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By Alfred de Grazia

Part One: Historical Disturbances



[1] Scientists probing the subsoil in their attempts to build up the record of prehistoric and ancient humanity have paid little attention to ashes and other evidences of high heat and conflagration that they have encountered. We would agree with Claude F. A. Schaeffer who wrote in 1948 that "Our inquiry has often been made difficult by the rarity in most reports of observations on beds as a nuisance or of little interest" [2] . The recent excavation of settlements of Minoan times, buried beneath or affected by the tephra of the exploded volcano of ancient Thera-Santorini, did posses the broader perspective that Schaeffer sought. Marinatos and others introduced research on the far-flung effects of the disaster. Heezen and Ninkovich discovered a layer of ash on the south-eastern floor of the Mediterranean Sea that they could ascribe to the Santorini explosion. Charles and Dorothy Vitaliano followed up with analyses of tephra from scattered locations on Crete and elsewhere [3] . The search and testing are continuing. Still, the Thera case is exceptional, and even yet far from complete. The ash coverings of settlements have rarely been analyzed. We speak of overall calcination, and not so much of the bones of hearths that have lent evidence of the ecology, cuisine, and religious ceremonies of early human groups.

Overall calcination has sometimes, with less than complete evidence, been interpreted as the work of torch-bearing invaders. For example, James Melaart uses the convenient phrase "Whether by accident or by enemy action" to describe the destructive combustion of Troy IIg [4] . Earthquakes, too are invoked with some frequency, although a determination that a fire is an effect of an earthquake is by no means simple. On rare occasions, where there exists a historical record such as Pliny the Younger's description of the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 A. D., volcanism is admitted and may lead ultimately to excavation. There are still other possible causes, as we shall see.

The contention of this paper is that reports of past excavations should now be reviewed with a revised set of questions. Moreover, and because of the ultimate inadequacy of the information typically contained in them, it is suggested that a new interdisciplinary calcinology be devised and carried into future excavations and the testing of soils and debris generally. The rich experience afforded by the excavations of Troy can serve to expose the problems that justify a new approach. Afterwards, we can define in a preliminary way the body of techniques that needs to be assembled and developed.


In some exciting passages, which have unquestionably been among the most widely read of all archaeological writing, Schliemann describes how, in May of 1873, he uncovered "The treasure of Priam," King of Troy during the war between the Greeks and Trojans. (Neither his identification of the Treasure as Priam's nor of the City as the Troy of Homer is at issue here, and therefore these problems are passed over lightly.)

Schliemann reports [5] that the "Trojans of whom Homer sings" occupied a stratum of debris "from 7 to 10 meters, or 23 to 33 feet, below the surface. This Trojan stratum, which, without exception, bears marks of great heat, consists mainly of red ashes of wood, which rise from 5 to 10 feet above the Great Tower of Ilium, and the great enclosing Wall, the construction of which Homer ascribes to Poseidon and Apollo; and they show that the town was destroyed by a fearful conflagration." He calls this ruined level "the Burnt City," and others have used his phrase since then.

The large slabs of stone leading down to the plain from "The Scaean Gate" for 10 feet were so weakened by heat that they crumbled upon exposure, though farther on the slabs continued hard and intact.

"A further proof of the terrible catastrophe is furnished by a stratum of scoriae of melted lead and copper, from 1/ 5 to 1 1/ 5 inches thick, which, extends through the whole hill at a depth of from 28 to 29 1/ 2 feet." Several visiting geologists and a construction engineer gave this opinion, and all concluded that large deposits of these existed at the time of the city's destruction.

Schliemann continues: "That Troy was destroyed by enemies after a bloody war is further attested by the many human bones which I found in these heaps of debris, and above all by the skeletons with helmets, found in the depths of the temple of Athena; for, as we know from Homer, all corpses were burnt and the ashes were preserved in urns. Of such urns I have found an immense number in all pre-Hellenic strata on the hill."

Then he says: "Lastly, the Treasure, which some member of the royal family had probably endeavored to save during the destruction of the city, but was forced to abandon, leaves no doubt that the city was destroyed by the hands of enemies. I found this Treasure on the large enclosing wall by the side of the royal palace, at a depth of 27 1/ 2 feet, and covered with red Trojan ashes from 5 to 6 1/ 2 feet in depth, above which was a post-Trojan wall or fortification 19 1/ 2 feet high."

Schliemann spotted the Treasure through a protruding copper article. "On the top of this copper article lay a stratum of red and calcined ruins, from 4 3/ 4 to 5 1/ 4 feet thick, as hard as stone, and above this again lay the above-mentioned wall of fortification (6 feet broad and 20 feet high) which was built of large stones and earth, and must have belonged to an early date after the destruction of Troy."

With his knife, he first withdrew this small copper shield, then a copper caldron with handles, then a copper plate to which a silver vase "had been fused ... in the heat of the fire" [6] . Next came a copper vase, a bottle of gold, a cap of gold and then other vessels of pure and alloyed metals, wrought and cast-copper, silver, gold, electrum. There were useful objects, ceremonial objects, and daggers, battle-axes, and lance-heads. Various weapons had "pieces of other weapons welded onto them by fire." "As I found all these articles together, forming a rectangular mass, or packed into one another, it seems to be certain that they were placed on the city wall in a wooden chest ... such as those mentioned by Homer as being in the palace of king Priam. This appears to be the more certain, as close by the side of these articles I found a copper key about 4 inches long, the head of which resembles a large safe-key of a bank. Curiously enough this key has had a wooden handle; there can be not doubt of this from the fact that the end of the stalk of the key is bent round at a right angle, as in the case of the daggers."

Schliemann conjectures on the scene: It is probable that some member of the family of King Priam hurriedly packed the Treasure into the chest and carried it off without having time to put out the key; that when he reached the wall, however, the hand of an enemy or the fire overtook him, and he was obliged to abandon the chest, which was immediately covered to a height of from 5 to 6 feet with the red ashes and the stones of the adjoining royal palace... [7] .
That the Treasure was packed together at terrible risk of life, and in the greatest anxiety, is proved among other things also by the contents of the largest silver vase, at the bottom of which I found two splendid gold diadems..., a fillet, and four beautiful gold ear-rings of most exquisite workmanship: upon these lay 56 gold ear-rings of exceedingly curious form and 8,750 small gold rings, perforated prisms and dice, gold buttons, and similar jewels, which obviously belonged to other ornaments; them followed six gold bracelets, and on the top of all two small gold goblets [8] .

