CCNet 106/2001 - 11 October 2001

"Here's our dilemma: All archaeologists agree that around the end of
the 13th century B.C.E., the great Bronze Age civilizations of the
Aegean and eastern Mediterranean collapsed within 50 to 100 years of
one another. But, alas, there is no consensus as to what actually
brought about this devastation. Whatever the cause, one of the most
glittering eras in human history came to an end."
--William H. Stiebing, Jr., Archaeology Odyssey,
September/October 2001

"The aim of the Spaceguard project is to have enough telescopes to
give us 30 or 40 years' warning of any impending collision, and you
could do plenty in that time. When people tell me there's nothing we could
do, I point out that it took the Americans less than 10 years from a
standing start to landing on the moon. This is a problem we can fix."
--Jay Tate, The Spaceguard Centre, The Daily Post, 10
October 2001

"University of Arkansas researchers are seeking a few good asteroids
for a space mission, and they need information about these planetary
bodies from scientists who study them to determine which ones make
the best-suited candidates for the study. "With improved technology,
we are swamped with the discovery of near-Earth asteroids," said Derek
Sears, director of the Arkansas-Oklahoma Center for Space and Planetary
Sciences. "What we need now is some ground-based data to help select
possible asteroids for this mission." The mission, dubbed Hera after
the mother of the Three Graces, would send a spacecraft to three
near-Earth asteroids, collect material from them and return it to Earth for
research purposes. The researchers plan to propose the mission to
NASA within the next 12 months."
--UniSci, 10 October 2001

    The Daily Post, 10 October 2001


    UniSci, 10 October 2001

    Space Daily, 10 October 2001

    Archaeology Odyssey, September/October 2001

    Electronic Herald, 9 October 2001 

    Andrew Yee <>

    Peter R Bond <>

    Javier Andres Licandro Goldaracena <>


>From The Daily Post, 10 October 2001

Scientists share a real fear that an asteroid will hit earth and wipe out
most forms of life. Ian Piarri spoke to one man who is dedicating his life
to saving the planet

As communter make their way across the Dee at Flintshire Bridge, traffic
screeches to a halt as drivers are dazzled by a stunningly bright light in
the sky.

Passengers scream with horror as their train is de-railed on approaching
Chester, the tracks on the North Wales Coast line having buckled in the
intense heat. Their terror is fortunately short lived as they are vaporised
in seconds as are most people on Merseyside and across much of North and

Some, miraculously, make it alive out of the collapsed Mersey tunnels and
Liverpool's underground railway system, and the furthermost reaches of the
Llyn Peninsula escape the worst of the massive blast. But clouds of dust
block out the sunlight (sic) and plunge all of the UK into Arctic conditions

A scenario for yet another disaster movie, you might think, and it certainly
is that. But it is also a realistic assessment of what would happen, were an
asteroid just 50 metres wide to land in our midst, hardly a giant among the
thousands of chunks of rock which hurtle around space in what, in
astronomical terms, equates to close proximity to the Earth.

Indeed, such an object did crash to Earth as recently as 1908, flattening
many hundreds of square miles of forestry in the vicinity of Tunguska in
central Siberia with a force equivalent to 2,000 times that of the atomic
bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945. And, while the statisticians predict
that similarly sized objects should force their way through the protective
shield of the Earth's atmosphere only once every 100 to 300 years, it happened again some
40 years later, again in Siberia.

A much bigger asteroid, probably several kilometres wide, is though to have
caused the extinction of the dinosaurs as it struck near where the Gulf of
Mexico stands today, some 65m years ago. Scientists genuinely fear that
another similar collision, which is a statistical certainty whether it
happens in 40 years or 40m years, would wipe out all advanced life forms.

Perched precariously in their red-brick observatory that stands atop a windy
Welsh hill overlooking the tiny town of Knighton, in Powys, Jay and Anne
Tate keep a constant watch on the skies as part of an international vigil to
spot any errant asteroids or comets on course for collision with Mother

A former Major in the Army, Jay Tate left the military little more than two
months ago in order to concentrate his energies on the Spaceguard UK
lobbying group he established in 1997. At the end of July he, his wife and
their two children moved into the former Powys County 'Observatory. It is
packed sardine-tight with the latest telescopes, seismographs and computer
technology, together with more visitor-friendly attractions such as a camera
obscura and stunning planetarium.

Now re-named the Spaceguard Centre, and officially opened just last week by
eminent astronomer Sir Patrick Moore, the observatory is a self-financing
private venture which depends on paying visitors in order to balance the
books. The Tates put up with cramped living quarters on-site, with the
family's piano and open-plan kitchen sharing the same floor space as some of
the centre's hi-tech computer equipment, as they pursue their dream of
making Knighton the epicentre of the search for hazardous Near Earth Objects

And Jay Tate, a man brimming with the self-confidence instilled in him by 26
years in the armed forces, insists it has a leading role to play in the
international effort to stave off the ultimate disaster that threatens from
Outer Space.

"We first took interest in this field after watching the Shoemaker-Levy 9
comet hitting Jupiter in 1994 as we were holidaying in the US, and I thought
it would be quite interesting to find out what was in place to stop it
happening here," he says. "In the full and certain knowledge that we'd have
the threat licked, I spent a year trying to find out. But there was nothing
there, so we decided do something about it."

Back in 1996, he submitted proposals to the Ministry of Defence and the
Department of Trade and Industry about the establishment of a Spaceguard
centre to supplement the few efforts being made worldwide, primarily by the

Although merely an enthusiastic amateur at the time, just like the highly
respected Sir Patrick Moore, he had the backing of scientists renowned in
the field worldwide, including Dr Arthur C. Clarke, Dr Gene Shoemaker, Prof
Edward Teller and Dr Benny Peiser, an expert on asteroid impacts based at
Liverpool John Moores University.

The proposals were dismissed out of hand, but three years later a government
task force was set up to report into NEOs. Among the recommendations in
their report, published more than a year ago, was to set up a centre that
would correlate and co-ordinate research work into the risk posed by NEOs,
and to disseminate information about them.

The government has set aside an initial £250,000 to set up and run such a
centre, and an announcement as to who runs it is expected in the coming
weeks. Jay Tate is still hopeful that Spaceguard UK's bid - backed by many
of the great and the good in the world of astronomy - to base it in Knighton
proves successful.

