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Comets and the Bronze Age Collapse

by Bob Kobres
This article was published by the Society for Interdisciplinary Studies in the CHRONOLOGY AND
CATASTROPHISM WORKSHOP 1992, number 1, pp.6-10, ISSN 0951-5984
. . . and from heaven a great star shall fall on the dread ocean and burn up the deep sea,
with Babylon itself and the land of Italy, by reason of which many of the Hebrews perished,
. . . Be afraid, ye Indians and high-hearted Ethiopians: for when the fiery wheel of the
ecliptic(?) . . . and Capricorn . . . and Taurus among the Twins encircles the mid-heaven,
when the Virgin ascending and the Sun fastening the girdle round his forehead dominates
the whole firmament; there shall be a great conflagration from the sky, falling on the
Are these lines from Book V of the SIBYLLINE ORACLES eschatological nonsense? Contemporary
astronomical evidence suggests a historic basis for words describing cosmic calamity. British
astronomers, Victor Clube and Bill Napier, in THE COSMIC WINTER (1990) and other recent
works, provide students of the past with newly discovered celestial clues which indicate that Earth
has been periodically pelleted with comet fragments throughout the Holocene period. The evidence
for the break-up of a large (> 50 km), short period (approximately 3.3 years), Earth-orbit-crossing
comet is substantial and should be considered as hard as anything a trowel might turn up. What
astronomical information cannot convey is the actual effect these periodic bombardment episodes
had on human culture; only further digging and sifting will illuminate that aspect.
Some of what can be uncovered has been buried by prior premise and so can be brought to light by review
of literature published over the years. For instance, the oracles quoted above are from a 1918 translation of
the "Sibylline" by H.N. Bate. Further into Book V these lines appear:
And then in his anger the immortal God who dwells on high shall hurl from the sky a fiery
bolt on the head of the unholy: and SUMMER SHALL CHANGE TO WINTER IN
Bate notes that Book VIII contains a parallel passage with winter being changed to summer--fortunately he
did not feel compelled to "correct" the lines above as others have. For example:
And then the imperishable God who dwells in the sky in anger will cast a lightning bolt
from heaven against the power of the impious. INSTEAD OF WINTER THERE WILL
This comes from OLD TESTAMENT PSEUDEPIGRAPHA (vol. 1) published in 1983. Not only has the
passage been rationalized (If God throws down fire it should get hotter, right?), but, a fiery bolt now has
become a lightning bolt.
Evidence of impact induced cold is valuable in gauging how energetic a past fall was. Based on
nuclear winter studies, a cosmic collision would need to impart at least the energy equivalent of a
thousand megatons TNT into the environment to produce such an effect.
A number of cultures retained stories of impact induced winter. Most telling of such lore this author has
read are these amazingly informative tales of the Yakuts: [note that the CH in brackets below is printed in
the reference as a "c" with a diacritic "
[CH]OLBON . . . is said to be "the daughter of the Devil and to have had a tail in the early
days". If it approaches the earth, it means destruction, storm and frost, even in the
summer; . . .
[CH]OLBON, the daughter of the Devil is a beautiful girl ... she is the bride and the
sweetheart of Satan's son RGEL (Pleiades). When these two stars come close to one
another, it is a bad omen; their eager quivering, their discontinuous panting cause great
disasters: storms, blizzards, gales. When they unite, fathom deep snow will fall even in
the summer, and all living beings, men, animals and trees will perish . . .
Both folk memories were recorded by ethnographer V.L. Serosevsky, the first in 1877, the next in 1885.
The Yakuts identified Venus as colbon; however, as a later student of this culture, G.V. Ksenofontov,
The Yakuts have two words for the "star": SULUS and [CH]OLBON. The first means
simply "star", the second refers to stars that change their place in the sky, sometimes
appearing and disappearing. Nowadays, however, it no longer--or very seldom--refers to
other planets than Venus and has almost become its name. Yet, as we have seen, in legends
also other [CH]OLBONS (i.e. planets) are mentioned.
What is remarkable about these particular tales is the conjunction of several pieces of information. From
these lines we gather that a comet ([CH]OLBON with a tail) came close enough to influence weather
on Earth--i.e. deadly storms, frost and deep snow in summer. Also, we are told that this is most
likely to occur if the comet appears close to the Pleiades. In short, these legends accurately describe
what can now be inferred from astronomical data on comet Encke and the ring of debris its
progenitor strew about the Sun.
As the above example suggests, contemporary researchers need to be wary of assuming our
predecessors' folk memories of astral events relate to bodies familiar to our time. There is
considerable reason to suspect that the majority of the planets namesakes were comets--probably of
the Encke family.
A conventional view comes from W.M. O'Neil's TIME AND THE CALENDARS (1975):
The word planet comes from the Greek PLANETES, the wanderers; these seven celestial
bodies moved among the fixed stars. The Babylonians had a more picturesque name,
BIBBU, the wild sheep, as these bodies broke through the fixed formation in which the tame
sheep crossed the sky.
To call into question Greek continuity of planet identity I refer to Leonardo Taran's work on the "Pseudo-
Platonic" Epinomis (1975) where in commentary on lines 986 A 8-987 D 2 Taran states:
Having previously proved to his own satisfaction that all the heavenly bodies are the greatest
divine living beings and having pointed out that they are not yet honored as gods, the author
explains who these visible gods are and why they are not honored in Greece. They are the
eight interrelated sidereal revolutions and the heavenly bodies which travel on them, for they
are all gods of the same kind. And the contemplation of this divine cosmic order is what will
make a man happy both in this life and in the next. But the lack of this wisdom in Greece is
due to ignorance of the true paths of the planets, a knowledge which comes from the Orient
and which must be incorporated into our laws. That the knowledge of the planets comes
from the Orient is to be seen in the very fact that the planets lack proper names and are
called after the (traditional) gods, for this kind of appellation is due to the barbarians who
first discovered the planets.
The Epinomis, which dates from around the 4th century BCE, is the earliest extant record of Greek planet
names; each is given as "the star of": Cronos, Zeus, Aphrodite, etc. Clearly the planets did not inspire
the earlier stories which championed these gods. The mythology associated with these names
certainly better describes the break-up of a comet with an orbit that crossed Earth's path than the
monotonous behavior of planets.
As for the BIBBUS, as well as the Oriental influence alluded to above I call attention to J.K. Bjorkman's
article in METEORITICS (1973) which deals with much earlier texts:
We move now to a discussion of a word which probably refers to comets, BIBBU. . .
BIBBU has a variety of astromantic and non-astromantic meanings. There is a lengthy omen
text, the 56th tablet of Enuma Anu Enlil, which deals with various features of the BIBBU,
and some of these seem to describe comets. For example:
If a BIBBU continues one day, two days in the sky and does not disappear:
If three or four BIBBUS rise one after the other at sunrise
The latter text might refer to a comet which has broken up into three or four comets . . . .
There are many more references to BIBBU, but in them the translations "unspecified planet"
or "meteor" could be proposed.
Confusion of planet terminology is also evident further to the east as can be demonstrated by James
Legge's translation of a passage concerning the emperor Kwei in the ANNALS OF THE BAMBOO
In his 10th year, the five planets went out of their courses. In the night, stars fell like
rain. The earth shook. The E and Loh became dry.
With astronomical evidence in mind a simplified, but testable, hypothesis of Bronze Age collapse
would involve accepting the legend of Phaethon as an event inspired myth, as Plato contended it was,
and also giving credence to stories of protracted winter in the aftermath of celestial "battles," such
as the Ragnarok.
During a close approach to a massive object like our planet a comet would be gravitationally disrupted
(Phaethon's disentegrating chariot) independent fragments would then further break to pieces as they
entered Earth's atmosphere. This debris, of various shapes and sizes, would scatter widely along the path
of the fall, each piece harboring energy in proportion to its mass. The "footprint" of this event could have
included some of: southern Europe, the Mediterranean, the Near East, and Northern Africa. Damage,
however, would not be uniform throughout this area. If the disintegrating objects were traveling south of
east, as the Phaethon story implies, the more massive fragments would travel farther and release their
greater energy, explosively, lower in the atmosphere toward the southeast end of the elliptical area directly
affected by the fall. In other words, the Near East would be more heavily damaged than southern Europe.
A survey scaling intensity of site destruction might reflect this aspect, i.e., vitrification of soil and building
materials might occur below lower altitude multi-megaton blasts.
Secondary effects of a large impact event would include: a spottily enhanced C-14 environment, making
this means of dating unreliable to confirm or refute simultaneous destruction of disparate sites; a large
production of oxides of nitrogen yielding dangerous ozone depletion, perhaps giving a survival advantage
to darker skinned people in the aftermath, particularly in equatorial regions; acidic precipitation from the
above-mentioned atmospheric chemistry; and, in the higher latitudes, impact winter, caused by suspended
dust and soot.
All of these phenomena would leave evidence which careful field work could reveal. Some indicators may
already be evident, such as the abandonment of many long settled sites, a large southward movement of
people from the higher latitudes, and a steep, long-term (1159-1140 B.C.) decline in the annual growth of
Irish bog oak that stands out in the 7,272 year long dendrochronological record, based on this species of
tree. [Baillie and Munro (1988)]
Definitive evidence of impact, however, can only come from a detailed analysis of debris directly
overlying destruction sites.
I urge archaeologists working on this time period to diligently collect dust and debris from cracks and
crevices where violent destruction is apparent. In 1992 the current Greenland ice coring project should be
complete. If a large impact occurred around 3200 years ago a significant nitric acid spike will be evident in
these ice core samples. Several cores are being drilled simultaneously, so the chance of finding debris in
association with the nitric acid signal should be good. An element profile on this material could then be
compared with results on debris extracted from terminal Bronze Age sites. If these match, not only will
there be confirmation of a violent natural catastrophe, we will also have gained a rather precise gauge of
when the disaster took place.
Astronomical evidence indicates our ancestors viewed a much more active sky than we. A seemingly
nonsensical notion, such as Athena being born fully formed from the head of Zeus, becomes
understandable as a description of comet fragmentation. Human belief systems have been greatly
influenced by the phenomena attending the progressive break-up, over thousands of years, of this
large comet. The idea of a wrathful sky god or star positions influencing events on Earth are legacies
of this influence.
Many astronomers believe the 1908 Tunguska impact was from a small piece of Comet Encke. This 15 to
30 megaton event leveled 2000 sq km of dense Siberian forest, but left no crater. Certainly there have been
many damaging falls witnessed by people during the 15,000, or more, year period of the comet's
fragmentation history. The terminal Bronze Age event was probably just one of several very energetic
impacts which likely occurred in this time span.
Our less than seven hour separation from a collision with a near-Earth asteroid (1989FC) in March
of 1989 underscores the fact that contemporary civilization could be thrown into a dark age by
natural catastrophe. Had 1989FC encountered Earth it would have introduced the energy
equivalent of more than 2,000 megatons TNT into the environment, with little or no warning. The
object was discovered on photographs days after the close pass. In 1937 an even larger object, Hermes,
came almost equally near Earth. Neither of these asteroids is likely to be related to the break-up of the
recent large comet referred to above. The estimated population of Earth-orbit-crossing objects greater than
half a kilometer in diameter is over 2,000 and its members are from various sources. Obviously our planet
gets hit fairly often. What the recent large comet did was increase the likelihood of collision and
establish a visible cause/effect relationship in the minds of our ancestors.
The association of disaster (etymologically, dis - evil; aster - star) with comets eventually became
generalized beyond direct causal links, giving science oriented investigators reason to classify this
ubiquitous notion as mere superstition. Scientific efforts to understand the past were thus rendered
purblind to a highly influential natural phenomenon.
It is technically feasible to prevent future impacts by altering the orbits of threatening objects.
Unfortunately, there is little widespread support for such an Earth Defence Initiative (EDI) due, in
part, to the general belief that humanity has not, in the past, been harmed by impact events.
Archaeologists can play a key role in justifying an EDI by digging in to set the record straight.
Though gaining a detailed understanding of the effects such episodic impacts had on humanity will take
some time, incorporating recent astronomical evidence can provide immediate boons to our
comprehension of past cultures.

The fortunate find in the seventies, at Mawangdui, China, of a Han dynasty silk comet atlas sheds
considerable light on earlier enigmatic motifs. Most illuminating is the drawing, described by text
on the artifact as a long-tailed pheasant star. This rendering of a jetting comet viewed down its axis of
rotation has a considerable history, and, as a motif, appears on artifacts found in most areas of the world.
The artist who illustrated this silk twenty-two hundred, or so, years ago was not likely a first-hand
observer. What is produced here is a schematic of received comet caricatures with claims that specific
things will happen if a represented type appears. The pinwheel-like image is unique to the compilation
in that an omen is given for an appearance in each of the four seasons, implying that this comet was
seen more often than the others represented. This may illustrate a frequently viewed aspect of
comet Encke which has a 3.3 year orbit and rotational axis that occasionally points toward Earth.
[Whipple, F. 1985]
Important in understanding ancient oriental lore is learning that this motif
was associated with the pheasant (divine bird in China) which is frequently
mentioned in the Chinese classics. The link between the spinning cross and
birds is evident on artifacts from many cultures. Perhaps the association of
the Sanskrit term "svastika" with this symbol can be linked to the Astika
Parva in the MAHABHARATA which relates the birth of a cosmic bird par
excellence--Garuda. This fabulous winged deity had a radiance like the
Sun, could change shapes at will, and destroyed other gods and kings by
casting down fire and stirring up storms of reddish dust which darkened
the Sun, Moon and stars. Clearly Garuda was symbolic of an Earth
approaching comet.
The bird-comet connection is even more obvious in the Jamva-khanda Nirmana Parva of the
MAHABHARATA which describes a fierce fowl with but one wing, one eye, and one leg, hovering in the
night sky. As this bird "screams" and "vomits blood":
All the quarters of the earth, being overwhelmed by showers of dust, look inauspicious.
Fierce clouds, portentous of danger, drop bloody showers during the night. Rahu of fierce
deeds is also, O monarch, afflicting the constellation Kirtika. Rough winds, portending
fierce danger, are constantly blowing.
The mention of Rahu, the demon of eclipse, which originally had four arms and a tail that was
severed by Vishnu to become Ketu (comet) is interesting in that the demon is here darkening
Kirttika (the Pleiades) in the month of Karttika (latter half of October, through mid November), for
the tale goes on to relate that:
. . . in course of the same month both the Moon and the Sun have undergone eclipses on the
thirteenth days from the day of the first lunation. The Sun and the Moon therefore, by
undergoing eclipses on unusual days, will cause a great slaughter of the creatures of the
earth. Meteors, effulgent like Indra's thunder-bolt, fall with loud hisses . . . People, for
meeting together, coming out of their houses with lighted brands, have still to
encounter a thick gloom all round . . . From the mountains of Kailasa and Mandara
and Himavat thousands of explosions are heard and thousands of summits are tumbling
down . . . Fierce winds charged with pointed pebbles are blowing, crushing mighty trees. In
villages and towns trees, ordinary and sacred, are falling down, crushed by mighty winds
and struck by lightning.
This is, without doubt, a mythological record of an intense meteor storm from the still active Taurid stream
which presently peaks around the first of November and appears to radiate from near the Pleiades star
cluster. The un-airworthy bird associated with this meteor bombardment could have been comet Encke
which until recently was thought to be the sole source for the Taurid meteors. However, the discovery of
other large contributors which are now dark but were once active comets rules out a positive identification.
Another interesting aspect of this folk memory which might shed
some light on why the rolling cross motif is linked to birds is the
image of a one-legged fowl. This is also a characteristic of the
Chinese divine pheasant which was closely associated with the
fabulous, lame, raven-beak-nosed emperor, Yu, who could
transform himself into this pheasant or a bear. One of Yu's
enemies, the Owl, who invented thunder and lightening was also
one-footed. [Lonsdale, S. 1982, Barnard, N. 1972, 1973]

In a less artificial environ animal tracks speak strongly to people and convey much about the
creature which left them. Thus a bear, bird or any animal which made impressions on the ground
could be symbolically represented in total by drawing these marks. I suggest that the jetting comet,
to some cultures, looked like a bird's foot and, as a motif, represented a divine fowl. This can explain
why the not very bird-like drawing on the Han silk is captioned as a pheasant star. Chinese lore upholds
such an interpretation as Ts'ang Chieh, the four eyed legendary inventor of writing, derived his inspiration
to create written symbols from noticing the marks of birds' feet in the sand. His ancient style is known as
niao chiwen--"bird foot-prints writing." [MacCulloch, C.J.A. 1928]
as such,
appear on
in Asia
support for
contention comes from petroglyphs found in the
south-western United States which Pueblo people
identify as roadrunner (a type of cuckoo) tracks
and identical renderings found by Schliemann.
[Morphy, H. 1989] The close association of these
two distinctive crosses on artifacts from
Schliemann's Troy could be considered
coincidental and not necessarily avion-inspired
were they found out of context, however, in
Schliemann's words:

now of
kinds of
this third
city, I
with the
idols and
and I
call very
to the
fact, that
the idols,
of which
about 700, are all of the same
shape; that they represent in the
rudest possible outlines a female
form; and that, therefore, they
cannot but be copies of the
ancient Palladium, which was
fabled to have fallen from heaven
with joined feet.

