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Apocalypse: Earthquakes, Archaeology, and the Wrath of God Hardcover – April 13, 2008

4.3 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Considering anew the archeological evidence of catastrophic destruction in Mexico and the eastern Mediterranean, geophysicists Nur and Burgess explore the overlooked role of earthquakes in the downfall of many well-known prehistoric civilizations-Tenochtitlan, the Hittite empire, Troy, Mycenae, Jericho and others-which archeologists tend to blame on invading armies or social factors. Nur and Burgess compare evidence from modern earthquakes with the structures, debris, human remains and (where possible) written records from ancient catastrophes, finding impressive and alarming support for their archeoseismic theory. Among other conclusions, the authors find evidence that severe earthquakes may occur in quick succession (what they call earthquake storms) separated by long periods of seismic quiet. They also look at the cultural legacy of earthquakes, like the tumultuous impact of the 1755 Lisbon earthquake on European politics and the long-term effects of the 1923 Tokyo earthquake. The authors' most important point is that archaeologists, failing to understand these regions' vulnerability, have failed to warn modern inhabitants of the danger they live in. With a dire prognosis sure to touch off controversy, this book will rivet fans of archaeology, geology and history.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"[Amos Nur] posits seismicity--rather than invaders or social forces--as the prime dynamic behind the fall of ancient civilizations. Nur engages in what we might call archaeological detective work--looking at the positions of human remains, for instance, to determine cause of death--his book is focused and intense."--David Ulin, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"[A] deeply researched and compellingly written book. Apocalypse is a winning combination of cautious interdisciplinary investigation and interpretation, writing suitable for a general readership, and excellent illustrations. Although it will deliberately irritate many archaeologists, it should also provoke a serious reconsideration of the archaeological record. [T]he evidence for earthquakes in prehistorical change may be staring archaeologists in the face."--Andrew Robinson, Nature

"The theory that earthquakes may have caused the destruction of many ancient cities is unpopular and controversial. Amos Nur's book illustrated these ideas with convincing prose and meticulous research. Nur introduces the reader to a relatively new science...called Archaeoseismology. The reader will dosciver that the earthquakes that have occurred in the more recent times...have parallels to the remnants of destruction left from earthquakes in the distant past. Apocalypse is a result of [Nur's] determined effort to expell the fallacies in archaeology with the hard science of geophysics."--Lee Gooden, ForeWord Magazine

"In Apocalypse...Amos Nur compellingly proposes seismic sources for civilizational collapses that the Bible and the Classics attribute to other causes."--Anneli Rufus, East Bay Express

"[Amos Nur] delivers a fascinating mini-course full of detail, speculation and a challenge to previous archaeological interpretations. Nur examines the record of earthquakes in the seismically active 'Holy Land.' [R]eaders, regardless of religious persuasion, will appreciate the connections between geological and archaeological evidence and sections of the Bible. Both believers and athiests will enjoy pondering Nur's discussions of material from the Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls."--Fred Bortz, Seattle Times

"Apocalypse . . . is Nur's attempt to present the fresh-faced discipline of earthquake archaeology to a wider public audience."--Iain Stewart, Times Higher Education

"In Apocalypse, Nur argues that historical earthquake events explain most of the destruction of several well-known Near East settlements. . . . This volume makes a fine--albeit controversial--contribution to traditional perspectives."--M. Evans, Choice

"Nur's book provides a clear, fast-reading, yet cautious and measured account of what archaeologists truly need to know about the geology and physics of earthquakes. . . . The text is liberally sprinkled with prime examples from both the Old and New Worlds. If you work in a seismic area, you owe it to yourself to curl up with this gem."--E.W. Barber, American Journal of Archaeology

"[T]he writing is very approachable, and the book is accessible to a broader audience, including geophysicists and the general public. I found it an enjoyable read and was interested to learn about this intersection of geophysics and archeology and also to be reminded of details from long-forgotten ancient history classes."--Seth S. Haines, Leading Edge

"Recognizing earthquake damage in the shifted foundations and toppled arches of historic ruins is vital today because the scientific record of world earthquake risks is still incomplete. Apocalypse explains where and why ancient earthquakes struck and could strike again."--MCEER Information Service

"No doubt, seldom could any book be so provoking in discussions on geophysical contributions to societal collapse in ancient times as Apocalypse is."--Marek Lewandowski, Pure and Applied Geophysics

"Having read this book with interest it is clear that there is far more evidence for earthquake activity in the archaeological record than we currently acknowledge and that archaeologists need to treat the phenomenon with greater regard. The book is well written and highly accessible and the partnership of Nur and Burgess has clearly worked to the benefit of the reader."--John Grattan, Journal of Archaeological Science