Whether it is or not, he is, however, thankful that the politicians are at
last taking seriously a threat which has the potential wipe out mankind.
"They used not to take it seriously:, but now they have no option. The
science is there whereby we can prove that there is a measurable hazard, a
greater hazard than others on which we spend a lot of money to sort out.

"The risk of being killed due to an asteroid hitting the Earth is about the
same as being killed when you step aboard an airliner. It's significant
enough to warrant having something done about it, but not enough to lie
awake at night worrying."

Montgomery's Liberal Democrat MP, Lembit Opik, the party's leader in Wales,
was the first British politician to raise his head above the parapet and
risk ridicule by expressing his fears about Near Earth Objects.

"Until I raised the matter in a debate in the House of Commons three years
ago, the Government took it as a joke that was a matter more for Hollywood
than Whitehall," he says. "But I stuck to my guns as people were ridiculing
the whole project, and during the campaign we have raised the debate from
the realms of science-fiction to science-fact. We see the £250,000 that's on
the table as the springboard to a bigger investment, and I believe that
there's a good chance that it comes to Powys."

Dr Benny Peiser feels that it is imperative that the UK and Europe in
general starts contributing towards the search for NEOs, w1th the USA at
present doing 90pc of what little work is done at present. Fewer than a
hundred people worldwide are believed to be actively involved in the search.
With John Moores University backing Spaceguard UK's Knighton bid, Dr Peiser
sees the University's role as being a regional information centre. And he
fully expects their Birkenhead-based subsidiary, Telescope Technologies Ltd,
to take a leading role in building the £70m (sic) giant Telescope envisaged
in the taskforce's report as one of the UK's future contributions.

"There is clearly an obligation for the UK, with European support, to start
contributing," he says. "While the likihood of any NEO actually hitting a
city is extremely remote, seeing that much of the world is covered in water
and a lot of land is uninhabited, the effect of even a 50m one would be

"A much bigger one would be like a million nuclear bombs going off together,
and could lead to mass extinctions. It is crucial that we find them before
they find us."

Jay Tate foresees that present-day technology would allow mankind to save
itself by using nuclear weapons to deflect asteroids and comets from their
orbits, were they heading straight for Earth.

Nasa successfully landing its NEAR-Shoemaker space probe on an asteroid
called Eros, in February this year, clearly shows that the technical
capability to reach NEOs exist.

Huge asteroids might nonetheless prove too bulky to be deflected even by the
mightiest nuclear explosion, but scientists remain hopeful that technical
advances in coming years will address this problem.

"The aim of the Spaceguard project is to have enough telescopes to give us
30 or 40 years' warning of any impending collision, and you could do plenty
in that time," he says.

"When people tell me there's nothing we could do, I point out that it took
the Americans less than 10 years from a standing start to landing on the
moon. This is a problem we can fix."

Copyright 2001, The Daily Post


>From, 10 October 2001

By Robert Roy Britt
Senior Science Writer

An international group responsible for cataloguing space rocks has named
three asteroids to honor victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that
destroyed the World Trade Center's Twin Towers and damaged the Pentagon. The
names were chosen "to represent some of the most basic and universal human
values," officials said.

The names are Compassion, Solidarity and Magnanimity.

The decision to name the asteroids was made unilaterally in a unanimous
agreement among the 13 members of the International Astronomical Union's
Committee for Small Body Nomenclature.

"The sentiments reflect the feelings of all the members of the committee,
representing many different countries," said Brian Marsden, an asteroid
researcher and secretary for the group. The action taken by the committee is

The three asteroids were each discovered by observatories on different
continents and "are intended as a positive statement abhorring the tragedy
that occurred on a fourth," according to a monthly newsletter from the IAU.

Details of the newly named asteroids:

Compassion, also known as asteroid 1980 DN, was discovered Feb. 19, 1980 at
the Klet Observatory. It was named "to honor the compassion of people around
the world for the friends and families of the victims of disasters,
exemplified by the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on 2001
Sept. 11, with the hope that they will overcome their sorrow."

Solidarity, also known as asteroid 1980 PV1, was discovered on Aug. 6, 1980
at the European Southern Observatory. It was named to honor the solidarity
of people around the world with both victims and survivors of terrorist
attacks like those on New York and Washington on 2001 Sept. 11, in the goal
of eliminating terrorism from the world."

Magnanimity, also known as asteroid 1980 TE7, was discovered on Oct. 14,
1980 at the Purple Mountain Observatory. It was named "to honor the
magnanimity of people around the world in dealing with terrorist attacks
like those on New York and Washington on 2001 Sept. 11, in the hope that
terrorism will be countered with justice for all, not with revenge."
Magnanimity means generosity and forgiveness.

The 13 members of the naming committee are volunteers from the United
States, the European Union, China, Russia, Japan, Norway, the Czech
Republic, Uruguay and New Zealand.

In a telephone interview, Marsden said the group took great care to find
three asteroids that had been discovered and numbered consecutively and that
were found by researchers outside the United States.

Committee member Richard West of the European Southern Observatory proposed
the idea on Sept. 14, just three days after the attacks. West also proposed
the names, which the committee agreed to. The accompanying defenses for the
names, citations that are required to get an asteroid named, were written
originally by West and edited by the committee, Marsden said.

West is also a discoverer of the asteroid now called Solidarity. Marsden
said an effort was made to choose asteroids that had been discovered by
members of the naming committee in order to simplify matters: Astronomers
commonly suggest names for asteroids they have found.

The names became official on Oct. 2 but were made known widely only when
posted Oct. 9 on the Minor Planet Mailing List, an electronic newsletter
that serves the science community.

The plan to name the asteroids was reported by Sept. 21.

Benny Peiser, a scientist at Liverpool John Moores University in the UK,
called the move a very symbolic sign of both the humanism and
internationalism of his community of asteroid researchers.

"I think this is a very timely and appropriate action," Peiser said. "Any
other suggestion might turn out not to be workable and would have taken much
longer to implement."

Peiser referred, in part, to suggestions by some amateur and professional
astronomers to name an asteroid for each of the roughly 5,000 victims of the
Sept. 11 attacks.

The IAU deemed that idea impractical.

For one thing, it would put a tremendous burden on the 13 volunteers who
make up the judging committee and would have to study each application,
Marsden said. They typically name just 100 asteroids a month.

