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Cambridge Conference

Natural Catastrophes During Bronze Age Civilisations:
Archaeological, Geological, Astronomical and Cultural Perspectives
11-13 July 1997, Cambridge, UK.

The SIS Cambridge Conference will bring together historians, archaeologists, geologists, climatologists and astronomers in order to discuss whether the 'giant comet' hypothesis brought forward by astronomers such as Victor Clube, Bill Napier, Sir Fred Hoyle, David Asher, Mark Bailey, Duncan Steel et al. can be substantiated by the archaeological, climatological and historical records. Details at

Archaeology and Geology
Ever since Claude Schaeffer published his book Stratigraphie Comparee et Chronologie L'Asie Occidentale in 1948, there has been continuous scientific debate about the nature and extent of the destructions of Bronze Age civilisations. Schaeffer claimed that the repeated collapses of Bronze Age cultures were not caused by action of man but instead by seismic activity. During the last decade, eminent archaeologists and geologists have substantiated his claim and have linked destruction layers in Aegean and Near Eastern sites with natural disasters rather than with military conquests. The interpretation, however, which maintains that destruction layers or the mass abandonment of settlements were caused by seismic or climatic catastrophes, has been disputed due to the ambiguity of the stratigraphical record. The need for an accurate methodology of verifying the actual cause, extent and synchronicity of Bronze Age collapses is therefor essential.
Research in the field of astronomical neo-catastrophism and impact cratering has quickened its pace since the early 1980s. An increasing number of astronomers have suggested that a series of cosmic disasters punctuated the Earth in prehistoric times. These scholars claim that a more 'active' and threatening sky might have caused major cultural changes of Bronze Age civilisations, belief systems and religious rituals. Can the astronomical evidence brought forward by these astronomers be substantiated by historical, archaeological and climatological evidence?
Culture and History
In light of new astronomical and archaeological theories and the emergence of scientific neo-catastrophism, it seems necessary to re-assess the origins and cultural implications of apocalyptic religions and catastrophe traditions in ancient mythologies and rituals. In particular, the significant cultural and religious changes at the beginning of the Bronze Age and those which occurred after its final collapse will be re-evaluated.


Friday, 11th July 1997  
from 15.30 Tea available  
18.45 Dinner in the Dining Hall 
19.45 Welcome Address: Prof Trevor Palmer (Nottingham Trent University and SIS Chairman) 
Keynote Address: Robert Matthews, FRAS (Science Correspondent, The Sunday Telegraph)
Saturday, 12th July 
8.00 - 8.45 Breakfast 
Morning Session: Astronomy 
9.00 - 9.35 Prof Mark Bailey (Armagh Observatory):
Sources and opulations of Near-Earth Objects:
Recent Findings and Historical Implications  
9.35 - 9.45 Discussion 
9.45 - 10.20 Dr Bill Napier (Armagh Observatory):
Cometary Catastrophes, Cosmic Dust and Ecological Disasters in Historical Times 
10.20 - 10.30 Discussion 
10.30 - 11.00 Tea/coffee break
11.00 - 11.35 Dr Duncan Steel (Spaceguard Australia):
Before the Stones:
Stonehenge I as a Cometary Catastrophe Predictor? 
11.35 - 11.45 Discussion 
11.45 - 12.20 Prof Gerrit Verschuur (Memphis University):
Our Place in Space: The Implications of Impact Catastrophes on Human Thought and Behaviour 
12.20 - 12.45 Discussion 
12.45 - 13.45 Buffet lunch in the Dining Hall 
Afternoon Session: Archaeology, Geology & Climatology  
14.00 - 14.35 Dr Marie-Agnes Courty (Institut Natinal Agronomique Paris-Grignon):
Abrupt Climate Change around 2200 BC:
Stratigraphic and Geochemical evidence from the Middle East  
14.35 - 14.45 Discussion 
14.45 - 15.20 Prof Mike Baillie (Queen's University Belfast):
Tree-Ring Evidence for Environmental Disasters during the Bronze Age:
Causes and Effects 
15.20 - 15.30 Discussion 
15.30 - 16.00 Tea/coffee break 
16.00 - 16.35 Dr Benny J Peiser (Liverpool John Moores University):
Comparative Stratigraphy of Bronze Age Destruction Layers around the World:
Archaeological Evidence and Methodological Problems 
16.35 - 16.45 Discussion 
16.45 - 17.20 Dr Bruce Masse (University of Hawaii):
Earth, Air, Fire and Water:
The Archaeology of Bronze Age Cosmic Catastrophes 
17.20 - 17.30 Discussion 
17.30 - 18.05 Dr Bas van Geel (University of Amsterdam):
The Impact of Abrupt Climate Change around 2650 BP in NW-Europe:
Evidence for Climatic Teleconnections and a tentative Explanation 
18.05 - 18.15 Discussion 
18.15 - 19.00 Poster Presentations & Discussion 
18.15 - 19.00 Film (by Amos Nur and Chris MacAskill):
The Walls Came Tumbling Down:
Earthquakes in the Holy Land 
19.00 Evening Dinner
Sunday, 13th July 
8.00 - 8.45 Breakfast 
Morning Session History & Culture  
9.00 - 9.35 Dr Victor Clube (Oxford University):
Predestination and the Problem of Historical Catastrophism  
9.35 - 9.45 Discussion 
9.45 - 10.20 Prof Bill Mullen (Bard College):
The Agenda of the Milesian School:
The Post-Catastrophic Paradigm Shift in Ancient Greece 
10.20 - 10.30 Discussion 
10.30 - 11.00 Tea/coffee break 
11.00 - 11.35 Prof David Pankenier (Lehigh University):
Heaven-sent: Understanding Disaster in Chinese Mythology and Tradition 
11.35 - 11.45 Discussion 
11.45 - 12.20 Prof Gunnar Heinsohn (University of Bremen):
The Catastrophic Emergence of Civilisation:
The Coming of the Bronze Age Cultures 
12.20 - 12.45 Discussion 
12.45 - 13.45 Lunch 
Afternoon Session Archaeology & History  
13.45 - 14.20 Prof Amos Nur (Stanford University):
The Collapse of Ancient Societies by Great Earthquakes 
14.20 - 14.30 Discussion 
14.30 - 15.05 Dr Euan MacKie (Hunterian Museum, Glasgow University):
The End of the Upper Palaeolithic in the Dordogne and the 'Vitrified Forts' in Scotland 
15.05 - 15.15 Discussion 
15.15 - 15.50 Prof Irving Wolfe (University of Montreal):
The 'Kultursturz' at the Bronze Age - Iron Age Boundary 
15.50 - 16.00 Discussion 
16.00 - 16.10 Benny J Peiser: Closing Address 
16.10 Tea/coffee & farewell