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Exodus to Arthur: Catastrophic Encounters With Comets Hardcover – May 1, 1999
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If Baillie is right, history has overlooked probably the single most important explanation for the intermittent progress of civilisation.... if the author is not carried shoulder-high for broaching this important subject, it will be because his doomsday scenario offers little in the way of an immediate technical fix. -- New Scientist, Ben Rudder
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As a Historian I knew of impacts in the past and I have seen cave drawings in France and Spain.
the author lays most of his case on tree rings and dust particles tr5apped in ancient glaciers. While lacking in detail, it is an excellent and I stress excellent primer for those who wish to start to study our ancient past.
The conclusion? Well, the title gives it away, so I will not repeat it. I will say that the author does an excellent job of presenting alternative theories, and then explaining why he finds those theories less compelling than the answer he favors. The presentation of the other theories takes the readers on an easy to follow tour of efforts to duplicate parts or all of the dendrochronology timeline using other methods. These methods include gathering and analysis of ice-cores collected in Greenland, the dating of volcano eruptions by radiocarbon methods, and using archeological evidence to note similarities or differences in tools, clothing, burial practices and trade goods between spatially separated cultures. In addition, the author explains his own disagreement with recent attempts to re-arrange the "standard" chronology for the ancient cultures of the Eastern Mediterranean.
Exodus to Arthur is one of many recently published books on "catastrophe theory" aimed at "popular" - and not necessarily scientifically trained - audiences. This book is the best one I have read. It appears to me that publishers and editors for these books are demanding "human-interest stories" presenting the thoughts and emotions of the author(s) as they performed their research. Apparently most scientists do not have the skill to write a human-interest story and still present compelling scientific arguments. Professor Baillie pulls off the trick of mixing the personal with the scientific almost seamlessly, probably because he has a good sense of humor, which comes through in his writing.
By the way, the dust cover of this book is horrible. I purchased the book through Amazon.com based on information gathered from Internet mailing lists. If I had seen the book first in a bookstore, I would have taken one glance at the cover and decided not to buy it. I suggest buying the book and then throwing the dust cover away as soon as you are near a trash can.
With the exception of the first 50 or so pages, this book put me to sleep every time I attempted to read it.
Throughout the book, the author ties real science to his reading of historical and mythological texts to present a compelling case; a case which he continously subjects to scientific and logical scrutiny, pointing out the strengths as well as the weaknesses of the case. The book has 8 appendices which are as interesting as the book itself and an excellent bibliography.
I can very highly recommend this book based on the scientific content and methodology of his analyses. This is no loopy guy with a loopier theory. The author approaches the subject in exactly the way such past (and indisputable) environmental events should be analysed vis-a-vis their potential effects on human history, including discussion of why these events may have been historically recorded yet are now overlooked by 'modern' researchers.
This book should put the subject, often pejoratively labled as 'catastrophism', back on the scientific and rational table where it belongs.