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Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Questions Follow Answers
Most people wish that they had answers for certain things. Many of us sit around and accept the likelihood that those answers will never come. This is certainly true with me in my attempts to uncover my genetic family roots. But, some scientists are lucky enough to find the answers that they seek. Ironically, those answers are only bittersweet as they almost immediately yield more questions, particularly when discussing the ancient world.
In my next article I’ll discuss some of the mind-boggling, scientific quandaries that make us question our very understanding of the ancient world. In the meantime I want to summarize a fascinating show that I was watching on TV last night about why Egypt fell.
The show started out by following two different scientists working independently in different parts of Egypt; one studying ancient ruins and pyramids, and the other studying the migration and habitation pattern of the Nile delta.Both came to the same independent conclusions; when Pharaoh Pepi II of Egypt died (2184 BC) and was buried Egypt was at the height of its power building pyramids and other large structures. Then, rather suddenly, Egypt was gone without reason or explanation. In terms of historical accounting “suddenly” means within one generation. By 2150 BC, 34 years later, Egypt had fallen.
Knowing that the fall of Egypt was a rather sudden and cataclysmic event both scientists set out in search of answers. Within a rather short time, both scientists came to the exact same conclusion; a drought.The scientist studying the ruins and the pyramids saw evidence of a sudden stoppage in construction. Since most of the materials were borne to the job sites via waterways the foregone conclusion was that there may not have been enough water to get the supplies there. But, this was after Pepi II died because there was still enough water to transport his sarcophagus, the largest ever built. The scientist studying habitation patterns in the delta used satellites to locate ancient settlements without having to dig up the entire area. What she found was that people rapidly abandoned those settlements to migrate towards the larger cities where they could pool their resources.Since most of these smaller villages were along the tributaries of the Nile, she concluded that they abandoned them because of a lack of food and that they lacked food because the water had dried up.
Of course, all of this was only a theory that needed proof. So, they set out to find it. One of the scientists was also an archeologist and took core samples near the areas where there were known to have been deep lakes. What he found was a layer of wind-blown, arid sand. This meant that no water reached that site whatsoever. Not only did he find the sand he looking for, the thickness of the layer indicated that this area suffered a drought that lasted for roughly four decades. In fact, conditions of the drought were so bad that some reports indicate that they may have resorted to eating their own children to survive.
After publishing their findings researchers in Turkey, Iran, Mesopotamia and Greece have all uncovered the same drought conditions in those regions at the exact same time. Not only was Egypt affected, but the entire Mediterranean Sea area was affected as well. Besides Egypt, this drought, which is now called the 4.2 Kiloyear Event, was also responsible for the fall of the Akkadian Empire. Although not wiped out to the point of extinction there is some evidence to suggest that the drought at least influenced the development of the Persian Empire and several cultures that inhabited China.
So, they answered the question of what happened to Ancient Egypt, and in the process they uncovered a much more important discovery. But, this answer begot another question; what caused this drought to begin with? The current theories center on the concept that the Atlantic Current stopped moving. This current sends warm air into the atmosphere and helps regulate the temperature around the world. If this current stops flowing, then the Mediterranean region undergoes a severe drought while the continental US will undergo a small Ice Age. According to the fossil record in North America, there was an Ice Age in 2200, B.C., which is exactly what they expected to find.
Now they’ve answered the question about what caused the drought, which is exciting, but a more disturbing question looms; what caused that current to stop flowing? Evidence suggests that it has stopped several times throughout the Earth’s history. But no one knows why.