From Mari
Owls, like cuckoos, have zygodactylous or
semizygodactylous (outer toe reversible) feet.
Obviously these "Trojans" had an elaborate belief
system which focused on the activities of a non-
terrestrial bird of the night. With this in mind, a
re-examination of artifacts recovered from
Hissarlik could be quite revealing.
Another aspect of comets which is evident in ancient lore involves shape shifting. A comet is three
dimensional and could appear as quite a different animal when viewed from a different angle. For
instance, allowing that a foot-print signifies the creature, the fabled ability of Yu (mentioned above)
to transform into a pheasant or bear can be easily understood as a radial view distinguished from an
axial view of the same comet.
Comets can also change spontaneously; a gas emitting area could become dust covered and extinguish a
jet, a piece of the comet could break away, creating another comet, perhaps initially more flamboyant than
its parent. Our ancestors' stories speak of these weakening gods and fantastic births; however, until now,
our ears heard only gibberish.
Another motif which is found around the world is the concentric circle. Astronomers, with the aid of a
telescope, have reported, and drawn pictures of, comets which exhibit concentric rings, so it is likely that
some of these ancient renderings, often pecked in stone, represent comets. There is, however, probably
another phenomenon more often represented by these ancient bull's-eyes--a bolide storm.
Fred Whipple, the astronomer who theorized in 1950 the now proven structure of comets, calculates that
the night time Taurids have been a feature for 5,000 years. It now takes Earth about three months (mid-
September to mid-December) to traverse this band of debris. Earlier in its history, as the progenitor of
comet Encke was creating it, this debris ring had to have been more dense. As Earth passed through the
mess, it no doubt collected a considerable amount of dust. The night time Taurids are known for frequent
bolide activity. Large, vaporizing meteoroids (bolides) in an atmosphere loaded with comet dust will
produce unusual visual effects. Refraction, reflection, and possibly secondary emission come into
play as a sizable object splashes into an aerosol laden atmosphere compressing molecules of gas
against motes of dust in its bow-shock wave until--BOOM -- the object vaporizes, illuminating the
multiple layers of compression separated gas and debris. From the ground this might look as if a god
threw a pebble in the sky pond. Quite likely a large sector of the sky would be filled with such
phenomena. Though the intensity would vary from year to year our ancestors, no doubt, expected a rather
disconcerting light show on an annual basis.
Striking evidence for this contention comes from well-preserved Neolithic observatories in Ireland. Martin
Brennan (1983), who spent over a decade investigating these structures, published a wonderful
documentation of their features. Though he assumes them to be a product of solar worship, his research is
thorough and includes mythological references to these megalithic works--most intriguing from the
standpoint of this discussion is Tara. Brennan states that:
Tara lies 10 miles southwest of Newgrange and, like Newgrange, it is steeped in ancient
myth and tradition. It has always been associated with Samhain, the Celtic observance of the
year's turning in November, and this event is well documented. Mythologically, the mound
also has associations with the Tuatha De Danann, or the "Lords of Light." They arrive
from the air and cast a darkness over the sun for three days.
This neolithic observatory is aligned, according to Brennan, to cross-quarter days November 8 and
February 4. The carved stone within this megalithic structure depicts concentric circles similar to the earth
works evident in the aerial photograph of Tara shown.
Incorporating astronomical evidence of a recent giant short period comet into our attempt to
understand past cultures is essential for an objective interpretation.
Bobk 91
Armstrong, Edward A. (Ed.) THE FOLKLORE OF BIRDS. Dover Publications, Inc. NY, 1970.
Baillie, M.G.L. & Munro, M.A.R. "Irish tree rings, Santorini and volcanic dust veils." NATURE vol. 332
24 March 1988 (pp. 344-346).
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Barnard, Noel. THE CHU SILK MANUSCRIPT (Translation and Commentary, part 2) Australian
National University, Canberra, 1973 (pp. 122-156).
Bate, H.N. THE SIBYLLINE ORACLES Books III-V MacMillan Company, NY 1918 (p. 107).
Bjorkman, J.K., "Meteor and Meteorites in the Ancient Near East" METEORITICS 1973 vol. 8, (pp. 91-
Brennan, Martin. THE STARS AND THE STONES. Thames and Hudson Inc., NY 1984 (pp. 14-15, 120-
Charlesworth, James H. OLD TESTAMENT PSEUDEPIGRAPHA (vol 1) Doubleday, Garden City, NY
1983 (p. 400).
Clube, Victor and Napier, Bill. THE COSMIC WINTER Basil Blackwell, Inc. Cambridge MA 1990.
Dunn, S.P.) Indiana University,Bloomington, 1968 (pp. 485-496).
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Legge, James. THE CHINESE CLASSICS (vol. 3) Hong Kong Univ. Press, Hong King 1960 (p. 125).
Lonsdale, Steven. ANIMALS AND THE ORIGINS OF DANCE, Thames and Hudson Inc., NY, 1982 (pp.
MacCulloch, C.J.A. Canon, John A. (Ed.) MYTHOLOGY OF ALL RACES. vol. 8 ("Chinese Mythology"
Ferguson, John C.) Marshall Jones Co. Boston, MA 1928 (p. 31).
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London, 1989 (chapt. 11 Schaafsma, Polly).
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A cosmic trail with destruction in its wake
by Nick Nuttall
Copyright 1990 Times Newspapers Limited The Times, May 24, 1990, Thursday
Over the next few weeks the Taurid stream, a procession of vast cosmic rubble and dust that snakes around
the Sun and out towards Jupiter, will swing through Earth's orbit for the first of its bi-annual crossings.
Within the stream are probably thousands of bodies including asteroids, mountain-and island-sized
boulders, smaller meteoroids, Encke's Comet and assorted fragments of celestial refuse.
The exact number, size and location of objects, however, remains a mystery and according to Dr. Mark
Bailey, research Fellow in astronomy at Manchester University, it is likely that for every object which is
confirmed, there are nine others that have so far eluded detection.
All that is certain is that the rubble, believed by some astronomers to have been formed by a collision in
the asteroid belt of a defunct comet which was captured by the solar system up to 30,000 thousand years
ago, will bisect Earth's orbit in late June and again in November.
According to astronomers such as Dr. Victor Clube, of Oxford University's Department of
Astrophysics, the coming and goings of the Taurid stream should be a source of concern to
politicians, planners and anyone who cherishes life on Earth.
A ''catastrophist'', Dr. Clube is one of many astronomers who are convinced that within this celestial
procession lie the seeds of mass destruction an Armageddon of biblical proportions. ''The matter
requires urgent attention. It is crucial that everyone is woken up to the danger,'' Dr. Clube says.
The chilling scenario envisaged is of Earth and one of the 46,000mph objects in the Taurid stream
colliding during one of the orbital crossings.
Dr. Clube says: ''It is analagous to a nuclear war with a megatonnage of the same order and all the
effects of nuclear war with debris from the impact causing sunlight to be blocked causing a Dark
Age or Ice Age.''
He has coined the phrase ''Multiple Tunguska Bombardment'' to describe the worst nightmare which, he
believes, will eventually happen. Tunguska refers to a Siberian River near which, in June 1908, a 100 yard
body from the Taurid stream ploughed into Earth, exploding and devastating an area 25 miles wide with
the impact of a 20-megaton bomb.
Fortunately the encounter occured in an unpopulated part of the globe but if the impact had been on
London it would have devastated the city, killing millions. The Tunguska event may have been only a
chance occurence.
Yet, according to Dr. Clube and Dr. Bill Napier, of the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh, whose book
Cosmic Winter is published next month, the history of Earth is littered with subtle evidence that cosmic
debris have consistently intervened, often with catastrophic consequences.
One of the most popular theories to explain the sudden demise of the dinosaurs is that, 65 million years
ago, a huge asteroid ploughed into the planet, triggering either a nuclear-style winter or huge fires.
This popular theory was given a boost only last week when scientists at the University of Arizona reported
the discovery of an apparent 180-mile-wide crash site in the Caribbean of an asteroid six miles wide. They
claim this could be linked with the great reptiles' extinction.
Dr. Clube ascribes other events including the Old Testament story of Noah and his Ark to a Dark Age
linked with colliding heavenly bodies. He also believes that climatic changes, including fears of present
global warming, may have a cosmic component.
There is sufficient evidence, he says, to indicate that collisions happen within centuries and
millenniums rather than millions and billions of years, with multiple encounters more likely than
sceptics claim.
Dr. Clube emphasizes that predicting when a bombardment may occur is impossible without more
scientific evaluation of the Taurid stream.
''We are probably a little safer at the moment because the intersecting orbits are far away. But we are on
the inward run and in 500 years we will start getting close again,'' he says.
According to Dr. Clube, the last time that the stream was closest within Earth's orbit was in the first
millennium BC, from about 500BC up to 0AD, the time of Christ.
It is vital to overcome complacency about the threat from cosmic debris, he says. This complacency is
relatively new, as pagan and ancient civilisations such as the Babylonians were firm believers in the threat
of of cosmic destruction. Part of the blame for this complacency rests with the breakup, in 1845, of Comet
Biela without any easily visible effect on Earth.
''This rather relaxed attiude to comets, which has persisted to the present day, helped turn 19th
century opinion against a prevailing catastrophist view of evolution,'' Dr. Clube says.
''Indeed, the eventual disintegration of Comet Biela into dust made it no longer out of place for biologists
and geologists to explain evolution in processes that were non-violent and slow-acting.''
''In short, it became fashionable to assume that the world is safe when in fact multiple Tunguska
bombardments, releasing around five-thousand megatons, the equivalent of a full-scale nuclear war,
may happen at intervals of about 1,500 years, producing a Dark Age,'' he says.''To suggest the
planet is safe is absurd.''
The Oxford astrophysicist is not alone in his views. Similar concerns were echoed last week by the
respected American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).
The institute is calling for studies aimed at defending the Earth from asteroid attack, including the possible
redeployment of nuclear weapons to shatter incoming celestial bodies.
The call comes in the wake of thawing East-West relations and what is being claimed as a recent,
potentially disastrous near-collision.
Last year, 1989 FC, a cosmic boulder bigger than an aircraft carrier, passed within 400,000 miles of
Earth, a mere whisker in astronomical terms, before being noticed by astronomers.
''Such an object could cause a disaster of unprecedented proportions if it had struck. Although the
probability is very small, its consequences in terms of the casuality rate could be enormous,'' the institute
argues in a paper it released about the problem.
Apart from putting nuclear warheads on standby for intercepting and shattering asteroids, the institute is
calling for studies into power units that could attach and divert the celestial boulders away from Earth.
''We have the technology needed to detect and track such an object and possibly to divert if from an
impending impact. We would be derelict if we did nothing,'' the institute says.
Dr. Clube is hoping to get access to an infra-red telescope to study the Taurid stream during the November
In 1983, a satellite revealed what appeared to be dust following Comet Encke, but some scientists,
including Dr. Clube, now believe that this contains the single large missing body, perhaps as large as 20
miles wide, shrouded in dust and boulders.
The best chance of detecting the defunct comet might come in 1994 when the American National
Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) is expected to launch the infra-red telescope, ISO.
Dr. Bailey says: ''We are learning more about these objects almost every week. We are realizing that
there are quite a large number of fairly large objects, ranging in size from just a few hundred yards
to six miles across, which are in Earth's collision orbit.''
Along with Dr. Bailey, Dr. Clube supports the institute's call for improved monitoring. But both British
astronomers are concerned at suggestions of shattering incoming asteroids.
They believe that there is the danger that by solving one large threat, it may create scores of smaller ones.
Cosmic Winter by Dr. Victor Clube and Dr. Bill Napier. Published in June by Basil Blackwell (Pounds
16.95). The Origin of Comets by Dr. Mark Bailey, Dr. Victor Clube and Dr. Bill Napier. Pergamon Press.
Meteor Defense| Phaethon article| Bronze age article| Home
The content and opinions expressed on this Web page do not necessarily reflect the views of nor are they endorsed by the University of
Georgia or the University System of Georgia.
The content and opinions expressed on this Web page do not necessarily reflect the views of nor are they endorsed by the University of
Georgia or the University System of Georgia.
An excerpt from The Metamorphoses by Ovid, as translated by A.
E. Watts.

University of California Press, 1954
The Sun-god Phoebus is speaking to Phaethon:
Five zones there are: your course, confined to three,

The farthest north and south must never see.

Next, share your heat between the earth and sky;

Press not too low, nor set your course too high.

Heaven's halls will kindle, if too high you stray;

Too low, the earth: your safety lies midway.

Nor swerve, where on the right the Snake is seen,

Nor left to the Altar: steer your course between.

The rest is Fortune's: be her favor shown,

And better wit to guide you than your own.

But see: dank night upon the western shore

Has touched the waymark: we can stay no more.

Dawn breaks; and while I speak, the shades disband.

We are awaited: take the reins in hand.

Or can you still, unbending as you are,

Relent, and take my counsel, not my car;

While yet your feet a firm support can feel,

Not what you blindly wish, the treacherous wheel?

Why ask for danger? Be content to see,

And leave the lighting of the world to me."--

But Phaethon, with words of thanks that jar

Upon his father's ears, has climbed the car;

Consumed with joy, the reins within his hands,

The slender boy in proud possession stands.

Meanwhile the team, Dawn, Blaze, and Fire, and Flame,

Whose scorching breath in fretful whinnyings came,

Beat on the barriers. Tethys little knows

On what predestined path her grandson goes.

She draws the bolts, and lets the barriers fly,

And gives the steeds the freedom of the sky.

Then, tearing up the trail, wing-borne, they beat

The air, and cleave the clouds with flying feet;

Outrun the winds; and, feeling not their freight,

Wonder to miss the yoke's accustomed weight;

And as a ship, unladen, lurching rides,

And all too light, goes tottering o'er the tides,

The car, that lacked its customary load,

Bounced up, as if unridered, from the road;

And sensing this, the steeds run wild, and stray

Clean from the course, and throw restraint away.

Fear on the driver fell; too quick to gain,

Too slow to learn the handling of the rein,

He lacks besides all knowledge of the way,

And if he knew, the team would not obey.

Then first the Bears felt heat, and tried in vain

To pass their bounds, and plunge beneath the main;

And near the pole the numbed innocuous Snake

Felt, with the warmth, his wicked passions wake.

Bootes too, they say, made off in dread,

Though with slow steps his lagging wain he led.

Now when the luckless boy with downcast eye

Beheld the lands deep, deep, beneath him lie,

His color fled; his knees with sudden fright

Shook, and his eyes went dark with too much light.

He wished his father's team well left alone,

His prayer unanswered, and his birth unknown;

Wished Merops for his sire (ambition new)

As like a ship before a storm he flew,

Whose helmsman, pressed too hard, resigns his care,

And leaves the craft to providence and prayer.

What now? He scans the sky with measuring mind;

Much heaven before him lies, no less behind;

Now to the west (the goal that fate denies),

Now backward to the east he turns his eyes.

Palsied with doubt he stands, and turned to stone:

How rule the steeds, their very names unknown;

How hold, how drop the reins? Now too appear

Strange shapes that strew the skies afar and near,

Huge beasts of prey: he sees and shakes with fear.

There is a region, where the Scorpion draws

The pincer pattern of his curving claws;

With curling tail, and jointed legs each side,

He spreads his limbs two constellations wide;

And sweating with black venom, does not fail

To threat the tortures of his twisted tail.

The driver saw: the vision chilled his veins;

And as his senses swam, he dropped the reins.

When on their backs the sagging leathers lay,

The horses broke all bounds, and romped away;

And where their lawless headlong motion led,

Through unknown realms of air unchecked they sped;

And rammed the unswerving stars, and at their heels

Through trackless wastes they dragged the rocking wheels;

And now they soar aloft, and now they stoop

By steep declines, and make an earthward swoop.

The wondering moon beheld her brother's team

Beneath her own, saw clouds go up in steam.

From peak to loftiest peak the earth takes fire,

And cracks and splits, as all its saps suspire.

Grass wilts; and with their leaves the tree trunks flare;

And cornfields feed the flame that leaves them bare.

Small matters these--walled cities melt away;

Whole tribes and peoples turn to ashes gray;

The mountain masses with their forests burn:

Athos and Oete; Tmolus in his turn;

And Taurus smokes upon Cilicia's shore;

And Ida's many fountains gush no more;

Cynthus and Othrys, Haemus, yet unknown,

And Eryx burns, and virgin Helicon;

Parnassus lifts his two candescent spires;

And Etna streams with duplicated fires;

Dindyma, Mycale, and Mimas glow;

And Rhodope must shed her ancient snow;

Not Scythia's native frosts can keep her free;

Cithaeron, not his native sanctity;

And Pindus burns with Ossa, mighty names,

And mightier yet than both, Olympus flames;

Cold Caucasus with conflagration shines,

Air-piercing Alps, and cloud-capped Apennines.

Thus Phaethon, where'er he turns his gaze,

On every side beholds the world ablaze;

And faint, and breathing air at furnace heat,

He feels the car red-hot beneath his feet.

Wrapped in a pitchy pall of blinding smoke,

While cast-up ash and cinders sear and choke,

He knows not where he is, nor whither bound,

Dragged by the horses where they choose the ground.

Robbed, by the heat, of moisture, Libya's plain

Turned then to desert, ne'er to bloom again;

And as the sun-burned blood boiled up, they say,

The Ethiopian changed his skin that day.

Then did the nymphs their loosened tresses fling,

And weep their fill o'er every lake and spring.

Thebes thirsts for Dirce, Corinth craves her cool

Pirene, Argos Amymone's pool;

And favored streams, 'twixt wide embankments pent,

(Not saved thereby) with seething waters went:

The steaming Tanais, wrapped in mists of heat;

And old Peneus, and Ismenus fleet;

Lycormas, rolling down his burning sand;

And Erymanthus, in Arcadian land;

And far Caicus, on the Mysian shore;

And Trojan Xanthus, doomed to burn once more;

Madcap Maeander, turning on his trail;

Eurotas, wandering through Laconia's vale;

Euphrates, big with Babylonia's fame;

And Melas, and Orontes, were aflame;

Thermodon, Ganges, Phasis, Hister showed

Their fires; Alpheus boiled, Spercheus glowed;

The ore that Tagus carried as he rolled,

Now flowed itself, a stream of liquid gold;

Cayster scalded, as they sailed along,

The swans that filled Maeonia's banks with song;

Old Nile in fear to earth's far corners fled,

And hid his never rediscovered head;

And where his sevenfold course should seaward stray,

Lacking their streams, seven dusty channels lay.

So the world o'er: Strymon in Thrace runs dry,

And Hebrus; and beneath the western sky

Rhine, Rhone, and Padus share the selfsame fate,

With Tiber, whom his promised realms await.

Earth gapes, and startling rifts of daylight show

To king and consort in the world below.

The sea contracts its bounds, and leaves a plain:

Dry wastes of sand, where lately rolled the main;

And hills break surface, that were sunk before,

And make the sprinkled isles so many more.

The fishes dive, and bow-backed dolphins dare

No longer leap, and take their wonted air;

And lifeless seals, upturned, go drifting there.

Nereus himself, deep in his rock retreat,

With Doris and her daughters, felt the heat;

And thrice did Neptune from the waters raise

His glowering face, and could not bear the blaze.

But Mother Earth, with ocean ringed about,

Her native springs within, the seas without

(Since all her rivers sank within her womb,

And sought again their antenatal gloom),

Raised her fire-ravaged head, and with her hands

Shielded her face; and as she shook the lands

With vast convulsions, settled down a space,

And held a lower than her wonted place;

And thus appealed to Jove: "By fire," said she,

"If 'tis my due to fall, and thy decree,

Why lag thy lightnings? Let me fall, most high,

By fire of thine, consoled, by whom I die."

She scarce could speak, so hot the vapor smote:

"These words," she sobbed, "are strangled in my throat.

Ah, see how thick the burning cinder lies

On my charred hair, how thick on face and eyes.

Is this my payment, this the wage you owe,

That scarred and wearied, racked by plow and hoe,

In fertile function through the year I go,

Providing food for beasts with herbs benign,

And grain for men, and incense for the shrine?

Or grant that ruin justly falls on me,

What of my brother and his realm, the sea?

What guilt is his, that this, his lawful share,

Shrinks, and extends the empire of the air?

Nay, if our claims to pity pass thee by,

Have feeling for thine own domain, the sky.

Look well! the poles, which smoke already show,

If sapped by fire, will lay your mansions low.

See, Atlas is distressed, and much I fear

His shoulders ill support the burning sphere.

If seas and lands are wrecked, and heaven's high throne,

We perish, back to primal chaos thrown.

Put forth your care; what still survives the fire,

Rescue, and save the sum of things entire."

The sacred accents faltered: Earth could bear

No more the stifling smoke and parching air.

She ceased, and sank within herself, and fled

To caverns near the shades, and hid her head.

Now Jove almighty made the gods attest

(Him that had lent the car among the rest)

What choice remained: to use his instant aid,

Or see the worlds in grievous ruin laid;

Then scaled the summit, whence his clouds are spread,

His thunders shaken, and his lightnings sped;

But found to hand ( all custom overthrown )

No clouds to spread, no rain to scatter down.

He thundered; and a lightning-bolt he drew,

And lancelike poised, with careful aim, and threw

At Phaethon, and made his lease expire

Of life and chariot, quenching fire with fire.

The horses leap apart in frantic fear,

Shake loose the reins, and wrench the traces clear;

and bridles, spokes, and wheels dismembered lie,

axle and shaft: the wreckage strews the sky;

And Phaethon, his ravaged hair aflame,

Down in a trail of radiant ruin came,

As oft, when summer nights unclouded are,

There falls from heaven, or seems to fall, a star;

And Po, far distant from his native place,

Received his fall, and cooled his burning face;

And nymphs, that in the western waters dwell,

Laid him to rest, and graved a verse as well:

"Here Phaethon is laid, who sought to guide

His father's steeds, and, greatly daring, died."

The sun-god, broken by the piteous blow,

Concealed his visage, sicklied o'er with woe;

And suffered one whole day its course to run,

If legend does not lie, without a sun.

The fires, still burning, gave what light they could,

And so from evil came some touch of good.

