Cataclysm!: Compelling Evidence of a Cosmic Catastrophe in 9500 B.C.
In the past half century, a number of books have come out that use archeology and mythology to attempt to decipher what occurred on Earth in the prehistoric era (before 3500 BCE). One of the most notable of these is Cataclysm!: Compelling Evidence of a Cosmic Catastrophe in 9500 B.C. The authors, D. S. Allan and J. B. Delair, are a historian and geologist, respectively. They are based in Britain, but the book ranges across the globe, weaving together many disparate threads.
Cultures on every habitable continent recount stories of a great calamity that occurred in the distant past. The deluge story, which entered Western mythology as Noah and the Ark, is also present in China and the Americas. At its most basic, the story describes a time when the waters increased around the globe, drowning most living things. Only a few survived to tell the tale and propagate the species. Similarly, there are tales of ancient seismic and volcanic destruction, as well as tales that seem to describe meteorite showers. In many cultures, these tales of destruction are incorporated into great cycles, termed “Ages” or “Suns.”
The history of the Earth, prior to the nineteenth century, was considered in the Western world to be accurately described by the Bible: God had created it in 4,500 BCE. Charles Lyell’s new field of geology upended that notion, but in the early 20th century, geologists had decided that changes in the Earth’s crust occurred very gradually, over extremely long periods of time — a theory known as Uniformitarianism, or Gradualism. However, more recent evidence has shown that the Earth tends to change in spasms of activity, some of which can be drastic (the recent Toheaku earthquake in Japan, for example, moved the entire island 42 feet). This theory, which Allan and Delair go into in some detail, is called Catastrophism.
Only in the past several decades has it become possible for researchers to put together evidence for Catastrophism on a global scale. This book collates evidence from the terrain of North America and northern Asia, and places it alongside biological and archeological data. It then brings in the mythological material, and finally makes a convincing case for a cosmic origin of the catastrophe, which the authors place around 9500 BCE.
Scattered across North America and Siberia, investigators have turned up scores of frozen creatures: mammoths, mastodons, woolly rhinoceroses, and others. These animals, some of which have been exquisitely preserved by the ice, show evidence of having been caught in a sudden disaster. Many are buried upright, almost as if they were fleeing when calamity struck, and some were found together with debris such as crushed twigs, which would be congruent with a sudden flood or landslide.
Most archeologists and geologists have assumed that these animals perished in the great Ice Age that supposedly bound the northern third of the world in glaciers. However, Allan and Delair show that the evidence for widespread glaciers is actually scanty. In fact, the areas one would have supposed to show the most obvious glacial evidence, such as Siberia, show none at all. The boulders with score lines found in North America and Britain, which geologists have presented as evidence of passing glaciers, are more likely, the authors claim, to be the result of a meteor-generated cataclysm. Though it may seem uncanny that gigantic rocks, many times the size of a man, could be transported several miles through the air, the authors provide evidence that this has indeed happened in recent volcanic eruptions.
If one couples this geological evidence with evidence from the biological world, a clearer picture begins to emerge. The authors present ample evidence that massive species die-off occurred around 9500 BCE. Many of the animals that perished in this period were, as we have seen, the larger varieties: mastodons and mammoths, as well as the giant ground sloth and a type of giant armadillo. It would make sense that these larger creatures would be the hardest hit in any celestially caused calamity, just as dinosaurs died while their cousins the birds survived in an earlier cataclysm.
The last fifth of the book details the likelihood and possible effects of a meteor strike on the Earth. They christen the meteorite that caused the 9500 BCE disaster “Phaeton,” and describe its aftermath, comparing it with the devastation caused by such relatively minor disasters as Mount St. Helens and Hiroshima. This section incorporates quite a bit of speculation, but the general thesis — that some major disaster occurred during that time period that had a profound effect on human existence and global geography — is highly convincing.
[ image: Don Davis ]