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KRONOS Vol VIII, No. 4
SEISMOLOGY, CATASTROPHE, AND CHRONOLOGY
Copyright (c) 1983 by Elisheva Velikovsky
In 1945 I published a short synopsis, Theses for the Reconstruction of Ancient History, enumerating certain historical claims but leaving their substantiation for Ages in Chaos and subsequent volumes. The fact that the Middle Kingdom of Egypt was terminated in a catastrophe served only as a point of departure for me; and in the Theses I put it in the following form:
Thesis 5 : "The literal meaning of many passages in the Scriptures which relate to the time of the Exodus imply that there was a great natural cataclysm of enormous dimensions." Thesis 6 : "The synchronous moment between the Egyptian and Jewish histories can be established if the same catastrophe can also be traced in Egyptian literature."
Theses 7 to 13 dealt with the Papyrus Ipuwer and the naos of el-Arish. The parallels intimated in the Theses were elaborated upon in Ages in Chaos.
Thesis 9 : ". . . Earthquakes, eruptions of volcanoes, changes of the sea profile, were some of the results of that catastrophe."
Thesis 14 : "The Exodus took place at the close of the Middle Kingdom: the natural catastrophe caused the end of this period in the history of Egypt. This was in the middle of the second millennium before the present era."
The balance of the 284 theses dealt with problems of synchronism and the order of events, always political or cultural. The mid-second millennium catastrophe constituted but the starting point for the inquiry into chronology and the true order of succession of political events.
Independently of my effort to construe a synchronical history starting with the common event that overwhelmed and vexed all peoples of the globe - the great catastrophe that ended the Middle Kingdom - a similar effort was made by Claude F. A. Schaeffer, Professor at College de France. The reader of Ages in Chaos is familiar with his work of excavating Ras Shamra (Ugarit), from the chapter carrying this title. He observed in Ras Shamra, on the Syrian coast, obvious signs of great destruction that pointed to violent earthquakes, tidal waves, and other marks of a natural disaster. At the occasion of his visit to Troy, excavated by C. Blegen, Schaeffer became aware that Troy was destroyed by the elements - and repeatedly so – at the same times when Ras Shamra was destroyed.
The distance from the Dardanelles, near which the mound of Troy lies, to Ras Shamra is 600 miles on a straight line. In modern annals of seismology, no earthquake is known to have happened which would cover an area of that expanse. Schaeffer investigated the excavated places in Asia Minor or their reports, and in every place found the same picture. He turned his attention to Persia, farther to the East – and again the same signs of catastrophes were there in each and every place. Then he turned his attention to the Caucasus – and there, too, the similarity of the causes and effects was undeniable. In Cyprus, where he dug at Alasia, he could, once more, establish the very same series of interventions by the frenzied elements of nature. He was so impressed by what he found that during the next few years he put into writing a voluminous work, Stratigraphie comparée, published by Oxford University Press (in French) in 1948. On over six hundred pages supplemented by many tables, he presented this thesis.
Several times during the third and second millennia before the present era, the Ancient East was disturbed by stupendous catastrophes; he also found evidence that in the fourth millennium, as well as in the first, the Ancient East went through great paroxysms, but their description Schaeffer reserved for future publications. In the published work covering the third and the second millennia, Schaeffer discerned five or six great upheavals. The greatest of these took place at the very end of the Early Bronze, or the Old Kingdom in Egypt, and at the very end of the Middle Bronze, or the Middle Kingdom in Egypt. At each of these occurrences, life was suddenly disturbed and the flow of history interrupted. Schaeffer also indicated that his acquaintance with European archaeology made him feel certain that Europe, too, was involved in-those catastrophes; if so, they must have been more than continental – actually global in dimension.
Thus Schaeffer, like myself, came to the conviction that the Ancient World was disturbed by repeated upheavals. We even arrived at the same number of disturbances, a common realization of their grandiose nature, and the same relative dating of these events. However, we came to the same conclusions travelling by entirely different routes. In this there was a considerable assurance of our having closely approached the historical truth.*
[*For a fairly detailed discussion of the work of Schaeffer and its implications for Velikovsky see G. Gammon, "Bronze Age Destructions in the Near East," SISR IV:4 (Spring 1980), pp. 104-108. – LMG]
A reader unequipped to follow Schaeffer through his large and technical volume may well let the last chapter (Résumé et Conclusion) impress him by its questions and answers.
"What is the nature of the event or events that have caused these severe destructions in the many important cities of Anatolia, such as Troy, Alaca, Tarsis, Alishar, as well as those of Syria – Ugarit, Qalaater-Rouss, Byblos, Chagar Bazar, Tell Brak, Tépé Gawra – and in the cities of Palestine, too; the events that are responsible also for the cessation of the Old Kingdom in Egypt, and the upheavals in Cyprus and in Mesopotamia; the events that had their repercussions as far as Persia and in the lands of the Caucasus?" (p. 535).
"It was a general catastrophe; the ethnic movements were, without question, but its consequences and manifestations. But for the initial and real causes, one most probably will have to look to some cataclysm over which man had no control whatsoever" (p. 537).
An intermediate upheaval took place at the very end of the third millennium and the beginning of the second, and then the world that, like a phoenix from the ashes, had rebuilt itself and once more came to bloom during the Middle Bronze was burnt to ashes again in a most horrible cataclysm. This is the event the description of which opens Ages in Chaos, and Worlds in Collision as well.