Second, he said uncertainties on the list would make it very difficult to be
sure each victim in fact was properly awarded an asteroid and that no
asteroids were mistakenly named after terrorists or others who were possibly
missing but not dead. Officials involved in counting victims have said the
list is not entirely accurate, and it has changed frequently as more
information is gathered.

As of late September there were 29,074 known "minor planets," mostly
asteroids and a handful of comets and other objects. Of those, only 8,830
were named.

Asteroids, most of which orbit the Sun in a wide swath of space between the
orbits of Mars and Jupiter, have been named for rock stars, classical
musicians, politicians and even cities and countries.

Copyright 2001,


>From UniSci, 10 October 2001

University of Arkansas researchers are seeking a few good asteroids for a
space mission, and they need information about these planetary bodies from
scientists who study them to determine which ones make the best-suited
candidates for the study.

"With improved technology, we are swamped with the discovery of near-Earth
asteroids," said Derek Sears, director of the Arkansas-Oklahoma Center for
Space and Planetary Sciences. "What we need now is some ground-based data to
help select possible asteroids for this mission."

The mission, dubbed Hera after the mother of the Three Graces, would send a
spacecraft to three near-Earth asteroids, collect material from them and
return it to Earth for research purposes. The researchers plan to propose
the mission to NASA within the next 12 months.

Leon Gefert of NASA's Glenn Research Center has calculated about 60 possible
trajectories for the mission, where the spacecraft would follow a path to
collect samples from the three asteroids and then return to Earth.

>From this data, Sears and his colleagues have created a "hot list" of
asteroids that appear more than once in these trajectories, and now they are
seeking information about them.

The researchers need spectral information to determine which trio of
asteroids might prove most scientifically interesting, and information about
the asteroids' orbits around the sun to determine the most efficient travel
path to keep fuel expenditures low.

Other information essential to the mission includes the asteroid's size,
shape and rotation state. This will help determine where the spacecraft
might land on the asteroid and how it would obtain sample material, Sears

The researchers are also combing international databases containing
information about known near-Earth asteroids for information pertinent to
their mission.

Sears presented his request for information at a recent meeting of the
Meteoritical Society in Rome. - By Melissa Blouin

Related website:

"Hot List" and more information on project

[Contact: Derek Sears, Melissa Blouin]

Copyright © 1995-2001 UniSci. All rights reserved.


>From Space Daily, 10 October 2001

by Roger W. Sinnott
Sky & Telescope

Cambridge MA - Oct 1, 2001

If predictions by the world's top meteor experts hold up, early on the
morning of November 18th skywatchers in North America can expect to see
their most dramatic meteor shower in 35 years. These meteors, called Leonids
because they appear to radiate from the constellation Leo (the Lion), will
signal the collision of Earth with streams of fast-moving dust particles
shed by Comet Tempel-Tuttle.

In the November 2001 Sky & Telescope -- the magazine's 60th-anniversary
issue -- meteorologist Joe Rao assesses the predictions provided by three
teams of specialists. Rao concludes that two dramatic displays called
"meteor storms" appear likely.

A burst lasting perhaps two hours is expected in the predawn hours of
November 18th for observers throughout most of North and Central America.
The maximum rates should occur at 5:00 a.m. EST (corresponding to 4:00 a.m.
CST, 3:00 a.m. MST, 2:00 a.m. PST). With no moonlight spoiling the view, the
storm may briefly generate anywhere from several hundred to 1,000 or 2,000
meteors per hour for observers with clear, dark skies.

An even bigger storm arrives 8 hours later for viewers rimming the
far-western Pacific Ocean. Because these locations are on the other side of
the International Date Line, this peak occurs before dawn on November 19th.
Several thousand meteors may streak across the sky for an hour or so
starting at 3:30 or 4:30 a.m. in eastern Australia (depending on location);
2:30 a.m. in Japan; and 1:30 a.m. in western Australia, the Philippines, and
eastern China.

Meteors create momentary "shooting stars" when flecks of interplanetary dust
strike Earth's atmosphere at high speed. The Leonids, which are one of a
dozen or so annual meteor showers caused by cometary dust, arrive at a
blistering 44 miles (71 kilometers) per second -- the fastest known.
Typically showers produce one meteor every few minutes, though often there
are bursts and lulls. Two years ago the Leonids briefly peppered the skies
over Europe and the Middle East with up to 2,500 meteors per hour. In 1966
lucky observers in the southwestern United States gaped in awe for 20
minutes as Leonid meteors fell at the rate of 40 per second!

More about the prospects for a Leonid storm appears in the November issue of
SKY & TELESCOPE. This issue marks the diamond anniversary of the monthly
magazine for amateur astronomers launched by Charles and Helen Federer in
November 1941. The Federers took on the challenge of merging THE SKY (which
had been published by New York's Hayden Planetarium) and THE TELESCOPE (then
published by Harvard College Observatory). Today the magazine is enjoyed by
some 250,000 skywatchers worldwide.

Roger W. Sinnott is Senior Editor for Sky & Telescope

Copyright 2001, SpaceDaily


>From Archaeology Odyssey, September/October 2001

By William H. Stiebing, Jr.

It was a cataclysm of immense proportions: Near the end of the 13th century
B.C.E., the great Bronze Age civilizations of the Aegean and Near East
suddenly collapsed.
In the latter part of the Late Bronze Age (c. 1400-1200 B.C.E.), Mycenaean
civilization flourished in Greece and Crete. The Hittites controlled most of
Anatolia and northern Syria from their capital at Hattusa (modern Bogazköy,
about 125 miles east of Ankara). The Egyptian New Kingdom ruled not only in
the Nile Valley but also in Palestine and southern Syria. Commerce flowed
over trade routes that crisscrossed both land and sea. A late-14th-century
B.C.E. ship excavated off the Uluburun promontory in southern Turkey, for
example, carried cargo from Cyprus, Canaan, Egypt, Anatolia and Mycenaean

A century later, all these civilizations had begun to unravel. Cities
burned, trade became almost nonexistent, and large groups of people migrated
from one place to another.

When calm returned, a new world had dawned. In the wake of the magnificent
Late Bronze Age civilizations, new peoples eventually arose, including the
classical Greeks and biblical Israelites-two of the most significant
precursors of modern Western civilization.

