CCNet 12/2002 - 21 January 2002

"A short warning time of just under 2 weeks before the predicted
impact of a YB5 class object (i.e. an object meassuring between 200-400m),
leaves emergency agencies plenty of time to mass evacuate large
populations in those areas most exposed to the effects of impact. In
case of a predicted oceanic impact, whole coastal areas might have to be
evacuated, an exercise that is quite common for communities that live under
the constant threat of Tsunami and Hurrican disasters. Tsunami warning
systems exist to alert populations of the occurrence of an earthquake that
has high potential to generate a tsunami. In contrast to an asteroid
impact warning, however, Tsunami warning system have only hours -
not days or weeks - to alert and, in sever emergencies, evacuate
--Benny Peiser

    Wired News, 18 January 2002

    A. Raukas et al.

    B.O. Dressler & W.U. Reimold

    T.A. Michtchenko et al.

    G. Cooper et al.

    M. Aleon et al.

    Duncan Steel <>

    Michael Paine <>

    Nathalie Bugeaud <>

     Drake A. Mitchell <>

     E.P. Grondine <>


>From Wired News, 18 January 2002,1283,49837-2,00.html

By Farhad Manjoo
Steven Pravdo hunts asteroids, but he says he hardly ever thinks about the
fact that, any day now, he might discover a rock that could collide with
Earth, perhaps causing "one of the worst disasters in human history."

Those were Pravdo's alarming words to the Associated Press last week. The
project manager of NASA's Near Earth Asteroid Tracking program was
describing what might have happened if asteroid 2001 YB5, which passed by
Earth on Monday at the relatively close distance of 500,000 miles, had
instead smacked into the planet.

Even though the 1,000-foot-long rock was discovered just 10 days before it
sneaked by, Pravdo said YB5 didn't merit the attention it received.

"What happened with that was a reporter from the Associated Press. It must
have been their beat to look up these things; they saw it was close and
thought it was a story. But in this case it was known to be very close, but
it was also known that it wouldn't hit anything; it wasn't a danger at all,"
Pravdo said Thursday.

This worst-calamity sort of story periodically crops up in Pravdo's job.
Three years ago, for example, he and his colleagues found themselves
explaining to salivating reporters that, contrary to earlier asteroid
theories, the world would not end in a collision in 2028.

But there are more such explanations to make these days because the asteroid
hunters are finding more hurtling rocks than ever. During the past 10 years,
and especially since 1998, advances in technology and increased government
funding have significantly improved the rate at which near-Earth objects are

"The current estimate -- and this is just an estimate -- is that there are
about 1,200 of these asteroids that come near the Earth and are larger than
1 kilometer in size," Pravdo said. "By 2008, we're trying to find all of

As of Wednesday, scientists had discovered 564 near-Earth objects; 471 have
been found since 1990.

The process of discovering one of these rocks is akin to looking for a very
tiny needle in a stadium-sized haystack that -- just to keep things
interesting -- is very far away. Every night, Pravdo and his team aim their
powerful electronic cameras at a small patch of the sky. They take three
different pictures of the same spot, each one at a different time.

Then the three images are overlaid over each other, and the team uses a
computer to see whether any of the objects appear to have moved over time.
These moving objects are possible asteroids.

After one of these is discovered, Pravdo said, it takes several days to
determine the orbit of the object in order to determine whether it poses any
risk to Earth. During these few days, Pravdo says, he never worries that
anything calamitous will happen.

"It's like when you buy a lottery ticket, are you ever excited that it's
going to win?" he asked, by way of explaining how he keeps his cool. "That's
what the odds are like here."

Actually, though, the odds of getting hit by an asteroid are actually better
than winning most state lotteries.

Since so many people could perish in a catastrophic asteroid collision, even
if such a crash almost never occurs, it turns out that the risk of
death-by-interstellar-rock is just about equal to the risk of dying in an
airline accident -- about 1 in 20,000.

And currently, Pravdo said, there might not be too much we could do to avert
such a disaster. If the YB5 asteroid had been speeding toward Earth and the
planet had only 10 days notice, the most humanity could have done, Pravdo
said, would have been "to find out what part of the Earth would be hit and
then send condolence notes to them." [that sounds too fatalistic to me,
Steven, given that such an impact would - most likely - occur in a remote
area of the globe. Even in the worst-case scenario in which the object is
predicted to impact a densly populated area, there would be almost two weeks
to evacuate the bulk of the population; BJP]

"A longer lead time would mean that the 'responsible parties' of the Earth
could set up a program to institute some technological policy that could try
to move the object away," he added, referring to Hollywood's famous
technique of shooing away the asteroid with a nuclear weapon.

Ever since Armageddon and Deep Impact awakened people to the danger of
asteroids three years ago, there is increased worry about a collision each
time an asteroid passes nearby.

This week on Usenet, for example, it was possible to find people advocating
the creation of Martian colonies as a way to make sure the human species
survives after a big crash.

