Using Pillar 43 to date the Younger Dryas event
Copy of Pillar 43 in Sanliurfa Museum (Image: Alistair Coombs)

In our 'fox' paper, we read a date from Pillar 43 at Gobekli Tepe using the position of the disk (sun) on the eagle/vulture's (Sagittarius') wing. This was quite a rough estimate. We simply found the mid-point between the 'head' and 'wing' of Sagittarius, which corresponds to 10,950 BC using the summer solstice and Stellarium, and estimated an error of 250 years. But can we be more precise?
The precise date of the event remains difficult to know accurately. The platinum spike in a Greenland ice core is located with very good precision - it is 12,887 +- 5 yrs BP. This is equivalent to 10,937 +- 5 yrs BC. But the Greenland ice core chronology differs from the radiocarbon chronology by about 70 years at this time. So in terms of the radiocarbon chronology this is 10,867 +- 10 yrs BC, where I have added some additional uncertainty to account for t…
The importance of Palaeolithic art
Example of European Palaeolithic art - from Wikipedia
With our decoding of European Palaeolithic animal symbols as star constellations - practically the same ones we continue to use today - we have initiated a new method for tracking the dispersal of people and ideas. This complements existing methods based on comparison of DNA, language, mythology and specific artefacts (such as stone tools and pottery). I discuss some of the implications in Prehistory Decoded.

Comparison of DNA is probably the most useful of these methods because it is practically unlimited in terms of time depth, and it can distinguish between migration and cultural diffusion, i.e. the movement of people vs the diffusion of ideas. The archaeological record, in terms of tools etc, is probably the next most useful.

The comparison of zodiacal symbols is similar to comparative mythology - we should probably view them as two sides of the same coin. But it is perhaps a little more powe…
Ibex vs Stag Imdugud Freize, from Tell Al-Ubaid circa 2500 BC
A continuing puzzle is the switching between ibex and stag symbols for Aquarius and Gemini. As things stand, we don't have enough data to see how these symbols have evolved, and their symbolism is often confusing.
Image from Stellarium, showing Aquarius and part of Pisces, 38,000 BC
40,000 years ago a small asterism that now is part of Pisces was closer to Aquarius, and so Aquarius could be seen as a stag or megaloceros at that time. This appears to be the case for European Palaeolithic art. We also see ibex in Palaeolithic art, but none have been reliably radiocarbon dated, so we don't know which constellation they represented at this time.
At Gobekli Tepe, around 10,000 BC, we see what could be either a stag or an ibex representing Gemini - the little creature next to the middle 'handbag' on Pillar 43. Probably it is an ibex, although this is far from clear.
At Catalhoyuk there is a large painting of a st…
The Orthodox Church of Archaeoastronomy

I have been debating with this group on Facebook for the last couple of days. They are convinced my work is wrong. But during the whole discussion they never once produced any data or logic that impressed me. All they had was opinion. They even called me a 'flat-earther'.

They have just taken down the entire thread - so you won't be able to see how poor their arguments were or how opinionated they are. And, for good measure, they banished me (and my wife) from their discussion group. Bunch of comedians.

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Excellent review of Prehistory Decoded at Cosmic Tusk

The Origin of Writing, part 3

The general view is that writing began almost simultaneously in Egypt and Sumer around 3000 BC. As far as I know, scholars think it began first in Sumer, and transferred to Egypt shortly after.

A popular theory, due to Schmandt-Besserat, is that writing evolved out of symbols used to record trade in the 4th millennium BC in Mesopotamia. I'll try show here that this is only part of the story - writing also developed from astronomical notation.

A great resource is the book 'Visible Language' by Chris Woods from the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. It describes the transition to writing in both Mesopotamia and Egypt with copious illustrations of relevant artefacts. Rather than copying its images, you can obtain a pdf freely here. It focuses on the symbols used in each place just before writing appears in the historical record, around, 3500 to 3000 BC. Since writing emerges as a 'logographic' script initially, it is these …
What happened to the builders of Gobekli Tepe?

Genetic correspondence between ancient and modern populations of the Near East and North Africa, from Schuenemann et al., Nature Comms. 2017.

Gobekli Tepe was gradually abandoned between around 9,000 to 8,000 BC, right at the beginning of the Neolithic revolution. Presumably, other, newer cultural centres gained from Gobekli Tepe's loss. But where did its people go?

In earlier posts I highlighted the connections between symbolism at Gobekli Tepe and Ancient Egypt. It appears almost as though the Ancient Egyptians are the most direct descendants of the people who constructed Gobekli Tepe. Is this where they went?

Clearly, we have the similarity in megalithic architecture. And Ancient Egypt is not so far from southern Anatolia. The fertile banks of the Nile would probably have been very inviting compared to the hard hills of southern Turkey.