Mycenae and the Mycenaeans

Around 1500 B.C.E., Mycenaeans from the Greek Peloponnesus invaded Crete,
destroyed the Minoan palaces, and took control of the island. For the next
three centuries, the Mycenaeans were the dominant power in the Aegean. They
ruled Crete from Knossos into the 13th century B.C.E.(1) and set up
settlements on the island of Rhodes and at Miletus in Anatolia.

Signs of the disaster to come first appeared in the 13th century B.C.E.
Although Mycenaean products such as perfumed oils and unguents continued to
be in great demand throughout the eastern Mediterranean, matters were not so
peaceful at home. By the mid-13th century B.C.E., the rulers of Mycenae,
Athens, Gla and Tiryns found it necessary to strengthen their fortification
walls, and the palace at Thebes in Boeotia was burned. The palace at Knossos
in Crete, taken over from the Minoans, may have been destroyed about the
same time.

Then came the widespread disasters of the early 12th century B.C.E.(2)
Around 1200 B.C.E. Pylos was destroyed and Thebes was burned again, along
with Gla, Iolkos, Midea, Tiryns and the Menelaion (a site near Sparta
associated with the Homeric king Menelaus, the younger brother of the
Mycenaean king Agamemnon and the husband of Helen). Portions of Mycenae were
burned (possibly twice) in the early 12th century B.C.E., but this great
citadel survived the fires. Then, around 1150 B.C.E., Mycenae, Tiryns and
the nearby sites of Asine and Iria were razed. Many sites in Greece were
simply abandoned, with refugees settling as far off as Cyprus. The
population of Greece seems to have declined by about 75 percent. The
literate, highly centralized Mycenaean kingdoms with their elaborate
bureaucracies disappeared-and small, poor agricultural villages took their
Similarly, Crete seems to have suffered a major decline in population.
People abandoned the coastal areas and built new villages in the hills or in
other easily defensible positions.(4) Without the palace bureaucracies to
maintain it, knowledge of writing was lost both here as well as in Greece.**
A "Dark Age" descended over the entire Aegean region.

Hattusa and the Hittites

Texts surviving from the reign of the last Hittite king, Suppiluliuma II (c.
1200-1180), refer to general discontent among the Hittite people. The
population's displeasure may well have been due to food shortages. Not long
before the destruction of Canaanite Ugarit around 1185 B.C.E., the city's
king received three letters mentioning famine in the Hittite Empire. One
demanded that Ugarit furnish a ship to transport 2,000 measures of grain to
Cilicia, in southern Anatolia. It is, the letter says, a matter of life or

With the Hittite Empire severely weakened, Hittite vassals in western
Anatolia and elsewhere rebelled. Egyptian annals record that the so-called
Sea Peoples (see Invasions of the Sea Peoples) were marauding in Anatolia at
this time. The Hittites raised an army and navy from their citizens and
their loyal vassals and deployed them to meet these threats. However, this
left the Hittites' loyal allies like Alashiya (Cyprus) and Ugarit
defenseless. The king of Alashiya appealed to the last king of Ugarit,
Ammurapi, for help in defending the island. Ammurapi regrets that he is
unable to help:

My father behold, the enemy's ships came (here); my cities(?) were
burned, and they did evil things in my country [Ugarit]. Does not my
father know that all my troops and chariots (?) are in the Hittite
country, and all my ships are in the land of Lycia [Lukka]? ...
Thus, the country is abandoned to itself. May my father know it: the seven
ships of the enemy that came here inflicted much damage upon us.(6)

Hittite and Ugaritic records then become silent, so we do not know what
happened to the Hittite forces to which King Ammurapi had committed troops
and ships. It is likely that the Hittite forces were defeated, for a wave of
destruction swept over the Hittite Empire. Hattusa was violently sacked and
burned-as was Troy, Miletus, Alaca Hüyük, Alisar, Tarsus, Alalakh, Ugarit,
Qatna, Qadesh and numerous other cities either ruled by the Hittites or
associated with the empire.

The Hittite Empire was gone, but Hittite culture did not disappear. In Syria
during the 12th century B.C.E., several small kingdoms arose whose rulers
bore Hittite royal names and whose religious, artistic and epigraphic
traditions derived from the Hittite Empire. The Assyrians called these
kingdoms "Hatti," the old name for the Hittite Empire. However, the language
of these "Neo-Hittites" was not the Hittite of the former rulers of Hattusa.
It was a dialect of Luwian, a related Indo-European language that had been
spoken by groups in western and southern Anatolia during the Bronze Age.
Peoples from Cilicia or western Anatolia, it seems, migrated to Syria during
the upheavals of the early 12th century B.C.E. and filled in the vacuum left
by the withdrawal of the once-great Hittite Empire.

Egypt and the New Kingdom

Although many Egyptian vassal states in Syria and Palestine were destroyed,
Egypt itself weathered the 12th-century B.C.E. tumult better than the rest
of the eastern Mediterranean. Egypt also prevented groups of Libyans and Sea
Peoples from occupying the Nile Delta. But not even Egypt could maintain her
former grandeur in the face of widespread calamities.

>From the time of Ramesses III (c. 1182-1151 B.C.E.) through that of Ramesses
VII (c. 1133-1127 B.C.E.), the price of emmer wheat in Egypt gradually rose
to eight (or, for a time, 24) times its earlier price. Not until the reign
of Ramesses X (c. 1108-1098 B.C.E.) did the price drop, but even then it
remained twice what it had been at the beginning of the 12th century. During
this period, the government also sometimes failed to pay grain and other
food rations owed to artisans who cut and decorated the royal tombs. The
craftsmen staged strikes at least six times between about 1154 B.C.E. and
1106 B.C.E. because their grain allotments were months in arrears.

Corruption among public officials was rampant. Royal tombs were robbed,
often by the very craftsmen who had worked on them. During the reign of
Ramesses IX (c. 1126-1108 B.C.E.), eight tomb robbers were caught and forced
to confess. It is interesting that the thieves most often confessed to
purchasing food with their loot.