Some people took issue with this suggestion. One reader of the sci.skeptic
newsgroup warned that "a Mars colony would produce a small carbon copy of
our Earth habitat but on rather less promising ground," and instead
suggested that programs such as Pravdo's be expanded and that governments
begin to seriously think about safe asteroid deflection techniques.

Asteroid deflection is a well-studied topic, Pravdo said, but the various
suggestions made by scientists are not generally known to the rest of the
public. In addition to nuclear weapons, there may also be a variety of other
ways to prevent disaster.

For example, an asteroid expert told a couple years ago that
"attaching a giant solar sail to the asteroid" might guide it away, and
using "a giant parabolic mirror to concentrate the sun's rays and vaporize
rock on the surface of the asteroid" could also do the trick. For obvious
reasons, these ideas are difficult to test.

"Even though some technology exists, it would have to be applied in a
different way, and we wouldn't know if it would work," Pravdo said.

Of course, these days, the fear of an asteroid extinction is not the first
thing that comes to mind.

Copyright 2002, Wired News


Raukas A, Tiirmaa R, Kaup E, Kimmel K: The age of the Ilumetsa meteorite
craters in southeast Estonia

The Ilumetsa impact craters were discovered in 1938 in the course of
geological mapping. In the crater field area, the Middle Devonian bedrock
consists of light-yellow weakly cemented siltstones and sandstones of the
Givetian Burtnieki Regional Stage, which are overlain by a 1-2 in thick
layer of reddish-brown loamy till. Porguhaud, the biggest crater, has a
diameter of 75-80 m at the top of the uplifted rim and is 12.5 m deep. The
zone of authochtonous breccias below the apparent crater extends to 30 m
deep. The crater is partly filled with a thin layer of gyttja and peat up to
2 in thick. Radiocarbon ages of 6030 +/- 100 (TA-310) and 5910 +/- 100
(TA-725) years B.P. from the lowermost organic layer and palynological
evidence suggest that the age of the impact was similar to 6000 C-14 years
B.P. The Sugavhaud crater has a diameter of 50 m at the top of the rim and
is 4.5 m deep. Organic matter on the bottom of the crater is absent. As
precise age determination of the Ilumetsa craters by direct dating methods
has proved inconclusive, we proposed a method of geological correlation
which is based on the occurrence of impact spherules in lake and bog
sediments around the crater field. Radiocarbon dating of samples from a peat
layer with glassy spherules of impact origin in the Meenikunno Bog, 6 km
southwest of the Ilumetsa crater field, yielded the ages of 6542 +/- 50
(Tln-2214) for the depth interval 5.6-5.7 in and 6697 +/- 50 (Tln-2316)
years B.P. for the depth interval 5.7-5.8 m. These dates suggest that the
Ilumetsa craters were formed similar to 6600 years ago.

Raukas A, Tallinn Tech Univ, Inst Geol, Estonia Ave 7, EE-10143 Tallinn,
Tallinn Tech Univ, Inst Geol, EE-10143 Tallinn, Estonia

Copyright 2002 Institute for Scientific Information


Dressler BO, Reimold WU: Terrestrial impact melt rocks and glasses
EARTH-SCIENCE REVIEWS 56 (1-4): 205-284 DEC 2001