Phaethon article Bronze age article
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Georgia or the University System of Georgia.
Plato's Timeaus 21e--23b
A full translation is available at this site.
[21e] "In the Delta of Egypt," said Critias, "where, at its head, the stream of the Nile parts in two, there is a
certain district called the Saitic. The chief city in this district is Sais--the home of King Amasis,--the
founder of which, they say, is a goddess whose Egyptian name is Neith, and in Greek, as they assert,
Athena. These people profess to be great lovers of Athens and in a measure akin to our people here. And
Solon said that when he travelled there he was held in great esteem amongst them; moreover, when he was
questioning such of their priests
[22a] as were most versed in ancient lore about their early history, he discovered that neither he himself
nor any other Greek knew anything at all, one might say, about such matters. And on one occasion, when
he wished to draw them on to discourse on ancient history, he attempted to tell them the most ancient of
our traditions, concerning Phoroneus, who was said to be the first man, and Niobe; and he went on to tell
the legend about Deucalion and Pyrrha after the Flood, and how they survived it, and to give the
geneology of their descendants;
[22b] and by recounting the number of years occupied by the events mentioned he tried to calculate the
periods of time. Whereupon one of the priests, a prodigiously old man, said, "O Solon, Solon, you Greeks
are always children: there is not such a thing as an old Greek." And on hearing this he asked, "What mean
you by this saying?" And the priest replied, "You are young in soul, every one of you. For therein you
possess not a single belief that is ancient and derived from old tradition, nor yet one science that is hoary
with age.
[22c] And this is the cause thereof: There have been and there will be many and divers destructions of
mankind, of which the greatest are by fire and water, and lesser ones by countless other means. For in truth
the story that is told in your country as well as ours, how once upon a time Phaethon, son of Helios, yoked
his father's chariot, and, because he was unable to drive it along the course taken by his father, burnt up all
that was upon the earth and himself perished by a thunderbolt,--that story, as it is told, has the fashion of
a legend, but the truth of it lies in
[22d] the occurrence of a shifting of the bodies in the heavens which move round the earth, and a
destruction of the things on the earth by fierce fire, which recurs at long intervals. At such times all
they that dwell on the mountains and in high and dry places suffer destruction more than those who dwell
near to rivers or the sea; and in our case the Nile, our Saviour in other ways, saves us also at such times
from this calamity by rising high. And when, on the other hand, the Gods purge the earth with a flood of
waters, all the herdsmen and shepherds that are in the mountains are saved,
[22e] but those in the cities of your land are swept into the sea by the streams; whereas In our country
neither then nor at any other time does the water pour down over our fields from above, on the contrary it
all tends naturally to well up from below. Hence it is, for these reasons, that what is here preserved is
reckoned to be most ancient; the truth being that in every place where there is no excessive heat or cold to
prevent it there always exists some human stock, now more, now less in number.
[23a] And if any event has occurred that is noble or great or in any way conspicuous, whether it be in your
country or in ours or in some other place of which we know by report, all such events are recorded from of
old and preserved here in our temples; whereas your people and the others are but newly equipped, every
time, with letters and all such arts as civilized States require and when, after the usual interval of years,
like a plague, the flood from heaven comes sweeping down afresh upon your people,
[23b] it leaves none of you but the unlettered and uncultured, so that you become young as ever, with no
knowledge of all that happened in old times in this land or in your own. Certainly the genealogies which
you related just now, Solon, concerning the people of your country, are little better than children's tales;
for, in the first place, you remember but one deluge, though many had occurred previously; ...
Meteor Defense Phaethon article Bronze age article
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Georgia or the University System of Georgia.
Meteoritica, Vol. XXIII (1963)
K P Florenskiy
Report read at the Tenth Conference on Meteorites in May 1962
Translated by Spectrum Translation and Research, inc.
Published by Taurus Press, inc., copyright 1965.
Interest in study of unique natural phenomena is, in general, not confined to a single narrowly specialized viewpoint, and the 1908 fall of the Tunguska meteorite
is no exception to this. The interests of various scientific disciplines converge on such investigations as at the focus of a mirror, and science itself is spurred to
further development whose significance often ranges far beyond the framework of the original specific problem.
In addition to questions pertaining to meteoritics, the fall of the Tunguska meteorite in particular gave impetus to the development of a number of concepts in
such areas as the ballistics of supersonic velocities, the theory of large explosions, the structure of comets and features of their chemical composition,
geochemical studies of cosmic dust, etc.; furthermore, it encouraged investigation of a variety of natural features in a remote and unexplored but promising area
of Siberia. We have the meteorite to thank for the initial investigations of the swamps, soils and forests - studies that are important not only from the scientific
standpoint, but also in practical terms.
The conclusions derived from the study of this phenomenon bear on such problems, seemingly unrelated to meteoritics, as the wind resistance of trees in cold
soils, improving timber harvests in northern areas, the history of swamp formation, reserves of peat in Central Siberia, etc. The results of this research represent
not a random accumulation of data, but merge organically into the integrated whole that is the problem of the Tunguska meteorite.
The history of studies made at the Tunguska meteorite site is divided into three basic stages which set the goals of the project and provided for collection of the
necessary factual material without which theoretical consideration of the problem would have been unthinkable. The first stage, begun by L. A. Kulik, called for
the collection of preliminary information, eyewitness accounts and data from observer stations in order to pin point the area of impact and to describe the
physical phenomena that occurred outside the impact site. The second stage, also linked with the name of Kulik, involved a thorough study of a small area of
ground in which a number of funnel-shaped depressions had been discovered; these had erroneously been identified as meteorite craters. The third stage was
undertaken in 1938 with an aerial-photographic survey of a considerable area of the terrain, but essentially this stage did not develop fully until the author's 1958
expedition, which made an integrated study of the site and of all the possible consequences of the fall.
The 1958 expedition [1] demonstrated the lack of justification for classifying the Tunguska fall as a crater-forming type and established that the center of the
meteorite shock wave was located at some height above the ground; in addition, the expedition provided the first general map of the destruction that had been
wrought, collected specimens of extraterrestrial dust from the area of the fall, drew attention to peculiarities of tree growth after the catastrophe and pointed to
the possibility of using biological indicators; finally, the expedition pointed up the need for a careful study of the forest fire, etc.
As a result of the work accomplished in this stage, the earlier theoretical concept of the fall was subjected to substantive review. A program for further study of
the Tunguska fall was proposed, accepted by the Committee on Meteorites of the USSR Academy of Sciences, and subsequently approved at the Ninth
Conference on Meteorites. The expedition set for1961 made provision for a further series of investigations to determine details of the meteorite's effects and
called for an expanded search for fragments of meteoritic matter.
The great popular interest in the Tunguska meteorite that arose after the 1958 expedition was to a considerable extent fostered by the fantastic suggestion of a
nuclear origin for the explosion, an idea based on factual material of questionable competence. While I am aware of the advantages of sensational publicity in
drawing public attention to a problem, it should be stressed that unhealthy interest aroused as a result of distorted facts and misinformation should never be used
as a basis for the furtherance of scientific knowledge.
A number of independent groups left for the area of the Tunguska meteorite fall in 1959 and 1960. Of these, the most serious was that of G.F. Plekhanov, whose
work in 1960 was partly financed by the Siberian branch of the USSR Academy of Sciences, with support from the Committee on Meteorites. Basically, the
project followed a plan that had been prepared in 1958; a substantial volume of factual material was accumulated. At the same time, it would not be out of place
to point out that a number of projects carried out in 1959 and 1960 were based on fantastic ideas, and this resulted in unproductive expenditures related to the
execution of the projects themselves, as well as in establishment of the fact that they had no relation whatever to the problem of the Tunguska meteorite.
In this connection, we should make particular mention of A.V. Zolotov's group, which worked in this area in 1959 and 1960 and submitted hasty and unfounded
conclusions on the basis of extremely inadequate and random data (see the resolution of the Ninth Conference on Meteorites. Meteoritika, Volume XX, 1961).
Thus at the time when the 1961 expedition began its work, the situation was basically as follows:
1. On the basis of visual observation the general contour of the radially flattened forest area identified by Kulik was mapped out. Three zones can be
distinguished within the limits of this area: random flattening (standing timber), mass flattening and partial flattening in a specific direction; the general plotting
of these zones was confirmed in 1960. However, the boundaries of the zones (particularly to the northeast) and the direction of flattening call for additional
refinement and quantitative characterization. There was no search for isolated islands of fallen trees outside the area of general destruction. Approximately 40
control plots, each 0.25 hectare in area, were laid out to obtain quantitative characteristics of the destruction [1, 2].
2. There are no traces of a powerful ground meteorite explosion in the area; this is confirmed by a study of the south morass, where this fact was established
through a number of helological studies, profiling of the bottom [3] and three magnetometric profiles [2]. The thermokarstic funnels [4] are not directly related
to the explosion of the meteorite [l, 3, 5] and no magnetic anomalies were observed [2]. The possible stimulation of thermokarst development as a result of the
fall [4] calls for additional helological research, as well as identification of the 1908 peat layer for purposes of a stratigraphic hunt for meteoritic matter.
3. The presence of live trees at the center of the catastrophe [1, 2, 4, 5] bears witness to the comparatively low level of any possible flash burning, whose general
nature, along with the causes of the forest fire of 1908, requires additional study.
4. The large-scale map prepared from the results of the 1938 aerial survey of the center of the catastrophe by the MIIGAIK [Moscow Institute of Geodetic,
Aerial Survey and Cartographic Engineers] on assignment from the Committee on Meteorites requires considerable revision based on field work. This map also
confirms the existence of many stands of trees that survived in the central section of the affected area.
5. The soil study made in 1958 [1, 6] shows that the magnetite and silicate spheres first observed by L. A. Kulik and then by A. A. Yavnel' occur in small
concentrations in the impact area. At the moment they represent the only possible fragments of the Tunguska meteorite and call for further study.
Geochemical (metallometric) attempts to identify zones enriched with meteoritic matter [l, 2] produced no clear results and are of doubtful promise, unless the
objects of the study are subjected to preliminary concentration .
6. The features of accelerated tree growth established in 1958 [1] have been confirmed by a great volume of data [7] and are peculiar to the central region of the
impact area. In view of the fact that the causes of this phenomenon are not clear, work along this line should be continued in order to seek out biological
indicators characterizing features of the 1908 fall.
7. On the basis of available data, it is at the present time held most likely that the meteorite "exploded" in the air. By way of explanation of this phenomenon a
number of mechanisms have been proposed [8, 9, 10, 11, 12], but these cannot be regarded as reliable because of the inadequacy of working data.
The most probable hypothesis is that which ascribes a cometary origin to the meteorite [13, 14], whose structure was friable [1, 8, 15, 16]. Available data are
inadequate to form a clear picture of the phenomenon.
Organization of the project. The expedition of 1961 was organized on the initiative of the Committee on Meteorites on the basis of a decision taken by the Ninth
Conference on Meteorites and the 30 September 1960 Decree of the Presidium of the USSR Academy of Sciences [17]. In this connection, we should give
special mention to Doctor of Geological and Mineralogical Sciences Ye.L. Krinov for his major organizational role as Scientific Secretary of the Committee on
Meteorites and his monumental scientific contribution to the study of the Tunguska meteorite. The entire problem received the untiring attention of Academician
V.G. Fesenkov, who directed the astronomical and physical investigations, and Academician A.P. Vinogradov, who was in charge of the work associated with
the material composition of the meteorite.
The nucleus of the expedition was made up of members of the Committee on Meteorites and the Vernadskiy Institute of Geochemistry and Analytic Chemistry;
however, individuals from other organizations also participated (The Soil Institute, The Main Botanical Garden, Moscow State University, etc.). The Helology
Section of the Forestry and Lumber Institute of the Siberian branch of the Academy of Sciences and the Forestry Assessment Section of the All-Union Forest
Aerial Photographic Survey Association of the Main Administration of Forestry, USSR Ministry of Agriculture ("Lesproyekt") demonstrated interest by
participating directly in the expedition. An outstanding feature of the expedition was the enlistment of a large contingent organized with the support of the
Tomsk branch of the All-Union Geographic Society into the Combined Autonomous Expedition, designated KSE, of whose work we spoke earlier. This group
joined the ranks of the 1961 expedition and worked under its authority. G. F. Plekhanov, the elected leader of this group and both a physician and an engineer,
was put in charge of a section of the expedition; the numerical strength of the entire group considerably exceeded the original table for the expedition. In terms
of qualifications and conscientious attitude, the Combined Tunguska Meteorite Expedition participants in the Combined Autonomous Expedition were capable
of carrying out independent assignments unrelated to the responsibilities that they had assumed within the expedition.
We should stress that proper and well-organized scientific leadership of such projects is of particularly great importance for the required concentration of
research on major problems.
The number of persons participating in the work of the meteorite expedition reached a total of 80, of whom some did not stay out the season. The program of the
expedition called for extensive use of a helicopter to deploy individual groups and to transport heavy specimens. The actual unavailability of a helicopter,
however, compelled the members of the expedition to move on foot; this significantly reduced both the total number and the size of the specimens collected.
Some of the equipment and supplies even had to be dropped by airplane to the expedition base at Kulik's clearing.
Part of the expedition departed from Moscow on 10 June, arrived at Vanavara on 16 June, and immediately began its work, gradually reaching full strength with
the arrival of other colleagues. The expedition's works schedule was thrown off by the lack of the helicopter. There were no communications with Vanavara. The
greater part of the expedition returned to Vanavara around the first of October, with the first snowfall. During the next few days the Chamba and other slow-
flowing rivers began to freeze. The logistic-support group of the expedition arrived in Moscow on 24 October, having successfully completed the evacuation of
all expedition equipment (I.N. Yeliseyev, Ye.I. Malinkin).

The flattening of the forest most accurately reflects the passage of the destructive wave accompanying the fall of the 1908 meteorite and can serve as a physical
characteristic of the phenomenon.

Fig. 1. Dynamometric testing of tree resistance

A study of the devastated forest showed that the region of the forest flattened in 1908 was not one of homogeneous primeval intact taiga, but had had a complex
history that must be taken into consideration in interpreting the data. Thus fire expert N.P. Kurbatskiy (The Forestry and Lumber Institute of the Siberian Branch
of the Academy of Sciences) draws the following conclusion: " ...the region of meteorite impact in 1908 was basically a fire-devastated area that had been
subjected to a treetop fire during the first half of the last century. A partly flattened dead and rotting forest was standing in this area. New forest growth had
appeared among the dry and charred trees. By 1908, this second growth was some 70 to 100 years old. The southern and southeastern areas had apparently been
subjected to fire somewhat earlier in the past than the central basin. The dead-forest was first flattened, and a fire then swept this territory. It is not out of the
question that the set two occurrences took place at the same time... The fire did not destroy the trunks of living trees, but only scorched conifer needles and small
twigs. The forest destroyed by the fire of 1908 was not flattened at that time but has in large part remained standing in the form of dead timber to the present
time. The old stand of dead and badly rotted timber left by the fire of the last century could have been laid low during the fire itself and been scorched from the
bottom as a result of a ground fire... There is nothing out of the ordinary in the suggestion that the larches were able to stand dead in the area of the meteorite fall
for a period of 70 years after the fire of the previous century."
On the basis of the forestry-assessment records, V.G. Berezhnoy (All-Union Lumbering Office of the USSR Ministry of Forestry - "Lesoproyekt") draws the
following preliminary conclusions: " has been shown that at the time of the catastrophe the stand of trees in the area had, to some extent, been weakened by
the fire at the end of the last century. For example, the great fire that produced the so-called 'western flattening' occurred in 1896. Larger diametral accretions are
found in the area over which this fire had passed. The northern and eastern parts of this area (and quite possibly also the center) had been subjected to a fire
during the 1880's... There are stretches of practically 'unburnable' forest within this area. These sections did not burn during the fire." At the same time, it is
obvious that an estimate of the force of the shock wave that is based on the number of flattened trees must necessarily take into consideration the condition of
the forest at that time. The wind resistance of a comparatively recent stand of dead timber is greatly increased as a result of reduced area catching the wind,
particularly if the root system is still strong; later it diminishes to zero as the trees and their roots decay. Dynamometry studies of the flattening (wind resistance
of the trees) in this area by means of a winch and a dynamometer (Fig. 1) (K.A. Lyubarskiy, I.T. Zotkin) yielded the following preliminary results (95 trees were
studied): "There is no relationship between the felling moment and the species and age of the tree. There is a distinct relationship between the moment and the
tree diameter, analytically nicely described by a parabola (Fig.2). These parabolas are completely identical for fine (melkozem) and rocky soils. For moist
riverside soil the parabola takes a noticeably flatter course (the felling moments are significantly smaller). The relative scatter diminishes in inverse proportion to
the diameter of the tree. It is not related to the azimuth of the felling or to the direction of the slope (upward, downward, to the side). From the standpoint of
force there is no difference between snapping and uprooting, i.e., both cases array themselves along the same parabola. The parabolic relationship is retained for
dead-timber logs, but the parabola in this case is extremely flat, the felling moments are minimal, and the scattering is therefore very wide" (the dead-timber data
pertain to timber killed in 1908, Table 1).
Average Felling Moments for Trees in the Area of the Tunguska Catastrophe (Pines, Larches) (Preliminary Data)
Nature of area
Tree diameter, cm
15 20 25 30

Felling moment, ton-m
1 and 2
Dry soil
Marshy soil
Brush dead 53 years

Unfortunately, we were unable to study the relationship between log strength and age - a matter of unquestionable interest - because of the difficulties which we
encountered in determining the time at which this stand of timber was killed off.

Fig. 2. Felling moment as a function of tree diameter.
1) Trees in fine and rocky soil; 2) dead-timber stand of 1908.

That there is no relationship between the strength of a tree and its species would seem at first glance to be a rather bold conclusion: a definite distinction is made
in forestry between "wind-susceptible" and "wind-resistant" species. Apparently this classification is not applicable to regions of cold and frozen soils, where
deep root systems ("tap roots") cannot develop and where the roots of virtually all species develop in similar fashion, along the surface of the ground ("shield" or
lateral root system), in virtual independence of the nature of the soil, i.e., the slow thawing of the soils in the summer limits the depth of root penetration.
The soil and soil-temperature variation studies conducted in the area by soil scientist A.A. Yerokhina (Dokuchayev Soil Institute of the USSR Academy of
Sciences) demonstrated that there is virtually no permafrost to a depth of 1.5 to 2 meters in the dry forest soils of this area, but that the seasonal frost thaws out
only toward the beginning of August. The moist and marshy soils have permafrost base layers. The general characteristics of the felling were studied in a
number of ways.

Fig. 3. Distribution of flattened trees by direction in various sample areas.
A histogram of this type, including about 100 trees, corresponds to each of the arrows in Fig. 4.

To provide an over-all description of the flattening effect, we used a graphic method (V.G. Fast and D.V. Demin) which involved taking the azimuths of all of
the fallen trunks in a sampling area containing some100 flattened trees (generally 0.25 hectare) and plotting their variation diagram (Fig. 3) with indication of
the trunk thicknesses. The numbers of dead-timber and old living trees were also noted. As a result of the work carried out in 1960 (Plekhanov et al.) and 1961,
approximately 200 such areas were investigated to obtain a reliable profile of the entire area of flattened forest. Both the mean direction of the flattening, which
reflects the direction of the wave front, as well as the directional dispersion of the flattened trees, which is a function of shock-wave force, can be used to
describe the motion of the wave. The evaluation yielded a somewhat exaggerated value, since areas with the most clearly defined flattening were selected as
controls and, moreover, it was impossible to take into consideration the relationship between the trees that had been felled live and those that were dead.
The total area of flattened forest covers approximately 2000 square kilometers and generally coincides with the boundaries established by the1958 expedition.
However, it has now been established that the flattening extended farther to the northeast, along the Sil'gami Range to the summer trail leading to Strelka, a fact
which had also been noted in 1960. Thus the general contour of the felled forest takes the form of a triangle, apex forward, symmetrical about the meteorite
trajectory determined by Krinov. It is characteristic that compilation of a large volume of data shows no significant deviations from the radial in the directions of
the fallen trees. The arrows obtained by this method are more or less uniformly distributed over the entire felled area (Fig. 4).

Fig. 4. Flattening of timber on the basis of 1961 data.
1) Sampling areas encompassing 100 trees; 2) directions based on several trees; 3) 1960 routes; 4) stretches with limited or poorly defined
flattening; 5) stretches in which there was no flattening at all; 6) positions of the forestry-assessment plots; 7) huts; 8) boundaries of the 1908 fire
where its natural propagation is seen distinctly; 9) general boundary of flattening; 10) southeastward variant of the meteorite trajectory, after

Figs. 5. Present appearance of felled timber.

For purposes of evaluating the information from the control areas and in order to establish a detailed picture of the forest destruction, special forestry-assessment
plots were surveyed and both the living and dead tree son these areas described (Fig. 5). Over a number of years, beginning with 1958, the methods employed
for this part of the operation were gradually improved and in 1961, in its final form, the work came under the direction of V.I. Nekrasov (Main Botanical Garden
of the USSR Academy of Sciences), V.G. Berezhnoy and G.I. Drapkina (All-Union Forest Aerial Photographic Survey Association of the Main Administration
of Forestry of the USSR Ministry of Agriculture). Some of the forestry-assessment plots were staked out and partly described in 1960 (V.I. Nekrasov,
Kolesnikov); they were distributed in the form of a cross passing through the epicenter of the destruction to the boundaries of the flattened forest (55 plots), with
an additional 40 plots located in the intervening quadrants. The relationship between the percentage of fallen trees and their directional distribution can be
established on the basis of the control areas, which can also be used to describe the general condition of the forest in 1908 and at the present time.
A special investigation was undertaken (Zotkinetal.) to detail the felling in the center of the area covered by the chart prepared by the Moscow Institute of
Geodetic, Aerial Survey, and Cartographic Engineers. This study involved the plotting of arrows indicating the direction of the fallen trees at points not
examined by aerial photography, and surveys of special control areas to ascertain the effect of local relief on the action of destructive wave. This results in rather
convincing evidence that there is a pronounced increase in directional flattening on reverse slopes (with respect to the epicenter) near the epicenter-an indication
of an "explosion" at altitude.
As we have noted, the "zone of indifference," also known as the "chaotic flattening" or "telegraph pole" zone, occupies an area somewhat smaller than that
indicated by the 1958 chart. This may indicate a somewhat lower center of wave origin than had earlier been supposed (Fig. 6).
Thus the collected material on the flattening of the timber permits us to draw the following conclusions:
1. The total area of flattened forest is in rather good agreement with the map prepared in 1958. An exception is the extension of the flattened area to the
northeast, as can be seen from the map showing the propagation of new forest.
2. The collected material is quite complete and there would be little gained from further field refinements prior to complete evaluation of the data obtained.
3. Nowhere in the directional studies of the fallen trees were any significant deviations from radial flattening noted.
4. By 1908 the forest consisted to a considerable degree of standing dead timber, and computation of both the over-all force of the shock wave and its isobars
must be accomplished with consideration of this factor. Areas of forest that had not burned by 1908 survived to a significant extent and were not flattened.
5. The influence of local relief on timber flattening in the vicinity of the epicenter is of a nature such as to confirm that the explosion took place at some height.
6. The slightly smaller central zone of random dead-stand flattening as compared with the 1958 data speaks against an excessively high explosion center.
7. The data collected must be subjected to careful evaluation.

As had been pointed out in 1958, a forest fire originated at the point of meteorite impact and spread in the usual manner. Thus the boundaries of the fire do not
coincide with the boundaries of a possible flash fire, as Zolotov sought to prove (1959). [* A report on the work of A.V. Zolotov during his 1959 expedition.]
While no one has dismissed the possibility of a flash fire, it has not been definitely established either. The 1961 investigations of the injuries inflicted on live
trees in the vicinity of the epicenter (Zenkin et al.) revealed a large number of still surviving trees and the fact that the injuries to these trees were oriented in

Fig. 6. Schematic map show in a distribution of flattening, dead timber and live trees at the epicenter.
1) Flattened trees; 2) dead timber; 3) surviving trees; 4) expedition shelters.