Finally, Schliemann adds, "The person who endeavored to save the Treasure had fortunately the presence of mind to stand the silver vase, containing the valuable articles described above, upright in the chest, so that not so much as a bead could fall out, and everything has been preserved uninjured" [9] .

Schliemann says that death was risked in hastily retrieving the Treasure. Like many another digger, he was preoccupied with artifacts and architecture. And indeed there seemed to be nothing in the literature than a Greek-set fire. Furthermore, he was already reading the ancient story of the burning of Troy into his findings. He "knew" what he would find. So did the world of readers.

But there are puzzling aspects to his account. First of all, there is the immensity of the blaze. Can the burning of a stone and wood town of 5,000 or so inhabitants produce a bed of ashes that may have amounted to 15 to 20 feet on its first fall? For we read that it was reduced to several feet of thickness and was so hard that a huge stone wall nearly 20 feet tall could be built on top of it afterwards. And the whole area was so completely buried that the walls of the subsequent settlement were planned and built in complete ignorance of the orientation of the walls and passageways below. "The more recent walls run in all directions above the more ancient ones, never standing upon them, and are frequently separated from them by a layer of calcined debris, from 6 1/ 2 to 10 feet high" [10] . The depth of the ashes is all the more impressive when it is observed that they formed on top of a wall. Then or afterwards, some part of the ashes would fall or drift or be blown off the top of a wall. And why would the bearers of such a Treasure, if they had even half a minute of time, leave the Treasure on top of a wall when they might at least have tipped it over onto the ground, and then fled?

The ashes are spoken of as "red Trojan ashes," "ashes and stones" that buried the city, "mainly red ashes of wood." How thick a layer of ashes does a hand-burnt ancient city dissolve into? What kinds of heat would have been generated on the average outside and within houses? The answers are not now known, but might well be discovered.

Craig C. Chandler writes that he has "never seen 'red ashes of wood' in natural fires, and the term sounds much more like a distillation residue than a combustion residue" [11] . With the suggestion of a distillation, the remote possibility of an early invention of "Greek Fire" intrudes. This presently unknown, highly volatile and intense weapon was possibly of petroleum plus an accelerant, and was used by the Byzantines against their enemies for centuries. But this was more than two millennia later. Further, "Greek Fire" would not account for the huge amount of ashes. A completely wooden and overstuffed contemporary house will leave no more than ankle-deep ashes when it burns to the ground, and then only on its own foundation. A flourishing natural forest and the ground cover is estimated to provide 200 tons organic matter per acre [12] . When reduced fully by heat, it will give up 160 tons of water, gases and other compounds to leave 20 tons of carbon residue and 20 tons of oily distillates. Further reduced to fine cinder and ash, it would weigh less and have less volume. If spread over an acre, the residue would amount to perhaps a pound per square foot; its height could scarcely measure 6 inches in its freshly fallen state. Chandler has pointed out that forest fires of the greatest intensity do not consume more than a fraction of the living material, producing perhaps 3 tons per acre of ashes. "This is an amount about 10 times as great as the fertilizer you spread on your lawn in the spring ... Ash residue from the burning of a city is measured in inches, rather than feet" [13] . And we seem to be faced at Troy by perhaps 15 feet, or 30 times as much ash, even allowing for no wind to blow the cloud of city ashes off the citadel onto the plain and for no drift off the top of the city wall.

But, to proceed, if the city were under tight siege, would not the Treasure have been carefully packed and readied for any emergency? Would it not perhaps have been buried in a safe place or carried off to a friendly town? Schliemann assumes that a Trojan custodian was transporting the box. He discovered what appeared to be a copper handle. Would not at least two persons have carried it? It was heavy. Moreover, several guards and priests would have been assigned to accompany the porters on their urgent mission. The key to the box was found, but it may have been placed inside the box; its presence does indicate haste, or else it would have been kept by a keeper of the keys or by the chief of the little group of movers and would have vanished with him.

If the "Greeks" were in hot pursuit, as Schliemann implies, would they not have caught up with the Treasure and carted it off? It would have been laid down by its porters, who would have fled for their lives. Would the "Greek" warriors have set such a blaze that they were frustrated in one of their primary objectives in capturing the city, to loot it of its valuables? Conquerors try not to burn a city before they loot it. Other treasures and valuables were located by Schliemann. Apparently the "invaders" were in some part, at least, frustrated in one of their most enjoyable missions by conflagration. We might assume that other treasures were indeed found and carried away. Their neglect of the deposits of lead and copper, an unconscionable dereliction, is puzzling; lead and copper supposedly ran in streams over the city grounds.

Schliemann found no bones or warrior's equipment at the site of the Treasure save for a small copper shield, which may have been in or on the chest. Indications are, unless his search was incomplete, that the porters separated themselves physically from the Treasure in a great hurry and that the "pursuers" were blocked from reaching it. Unlike the ashes with which Vesuvius buried ancient Pompeiians and from which Fiorelli in 1863 ingeniously extricated their images by injections of liquid plaster, the ashes of Troy were apparently hot. They fused and welded exposed metal objects. The wood chest had disappeared. Any humans would have been incinerated and would have disappeared like the box, but they would at least have left their buckles and arms, and possibly teeth or long bones.

Why did the porters try to go over the wall, instead of through the gate? Schliemann suggests that the "Greeks" commanded the gates. Possibly.

But now we wonder whether, in fact, there were any Greek invaders climbing out of their famous Wooden Horse and reinforced by their returned comrades. For Schliemann does not find typically "Greek" (Achaean) utensils or weapons; therefore the conflagration could not come sometime after the foreigners had occupied the city and mingled their artifacts with those of the Trojans. Also, we should be inclined to deny that any invaders of any type were present. We are aware that contemporary scholarship assigns Schliemann's Troy to a period long before the "real" Trojan War. It is now called TroyII and Troy VIIa is the "real Troy," in one leading opinion [14] .

