Peter M James second article at www.ncgt.org/newsletter.php (March issue, page 87-98) is interesting but we need to bear in mind he is not an archaeologist or a historian, which explains why he gets the Hyksos mixed up with end of LB and end of the Old Kingdom. SIS has published lots of articles on Holocene neo-catastrophism so the subject is well known to most readers and they will be able to take him to task for this and that, I'm sure. However, he is a geologist and is at his best in that subject matter. When he says that extinctions did not end with the Cretaceous K/T boundary event, he is not just talking about the disappearance of big beasts such as mammoths. For example, sea bed sediment cores form the Deep Sea Drilling Programme have revealed that numerous reversals and part reversals of the magnetic poles have often been accompanied by the disappearance and removal of many small marine animals – minor extinction events. These have continued well into the modern Holocene period (the last 10,000 years) and even humans have been decimated during catastrophic events during the course of history.
He claims the last major event was around 3000 years ago, coinciding with the end of the Late Bronze period (archaeological designation). This was shortly after the Trojan War. It seems the Mycenaean heroes, who sacked and burnt Troy, were themselves wiped out. The Thera volcano has been blamed for decimating the Cretans but James points out that a tsunami wave striking Crete would only reach 0.5km inland – and would hardly have affected Knossos (on high ground). Neither would a tsunami wave have reached southern Crete where there is evidence of destroyed settlements too. The Cretans were able to supply a large contingent to take part in the Trojan War – so they survived and prospered for a fairly long time after the volcano erupted. In other words, he is saying the ferocity of Thera and its impact on the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean region has been exaggerated. Thera erupted in around 1450BC (mainstream date) and the Trojan War occurred around 1200BC (again, mainstream). Cities and settlement sites across the Aegean, Anatolia, and the Near and Middle East were destroyed shortly after the Trojan War (or during it). Linear B tablets from Pylos refer to preparations against an unknown threat. The threat is not specified. People were being evacuated to safe areas in the middle Peloponesse he says so the threat did not come from the north. Watchers were placed on the headland outside Pylos and James speculates that the god Poseidon was involved – a rising of sea levels that had the potential of drowning cities and their inhabitants. He is of course reading the facts to suit his own theory, that of periodic rises in sea level as a result of a wobble at the axis of rotation, together with presumably seismic repercussions – earthquakes for example. He is not looking at the sky.
His next cataclysm coincides with the end of Old Kingdom Egypt and the Early Bronze Age (skipping past the end of MB and the low growth tree ring event at 1628-5BC (mainstream date). SIS published a series of articles by Moe Mandelkehr on an event at 2300BC so we all know quite a bit about this one. James, showing his historical naivety says that Memphis, on the edge of the delta, was abandoned by people (who either fled or were drowned) and the epicentre of power moved to Thebes, upstream the Nile. This ignores the change of dynasty and the different power base of that dynasty (or dynasties as civil administration broke down and the various nomes of Egypt vied for power, and Thebes was one of the winners). I'm not sure if there is any evidence of flooding at Memphis – but it is worth while having a look to see what happened in the delta zone, as far as rising water was concerned. He is probably quite correct to say that sea levels changed at this time as we have a record of a sea flood in Ireland, and elsewhere. Kangaroo Island, off the south coast of Australia (this is an Australian journal) was swamped and human occupation ended, while in Tasmania the human population was decimated and never fully recovered. In the northern zone of Australia new immigrants arrived from SE Asia, bringing with them such novelties as the dingo (which is related to the pariah dogs of India). He ties in floods around the world to the end of the Old Kingdom – even quoting a Chinese source (which pops up in Paul Dunbavin's books and likewise is blamed on changes in the axis of rotation). You will need to read a fuller account of his theory as this is just the outline. He hopes to publish this in a future issue of NCGT Journal.
When he discusses the end of Pleistocene event and claims animal numbers dropped across three fifths of the land surface of the world, quoting Scott (1937). He also quotes Hibben from 1946 (like Velikovsky in Earth in Upheaval) and says bodies of animals found in gravels and terrace formations, and in the Alaska muck deposits (which involved destruction by a wave of water) are evidence of rising sea levels (in some parts of the world). More graveyards have also been found from Caracas to Patagonia – some of them currently at elevations of 4000m. Pampas mud was laid down at the same time as the Alaskan muck – and Calgary silts.
He says there were cataclysms around 46,000 and 35,000 years ago – and there is some evidence of one around 20,000 years ago (which coincided with the Glacial Maximum). Much of the frozen mammoths dug up in Siberia actually date from the first two events rather than at the end of the Pleistocene. On the disappearance of Neanderthals he has a novel explanation. They were the dominant species and they were living at sea level, in the plains, and in caves near water. Modern humans survived because they occupied the hills and high ground. Not sure if this idea will take off but it is no worse than the many other explanations for the demise of the Neanderthals.
When he comes to the K/T boundary event he looks at it purely from the view of a geologist and has faith in the geological chronology (that sediments were laid down over long periods of time rather than instantly). He is therefore sceptical of the iridium layer that is supposed to be evidence of an asteroid strike – and says iridium can also be produced by volcanism, making a reference I suppose to the Deccan Traps which erupted contemporary with the asteroid strike (but in geological chronology came somewhat later). He says a major extinction event occurred half a million years prior to the asteroid strike and another occurred half a million years after the asteroid strike. Common sense would argue they all occurred together and the Deccan Traps was an outflow of lava on the opposite side of the world from the asteroid strike point in the Yucatan. A geologist convinced by the idea that geochronology was a long slow progress would have difficulty in accepting that – and James displays a typical reaction. Lots of other geologists are sceptical of an asteroid strike so he is not alone.
He asks, if an asteroid killed off the dinosaurs why did it not kill off the mammals, crocodiles, turtles, frogs, and some of the birds? Did these animals survive because of environmental reasons – living on high terrain or deep in tropical forests. Dinosaurs, he argues, lived on the plains, in swamps, and on the sea shore, even in shallow seas. Hence, they were prone to be affected by a rapid rise in sea levels. It seems to me he is taking his theory to the extreme – but there is no reason why a redistribution of the ocean basin water did not run parallel with an asteroid strike (although it is not thought that such a small cosmic body could deflect the Earth at its axis of rotation). James does not take into account the newly discovered astronomy involving plasma and electro-magnetic effects on the Earth – but can anyone encompass all the evidence and data that is out there.