I have already outlined the correspondence between the animal symbols at Gobekli Tepe and the m…
The Origin of Writing, Part 2

Left: Pillar 2 at Gobekli Tepe (image courtesy of Alistair Coombs), Middle: an Ancient Egyptian cartouche (image from Wikipedia), Right: stone plaquette found at Gobekli Tepe (image courtesy of Alistair Coombs)

True writing appears almost simultaneously in Ancient Sumeria and Ancient Egypt shortly before 3000 BC. But various forms of proto writing are known from around 6000 BC. Proto writing is a set of symbols used to convey a limited type of information, whereas true writing can convey any meaning - it is essentially speech made visual.

Klauss Schmidt, who discovered Gobekli Tepe, thought its pillars, especially on their narrow faces, exhibited a very early form of proto-writing. He thought their pictures told stories. He also suggested the Uraeus (snake) symbol of Ancient Egypt might have derived from the snake symbols at Gobekli Tepe. I suspect he was right.

The orthodox view of writing popular among archaeologists, proposed by Schmandt-Besserat, is …
The origin of Life
Growth and fissioning (reproduction) of SALR clusters as the concentration of SALR particles is slowly increased.

Okay, this is off-topic, but I thought I'd share the other research highlight of my career. Most biological molecules, like amino acids and nucleobases (the building blocks of proteins and DNA/RNA respectively), are 'SALR'. This means they are attracted to each-other at short range (the short-range attraction, or SA, part), but because they are typically also charged in solution, they repel each other at much larger separations (the long-range repulsion, or LR, part).

I have been researching the behaviour of  SALR particles in solution for the last 6 years or so. Last year, I discovered [1] that in a solution of SALR particles in which the concentration is slowly increased, the SALR clusters that form will gradually grow and then split, or fission. The above set of snapshots from a 3-D simulation shows this happening many times in succession…
The origin of writing

Necklace on Pillar 18 at Gobekli Tepe (courtesy of Alistair Coombs)

The origin of writing has long fascinated scholars for obvious reasons. The dominant theory presently is that writing began in Mesopotamia, around 3200 BC, probably in the city of Uruk, thought to be the largest urban area ever built up to that time.

Writing begins in Egypt soon after, it is generally thought, although given that archaeologists have only scratched the surface of the Earth, all claims of 'prior art' must be treated with extreme caution.

Nevertheless, Schmandt-Besserat's theory of writing's origin in Mesopotamia has gained considerable traction. Partly, it is so popular, I think, because it nicely confirms a bias in modern scholarship towards Marxism, i.e. that everything can be explained by the relationship between power and trade. You see, Schmandt-Besserat's theory proposes that writing grew out of trading systems involving tokens and clay tablets marked wit…
Decoding Prehistory
Copy of Pillar 43, aka the Vulture Stone, in Sanliurfa museum (image: Alistair Coombs)

Gobekli Tepe, a 12,000 year old megalithic temple discovered in Turkey in 1994, changes everything. Pillar 43 at Gobekli Tepe is undoubtedly the most important artefact in the world. Just as the Rosetta Stone provided the key to deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs in the early 1800s, thereby opening a window into ancient Egyptian history, Pillar 43 is the key to deciphering an ancient proto-script that opens a window into 40,000 years of world prehistory.

The message this stone unlocks could hardly be more important. It tells us the orthodox view of prehistory is completely wrong. And it tells us that the future threat from cosmic impacts is much greater than conventionally supposed. It essentially overturns centuries of misguided scholarship upon which much of academia's confidence is founded. A paradigm change of the highest order is underway.

Several people contributed to decip…
The answer's comets, now what's the question?

This collage shows known depictions of comets from around the world across at least two millennia.
I argue in Prehistory Decoded that much of ancient and modern myth and religion is inspired by comets and their destructive effects. So comet symbolism should be everywhere. But where is it?

Below is a collage of suggestions. Maybe some are right, and some are wrong. What do you think?

From top left we have; 'hand' paintings from Catalhoyuk (thanks Ron!), stone plaquette from Gobekli Tepe, Teshub sculpture from Aleppo museum, Jewish Menorah, Shiva statuette, carvings in the roof of a dolmen in the Golan Heights (thanks James!), belt buckle on Pillar 18 at Gobekli Tepe, 'axes' carved into Stonehenge (thanks Ron, again), Inanna symbol from Mesopotamia, Ubaid 'keyhole' building, Apis bull from Ancient Egypt, and menat counterpoise from Ancient Egypt.
The Ancient Mesopotamian 'Storm' Gods
Drawing of Neo-Assyrian rock inscriptions (7th - 8th century BC) depicting their pantheon

Ancient Mesopotamian civilisation can be traced back to the Neolithic revolution in the Fertile Crescent following the Younger Dryas period. Given its location, we can expect Bronze Age Mesopotamian mythology to display similarities with both Anatolian and Egyptian Bronze Age mythology, considering they likely all evolved from this earlier ancestor culture.

