Date sent: Tue, 06 May 1997 10:32:01 -0400 (EDT)
From: Benny J Peiser <B.J.PEISER@livjm.ac.uk>
Subject: EARTHQUAKES & CIVILISATION COLLAPSE
From: THE TIMES HIGHER EDUCATION SUPPLEMENT, 2 May 1997, p. 7
The Geological Society conference on Volcanoes, Earthquakes and
HOW JERICHO TUMBLED
By Alan Thomson
The rise and fall of many ancient societies may have been due to
earthquakes, according to a Stanford University researcher.
Amos Nur says that new and revised evidence shows that earthquakes
could have caused Jericho's walls to tumble down and many other
cataclysms and social upheavals in the ancient world.
Dr Nur, who spoke at the Geological Society conference on Volcanoes,
Earthquakes and Archaeology on Monday [28 April], links the episodic
nature of earthquake activity to historical events.
The geophysics scholar says that certain quake-prone areas go
through periods of greater or lesser activity. These crises can last
for relatively short periods, perhaps a few decades, and are
interspersed by long periods of inactivity.
He pinpoints the seismic crisis of the eastern Mediterranean during
the second half of the fourth century AD. In this century, the north
Anatolian fault, running through northern Turkey, has caused
clusters of earthquakes.
Ancient societies would be illprepared, by modern standards, to
withstand intense earthquakes, and associated tidal waves. Even a
single earthquake could wipe out economic, social and political
Dr Nur says that because elites controlled ancient societies they
were particularly vulnerable to natural disasters.
The rulers tended to live in fortified cities, meaning that many
would be killed by debris during an earthquake compared with poorer
rural populations. Their defences would also be breached and so they
would be particularly vulnerable if at war. In short, societies
could disappear very rapidly.
The destruction of one elite would lead to the collapse of economic
and social structures, creating a power vacuum. This vacuum could
provide the impetus for invaders or poorer, perhaps indigenous,
people to fill the gap.
However, such changes would occur slowly and Dr Nur says that if a
devastating earthquake coincided with a major war then societies
could be plunged into a dark age period, possibly lasting hundreds
He said: "During a regional seismic crisis an entire region must
have been subjected to a series of devastations by earthquakes over
a short period of time. The catastrophic collapse of the main
eastern Mediterranean civilisations at the end of the Bronze Age may
be a case in point." Sparta's rise and fall may be another example.
The uprising of the Helot serfs in the fifth century BC came amid
long periods of war. Dr Nur speculates that the demise of Spartan
power may have been caused, in part, by earthquake activity at the
But perhaps the most obvious example of earthquake activity, at
least for a non-believer, is the fall of Jericho, sometime between
1400 BC and 1250 BC.
The Bible suggests that divine intervention and ram's horns were
responsible for Joshua's spectacular victory. Dr Nur points out that
Jericho stands on a fault line close to the point where the African
continental plate meets the Asian plate. It had been destroyed and
rebuilt many times.
Dr Nur believes that the fabric of society remains vulnerable to
earthquakes. Damage to the Japanese city of Kobe in 1995, following
a quake registering 7.2 on the Richter scale, cost about 150 billion
US dollars. If Tokyo was hit, as it was in 1923, by a similar or
larger earthquake, the ramifications for global finance could be
Prof Amos Nur will speak on Sunday 13 July at the 2nd SIS Cambridge
Conference about "The Collapse of Ancient Societies by Great
Earthquakes." He will present new evidence in support of Claude
Schaeffer's original theory of multiple earthquake catastrophes
during the Bronze Age and will particularly focus on the abrupt fall
of the Mediterranean Late Bronze Age civilisations around 1200 BC.
Conference participants will also be able to watch Prof Nur's award
winning documentary film "The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Earthquakes
in the Holy Land."
I would like to take this opportunity to remind members of this
network that the DEADLINE FOR REGISTRATION for the 2nd SIS Cambridge
Conference is 31st May 1997. Can I therefore recommend to order (or
return) your registration forms as soon as possible.
Benny J Peiser
CCCMENU CCC for 1997