N.P. Kurbatskiy, a member of the 1961 expedition, describes the features of the fire in this area as follows: "...distinct signs of the spreading of the 1908 treetop
fire were found in the form of arcuate strips and surviving older forest to the north of the Kimchu River, at a distance of 1 to 2 km from the bank, in the stretch
from Lake Cheko to the extensive marshes on the left side of the river. In this area the fire spread from south to north. Indications of the fire's spread were found
on heights to the north of Lake Cheko, as well as on the western slopes of hills 373.6, 491.0 and 476.0. From here the boundary of the fire area can be traced
easily along an arc from the mouth of the Chavidokon River to Mount Shakharma. The surviving traces of the fire-line advance indicate that it spread toward the
west and southwest, i.e., as if from a central depression. The treetop fire here gradually changed into a ground fire, with some damage to the old forest. On the
northeastern slopes of the heights where the headwaters of the Churgim River rise there are arcuate strips of old forest, convex toward the south. We find
identical signs of the spreading fire on Mount Shakharma, but facing east... The old forest remained intact only in narrow strips along the banks of rivers with
highly developed valleys and in the form of solitary trees in the midst of swamps and rock streams."
"The rounded shape of the fire site and the complete destruction by fire of the old forest over an extremely great area are outstanding features of the area; it
differs in these respects from ordinary forest burnouts after the passage of treetop fires in the presence of a strong wind... Of the surviving areas of primeval
taiga, we inspected only two, 2 to 5 hectares in area, situated on the flat saddle slopes of the northwestern heights surrounding the central depression... During
the course of this inspection on 28 June 1961, the sixth day after a heavy rainfall, the ground vegetation in these areas was extremely wet and would not burn,
although flammable material on the ground ignited easily throughout the rest of the impact area. It is obvious that these areas differ from the remaining territory
in having an elevated resistance to fire. In the past (apparently, in 1908) a ground fire penetrated these sections from the fringe growth of that time, but did not
spread through them."
"The 1908 fire flared up at several points: in the central basin, on the territory adjacent to the Khushmo River between the Churgim and Ukagitrivers, as well as
on the northeastern slopes of the Khladnyy Range. The fire was preceded by a dry spell, which was responsible for the widespread and uniform burning of the
forest and the spreading of the fire to the marshes. Such a set of circumstances is possible for this area in the month of June, but not altogether usual. The 1908
fire spread rapidly through the treetops of the meteorite area, before a wind moving at a speed of 6 to 10 m/sec. At this velocity, the wind was a local
phenomenon and a result of powerful rising currents of combustion products and heated air. The fire lasted for at least five days. During this time the direction
and velocity of the wind varied with the diurnal variations in temperature and with changes in the intensity of the fire front as it enveloped various elements of
the terrain relief. The fire died out during the first ten days of the month of July in 1908 as a result of unfavorable weather conditions. The trunks of live trees did
not burn during the fire; only needles and small twigs were scorched."
As we are well aware, forest fires generally start on ignition of floor litter, which is the most highly combustible material. To determine the fire hazard in this
area and the quantity of heat required to start a fire, a series of experiments were carried out to ascertain the moisture content of the various types of ground litter
as a function of the length of a dry spell (N.P. Kurbatskiy, T.M. Sleta). Evaluation of these data by the Forest Fire Prevention Laboratory at the Forestry and
Lumber Institute of the Siberian Branch of the Academy of Sciences should make it possible to establish a numerical scale for the minimum quantity of radiant
energy required to start the 1908 fire.
The maximum quantity of energy can be found on the basis of the fact that various species of trees (larches, pines, and cedars) survived in the area of the
epicenter, in some cases even retaining live branches.

Fig. 7. Physiological scorching of larch twig near epicenter by light. The oriented cambium injury of 1908 can be seen; the twig at that time was
no more than 8 mm thick. The injury was subsequently completely invested.

Studies of live branches (older than 53 years) on trees growing in open areas were undertaken to seek out evidence of a flash fire, to evaluate its intensity and
direction (G.M. Zenkin, A.G. Il'in, L.F. Shikalov et al.); in part, this is a continuation of work started in 1960 (Plekhanov et al.).
It was established in these investigations that branches (primarily of larches) which in 1908 did not exceed 8 to 15 mm in thickness often show traces of injuries
that date from 1908, and have subsequently been invested by bark (Fig. 7). The damage is noticeable on the upper portions of the branches, thus making it
impossible to associate these injuries with ordinary fires. Moreover, they are oriented toward the supposed center of the meteorite explosion. The severity of
these injuries diminishes significantly with increasing distance from the epicenter. The damage indicates a fungus disease that affected the injured parts of the
cambium. We thus have a serious basis for assuming that these injuries are a result of physiological scorching of cambium cells during the fall of the meteorite.
Statistical reduction of the collected material will assist us in establishing the factors responsible for the appearance of these injuries, and, if they are associated
with a flashfire, will be helpful in determining its intensity and direction. The latter is of interest from the standpoint of determining the spatial position of the
meteorite at the instant of maximum brightness. [* G.M. Zenkin places the emission center at 1.5 km to the southeast of the epicenter of destruction, at a height
of about 5 km.]
Injury Distribution (Flash Fire?) at Various Distances from Epicenter*
Distance from epicenter, km
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
North .
East .
South .
West .
+ (1)
+ (1)
+ (2)
+ (2)
+ (1)
+ (2)
+ (2)
+ (1)
+ (1)
- (1)
- (3)
- (1)
The + sign indicates injury observed; the - sign indicates no injury observed; (3) represents the number of trees inspected.

The distribution of the above injuries as a function of distance from the epicenter, after the data of Zenkin and Il'in, is presented in Table 2.
Shikalov and Ivanova submit data indicating that analogous instances of injury were observed in less pronounced form at distances up to 9 km to the north and
west of the epicenter, and as far as 10 km to the south. Extremely rough and approximate calculations of the energy required to produce physiological scorching
and local mortification of the cambium on a branch approximately 1 cm thick yield a value of 5 to 15 calories per square centimeter. The illumination value
cannot be significantly higher (more than double this figure), since this would lead to marked charring of the bark, and no such phenomenon was observed.
Approximately the same energy is required to ignite dry forest debris, and this could lead to a forest fire.
According to a preliminary evaluation, this result for the energy of the light pulse (at a distance of up to 9 km from the epicenter) is smaller by approximately
half an order than the result obtained by Zolotov.
For purposes of comparison we cite certain data (Table 3) on flash burns suffered in atomic explosions (see "The Effects of Nuclear Weapons," [Deystviya
yadernogo oruzhiya], translated from the English, Voyengiz,1960)
Luminous Irradiation Resulting in Injury, for Two Explosion Forces
Energy of irradiation by light, cal/cm2
for TNT equivalent of
20 kilotons 10 megatons
Burns, human skin:
First degree
Second degree
Third degree
Charring of fir, pine and maple bark
Dry rotten wood
Fine grasses
Fallen leaves
White-pine needles

The observations of the 1958 expedition indicated that there was no meteor crater in the south morass and that there was no relationship between the formation
of the thermokarstic funnels and the fall of the meteorite; however, these observations were not sufficiently reliable. Yu.A. L'vov, Kovalevskiy et al. undertook a
rather detailed inspection of the swamps in 1960. They established that "all of the structural features of the basin's marshes are readily explained by terrestrial
factors. No interbedding of peat and soil in the south morass was observed, Kulik's data not withstanding... The fall (B.I. Vronskiy) of small meteoritic
fragments cannot be used to explain the thermokarsts...a four-to-six-centimeter peat layer in which the 1908 stratum was deposited is easily identified... Even in
the event of negative results, the search for meteoritic matter in the peat must be repeated" (taken from a letter by L'vov to Florenskiy, dated 28 December 1960).
The section of the helology team from the Forestry and Lumber Institute of the Siberian Branch of the Academy of Sciences, headed by Doctor of Biological
Sciences N.I. P'yavchenko, worked from 22 June through 6 July 1961, while the main unit of the helological section headed by S.P. Yefremov remained on the
job to study the surrounding marshes throughout the entire summer.

Fig. 8. A view of the south morass.

I cannot dwell here on a discussion of the extensive work program undertaken by this unit, even though it is of considerable interest to the helologist. N.I.
P'yavchenko formulates his replies to questions concerning study of the Tunguska fall in the following manner.
"Differentiation of the south and north morass surfaces into hillocks and 'mochazhina' [land permanently wet from outflow of underground water] is a result of
thermokarstic processes and, possibly, a result of phenomena related to ancient water erosion... The formation of funnels in the swamps is not associated with
the fall of the meteorite or fragments of it. No embankments of ejected peat have been built up around the funnels, the peat layer is not intermixed with the soil
and it is of rather along the line of contact with the peat hillocks are steep and frozen... Numerous core samples of the peat deposit uniform depth throughout the
entire area of the funnel, the mineral base is flat, and the walls in the south and north morasses fail to reveal any mixing of the peat with the 'ooze' or subsoil.
The peat deposit exhibited rather clearly oriented stratification throughout... The 'embankments' on the surface of the south morass, which extend, with slight
separation from one another, in the direction perpendicular to the runoff, are ordinary ridges 20 to 30 centimeters in height covered with dwarf arctic birch, bog
underbrush, hypnum and sphagnum, and quite often with woody vegetation (Fig. 8). These ridges are formed in wet marshes because of surface cracking due to
frost and raising of the peat around the edges of the cracks, which improves the drainage of the area adjacent to the crack, thus favoring the growth of vegetation
requiring less moisture... Traces of fire stand out clearly in the peat deposits of the hummock areas in the north and south morasses. In the majority of cases two
fire levels stand out clearly: an upper level approximately 20 and in spots 30 years old; a lower level, about 50 years old... The lower level is quite thick, ranging
from 3 to 5 cm, and occasionally more. This level contains much charcoal, ashes and plant residue... All of the old trees that survived on the peat hillocks show
searing only on the lower parts of their trunks, which indicates that the fire moved along the ground; this is natural in view of the high degree of thinning of
woody growth in peat bogs... No regular intensification in the growth of trees, dwarf arctic birches, bog underbrush, and mosses in the marshes after 1908 was
observed. Among the old larches, the increment during the past 2 to 3 decades has been insignificant. Young larches and pines appearing on the peat hummocks
after 1908 are characterized by growth satisfactory for frozen peat bogs and rather uniform height and diameter increments. In addition, severely stunted trees
are encountered. These differences are associated with the ecological conditions of vegetation growth... The increment in sphagnum in the permanently wet
ground and thermokarsts amounts to 2.4-2.5 cm annually, which is quite normal for this zone. Under extremely dry conditions Sphagnum fuscum increases at a
rate of about 1 cm per year on the peat hummocks."
There were no clearly defined changes in the hydrological regime of the marshes that were associated with the events of 1908. The gradual aggrandizement of
the morass at its boundaries and the partial submergence of dead growth is typical of many of the marshy areas of this region, bearing absolutely no relation to
the fall of the meteorite. The age of the south morass runs to many thousands of years, and determination of the absolute age at which swamp formation began is
a matter of considerable interest, since it represents information totally unknown with respect to the marshes of Central Siberia. This determination can be
accomplished by using the radiocarbon method on specimens of wood raised from the very bottom of the south morass.
Thus as a result of detailed helological investigations in 1960 and 1961 we may regard as quite reliable the conclusion that there is no relationship between the
fall of the meteorite in 1908 and the manner in which the south and north morasses were formed.
The 1958 expedition drew attention to the pronounced change in the rate of growth of a number of trees subsequent to 1908, and pointed up the possibility of
using "biological indicators to ascertain features dating from 1908, as well as general changes in conditions brought about by the fall of the meteorite."
Yemel'yanov and Nekrasov showed in their subsequent work that accelerated growth is characteristic of a wide region around the center of the meteorite fall. A
number of biological indicators suggested the probability that this phenomenon was in some manner associated with meteoritic matter and should be studied. In
1960, together with a number of other colleagues, they began laying out the forestry-assessment plots which made it possible to bring to light the unusual nature
of this phenomenon.
A group of biologists joined the 1961 expedition of the Committee on Meteorites to establish the boundaries and causes of the accelerated growth of forest in
this area. Because the problem of accelerated forest growth and increased timber harvests in the areas of the north is of prime practical importance, the All-
Union Forest Aerial Photographic Survey Association of the Main Administration of Forestry of the USSR Ministry of Agriculture participated in the project by
dispatching a forestry-assessment section to work together with the expedition. This work was performed by Candidate of Biological Sciences Nekrasov, a
forestry specialist; by Berezhnoy, Drapkina, and a number of others. A number of important details incidental to this work were brought to light in connection
with the nature of the meteorite-connected injuries sustained by the forest. As a result of the work carried out in 1960 and 1961, a total of 95 forestry-assessment
areas were laid out, and all of the biological aspects of the phenomenon were studied here.
The change in the rate of forest growth can be associated either with a change from the normal ecological conditions of growth due to the tremendous forest fire
and flattening of the forest which took place in 1908, or with the action of stimulants that appeared in the soil on disintegration of an extraterrestrial body of
unknown composition.
Although literature sources indicate that the aftereffects of ordinary forest fires and forest uprooting with which we are familiar from European silviculture
should not last longer than 15 to 20 years, they persist, occasionally without noticeable abatement, for a period of 40 to 50 years, in the area of the meteorite fall.
Nekrasov has expressed doubt as to the possibility of explaining this phenomenon in terms of purely ecological factors (more sunlight as a result of thinning, the
effect of ash fertilizers, a change in the heat and moisture regime of the soil, soil aeration, etc.).
The study of the soil heat regime which was conducted by Soil Scientist A.A. Yerokhina to shed light on the influence exerted by frost phenomena demonstrated
that there was no evidence of permafrost in the dry forest soils to a depth of at least 1.5 to 2.0 meters, and that it is difficult to detect any change in the thermal
regime of the soils with the methods available to the soil scientist.
To supplement the silvicultural work, the growth rates of oats in the soils of various sections of the region were determined (A.B. Osharov, a plant physiologistat
Tomsk State University); soil microflora were identified (N. V. Vasil'yev, a microbiologist from the Tomsk Medical Institute), and a study of the root systems of
trees and their changes subsequent to 1908 was carried out (Osharov). The possibility of detecting a change in the thermal regime of the soil and the related
possible deeper penetration of the root systems after 1908 prompted this last project. Particular attention was devoted to the growth pattern of bog vegetation
communities during the helological studies.
The office evaluation of the secured data, which should supply the answers to these questions, has not been completed, and thus the expedition has not as yet
formed any final conclusion regarding the results of the project. However, we can make the following preliminary comments.
1. Where we have a similar combination of fire and forest flattening due to ordinary causes outside the environs of the epicenter of meteorite impact ("the
western flattening" of 1896, the fire in the vicinity of the Chamba in 1937), an equally persistent acceleration of forest growth is encountered.
2. There is no indication whatever of any change in the growth rate of bog communities beyond the moss layer which grew directly on the mineral-rich 1908
layer over which the fire had passed.
3. Although acceleration of forest growth after 1908 was observed in areas bearing no traces of the fire or flattening of the forest, these areas are situated in the
immediate vicinity of extensively destroyed areas and are spatially limited, and thus subject to the over-all regime of a much wider region.
4. No clear differences corresponding to boundaries of accelerated forest growth were ascertained as a result of cultivation of oats in various soil areas of the
region in which the meteorite fell.
5. The boundaries of accelerated forest growth follow the boundaries of the fire and flattening of the forest quite closely, but they do not correspond to the
distribution of meteoritic matter as obtained by other methods.
All of the above compels us to express grave doubt as to the possible participation of meteoritic matter (in one form or another) in the stimulation of tree growth
in this region, and suggests that the prolonged aftereffects are associated with features of the ecological conditions of forest growth in this zone of Central
Siberia. Forestry experts Berezhnoy and Drapkina (All-Union Forest Aerial Photographic Survey Association of the Main Administration of Forestry of the
USSR Ministry of Agriculture) came to the same conclusion. This has no bearing on the possible practical application of the features studied to the promotion of
silviculture in the northern regions of Siberia.
Various dispersion states must have been present during the flight and disintegration of the Tunguska meteoric body in the atmosphere, differing in the nature of
their scattering over the surface of the earth in accordance with time of formation and degree of dispersion. At the very least, we may assume the presence of the
following forms to have been probable.
1. The dust-and-gas tail of a comet, torn away in the uppermost layers of the atmosphere and dispersing over the entire surface of the earth to produce bright
2. The dissipation of ionized gas in the atmosphere along the flight path of the meteorite, without any settling of meteoritic matter.
3. Liquid and vapor condensation products swept from the heated substance of the meteorite to form its train. Coarse fractions of the train may have reached the
surface of the earth in the form of molten droplets that froze into meteoritic spheres, settling along a more or less clearly defined strip, the finer droplets
scattering uniformly or settling out over a great distance.
4. The "explosion" products of the meteorite. Their state depends primarily on the composition of the meteoroid. Volatile cometary components dissipate
without leaving a trace; the remaining components form local conglomerations depending on the nature of the explosion and the degree of dispersion. Individual
large meteoritic fragments may reach the surface of the earth along the line of the meteorite's flight path, beneath its train, or at a point beyond the epicenter of
the "explosion." There cannot be many such fragments, and in the absence of precise data on the trajectory of the meteorite the discovery of such fragments 50
years after the fall is a matter of pure chance. Fine meteoritic dust in solid form is scattered and it is difficult to distinguish it from ground formations unless it is
composed of pure unoxidized iron. The atomized fused meteoritic material should have frozen into spheroidal particles that could be carried for great distances
by the wind to form local accumulations. The gaseous products and their derivatives do not form distinct local accretions and any search for these would be
virtually hopeless. The deposits of these various product types need not in principle coincide with one another.
Of all of the enumerated forms of meteoritic matter, the 1958 expedition (Florenskiy et al.) identified only magnetite and silicate spheres, and these in negligible
concentrations. Additional specimens were collected by B.I. Vronskiy in 1959 and 1960. All attempts (magnetometry, metallometry, radiometry) to ascertain the
presence of cosmic matter in some other form (1958, 1959, 1960) remained entirely without result. At the same time, however, the limited concentration of such
particles precluded definite classification as fragments of the Tunguska meteorite, since they are indistinguishable from the ubiquitous meteoric dust.
The question of meteoric (cosmic) dust is important and repeatedly raised in the literature. However, it had not been the subject of an adequately serious study
until recently, and quantitative estimates of meteoric dust varied over a very wide range: the estimates of various authors sometimes differed by many orders of
magnitude. The properties of this dust are generally studied by astronomical methods, with only the magnetic component being determined from ground
Thus the problem of studying the material composition of the Tunguska meteorite is inseparably interwoven with the general study of meteoric dust, and part
and parcel thereof.

Fig. 9. A concentration installation at the Khushmo River.

Attempts to isolate material from the Tunguska meteorite were carried out in the following manner.
1. Isolation of dust from the surfaces of tall stumps ("telegraph poles") snapped by the 1908 explosion (Yu M. Yemel'yanov). The method called for removal of
the trunk surface, grinding it up, and boiling it to a pulp in water. Large wood particles were removed from the resulting mass by filtration, and the minute
fractions were collected. This concentrate was dried for subsequent separation in gravity solution. The extremely laborious operation of collecting enough dust
that had settled in the cracks of the trunk surfaces failed to produce any large number of specimens of adequate size. The upshot was a single specimen, collected
from a surface of approximately one square meter in the vicinity of the Churgim falls, 3 km to the south of the "explosion" epicenter. Preliminary study of some
of the material showed a clear preponderance of terrestrial quartz dust in the presence of minute particles possibly associated with wood residues.
The specimen is of interest since it provides a characteristic of the average dust fall in this region over a period of 53 years, including possible residues of the
Tunguska meteorite and other meteor particles.
2. Identification of strata in peat-bog and lake deposits. The identification of the1908 peat layer was accomplished in two ways: a) in the north morass and in the
vicinity of Khoy Brook, about 20 square meters of a scorched layer containing a large quantity of ash associated with the 1908 fire was identified; the ash,
together with the peat residue, was concentrated by the customary method for soil samples; b) successive layers of peat from the west morass in the bend of the
Khushmo River (which had not burned) were identified and set afire for subsequent analysis of ash composition.
Silt specimens from Lake Chekoand the lake in the bend of the River in the west morass were collected for subsequent stratigraphic study (P.N. Paley et al.)
with a grab dredge and a swamp drill designed by N.I. P'yavchenko.
The various samplings from the bottom of Lake Cheko (P'yavchenko, Kozlovskaya) revealed extensive development of silt up to 7 meters deep, indicating an
ancient origin for the lake (tentatively estimated at 5000 to 10,000 years), thus completely contradicting the hypothesis of the formation of the lake as a result of
the Tunguska meteorite fall (V. Koshelev, 1960).
3. The search for meteoritic matter in the soils. The observations made by Soil Scientist Yerokhina confirmed the validity of the soil sampling method which we
used in 1958; it was possible with this method to remove a layer 2 to 3 cm thick, including the lower section of the litter and the upper layer (1.5 cm) of the
subsoil. With this sampling method, the weight taken from an area of one square meter usually ranges up to 10 kg.

Fig. 10. Spheres of cosmic origin found in the area of the Tunguska meteorite fall.