The effects of meteorite and comet impact on Earth are rock brecciation, the
formation of shock metamorphic features, rock melting, and the formation of
impact structures, i.e. simple craters, complex craters, and multi-ring
basins. Large events, such as the 65-Ma Chicxulub impact, are believed to
have had catastrophic environmental effects that profoundly influenced the
development of life on Earth. In this review, an attempt is made to
summarize some of the voluminous literature on impact melting, one important
aspect of planetary impact, provide some comments on this process, and to
make suggestions for future research. The products of impact melting are
glasses, impact melt rocks, and pseudotachylites. Our treatise deals mainly
with the geological setting, petrography, and major-element chemistry of
melt rocks and glasses.
Impact glasses, in several petrographic aspects, are similar to volcanic
glasses, but they are associated with shock metamorphosed mineral and rock
fragments and, in places, with siderophile element anomalies suggestive of
meteoritic contamination. They are found in allogenic breccia deposits
within (fall-back 'suevite') and outside (fall-out 'suevite') impact craters
and, as spherules, in distal ejecta. Large events, such as the K/T boundary
Chicxulub impact, are responsible for the formation of worldwide ejecta
horizons which are associated with siderophile element anomalies and shock
metamorphosed mineral and rock debris. Impact glasses have a bulk chemical
composition that is homogeneous but exemptions to this rule are common. On a
microscopic scale, however, impact glasses are commonly strikingly
heterogeneous. Tektites are glasses ejected from craters over large
distances. They are characterized by very low water and volatile contents
and element abundances and ratios that are evidence that tektites formed by
melting of upper crustal, sedimentary rocks. Four tektite strewn-fields are
known, three of which can be tied to specific impact craters.
Impact melt rocks form sheets, lenses, and dike-like bodies within or
beneath allogenic fallback breccia deposits in the impact crater and
possibly on crater terraces and flanks. Dikes of impact melt rocks also
intrude the rocks of the crater floor. They commonly contain shock
metamorphosed target rock and mineral fragments in various stages of
assimilation and are glassy or fine- to coarse-grained. Chemically, they are
strikingly homogeneous, but as with impact glasses, exemptions to this rule
do exist. Large and thick melt bodies, such as the Sudbury Igneous Complex
(SIC), are differentiated or may represent a combination of impact melt
rocks sensu-strictu and impact-triggered, deep-crustal melts.
A concerted, multidisciplinary approach to future research on impact melting
and on other aspects of meteorite and comet impact is advocated. Impact
models are models only and uncritical reliance on their validity will not
lead to a better understanding of impact processes-especially of melting,
excavation, and deposition of allogenic breccias and the spatial position of
breccias in relation to sheets and lenses of melt rocks within the crater.
Impact-triggered pressure-release melting of target rocks beneath the
excavation cavity may be responsible for the existence of melt rocks beneath
the impact melt rocks sensu-strictu. This controversial idea needs to be
tested by a re-evaluation of existing data and models, be they based on
field or laboratory research. Only a relatively small number of terrestrial
impact structures has been investigated in sufficient detail as it relates
to geological and geophysical mapping.
In this review, we summarize observations made on impact melt rocks and
impact glasses in a number of North American (Brent, Haughton, Manicouagan,
New Quebec, Sudbury, Wanapitei, all in Canada), Asian (Popigai, Russia;
Zhamanshin, Kazakhstan), two South African structures (Morokweng and
Vredefort), the Henbury crater field of Australia, and one European crater
(Ries, Germany). Our tables listing major-element chemical compositions of
impact glasses and melt rocks, however, include also data from structures
not dealt with in further detail. (C) 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights

Dressler BO, 185 Romfield Circuit, Thornhill, ON L3T 3H7, Canada
Univ Witwatersrand, Dept Geol, Impact Cratering Res Grp, ZA-2050
Johannesburg, South Africa

Copyright 2002 Institute for Scientific Information


Michtchenko TA, Beauge C, Roig F: Planetary migration and the effects of
mean motion resonances on Jupiteris Trojan asteroids
ASTRONOMICAL JOURNAL 122 (6): 3485-3491 DEC 2001

We present results of several numerical simulations of fictitious Trojan
asteroids under different resonant configurations of the outer planets,
especially between Jupiter and Saturn. Although the present outer solar
system is not locked in mean motion resonances, such commensurabilities may
have been temporarily attained in the past if current theories of planetary
migration are correct. By studying the evolution of Trojan-like test
particles under these conditions, it is possible to obtain information
related to the maximum variation of the semimajor axes of the two major
Jovian planets, as well as insights on the duration of the migration itself.
Results show that the 2S: 1J and 5S: 2J Jupiter-Saturn resonances introduce
large instabilities in the Trojan region. In the case of 2S: 1J, a few
thousand years are sufficient to expel all particles initially in tadpole
orbits. For 5S: 2J, these may survive for up to 10(6) yr. The 7S: 3J
commensurability, on the other hand, is much less disruptive. These results
seem to indicate that the observed presence of the Jovian Trojans is
compatible with a planetary migration as proposed by Han & Malhotra, in
which the orbital distance between Jupiter and Saturn did not vary by more
about 1 AU. Larger variations of the semimajor axes seem unlikely.

Michtchenko TA, Univ Sao Paulo, Inst Astron & Geofis, CP 3386, BR-01060970
Sao Paulo, Brazil
Univ Sao Paulo, Inst Astron & Geofis, BR-01060970 Sao Paulo, Brazil
Univ Nacl Cordoba, Astron Observ, RA-5000 Cordoba, Argentina

Copyright 2002 Institute for Scientific Information


Cooper G, Kimmich N, Belisle W, Sarinana J, Brabham K, Garrel L:
Carbonaceous meteorites as a source of sugar-related organic compounds for
the early Earth
NATURE 414 (6866): 879-883 DEC 20 2001

The much-studied Murchison meteorite is generally used as the standard
reference for organic compounds in extraterrestrial material. Amino acids
and other organic compounds(1) important in contemporary biochemistry are
thought to have been delivered to the early Earth by asteroids and comets,
where they may have played a role in the origin of life(2-4).
Polyhydroxylated compounds (polyols) such as sugars, sugar alcohols and
sugar acids are vital to all known lifeforms-they are components of nucleic
acids (RNA, DNA), cell membranes and also act as energy sources. But there
has hitherto been no conclusive evidence for the existence of polyols in
meteorites, leaving a gap in our understanding of the origins of
biologically important organic compounds on Earth. Here we report that a
variety of polyols are present in, and indigenous to, the Murchison and
Murray meteorites in amounts comparable to amino acids. Analyses of water
extracts indicate that extraterrestrial processes including photolysis and
formaldehyde chemistry could account for the observed compounds. We conclude
from this that polyols were present on the early Earth and therefore at
least available for incorporation into the first forms of life.
KeyWords Plus:

