From Portside <[email protected]>
Subject Armageddon at 10,000 BCE
Date May 11, 2020 6:48 AM
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[Fragments of a comet likely hit Earth 12,800 years ago, and a
little Paleolithic village in Syria might have suffered the impact.]
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ARMAGEDDON AT 10,000 BCE   [[link removed]]

 

Javier Barbuzano
March 30, 2020
Eos [[link removed]]

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_ Fragments of a comet likely hit Earth 12,800 years ago, and a
little Paleolithic village in Syria might have suffered the impact. _

The Paleolithic settlement of Abu Hureyra, in what is now Syria, may
have been destroyed by the airburst of an impacting comet about 12,800
years ago. , Jennifer Rice, CometResearchGroup.org

 

Abu Hureyra is an important archaeological site in Syria, known for
artifacts documenting early adoption of agriculture in the region. It
may also be recognized as the only known human settlement to have been
hit by a fragment of a comet.

The site, now under the waters of Lake Assad, was quickly excavated
between 1972 and 1973 before construction of the Tabqa Dam flooded the
area. During the excavation, archaeologists realized that there were
really two sites, one on top of the other. The first was a Paleolithic
settlement of hunter-gatherers, and the second was a farming town,
with new buildings of a different style.

The Paleolithic village at Abu Hureyra was indirectly hit and
destroyed by fragments of a comet that slammed into Earth about 12,800
years ago.

A new analysis of samples of soil and artifacts salvaged from the
original excavation has revealed a surprising finding: The Paleolithic
village at Abu Hureyra was indirectly hit and destroyed by fragments
of a comet that slammed into Earth about 12,800 years ago.

The researchers think that upon entering Earth’s atmosphere, the
already-fractured comet likely broke up into several more pieces, many
of which didn’t reach the ground. Instead, they produced a string of
explosions in the atmosphere known as airbursts. Each airburst was as
powerful as a nuclear blast, instantaneously vaporizing the soil and
vegetation underneath and producing powerful shock waves that
destroyed everything for tens of kilometers around. The village at Abu
Hureyra was hit by one of these shock waves.

“When we dug the site way back in 1973, I had noticed that there was
heavy burning in one area, but of course, back then I wasn’t
thinking about comets or asteroids or anything of that kind,”
said Andrew Moore
[[link removed]],
an archaeologist and professor at New York’s Rochester Institute of
Technology who led the excavation at Abu Hureyra. Moore is the first
author of the new study, which appeared online on 6 March
in _Scientific Reports_
[[link removed]]. “It now turns
out that heavy burning was the result of the entire village going up
in smoke as a result of this airburst incinerating the whole place.”

A multidisciplinary group of scientists has now found that some soil
samples from Abu Hureyra were filled with tiny pieces of melt
glass—small bits of vaporized soil that solidified quickly after the
explosion. They found melt glass among the seeds and cereal grains
recovered from the site, as well as splattered in the adobe that
covered the buildings. Most of these bits of melt glass are between 1
and 2 millimeters in diameter. The team also found high concentrations
of microscopic nanodiamonds, tiny carbon spherules, and charcoal—all
of them likely formed during a cosmic impact.

“We found the glass splashed on little pieces of bone that were by
the hearth, so we know that the molten glass had landed in this
village while people were living there,” said coauthor Allen West
[[link removed]], a member of
the Comet Research Group [[link removed]], a
nonprofit organization aimed at studying this particular cosmic impact
and its consequences.

COSMIC ORIGIN

The impact origin of the melt glass is supported by the minerals it
contains. Melt glass found at Abu Hureyra contains molten grains of
minerals such as quartz, chromferide, and magnetite, which can melt
only at temperatures ranging from 1,720°C to 2,200°C.

“This melt glass required enormous heat far beyond anything that a
group of hunters and gatherers could ever generate on their own.”

“You have to use very sophisticated scientific analytical techniques
to see these things, but once you see them, then there’s absolutely
no doubt about what it is you’re confronting, and there’s only one
explanation for it,” Moore said. “This melt glass required
enormous heat far beyond anything that a group of hunters and
gatherers could ever generate on their own.”

Natural sources such as fire or volcanism have also been ruled out
because they cannot reach the required temperatures. Lightning does
reach temperatures that melt sediments and produce glass, but it also
creates magnetic imprints that are not present in Abu Hureyra’s melt
glass.

“This cannot be the result of fires,” said Peter Schultz
[[link removed]], a geologist and planetary
scientist at Brown University in Rhode Island who wasn’t involved in
the new study. “Their results strongly support their conclusions
that an impact or, more likely, airburst occurred in the region.”

“Those temperatures would turn your car into a molten pool of metal
in less than a minute,” West said.

CHASING COMETS

Abu Hureyra lies at the easternmost sector of what is known as
the Younger Dryas Boundary
[[link removed]] strewn
field, a series of sites in the Americas, Europe, and the Middle East
where evidence of a cosmic impact occurring toward the end of the
Pleistocene has been found. This evidence includes a carbon-rich layer
known as the “black mat” that contains large amounts of
impact-generated nanodiamonds, metallic spherules, and higher than
usual concentrations of such rare elements as iridium, platinum, and
nickel. It also contains charcoal, hinting at widespread wildfires
that might have incinerated up to 10% of all the forested areas on the
planet.

The Younger Dryas Boundary impact hypothesis claims that the impact
altered Earth’s climate, causing a cold spell
[[link removed]] that
lasted for 1,300 years. Temperatures plummeted by 10°C on average,
and the climate became drier, particularly in the Middle East.

Some researchers think that the impact and ensuing climate change
might have accelerated the extinction of most large animals on the
planet, including mammoths, saber-toothed cats, and American horses
and camels. It might also have upended the Clovis
[[link removed]] culture in North
America, which disappeared at about that time.

BECOMING FARMERS

Archaeologists also link the Younger Dryas event to the beginning of
systematic agriculture in the Middle East. “We already knew that the
change from hunting and gathering to farming coincided with the
beginnings of the Younger Dryas, so we already knew that it looked as
though climate change had had a role in persuading the people at the
village to take up farming,” Moore said. “Of course, we didn’t
know what had caused the Younger Dryas.”

“I don’t think the Abu Hureyra people necessarily invented this,
but Abu Hureyra is the earliest site where we could say that something
like systematic agriculture really is getting on the way.”

Radiocarbon dating at Abu Hureyra revealed that the village was
rebuilt very shortly after the impact by people who used the same kind
of bone and flint tools as the settlement’s first occupants.
“There was absolutely no change in the cultural equipment,” Moore
said, which suggests that it was the same group of people who
reestablished the village. Maybe, Moore thinks, some members of the
village were out hunting or gathering food and were able to return.

Only, this time they made substantial changes to their economy. “I
don’t think the Abu Hureyra people necessarily invented this,”
Moore said, “but Abu Hureyra is the earliest site where we could say
that something like systematic agriculture really is getting on the
way.”

“In the utterly changed climatic circumstances, they began to farm,
they started to cultivate fields of rye and then, in time, wheat and
barley, and eventually, they also started into livestock keeping with
sheep and goats,” Moore said. In time, “the thing developed into
an enormous settlement with several thousands of inhabitants, and it
became quite the dominant village in that part of Syria.”

—Javier Barbuzano (@javibarbuzano
[[link removed]]), Science Writer

CITATION: Barbuzano, J. (2020), Armageddon at 10,000 BCE, Eos,
101, [link removed]
[[link removed]]. Published on 30 March 2020.

Text © 2020. The authors. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
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