The average weight of a sampling collected by the two-man teams on foot amounted approximately to 20 kg from a sampling area of two square meters.
Wherever possible, the samples were taken from unflooded dry level areas without heavy vegetation cover. The collected specimens were sent to the
concentration section (Kozlov, Vronskiy, Malinkin, Gorbunova), where the concentration was accomplished on a vibration table (Fig. 9) and the heavy fraction
consisting of particles smaller than 0.25 mm was separated; the specimens were subsequently subjected to magnetic separation and then they underwent
preliminary inspection through a binocular magnifier (N.I. Zaslavskaya, G.M. Ivanova, N.P Rodionova). The silicate portion was not studied in the field, and the
concentrated specimens were brought back to Moscow for further evaluation. We worked on the assumption that the earlier samples (1958), which had been
more crudely concentrated, contained both magnetic (magnetite) and silicate spheres (Fig. 10).With the old concentration method, in which a significant portion
of the silicate spheres were lost, these spheres were found to be present in proportions of 3:1. It is not out of the question that the samples include polyhedral
particles of cosmic origin; however, a method has yet to be developed for their identification. Under field conditions it is precisely the magnetic spheres that
most readily lend themselves to concentration and identification. If we assume that the number of these spheres bears some relation to the total number of
cosmic particles, they represent the most convenient indices to the presence of meteoritic matter. Based on these spherical particles, preliminary field analysis of
their composition becomes possible, as does a purposive search for the scattering ellipse of the meteorite on the basis of even a slight increase in the
concentration of meteoritic matter.
All of the previous samples that were collected in the vicinity of the epicenter (as well as the 1961 samples) exhibited an altogether negligible concentration of
spheres. Since the average number of such particles had not been established for the soils, they can easily be attributed to the back ground concentration of
meteoritic dust of this type. At the same time, the general pattern of the physical process involved in the scattering of these particles appears completely clear to
us. We have already mentioned the dissipation of the meteorite train. In addition, the scattering of the meteoritic matter is governed by the explosive
disintegration of the meteorite, accompanied by the liberation of a large quantity of thermal energy. This inevitably led to the formation of a powerful ascending
current of hot air the analog of the radioactive cloud that rises from a nuclear explosion. Unlike the nuclear explosion of the pure air-burst type, which is
virtually free of any dust particles ,the cloud resulting from the Tunguska explosion may have contained a significant quantity of dust and liquid particles,
although it was on a considerably lower energy level. From this standpoint, it would more nearly resemble the cloud which results from an atomic explosion at
or very near the ground, which draws up a substantial quantity of dust particles.
Without insisting on absolute consistency between the explosions, which involve markedly different levels of energy, we are nevertheless obliged to seek an
analogy to the Tunguska fall in nuclear explosions, since they most nearly approximate the fall in terms of force. The base of the mushroom cap of an atomic
cloud rises to a height of 8 to 16 km, while the height to which the top of the cloud rises is a function of the force of the explosion and ranges between 20 and 40
km. The cloud produced by the eruption of Mount Bezymyannyy on Kamchatka in 1956 reached a height of 36 km. The dust particles picked up by the thermal
currents settle out at a comparatively slow rate and may be scattered far and wide by the wind. Following Stokes' law, the fall velocity of particles ranging in
size from 5 to 300 microns is given as v = 0.11d
p m/hr in air, where p is the particle density in grams per cubic centimeter and d is the particle diameter in

Fig. 11. Map showing the distribution of phenomena accompanying the Tunguska meteorite fall. The circles are drawn at 20-km intervals.
1) Approximate boundary of area with trees subject to physiological light scorching- 2) boundaries of felled-timber area and directions of fall- 3)
sites of samplings rich (x > 8) in magnetite spheres. The areas of the small circles are proportional to the concentrations of particles; 4) samplings
with few magnetite spheres; 5) hypothetical scattering ellipse of the meteorite.

Quartz particles descend from a height of 24,000 meters at the following fall velocities:
Particle diameter, microns . .250 150 75 33
Fall time, hours . . . . . . .1.4 3.9 16 80
Thus, on the basis of particles 150 microns in diameter, which correspond to the largest sizes found earlier, and assuming that these particles had risen to a
height of 12km, the time for their descent would be 2 hours.
Mean Concentration of Magnetite Spheres as a Function of Distance from the Center of the Explosion of the Tunguska Meteorite (Preliminary
Data, with the Concentration Given for an Arbitrary Unit of Area)

Distance from
epicenter, km
Average content
Number of
Average of
0-10 1.5 6
20-30 4 16
40 8 11
60-80 21 6

Mean Concentration of Magnetite Spheres for the Southern and Northern Halves of the Investigated Area as a Function of Distance from the
Distance from
epicenter, km
Southern part Northern part
Number of particles Average of samples Number of particles Average of samples

Following accepted practice, assuming the average wind velocity to be 24 km/hr, we find that particles will be carried 50 km from the center of the explosion
before settling to earth.
Mean Concentration of Magnetite Spheres of Cosmic Origin as a Function of Distance from the Epicenter for Averaging over Quadrants
(Preliminary Data Concentrations given for an Arbitrary Unit of Area)
Distance from
epicenter, km
Northwest Southeast Northeast Southwest
Number of
Average of
Number of
Average of
Number of
Average of
Number of
Average of

Fig. 12. Concentration of magnetite spheres in the soil as a function of distance from the epicenter: a) Averaging over quadrants from the
southeast to the northwest; b) averaging over quadrants from the southwest to the northeast; c) averaging over all samplings, without consideration
of direction.

In response to an inquiry from the Committee on Meteorites, the Central Weather Forecasting Institute provided the following description of the day on which
the Tunguska meteorite fell (from a letter dated 11 May 1961, Ref. No. K-573): "On the basis of data available to the Institute, on 30 June 1908 the site of the
meteorite fall was under the influence of a zero-gradient pressure field, with weak southeasterly winds at 2 to 5 meters per second."

Fig. 13. Recurrence of samples with a specific number of magnetite spheres.

The synoptic situation provides a basis for the contention that there were no strong air currents at heights of 3 to 4 km. The air currents were moving from the
southeast and south to the northwest and north. The velocity of the wind ranged approximately between 30 and 40 km/hr. The direction of the air currents
remained constant from the site of the meteorite fall to 65-70

North Latitude. The air currents then deflected eastward, becoming almost westerly, assuming a
northwesterly direction over the basin of the Lena River and the Far East."
In view of the rather indeterminate nature of the hypothetical initial data (and in view of completely contradictory data based on a synoptic analysis of the same
situation, as obtained through G.F. Plekhanov from Tomsk) it was decided to break the sampling network up into circles with a distance of 20 km separating
them and with the sampling areas in checkerboard array (Fig. 11).
Had there been a helicopter at our disposal, we would have been able to complete the entire program of work and to obtain background concentrations as well as
the increase in these concentrations at the hypothetical scattering ellipse, of which various versions have been computed. For reasons beyond our control, the
entire sampling operation had to be carried out on foot, with the consequence that the results lacked the necessary statistical buttressing and we were able only to
discern the probable direction of the scattering ellipse, without any opportunity of describing the contours of the area.
Figure 11 shows the actual sites at which the soil samples were taken. The areas of the stippled circles are proportional to the concentrations of magnetite
spheres per arbitrary area unit (Table 4). If we average all of the data over the various distances from the epicenter, we obtain in complete agreement with theory
the distribution shown in Table 5, which clearly characterizes the comparative sparsity of particles in the central section and their concentration at the periphery
(see also Fig. 12c).
This qualitative relationship fully explains the unsuccessful attempts on the part of previous expeditions to detect a noticeable concentration of meteoritic matter
at the epicenter.
A comparison of the northern and southern halves of the investigated area clearly shows the difference in the nature of particle distribution.
The clearest results are given by averaging over quadrants (Fig. 12a, b).
As many as 90 magnetite spheres were found per unit area in the richest specimen - indeed, the only one - taken on the unflooded bank of the Chunya River (10
km above the mouth of the Kimchu River, 80 km north northwest of the epicenter).
It is our opinion that the above relationship is not accidental, although it may be of inadequate statistical certainty. The meteorite's flight path from the southeast
in the presence of a south-southeast wind might serve as an explanation, and it would also clarify the slight drift of matter from the meteorite train to the
northeastern quadrant (Table 6), with the main mass of the explosion products falling farther to the north and northwest. The scarcity of meteoritic matter in the
southwestern quadrant is characteristic.
The indicated distribution pattern for meteoritic matter corresponds to the meteorite trajectory projected by Krinov and to the synoptic conditions of 30 June
1908 as per the data provided by the Central Weather Forecasting Institute.
Zotkin accomplished the preliminary statistical evaluation of these materials. The histogram (Fig. 13) shows the distribution of 36 samples (n) as a function of
the number (x) of spheres contained in the sample. If the fractional values of x are combined with the next-lower whole numbers for greater clarity, we obtain the
following distribution of n with respect to x from the 28 poor samples (7 spheres or fewer):
Number of spheres, x 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Number of samples, n 4 13 5 3 0 2 0 1
Frequency, w 0.14 0.46 0.18 0.11 0.00 0.07 0.00 0.04
Probability, p 0.17 0.31 0.27 0.15 0.07 0.02 0.01 0.00
Number of samples
expected from formula. n
4.9 8.5 7.4 4.3 1.9 0.7 0.2 0.05

It may be concluded that the poor samples pertain to the background. In this case, the fluctuations in the number of spheres in the sample must be subject to the
Poisson distribution:
p(x) = a(x) e

where a is the average number (mathematical expectation) of spheres in the sample and p(x) is the probability of x spheres being present in the sample. The
Poisson distribution gives the probability that a given number of events will occur in a given interval, provided that they are randomly distributed in the area
being studied. The number of meteors noted during the course of a specific interval of time, for example, satisfies the distribution almost exactly. In our case we
can assume that the cosmic spheres falling to the earth over an extended period of time will, in general, be uniformly and randomly distributed over its entire
From the preceding conclusion we find that the average a = 1.7 and that the dispersion d
= 2.6. For this volume of statistical data a = d
is a satisfactory test.
This derivation uses probabilities p calculated from the Poisson distribution, and the theoretical number n
of samples. Agreement with the empirical frequency
w and the actual number of samples is also quite good.
The probability of eight or more spheres appearing in the background samples is extremely small, i.e., p (x>8)<10
. Thus the existing rich samples cannot be
explained by fluctuations in the background and point to a certain additional in flow of material to the points at which these samples were taken.
Doctor of Chemical Sciences Paley undertook a field microchemical analysis for nickel in two samples of spheres in order more reliably to classify the subject
magnetite spheres as meteoritic matter and differentiate them from industrial dust; the results of this analysis a represented below:
Sampling conditions Ni:Fe, %
Averaged sphere sample from various samplings ...........11.0
Spheres from Vanavara sample, 300 m from airfield .............4.0
These data completely confirm the correctness of classifying the overwhelming majority of the spheres under investigation as meteoritic matter. The significant
difference between the averaged sample and the Vanavara sample, clearly exceeding the error of the experiment, can be explained either by accumulation of
several generations of cosmic matter (meteoritic dust) in the vicinity of Vanavara, or by some contamination of the sample taken in the immediate vicinity of
Vanavara by dust of industrial origin, e.g., from welding apparatus.
The next stage in our work calls for careful inspection of the collected samples, separation and study of the silicate particles, and detailed description of all the
various types of extracted meteoritic particles to determine the possible composition of the infusible components of the Tunguska meteorite.
If we assume that the spheres that O.A. Kirova had extracted from the samples taken from this region pertain exclusively to the Tunguska meteorite, and not in
any considerable measure to the scattered background of meteoritic dust, we can assign an iron-and-silicate composition to the infusible portion of the meteorite,
although for the time being this remains to some extent hypothetical. The total quantity of matter distributed over the investigated area can, in approximate
terms, be estimated at several tons.
We believe that the work of the 1961 expedition represents a great forward stride in the search for the meteoritic matter. A distinct concentration of particles of
cosmic origin was discovered to the north northwest of the epicenter, fitting well into the theoretical pattern for the scattering of the Tunguska meteorite.
However, in view of the fact that the distribution of the over-all meteoritic-dust background has not been thoroughly studied, and because of the inadequate
number of samples taken, the composition of the meteorite and the conditions of its fragmentation cannot be regarded as having been determined with complete
We are now faced with the quite specific problem of looking for particles of a definite type by a specific method and in a specific region. Materials collected in
this manner must be investigated as part of a general study of the cosmic dust, which represents an extremely important task for the geochemist.
In conclusion, we feel we must make a number of critical remarks with respect to Zolotov's observations, which provided the basis for a whole series of
unfounded statements with regard to the nature of the Tunguska meteorite in the popular literature. Despite the serious criticism of A.V. Zolotov's reports, his
works have appeared in the Doklady Akademii Nauk SSSR (see the first issues of Volumes 136 and 140, for the year 1961).
The observations which serve as the basis of these papers are erroneous.
1. From among a mass of trees that had died at various times, Zolotov selected one with a certain arrangement of knags supposedly characterizing the
relationship to the ballistic and shockwave near the trajectory of the meteorite. The expedition has at its disposal material indicating surviving lateral stumps
oriented in all possible directions, so that a solitary observation without any indication of the time at which the branches were lost is of no significance.
2. In determining the pressure at the front of the shock wave, Zolotov proceeds from the idea that in comparison with tree trunks, an excess air pressure of
proportionally reduced intensity would be required to snap off thin branches. However, it is a well-established fact that considerable force is required to snap off
the flexible branches of evergreens and that in the case of a windfall the conifer itself generally breaks, retaining virtually all of its branches.
3. The inadmissibility of equating the color temperature and brightness of a bolide with the temperature of the shock wave has been demonstrated in a study by
Stanyukovich and Bronshten [10].
4. In his estimate of the luminous energy produced by the explosion, Zolotov identifies the boundary of the forest fire with the boundary of flash burning and
bases his calculation on the most distant point of the fire (16 km to the southeast). The spread of the fire to the west, however, was not nearly as great and has
absolutely nothing in common with the boundary of flash burning. By no means were the living trees ignited by the initial flash, but rather only such easily fired
materials as the forest litter and dead wood. The luminous energy of the explosion was estimated at 60 to 100 calories per square centimeter at a distance of 17
to 18 kilometers from the point of the explosion, which works out to a luminous energy of the order of 600 to 900 calories per square centimeter at the epicenter
of destruction, in complete contradiction to observational data, since a rather large number of live trees survived in the vicinity of the epicenter, bearing only
traces of physiological cambium scorching, which corresponds to an energy of 6 to 12 calories per square centimeter.
5. Zolotov based his calculations on an unrealistic absorption coefficient of 0.033 km
for the atmosphere, which corresponds to a visibility of 120 km; the use
of a realistic coefficient of 0.1 km
, which corresponds to a visibility of 45 km and excellent atmospheric transparency, nullifies all of the calculations, altering
the result by several orders of magnitude.
6. Evaluation of the eyewitness accounts suggests no thermal effect nor any of the electrical background phenomena of a great meteor.
In a second paper (Doklady Akademii Nauk SSSR, 1961, Volume 140, No. 1) Zolotov draws the correct conclusion that "...the difference in the conditions of
radioactive fallout (contemporary - K.F.) fully explains the variations in the total specific radioactivity of the Tunguska tree and topsoil specimens," as had been
pointed out in the report of the 1958 expedition sponsored by the Committee on Meteorites. This Committee has at its disposal data from radiochemical isotope
analyses of tree sections by the annual rings, conducted under Prof. V.I. Baranov, and these definitely point to a contemporary nature for the radioactive
contamination of the trees, since it does not stop with the tree ring which corresponds to the time of contamination, but rather penetrates the wood to a
considerable depth.
The investigation methods used by Zolotov are not up to current standards and thus cannot be used for any evaluation of the phenomena accompanying the fall
of the Tunguska meteorite.
The work of the expedition can be summarized as having virtually completed the collection of materials which will provide descriptions of all the various forms
of the physical effects produced by the Tunguska meteorite on the area of the fall. It is, of course, not out of the question that individual craters formed by small
pieces of the meteorite will yet be found - or, for that matter, the pieces themselves. However, in view of the projects that have already been carried out, it
becomes quite clear that such finds would be only fortuitous.
The maps of the felled-timber area are no longer based on estimates, but are well documented and prepared on the basis of a considerable volume of statistical
material. The data collected on the mean direction of the fallen trees, on the characteristics of the forest, on the degree to which the possible flash burning was
directional, and on the influence of the terrain relief on the nature of the shock-wave effect at the epicenter must provide the basis for physical characterization
of the air "explosion" of the Tunguska meteorite. We have no hesitancy in expressing our conviction that the study of this material will shed light on the over-all
physical circumstances of the fall in a quite thorough and definite manner.
The investigation into the distribution of meteoritic dust in the area of the fall permits us, with a high degree of probability, to speak of physically observed
fragments from the Tunguska meteorite and the nature of their scattering. However, to transform the probability into full certainty, the distribution of this
material must be the subject of study, in conjunction with the general study of cosmic dust and its propagation. At the same time, methods must be worked out to
isolate identify cosmic dust - something that will be possible only behind the walls of a major institution such as the Vernadskiy Institute of Geochemistry and
Analytical Chemistry, which should coordinate the study of this problem.
I should now like to take advantage of the opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude to the many individuals who participated in the discussion and
implementation of the Tunguska meteorite study program.

List of Participants in the 1961 Combined Tunguska Meteorite Expedition:
1. Florenskiy K.P. Chief of expedition
2. Yeliseyev I.N. Deputy chief of expedition
3. Antonov I.V.
4. Avdeyev V.I.
5. Andreyev Yu.
6. Balkovskiy V.S.
7. Bekhterev V.M.
8. Biychaninova A.
9. Bobukhova V.
10. Babakov A.
11. Boyarkina A.P.
12. Berezhnoy V.G.
13 Vronskiy B.I.
14 Ven'yaminov S.Yu.
15. Vasil'yev N.V.
16. Verba D.K
17. Vycherov Ye.
18. Gorbunova T.M.
19. Demin D.V.
20. Drozdov S.N.
21. Drapkina G.I.
22. Yemel'yanov Yu.~.
23. Yerokhina A.A.
24. Yegorshin A.O.
25. Yefremov S.P.
26. Zhuravlev V.K.
40. Kulakov Yu.
41. Kuz'minykh S.
42. Kambalova G.
43. Kandyba Yu.L.
44. Kozlovskaya L.S.
45. Lyubarskiy K.A.
46. Malinkin Ye.I.
47. Makarova-Zemlyanskaya Ye.A.
48. Mil chevskiy V.I.
49. Matushevskiy V.V.
50. Nekrasov V.I.
51. Nekrasova L.N.
52. Nikolayenko I.P.
53. Osharov A.B.
54. Ogrin Yu.
55. Plekhanov G.F.
56. Paley P.N.
57. Pustovalov V.
58. P'yavchenko N.I.
59. Prozorov Yu.S.
60. Pisarenko V.I.
61. Permikov V.M.
62. Pape V.E.
63. Prokashev V.A.
64. Popov L.I.1961.
65. Rodin V.F.
27. Zotkin I.T.
28. Zaslavskaya N.I.
29. Z enkin G. M.
30. Zenkina Ye.
31 Ivanova G.M.
32. Il'in A.G.
33. Kozlov A.N.
34. Krasnov V.P.
35. Karpunin G.F.
36. Kurenkova Ye.M.
37. Kolobkova G.P.
38. Kuvshinnikov V.M.
39. Kurbatskiy N.P.
66. Rodionova N.P.
67. Stolpovskiy A.A.
68. Smirnyagin Ye.P.
69. Sleta T.M.
70. Tibikova T.M.
71. Trukhachev G.
72. Florenskiy V.K.
73. Fast V.G.
74. Chernikov V.M.
75. Shikalov L.F.
76. Shugayev Ye. P.
77. Shapovalova R.D.
78. Shuykin N.N.

1. K.P. Florenskiy, B.I. Vronskiy, Yu.M. Yemel'yanov, I.T. Zotkin, O.A. Kirova. Preliminary Results from the 1958 Tunguska Meteorite Expedition.
Meteoritika, Volume XIX, 1960.
2. G.F. Plekhanov et al. A Report on the Work of the Combined Autonomous Expedition. Tomsk, 1961 (manuscript).
3. Yu.A. L'vov, N.V. Vasil'yev et al. Verification of a Hypothesis. Is the Felled Forest in the Keta River Basin Associated with the Fall of the Tunguska
Meteorite. Priroda, No. 7, 1961.
4. B.I. Vronskiy. Priroda, No. 3, 1960.
5. Ye.L. Krinov. The Tunguska Meteorite. USSR Acad. Sci. Press, 1949.
6. O.A. Kirova. A Mineralogical Study of Soil Samples from the Site of the Tunguska Meteorite Fall, Collected by the 1958 Expedition. Meteoritika, Volume
XX, 1961.
7. V.I. Nekrasov, Yu.M. Yemel'yanov. Priroda, No. 2, 1962.
8. M.A. Tsikulin. An Approximate Evaluation of the Parameters of the 1908 Tunguska Meteorite Based on the Destruction of the Forest Area. Meteoritika,
Vo1ume XX, 1961.
9. K.P. Stanyukovich, V.P. Shalimov. The Motion of Meteoroids through the Atmosphere of the Earth. Meteoritika, Volume XX, 1961.
10. K.P. Stanyukovich and V.A. Bronshten. The Velocity and Energy of the Tunguska Meteorite. Doklady Akademii Nauk SSSR, Volume 140, No. 3, 1961.
11. V.A. Bronshten. On the Motion of the Tunguska Meteorite through the Atmosphere. Meteoritika, Volume XX, 1961.
12 G.I. Pokrovskiy. Possible Mechanical Phenomena in the Motion of Meteoroids. Meteoritika, Volume XX, 1961.
13. I.S. Astapovich. The Great Tunguska Meteorite. Priroda, No. 2, No. 3, 1951.
14. V.G. Fesenkov. The Cometary Nature of the Tunguska Meteorite Astrorlomicheskiy zhurnal, Volume 38, No. 4, 1961.
15. V.I. Vernadskiy. Mirovedeniye, No. 5, 1932.
16. V.I. Vernadskiy. Problemy Arktiki, No. 5, 1941.
17. Resolution of the Ninth Conference on Meteorites with Regard to Studying the Fall of the Tunguska Meteorite. Meteoritika, Volume XX, 1961.
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G 756-57
G 758-59 Table of
G 760-61
G 762-63
G 764-65 I. Origin
G 766-67
G 768-69
G 770-71
G 772-73
G 774-75
G 776-77
G 778-79
G 780-81
G 782-83
G 784-85
G 786-87
G 788-89
G 790-91
G 792-93
G 794-95
G 796-97
G 798-99 II.
Dispersion, Far
G 800-PL1
G 801
G 802-03
G 804-05
G 806-07 Near East
Though gaining a detailed understanding of the effects episodic encounters with comets had on
humanity will take some time, incorporating recent astronomical evidence can provide immediate
boons to our comprehension of past cultures. This is particularly true for certain symbols and
motifs that have endured to our time period. Wilson's 1894 work on the history of the swastika is
quite valuable in showing how widely that symbol was utilized and what meanings came to be
associated with it.