"Does this study, which chronicles the history and archaeology of ancient and modern earthquakes in both the Near East and the eastern Mediterranean region, warrant the attention of scholars and interested laymen? Absolutely!"--William S. Arnett, Historian

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; Complete Numbers Starting with 1, 1st Ed edition (April 13, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 069101602X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691016023
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,030,427 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Ancient history, archaeology, geology, forensic science, detective work, mystery, etc., this book has it all. According to the principle author, a geophysicist, most archaeologists and historians are not giving enough weight to the possibility that earthquakes have had major influences on human societies in the ancient past. The end of the Bronze Age, around 1200 BC, is offered as one of several important cases in point. By examining physical evidence from various archaeological sites, mainly in the eastern Mediterranean, as well as the local geology (tectonic plates, faults, etc.), the author attempts to demonstrate that, in many cases, earthquakes have not been given due credit for much of the devastation observed. Ancient texts are often quoted to reinforce his case and certain biblical passages are re-interpreted in light of his arguments. The writing style is engaging, highly accessible, authoritative and is a model in clarity; some chapters are indeed quite gripping. Fully illustrated with many photographs, charts and maps, this fascinating book can be enjoyed by anyone, although ancient history and archaeology buffs may relish it the most.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One of the subjects that fascinated me in school, and indeed, for most of my life, has been the topic of archaeology. Forget Indiana Jones, the real excitement is untangling the clues left by the past, and what with the new technology that keeps appearing all of the time, the reinterpitation of what we thought were the facts.

Author Amos Nur with Dawn Burgess looks at how geology has affected history -- and it's the immense changes that an earthquake can unleash on civilization. Nur, a professor at Stanford University in California, takes a closer look at the end of the Bronze Age, about 300-500 BCE, and comes up with some surprising new theories for why so many civilizations failed in such a short span of time.

The traditional theory is that the eastern Mediterranean was overrun by what was known as the Sea Peoples, who looted and burned cities in their wake, leaving not much else behind but scorched ruins. What skeletal remains have been found have been explained away by war injuries, and left at that. If the idea of earthquakes causing destruction came up, many archaeologists dismissed the notion out of hand, saying that it was very unlikely and not very possible.

Amos Nur takes a very different track, however. By using geology, archaeology, and even biblical legend, he gives a provocative new theory that much of the Bronze Age civilizations came to an end by a series of earthquakes, and triggered tsunamis.
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Format: Hardcover
Amos Nur has reexamined some of the mysteries of the ancient world and determined that in all likelihood earthquakes were to blame. He and his co writer Dawn Burgess are geophysicists, well able to examine the evidence and conclude that archaeologists, historians, and others who have developed theories about the past without taking seismic events into account are mistaken.

Most of the book examines the events at the end of the Bronze Age, when something caused a widespread collapse in Mediterranean societies. Heretofore most historians had believed that invasions from hostile Sea Peoples and other interlopers had caused this decline, but Nur, after looking at the ruins, examining human remains, and checking sites for the tell tale signs of tremors, is persuasive that the region suffered a deadly rash of earthquakes.

Among the most interesting parts of this book are Nur's examinations of Biblical prophecies to see if they could provide clues about earthquakes and other sesmic events. I also found his discussion of the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 and its impact on Enlightenment Europe fascinating.

This is a well written work, scholarly but accessible to non-scientists. It should have a great influence on new interpretations and understandings of the history of the ancient world.
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Format: Hardcover
Nur's book opens a much-needed dialogue between geology and archaeology regarding earthquakes. The book's value lies not only in its clarity and the logic of his suggested explanations but in the multiplicity of archaeological sites he presents where earthquakes and seismic activity are already long-established phenomena. Speculative or not, it is time to take his idea seriously that warfare is not necessarily the primary cause of destruction in ancient monuments and cities. Some of the most compelling research in the book is explained via copious use of photos with parallel fallen columns, crushed stacked artifacts and toppled wall course units - exactly as an earthquake positions architectural elements parallel to the direction of a seismic event - and excellent charts where Nur correlates proven high density and high intensity seismic activity with destroyed historic sites, e.g. Selinunte, Susita, Masada, Megiddo, Thebes (Greece), Qumran, Alexandria, Teotihuacán, etc., in historically active fault and rift zones. While not everyone will agree, the door Nur has opened cannot now be so easily shut. Whether or not his thesis is ultimately provable given the antiquity of so many possible events is not even the point of his somewhat controversial book, but Nur is right that archaeologists too frequently do not understand or too quickly dismiss the role of geophysics in history, and his sensible call to reexamine the physical evidence is timely. As a geoarchaeologist who has visited many of the historic sites Nur analyzes and also with training at the intersection of geology and archaeology, I highly recommend this book.
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