"... We have seen" – and Schaeffer refers to the great assemblage of archaeological evidence that he amassed in his volume – "that about -1700 [Schaeffer uses here the accepted date of the end of the Middle Kingdom] this great commercial activity, after having spread over the eastern Mediterranean and most of the lands of the Fertile Crescent, was suddenly stopped in this entire vast region. Once more, the real causes of the perturbations must not be looked for in the scheming and enterprising of some warrior nation or a coalition of nations. The military events, invasions, and conquests are but consequences and proclivities of a general calamity that afflicted the entirety of the Ancient World from the Caucasus in the north to Egypt in the southwest and Persia and Mesopotamia...."
Schaeffer, like myself, explained the invasion of the Hyksos immediately following the end of the Middle Kingdom as an effect of the dislocation of population; this end was not the result of the conquest but of the catastrophe that left Egypt prostrate and open to invasion.
"In all sites examined till now in Western Asia, a hiatus or a period of extreme poverty caused a rupture of the stratigraphical and chronological sequence of the strata" (p. 564).
"As to the nature of this third great upheaval – registered in all the lands of Western Asia at the end of the Middle Bronze – the effects of which, in certain areas, have extended into and until the Recent Bronze, we are reduced – at the present state of our knowledge – to hypotheses. In most countries the population suffered a great reduction in numbers; in others, settled living was replaced by a nomadic existence. In Palestine and on Cyprus the situation appears to have been complicated by epidemics: into collective tombs, with no furnishings, in haste, numerous corpses were dumped."
Of Persia, Mesopotamia, and the Caucasus Schaeffer wrote: "Our inquiry demonstrated that here, too, there was no continuity between the civilizations of Middle Bronze and Recent Bronze." Certain indices suggested to him that a change in climate followed the catastrophe. "The same phenomenon appears to have produced, at the same time, also changes in the population of the lands of pre-historic Europe." A study of this area "is reserved for a projected sequel to this work".
These claims were made in Ages in Chaos, Worlds in Collision, and Earth in Upheaval. Actually, in the last named book a large collection of evidence is produced to substantiate the claim, made already in the beginning of this century by Scandinavian scientists, that ca. -1500 the climate suddenly changed all over the world – in the so-called Klimasturz. Upon reading Earth in Upheaval, Professor Schaeffer in a ten-page, handwritten letter asked me to visit his excavation on Cyprus in order to impress upon me the strength of my claims.
In concluding his book, Schaeffer epitomized: "Our inquiry has demonstrated that these repeated crises which opened and closed the principal periods of the third and second millennia were caused not by the action of man. Far from it – because, compared with the vastness of these all-embracing crises and their profound effects, the exploits of conquerors and all combinations of state politics would appear only very insignificant. The philosophy of the history of antiquity of the East appears to us singularly deformed" – namely, by describing the past of nations and civilizations as the history of dynasties, not as a history of great ages, and ignoring the role the physical causes played in their sequence.
As to chronology – in his printed work Schaeffer follows, with certain reservations, the accepted time-table. In correspondence, however, he envisaged the possibility of shortening Egyptian history but not to the extent claimed in Ages in Chaos. Then how can we be in agreement as to the times of the catastrophes?
The answer lies in the fact that both of us relate these catastrophes to the termination of the (identical) great periods in history. In other words, we are in agreement as to the relative chronology, not the absolute one.
At the end of his long discourse, Schaeffer also made clear his stand even before he became aware of my work. He wrote: "The value of absolute dates adopted by us depends, understandably, to an extent on the degree of precision obtained in the field of study of the historic documents that can be used for chronology and that derived from those collected in Egypt, in Palestine, Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, and Persia."
Thus the absolute dates used in his work are dependent on chronology that in its turn depends on historical documents. But he adds: "On the other hand, thanks to the improvement of archaeological methods, today we no longer depend so completely on epigraphic documentation for an absolute chronology."
Having arrived, by archaeological research, at his conclusions concerning the catastrophes, it could have been expected from Schaeffer that he would turn to historical sources to find a correlation of deductions made from the stratigraphic studies and mute finds. Having found that great paroxysms of nature ravaged the Ancient World, should he not have asked himself: Are there not in existence also references to such events in the surviving ancient literature? How could events of such magnitude and consequence leave no trace in the monuments and documents? Even if admitted that the catastrophes by themselves and the immediately following weeks and months were not appropriate times for writing down some records of upheavals, it would be highly unlikely that the Ancient World would let these events pass without making some reference to them in contemporary documents or in the writings of succeeding generations. It was not a prehistoric time; the art of writing was developed; and the description of things that took place must have been left on clay, stone, or papyrus.
Here was the side of the field from which I had started. Having found in the Scriptures descriptions of events that took place in Egypt and in the nearby desert, I legitimately asked: and where are the Egyptian testimonies to events of this nature? This inquiry led me, first, to the Papyrus Ipuwer, then to the naos of el-Arish, then to Arab traditions, and then to the traditions of many other peoples and races – to the extent that this material had to be separated from Ages in Chaos into a book by itself, Worlds in Collision. The inquiry into paleontological and geological fields, and in climatology and paleomagnetism then needed to be separated into Earth in Upheaval. I regard myself very fortunate that the task of presenting the archaeological evidence from the lands of the Middle and Near East was performed by a scholar of great stature, Claude F. A. Schaeffer. The almost superhuman enterprise of unravelling the manifold ramifications of the recent tribulations of this planet, and of the human and animal races inhabiting it, was not committed all to one single scholar.