Floods, Comets and Human Civilization

NoahWhen most people read the biblical story of Noah and the flood, they don’t take it literally, thinking that while a bad flood could have occurred, it was probably a regional one with limited scope. It’s not possible that a worldwide flood like the one described in the Bible could have happened. …Or is it?

Legends of a great flood that destroyed humanity are present in civilizations from all parts of the globe, from the Maoris of New Zealand to the Quechua of Peru. A major obstacle in considering these legends as evidence of a worldwide flood in ancient history is that it’s difficult to imagine how such an event could happen. Or at least it was before Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 smacked into Jupiter in July 1994. Astronomers had 16 months to get ready for the impact, which occurred between July 16 and July 22nd (the comet had been broken up by the force of Jupiter’s gravity into 20 pieces measuring between 1 and 5 kilometers). The show was awe-inspiring – astronomers were able to observe impact dust clouds on Jupiter that were as big as Earth. Donald Yeomans of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory estimated that a one-kilometer fragment of the comet hitting Jupiter produced 6 million megatons of equivalent energy – tantamount to one Hiroshima-type blast every second for 13 years.

What would happen if a comet – let’s take the example of the one-kilometer comet again – would hit Earth? Sandia National Laboratories actually ran a simulation of this back in 1997.  Because the surface of Earth is 70% ocean, Sandia’s scientists assumed that the comet would hit water. The results of the simulation indicated that low-lying areas would be washed over by a major tsunami, and vapor, dust and debris would screen out much of our sunlight for long periods of time, disrupting agriculture, among other effects. The probability of a comet this size hitting Earth is only one chance in 3,000 each century. “It’s a low-probability, high-consequence event,” stated Mark Boslough, who was one of the scientists who carried out the computational simulation. “But if it did hit, the probability of your becoming a victim would be high.”

At the University of Arizona, Donald Gault and Charles Sonett studied the wave effects of an asteroid or comet hitting the ocean. According to their work, the initial height of the first tsunami wave would be the same height as the depth of the water at the impact point. If the strike was in a deep part of the Atlantic or Pacific, it would result in a wave over three miles high, with an initial speed around 400 mph. In the open sea the wave crest would settle down quite quickly to a low level of perhaps just a few meters. But as the wave comes towards the shallower seabed of a continental shelf it would rear up back close to its original height, as the kinetic energy of motion is converted back into the potential energy of height.

In their book, Uriel’s Machine, Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas postulate that a large meteor hit Earth around 10,000 years ago.  They point to the work of Alexander and Edith Tollmann on tektites on the ocean floor dating back about 10,000 years as proof of a catastrophic meteor hit.  The Tollmanns link the tektites with the archeological record that shows over 10,000 species became extinct a the beginning of the Holocene period, which also dates back to 10,000 years ago.  While the editors of Wikipedia rip this theory to shreds, there are at least a few scientists who are taking seriously the idea that catastrophic meteor hits on Earth have had global impacts.

Comet1The Holocene Working Group  (HWG) is an international consortium of researchers (U.S., UK, India, Spain, Australia, France, Germany, Russia) from different scientific disciplines (astronomy, geology, soil science, geophysics, geomorphology, tree rings, archaeology, tsunamis, and microscopy) that is seeking out the geological signatures of a megatsunami that would have been caused by a meteor impact in the ocean within the past 11,000 years. In a 2006 New York Times Article, the HWG points out that current astronomical theory holds that catastrophic meteor impacts are rare (once every 500,000 to 1 million years) because impact sites are rare. Most scientists, however, are only looking for impact craters on land; statistically, since 70% of the planet’s surface is water, 70% of the meteors and asteroids hitting Earth have done so in an ocean or a sea. If the HWG scientists are right, instead of once in 500,000 to 1 million years, catastrophic impacts could happen every 1,000 years.

The HWG scientists don’t shy away from using myths and legends from around the world to help narrow down the possible dates for possible impacts. For example, Dr. Masse – an environmental archeologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory – analyzed 175 flood myths and found that 15 of them specifically described the full moon in eclipse at the flood – an event that can be dated to May 2807 B.C. Dr. Masse is clear, however, that mythological evidence by itself is weak. “Mythology can help us hypothesize about events that might have occurred, but to prove the reality of them, we have to go beyond myths and search for physical evidence.” That said, the HWG believes it has found proof for a meteor impact 5,000 years ago that sent a series of 600-foot-high tsunamis (13 times as big as the 2004 Indonesian tsunami that killed over 225,000 people) crashing against the world’s coastlines, spawned hurricanes around the planet, and plunged the world into relative darkness (a result of material being injected into the atmosphere).  This evidence includes:

  • a meteor crater with an 18 mile diameter in the Indian Ocean that dates back to between 4,500 and 5,000 years ago;
  • four enormous wedge-shaped sediment deposits in Madagascar composed of material from the ocean floor that are fused with a medley of metals typically formed by cosmic impact, each covering twice the area of Manhattan with sediment as deep as the Chrysler Building is high and pointing towards the aforementioned crater; and
  • a worldwide distribution of cosmogenic particles from a blast dating back about 4,800 years ago.

If true – and the evidence is compelling – what does this mean for humanity? First of all, we need to acknowledge that cosmic events can disrupt life on Earth. When the comet crashed into the Indian Ocean nearly 5,000 years ago, there was a great flood in China, a cyclone pummeled the Fertile Crescent and caused its own massive flood, several cities in Mesopotamia were entirely destroyed, and hurricane-force winds and several days of darkness were experienced around the planet. Dr. Masse estimates that nearly 80% of the human population may have died, and numerous animal species disappeared entirely.

But it’s not only individual lives that would have been lost, but entire peoples, their histories, and their arts and technologies. If the major city or cities of a nation were destroyed, what would be left? At a period when humanity numbered much fewer and every life was precious, even the death of several thousand people – while not significant by today’s standards – would be devastating.  Would those who survived be able to read and write? To construct architecturally pleasing buildings? To craft beautiful art? Or would they just be focused on surviving? Maybe human civilization isn’t a steady evolutionary path forward – if Earth suffered one or more catastrophic impacts during the past hundreds of thousands of years, it’s possible that civilization was wiped out and humanity reduced to hunter-gatherer status for generations. This scenario could help explain the discovery of numerous anomalous artifacts that mainstream science prefers to ignore.

The HWG is working to prove that there have been catastrophic meteor impacts within the past 11,000 years that had disastrous effects on humanity, animals and the environment.   If their evidence is eventually accepted, scientists should continue this search back further in time.  Who are we?  What is the true history of human civilization?  If we don’t explore – preferring instead to keep our minds shut – we may never find out.




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