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Thera and the dating controversy

13 June 2012

The New Chronology forum was having a debate on Thera last week – and tree rings, ice cores and C14 are mentioned in passing. It seems that it is not only Douglas Keenan that has cast doubt on C14 dates in the Ancient Near East as the olive tree buried in tephra at Thera has been the target of some negative criticism (for the olive tree see Bob Porter's talk at an SIS meeting a few years ago). Somebody called Bruins for example, and a Walter Friedrich. A C14 sample taken close by Thera may actually be unreliable by reason of out gassing of old carbon. The volcano may have been outgassing for a considerable time before it eventually blew – but probably in decades rather than hundreds of years. The old carbon is the big one and one is left wondering why so many people in the mainstream are ready to put pen to paper or finger to keyboard and say there are problems with the olive tree – especially after its proponents were so confident they had drawn a link between Thera and the 1628BC narrow growth tree ring event (or 1645BC ice core anomaly). It seems they have come to the defence of orthodox chronology as a Thera blow-out dated to the 17th century represents big problems. Hence, this is not radical science but another example of defending the faith – and the consensus. Be that as it may the controversy is beneficial to revisionists as by casting doubt on one batch of C14 data it also brings into question other controversies in archaeology. It is interesting to note that a second set of samples from the olive tree were taken – and there has not been any published results and they are overdue.

Gene Greenwood has an interesting point – there is little evidence of Thera in Anatolia, the Levant or Egypt, he declares. Might the eruption be exagerated? Bob Porter answers by saying Thera pumice has been found in Anatolia, Crete and Egypt and is securely dated to Late Minoan IA. Pumice is laid down in layers – like all sediments. The sequence of eruptions is well understood so it is unlikely there was a prolonged eruption as Gene Greenwood suggested (or the facts at the moment seem to discount the idea).

One commenter introduced the subject of Bond events – but this is probably a red herring. No one can actually agree on the length of a Bond event or the exact cycle. Lots of mental gymnastics involved in placing the Bond events in the Late Holocene – and the evidence can equally be assigned to something else.
This brings us back to Bob Porter who mentions Amos Nur and earthquake storms – but the end of Hattusas (the Hittite capital), he suggests, was not as a result of earthquake. If not then by what?

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