"I am calling for a debate by scientists and historians on how
     to approach the evidence for catastrophic events of this kind
     which were previously not known to have taken place."
       -- Mike Baillie, 8 September 2000


From Yahoo! News, 8 September 2000
Catastrophic Event Preceded Dark Ages - Scientist

LONDON (Reuters) - Something catastrophic occurred on Earth 1,500 years
ago that may have led to the Dark Ages and coincided with the end of the
Roman Empire and the death of King Arthur, a Northern Ireland scientist
said on Friday.

It could have been a bombardment of cometary debris or the eruption of a
super volcano.

But whatever it was, it is clearly etched in the chronology of tree
rings from around the world, according to Professor Mike Baillie, of
Queen's University in Belfast.

The global environmental event that occurred around 540 AD is not
recorded in any history books. But the tree ring chronologies compiled
from samples of trees, some preserved in bogs, which date back thousands
of years, single out something that was quite extraordinary.

"It was a catastrophic environmental downturn that shows up in trees all
over the world," Baillie told a news conference at the British
Association for the Advancement of Science conference.

"This event is clear in the tree ring records."

The height of a tree is indicative of the quality of soil it is growing
in but the rings hold clues about past climate conditions and have been
used to date events in the past.

They correctly recorded the year without a summer in the North American
region in 1816 and the eruption of various volcanoes around the world.

Baillie believes the slowdown of tree growth recorded in the rings
around 540 AD was due to a bombardment of cometary debris which happened
around the time of King Arthur's death, the end of the Roman Empire and
the beginning of the Dark Ages.

Traditional myths recorded in 13th century texts refer to a comet in
Gaul around 540 AD when the sky seemed to be on fire, according to

"These myths hint strongly at a bombardment vector for the environmental
downturn but are almost universally dismissed as fiction or fantasy by
academics," he said.

Baillie is appealing to historians to accept that something terrible
happened around 540 AD and to find a record of it.

"I am calling for a debate by scientists and historians on how to
approach the evidence for catastrophic events of this kind which were
previously not known to have taken place," he added.

Copyright 2000, Reuters


From The Times, 9 September 2000

Arthur: myth links him to fire from the sky
THE story of the death of King Arthur and its references to a wasteland
may have been inspired by the apocalyptic effects of a giant comet
bombarding the Earth in AD540, leading to the Dark Ages, a British
scientist said yesterday.

The impacts filled the atmosphere with dust and debris; a long winter
began. Crops failed, and there was famine, Dr Mike Baillie of Queen's
University, Belfast, told the British Association for the Advancement of
Science. There was now overwhelming evidence from studies of tree rings
of a catastrophic climate change at that time, he said.

Dr Baillie, who is based at the university's school of archaeology and
palaeoecology, said studies of Irish oaks showed that the climate
suddenly became inhospitable around AD540. Other researchers had
discovered the same narrow rings on trees in places such as Germany,
Scandinavia, Siberia, North America and China. "For all these trees to
show the same rings at the same time means it must have been a
profoundly unpleasant event, a catastrophic environmental downturn, in
AD540, which is in or at the beginning of the Dark Ages."

The tightly bound rings are consistent with fierce frosts that would
have devastated agriculture and made a malnourished population more
vulnerable to the plague of 542, which killed millions. Plague-carrying
rats and pests would have been looking for sustenance, thus hastening
the spread of the disease.

Dr Baillie said that there were several theories as to the explanation.
One was that a vast volcano had erupted and pumped huge amounts of dust
into the atmosphere. Yet such a volcano "would have been out of all
proportion to ones we see in recent times", he said, adding that the
geological records bore no trace of it.

The other theory, he said,was that huge fragments from a giant comet had
hit the Earth, causing violent explosions and a dramatic cooling of the
planet. "My view is that we had a cometary bombardment - not a
full-blown comet, or we would not be here, but parts of a comet."

Dr Baillie said the hypothesis was supported by studies by astronomers
and astrophysicists including Mark Bailey, of the Armagh Observatory,
Victor Clube, of Oxford University, and Bill Napier, formerly of the
Royal Observatory in Edinburgh. They had calculated that there was a
strong likelihood that the Earth suffered a cometary bombardment between
400 and 600, based on records of high meteor shower activity. They had
linked it with the break-up of the comet Biela.

It was hoped that scientists in Greenland would analyse ice cores for
signs of cometary dust. They were soon to carry out chemical analysis
for tree rings for similar clues.

Dr Baillie urged historians to examine the records for writings that may
record the events. "You can read about the Justinian plague in
conventional history books but you cannot read about the cometary
bombardment. The trees single out an episode which can be best described
as catastrophic, and it isn't there in written history."

There was, however, some support buried in mythological writings and
other works. Roger of Wendover had referred in 540 or 541 to a "comet in
Gaul so vast that the whole sky seemed on fire. In the same year there
dropped real blood from the clouds . . . and a dreadful mortality

Dr Baillie also cited the death of King Arthur, which is dated to 537,
539 and 542 in various works, as establishing possible links with fire
from the sky and destruction. Dr Baillie said that Arthur was linked in
old Irish with CuChulainn, the sky god, who in turn was linked with the
Celtic bright sky god Lugh variously described as "bright as the setting
sun, comes up in the west, and of the mighty blows".

"The Arthurian stories with their Celtic antecedents of bright sky gods
and 'wasteland' come with traditional dates for Arthur's death."

Dr Baillie said that the myths hinted strongly at a bombardment as the
causes of an environmental downturn.

Copyright 2000, The Times Newspapers Ltd.


From the BBC New Online, 8 September 2000

Jonathan Amos
BBC News
September 8, 2000

Could a comet hitting the Earth 1,500 years ago have triggered a global
disaster in which millions of people lost their lives?

It is an old claim that historians say has little evidence in written
records to support it, but now a tree ring expert has said the idea must
be re-examined.

Mike Baillie, professor of palaeoecology at Queen's University in
Belfast, UK, said it was very clear from the narrowness of growth rings
in bog oaks and archaeological timbers that a great catastrophe struck
the Earth in AD 540.

"The trees are unequivocal that something quite terrible happened," he
told the British Association's Festival of Science. "Not only in
Northern Ireland and Britain, but right across northern Siberia, North and
South America - it is a global event of some kind."


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