The stuff from which Myth is made.
November 15, 2001 10:20 AM   Subscribe

The stuff from which Myth is made. A recent discovery of a meteor impact crater in the middle-east, dating around 2300BC, is shedding new light on the decline of many cultures and the rise of many legends.
posted by mkn (19 comments total)
After the revolutionary discovery that a meteor strike was responsible for the end of the Cretaceous, it's remarkable to find out that meteor strikes may have affected recorded history as well.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 10:37 AM on November 15, 2001

An wonderfully thought provoking read. It'll be interesting to see if Hussein will allow an international team in there to do a more thorough study.
posted by Dagobert at 10:47 AM on November 15, 2001

I should credit the source: context weblog. There's a lot of good reading there.
posted by mkn at 10:52 AM on November 15, 2001

mkn, thanks! I've always been interested in hearing the plausible origins of myth.
posted by thekorruptor at 10:54 AM on November 15, 2001

A date of around 2300 BC for the impact may also cast new light on the legend of Gilgamesh, dating from the same period. The legend talks of "the Seven Judges of Hell", who raised their torches, lighting the land with flame, and a storm that turned day into night, "smashed the land like a cup", and flooded the area.

Is that all? Is this supposed to prove the existence of a Flood, too?
posted by rschram at 11:02 AM on November 15, 2001

Egypt's "Old Kingdom" ended with the 6th Dynasty in 2184 BCE, not the 5th (2345).

Considering that Egypt had 31 recognized dynasties and all the rest managed to end without the help of meteors, I'd say it was politics as usual that ended the 5th... :)
posted by Foosnark at 11:21 AM on November 15, 2001

I'm looking forward to being wiped out by a meteor within the next few years, myself.
posted by trioperative at 11:34 AM on November 15, 2001

trioperative: I was kind of hoping for a general breakdown of the laws of the physical universe, myself. Just wishful thinking, I guess.
posted by signal at 11:42 AM on November 15, 2001

Though the Cretaceous meteor extinction is generally accepted as proved they seem to be having trouble matching up the dating of the layer of meteoric sediment with an impact crater. The crater off the Yucatan peninsula is (IIRC) about fifteen million years off.

The Tunguska incident of last century was suspected at some point or another of being a meteor, a low-altitude comet breakup, and the latest I've heard is a theory that it was a massive underground gas explosion that may have formed diamond-bearing kimberlite. If the cause did come from space, three hours off and it woulda taken out St Petersberg. Goal!
posted by retrofut at 12:09 PM on November 15, 2001

rschram -- The Flood Good Nat'l Geo article about how the Med. sea may have broken into the basin of the black sea and caused the flood story.
posted by j.edwards at 12:15 PM on November 15, 2001

This is big news indeed. I have studied the "catastrophe" and there are lots of theories.. it is at the core of the origin of the Greeks and thus the origin of Western Civilzation. The "Sea Peoples" has been around a long time. It should be noted that this collapse led to a dark age and eventually the rise of Ancient Greece. Somthing very big happened all over the ancient world at about the same time entire cities destroyed and civilzation went barbaric for 100s of years.. the great city states disapeared from the coasts and moved into smaller enclaves in the protected mountains. Its very similair to the characteristics of the collapse of the Roman Empire, the "dark ages" with feudal kingdoms and Vikeing raiders. Eventually Italy had a reniscance and the begining of the modern era. It only takes one generation to stop a civilization.
posted by stbalbach at 12:48 PM on November 15, 2001

What I find interesting is the quote:

He said that craters recently found in Argentina date from around the same period - suggesting that the Earth may have been hit by a shower of large meteors at about the same time.

Meaning it was most likely a world-wide event... sort of like a miniature version of the multiple fragment comet that hit Jupiter.
posted by mkn at 12:58 PM on November 15, 2001

Eventually Italy had a reniscance and the begining of the modern era. It only takes one generation to stop a civilization.

I could say something here about the label "dark ages" or blather on about the obsession with the Italian Rennaisance and yearning for some mythical "Golden Age", but I won't.

Instead, I'll suggest that we're looking at this the wrong way. Perhaps it's "civilization" that's the aberration here: millions of years living as "barbarians", punctuated by a few brief attempts at civilization that quickly crumble away.
posted by ahughey at 1:58 PM on November 15, 2001

At first I had my doubts about this meteor hit being the source of anybody's myths. After all, show me the myth that begins, "At the end the 12th age, a huge explosion came from the sky and destroyed every city on earth..." Then, after thinking about it, I realized that these were people who had never seen an explosion. They had probably never seen any natural phenomenon more violent than a bad thunderstorm. They probably had no idea that whatever it was that had happened originated in the sky. For them, it was simply a huge onslaught of unique and baffling destructive natural phenomenon coming out of nowhere. Not an easily mythologizable event, like a flood.
posted by Faze at 2:17 PM on November 15, 2001

I'm going to echo ahughey and not say anything at all at the misguided label 'dark ages'. Nothing whatsoever. I won't even try to point those who disagree towards Anglo-Saxon financial policy, particluarly in their astute manipulation of the coinage (and therefore inflation). Or how connected they were to the rest of the world. No really. I won't. Because I'm a good boy.
posted by nedrichards at 2:32 PM on November 15, 2001

Faze - they also had a limited view of what constituted "the world." With a shaky grasp of geography, any significantly apocalyptic local event will be talked about by its survivors as a global event.
posted by yesster at 3:08 PM on November 15, 2001

I'm not going to agree with what ahughey and nedrichards are not saying, though it's tempting, so tempting.

I also won't say that to take a meteor impact from "within the past 6,000 years" as an explanation specifically for the events of 2300 BCE, without any other dating information seems a bit...speculative. Or suggest that it have anything to do with the fact that there's a big meteor shower due in two days, and there are papers to be sold.
posted by rodii at 5:31 PM on November 15, 2001

A bit more recent, the eruption of Thera (c. 1628 BCE) affected much of the eastern Mediterranian. It may be the source of some myths.
posted by D.C. at 8:11 PM on November 15, 2001

a few brief attempts at civilization

civilization = barbarism with table manners.
posted by tolkhan at 5:45 AM on November 16, 2001

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