Cooper G, NASA, Ames Res Ctr, Moffett Field, CA 94035 USA
NASA, Ames Res Ctr, Moffett Field, CA 94035 USA
Univ G DAnnunzio, IRSPS, I-65127 Pescara, Italy

Copyright 2002 Institute for Scientific Information


Aleon M, Engrand C, Robert F, Chaussidon M: Clues to the origin of
interplanetary dust particles from the isotopic study of their
hydrogen-bearing phases

Ion microprobe quantitative imaging was performed for H, D, C-12.13,
O-16.18, Al-27 Si-28,Si-29,Si-30 and in five stratospheric particles with a
1.5 X 1.5 mum spatial resolution to determine the carriers of high D/H
ratios and to give new clues about the parent bodies of interplanetary dust
particles (IDPs). Among these particles, four appear to be of
extraterrestrial origin. Using imaging, the large variations of D/H ratios
can be correlated at the micrometer scale with chemical composition so that
endmembers can be identified. From the systematics of variation of C/H and
D/H ratios, water present as hydroxyls in phyllosilicates (at C/H = 0) and
three different types of organic matter (OM1, 2, and 3) were identified.
Water exhibits D/H ratios lying in the chondritic domain (D/H similar to 150
X 10(-6)), whereas OMs are enriched in deuterium. OM1 is similar to the
macromolecular organic matter of carbonaceous chondrites (D/H = 250 X 10(-6)
and C/H = 1.5). OM2 (D/H = 1500 X 10(-6) and C/H = 1.0) is close to cometary
HCN.OM3 (D/H = 2000 X 10(-6) and C/H = 3.0) is a highly condensed
carbonaceous phase with no counterpart in known extraterrestrial objects.
The C, O, and Si isotopic compositions are solar within +/- 10%.

The identification of these phases allows a better understanding of the
origin of D/H variations inferred for the protosolar nebula. The only
mechanism that can explain such high D/H ratios is interstellar chemistry.
However, D/H ratios in interplanetary dust organic matter remain lower than
those measured in molecules from cold molecular clouds. This difference can
be accounted for by an isotopic exchange with liquid water in IDP parent
bodies. In addition, the close association of the chondritic component OM1
with the likely cometary component OM2 is evidence for a link between
carbonaceous chondrites and comets. Although IDPs contain cometary organic
matter, the water-D/H ratio is lower than that measured in comets (310 X
10(-6)). IDPs seem thus constituted of various materials formed over a large
range of heliocentric distances. Copyright (C) 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd.

Aleon M, Univ Calif Los Angeles, Dept Earth & Space Sci, 595 Charles Young
Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90095 USA
CNRS, Ctr Rech Petrog & Geochim, F-54501 Vandoeuvre Les Nancy, France
Ctr Spectrometrie Nucl & Spectrometrie Masse, F-91405 Orsay, France
Museum Natl Hist Nat, CNRS, URA736, Lab Mineral, F-75005 Paris, France

Copyright 2002 Institute for Scientific Information



>From Duncan Steel <>

Dear Benny,

I am not sure that the newspaper report you carried (CCNet 18 Jan 2002)
concerning the Odessa (Texas) crater made it clear that this was the first
terrestrial crater to be accepted by the scientific community, in the 1930s,
as being definitely of impact origin. This was on the basis of the
associated iron meteorite fragments. Arguments were still continuing in
those days (until Gene Shoemaker's seminal study in the 1950s) about the
origin of Meteor (i.e. Barringer) Crater.

The Odessa crater is therefore of some considerable significance in the
history of NEO impact studies.

Duncan Steel


>From Michael Paine <>

Dear Benny

The University of Arizona is developing an excellent educational website on
impact craters. It has interactive maps of the world and recent reports on
crater research and environmental effects of impacts.

Michael Paine

PS Antarctic ice reports: see this BBC item
"...the research only covered a relatively small area, over a short period
of time and it was possible that what they were detecting was a minor
fluctuation. He pointed out that there were other areas in West Antarctica
where the ice was thinning significantly."


>From Nathalie Bugeaud <>

Dear Benny

What chance is there, given a 2-week prior warning, to escape an asteroid of
YB5 size after the impact point on earth has been pinpointed. Can I drive my
car for 1000 miles to safety (not considering the resulting traffic-jam)?

kind regards
Nathalie Bugeaud MD

MODERATOR'S NOTE: "A short warning time of just under 2 weeks before the
predicted impact of a YB5 class object (i.e. an object meassuring between
200-400m), leaves emergency agencies plenty of time to mass evacuate large
populations in those areas most exposed to the effects of impact. In case of
a predicted oceanic impact, whole coastal areas might have to be evacuated,
an exercise that is quite common for communities that live under the
constant threat of Tsunami and Hurrican disasters. Tsunami warning systems
exist to alert populations of the occurrence of an earthquake that has high
potential to generate a tsunami. In contrast to an asteroid impact warning,
however, Tsunami warning system have only hours - not days or weeks
- to alert and, in sever emergencies, evacuate populations."