A half century after Schliemann's work, a University of Cincinnati expedition returned to the site of Hisarlik. They explored painstakingly the area, employing the best archaeological techniques that the state of the art and the typically modest funding could provide. Apart from their extensive work on the other levels, the Cincinnati archaeologists, under the leadership of Carl Blegen, examined closely the ruins of the Burnt City-Level IIg by their code. The debris over the whole site is deep, yet less deep that the debris atop Schliemann's Wall.

The stratum of Troy IIg had an average thickness of more than 1 m( eter); it consisted mainly of ashes, charred matter, and burned debris. This deposit apparently extended uniformly over the great megaron and across the entire site, eloquent evidence that the settlement perished in a vast conflagration from which no buildings escaped ruin. This is the 'Burnt City' of Schliemann ...
In all areas examined by the Cincinnati Expedition, it was obvious that the catastrophe struck suddenly, without warning, giving the inhabitants little or no time to collect and save their most treasured belongings before they fled. All the houses exposed were still found to contain the fire-scarred wreckage of their furnishings, equipment, and stores of supplies. Almost every building yielded scattered bits of gold ornaments and jewelry, no doubt hastily abandoned in panic flight.
Most of the famous 'treasure' recovered by Schliemann may now be safely attributed to Troy IIg... [15] .

Thus writes Blegen (1963) and the evidence behind his words stacks up in several large printed volumes and a considerable archive. Blegen continues, seeking to explain the destruction:

Whether the disaster was brought about by enemy action or by accident cannot be certainly stated, though there are considerations that point to each of these alternatives. If the city had been captured and razed by conquerors, some of the luckless inhabitants would surely have fallen victims to the attack, and an excavator might expect to find in the ruins remains of human skeletons. So far as is ascertainable in the archaelogical records, we have actually only one instance in which a fragment of a small adult skull was definitely found in the stratum of Phase Ilg. Schliemann mentions the skeletons of "two warriors" with bronze helmets, found in the burnt layer; but the stratigraphic position is not certified, and the helmets later turned out to be fragments of a bronze vessel. One might therefore conclude that the occupants of the town escaped. On the other hand, if an invading army took the city it would surely have thoroughly looted the houses before putting them to the torch; and few if any 'treasures' of gold and silver would have been left for archaeologists to recover. But again a counter-argument might hold that if all or most of the citizens had run away to safety, they would surely have returned sooner or later to recover the treasures they had left behind. Their failure to do so can only be accounted for by assuming that some powerful deterrent prevented their returning. What actually happened to bring about the burning of the whole establishment is still an unsolved mystery, but it is a fact that Troy II was totally destroyed" [16] .

The mystery remains, and the range of speculation is both limited and expanded. We are compelled to put aside the Schliemann reconstruction as a rather complete fictional tale. In doing so, we are led to the alternative that some huge natural force ruined Schliemann's Troy. Enemy forces had not shown a gradual "intent" to destroy Troy, else the Treasure would have been packed and readied for transport. The disaster did not begin by slow degrees, else it would have permitted exit by the main gate. Or perhaps, to avoid panic or disorder, the Treasure was being sneaked out of town.

Might it have been an earthquake followed by fire? There are few indications of fallen stones. It would not have been these that prevented the Treasure from being carried out the Gate of the city. Although the scene that we are reconstructing was not created by a great earthquake, a mild earthquake may have occurred. If it did, it had not prompted the government to abandon the town up to this last moment of disaster. Valuable objects were strewn on the floors of numerous homes. The evidence from "the depths of the Temple of Athena," where bones and skeletons were found, is ambiguous: people, sensing an earthquake, flee from the crashing roofs and walls of their structures. A large quantity of bones was found in the debris of, and next to, adjoining apartments [17] . Were these people trapped and buried by the quake? Possibly. Or did they die of heat or suffocation and were their bones preserved freakishly while most bodies were quickly consumed by intense heat?

The main event may have been a sudden fall of ashes that began as a light warm shower and then developed into a heavy downpour of hot material. The fall would have incinerated all organic material except those people, plants and animals that were already in deep refuge where they suffocated and were later buried. It would have melted all exposed supplies of metal and partially exposed metal parts. Within a space of hours the city would have been covered and its life ended.

There would have been no survivors or enemy awaiting outside to reoccupy the destroyed city, excavate it, collect its treasures, enjoy its strategic location [18] , and carry on or provide a substitute for its culture. If there were, they would have been blasted, drowned in ashes or suffocated by gases while the city disappeared before their eyes.

The destroyed setting does not support a firestorm, such as incendiary bombs, dropped en masse from airplanes, inflicted upon the cities of Dresden and Hamburg in World War II. There the ash levels were insignificant, because "firestorm winds scour the burned area clean" [19] .

The setting suggests the action of Vesuvius in burying Pompeii and Herculaneum, the one in falling cinders and ashes, the other in towering lava flows. It was the falling ash and gases that buried and suffocated the people whose images were recovered seventeen hundred years later. Some had chosen not to flee and took refuge in their houses; others could not flee; still others were drowned in ashes while in flight. Pliny the Elder was gassed to death as he stood, miles away, directing a rescue operation.

The destruction wrought by the explosions and collapse of the islet of Krakatoa off Java in 1883 was done largely by tidal waves [20] . Although many persons were burned severely and succumbed to exhaustion in the hot ash-laden and gas-polluted air, the fall of ashes was not great enough to bury houses. The fall-out colors are not well-described; at least white, gray, black, brown, green, and red material was mentioned.

Examining the territory around Troy (modern Hisarlik), we find no active or extinct volcanoes [21] . Mount Ida, famous in Homer, is 30 miles to the Southwest of Hisarlik. It is not reported as an active or extinct volcano. At 30 miles of distance, in order to have caused an ash-rain that would bury Troy, it would have had to explode in successive bursts of fury, exceeding the Krakatoan and Vesuvian (79 A. D.) disasters.

The Thera-Santorini explosion of late Minoan culture occurred hundreds of miles away in the South Aegean Sea, and is not synchronized [22] . In any event, although it might have generated waves capable of battering the coastline of northwest Asia Minor, its ash-fall would probably not have reached so far and so heavily. Ninkovich and Heezen seem to have found that the overwhelming fallout of Thera ash occurred in the Southeastern Mediterranean Sea.

Yet geologists might consider whether internal earth stresses could have induced not only the familiar cone volcanoes but also fissure eruptions, which, no matter how voluminously eruptive, leave little evidence for the unsuspecting eye once they have become extinct. A geologist might then search for some scars and volcanic products on the modern landscape.

