The Late Bronze Age Dark Age
- I have spoken repeatedly on this list server about the Late Bronze Age
Dark Ages which broke upon the world in the period between the
accession of Merenptah and death of Rameses III. This was a period of
unmittigated environmental, social and political disaster that saw the
death of millions. Any account of Ancient History which leaves this
disaster out, or tries by chronological sleight of hand to make it go
away, in the future, I believe, will be seen as erronious and
This dark ages explains the inflation of crop prices by 500% in
Rameses III's Egypt as well as the decision by that Pharaoh to let
captive peoples within the Egyptian state leave. It explains the
stories of the famines that drove Jacob and Abram to Egypt. It
explains stories of volcanic pillars of cloud and fire. It explains
the collapse of Mesopotamian civilisation, the disappearance of the
Hittites and the Mycenaeans. It equally explains the collapse of the
Shang Dynasty in China, and the rise of the barbarian Chou
The stories of the Old Testament and later Greek myths were fashioned
out of dimly remembered events of this disaster. Cropping collapsed
over large areas of the Eastern Mediterranean, economic refugees
sought to move down the Tigris and Euphrates and down the Levantine
Coast and across the Libyan Coast to Egypt to stay alive.
It was not the only time in history that such a collection of events
has occurred. I post the attached article to show some of the kinds
of events we can associate with this catastrophe.
I would be interested on what others think
The dark ages may have really been dimmer
Contact: John Webster, webster@..., (505) 667-5543
LOS ALAMOS, N.M., Dec. 17, 2000 -- The beginning of the Dark Ages may
have been literal, as well as figurative, as the result of a massive
volcanic eruption in the 6th century, according to a volcanologist at
the Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Ken Wohletz said an eruption in the Indonesian archipelago could have
produced a 150-meter-thick cloud layer over the entire Earth,
triggering a chain of climatic, agricultural, political and social
changes that ushered in the Dark Ages.
Evidence supporting the catastrophe includes tree-ring and ice-core
measurements, indications of a huge underwater caldera, and ash and
pumice in the same area, said Wohletz, who discusses his work modeling
such an eruption today (Dec. 17) at the fall meeting of the American
The 6th century was a turbulent, unsettling period in human history.
The Roman Empire began to fall; nomads of central Asia migrated to
Europe and the Near East; civilizations in Persia, Indonesia and South
America collapsed; major religions experienced considerable change as
natural events were viewed as omens.
Many of these social transformations resulted from widespread crop
failures and the explosion of plague around the globe, which in turn
were caused by major climatic changes, Wohletz said. Beginning in
about the year 535, according to historical and archeological records,
the weather was colder and drier, sunlight diminished, snow fell in
summer and regions of persistent drought suffered floods.
Wohletz was a resource for a book postulating that the climate changes
resulted from a huge volcanic eruption. The book, "Catastrophe: A
Quest for the Origins of the Modern World" by David Keys, was
published earlier this year.
Wohletz said he worked with Keys to try to identify a volcano that
could produce such dramatic climate change. "We came up with an
eruption that would certainly be the largest in recorded history, some
four or five times bigger than the (1815) eruption of Tambora, which
is usually considered the biggest eruption in the past few millennia,"
Such an explosion, he said, would eject some 200 cubic kilometers of
material, and one-third to one-half of it would be lofted into the
stratosphere, where it would remain suspended for months to years
while being carried around the globe.
"It would have produced enough dust and water vapor (in the form of
ice crystals) to form a cloud layer 150 meters thick over the entire
globe, and that's a conservative estimate," he said, adding that a
cloud of particles that thick may have diminished the transmission of
sunlight by as much as 50 percent.
Wohletz said tree-ring data collected around the world and ice-core
measurements in Greenland and Antarctica support the possibility of a
huge eruption in the 6th century. Ocean depth measurements between
Sumatra and Java where Krakatoa exploded in a well known 1883
eruption indicate the presence of a caldera up to 50 kilometers in
diameter, and a recent survey uncovered evidence of ash and pumice
layers formed in the area during the appropriate time frame.
Under a likely scenario, a large volcano, which Wohletz calls
proto-Krakatoa, connected the islands of Sumatra and Java. When it
erupted and then subsided, it created the Sundra Strait and left a
ring of smaller volcanoes, including the present day Krakatoa. The
ash, dust and water vapor blown into the stratosphere would disperse
across both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.
"This volcano would have had the potential to be a major player in
destabilizing the climate around the world," he said. "An eruption
that couldproduce a caldera 50 kilometers across would have been big
Although definitive evidence for such a catastrophic eruption has not
been discovered, the possibility deserves a full-scale field study,
Wohletz said, in part because of the potential impact on the world if
another such catastrophe happens.
"(Key's book) is the first detailed account of how closely humanity is
linked to the natural world," he said. "If the natural world goes
through some large upheaval, we'll all be affected."