>From Drake A. Mitchell <>

Sleepwalking is ill-advised, yet the current state of NEO hazard management
resembles a lurching stagger through lanes of oncoming highway traffic. With
breathtaking consensus, global media icons reported the expert chorus chant:
"there is nothing we could have done about 2001 YB5." This message was
brought to you by elements of the vanguard forces leaning into the threat:
Liverpool John Moores University [1, 2], Spaceguard UK [3], Johns Hopkins
University [4], and NASA Ames Research Center[4].

Although current programs offer nowhere near a guarantee of warning, ~40
hours yielded a determination that 2001 YB5 posed no immediate danger [6].
Yet to assert that the two week period - from actual discovery on 25-26Dec01
to the estimated close approach on 07Jan02 - would have offered no
opportunity for any defence at all against an imminent impactor, defies both
common-sense and other published expert opinion [7]. This in spite of the
missed opportunity for radar imaging and measurements.

A simple example can be illustrated from a current major natural disaster in
its first week, the latest eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano in the Congo.
"More than 300,000 people have fled Goma into neighboring Gisenyi, Rwanda,
where they have been living on the streets, sheltering at night under shop
porches." "An estimated 180,000 more people remained marooned by the lava on
the other side of the divided city without potable water or electricity,
said Adolphe Onusumba, the leader of the Rwandan-backed Congolese rebel
group that controls Goma and who visited the stranded people by helicopter."
"Residents cutoff from escape surrounded the visiting rebel leader who
controls the city Saturday pointing to their stomachs and begging for food.

"There are fears a lack of clean water could lead to diseases such as
dysentery and cholera, which killed up to 50,000 Rwandan Hutu refugees in
Goma in 1994, in the exodus that followed Rwanda's genocide." "But aid
agencies reported confusion as many of the 500,000 people displaced started
to return to Goma, shunning the refugees camps being prepared for them."
"They were defying warnings by the local military and U.N. not to return to
the devastated city of Goma."  "'I'd prefer to die here than stay as a
refugee there,' Wamos Mubibya, 27, a hotel management student told Reuters
on leaving the Rwandan town of Gisenyi to where many had fled. [9]" "The
Oxfam aid is worth 150,000 and consists mostly of water purification kits
to provide clean water for drinking and sanitation for 50,000 people." "They
have aged 10 years in 48 hours. It is just so hard to imagine their
despair." "It's like a scene from an apocalypse. [10]"

A disaster on such a scale is difficult enough to comprehend even by the
professional disaster relief community. The efforts of the surviving victims
displaced by this sudden catastrophe, defying official warnings, must boggle
the world's onlookers. Although the number of fatalities is uncertain, this
volcano disaster with ~500,000 refugees, if compared to a populated area
struck by an NEO impactor with ~500,000 fatalities, would still amount to a
"small" event - in the class of the 1908 Tunguska impactor, estimated to be
a 50-75m stony asteroid airburst. An iron-body impactor in this damage class
could be just a few times larger in diameter than the largest of the objects
that satellites have recorded exploding monthly in the atmosphere since the

With the present volcano disaster thus depicted, a rough example of "civil
defence" can be illustrated. Worse off than the ~300,000 people that have
been displaced but have access to relief, ~180,000 people are reportedly
stranded due to the lava flow. Assuming the ability to extract every 15
minutes 50 people each, 10 rotary-wing Sikorsky CH-53's operating
continuously could extract the stranded population within four days. More
probable conditions, e.g. lighter aircraft, delayed capacity, and longer
cycles, could easily require longer periods or alternative strategies.
Clearly however, large-scale humanitarian evacuations are feasible and must
be considered in contingency planning for imminent impactor scenarios. This
is true even for larger mid-range 200-400m objects like 2001 YB5, and more
so for the more likely tsunami scenarios. Historically, it may serve to note
that "Operation Dragon Rouge, the evacuation of Stanleyville, Congo,
November 1964, was a multinational operation using USAF aircraft and Belgian
paratroopers," per the U.S. Army Field Manual for Noncombatant Evacuation
Operations, FM 90-29 [11].

Given the high multidisciplinary complexity of the NEO hazard, e.g. by
comparing all the related specialty disciplines to other multidisciplinary
challenges, a premium is indicated for superior management of a global
threat that is both substantially more tractable than lesser natural
hazards, and yet also an unprecedented development opportunity. A large
backlog of analytical products must be aggressively attacked, especially for
the several dimensions of economic modeling that underpin almost all other
considerations, including optimal paths to appropriate warning times and
active defences.

