This week, my 70-something aunt said that she and my uncle weren’t concerned about coronavirus or the precautions in place to prevent its spread because she believes it is a Democratic Party hoax to take down Donald Trump after impeachment failed. She thinks the whole world is conspiring to fake the disease to hurt Trump. My father told me that a friend of his said his ex-wife has the same belief. As my aunt and uncle aged, they moved steadily to the right, going from blue collar Democrats who proudly framed photos of themselves with Clintons in the 1990s to staunch Republicans after 9/11 and becoming die-hard Trump supporters in 2016 thanks to a combination of nationalism, xenophobia, and cultural anxieties. So that’s where we are as a country. Regular Fox News consumers have developed bizarre ideas about what the network had called the “Virus Impeachment Scam” until late last week, and now there’s no good way to undo it.
Meanwhile, we might as well talk about something a little less apocalyptic, like an actual apocalypse—at least a small one. In Science Reports last week, geologist James Kennett and a team of researchers reported that their reevaluation of material taken in the 1960s from the ancient Syrian site of Abu Hureya, where evidence for the transition from hunting and gathering to farming was first observed, shows that the prehistoric village had been destroyed by a cosmic impact, such as the fragments of the comet hypothesized to have hit the Earth during the Younger Dryas, around 10,500 BCE, creating what researchers term the “Younger Dryas boundary,” composed of various types of debris.
The existence of this comet impact is controversial, and scientific opinion remains divided, with most archaeologists, for example, reporting little evidence for the hypothesized impact in the records of ancient human occupation sites.
According to Kennett, the village shows evidence of having been suddenly destroyed by a wave of intense heat that left behind a layer of meltglass that formed at temperatures of 2200°C or higher. According to Phys.org:
"The critical materials are extremely rare under normal temperatures, but are commonly found during impact events," Kennett said. According to the study, the meltglass was formed "from the nearly instantaneous melting and vaporization of regional biomass, soils and floodplain deposits, followed by instantaneous cooling." Additionally, because the materials found are consistent with those found in the YDB layers at the other sites across the world, it's likely that they resulted from a fragmented comet, as opposed to impacts caused by individual comets or asteroids.
I obviously have no way of evaluating the strength of such a claim since I am not a geologist. But I can say that the evidence from Abu Hureyra does not support Graham Hancock’s claim that the proposed comet wiped out an Atlantis-like civilization, as advocates of Hancock’s view have implied on social media over the past days. For one thing, Abu Hureyra is still there for us to look at. Hancock alleges that the comet totally obliterated every trace of Atlantis’s global culture, down to the last screw and grain of pollen. And yet the village of Abu Hureyra remained for archaeologists to excavate. A culture like Atlantis that supposedly had outposts across the globe therefore had to have left something behind if a small settlement in the middle of nowhere managed the trick.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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