Several times during the latter half of the 12th century B.C.E., marauding
groups of Egyptians and Libyan mercenaries terrorized the area around
Thebes, looting and killing. On one occasion they destroyed an entire town.
Anarchy broke out in Thebes, and looters stripped the gold and copper from
the walls, doors and statues of the city's temples. By the time Ramesses XI
died in 1070 B.C.E., Egypt was being ruled by an army commander of Libyan
descent. The New Kingdom (1550-1070 B.C.E.), the last of the great Egyptian
dynasties, was now defunct.

Assyria and Babylonia

During the late 14th and early 13th centuries B.C.E., Assyria had grown into
a major power. Asshur-Uballit I (c. 1353-1313) established Assyria's
independence from Kassite Babylonia, claimed the status of "Great King" and
initiated correspondence with Egypt. The kings Adad-Nirari I (c. 1295-1264)
and Shalmaneser I (c. 1263-1234) extended Assyrian power into eastern Syria.
Shalmaneser's successor, Tukulti-Ninurta I (c. 1233-1197), wrested territory
from the Hittites in the north and then campaigned in the south, conquering
Babylon and making it an Assyrian vassal. When he died, Assyria controlled
all of Mesopotamia, including the portion of Syria east of the Euphrates

Tukulti-Ninurta was then murdered by one of his sons, and the Assyrian
Empire went into decline. Babylon reestablished its independence and Assyria
seems to have lost much of her Syrian territory. Tiglath-Pileser I (c.
1115-1077 B.C.E.) arrested the decline for a time, but most of his campaigns
seem to have been essentially defensive. An Assyrian letter from this time
complains about "rains which have been so scanty this year that no harvests
were reaped."(7) An Assyrian chronicle records that "a famine (so severe)
occurred (that) [peop]le ate one another's flesh."(8)

By the end of the 11th century B.C.E., Assyrian rulers controlled only a
small territory in northeastern Mesopotamia. Drought, famine and hunger are
mentioned at least 14 times in texts dating between the 11th and the first
half of the tenth century B.C.E. At the end of the 11th century, the
situation was so bad that food and drink offerings for many of the gods had
to be canceled. Considering the importance that ancient Near Eastern peoples
placed on maintaining the rites of their gods, especially when divine help
was needed, this could only have been prompted by an extreme emergency.

Rival Babylon was unable to take advantage of Assyrian weakness. Elam, the
kingdom just to the east, began sending her armies into Babylonia,
destroying Babylonian towns. In one invasion, the Elamites sacked Babylon
and carried Hammurabi's law stela off to Susa, capital of Elam, where French
archaeologists found it in the mid-19th century C.E.

Mesopotamia's political chaos was accompanied by-and perhaps caused
by-severe food shortages. For instance, the normal price of barley in
Mesopotamia had been about one silver shekel for 30 seahs (approximately two
bushels). An inscription from the mid-tenth century B.C.E., however, records
that in Babylon a gold shekel purchased only two seahs of barley.(9) Now,
one gold shekel was usually worth ten silver ones-meaning that grain was
selling for 150 times its price at the earlier time!

The turmoil in Babylonia from the 12th to the tenth centuries B.C.E. is
probably reflected in the Epic of Erra, apparently written in the early
first millennium B.C.E. to celebrate the return to normalcy. In this poem,
the principal Babylonian god, Marduk, abandons Babylon, and Erra, the god of
pestilence, war and the underworld, gains control. Erra destroys
everyone-just and unjust, strong and weak-through fighting, plague, famine
and natural disasters. Pleased with the devastation he has wrought, Erra
reflects on how he has eliminated all social bonds and bred a "dog-eat-dog"
sense of desperation:

Sea-land [the area at the head of the Persian Gulf] shall not spare
Sea-land ... nor Assyrian Assyrian,

Nor shall Elamite spare Elamite, nor Kassite Kassite ...

Nor country country, nor city city,

Nor shall tribe spare tribe, nor man man, nor brother brother, and
they shall slay one another.(10)

What Happened? Why the sudden, dramatic demise of the Bronze Age?

It used to be popular to cite invasions by outsiders-Dorians in Greece, Sea
Peoples in Asia Minor and Syria, and Philistines and Israelites in Canaan.
The Dorians, however, didn't settle in the Peloponnesus and Crete until
several generations after the Mycenaean collapse. Moreover, the Bronze Age
Mycenaeans, Hittites, Canaanites and Egyptians had long defended themselves
against well-trained armies. So why did they now fall so easily to
less-organized groups of invaders? No, the invasions and population
movements of the early 12th century B.C.E. were probably symptoms of
widespread political, economic and cultural collapse - not the cause.

Others argue that the Bronze Age civilizations experienced a "systems
collapse." Late Bronze Age political economies were too narrowly based and
their trade networks too dependent on peaceful conditions. The combination
of intrinsic social problems-resentments caused by slavery, the alienation
of land and the abuse of peasants by the ruling aristocracy-and piracy and
military conflicts disrupted trade at the end of the 13th century. The
decline in trade led to economic hardship, increasing revolts and a general
breakdown of political and social systems.(11) This theory helps explain why
Bronze Age societies could not recover from the catastrophes of the 12th
century B.C.E.

Again, however, we have a confusion of symptoms and causes. Why did piracy
increase and trade decline at the end of the Bronze Age? What made the
conflicts around 1200 B.C.E. different from those that had frequently
occurred earlier? Why did social inequities that had existed throughout the
Bronze Age suddenly lead to revolutions?

Still other scholars say that only natural forces can explain the extensive
Bronze Age social and political collapse. Some of the destructions (Knossos,
Mycenae, Tiryns, Midea, Troy, Hattusa, Alalakh and Ugarit), for example, may
have been caused by earthquakes.(12) However, since earthquakes are usually
localized phenomena and the destructions were widespread in Greece,
Anatolia, Syria and Palestine, most scholars have dismissed earthquakes as a
general cause of the death of the Bronze Age. Another earthquake scenario,
however, is considered in the accompanying article by Amos Nur and Eric H.
Cline: They argue that sequences of earthquakes, or "earthquake storms,"
occurred over a 50-year period throughout the Aegean and eastern
Mediterranean, triggering a "systems collapse."