The fortunate find in the seventies, at Mawangdui, China, of a Han dynasty silk comet atlas
sheds considerable light on earlier enigmatic motifs. Most illuminating is the drawing, described
by text on the artifact as a long-tailed pheasant star. This rendering of a jetting comet viewed down
its axis of rotation has a considerable history, and, as a motif, appears on artifacts found in most areas
of the world. The artist who illustrated this silk twenty-two hundred, or so, years ago was not likely a
first-hand observer. What is produced here is a schematic of received comet caricatures with claims
that specific things will happen if a represented type appears. The pinwheel-like image is unique to
the compilation in that an omen is given for an appearance in each of the four seasons, implying
that this comet was seen more often than the others represented. This may illustrate a frequently
viewed aspect of comet Encke which has a 3.3 year orbit and rotational axis that occasionally
points toward Earth. [Whipple, F. 1985]
G 808-09
G 810-11
G 812-13 Sphere,
G 814-15 Circle with
a dot
G 816-17
G 818-19 Sphere,
G 820-21
G 822-23 Central
G 824-25
G 826-27
G 828-29 Lead idol,
G 830-31 Owls
G 832-33 Africa
G 834-35
G 836-37
G 838-39
G 840-41
G 842-43
G 844-45
G 846-47
G 848-49
G 850-51
G 852-53
G 854-55 Europe
G 856-57
G 858-59
G 860-61
G 862-63
G 864-65
G 866-67
G 868-69
G 870-71
G 872-73
G 874-75
G 876
G 877
G 878-79 North
G 880-PL10
G 881
G 882-83
G 884-85
G 886-87
G 888-PL11
G PL12
G 889
G 890-PL13
G PL14
G 891
Important in understanding ancient oriental lore is learning that this motif
was associated with the pheasant (divine bird in China) which is
frequently mentioned in the Chinese classics. The link between the
spinning cross and birds is evident on artifacts from many cultures.
Perhaps the association of the Sanskrit term "svastika" with this symbol
can be linked to the Astika Parva in the MAHABHARATA which relates
the birth of a cosmic bird par excellence--Garuda. This fabulous winged
deity had a radiance like the Sun, could change shapes at will, and
destroyed other gods and kings by casting down fire and stirring up
storms of reddish dust which darkened the Sun, Moon and stars.
Clearly Garuda was symbolic of an Earth approaching comet.
The bird-comet connection is even more obvious in the Jamva-khanda Nirmana Parva of the
MAHABHARATA which describes a fierce fowl with but one wing, one eye, and one leg, hovering in
the night sky. As this bird "screams" and "vomits blood":
All the quarters of the earth, being overwhelmed by showers of dust, look inauspicious.
Fierce clouds, portentous of danger, drop bloody showers during the night. Rahu of
fierce deeds is also, O monarch, afflicting the constellation Kirtika. Rough winds,
portending fierce danger, are constantly blowing.
The mention of Rahu, the demon of eclipse, which originally had four arms and a tail that was
severed by Vishnu to become Ketu (comet) is interesting in that the demon is here darkening
Kirttika (the Pleiades) in the month of Karttika (latter half of October, through mid November),
for the tale goes on to relate that:
. . . in course of the same month both the Moon and the Sun have undergone eclipses on
the thirteenth days from the day of the first lunation. The Sun and the Moon therefore, by
undergoing eclipses on unusual days, will cause a great slaughter of the creatures of the
earth. Meteors, effulgent like Indra's thunder-bolt, fall with loud hisses . . . People,
for meeting together, coming out of their houses with lighted brands, have still to
encounter a thick gloom all round . . . From the mountains of Kailasa and Mandara
and Himavat thousands of explosions are heard and thousands of summits are
tumbling down . . . Fierce winds charged with pointed pebbles are blowing, crushing
mighty trees. In villages and towns trees, ordinary and sacred, are falling down, crushed
by mighty winds and struck by lightning.
This is, without doubt, a mythological record of an intense meteor storm from the still active Taurid
stream which presently peaks around the first of November and appears to radiate from near the
Pleiades star cluster. The un-airworthy bird associated with this meteor bombardment could have been
comet Encke which until recently was thought to be the sole source for the Taurid meteors. However,
G 892-93
G 894-PL15
G 895
G 896-PL16
G 897
G 898
G PL17
G 899
G 900-01
G 902-03 Cent. &
South Amer.
G 904-PL18
G 905 III. Related
G 906-07
G 908-09
G 910-11
G 912-13
G 914-15
G 916-17
G 918-19
G 920-21
G 922-23
G 924-25
G 926-27 IV. Native
G 928
G PL19
G 929
G 930-31
G 932-PL20
G 933
G 934-35
G 936-37
G 938-39
G 940-41
G 942-43
G 944-45
G 946-47
G 948-49 V.
G 950-51 VI.
G 952-53
G 954-55
G 956-57
G 958-59
G 960-61
G 962-63
G 964-65
G 966-67 VII. Objects
G 968-PL21
G 969
G 970-PL22
G 971
the discovery of other large contributors which are now dark but were once active comets rules out a
positive identification.
Another interesting aspect of this folk memory which might
shed some light on why the rolling cross motif is linked to birds
is the image of a one-legged fowl. This is also a characteristic of
the Chinese divine pheasant which was closely associated with
the fabulous, lame, raven-beak-nosed emperor, Yu, who could
transform himself into this pheasant or a bear. One of Yu's
enemies, the Owl, who invented thunder and lightening was also
one-footed. [Lonsdale, S. 1982, Barnard, N. 1972, 1973]

In a less artificial environ animal tracks speak strongly to people and convey much about the
creature which left them. Thus a bear, bird or any animal which made impressions on the ground
could be symbolically represented in total by drawing these marks. I suggest that the jetting
comet, to some cultures, looked like a bird's foot and, as a motif, represented a divine fowl. This
can explain why the not very bird-like drawing on the Han silk is captioned as a pheasant star. Chinese
lore upholds such an interpretation as Ts'ang Chieh, the four eyed legendary inventor of writing,
derived his inspiration to create written symbols from noticing the marks of birds' feet in the sand. His
ancient style is known as niao chiwen--"bird foot-prints writing." [MacCulloch, C.J.A. 1928]
as such,
in Asia
for this contention comes from petroglyphs
found in the south-western United States
which Pueblo people identify as roadrunner (a
type of cuckoo) tracks and identical renderings
found by Schliemann. [Morphy, H. 1989] The
close association of these two distinctive
G 972-PL23
G 973
G 974-PL24
G PL25
G 975
G 976-77 VIII.
Similar Arts
G 978-79
G 980-81 Conclusion
G 982-83
G 984-85
G 986-87
G 988-89
G 990-91
G 992-93
G 994-95
G 996-97 List of
G 998-99
G 1000-01
G 1002-03
G 1004-05
G 1006-07
G 1008-09
G 1010-11
G 1013 Index A
(whole vol.)
G 1014-15 ABC
G 1016-17 CD
G 1018-19 DEFG
G 1020-21 GHIJKL
G 1022-23 LM
G 1024-25 MNOP
G 1026-27 PQRS
G 1028-29 STUVW
G 1030 WXYZ
The content and opinions
expressed on this Web page do
not necessarily reflect the views
of nor are they endorsed by the
University of Georgia or the
University System of Georgia.
crosses on artifacts from Schliemann's Troy
could be considered coincidental and not
necessarily avion-inspired were they found out
of context, however, in Schliemann's words:

treating now of the various
kinds of potteryof this third city,
I begin with the owl-faced
idols and vases, and I would
repeatedly call very particular
attention to the fact, that the
idols, of which I collected about
700, are all of the same shape;
that they represent in the rudest
possible outlines a female form;
and that, therefore, they cannot
but be copies of the ancient
Palladium, which was fabled
to have fallen from heaven
with joined feet.

From Mari
Owls, like cuckoos, have zygodactylous or
semizygodactylous (outer toe reversible) feet.
Obviously these "Trojans" had an elaborate
belief system which focused on the activities
of a non-terrestrial bird of the night. With this
in mind, a re-examination of artifacts
recovered from Hissarlik could be quite
Another aspect of comets which is evident in ancient lore involves shape shifting. A comet is three
dimensional and could appear as quite a different animal when viewed from a different angle.
For instance, allowing that a foot-print signifies the creature, the fabled ability of Yu (mentioned
above) to transform into a pheasant or bear can be easily understood as a radial view
distinguished from an axial view of the same comet.
Comets can also change spontaneously; a gas emitting area could become dust covered and extinguish a
jet, a piece of the comet could break away, creating another comet, perhaps initially more flamboyant
than its parent. Our ancestors' stories speak of these weakening gods and fantastic births; however, until
now, our ears heard only gibberish.
Comets and the Bronze Age Collapse, from which the above is excerpted.
The content and opinions expressed on this Web page do not necessarily reflect the views of nor are they endorsed by the University of
Georgia or the University System of Georgia.
The content and opinions expressed on this Web page do not necessarily reflect the views of nor are they endorsed by the University of
Georgia or the University System of Georgia.
On Some Comet Observations in Ancient India
Department of Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore 560 012
Abstract: A brief review of the ancient prose text of Para sara, referring to comets, as transmitted by later non-religious
Sanskrit literature is presented. The information passed on appears to belong to 2
millennium BC or earlier. A
sequence of 26 comets with names and purported effects are given. The form of each comet sometimes with its position
in the sky is presented vividly. A year number, mentioned as the time interval between each appearance, is also given.
The total period covered adds to about 1300 years. The first comet is said to have appeared in the era of the Floods. This
would date the Floods to about 2500-2700 BC. Whether this has any historical importance needs to be further investigated.
The names of many comets correspond with names of Vedic deities. This raises the possibility of comet sightings being
alluded to in the Rig Veda.
Keywords: Comets, Flood, Disasters, Anomalous phenomena, Sanskrit Literature, Ancient India.
his book aptly Adbhuta-sa gara (Ocean of Wonders). His
writing covers all of BS on natural phenomena and much
more. His intention was to bring in one place comet-lore
prevalent during his time. What could have been the reason
for interest in comets by writers such as Para sara and Vr.
Garga who should have lived several centuries before
Vara ha-mihira? It is this aspect, which makes one wonder
why interest in comets waned to such an extent that the word
Ketu, in later days, meant the descending lunar node.
Unfortunately we do not have the texts of Para sara, and
Vr. Garga available in their original form. The identity of
these authors is also not clear, since several persons are cited
by the same name. Notwithstanding these shortcomings,
the information about comets provided in BS and AS should
be of interest to historians, scientists and lay people
interested in Indian culture. Since the material available is
too large, here only AS the work of Balla l
a-sena, is
considered. This will not be a limitation, since AS covers
all of what Varaha-mihira has written in BS.
Adbhuta-sagara (AS)
Muralidhar Jha (1905), brought out a critical edition of
this book a century ago, after consulting several available
manuscripts. This edition published in 1905 is followed here
for further work. Ketu-adbhuta (Comet-wonder) is the 8
chapter (pp.148-202) in AS. It is not the intention here to
translate the complete text about comets, which will be too
long. AS repeats the statements of Varaha-mihira, Garga,
A brief note on the tradition of comet observations in
ancient India has been presented previously (Iyengar, 2005).
Sanskrit literature contains large number of references to
comets. These are spread over Vedas, Pura n
as, religious,
semi-religious and secular texts. The oldest literary
composition namely, R
gveda seems to contain references
to comets, in an archaic mystical style. Mahabharata and
Pura n
as contain graphic and highly personified descriptions
of comets. But, the secular writings of Varaha-mihira (5-6
century AD) in Br
hat-samhita (abbr: BS) and of Balla l
sena (11-12 century AD) in Adbhuta-sagara (abbr: AS) are
objective and organized (Bhat, 1981; Jha, 1905). Both the
above writers present the knowledge passed on by ancient
scholars Para sara, Vr
ddha-Garga, Garga, Asita-Devala, and
a few others. Surprisingly, no contemporary comet sighting
is presented in BS, whereas AS appears to have left one
record. The above period saw the peak of mathematical
astronomy (siddhanta) in the country, when many sky
observations were also carried out. However, siddhantic
astronomers have largely kept silent about comets. Varaha-
mihira is categorical in stating that the orbits of comets are
beyond mathematics. But, he had no hesitation in listing
the names, forms and effects of comets as prevalent before
his time. Balla l
a-sena was a king ruling at Mithila , but his
origins were in Karnataka (Sinha, 1979). He seems to have
had a penchant for collecting information on anomalous
happenings from all sources available to him. He named
Asita-Devala, Atharva-muni and towards the end of the
chapter gives the writings of Para s ara and Vr. Garga.
Para sara is the most interesting among the above authors
for two reasons. Firstly, his composition is in prose. AS in
a few places cites a Para sara in verse also. It is possible
these two persons are different, but with same family name.
Prose style in Sanskrit is rare and ancient, going back to the
a period of Vedic literature. It is also noteworthy
that sentences in PS end with the word iti similar to the
prose style of Brahman
a texts. Para saras samhita text
(abbr: PS) should contain the earliest information about
comets seen in India, in a non-religious context. Further
AS quotes PS in other chapters also, giving a clue to when
Para sara might have lived or the era of the tradition reported
by him. In the 2
chapter on Suns transit, the position of
solstices, as given by Varaha-mihira is recorded. This
corresponded to summer solstice being at the third quarter
of star punarvasu (-geminorum). This is followed by the
position as observed during Ballala-senas time, when
summer solstice was at the beginning of punarvasu. This
amounts to a precession of about 7

amounting to time
difference of approximately 500 years (72 years per degree)
between Vara ha-mihira and Ballala-sena, which is quite
realistic. Next the relation of seasons with stars as per
Para sara is quoted:
tatha ca svakalikam r
tu-kramam aha para sarah
tasya sravis
adyat paus
antam caratah
sisirah |
a rdhat rohin
soumyat sarpa rdham gris
pra vr
t sarpa rdhat hastantam |
citradyat indra rdham sarat |
hemanto jyes
a rdhat vais
avantam iti ||
Para sara said (the following) order of the seasons
during his time:

isira, the cold season is when he (Sun) transits from

beginning of Dhanis
ha till middle of Revati. Spring is from
middle of Revati till end of Rohini. Summer is from beginning
of Mr
gasira till middle of Aslesa. Rainy season is from
middle of Aslesa to end of Hasta. S

arat season is from Citra

to middle of Jyes
ha. Hemanta, the dewy season is from
middle of Jyes
ha to end of S

There is a scribal mistake in the first sentence, which
should read paus
a rdham, as seen from the next statement,
which is correct. The above is a description of the naks
(stars along the ecliptic providing a background for
observation) system of astronomy, with the year beginning
at winter solstice coinciding with the first point of star
ha (-delphini). This is same as the tradition of
veda nga jyotis
a, which has been well discussed in recent
years (Shastri, 1984). Briefly, Varaha-mihira whose time
may be taken as 530 AD, provides the position of winter
solstice as the first quarter of star Uttara s
a d
ha (-sagittari).
For this to have been at the beginning of star Dhanis
ha ,
the precession amounts to 2320'. From this information
the era of veda nga jyotis
a is assigned to 1150-1370 BC.
This hints that the information contained in PS also
belongs to a tradition originating at a period around
1400 BC. It is noteworthy that PS does not indicate the
seasons in terms of the twelve zodiacal signs or ra si,
as done by later astronomers Varaha-mihira and Brahma-
Comets as per Para sara Samhita (PS)
PS classifies comets into eleven groups making a total
of 101 comets. PS mentions that 16 are born out of Death
tyu group), 12 are from solar deities (aditya group),
10 are due to anger of Rudra (Rudra group), 6 belong to
Pitamaha group, 15 are from Udda laka group, 5 are from
Prajapati, 17 are from the forehead of Marici and Kasyapa
(stars of U. Major), 3 are from Vibhavasu, 14 are coeval
with Moon when the ocean was churned (Moon group), one
is born of smoke or dust (Dhuma) and one is from the anger
of Brahma or Creator. This list adds up to 100 only. Vr.
Garga gives the comets of Rudra group as eleven, in which
case the figure of 101 will be correct. The basis for the
grouping is not mentioned but the names appear to be
distinctly linked with Vedic deities, a point to be discussed
later. Twenty-six among the 101 comets were purportedly
seen. Hence Para sara has described their name, form and
the time interval between successive sightings of these
comets. All the 26 observations are reproduced here briefly,
with their names and associated year number. Ketu is the
standard word for comet, hence only the meaning of the
first part is given against a few names in parentheses. The
text is given in two cases to highlight the archaic style, which
is nevertheless, objective and realistic.
tatra vasa-ketuh
snigdho mahan udagayata-s ikhah
a-s atam pros
ya samplaves
u pascimenoditah
sa sadyo maraka-phalah
| ru ks
o asthi-
pu rven
a snigdha eva sastra-ketuh
samo ru ks
- iti || (AS. p.171)
There, big Vasa-ketu, (Flesh or Marrow) with its crown
bent towards north, elapsing 130 years in the floods, having
risen in the west, causes immediate destruction. Harsh asthi-
ketu appears in the same period causing misery. S

ketu rising sharply in the east causes destruction
The alternate reading for samplaves
u is samplave yuge.
This would mean in the era of floods. Asthi-ketu (Bone)
and Sastra-ketu (Weapon) have the same transit period, with
the latter rising in the east. This may be the same comet
seen once in the west and then in the east. Since three comets
are listed as being contemporaries, perhaps at least two
comets were seen together. At the end of the transits of the
above comets, Kumuda-ketu (Night Lily) is seen for one
night in the west like a bright spray of cows milk, with its
head bent towards east. This does good to people for a
period of ten years. Kapala-ketu (Skull) rises in the east on
a new moon evening, travels half the sky with a smoky
crown. Seen 125 years, after Kumuda-ketu, it induces
drought and famine. For years equal to the months of
visibility, it reduces grain yield by half and also uses away
(destroys) half the population. At the end of this transit,
i-ketu (Crystal) is seen in the west for a night, subtle
like the star Arundhati (Alcor in U.Major), with its crown
bent towards east. Among the Rudra group comets, Kali-
ketu arises 300 years and 9 months after Man
i-ketu. From
the east, along the ecliptic, with a head like the tip of a spear,
it travels one-third of the sky to be seen at the horizon. For
that many years, equal to the number of months seen, the
comet having reduced the population to one-third, leaves
only one-eighth of the grain yield. Cala-ketu (Moving) rises
115 years after Kali-ketu, in the west with a crown of the
size of a finger joint, bent southwards. Following one-third
of the sky, as it moves north, it exhibits a head like the tip
of a spear (su lagra ka ram sikham darsayan). Moving close
to Abhijit (near star Aquila), it touches U.Major and the
Pole Star, to return half the sky and sets in the south. It does
horrible deeds (da run
am karma) in the sky, shakes the earth
and destroys a populous province in central India (madhya-
desa) for a period ten months. In other places also for 18
months it creates fear of drought, disease and death. The
next comet Jala-ketu (Water) raises in the west with its head
bent to the west, with a well-formed star (sujata-tarah
). It
helps people for nine months with good health and
agriculture. Comets urmi (Wave) and others of Moon group
appear at intervals of 13, 14 and 18 years to produce good
effects on earth. After the work of eight of these, Bhava-
ketu is seen in the east for a night. It is of the size of the
north star of the Kr
ttika cluster (Pleiades) with the crown
bent clockwise.
atha uddsliki-sveta-ketuh
dasottarm vars
a-s atam
ya bhavaketoh
ca rante pu rvasyam disi daks
sikho ardha-ratra-kale dr
s yah
| tenaiva saha dviti

pascimena ka-nama grahah
samstha yi

yugapadeva dr
s yate | tavubhau sapta-ratra-
syau dasa-varsa n
i praja h

| kah
yada dvyadhikam dr
syeta tada da run
am praja nam sastra-
kopam kuryat| taveva sneha-varn
a-yuktau ks
ema rogya-
adau bhavatah
|| (AS. p. 184)
Then, S

veta-ketu (White) is seen, 110 years after Bhava-

ketu, in the east at midnight, with its crown bowed
southwards. At the same time is seen in the west a comet
named Ka (second of the Prajapati group). Both, visible
for seven nights, trouble people for ten years. If Ka is seen
for double the period (14 nights) it will cause horrible effects
of weapon (?) on people. The two turning to oily colour
bring good effects to people.
Reference to Ka as yuga-samstha yi