As U.S. Senator Joseph Biden likes to point out, it is not always obvious
which is the preferred mode in offering one's best assistance to an issue:
pro, or con. According to the 2000 UK NEO Task Force Report, the public's
main concern regarding the NEO issue continues to be that nothing
could be done about an imminent impactor. Perhaps this concern is not
entirely unwise, considering that the only space-based testing to date has
been in very slow pieces, and that the lack of readiness is grossly
irresponsible. Alternatively, perhaps this concern is of no surprise at all,
considering early January's expert commentary on 2001 YB5 in the media. A
more "can-do" attitude may help achieve a breakthrough on Planetary Defence
- perhaps even in 2002.

[1] BBC Online News, 7 January 2002
[2] Times of India, 7 January 2002
[3] The Independent, 8 January 2002
[4] FLORIDA TODAY, 8 January 2002
[5] Hermann Burchard
[6] Brian G. Marsden
[7] Chapman, Durda, and Gold
[8] AP 19Jan02 6:57 PM ET
[9] CNN 20Jan02 (2336 GMT)
[10] BBC 20Jan02 (15:07 GMT)
[11] 17Oct94


>From E.P. Grondine <>

Hello Benny -

First off, I want to thank Goran Johansson for circulating the results of
his research with the Conference, and to state that in my opinion he is
absoluely correct as to the occurence of a major impact in the middle bronze
age, an impact which severely affected the peoples living in that area.

In your reply to Goran you neglected to mention my note which I circulated
to the Conference several years back on the written materials pertaining to
the Joshua Impact, materials which pretty well demonstrated that the impact
took place not on Crete, as Johansson speculated, but
instead in the area of modern Jerusalem. To recap and expand that note, we
now have some six distinct textual traditions referring to the Joshua
Impact, and one of the completely independent documents is contemporaneous.
If Sorrenson' guess about the Gebal Barbuk inscription is correct, that will
bring to two the number of completely independent contemporaneous sets of
documents which refer to the Joshua Impact Event, and the total number of
distinct text sets to seven.

The first written source for the event, the one with which Conference
participants are probably most familiar, is the biblical book of Joshua,
which admittedly was composed quite a while after the impact event itself.
To summarize once again the account in Joshua, the Israelites leave Egypt at
the time of the eruption of Thera in 1628 BC. They are repulsed at Rephidim,
return to the desert, eliminate the Kohath faction, and establish themselves
on the east bank of the Jordan in lands which were long before under Horim
(Hurrian) control. By the year count within Joshua, this brings us to around
1588 BC.

The Israelites begin to move across the Jordan, and after a particularly
savage attack on Ai, a "multi-national" force is assembled by the Hittites
to stop them. It is important to note that while some researchers point to
one particular tel as Ai, and to the lack of a destruction level there as
proof that the Joshua account is fictional, the identification of this
particular tel as Ai is not universally accepted, and there is another tel
nearby which remains uninvestigated and ignored.

Under the leadership of Joshua, the Israelites launch a night attack on the
Hittite "multi-national" force, and as the force regroups the impact event
occurs: "And it came to pass, as they fled from before Israel, and were
going down to Beth-horon, that the Lord cast down great stones from heaven
upon them unto Azekah, and they died. More died with hailstones than they
whom the children of Israel slew with the sword." The Israelites then went
on to slaughter and enslave a large region, dividing the land ca 1583 BC.

The second group of written sources for this impact event are the
comtemporary Hittite records of Hantilish's (Hantili's) defeat. To
summarize, Hantilish's predecessor Murshilish I (Musili I) is deafened by
the explosion of Thera as a child, and takes the throne in 1604 BC. (The
dating used here follows the Hittite scholar Michael Astour's sequence of
dates in "Hittite History and Absolute Chronology of the Bronze Age, page
2", but adjusted back by 64 years using the middle chronology Babylonian
astronomical cycle observation, which is commonly accepted by Hittite
scholars. The dates thus arrived at coincide very well with those
independently arrived at from the ice cores for the Thera explosion and
other the other texts.)

Murshilish I marches on Babylon in 1595 BC, but on his way home he is
attacked and defeated by the Hurrians. There is a treaty (KUB XXXVI 106 +
KBo IX 73)with "hapiru" ("raiders") which was concluded by either Murshilish
now, or by his successor Hantilish, some time after Hantilish's murder of
Murshilish in 1594 BC and his seizure of the throne.

It is important to note that exactly who the "hapiru" were remains another
issue very hotly contested today. The earlier use by cuneiform scribes of
"hapiru" to indicate a type of vassal seems to be entirely consistent with
the role of the ancient Israelites as vassals to the so-called "Hyksos", the
people who had earlier seized control of Egypt; and as will be seen shortly,
the Israelites are referred to as "hapiru" in other contemporaneous

Hantilish, after his murder of Murshilish I, also campaigns against the
Hurrians, but the Hurri defeat him and take his queen and heirs to Shugziya
and kill them. (Edict of Telepinush, 15-17) According to fragmentary record
KBo III 46, someone dies in Shugziya, after the death of 3 Hittite
commanders, and an unnamed Hittite king assembles 3000 "Hapiru" men and
garrisons them in a (name lost) city. (Astour, page 87)

Filling in the breaks in this series of extremely fragmentary
contemporaneous Hittite records, we also have a third document, a nearly
complete contemporaneous account of the events, the Akadian testament of
Idrimi Ilim Ilimma, King of Alalah. In Indrimi's version of events, a series
of disputes breaks out (which probably arose as a result the Hittite King
Murshilishi I's conquest of Aleppo in 1595 BCE), and he flees Aleppo to the
city of Emar, from which he is also forced to flee.