It is well to remind ourselves that Homer, in describing at least one Trojan war, has Mt. Ida behaving in peculiar ways when the gods of heaven enter the battle of Greeks and Trojans:

"From high above the father of gods and men made thunder terribly, while Poseidon from deep under them shuddered all the illimitable earth, the sheer heads of mountains. And all the feet of Ida with her many waters were shaken and all her crests, and the city of Troy, the ships of the Achaians" [23] .

The underworld god shrieked in terror and leapt from his throne at the prospect that "Poseidon might break the earth open." And Hera laid such a dense fog upon the battlefield that none could see to engage. There is a terrible fire over the whole scene that "first was kindled on the plain" and parched it and burned the dead warriors, then turned to the river, boiling it and its tributaries. Hera, wife of Zeus, ordered up tempests from seaward to fan the flames, which another sky-god and also volcano god, Hephaistos (Vulcan), had started. All of this bespeaks volcanism with accompanying earthquakes, and possibly fissure volcanism too. Here again, we should remind ourselves that a) the site of the "real Troy" may not be the Hisarlik site, b) there may have been several wars over the site through the ages, c) the war of which Homer sang was possibly an image of several partially idealized wars, and d) the final Homeric war probably occurred, if Velikovsky's reconstruction is followed (which eliminates the Greek Dark Age), in the late eighth and early seventh centuries. Troy IIg therefore existed at an earlier time, and we are quoting here passages regarding the landscape, nature forces, and effects of a later age or composite of ages. The date of destruction of the "Burnt City" is not at issue here.

The ancients were adamant concerning the activities of the great sky gods. Hence a look into the skies for the cause of the burial of Schliemann's Troy is not unreasonable. But will it be only for the effects of remote volcanism? An anomalous detail demands attention: Schliemann mentions that the stones of the road out of the gate had been heated to the point of disintegration but, a few feet further out, the stones continued in good condition. The natural force seems here to have been selective, destroying by heat the crown of the hill, but sparing at least this part of the plain around. Alternatively the outer stones may have been relaid at a later period, or the first fires may have consumed the city premises alone, with the ash-fall coming later. Or again, at the Vitaliano's suggestion, should we return to an attacking force that heaped fires before the wooden gate to force an entrance; too, they may have hurled or shot many fiery brands at the gate. The total context is indeed important to bear in mind, whatever its complexity.

Lightning can be hot and selective and may focus upon elevations. Ancient lightning and fire have received little attention from archaeologists and geologists. E. V. Komarek, Sr. writes, "I believe that the reason we have so little information on ancient fire scars or lightning streaks is that apparently no one has searched for them" [24] .

Seneca, the Roman author, has a character in Thyestes begging Jupiter to bring disaster upon Earth "not with the hands that seek out houses and undeserving homes, using your lesser bolts, but with that hand by which the threefold mass of mountains fell ... These arms let loose and hurl your fires" [25] . Could there have been a qualitatively different kind of Jovian thunderbolt playing about the world in mythical and prehistoric times? A ramified bolt of hundreds of strokes is not impossible to imagine. The myriad lightning and fire effects in the Krakatoa disaster are worth recalling, but these occurred within a radius of a few kilometres [26] . The mysterious melted copper and lead, alluded to above, which covered a large area, according to Schliemann, might have originally been deposits that contributed to the attractiveness of the site for lightning discharges.

They form a "stratum of scoriae, which runs through the greater part of the hill, at an average depth of 9 metres( 29 1/ 2 feet)." Were they stored by the Trojans or were they "welded scoriae (Schweisschlacken)" of volcanoes; that is, fragments carried up by the powerful blast of expanding gases, ejected in a molten state, and solidifying after falling with a smacking sound back to the ground? --"upon impact, they are squashed out flat, and are welded together where they fall" [27] . Volcanoes are not known to eject such scoriae to any considerable distance.

Still another possibility needs to be added: a meteoric fall or shower, Homer's "divine-kindled fire of stones." If a large meteor had passed nearby without crashing, its immense heat would have consumed and raised into the sky the ashes of countless trees and the dust of exploded and cyclonized fields. But the people appear to have had warning, however brief.

A veritable deluge of meteoric particles from outer space, as from a large comet's tail, might produce and contribute to combustion and burial. A cometary or planetary near-encounter, and resulting fall of gases, hydrocarbons, burning pitch, and stones, of course, is Velikovsky's "first cause." Even metals (again the layer of copper and lead) have been reputed to fall. Such events are unknown to modern experience but are indicated by ancient legends from many places [28] , and by various geological and biological phenomena [29] .

We cannot ignore the Biblical sources that speak of "fire and brimstone (sulphur)" such as that which wiped out "the cities of the plain." The Cincinnati team writes in several places of the greenish-yellow discoloration characteristically found in the debris of streets and other once open areas [30] . Was this brimstone?

The clays are curious. Area 210 of the city shows much disintegrated clay and debris, plus pots, but no signs of burning. A house of Square A3-4 is in ruins "covered by a mass of clay more than 0.50 meters thick, which has turned red from the effects of internal heat" [31] . The roofs were of clay and wood, but the depth is remarkable and so is the color. Is there more than one kind of clay in the ruins? Is this the same "red" that Schliemann reports as "the red ashes of Trojan wood?" For that matter, is it part of the omnipresent red dust that Velikovsky pursues through early references from numerous cultures in connection with the planet Venus [32] ?

At this stage of research, one craves evidence that the rude Achaeans were quite stupid but were geniuses at setting great fires from above. Or that all excavators exaggerated in their reports. Barring these explanations, the evidence speaks, or rather, whispers faintly, on behalf of a regional multiple volcanic explosion of gases, hot scoriae and ashes, some element of which rained down suddenly and heavily upon Troy, burning, burying, and baking. The Treasure of Priam would be buried atop the wall where it had been placed as its bearers cast a final despairing glance upon the abysmal world on all sides.

One should be warned, however, that a theory of concurrent regional plinian eruptions would call up a search for causes of a more fundamental kind. Volcanism on a grand scale is another word for general catastrophe: What force can roil up the mantle and wrench around so much of the crust of the Earth at a single moment of time?