, (one who stays for

a yuga) is not clear. We can only speculate that perhaps on
previous occasions it had stayed for a long time, since one
yuga is of the order of five years, in Vedic parlance. It is
called both graha (seizer or planet) and as ketuh (comet).
At the end of the effects of Sveta-ketu (that is after 10 years)
Padma-ketu (Lotus) rises in the west with a crown of lotus
colour, for a night and brings happiness for a period of seven
years. After a lapse of 115 years Svadhi-ketu (Ka syapa
group) is seen, with star jyes
ha (Antares). It is dark and
harsh occupying one-third of the sky anti-clockwise, with a
crown rotating clockwise above, like a lock of hairs (u rdhva-
a kara-sikhah
). It will reduce population in
the central region and north to one-third. A

varta-ketu (Cyclic
or Periodic) comes after the work of Svadhi-ketu with a
conch-like trunk portending happiness to the world. Rasmi-
ketu (Ray) comes 100 years after A

varta-ketu in kr
(Pleiades) with a smoky head. Its effects are similar to that
of S

veta-ketu. After a lapse of 108 years Samvartaka is

seen in the evening. It occupies one-third of the sky, with a
dreadful head and ejecting a thin copper coloured spear-
like jet of smoke. For years equal to the hours it stays,
kings fight among themselves. The 26
comet in this list
is Dhu ma-ketu (Smoky). Earthquakes, dust veils and
exchange of heat and cold (seasons), precede the rise
of Dhuma-ketu. It appears at no fixed intervals of
The above descriptions presented by Para sara are
unambiguously of comets. The years mentioned are to be
treated as approximate time intervals between two sightings,
expressed as elapsed time. The first one is clear as to its
connection with the Floods. However the number word poses
a problem in interpretation. For example, Vasa-ketus year
number is given as trimsat-vars
a-satam. Is this 3000 or
130? Here the latter is taken as the intended meaning for
the following reason. Garga, who describes Visvaru pa
as celestial objects causing fire, gives their count as vimsat-
graha-satam. Balla l
a-sena explains this as: vimsat-graha-
satam vimsatyadhikham satam ityarthah
| It is seen that, in
ancient India, twenty-above-hundred (not twenty-times-
hundred) was the accepted meaning of this compound word.
Varaha-mihira in BS also gives the number of Visvaru pa
as 120 without ambiguity. The number of years mentioned
in the comet list adds to about 1300. This would mean that
Para sara the author of PS has passed on a record of 26
comets observed before his time in a particular sequence
starting from the era of Floods.
Next to Para sara, Vr
. Garga writing in verse form is
important for our discussion. He accepts the same grouping
as in PS, but names all the 16 comets of the Mr
tyu group,
naming one of them as Para sara. This indicates that his
writing belongs to a date later than PS. He does not state
the initial era of the observations, but mentions that Asthi-
ketu (2
in the list of PS) as soon as it is sighted inundates
earth with water. He adds here and there more details to the
descriptions of PS. For example, the interval between Kali-
ketu and S

ankha is given as 18 years and 6 months. Similarly,

Agni-ketu is seen three-and-half years after A

varta-ketu with
star jyes
ha , remaining visible for one-and-half months.
Vr. Garga mentions a comet Gada-ketu (Mace) seen on
Ma rgasira ama vasya (November-January) in the region of
stars a rdra (Betelgeuse), punarvasu (Pollux), pus
(Asellus) and a sles
a (Minhar) but gives no year number.
Probably this was seen during his lifetime, after the close of
the list of PS. He differs from PS, also about the last two
comets Samvartaka and Dhuma. He boldly states:
atra-cakram a ka se yathaiva parivartate|
ketu-cakram tathaivedam a ka sat parivartate||
tato vars
asahasrante dr
syete coditau divi|
ketu-ma la-grahasyante dhuma-samvartakau grahau||
Like the stellar wheel rotating (repeating) in the sky,
the comet-wheel also repeats in the sky. At the end of 1000
years, at the end of the comet strand (ketu-ma la-graha?),
two comets Dhuma and Samvartaka appear together.
. Garga gives in detail, the tragedy that these two bring
on earth. These lead to fall of meteorites with the ten
directions becoming air-less. Earthquakes occur with oceans
and mountains getting disturbed. He should have been a
keen observer, as he says Dhuma-ketu, before setting,
sends a jet of smoke away from Sun (astamana-kale tu raveh
dhumam vimucati). He seems to be wary of myths and
folklore, when he states those with ignorant eyes do not
see the starry nature of this object (nasya ta ramayam rupam
pasyanti ajana-caks
). He describes the other comet
Samvartaka as the one famous for reducing the world
(samvartaka iti khyat ah
yaya jagatam iti). But later
Pura n
ic literature has taken Samvartaka to mean a type of
cloud that brings excessive rains, leading to a deluge.
The other authors quoted in Adbhuta-sagara namely,
Garga, Atharva-muni, Devala, Bha rgava and Varaha have
nothing seriously original to add to the works of Para sara
and Vr.Garga. They increase the total numbers to 1000 and
add new groups such as Jupiterian (65), Saturnian (60) etc.
Association of comets with planets might have had an
observational basis but the numbers appear to be arbitrary.
Whether the mentioned objects were comets is also unclear.
For example, guru-suta h
(Jupiters offspring) are described
as white stars without hair (vikacah) seen in the south.
Similarly, the Venus group is a cluster of 84 white-stars called
visarpaka, seen in the northeast direction. An giras is a form
seen on Sun, like a person sitting in a chariot. Comet Arun
is not starry, but dark red in colour and dust like, with diffused
light. Kanka is a comet shining like moon but clustered
like a clump of bamboos. None of these authors gives the
time interval between any of the comets. Their main
contribution is in preserving a tradition of celestial
objects (other than naks
atras and planets) being known as
a, a ngirasa, ka, kanka, kabandha, kiran
a, vis varu pa ,
a, taskara, tvas
a, t risiras, trisikha,
Comets in the Rigveda?
Several of the comet names mentioned above
synchronize with names of Vedic deities. This makes one
wonder whether some hymns of the R
gveda (RV) could
have been inspired by comet sightings. That, this is not
just a speculation is borne out by a study of the ancient text
harmonized with later traditional literature. Here, only a
few points are highlighted to bring out the possibility of
RV referring to comets. The word for comet in Sanskrit is
ketu often referred as dhuma-ketu. Currently this word is
used in almost all Indian languages in the sense of comet.
Ketu originally meant a hairy flag like object, synonymous
with words such as sikhi and kesi

. Amara-kosa (3
tanta-varga) a standard reference on ancient meanings
provides two meanings for the word dhumaketu; namely
agni (fire) and utpat a (anomalous phenomenon). The first
meaning is obtained by interpreting fire as smoke-bannered.
It is obvious the latter meant a comet. The hymns RV 1.162,
1.163, read like an eye witness account of a celestial object:
moving fastin the sky like a line of swansgold horned,
metal footed. The simile of the celestial Horse or Fire
moving like a line of birds in V-formation appears again at
RV 3.8, which could be the split tail of a comet. From
Yajurveda (T.S.Br. 1.5.7) we learn that seers in ancient times
feared that they might not see Sun raise again and in fact
they won the dawn by the citravasu hymn. This read along
with RV 1.35, where Sun is described as covered with dark
dust, but getting cleared later, makes one wonder whether
this could have been due to comet dust. RV 8.44 refers to
Vibhavasu specifically as dhumaketu a comet. RV has also
several references to objects falling from the sky (1.172,
8.55, 10.68). Atharvan
a Veda (19.9) has a prayer for
peace to the quaking earth hit by meteorites and to Death
called dhuma-ketu.
A brief account of the most ancient comet lore of India
as preserved in Adbhuta-sgara has been presented here.
AS repeats an ancient prose text of Para sara, which perhaps
forms the original Para s ara Samhita (PS). It may be
mentioned here, that Utpala (9
century) also quotes the
same text of PS in his commentary on Br
hat-samhita (Bhat,
1981). Astronomical notions and some data about planets
indicate that PS predates siddhantic astronomy by several
centuries. For example, the period of Saturn is mentioned
as 27 stars being traversed in 28 years, which was not the
style in which later astronomers stated this period. As per
internal evidence in the text, the tradition of PS belongs to
circa 1400 BC. The interesting part of the text is the list of
26 comets purported to have been seen sequentially starting
from the era of the Floods. The total number of years in the
list adds to about 1300 years, which indicates that Samplava
meaning the Flood (inundation or deluge) refers to a period
about 2500-2700 BC. The story of the Flood appears for
the first time in India, in Satapatha Brahman
a (1.8.1), which
is later than the R
gveda but belongs properly to Vedic
literature. The contents of this ritualistic text can be dated
to 3
millennium BC, based on a statement about Kr
ttika or
Pleiades not moving from the east (Dikshit, 1969; Parpola,
1994; Kak, 1997). This text also contains reference to Agni
(Fire) being stationed in the star group of Kr
ttika, which
could as well be an oblique reference to a comet (Iyengar,
2004; Napier, 2004). The Flood story connected with the
Fish form of Vis
u and a boat being tied to a peak in the
Himalayas is recounted in Mahabha rata as belonging to a
bygone era. The great epic has several references to comets
but here it suffices to point out that Brahma-dan
a a comet
as per the discussed literature was held responsible for the
inundation of the city of Dvaraka.
Further intriguing is the information preserved by the
ancient authors that Tvas
ta (a personified celestial object
extensively cited in the R
gveda) can cause eclipses at times
other than parvan (syzygy). Varaha-mihira criticizes
superstitions about eclipses and upholds mathematics as
sufficient to understand solar and lunar eclipses.
Nevertheless, he does not hesitate to state that a planet
called Tvas
a is capable of darkening Sun at odd times
(satamaskam parva-vina tvas
a na marka-man
kurute| BS 3.6). Earlier Indian tradition in Ra ma yan
and Maha bharata identifies Ra hu as the sole cause of solar
and lunar eclipses at syzygy. It is conjectured that the
persistent tradition of a comet having caused an eclipse,
could have influenced a school of later writers and
astrologers to name the descending lunar node as Ketu.
As per PS not all past comets brought disaster but a few
of them were responsible for decreasing the population by
reducing agricultural yield. Some of them are said to have
modified climatic conditions and caused earthquakes. This
scenario perhaps pertains to India, but such events, if real,
should have left their signatures at other places also. There
are evidences to show that large parts of the earth went
through climatic disturbances around 2300 BC, supposedly
due to an intense encounter with the Taurid meteoroid stream
(Mandelkehr, 2002). Clube and Napier (1984) have
propounded the astronomical framework for the occurrence
of such an event. The possibility of a comet-dust veil
obscuring the sun and having caused climate alteration is of
considerable scientific interest (Napier, 1998). Clube and
Napier (1990) have correlated available ancient information
with their theoretical results to demonstrate that the night
sky around 3000 BC should have been much disturbed. Their
most important conclusion is that bronze-age civilizations
should have been severely affected by comet related events.
Sanskrit texts investigated here uphold this conclusion about
such a possibility in India. The text of Para sara preserved
in the ancient scientific literature of India contains an
observational tradition of comets associated with destruction
on earth.
Acknowledgements: This article was presented as a
lecture at the Geological Society of India, Bangalore
on 23 February 2005. Discussions on the lecture by
Dr. B.P. Radhakrishna and Dr. K.S. Valdiya were useful in
preparing this paper. Financial support from Indian National
Academy of Engineering under the Indian Engineering
(Civil) Heritage activity is acknowledged.
BHAT, M.R. (1981) Brihat Samhita of Varaha Mihira, Sanskrit
Text with Transl., Motilal Banarsidass, New Delhi, 1981.
CLUBE, S.V.M. and NAPIER, W.M. (1984) The microstructure of
terrestrial catastrophism. Monthly Notices Roy. Astron. Soc.
v.211, pp.953-968.
CLUBE, V. and NAPIER, W.M. (1990) The Cosmic Winter. Basil
Blackwell Ltd., U.K.
DIXIT, S.B. (1969) Bharatiya Jyotisa Sastra. Govt. of India Press,
IYENGAR, R.N. (2004) Profile of a natural disaster in ancient
Sanskrit literature. Ind. Jour. Hist. Sci., v.39(1) pp.11-
IYENGAR, R.N. (2005) Cometary observations in ancient India. Jour.
Geol. Soc. India, v.65(5), pp.663-665.
JHA, MURALIDHARA. (1905) Adbhuta Sagara of Balla l
a Sena, (Ed.)
Sanskrit Text, The Prabhakari & Co, Benares Cantt.
KAK, S. (1997) Archaeoastronomy and literature. Curr. Sci., v.73(7)
pp 624-627.
MANDELKEHR, M. (2002) Commemoration of the 2300 BC event.
Chronology and Catastrophism Review, v.2, pp.3-14.
NAPIER, W.M. (1998) Cometary Catastrophes, Cosmic Dust and
Ecological Disasters in Historical Times: the Astronomical
Framework. In: Peiser, Palmer and Bailey (Eds.), Natural
Catastrophes During Bronze Age Civilizations, Archaeopress,
Oxford, England, pp.21-32.
NAPIER, W.M. (2004) Personal communication.
PARPOLA, A.(1994) Deciphering the Indus Script. Cambridge Univ.
Press. Cambridge.
SASTRI, T.S.K. (1984). Vedanga Jyautisa of Lagadha, INSA, New
SINHA, C.P.N. (1979), Mithila under the Karnatas, Janaki
Prakashan, Patna,
(Received: 24 August 2005; Revised form accepted: 21 November 2005)
The content and opinions expressed on this Web page do not necessarily reflect the views of nor are they endorsed by the University of
Georgia or the University System of Georgia.
From William R. Corliss' Handbook of Unusual Natural Phenomena (1977)
Browne, A. C., et al; Marine Observer, 34:181-183, 1964.
m.v. British Oak. Teneriffe to Monrovia. Captain A. C. Browne. Observers, the Master and Mr. P. M.
Edge, Chief Officer.
27th November 1963. A point of light of about 2nd magnitude with an elliptical glow of approx. 3

diameter and concentric circles of light was observed through binoculars at 1925 GMT. It was first seen
bearing 230
at 18
altitude and disappeared 4 min. later bearing 190
, altitude 8
. The sky was cloudless
and the atmosphere clear.
Position of ship: 24
27'N, 17
m.v. Ripon. Captain Smith. On passage to Freetown. Observers, the Master and Mr. G. W. Brown, Chief
27th November 1963. At 1926 GMT an illuminated body was observed bearing 270
, altitude 30
. It
appeared at first to have a suffused glow around it, but as the object moved parallel with the ship's course,
the glow assumed the definite form of a tight spiral of blue-white light. The spiral expanded to a maximum
radius of about 5
with about 12 turns visible at one time when bearing 200
, altitude 20
. The size
afterwards diminished until the body faded from sight bearing 155
, altitude 12
, at 1931. As the object
moved in azimuth, it also appeared to be gyrating about a centre in an anticlockwise direction and to vary
in brilliance. At its brightest the object had a brilliance less than Venus and greater than Altair; its track
passed between these two bodies.
The whole phenomenon gave the impression of looking into a conically formed spring and was indeed a
most sensational sight. We can only conjecture that it was an artificial satellite 'gone wrong' or passing
through a cloud of meteoric dust.
The accompanying sketches show how the phenomenon appeared to the observers. There was a cloudless
sky and bright moonlight at the time.
Position of vessel: 10
5'N, 15
An example in stone.
Another example from a different part of the World.
m.v. Pennyworth. Captain I. Gault. Middlesbrough to Monrovia. Observers, Mr. J. H. Edwards, 2nd
Radio Officer, the Master, Mr. J. Nielsen, Chief Officer, Mr. J. MacKenzie, 3rd Officer, Mr. T. Walker,
1st Radio Officer, and the Chief Enfineer.
27th November 1963. At 1900 GMT for approx. 5 min. a bright object having a magnitude greater than
any other star or planet was seen in the sky. It appeared to be stationary in the west at an elevation of 40
for about 2 min. It then moved off rapidly in a SE'ly direction, disappearing about 2 min. later. The bright
light from the object radiated outwards, like the ripples from a pebble thrown into a pond; at first in
concentric circles, then in a spiral and finally in concentric half-circles. The general impressions of the
phenomena seen are shown in the accompanying sketches. The object was definitely not a meteorite, and
the course was too erratic for an earth satellite.
Position of ship: 7
39'N, 14
Note 1. What was seen by the ships was undoubtedly an American rocket, Centaur 2, launched from Cape
Kennedy at 1900 GMT on 27th November 1963. The times and positions indicated by the three ships
agree very closely with calculated values. The odd appearance cannot be explained precisely but it is no
doubt associated with the fact that the rocket when seen was still under power or had very recently been
so. (Marine Observer, 34:181-183, 1964)
Note 2. David W. Hughes reports in Nature, 252 p.191 (1974), that the number of radar echoes from
meteoroid particles detected in 1963 was a factor of 1.5 to 2 greater than in previous and subsequent years.
This was recorded by a number of disparate monitors, ruling out detector problems and indicating a global
phenomenon. Also pertinent is the detection by infrasound of several atypically large bolides around this
time period:
On Sept. 26 and 27, 1962, two separate rocks about 25 feet and 20 feet wide entered the atmosphere
over the Middle East, producing explosions equal to 30-kiloton and 20-kiloton nuclear blasts.
On Aug. 3, 1963, a rock up to 80 feet wide struck south of Africa and produced a blast equal to a
one-megaton nuclear explosion, or one million tons of high explosive.
This was reported in the New York Times (January 7, 1997, Tuesday, Late Edition, Section C; Page 1;
Column 3) and was classified information until recently. [bobk]
Bronze age article Discussion Part B
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Georgia or the University System of Georgia.