Idrimi finally find refuge for 7 years with the "hapiru" at Ammija in
Canaan, along with others from Aleppo, Muksis, Nihi and Amae.  During these
7 years Idrimi and the "hapiru" are in conflict with Barrattarna, the King
of the Hurrians (biblical Horim).

After these 7 years, "Teshub" the sky god favors Idrimi because of his pious
ACCOUNT. An approximate date for the impact event may be derived by moving
some 7+ years from 1595 BCE, the date of Murshilish I's
conquest of Aleppo, say sometime immediately after 1588 BCE.

Following the impact, Idrimi builds ships at the harbor of Nulla (with the
sabe(Erin mesh), also used to describe the "hapiru") and attacks and
conquers the cities of Alalah, Muksis, Amae, and Nihi. Now independent of
the "hapiru" and running his own kingdom, Idrimi betrays them and makes
peace with Barattarna, the King of the Hurrians.

Then, as Idrimi put it, the "kings to his right and left came against him".
Who exactly these kings were is not clear, but most likely they included
Hantilish, King of the Hittites, Hantilish's new "allies" the Israelites,
the "hapiru", as both were common enemies of the Hurrians, and Thutmose I of
Egypt, who was the enemy of the Hittites, Hurrians, and the
"hapiru", the Israelites.  If this makes it any clearer, what we are dealing
with here is a 5 sided conflict which occured after the explosion of Thera
between the Hittites, Hurrians, Aleppans, Israelites, and Egyptians for
control of the northern Syrian ports and these ports' links to the Euphrates
River and thus to the valuable trade with the east.
Though under attack, Idrimi tells as that he defeated all his enemies and
left their bodies piled on the ground, as his father had done. Now secure
against attack, Idrimi goes on to attack the Hittite vassal cities of
Passahe, Damrut-re-i, Hulahhan, Zise, Ie, Uluzila, and Zarana, and he uses
the wealth of these cities to build his kingdom at Alalah.

(For a transcription, translation, and commentary on Idrimi's testament, see
Die Inschrift der Statue des Konigs Idirmi von Alalah, M. Dietrich and O.
Loretz, Ugarit Forschungen, Band 13, 1981, p 201-268.)

The destruction of the Minoan vassal forces under the Hittite King
Hantilish's command left their home lands defenceless, and easy prey for the
Myceneans. Thus Late Minoan IB comes to a rather decisive end, and this
leads to the creation of the forth group of written sources for the Joshua
Impact Event, the Ionian Greek "mythological" records. It appears that
Hantilish was known to the Achaean Mycenean Greeks as Tantalus, the god
(Theos) Hantilish, or T'e-Hantilish, the king of the coastal region of
Sipylus, which has been correctly identified as Hittite Zippasla. The rather
direct Mycenean sense of humor finds typical expression in its description
of Tantalus's fate. After Tantalus dies he is sent to hell, where though
surrounded by food and drink, he can not enjoy them, as he must hold up a
large stone with both hands, in order to keep it from falling on his head.
Thus we have another mention of the Joshua Impact Event.

The fifth group of documents are the later classical records which came from
the region of Sipylus and mentioned Hantilish's expedition. I saw second
hand notice of them in Peter James' book on Atlantis, "The Sunken Kingdom"
and corresponded with James, but still do not have direct citations from him
for this set of records, though I did recieve infromation from James that
Dr. Eva Danelius had conducted work at the area around Beth Horon to the
west of Jerusalem.  Whether today's Beth Horon is the same as yesterday's
Beth Horon is another question entirely.

As for other archaeological records of the Joshua impact, there are
destruction levels at Jericho, Hormah, Gibeon, and Arad which have been
dated to 1550 BC, though I do not know if these dates are still valid. It
also appears that the Hittites were so weakened by the Joshua Impact Event
that they were unable to prevent the migration of the Gasgas (Kaskas) and
Achaeans, so in addition to every LM IB site, every archaeological site
concerning the movement of the Gasgas may be listed as well as support for
the Joshua Impact Event (tz'uk). As for our witness Idrimi Ilimi-Ilimma, the
University of Chicago's Oriental Institute has just re-started their
research into his homeland in Northern Syria, and those who are still
blessed may want to consider a tax-deductable donation to the Oriental
Institute's Amuq (Mukishe) Valley Survey project.