The mystery of the "Burnt City" of Troy will soon be a century old, but its solution may be within grasp. It can now be reviewed in light of substantial advances in empirical technique and general additional and spectacular theories. The latter are provided most forcibly by Claude Schaeffer and Immanuel Velikovsky.

In 1948, Professor Schaeffer, who had excavated at Ras Shamra-Ugarit, published a treatise on comparative stratigraphy of the Near and Middle East during the Bronze Ages of the second millennium B. C. He incorporate the work of many predecessors, including the investigators of Troy-Hisarlik, into a theory that a sequence of fires and earthquakes had destroyed Bronze Age civilizations concurrently, several time over, in the vast area stretching from Troy and Egypt to Persia, and even beyond into China. Similar phenomena are recorded for Etruria (Tuscany), Meso-America, and elsewhere [33] and might someday be synchronized. At the time of Troy IIg, reports the Cambridge Ancient History (I: 2, 406), following in Schaeffer's footsteps, three-quarters of the settlements of western and southern Anatolia were permanently destroyed.

Although he is a catastrophic revisionist, Schaeffer has not gone deeply into causes. He demonstrated the hard evidence of universal destruction. He invoked earthquakes followed by fire, or where earthquakes were not in evidence, simply enormous calcination. He exculpated invaders as the destroyers of civilization in many instances, even though he employed conventional terms such as "the Peoples of the Sea" that are used to explain the abrupt termination of many civilized communities. He can point often to disturbed and unsettled human elements who came upon the sites afterward.

(Significantly, Blegen had already shown that a new cultural element did not succeed Troy IIg; the Troy III culture was closely related [34] . This is remarkable because the calcinated debris of Troy IIg was never dug out and was probably unknown, yet the debris of the old city was strong enough to become the foundation of the new city walls.)

In his command of the natural sciences involved and their interweaving with ancient sources and psychology, Velikovsky has excelled all writers on questions of catastrophe. Working independently, he published in 1950 his account of universal destruction of the second half of the second millennium. He asserted that heavy seismic disturbances and devastating flames consumed the same ancient civilizations. But, with the aid of ancient legends and documents, he insisted upon the role of overall volcanism, heavy meteoric falls, and as "first cause," a derangement of the planetary system that brought down upon the earth the proverbial "wrath of the gods," not only Olympian gods, but Hebrew, Egyptian, Babylonian, Olmec and other gods [35] .

Unfortunately, for twenty-five years, the assemblages of ideas and facts of Schaeffer and Velikovsky, "an extraordinary polymath," in the words of the late Columbia University classicist, Moses Hadas, were subjected to unscientific vilification. Schaeffer, Professor at the Sorbonne and a renowned excavator, has been hardly cited for his magnum opus. Few scholars have been ready to confront the anomalies of their own findings. One exception was Spiridon Marinatos, who plunged to his death in 1974 at the famous site of his work. His excavation of the Minoan culture of Thera-Santorini, from beneath the effects of the plinian explosion of the island, called international and interdisciplinary attention to the destruction of a critical portion of Mediterranean civilization.

But Blegen of Cincinnati was also an exception; he was disposed to a cautious empiricism, but was piqued by the strange events that had befallen Minoan and Mycenaean civilization. In the voluminous published records of the Cincinnati expedition, we find the following lines:

"A large collection of earth samples was also made this year. (1937). Specimens were taken from all strata of all main layers in the principle areas of digging, and the number of small bags thus collected exceeded 400. They were shipped to Cincinnati for scientific examination by specialists in geology and botany" [36] .

When, in 1974, we discovered this passage, we made inquiry, only to find that the sample had never been analyzed. The long period of World War II had intervened. Personnel left, never to return. Other interests took priority. The samples rested in their cloth bags in the attic of McMicken Hall at the University of Cincinnati. Finally, in 1975, material from the bags was provided to Professor George Rapp of the University of Minnesota for eventual analysis. This material will serve for the first calcinological testing of the causes of the destruction of Troy-Hisarlik. It will perhaps form the basis of testing also the more general theories advanced as to the causes of the destruction of many ancient civilizations.

What questions should be asked of these humble sacks of debris, and, by extension, of all similar samples to be drawn from other destroyed settlements? In other words, of what should consist the science that investigates ancient destruction by combustion -- call it "calcinology," perhaps?

We may address this question either by taking up one by one the theories as to the origins of the combustion, or by taking up the techniques for the investigation of combustion. In respect to the theories, one would inquire into the possibilities of one or a combination of accidental fire; "the invader's torch"; Greek Fire; seismic-caused fire; explosive local volcanism from fissures or now extinct cones; fall-out of tephra from remote, perhaps general, volcanism; ramified lightning; petroleum (bitumen, asphalt, naphtha) rain, non-volcanic and extraterrestrial; and gas explosion in the atmosphere, terrestrial or extraterrestrial by origin.

In respect to the techniques, one would speak of ambiance induction; artifact analysis; comparative historical deduction; thermal-visual examination; morphological examination; electron scanning microscopy; chemical mineralogical tests; thermo-luminescence tests; tests for paleo-magnetism. Inasmuch as individual techniques may dispose of more than one theory, it may be best to proceed by offering a few words concerning their relevance.

Fundamental to pursuing all causal alternatives is a careful inductive study of the ambiance of combustion. Whether performed on records of past expeditions or upon a setting itself, a skeptical and fully alert reading or examination is required. We have entertained too close a circle of interests and hypotheses; the Trojan record shows this. So do hundreds of other excavation reports.

First of all, an interdisciplinary group of scientist must set standards and criteria for entering upon a testable location. Conventional archaeology has certainly proceeded far along these lines, but new parameters need to be added, taken from geology and meteorology, as for instance, the effects of wind and the strength of building materials. The camera that has come to play an important part in contemporary investigations needs to be aimed at the hypotheses, so to speak. The pioneering work of the engineer, C. Lerice, in magnetomatic and radiotropic anterior probing of subsurface forms is worthy of generalization to standard practice. Standards for measuring depth of debris, original and actual density of calcination, percentage of ash content, and architectural and object deformities should be set up. Pre-selection and logging of samples should be systematically done in the manner of the Cincinnati expedition of 1937.

