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Exodus to Arthur: Catastrophic Encounters With Comets Hardcover – May, 1999

4.0 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: B T Batsford Ltd (May 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0713483520
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713483529
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,686,393 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book reads like a detective story where the plot slowly unfolds. In the beginning it describes the use of tree rings to date old wood in buildings, paintings, ships and other archeological specimens. By a huge collaborative effort by many tree ring scientists it has been possible to establish almost continuous tree ring patterns over 6000 years in bristlecone pine, oak, and other species. Most variations in ring width is due to local conditions. However, six peculiar worldwide, decade long episodes of reduced growth has become evident, for example around 1628 BC and 540 AD. The archeologist Baillie compares this with chinese, egyptian and other history, with the bible and with myths from all over the world, and with what is known of climate changes, vulcano eruptions, analyses of Greenland ice cores and the probability of impacts of comets and asteroids. The 1628 BC event may or may not be explained by the Santorini explosion, and perhaps it caused the 10 plagues of Egypt and the exodus. The 540 AD event coincided with plagues in Constantinople, "dry fog", very pale sun and famine and with the myths of king Arthur. What caused this to happen? Baillie examines the various lines of evidence and ends up with collisions with comets and asteroids as the most likely explanation. Will it happen again and what should we do? Stock up on food like in Egypt under Moses before exodus or hit the comets with nuclear weapons?
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Format: Hardcover
This book contains incredibly important, scientific observations and conclusions, about the past few thousand years of Earth's history. Unfortunately, the publishers seem to have adorned this brilliant work of science with one of the silliest book jackets I've ever seen in my life. Let me just say right now that I have communicated with the author about this, and the book jacket was NOT his choice.
The author, Mike Baillie, is a highly respected professor of palaeoecology at Queen's University Belfast, in Northern Ireland. More than anyone else, he has pioneered the study of "dendrochronology," which is the study of ancient tree rings, and how widely spaced they are in a given year, to infer climate and weather conditions for the years being studied. Basically, the technique is perfectly logical. In a year with terrible weather, trees grow less. Makes sense, right? Well, indeed, this is always the case, and it is possible to see tiny discrepancies in tree growth from year to year, even today. Now, what would you think if you noticed that, at some time in the distant past, trees seem to have gone several years in a row with hardly any growth at all? Scary, eh? What would this mean to you? Well, if you think it over for long enough, you should conclude that SOMETHING was probably blotting out the sun's life-giving rays to such a great extent that trees simply could not grow. If trees could not grow well, it follows that agriculture probably suffered as well. And if agriculture suffered badly enough, there might even be records of actual civilizations crumbling and vanishing.
Professor Baillie has isolated five such periods, in our relatively recent past. These periods took place in 2354-2345 B.C., 1628-1623 B.C., 1159-1141 B.C., 208-204 B.C., and A.D. 536-545.
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Format: Hardcover
The author is a scientist who first lays out the scientific proof of major environmental events during the past 5,000 years using dendrochronology records (his expertise) compiled from around the world and ice cores from Greenland. After marshalling the evidence to establish the 'effects' he then goes on to speculate about the 'causes', looking at various sources such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and other tectonic events such as outgassing, finally moving on to near cometary misses and the associated debris as potential culprits.
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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found this book both entertaining and informative. The author, Professor Mike Baillie, an expert in "dendrochronology" and palaeoecology from Queen's University, Belfast, provides a fascinating scientific detective story. The story starts with the description of a collaborative effort - over many decades - by scientists in several countries to develop a complete record of world-wide, climate modulated, annual tree growth as recorded in tree rings (dendrochronology), from the present back to several thousand years BC. The author then notes several unusual patterns in these records, separated by hundreds of years, which point to multi-year events with very poor growing conditions. This sets up the principal story in the Exodus to Arthur, as the author describes his efforts to explain these anomalies. The Professor Baillie uses as evidence historical records left by - among others - Irish, Mediterranean, Chinese and Mayan writers and story-tellers, and archeological evidence including boats and trees recovered from Irish bogs and well preserved building timbers from long abandoned Anasazi pueblos in Utah. Attention is also given to those cases in which some anomalies in tree ring records do not match well across great distances, for example, between Europe and the American southwest.
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.
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