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Scottish fossil raised beaches

13 January 2013

Euan MacKie at file://E:cdrompubsjournalspenseeivr036quant.htm (this is not an external link but a link to the Catastrophism CD – but see also Ian Tresman's web site, www.catastrophism.com) and has the title 'A Quantitative Test for Catastrophic Theories' which is basically an attempt to square C14 dates, as they then were (in the 1970s and 1980s) with catastrophism (of the kind theorised by Velikovsky and his supporters, including the editorial board I suppose). Basically, C14 dates didn't throw up anything unusual around 1500BC, contrary to what Velikovsky had claimed. Neither has any other kind of proxy dating system. This was an attempt by MacKie to switch the focus to earlier dates as C14, he thought, was largely reliable, and there was evidence there that could be used by the catastrophists to their advantage. Unfortunately, this did not materialise and the Velikovskians dug in their heels and stuck to 1500BC – and claimed it was C14 that was out of kilter. A lot of verbaige was perhaps wasted in pushing Velikovsky's model to the letter when best advantage would have been to compromise. After all, the date of 1500BC is founded on Biblical numbers, but these appear to include symbolical nuances, especially in the period prior to David and Solomon. In retrospect it could be argued the catastrophists lost a chance solely because of intransigence and unwillingness to think outside the immediate box.

This paper was first read at the Velikovsky Symposium, in Portland, Oregon, Aug 17th 1972, and MacKie made the point that sea level in the Forth River estuary was much higher in the past, and the estuary stretched as far west as Stirling and beyond as a result of a transgression event C14 dated to 6200BC. This flooding coincided with the drowning of the North Sea basin and left behind a deep layer of clay and sediments. The Forth Valley at this point is as flat as a pancake, best seen from the hills above on the road approaching from Crieff, with Stirling castle and the old town sat on a high piece of ground that probably stayed above sea level during the transgression event. However, it then gets a little complicated as underneath the clay and sediment layer there were three other fossil beaches, dating from between the end of the Ice Age and 6200BC. In addition, and most intriguingly, there were four other raised beaches or terraces, within the clay and sediment deposit, indicating there were four, at least, other inundations of the Forth Valley around Stirling, after 6200BC. In conventional sea level literature the 6200BC event is recognised but otherwise sea level is thought to have risen slowly in a gradualist manner – although the idea sea level, globally, increased and diminished in a series of waves was suggested by Rhodes Fairbidge many years ago. This process, it was supposed, was entirely natural, possibly as a result of orbital changes associated with the other planets of the solar system, and luni-solar cycles of some kind. Here the evidence seems to be that the fossil beaches rose quickly and remained in situ for some time – long enough to leave behind evidence of not just a strand line, but a clearly defined terrace structure.

MacKie then went on to claim that evidence of past catastrophes would have left behind converging and supporting markers. One such marker, he proposed, was increased volcanic activity – especially on Iceland. Volcanoes regularly blow on Iceland but MacKie picked out a series of clusters, important as Iceland sits on top of the Mid Atlantic Ridge, the piece of sea floor where seismic activity is thought to have caused plate movement and expansion of the sea floor – in both directions, east and west. Hekla and other Icelandic volcanoes were particularly active at 4600, 2100, and between 900 and 700BC. Another marker, he thought, involved the sudden movement of people, great migrations that sometimes took place over very long distances. There have been many instances of this during the Holocene period, migrations that took people from the north deep into SE Asia, or from the borders of China to NE Europe, a migration that closely followed the tree line. MacKie suggested that some of these movements were sparked by a drastic change in environment. He chose to look at the early farmers. They moved out of Anatolia into the Balkans and Eastern Europe, to Moravia for example, around 6200, or shortly thereafter. These farmers moved in a couple of well known leaps that early archaeologists associated with evidence of landscape fire. This was interpreted in the uniformitarian manner as evidence of the burning and clearance of the virgin forest – and the expansion of farming as a result of rapid increase in population, numbers outstripping those of the hunter gatherers that may have lived in the same regions, or nearby. All this is bound up with the assumption that farmers were better adapted to expand their gene base as a result of growing their own food – but this may well be over exaggerated. In the alternative scenario, as suggested by MacKie, people of all kinds were set in motion – and if the evidence of fire is taken as literal that means that something disagreeable was happening. Did the fire come out of the sky?

MacKie then noted that the raised beach formations were slightly tilted, indicating a seismic connection, and chose to make a further link in the chain of events by saying that the first farmers in Britain and Ireland arrived in the window following the volcanic activity in the mid 5th millennium BC, driven by events in the land they had vacated. This is an interesting proposal as it has recently been recognised that the first farmers spread very rapidly across the country, not stopping until they had reached virtually every extremity. In addition, it is thought the high chalk ridges across central and eastern England were devoid of trees at the time. Farmers were able to colonise these upland zones with ease as they did not have to clear the wildwoods. In the valleys below the situation may have been different but on the chalk hills the trees have remained sparse, even where the soil was not cultivated. Sheep, goats and cattle kept the grassland cropped and perfect for what developed into a largely pastoral society, perhaps a merging of the new people with the older elements living in the islands. According to Paul Dunbavin, Britain did not become an island until 3200BC, and on that basis the early farmers would have been able to migrate with relative ease, a theory that has the benefit of not requiring boats to transport farm animals and utensils etc. They could simply have driven their herds before them. This theory is of course not supported by current and consensus geological understanding of just when Britain became an island and just when the chalk ridge between Dover and Calais was breached, or when the sea flooded the southern North Sea basin, submerging Dogger Land (see earlier posts on this subject). However, by far the most important thing to take note from MacKie's article is that it vindicates Steve Mitchell's argument that there is evidence elsewhere in Britain of transgression events, and in particular during the Late Roman/early Saxon period, or dark ages (see article on this web site). The Picts, he thought, may have moved from northern Scotland to overrun parts of what had been the British tribal territory of SW Scotland, and various points in between, including the invasion and settling of parts of what is now England. The Irish were also active and the Saxons, introduced as mercenaries by the post-Roman British coalition, turned on those that had invited them to take up arms against the Picts and Irish, and established themselves very quickly as a new ruling elite (presumably marrying into them to establish a measure of authority). The Saxon elite were subsequently removed by the Normans but during the dark ages large numbers of migrants again found their way into Britain, mainly from the coastal areas of NW Europe between the Netherlands and Denmark, which would of course have also been flooded. Indeed, flooded areas at this time included the fens almost as far as Cambridge, and the Broads of Norfolk, virtually to the doors of Norwich. In both areas we see a topography that is flat, just like the landscape of the Forth Valley, and a fairly small rise in sea level could have inundated a very large area – on both sides of the North Sea basin. The migrants, therefore could very quickly have penetrated central England, not just via the Fens but via the valleys of the Trent and Humber etc., which is perhaps why Mercia was the most important of the Anglo Saxon kingdoms in the 7th century.

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