This rock art inscription dating to the 7th-8th century BC shows the pantheon at this time in Neo-Assyria. It continues the symbolism found on much earlier Bronze Age Mesopotamian  artefacts. There are actually 12 gods represented here. Like Egypt, though, the entire Sumerian-Akkadian-Babylonian-Assyrian pantheon consisted of hundreds of different gods and demons. It seems likely that many were essentially the same deity originally, but their names diverged gradually in different villages and cult…
Ancient Sumerians knew about precession too
The Uruk Vase (from Wikipedia)

In recent weeks I have shown how the Ancient Egyptians must have known about our ancient zodiac and precession of the equinoxes. I've now begun to look at ancient Mesopotamia. There are many obvious links between them which I'll present in the coming weeks. However, in this first look at ancient Sumer I want to focus on one of its oldest and most important artefacts, the Uruk Vase.
A series of Stone-Age cultures inhabited the Euphrates and Tigris river valleys after the Younger Dryas period. This region includes much of present-day Iraq and Syria to the west of the Zagros Mountains. After the 8.2 kiloyear event archaeologists have labelled these people the Halaf, Samarra, Hassuna  and Ubaid cultures, which combined take us up to around 3800 BC. After this, in southern Mesopotamia, we have the Uruk period which then takes us into Bronze Age Sumer around 3100 BC.
Uruk is thought to be the largest and mos…
Talking about Prehistory Decoded with Mike And Maurice

A note on Precession of the Equinoxes (now on YouTube

A few people have contacted me about an error in my calculations for precession of the equinoxes using Stellarium. In each case, it appears they are making the same mistake I made when I set out on this journey, as described in Prehistory Decoded. So, in this post I want to explain how to use Stellarium to do these calculations.
But before I begin, I should also point out that Stellarium is perfectly capable of making these calculations without any significant inaccuracy over the timescales we are interested in, i.e. 40,000 years or so. Gobekli Tepe's archaeologists have claimed that Stellarium might not be suited to this task. But they are wrong. I certainly agree that I would not use Stellarium to back-calculate the position of the moon (for visualising ancient eclipses, for example) over this timescale. But this problem does not apply to calculation of precession of the …
New paper from the Comet Research Group confirms comet impact
Distribution of sites at which the Younger Dryas boundary layer has been found (Pino et al., Scientific Reports, vol. 9, p4413 (2019)).

The latest paper, published in Scientific Reports here, from the Comet Research Group and colleagues in Chile provides yet more evidence the Younger Dryas event was a comet impact.

Like their others, this new paper is extensive and detailed, this time providing 10 different streams of evidence for the Younger Dryas boundary layer at Pilauco, Chile. It means severe effects from this event were felt across nearly half the world's land surface, and perhaps more.

These new results are especially interesting for a couple of reasons, in my view. We already knew the Younger Dryas event happened - there is no doubt about that. We also know it caused the Younger Dryas mini ice-age - a period of around 1,300 years from 12,900 to 11,600 BC - when northern hemisphere temperatures plummeted by 10 t…
Old and New World astro-mythology

Left: Gobekli Tepe's Pillar 18 belt-buckle; middle: rock art in Utah; right: stone plaquette from Gobekli Tepe

In Prehistory Decoded I argue that the ancient mythology of the Old and New Worlds (Eurasia and the Americas) are linked, and originated as a very ancient astronomical comet cult. Michael Witzel, Harvard Professor of Sanskrit, calls this original mythology 'Laurasian' in his book 'The Origins of the World's Mythologies', and suggests it could be over 40,000 years old, although he didn't relate it to astronomy.

In the previous post I asked people to search for religious and mythological symbolism related to comets. It should be everywhere, in the New and Old Worlds. Marc Young, an archaeology student, sent in the picture in the middle above. It is some rock art in Utah. It clearly shows several comets, some passing right-to-left and a few others coming straight towards us with their characteristic U-shaped shocked …
Comets in ancient myth
Figure 1 from Balaji Mundkur's 'The Cult of the Serpent'

In Prehistory Decoded I make the case that much of the world's mythology, ancient and modern (known as religion), is connected by an ancient system of astro-mythology, largely focussed on comets - their appearance and catastrophic effects.

If true, we should see comet symbolism throughout myth and religion, from before Gobekli Tepe into modern Christianity. So where is it? It should be everywhere.

If you Google 'ancient comets' you'll see a wide variety of shapes and depictions for comets through the ages. There is the standard 'menat'-shaped comet through to fox-tail shapes, scimitars, rosette shapes, tridents, and so on. They come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and colours. So how would this translate into religious symbolism? Moreover, their catastrophic effects, such as a massive explosive airburst, would take on different symbolism.

Mike Baillie, a leading dendrochr…
Clube and Napier's Coherent Catastrophism, and Wikipedia

My new book is founded on Clube and Napier's coherent catastrophism. They are both formerly Professors of Edinburgh (where I am now - complete coincidence) and Oxford. Bill Napier is an astronomer specialising in cometary science while Victor Clube is an astrophysicist. They first published on this subject, to the best of my knowledge, in 1979. But it was not until the early 1980s that they developed their 'terrestrial theory of catastrophism'. It was later, in the early 1990s I think, that their collaborator, Duncan Steel, coined the term 'coherent catastrophism', and that's how their theory is now popularly known. Together with David Asher and Mark Bailey, these five scientists have pioneered research into their alternative view of cosmic catastrophism on Earth - one based on comets rather than asteroids.

The evidence they have accumulated is compelling, but controversial. I give some of the reason…