Prolonged drought has also been suggested as provoking the crisis.(13) Much
of the agricultural land in the eastern Mediterranean is marginal at best. A
small change in rainfall can have a major impact, even in the volume of
water carried by rivers. Soaring prices for grain in Egypt and Mesopotamia
and the Hittite appeals for grain have been used to support the theory of
climatic change. Also, studies of the Nile, Tigris and Euphrates rivers
indicate that they were at very low levels during the 12th century
B.C.E.(14) Moreover, studies of tree-ring sequences reveal a climatic change
in the northern hemisphere between 1300 and 1000 B.C.E.; and a series of
narrow rings on a log from Gordion, in Anatolia, indicates a period of very
dry weather around 1200 B.C.E.(15) That was about the time the Hittites
appealed to Egypt for grain to alleviate famine.

Obviously, food shortages due to extended drought could have led to
discontent, increased piracy, revolts, conflicts and population movements
such as those of the 12th century B.C.E. Such conflicts and movements, once
begun, would have had a multiplier or "domino" effect on other areas.
However, it has been argued that there simply is no evidence of a drought
long enough and intense enough to have caused the collapse. The texts at
Pylos in Greece produced just before its destruction give no indication of
drought, food shortages or famine. The food shortages mentioned in Near
Eastern texts and the inflationary prices for grain could have resulted from
disorder and social collapse rather than being their cause. Also, some Greek
palaces had stores of wheat, barley and other foods still in their
storerooms when they were burned. So their attackers do not seem to have
been seeking food.(16)

Here's our dilemma: All archaeologists agree that around the end of the 13th
century B.C.E., the great Bronze Age civilizations of the Aegean and eastern
Mediterranean collapsed within 50 to 100 years of one another. But, alas,
there is no consensus as to what actually brought about this devastation.
Whatever the cause, one of the most glittering eras in human history came to
an end.

This article is adapted from the author's forthcoming history of the ancient
Near East.


1) The destruction of the palace at Knossos has been dated c. 1400-1380
B.C.E. by Sir Arthur Evans. A review of the evidence from Knossos, however,
makes it likely that the palace continued to exist under Mycenaean rule into
the 13th century B.C.E.

2) For a survey of sites, see R. Hope Simpson and O.T.P.K. Dickinson, A
Gazetteer of Aegean Civilization in the Bronze Age, Vol. 1: The Mainland and
Islands (Göteborg: Åström, 1979); and Robert Drews, The End of the Bronze
Age: Changes in Warfare and the Catastrophe ca. 1200 B.C. (Princeton:
Princeton Univ. Press, 1993), pp. 21-26.

3) See V.R. d'A. Desborough, "The End of the Mycenaean Civilization and the
Dark Age: (a) The Archaeological Background," in I.E.S. Edwards et al.,
eds., The Cambridge Ancient History, 3rd ed., vol. II, part 2 (Cambridge,
UK: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1975), pp. 658-671.

4) R.W. Hutchinson, Prehistoric Crete (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1962), pp.
320-325; d'A. Desborough, "Mycenaean Civilization," pp. 675-677; Drews, End
of the Bronze Age, pp. 26-29.

5) Michael C. Astour, "New Evidence on the Last Days of Ugarit," American
Journal of Archaeology 69 (1965), p. 255. For a different interpretation of
this letter, see Harry A. Hoffner, "The Last Days of Khattusha" in William
A. Ward and Martha S. Joukowsky, eds., The Crisis Years: The 12th Century
B.C.: From the Danube to the Tigris (Dubuque: Kendall/Hunt, 1992), p. 49.

6) Astour, "New Evidence," p. 255. Words in brackets were added by the

7) J. Neumann and Simo Parpola, "Climatic Change and the
Eleventh-Tenth-Century Eclipse of Assyria and Babylonia," Journal of Near
Eastern Studies 46:3 (July 1987), p. 178. See also D.J. Wiseman, "Assyria
and Babylonia c. 1200-1000 B.C.," in The Cambridge Ancient History, p. 465.

8) Neumann and Parpola, "Climatic Change," p. 178.

9) Neumann and Parpola, "Climatic Change," p. 181.

10) Amèlie Kuhrt, The Ancient Near East (New York: Routledge, 1995), vol. 1,
p. 380. For the entire epic see Benjamin R. Foster, Before the Muses: An
Anthology of Akkadian Literature (Bethesda, MD: CDL Press, 1993), vol. 2,
pp. 771-801.

11) See, for example, Philip P. Betancourt, "The End of the Greek Bronze
Age," Antiquity 50 (1976), pp. 40-47; Nancy K. Sandars, The Sea Peoples:
Warriors of the Ancient Mediterranean, rev. ed. (New York: Thames and
Hudson, 1985), pp. 47-49, 77-79, 197; Carlo Zaccagnini, "The Transition from
Bronze to Iron in the Near East and in the Levant: Marginal Notes," Journal
of the American Oriental Society 110 (1990), pp. 493-502; and Oliver
Dickinson, The Aegean Bronze Age (New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1994),
pp. 307-309.

12) See the summary in Drews, End of the Bronze Age, pp. 33-37. See also
Eberhard Zangger, The Flood from Heaven: Deciphering the Atlantis Legend
(New York: William Morrow, 1992), pp. 82-85.

13 See, for example, Rhys Carpenter, Discontinuity in Greek Civilization
(New York: W.W. Norton, 1966); R.A. Bryson, H.H. Lamb and D.L. Donley,
"Drought and the Decline of Mycenae," Antiquity 48 (1974), pp. 46-50; B.
Weiss, "The Decline of Late Bronze Age Civilizations as a Possible Response
to Climatic Change," Climatic Change 4 (1982), pp. 172-198; William H.
Stiebing, Jr., "Climate and Collapse-Did the Weather Make Israel's Emergence
Possible?" Bible Review, August 1994.

14 Karl W. Butzer, Early Hydraulic Civilization in Egypt (Chicago: Univ. of
Chicago Press, 1976), pp. 30-33; P.A. Kay and D.L. Johnson, "Estimation of
Tigris-Euphrates Streamflow from Regional Paleoenvironmental Proxy Data,"
Climatic Change 3 (1981), pp. 251-263.

15) See, for general tree-ring sequences, H.H. Lamb, "Reconstruction of the
Course of Postglacial Climate Over the World," in A.P. Harding, ed.,
Climatic Change in Later Prehistory (Edinburgh: Edinburgh Univ. Press,
1982), pp. 147-148; and, for Gordion, P.I. Kuniholm, "Dendrochronology at
Gordion and on the Anatolian Plateau," Summaries of Papers, 76th General
Meeting, Archaeological Institute of America (New York, 1974), p. 66.