The analysis of artifacts is sometimes conducted as part of a treasure hunt. To this day, objects from the Treasure of Priam have not been studied carefully to determine whether they have been fused by heat or by oxidation. Objects are described as they are found but not to the extent that a specific set of hypotheses is applied to each object as to how it might have been placed or dropped, or slipped, or fallen as a result of direct or indirect natural causes.

Nor has an inductive, comparative, historical method been always conscientiously pursued. A single anomaly in a closed layer may be worth more to science than a golden chalice. To dismiss the anomaly as an "impossible" intrusion, a "similarity", and "forerunner" is all too common practice. The attempt of the University of Cincinnati expedition to reconcile the anomalies of location of their carefully uncovered sherds in the face of the conventional Egyptian-anchored chronology is a case in point. "The discovery of these 7th-century sherds 'in several areas in the strata of Troy VIIb1 stratified below layer VIIb2', which is supposed to represent the 12th century, "presents a perplexing and still unexplained problem." [37] . Fortunately the self-restraining, objective empirical techniques of the expedition simply stood even against an authoritative chronology at a later date. One goal of calcinology is to establish a frame of analysis that can be transferred from one excavation to another both to interlock events and to serve eventual critiques of received versions of the comparative development (and destruction) of civilizations.

I should place in the same category of historical comparative method the application of mythology. Dorothy Vitaliano, pursuing a strict uniformitarian theory, has nonetheless exemplified the necessary marriage between myth and geology that research properly demands; to her, myth serves as a clue to past events, especially when they are extraordinarily forceful [38] . Sometimes, as in the case of Troy, there are direct myths describing events overtaking the site. In other cases, myths may be transferred from other times and places as hypotheses.

The examination of bones found in circumstances of combustion may well be expanded. Paleosteology ordinarily does not address itself to the degree of heat to which human remains have been subjected, or whether the heat was searing or slow. For example, a separate volume in the Cincinnati Troy series, its other merits aside, does not answer questions relevant to the sudden destruction of the city [39] . How much heat reached the people whose skeletons remained? Would the heat elsewhere have erased entirely any humans and animals? Contemporary arson experts can transfer their "know-how" to such queries.

Contemporary fire experts and combustion chemists can also contribute useful principles for the visual examination of thermal effects. A high sensitivity to variations in color and texture is still not a prerequisite for professional archaeology. Conversations with persons concerned with combustion problems come around repeatedly to unanswerable questions of color, stains, textures, bubbles and cracks.

The morphology of combustion environments would deal with terrain features that might have altered, of for that matter remained significantly unaltered, in the course of the destructive combustion. Earthquakes uplift and crack the earth. Volcanic and seismic fissures leave different traces. Lightning can burn and dig distinctive fissures as well.

It would be useful to perform core drillings in the hinterland of destroyed settlements to discover whether the ash trapped about the ruins is also present in some natural lowland areas of slow deposition, removed from human habitations. Recently, for example, the Athens Metro project tested the subsoil to a depth of 20 meters in 228 locations for the purpose of planning subway construction. Archealogical finds were noted and covered over, but the ordinary corings were not handled properly for the analysis of combustion or other natural phenomena. Almost all samples show "Athens schist," a vague term for sandstone, siltstones and the like; most of the preserved cores are disturbed and eroded by water used in the drilling [40] . (The rock cores, incidentally, show highly intense fracturing near the surface.)

Unfortunately, oil exploration does not concern itself with logging the cores brought up from the near subsurface of wells during the drilling [41] . It may be possible in the future to make a cooperative arrangement with petroleum geologists to provide such data. Apart from its usefulness to social and natural history, near subsurface samples may reveal chemical and morphological peculiarities of areas overhanging oil pools, such as distillates of hydrocarbons indicating surface origins. (Again, this would appear to be an appropriate scientific response, as there are frequent references in myth to rains of sticky substances from the sky.)

This conjecture leads naturally to inquiry into the composition of shales, clays, and soils found in connection with ancient destruction. An analysis of "samples that cover depositional chemical environments ranging from continental and coastal soils to marsh and subtidalmarine deposits" of recent ages had disclosed complex polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon assemblages (PAH) with "a high degree of similarity in the molecular weight distribution of the many series of alkyl homologs" [42] . This PAH is carcinogenic and mutagenic. The soils sampled were from widely separated locations on and off the New England coastal region. Forest pyrolysis and atmospheric transport was suggested. A search for other nonbiological organic compounds was indicated. The cause of such an immense fire is conjectural, as is indeed the postulate of the fire itself.

Are we so swollen with pride that we cannot review Ignatius Donnelly's Ragnarok (1883) and not gain from it at least a doubt as to the origins of some of the world's clays? Clay is conventionally assigned to sedimentation or decomposed structural material, without inquiring as to possible volcanic or other sources. Yet a geological walk along many a Greek island beach may pass across deposits of pumice dust and of gray clay that visually suggests bentonite. Donnelly claimed a cometary origin for a heavy rain of fire and gravel that destroyed part of the globe and most of mankind. What does the new geology say to this? At least in regard to calcinated settlement debris and top open area subsurfaces nearby, what is called for is an increased resort to professional morphological, visual, and tactile examination, then to chemical mineralogical tests, and also to electron scanning microscopy.

Reference was made earlier to the extraordinary layer of copper and lead scoriae found by Schliemann in the burnt city. Is this mined ore, purified metal, or ore in a natural state? The origins of metals are not a settled matter. There is too long a stone age, too ready an access to ores, too abundant a mythology to relax in the arms of conventional theory.

Sample tests are generally inexpensive and well structured; they require only small amounts of material, often only a gram. But of course, the sampling technique is critical and a manual of instructions for sampling calcination with a mind to covering all hypotheses raised by this paper is a task for the future.

The idea that thermo-luminescence, radiocarbon, potassium-argon, and fission-tract dating techniques can be applied to combustion studies with good effect is natural but perhaps overly optimistic. Of course, calcinology is interested in dating inasmuch as one of its aims is the establishment of concurrences in destruction; if two spatially separated combustion processes point to the same or related causes, then their dating will not only confirm their relationship but will also permit a more secure dating of other sites where similar combustion but insufficiently related artifacts and structures are discovered.