Click image for 850x711 (155k) JPG
With the individual characters, phrases, sentences, and measures thus clarified so far as the present
approach permits - we obtain a reasonably undistorted and fairly reliable impression of the content and the
nature of the entire text. Unfortunately, however, the full significance of the compilation is not easily
ascertainable; to return to the metaphorical expressions in the introductory section of this Chapter - the
restoration of skeletal remains, even if they may be partially strung with firm muscular material, must
inevitably fall short of the characteristics of the original flesh-clad figure. As implied in the distribution
patterns of mutilated graphs, descendantless graphs, and particles in Figures 21 to 24, a strict application
of the transcription disciplines employed in this survey will leave open many gaps. These can often be
filled in by highly speculative interpretations but such approaches are of limited value; numerous cases in
earlier published studies have been reviewed critically in the preceding pages. There will always be a
temptation to read more into an archaeological text of this kind than the remnant characters - where
understood - really permit.
Upon reading through the connected translation which follows shortly, it will soon be appreciated that
further risks of misinterpretation are present. These derive directly from the skeletal nature of the
translation. The mind tends to disregard the unknown sense and function of missing words and phrases
which are indicated by groups of four dots ( .... ) for each character; in bridging these gaps the meaning of
the extant characters (where known) assume a greater degree of contextual significance than they may
originally have had. Similarly, in the case of the Chinese texts - the archaic reconstruction, the direct
transcription, and the modern character transcription - each version succeeds in creating impressions of
meaning over and above that of the characters whose sense and function in the general context are
reasonably clear. Instead of the meaningless symbol: .... , employed in the English translation, the
descendantless graphs, particles, and mutilated character remnant strokes, exert influences upon the mind
of the specialist reader leading thus towards essentially subjective interpretations in many instances.
Proceeding then to the corpus of traditional literature and, in particular, to such items as the Ch'u-tz'u,
Shan-hai-ching, Yueh-Zing, Lu-shih Ch'un-ch'iu, Huai-nan- tzu. etc., comparisons may be made with
seemingly parallel phrases and sentences. exercise is an important one but rather too often the ambiguities
of the archaeological text with its missing characters, descendantless graphs, etc. result in proposed
interpretations which, upon critical review, may be discovered to be considerably open to question. This
approach is, nonetheless, very useful in establishing the degree of reliability that may be claimed in respect
of traditional records of the same data as that recorded in the archaeological document. Understandably the
Chinese scholar generally seeks to explain the archaeological record in terms of the transmitted literary
data; in my view, there is more to be gained in the opposite approach. We should treat the two major
groups of data - archaeological and traditional - strictly as primary and secondary sources. Priority should
quite definitely be allowed to the former in terms of the degree of reliability attending provenance details;
the latter should, on all occasions of survey conducted jointly with archaeological documentation, serve
only in a subsidiary role.
In the third volume of the present series of CSM Studies ( Monographs on Far Eastern History No. 6) an
illustration of this aspect of the historian's approach is presented in my appraisal of the relevance of the
Shan-hai-ching and other traditional text data to the Twelve Peripheral Figures. It is, however, not my
intention to attempt to apply the approach to the CSM text as a whole at the present stage. Such a task
would be a major undertaking and would best be planned as an entirely separate venture. In the present
volume, I have simply attempted to establish a definitive transcription of the archaic text with minimal
attention to the task of translation and its necessary preoccupation with relevant traditional source
materials. In Chapter 4 a further essential step towards the ultimate aim of translation in more or less
definitive form is undertaken: my survey of the nature of metre and rhyme in the Ch'u Silk Manuscript
The connected translation which now follows will, accordingly, serve to indicate approximately what the
document is about. We may expect further progress over the next few years - if the current resurgence in
archaeology in China continues without serious interruption. Many of the descendantless graphs which
now are of uncertain meaning and function, for instance, will doubtless appear in archaeological
documents soon to be discovered. Intercomparative study will gradually lead to their clearer definition and
this in turn will partly clarify the meanings of other problematic characters, phrases, and sentences. As the
reader will have observed amongst Figures 27 to 45, those comprising listings of common phrases and
sentences viewed collectively become more meaningful than they do when studied separately. In the study
of ancient Chinese archaeological documents such methods of induction have a good potential and should
be more widely applied than has usually been the case.
It is said that in former times .... (= Heaven) .... (= verb?) Hsien- Tou to set out from .... -Tsou and reside in
Yuan-.... . His .... .... . .... .... .... (as) if, vaguely and secretly, without display .... . .... (as) if, .... .... (=
verb?), the wind and the rain thereunto. Thereupon sought Ch'ieh Yu. ....-tzu's son stated: If .... (= verb?),
then give birth to sons. The Four .... (Seasons?) thence .... (= verb?), Heaven .... thence respect (?), .... (=
participate?) [and] transform .... (= style?) .... . On behalf of .... [and] on behalf of the myriad [creatures?],
so as to control .... .... , censure Heaven .... .... . then above and below my (?) .... . If the Hills and the Plains
should not .... , then command the Hills and Streams, to return (?) .... .... .... , .... .... .... .... , in order to
effect its .... so as to .... (= verb?) the Hills and the Plains [and] the [Rivers] Lung, Yu, Shui, and Man.
Before there was the Sun and Moon, the Four Gods mutually .... (= verb?), thereupon .... (= verb?) in order
to function as the year - these being the Four Seasons. The eldest is known as Ch'ing-Han; the second is
known as Wei-....-Chan; the third is known as ....-Huang-Yao; the fourth is known as ....-Mo-Han. After
one thousand and one hundred years, the Sun and the Moon .... born, the Nine Provinces did not .... (=
verb?), the Hills and the Plains .... (= verb?) .... (= grief?); the Four Gods .... act (?), as to returning to
Heaven .... , .... guard .... it. The .... of the Green Trees, the Red Trees, and Yellow Trees, the White Trees,
and the Black Trees; Yen Ti thence commanded Chu-Jung to take [= along with] the Four Gods, to
descend and stabilize the Three Heavens, .... contemplate .... stabilize return (?) exhaust (?). He [i.e. Yen
Ti] said: If there were not the Nine Heavens then there would be great disaster (?), therefore do not .... ....
Heaven. The divine Ti Chun thence established the movements of the Sun and the Moon. Kung
Kung .... .... , the Ten Days and the Four Seasons; .... the Four (?) Gods thereupon intercalated (the
months) of the Four .... . Do not meditate upon (?) the Hundred Gods. The Wind and the Rain .... .... .
Recklessly acted thereupon .... (= verb?), the Sun and the Moon so as to .... (= verb?) mutual .... meditate
(?). There is the Night, the Morning, the Day, and the Evening.
.... (particle) .... .... (= verb?) the sun, the moon thence will gain and retreat, and will not obtain its .... .
Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter .... (= not?) have .... (= their?) regularity. When the Sun, the Moon,
the Stars, and the Constellations confuse and .... (= muddle?) their movements, the [process of] gaining
and retreating .... (= becomes muddled?) .... [thus] the grasses and the trees will lack regularity [of
growth?] .... ; .... [....] .... .... , Heaven and Earth will .... (= verb?). The T'ien-p'ou will be about to move
and to descend to its .... region. The Hills and the Plains - their .... (= verb?) have depth (?) their (?) .... ;
this is known as .... . The year .... within a month; the month, the first day .... .... . When lightning and ....
(= another of the elements) devastate the earth with rain, it will not do to engage in one's duties of office.
The heavenly rain .... .... this .... (= verb?). When a month is intercalated, it (= some action) must not be put
into practice. In the first month, the second month, and the third month - this ..... .... (= derangement?) and
in the end will not .... (= receive?), .... .... their lands. In the fourth month and the fifth month, this is
spoken of as the confusion of regularity [in the movements of heavenly bodies?]. Do not .... (=
verb?) .... .... .... year. The Western Countries will have [cause for] regret; should the [movements of the]
Sun and the Moon have already become confused, then there will be .... (= a decline?) .... . The Eastern
Countries will have [cause for] regret; .... .... then troops, .... [= deflect?] from their sovereign. In all cases
of years [with occasions of] a slower motion of the moon, if .... .... .... , .... States .... .... . .... .... conduct [or,
exercise (control over)] the grasses and the trees; the ordinary people .... (particle) .... (= verb?), return (?)
to the regularity of the .... . (It is) the Three Seasons (that) put this into operation. In a year [with occasions
of] a slower motion of the moon, the Three Seasons .... .... , .... (= verb?) it in order to .... descend. This
month, with .... , .... on behalf of it .... (= verb?). In the twelfth .... (= month?), .... (= particle) .... a slower
motion of the moon, rises from Huang-yuan, earth .... without .... (= verb). Arising .... .... accord, effects
[upon those] beneath it misfortune. The [movements of the] Sun and the Moon .... (= verb?) in confusion,
the Stars and the Constellations will not be in harmony. Should [the movements of] the Sun and the Moon
have already become confused, then by the close of the year .... (= verb?), the seasonal rainfall will come
and go, and there will be no regularity. Respectful (= humble?) people not yet aware [of this], .... will
regard [it] as thence (= as a norm). Do not move (= disturb?) the multitudes of the people. .... (particle) ....
(= verb?) the Three Constancies, ....-return (?) rise and fall, .... (particle) .... Heaven's regularity. The
Multitudes of Gods and the Five Cheng - [when] the Four .... lack auspicious omens - will establish
constancy and will cherish the people. [When] the Five Cheng thus become clear, then may offerings be
made to the [Multitudes of] Gods. This is termed te-t 'e . The Multitudes of the Gods thence te ( = verb?).
[Yen] Ti stated: "Ah! .... (= verb?) it .... (particle)! Do not fail in any way (to show) reverence." When
Heaven creates blessings the gods respect it; when Heaven creates .... (= peace?) the gods cherish it. ....
respect .... (particle) .... (= verb?). Heaven depicts such compassion, feelings .... (particle) Heaven .... (=
verb?); the lower people's .... (= prayers?) - they are to be respected and not .... (= verb?). The people must
not employ .... .... . The Hundred Gods, the Hills and the Streams, the Man and the Yu do not .... (=
verb?), .... put into effect the people's sacrifices. [When] not .... (= verb?), [Yen] Ti will take steps to .... (=
verb?); with disorder .... (= verb?) it, put into effect. The people then will have food in abundance and will
not experience suffering amongst themselves. [If they] do not see the Plains .... (= verb?) then will .... (=
decline?) reach its zenith. (If) the common people are not aware [of this], the year will then be without .... ,
the sacrifices .... then will .... (= verb?), the people will seldom have .... , earthly affairs must not follow
TEXT C (The Twelve Gods)
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Georgia or the University System of Georgia.
arguing for an
This article, (METEOR DEFENSE, by Bob Kobres) first appeared in WHOLE EARTH REVIEW
#56 (Fall 1987) pp. 70-73.
IN HIS ARTICLE "A Gaian Politics" (WER #53, p.4), historian William Irwin
Thompson asks: "What would be the slightest and subtlest of moves that could
transform our present political environment from one of terror to a life-centered polity
of compassion?" He goes on to say that the martial arts teach us to appraise the
situation as given and look for ways to redirect the energies manifested toward positive
goals. As an example, Thompson suggests that the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI)
could be transformed into a transnational program for the exploration of space.
But would the mysteries of Mars provide sufficient cement to bind opposing parties
long enough for their mutual paranoia to wane? Thompson laments that, even if
desired, transformation is difficult for a nation with an economy built around
preparation for war. The military component must be reduced slowly as employment
is shifted to other areas--a task next to impossible without government subsidies. The
problem, he states, "is that citizens and politicians will only vote for subsidies under
threat, and so there always has to be a threat from the enemy or the environment to
mobilize a society."
If we need an external threat to bring us together, we need only look toward the stars.
It's a sobering thought when one realizes that a stony object only 350 meters in
diameter colliding with Earth at what is considered to be an average impact velocity of
25 km per second would liberate the energy equivalent of 5,000 megatons TNT within
our environment. In other words, a hunk of rock that could be nestled into a modern
sports arena could release an amount of energy 250,000 times as great as the 20-kiloton
nuclear device that destroyed Hiroshima. This is a definite "nuclear winter" level--
5,000 megatons is often used as a typical exchange figure in nuclear war scenarios.
An event of this magnitude is not in the same class as the hypothetical 100,000,000-
megaton event that polished off the dinosaurs, but it would most certainly throw
civilization into a dark age. Our climate would be seriously perturbed; growing crops
out in the open would be next to impossible for the first year and frustrating for years
to come. Famine would be global. All in all, it would not be unlike enduring a nuclear
war; the ozone layer would be depleted, disease would be rampant, governments would
British astronomers Victor Clube and Bill Napier, in their The Cosmic Serpent (1982),
give 1900 years as a typical interval for a collision of this magnitude. These
astronomers work at the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh. Their estimate carries with
it two important implications. One is that since we can be pretty sure no event of this
magnitude has occurred during the historical period (the last 2,500 years), we are
statistically overdue for such a wallop. The other implication is that we should not be
surprised to find that earlier civilizations have been brought down by cosmic collision.
We must no longer glibly assume that the ancients were talking through their hats
when their writings spoke of fire coming down from heaven and destroying whole
The Tunguska object that hit Russia in 1908 could have easily wiped out a city. In fact,
if the Earth had been advanced in its rotation by about 71 degrees (4 hours and 45
minutes) the object would have vented its 15- to 30-megaton blast over Leningrad
(then St. Petersburg). Considering that the actual downward-directed blast scorched
and leveled 2,000 square kilometers (700 sq. mi.) of dense Siberian forest, cremating
the wildlife within, and produced a shock wave that traveled completely around the
world twice, it is safe to assume that few if any of the city's two million inhabitants
would have survived. Such an event would have changed recent history.
Plato was aware of cosmic collisions and held them responsible for losses of history. In
his Timaeus, Plato states that the myth of Phaethon (son of the Sun who burns up the
natures of the Earth) is in reality true as it expresses the mutations of the bodies
revolving about the Earth and indicates that, at infrequent intervals, a destruction of
terrestrial natures ensues from the devastations of fire.
Clube and Napier have developed a very credible scenario that supports Plato's
contention. They postulate that around 5,000 years ago a large comet, perhaps 20 km
in diameter, was perturbed by Jupiter into a short period orbit which intersected our
own planet's orbit. A comet of this size will inevitably break up, leaving in its path
debris of varying sizes and shapes. Since this comet was crossing the orbit of Earth, at
least once a year our planet would have to careen its way through this debris path
producing a spectacular meteor shower about the same time every year. Most of the
larger comet pieces (100 to 1,000 meters across) would be found not too far away from
the original comet at first, but the force--be it rotation or gas pressure--that separated
them initially would still be with them, so they would continue to drift away from the
main berg. From the standpoint of the Earth, what had been a rifle bullet became a
load of buckshot. Clube and Napier speculate that while streaking through this dense
swarm close to the comet, the Earth could have encountered, in the course of half an
hour, thirty impacts in the range of 10 to 100 megatons with perhaps a few in excess of
By combining astronomical facts with archaeological evidence, such as ancient
calendars and astronomically aligned megalithic structures, Clube and Napier further
speculate that the object responsible for this mischief was the progenitor of the comet
Encke. Kenneth Brecher, an astrophysicist at Boston University, sees a link between
comet Encke, the Tunguska event of June 30, 1908, and the June 25, 1178 impact on
the Moon reported by the monk Gervase of Canterbury. This lunar impact is thought
to have produced a crater (Giordano Bruno) 20 kilometers in diameter! To account for
both these energetic events occurring on almost the same day of the year, Brecher
postulates that a large piece of comet Encke broke away prior to 1178, producing a
swarm of objects, some of which could be a kilometer across. He believes this swarm
will be entering the Earth-Moon system again in the year 2042.
Cosmic debris has a size distribution somewhat like pebbles on a beach--the small
outnumber the large Currently the population of Earth-orbit-crossing asteroids a
kilometer or larger in diameter is estimated to be around 2,000. If we go down in size
to our 350-meter-across civilization cruncher, this number would at least double, and
if all football-field-size city smashers such as the Tunguska object were included, the
population would jump into the tens-of-thousands range. Including comets, less than
100 Earth-orbit-crossing objects (EOCOs) have been discovered to date. The
limitations of a telescope looking through an ocean of air favors the detection of the
larger objects, so most of the EOCOs detected so far have a diameter of a kilometer or
Our vast ignorance with respect to the whereabouts of these objects means, in the
words of active EOCO hunter-geologist Eugene Shoemaker, "until we have tracked all
of them, something could sneak up on us." Tracking all EOCOs is going to take some
time. Planetary scientist Eleanor Helin and colleagues have found 20 of the known
EOCOs; this represents 13 years of seeking. Even if improved equipment allows a
discovery rate of 20 EOCOs per year we are speaking of perhaps 100 years just to
locate the objects a kilometer or more across. The point is this: because there is at
present absolutely no way to predict when the next major impact will occur, we are
fools if we do not effect a defense against these objects as soon as possible.
Eugene R. Mallove, in his outstanding article "The Bombarded Earth" (Technology
Review, July 1985), makes the point that "a major difference between the threat from
asteroids and that from nuclear warfare is that asteroid impacts will inevitably occur
unless action is taken to prevent them. The trajectories of heavenly bodies leave no
room for obscure calculations regarding the balance of nuclear terror." Unless we as a
species truly have a death wish, the very presence of these Earth-orbit-crossing objects
combined with our growing understanding of their destructive potential and the effect
they have had upon our own history should be enough to bring forth a significant
change within Gaia--at minimum a transformation of the nationalistic SDI to a
globally cooperative Earth Defense Initiative (EDI), a transition which would redirect,
without negative economic effects, the efforts and talents of many, if not most, who are
currently involved in space weapons research and development.
We must put the ghost of past world wars to rest; should such warfare recrudesce,
civilization in the northern hemisphere will surely cease. The strongest force pushing
us toward such an unwanted recurrence is the fear of a breakthrough in weapon
system technology. It is this fear combined with economic profitability that allows and
encourages continued weapon system research and development. Historically such
research and development has progressively reduced the time for human consideration
during a time of crisis. This current project, SDI, threatens to reduce time for thought
even more. A major purpose of EDI is to redirect this weapon research and
development in an economically beneficial manner, toward a necessary and positive
goal--protection of our environment. There is currently no technology available for
tracking, following, and deflecting an incoming meteor or comet. The pieces of the
technology are there, but they need to be put together with this purpose in mind.
Attainment of this goal demands long-term active cooperation between East and West.
Such cooperation is essential due to the fact that space-based nuclear explosives are the
only tools that would in all cases be capable of altering the orbit of a large asteroid or
comet. Hopefully, after the decades of intense, highly visible, active cooperation
necessary to accomplish this project, fear of a weapon system breakthrough will have
Space is no place for weapons! Our access to it is rather an opportunity to eliminate a
root cause of warfare--contention over the control of nonrenewable resources. The
doomsday machines in place on this planet serve only one purpose--they maintain the
status quo. By cooperatively developing an Earth defense system, the superpowers will
have done far more than ensure a collision-free future; they will have constructed an
infrastructure that allows the transformation of these cosmic threats into vast supplies
of currently limited materials, raw materials which will no longer have to be gouged
from Earth or refined at the expense of environmental quality.
The decision to protect our environment from significant random impacts as soon as
we possibly can should not be argued against on the basis of static probability
statistics. These numbers vary widely between authorities and have changed
dramatically over the past few years; they give us only a crude estimate of the average
frequency of such events. The odds against a damaging collision between Earth and an
Earth-orbit-crossing object tell us nothing as to when we should expect the next event
to occur. Our decision to develop an Earth defense system must be based upon the
predictable consequences of an abrupt encounter of the worst kind.
This threat could very well be our most powerful defense against prevailing maniacal
forces within the military-industrial juggernaut. By the simple act of petitioning (with
persistence) our government to protect us from cosmic calamity, we may, in true
aikido fashion, throw off the balance of this myopic military-industrial Goliath just
enough to send it upon a new, constructive path--a path that leads away from this dark
cloud which looms so heavily in the minds of us all.
The content and opinions expressed on this Web page do not necessarily reflect the views of nor are they endorsed by the University of
Georgia or the University System of Georgia.
To view selected text from the Mahabharata, translated by Pratap Chandr Roy,
copyright Munshiram Manoharlal, New Delhi (1970), you will need the DjVu web-
browser plug-in, which you can obtain by clicking on the icon.
Frame version--works well with DjVu!
For academic use ONLY!
Once equipped you can find the pages you want by clicking on the links below:
G Astika Parva (section xiii-lvii of Adi Parva)
G 62-63
G 64-65 birth of Garuda
G 66-67 churning, Lakshmi, Rahu
G 68-69
G 70-71
G 72-73 Garuda-Rishi
G 74-75 Rahu
G 76-77
G 78-79
G 80-81
G 82-83 Garuda drops huge tree-limb
G 84-85 meteors by the thousands
G 86-87 Aruna and Garuda
G 88-89 fire covered sky
G 90-91
G 92-93
G 94-95
G 96-97
G 98-99
G 100-101
G 102-103
G 104-105
G 106-107
G 108-109
G 110-111
G 112-113 birth of Astika
G 114-115
G 116-117
G 118-119
G 16-17
G 18-19
G 20-21
G 22-23 Kali age
G 24-25
G Drona Parva (section clxxxi-cciii)
G 424-25
G 426-27
G 428-29
G 430-31
G 432-33
G 434-35
G 436-37
G 438-39
G 440-41
G 442-43
G 444-45
G 446-47 smokeless fire, burnt men
G 448-49
G 450-51
G 452-53 large meteors issue out of sun
G 454-55
G 456-57
G 458-59
G 460-61
G 462-63 winds, thunder, though sky cloudless
G 464-65
G 466-67
G 468-69
G 470-71
G 120-121
G 122-123
G 124-125
G 126-127
G Bhishma Parva
G 2-3
G 4-5 omens, Rahu, Ketu,
G 6-7 Kirtika (Pleiades), meteors, explosions
G 8-9
G 10-11
G 12-13
G 14-15 Meru (celestial mountain)
G 472-73
G 474-75
G 476-77
G 478-79
G 480-81 meteors, darkness, waters hot
G 482-83
G 484-85
G 486-87 Drona's son was helped!
G 488-89
G 490-91
G 492-93 attributes of god
G 494-95
HOME Discussion of Mahabharata
The content and opinions expressed on this Web page do not necessarily reflect the views of nor are they endorsed by the University of
Georgia or the University System of Georgia.
oops . . . . :-(

What's Up?
This resource, which began in 1994, is offered as a public service. Though other themes are touched
upon, the site is primarily focused on understanding the social and physical influence of a once
highly-visible large-comet, in a short-period Earth-threatening orbit. This object, according to
astronomical evidence, has been progressively breaking up since the Holocene time period began.
The result of such debris scattering was to increase the likelihood of Earth's climate being affected
by periodic interaction with extraterrestrial material during this most recent time period.
The subject is fascinating and demonstrably essential to an accurate understanding of our species'
behavior over the past 12,000 or so years. Some familiarity with this topic will be seen as necessary
by students of anthropology, archeology, classics, and religion who peruse this material objectively.
The topic also has philosophic and social policy aspects that need to be explored. As the first species
on Earth with the capacity to prevent impact events that would otherwise affect biological evolution--
What is our responsibility and what is a prudent course of action?
Hopefully this location will also serve as a forum for this new area of inquiry. Though I began
investigating this subject over two decades ago, I certainly do not view my own research as definitive
and so welcome constructive criticism.
This site is not linked to the University of Georgia in any official capacity.
Search? [This site has over 1000 HTML files--so if you are not just browsing try the
search tool.]
There is also an increasing number of full length books (also searchable) encoded in the DjVu wavelet-
compression format. Viewing these requires a free plug-in.
Impactual Literature:
G RESEARCH MENU ........................................................ more books added
G A NICKEL PICKLE The Problems of Building High-Tech From a Meteoroid Wreck
G MORE CAROLINA BAY INFORMATION ............................................. more books added
It pays to Cooperate:
Key to keeping a FREE economy!

search : CO-OP Periodicals
from 1921-47
Learn about the attacks by NTEA,
the National Tax Equality Association.
Conspicuous Consumption:
A real seedy story:
A bit of History:
A message from a medium:
G MUD (Madness Under Discussion)
WWW links will open in another window:
G Be a World Citizen
G World Game
G Buckminster Fuller
G GENI (global energy network institute)
G Lunar Solar Power (David Criswell)
G Feed a hungry person with a click 8^)
G Better Building: Monolithic Domes
G Planetary Defense
G Spaceguard Central Node
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G Deep Impact
G Proceedings of the Planetary Defense Workshop
G UK Task Force on NEOs Report
G CONTOUR (comet nucleus tour)
G Comet info .........................................
G Impacts
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G Planet Shot (fragmentation of comet 57P/du Toit-Neujmin-Delporte)
G View Orbits of NEOs
G Solar Sytem Collisions
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G Iturralde Crater expedition
G Virtual Comet Impact via Sandia
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G Getting out there
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G To the Moon soon? Where there's H2O we can make a go!
G NEODyS - Near Earth Object Dynamics
G Kuiper Belt Page
G Comets and Meteor Showers
G The Kuiper Belt Electronic Newsletter
G A new Good Book by way of Jupiter
G Holes in the old one
G Science and Creationism via NAS
G Pib's Bib
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G NREL's Gopher/WWW Server
G The Santa Fe Institute
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G TUNGUSKA: The Cosmic Mystery of the Century
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Bob Kobres
University of Georgia Libraries

Electronics and Computer Support
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voice: (706) 542-0583
Last update: 06/29/06
The content and opinions expressed on this Web page do not necessarily reflect the views of nor are they endorsed by the University of
Georgia or the University System of Georgia.