16) See Drews, End of the Bronze Age, pp. 82-84.

Copyright © 2001 Biblical Archaeology Society


>From Electronic Herald, 9 October 2001

IT may not quite be a space odyssey, but 2001 is to be the year that
astronauts, lunar rocks, and satellites touch down in Scotland.

Edinburgh has been designated Europe's first Space City, an honour which
will culminate next month in the capital's hosting of a high-level
conference to map out the future direction of European space exploration and

In the run up to the European Space Agency's ministerial meeting a
wide-ranging programme of events and activities has been organised,
including the arrival today of a full-scale model of the Envisat satellite,
which is scheduled for launch into space next year.

Donald Anderson, leader of Edinburgh City Council, said that being awarded
the Space City title was a great accolade and reflected the capital's proud
record in sciences and as home to the world's largest science festival.

"Space science is an extremely exciting field that everyone can take an
interest in," he said. "This is a world-class event to attract to the city
and we look forward to honouring the prestigious title of European Space
City and through that, bring the work of ESA to a wider audience."

ESA's Space City programme is being launched in Edinburgh, with other
European cities becoming involved in future years. Events organised include
the Building the Universe exhibition at Our Dynamic Earth, which examines
what the universe is made of and what holds it together.

Professor Ian Halliday, chief executive of the Particle Physics and
Astronomy Research Council, said: "This display brings together our
scientific knowledge of the universe and presents it in a way everyone can
understand, kids and adults alike."

Also on display at Our Dynamic Earth will be samples of lunar rock and
meteorites collected during Nasa's manned space missions to the moon in the
late 60s and early 70s. A series of lectures will explore a range of
space-related topics, including the search for life beyond the solar system,
the future of space flight, and the relevance of space exploration in modern

Umberto Guidoni, the first European astronaut to visit the international
space station, will be talking about his experiences and the training he
needed to get there.

The two-day ESA meeting, beginning on November 14, will involve Lord
Sainsbury, the UK science minister, and many of his European counterparts.

Franco Bonacina, a spokesman for ESA, said: "Europe must be at the forefront
of space activities, and we are delighted that Edinburgh is assisting in
making this happen."

Copyright 2001, Electronic Herald


>From Andrew Yee <>

News Services
University of Arizona
Tucson, Arizona

Contact Information:
James M. Dohm, 520-626-8454,
Justin C. Ferris, 520-370-6357,
Victor R. Baker, 520-621-7875,

Oct 9, 2001

Ancient, Gigantic Drainage Basin Became Aquifer on Mars

By Lori Stiles

An enormous ancient drainage basin and aquifer system lies hidden and
deformed in one of the most geologically dynamic landscapes on Mars,
scientists conclude from a comprehensive, more than 10-year study.

They estimate that a basin almost the size of the United States or Europe
for billions of years covered part of Tharsis, a magmatically active bulge
in the western hemisphere. Tharsis landforms are a complex of towering
volcanoes, lava flow fields, igneous plateaus, fault and rift systems,
flood channels, vast canyo systems, and tectonic features. Most scientists
believe that periodic release of internal planetary heat at Tharsis has for
more than three billion years had a major impact on Mars' geology, hydrology
and climate.

Parts of the aquifer may harbor near-surface water and possibly life, they

University of Arizona hydrologist James M. Dohm and his colleagues are
reporting their basin/aquifer system hypothesis both in an article in the
Journal of Geophysical Research - Planets and in a 3-dimensional animation
on the Internet.

A 2.2 megabyte QuickTime version can be downloaded from the UA website, 3-D
animation - Tharsis evolution, (2.3MB)
(QuickTime software can be downloaded at download QuickTime software, The JGR Planets paper can be
downloaded as a pdf file at JGR Planets, (12MB)

Collaborating in the research are Justin C. Ferris, Victor R. Baker and
Robert G. Strom of the University of Arizona, Robert C. Anderson of the Jet
Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.,Trent M. Hare and Kenneth L.
Tanaka of the U.S. G.S.-Flagstaff, Nadine G. Barlow of the University of
Central Florida, and James E. Klemaszewski of Arizona State University.

They estimate that the 45 million cubic kilometer (11 million cubic mile)
Tharsis basin ranged between 2 kilometers to 7 kilometers in depth (1.2
miles to 4.4 miles) and, if filled to an average depth of 5 kilometers (3.1
miles), would have a capacity of 12 billion billion gallons.

As lavas, sediments and volatiles (primarily water) partly infilled the
basin early in Mars' history, the basin was transformed into a vast regional
aquifer. This aquifer would serve as a potential source for water that
carved what are believed to be the largest flood channels in the solar
system, and helped fill lakes and oceans on ancient northern Mars.

If the terrestrial materials that filled the Tharsis basin are as porous as
sediments and lavas on Earth, "then the potential volume of water contained
in the aquifer would be more than equivalent to the volume of water required
to create the putative ocean in the northern plains," the scientists wrote.

Baker, Strom, and others have long theorized that Mars' northern plains
featured an ocean about a third as large as Earth's Indian Ocean and a
smaller ocean the size of Earth's Arctic Ocean at least once in the ancient
past. Baker and colleagues have since developed this idea as the
"MEGAOUTFLO" hypothesis. The theory says that Mars' history is punctuated by
pulses of magmatic activity which trigger catastrophic floods, formation of
oceans or lakes in the northern plains, and brief episodes of climate change
lasting tens of thousands of years.

The scientists' 3-D visualization portrays how the Tharsis region landscape
evolved over the past more than 3 billion years. The movie summarizes five
geologic stages, with stage one depicting the ancient drainage basin and
stage five depicting the present-day Tharsis landscape.

Dohm and colleagues based the sequentially reconstructed ancient terrains on
geological and hydrological research. They synthesized analyses by many
planetary scientists who began studying Viking data more than a decade ago
and recently obtained high-resolution topographic data from the Mars Orbiter
Laser Altimeter on the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft.

The movie is "not a quantitatively accurate reconstruction of martian
paleotopography at discrete time steps," the scientists wrote. "Such a
reconstruction may well be possible at a future date when more data become
available." It is "an illustrated working hypothesis" that leads to the
identification of an ancient, gigantic drainage basin that persists through
much of the history of the region" and is consistent with diverse
observations of martian geology, they said.

