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No. 66: Nov-Dec 1989

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Doubts About Two Ritually Recited Theories

Do you think humans originated in Africa? We have heard for so long now that modern humans got their start in Africa. (This assertion is as hackneyed as: "Life began in a warm little pond"!) There is, of course, some evidence for the African claim. Studies of genetic material and the fossil record are suggestive, although the latter includes the Middle East as a possible birthplace. Other data, however, put the "founding group" of modern humans in Southeast Asia.

The iconoclast here is C.G. Turner, II, an anthropologist at Arizona State University. He has analyzed secondary dental traits (number of roots, bumps, etc.) of 12,000 individuals from around the world - both ancient and modern. Turner believes that the "great web of humanity" originated in Southeast Asia. Since then, two large populations, each recognizable by their dental features, have evolved.: (1) northeast Asians and the ancient residents of the Americas; and (2) southeast Asians, Europeans, ancient Australians, and Africans. Also of note is the close resemblance between native Australians and Africans.

(Bower, B.; "Asian Human Origin Theory Gets New Teeth," Science News, 136:100, 1989.)

Did the eruption of Thera do in the Minoans? According to popular archeolo-gical doctrine, the eruption of a volcano on the island of Thera destroyed the great Minoan civilzation on Crete. Tidal waves, a thick ash blanket, and fires set when quakes overturned oil lamps did the job. This vivid, riveting scenario has been repeated again and again in the media until it seems to be a fact instead of a theory.

"Unfortunately, it seems to have been pure myth. Over the past decade or so, evidence against Marinato's theory has been piling up. Much of it has come from unlikely sources - the Greenland ice sheet, for instance, and trees in California and Ireland. Most of this evidence points to the same conclusion: Whatever precipitated the Minoan collapse, it was porbably not Thera. The volcano seems to have erupted more than a century before Minoan civilization died."

Briefly, although the explosion of Thera certainly occurred, it was too early. Further, its tidal waves were greatly exaggerated (really only about 30 feet high instead of 600 feet), and most of Thera's ash fell east of Thera, with less than half an inch on Crete itself. The shock of Thera's eruption, 70 miles from Crete, would have been slight - hardly enough to knock over many lamps, although fire does seem to have been a factor in the demise of Cretean civilization.

In sum, the cause of the collapse of the Minoan culture still eludes us.

(Chen, Allan; "The Thera Theory," Discover, 10:77, February 1989.)

Comment. It is interesting to note that signs of conflagration are present in the ruins of Troy.

From Science Frontiers #66, NOV-DEC 1989. 1989-2000 William R. Corliss