victor Clube (Oxford University): Predestination and the Problem of Historical Catastrophism
Discussion
Prof Bill Mullen (Bard College): The Agenda of the Milesian School: The Post-Catastrophic Paradigm Shift in Ancient Greece
Discussion
Prof David Pankenier (Lehigh University): Heaven-sent: Understanding Disaster in Chinese Mythology and Tradition
Discussion
Prof Gunnar Heinsohn (University of Bremen): The Catastrophic Emergence of Civilisation: The Coming of the Bronze Age Cultures
Discussion
Afternoon Session ARCHAEOLOGY & HISTORY
Chair: Prof Trevor Palmer (Nottingham Trent & SIS Chairman)
Prof Amos Nur (Stanford University): The Collapse of Ancient Societies by Great Earthquakes
Discussion
Dr Euan MacKie (Hunterian Museum, Glasgow University): The End of the Upper Palaeolithic in the Dordogne and the ‘Vitrified Forts’ in Scotland
Discussion
Prof Irving Wolfe (University of Montreal): The ‘Kultursturz’ at the Bronze Age – Iron Age Boundary
Discussion
Benny J Peiser: Closing Address

Poster Presentations

Prof Emilio Spedicato (University of Bergamo):
Evidence Of Tunguska-type Impacts Over The Pacific Basin Around The Year 1178 A.D.
Charles Raspil (New York):
Hints to the Nature of Bronze Age Catastrophe found in Ancient Art
Henry Zemel (New York):
Circling the Rings: A Conjecture about Solar Rings
Prof Lars Franzen (University of Goeteborg, Sweden) and Prof Thomas Larsson (University of Umea, Sweden):
Landscape analysis and stratigraphical and geochemical investigations of playa and alluvial fan sediments in Tunisia and raised bog deposits in Sweden – a possible correlation between extreme climate events and cosmic activity during the late Holocene.
Milton Zysman and Frank Wallace
Tails Of A Recent Comet: The Role Cometary Jets Play In Crustal Formation
Richard L. Meehan
Testimony of the Oaks: Evidence of Climatic and Geomorphic Changes in Lower River Valleys at 3200 BC
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