"Large topographic highs, including mountain ranges, an igneous plateau,
topographic rises resulting from tectonism and other magmatic-driven
processes, and large impact craters formed the margin of the gigantic
drainage basin," Dohm said.

Magmatic and tectonic activity later fractured, deformed and, in places,
exposed the stacked sequences of water-bearing layers in the aquifer, he
added. The researchers interpret the layered canyon walls of Valles
Marineris at the center of the proposed drainage basin, for example, to be
basin fill comprised of layered flood lavas possibly laced with eroded lake
and wind deposits.

Magmatic and tectonic energy also drove sediment-charged flood waters toward
the northern plains and transferred water laterally so it collected at
unmodified parts of the aquifer.

"The unmodified parts of the basin/aquifer system appear still to contain
near-surface water reservoirs that may one day be sampled and analyzed by
astronauts," Dohm said. He collaborated with Nadine Barlow of the University
of Central Florida in recent research that suggests Mars today has such a
"watering hole."

More, there may be hydrothermally active sites in the basin/aquifer similar
to hydrothermally active sites on Earth now known to harbor life, Dohm said.
These potential aqueous environments are prime candidates for hydrologic,
mineralogic and "exobiologic" exploration, Dohm and his
colleagues emphasize.

Before he joined the UA in 1999, Dohm worked more than a decade at the U.S.
Geological Survey in Flagstaff as assistant coordinator of NASA-funded Mars
and Venus mapping programs, now called the Planetary Mapping Program.

[ ]

[Image 1]
3-D portrayal of the ancient drainage basin on early Mars. (Graphic:
Courtesy of James Dohm et. al)

[Image 2]
Approximate location of the ancient drainage basin is indicated by the blue
dash on this MOLA image of the present Tharsis landscape (Map: Courtesy of
MOLA team)

[Image 3]
3-D portrayal of present-day Tharsis landscape (Graphic: Courtesy of James
Dohm et al.)


>From Peter R Bond <>



Date: 11 October 2001

Ref.: PN 01/29

Issued by:

Peter Bond,
RAS Press Officer (Space Science).
10 Harrier Close,
Surrey, GU6 7BS,
United Kingdom.
Tel: +44 (0)1483-268672
Fax: +44 (0)1483-274047

RAS Web:




A Discussion Meeting on "Science and Applications of the space environment:
New Results and Interdisciplinary Connections"
at the Royal Society, 6 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1 5AG
16-18 October 2001

Planet Earth, the "third rock from the Sun", is a small world, vulnerable to
many potentially dangerous or catastrophic natural influences.

On 16-18 October, a meeting at London's Royal Society will bring together
experts on our Earth and its space environment to discuss new results and
links between different areas of study.

Members of the press are invited to attend the meeting free of charge,
though advance registration (to would be appreciated.


Studies of the space environment cover many aspects of science, applications
and engineering, including exciting areas that are currently generating
intense interest for the media and the general public.

The main themes of the meeting are: Earth and planetary environments, the
Sun's influence on the Earth, hazards for Earth in space and spacecraft
technology. There is also a presentation about space debris, dust and
near-Earth objects.

Associated with this Discussion Meeting, the Foundation for Science and
Technology is organising a meeting on "Using space for the public good".

"There has been too little communication between the different disciplines
of space science, between those who 'look up' and those who 'look down', yet
their techniques and concepts are similar," said Professor Julian Hunt, one
of the organisers of the meeting. "We hope the conference helps overcome the
institutional, and funding  barriers to these collaborations."

The meeting format will consist of invited talks for key topics, with poster
presentation sessions (including short plenary presentations) and panel
discussions to encourage wide participation.

The main topics of the meeting will be:

16 OCTOBER, 14:00 - 18:00.
Observation of the Earth and other planets: climate change, ocean and sea
bed studies, land use monitoring, Earth's atmosphere, lessons from other

17 OCTOBER 09:30 - 12:40
The Sun-Earth connection and the space environment: understanding the Sun,
impacts on the near-Earth environment, the magnetosphere, Sun and climate,
space weather.

17 OCTOBER 14:00 - 17:30
Hazard warning and forecasting for Earth and space: magnetic storms and
severe weather forecasting, volcanoes, hydrology, air pollution.

Space debris, dust and near-Earth objects.
Space and spacecraft technologies: communications, navigation, cryogenics in
space, advanced spacecraft technologies, technology benefits for science and
applications, software, formation flying, miniaturisation, the enabling role
of satellites.

The full programme can be seen at:


The conference is organised by Professor Julian Hunt of University College
London and Professor Len Culhane of University College London's Mullard
Space Science Laboratory, assisted by Dr. Andrew Coates (also of MSSL-UCL).

The meeting is sponsored by Astrium, the British Antarctic Survey, the
British National Space Centre, the Council for the Central Laboratory of the
Research Councils, Eumetsat, the Natural Environment Research Council, the
Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council and QinetiQ (formerly the
Defence Evaluation Research Agency).


Dr Andrew Coates
Mullard Space Science Laboratory/University College London
Holmbury St. Mary      
RH5 6NT,
Tel: +44 (0)1483-204145/274111            
Fax: +44 (0)1483-278312

Professor Len Culhane,
Mullard Space Science Laboratory/University College London
(same address)
Tel: +44 (0)1483-274111

Professor Julian Hunt
Department of Space & Climate Physics,
University College London
Gower Street
Tel: +44 (0)20-7679-7743
E- mail:



>From Javier Andres Licandro Goldaracena <>

Dear Benny

This mail is to congratulate the members of the IAU Commitee for Small-Body
Nomenclature for their decision on naming asteroids in honour of the victims
of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. I am sure it was not an easy choise for
some of them. We are all affected by this horrible act,
but in particular people in the United States. Compassion, Solidarity, and
Magnanimity, three basic principles to analyze what is happening now in the
world, what it was happening before Sept. 11, and what we should do in the
future to try to solve this problem and to make a
better world for all of us, not only for those that live in developed
countries. But as this discussion is for a political network, not for this
one, and even if the CCNet has been used incorrectly, in my opinion, since
Sept. 11, I will stop here. CCNet has been a wonferful
tool for those who work with solar system objects,  I hope it continues


Javier Licandro

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CCCMENU CCC for 2001