All of this brings us to Johansson's note on the Gebal Barkal monument in
Syria, an inscription whose contents I was earlier unaware of. While I don't
have a definitive copy of the Gebal Barkal inscription at hand (though
available either in Baltimore or Chicago, I don't feel like driving today),
one part of it is available via the internet:

"It was not known that you might learn/witness the miracle of [Amun-Re]
before the face of all the Two Lands (Egypt). [It was evening, when the
enemy troops came near]. [The guards] were about to come to meet in the
night to make the regular (change of) watch. THERE WERE TWO HOUR-WATCHERS;
(Younger, 217).

When dealing with this particular text it is important to keep in mind that
the restorations of it set out in brackets need to be handled with extreme
caution, if not re-done entirely, particularly the statements about "[enemy
troops coming near]". Astour places the invasion of Thutmose I against the
Hurrians, (who the Egyptians conveniently refer to as the people of
Mitani-Naharina, as if things weren't already confusing enough), as occuring
at the same time as Hantilish's reign as King of the Hittites. Astour's
chronology for the Egyption kings of this period yields Thutmose I from
1589-1576 BCE, Thutmose II from 1576-1568 BCE, Hateshput 1567-1546 BCE, and
Thutmose III 1568 (co-reign)- 1514 BCE, when adjusted by 64 years to the
Middle Chronology.  Reignal year three for Thutmose I thus becomes 1586 BCE.

Thutmose I attacked Za'una and Niya, cities which had been taken by Idrimi,
and this most likely is one of the attacks Idrimi referred to in his
testament.  Thus what appears to have happened is that Thutmose I saw the
impact, heard of the Hittite defeat, and realized it would be a good time to
re-assert Egyptian control of the North Syrian coastal ports.

For another separate and distinct biblical account of the "hapiru"
(Israelite)/Aleppan alliance, see Judges Chapters 1-3, wherin as an attempt
at reconciling the two different text sets the scribe gave Joshua the
impossible lifespan of some 110 years. More to the point is that immediately
after Joshua's conquests in Judges Chapter 2, the Israelites are visited
with destruction due to their alliance with the followers of Astarte and
Ba'al, the patron's of Alala.  In other words Thutmose I invades, and some
40 years later, the Children of Ammon, in other words the Children of Amon
Ra, the Egyptians, attack Israel again under while under the rule of
Thutmose III (Judges 3:11-13).

In conclusion, we now have some six sets of documents referring to events at
the time of the Joshua Impact Event. If the Gebal Barbuk Inscription holds
up under scrutiny, it will be the seventh document and the second
contemporaneous account of the Joshus Impact Event which we will have. If
might be useful if Sorrenson could e-mail the Conference the full text of
the inscription and if it was posted to the Conference archives.

I'd now like to move on to a few personal memories of Ted Wertime, whose
work on meteoritic iron Sorrenson cited in his note. Ted was quite a
remarkable man. The first major event of Ted's life of which I have
knowledge was when his reconnaisance patrol was overrun by the Chinese in
Korea.  Ted managed to get his crew out, and later personally helped with
the recovery of one of them who had suffered a head injury by getting music
therapy for him.  Somewhat indicative of how our government works, for many
years therafter the army would continue to try to dun Ted for the jeep which
was lost during their escape.

Ted later entered diplomatic service, and moved to Iran after the
re-installation of the Shah, where he became a close friend of one of the
leading Farsi poets. After that he served in Greece until shortly after the
military coup which took place there under Nixon, at which time he promptly
resigned from government service.

Ted then began work at the Smithsonian on man and early metals, continuing
work which he had started while investigating ancient smelters while he was
posted to Iran. I ran into him at the Smithsonian because of my interest in
the area around Girvan in southern Scotland, and specifically because of the
many thousands of tons of unaccounted for and unexplained ash
which had been removed in the 1700's from the area just to the north of the
town. Ted had a house on the Greek island of Melos which was available and
needed some roof work done, but my researches carried me in another

What is this leading to? Goran will probably want to read Karen Reiter's
book "Die Metalle im Alten Orient", which I also mentioned in an earlier
post to the Conference. To re-cap, Reiter includes ancient iron as part of
her study of metals (Eisen, pages 344-399), and if it has to do with ancient
iron, which was nearly all meteoritic before about 1300 BCE, if its not in
there, then there is a reference to it there.

Reiter reaches the same conclusion that Ted and his colleague James Muhly of
the University of Pennsylvania reached so many years ago in their
compendium, "The Coming of the Age of Iron": There is a dramatic increase in
the supply of iron shortly after 1600 BCE, several hundred years before
smelted iron came into use; nearly all of this iron is meteoritic, and the
price of iron in terms of gold and silver dropped markedly.

Now for my part. Clearly this iron did not appear by magic, and it seems
most likely to me that the "great stones" of the Joshua/T'e
Hantilish/Tantalus impact event of ca. 1584 BCE were iron.  Of course
barring the recovery of iron meteorites from the impact site itself, this
will only remain a hypothesis.  This is the only information which will
allow a determination to be made whether the reference in Joshua to "hail
stones" is a later scribal correction, or a description of contemporaneous
atmospheric phenomenon.

Cheers from a snowy Virginia,

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