Thermal effects encountered on calcinated sites play a large role in permitting age-determinations (as in thermoluminescence tests and fission-track dating) by providing a basal date from which calculations of age may be made, and in obscuring chronology by contaminating burned substances through mixing, as in radiocarbon dating. However, it will be of interest to apply long-term dating techniques such as the potassium-argon method if only to check whether the test gives an impossibly old date to a recent volcanic event. Where uranium minerals have been used to give color to artifacts of glass, the fission-track technique may provide reliable dates and a check on radiocarbon dates. If an artificial glass is subjected subsequent to its manufacture to combustion temperatures of over 600 degrees centigrade, the fission-tracks may be partially or entirely erased, permitting the date of the new calcination to be determined from the tracks now present. Tracks in volcanic glass should date the eruption that produced it. Extra-terrestrial microtektites lend themselves also to fission-track dating and can be searched for in ruins [43] .

Tests for radiation levels of the debris are indicated because of the possibility that the destruction may have involved atmospheric or air-transported agents. For instance the radiation levels would vary from the norm if lightning had struck or a meteoric pass-by had greatly raised temperature levels. Lightning effects may also be indicated by magnetization of metal pieces; for this reason and also to determine whether a change in the magnetic pole had occurred, supposing a catastrophe to have been widespread, the then-exposed rocks should be tested for abnormal magnetism, and ceramic sherds of successive levels should be tested for the same and for possible reversal of direction from one level to another.

As the gamut of tests and procedures is subjected to the concerted attention of scholars of relevant fields, it may be expected that a system of producers and a battery of tests will evolve -- simpler, easier to employ, practicable given the conditions of archaeological exploration. The resultant research and testing would possibly confirm that archaeology and geophysics have overlooked some significant part of the absolutely small fund of ancient data. At that point, not too far away, we may begin to speak of a new subfield of science called paleo-calcinology.

And when this task is finished, we might turn to another new subfield, which beckoned us temptingly even as we tried to concentrate upon calcination, paleo-seismism. Here the implication is that the Mercalli scale may be quite inadequate to denominate thrusting, folding, and crustal rising and falling that may have occurred in the time of man, and that the present awareness of settlement sites is merely fractional; much more may have disappeared or is effectively hidden so as to lend a false perspective to the human story.

Also paleo-diluviology, the study of ancient floods and tidalism. And still another, paleo-meteorology, a study that would include the great winds that can sweep away everything down to bed rock, given the slightest faltering of the earth's rotation, or the passage of any substantial material from outer space through the atmosphere. Part of the total task, we seem to be saying, is to separate ancient real occurrences from ancient myth. The larger task is to distinguish real ancient catastrophism from literal theology, not to denigrate theology but so as to recognize catastrophism for what it did to shape man and his environment.


The author's interest in the calcinology of Troy led the University of Cincinnati authorities to propose an investigation of samples of debris that had been stored for many years at the University. Generous grants were obtained from several foundations and in 1982, the Princeton University Press published Supplementary Monograph 4 of the University of Cincinnati Excavation at Troy, under the title of Troy: the Archaeological Geology, by George Rapp, Jr. and John A. Gifford. The present author, whose own research proposal had failed to receive support, was not consulted at any stage of this work. However, since his original memorandum, on which the preceding article was based, had been made available to the investigators in the very beginning and he had called their attention to the possibilities residing in the neglected samples, there may have resulted some effect on what was done in the investigations.

If so, it is not notable in the book just cited. The book does not state its hypotheses. Its tests discovered only that in almost all samples, whatever the level, a reed (arundo donox) occurred; the finding lacks significance since the reed is used in making bricks. In sample number 81 (p. 130) of Phase IId, burned earth was analyzed to revel charcoal, bone, and pelecypod fragments. There appears to be nothing of further interest to calcinology proceeding from the entire investigation. The soil samples were not, however, exhausted, and a future investigation is still possible, hopefully by means more sophisticated than those described in the published work. The senior author, without serious defense of the thesis, seems to support earthquakes as the cause of destruction. ('... one earthquake of Richter magnitude greater than seven to affect the Troad about every three hundred years. ' (p. 46)).

Notes (Chapter 2: The Burning of Troy)

1. This paper is an expanded version of one that was first presented on June 18, 1974 before the international symposium -- Velikovsky and the Recent History of the Solar System -- held at McMaster Univ., Hamilton, Ontario, and was published in Volumes I: 4 and II: 1 of Kronos magazine. The author is wholly responsible for the theory and presentation of this report. He wishes to acknowledge his obligation, however, to a number of persons who kindly supplied information and advice as he was preparing it. Among them are: C. C. Chandler, Director of Forest Fire and Atmospheric Sciences Research, U. S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service; Arthur Brown, Geological Engineer, Technical Consultant, Athens Metro Project; Ruben G. Bullard, Department of Geology, Cincinnati Bible Seminary; J. L. Caskey, Professor of Archaeology, University of Cincinnati; Dr. Howard W. Emmons, Karman Laboratory of Fluid Mechanics and Jet Propulsion, California Institute of Technology; John Greeley, Professor of Physics, University of the Bosphorus; Billie Glass, Associate Professor of Geology, University of Delaware, Newark; W. A. Hans, Engineer, Fire Protection Department, Underwriters Laboratories Inca; John Gnaedinger, President, Soil Testing Services Inc., Northbrook, Ill; Jorg Keller, Professor of Mineralogy, University of Freiburg, West Germany; G. Marinos, Director, Department of Geology and Paleontology, University of Athens; Dr. Charles D. Ninkovich, Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory, Palisades, N. Y.; Dr. Gerd Roesler, Consulting Geologist, Naxos, Greece; Eugene Vanderpool, Archaeological Photographer, American School of Classical Studies, Athens; Eddie Schorr, Archaeologist, Houston, Texas; Dorothy Vitaliano, Associate Professor of Geology, University of Indiana, Bloomington, Ind.; Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky, Princeton, N. J.

2. Claude F. A. Schaeffer, Stragigraphie comparée et chronologic de l'Asie Occidentale (London: Oxford U. Press, 1948), p. 7.

3. J. W. Mayor, Jr summarizes the work of Marinatos and Galanopoulos in "A Mighty Bronze Age Volcanic Explosion," XII Oceanus (Woods Hole, Mass.), 3 April 1966, and Voyage to Atlantis (New York: Putnam's Sons, 1969). Christos Doumas summarizes the latest "official" theory of the succession of events at Thera in Antiquity XL VIII (1974), 110-15, plates. Also, cf. D. Ninkovich and B. C. Heezen, "Santorini Tephra," Colston Research Society Papers, 17 (1965), 415-53; the papers of J. Keller, D. L. Page, and C. and D. Vitaliano in Acta of the First International Scientific Congress on the Volcano in Thera, Greece, 1969 (Athens, 1971); and C. and D. Vitaliano, "Volcanic Tephra on Crete," Amer. Jrnl. Archaeology, Vol. 78, no. 1, Jan. 1974, pp. 19-24.

4. IX Anatolian Studies (1959).

5. This and the following quotations are from pages 16-17, 348, and 325 of H. Schliemann, Troy and Its Remains (1875).

6. Ibid., p. 330. Schaeffer, op. cit., 223-4, claims that he saw no evidence of flame-exposure (feu d'un incendie) on the objects exhibited at the Berlin Museum from the treasure, and suggests chemical fusion. Also, radiative heat would be an alternative to "chemical fusion" if one must be sought.

7. Schliemann, op. cit., p. 333.

8. Ibid., pp. 334-5.

9. Ibid., p. 340.

10. Ibid., p. 302; cf. p. 347. The walls and gates of ancient cities had usually an orientation to the cardinal directional points. The "de-alignment" of successive Trojan escarpments is itself cause for suspecting and investigating a possible reorientation of the hill.

11. Communication of March 7, 1984. Bruce V. Ettling and Mark F. Adams accelerated combustion of woods, cotton cloth, and plastics by hydrocarbons (fuel oil, gasoline, could be etc.) and discovered by gas chromatography that accelerate hydrocarbons could be distinguished from the natural hydrocarbons in the char. (" The study of Accelerate Residues in fire Remains," N. D. offprint, Washington State University. College of Engineering Research).

12. Allan O. Kelly & Frank Dachille. Target: Earth, The Role of Large Meteors in Earth Science (Carlsbad, Calif.: the authors, 1953), p. 192.

13. Loc. cit.

14. Blegen, Troy and the Trojans (London: Thames and Hudson, 1963), pp. 161-4. Troy IIg is presently dated to ca. 2200 B. C. by the conventional chronology.

15. Ibid, p. 69. There is a contradiction here with fin. 13, as to how many bones were found.

16. Ibid., p. 70.

17. Op. cit., p. 17.

18. It is well to stress that an influential school of experts on Troy consider the Trojan War( s) to have been essentially a struggle for the command of the Dardanelles, through which heavy commerce funneled. Cf. Emile Mireaux, Les Poems Homériques et l'Histoire Grecque, 2 vols. ( pairs: Albin Michel, 1948), ch. II, XIV, et passim. A strategic city that had to be put to good economic use might be thoroughly destroyed, short-sightedly, and another later on built upon the site. Even if this were true of Troy VII, would it have been also true of the earliest Troys, a habitual shortsightedness?

19. Chandler, loc. cit.

20. Rupert Furneaux, Krakatoa (1964).

21. Communication from Prof. Jorg Keller, Institute of Mineralogy, Univ. of Freiburg, June, 1974.

22. Israel M. Isaacson (E. M. S.), "Some Preliminary Remarks about Thera and Atlantis," KRONOS I, 2 (Summer, 1975). pp. 93 ff.

23. Iliad (Lattimore trans., 1951), p. 405.

24. "Lightning and Fire Ecology in Africa," Proceedings Annual Tall Timbers Fire Ecology Conference (April 22-23, 1971), 473-511,475.

25. Quoted in I. Velikovsky, Worlds in Collision (N. Y., 1950), p. 218.

26. Furneaux, op. cit., 73, 97, et passim.

27. A. Rittmann, Volcanoes and Their Activity, trans. by E. A. Vincent (1962), pp. 12-13. 218.

28. Worlds in Collision, especially "The Hail of Stones," "Naphtha," "Ambrosia," "Rivers of Milk and Honey," "Samples from the Planets."

29. Harold Urey, "Cometary Collisions and Geological Periods," 242 Nature (March 2, 1973), p. 32; Velikovsky, Earth in Upheaval (1955), 147-53.

30. Troy (Princeton, N. J.: Princeton U. Press), Vol. 1, 325, 363.

31. Ibid., p. 373.

32. Cf. Worlds in Collision. 48-51, "The Red World."

33. CF. Nicola Rilli, Gli Etruschi a Sesto Fiorentino (Firenze: Tipografia Giuntina, 1964). Also, Michael D. Coe R. A. Diehl, and M. Stuiver, "Olmec Civilization, Veracruz, Mexico: Dating of the San Lorenzo Phase," 155 Science (1967), 1399-1401 (the authors report that many pieces of asphalt litter the excavated ruin level). F. Wendorf, et. al., "Egyptian Prehistory," 169 Science (18 Sept. 1970), no. 3951, pp. 1163, 1169 and figure 1, speak of widespread brush fire in reference to a bed of ash in the Nile Valley. Geologist Louis Lartel, in his first studies of Cro-Magnon man near Les Eyzies-de-Tayec, Dordogne, in 1868 uncovered five archaeological layers covered with ash. And so forth.

34. Op. cit., p. 700.

35. E. C. Baity, "Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy Thus Far," 14 Current Anthropology (October, 1973), 389-449.

36. Vol. I, p. 17.

37. I. M. Isaacson, "Applying the Revised Chronology," IV Pensee, no 4, 5, p. 14, quoting C. W. Blegen, Troy, V. IV, 1, p. 158.

38. Legends of the Earth (Bloomington: Indiana U. Press, 1973).

39. J. Lawrence Angle, Troy: The Human Remains (Princeton, N. J.: Princeton U. Press, 1951).

40. Site visit with Arthur Brown, Geologist and technical consultant, Athens Metro Project, September 11, 1974.

41. Communication of April 24, 1974 from K. F. Huff, Manager, Exploration Division, Exxon.

42. M. Blumer and W. W. Youngblood, "Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Soils and Recent Sediments," Science (April 4, 1975), p. 53.

43. W. Gentner, B. P. Glass, D. Storzer and G. A. Wagner, "Fission Track Ages and Ages of Deposition of Deep-Sea Microtektites," 168 Science (17 April 1970), 359-61.


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