Showing posts with label history. Show all posts
Showing posts with label history. Show all posts

Scientific Analysis of Meteor Strike Confirms Biblical Account of Sodom's Destruction

Circa 1650 B.C.E. a 50 meter wide meteor destroyed the ancient Middle Eastern city of Tall el-Hammam and all of its inhabitants, perhaps inspiring the narrative of the destruction of Sodom found in the Bible.


BY NANCY ATKINSON

This article was first published in Universe Today

An archeological dig has uncovered evidence of a massive cosmic airburst event approximately 3,600 years ago that destroyed an entire city near the Dead Sea in the Middle East. The event was larger than the famous Tunguska airburst event in Russia in 1908, with a blast 1,000 times more powerful than the Hiroshima atomic bomb. The event flattened the thriving city of Tall el-Hammam, located in what is now Jordan.

Using evidence unearthed in the dig along with an online impact calculator, the researchers estimate a space rock approximately 50 meters wide exploded about 4 km (2.5 miles) above the Earth, sending a blinding flash and a wave of heat at 2,000 degrees (3,600 F). This would have immediately incinerated wood structures and bodies, and melted any metal objects like swords or spears, and even pottery and mudbrick structures.

But the destruction wasn’t over. A few seconds later, a massive shockwave leveled everything, including a 4-to-5-story palace complex and a large 4-m-thick mudbrick fortification wall.

The authors of the paper, published in Nature Scientific Reports, say that although this doesn’t fall into their area of expertise, “an eyewitness description of this 3600-year-old catastrophic event may have been passed down as an oral tradition that eventually became the written biblical account about the destruction of Sodom.” Sodom was the city, which, according to biblical texts, was destroyed for its lecherousness, with stones and fire falling from the sky. However, this story originates from a time when many natural disasters were blamed on the anger of the gods.

Location of Tall el-Hammam. Photo of the southern Levant, looking north, showing the Dead Sea, the site location (TeH), and nearby countries. The Dead Sea Rift, the fault line marking a major tectonic plate boundary, runs through the area. Credits: NASA, West et al.

In many sites in the Middle East, archeological digs or studies reveal several layers of past habitation that have religious or nationalist significance for more than one ethnic group, where the victor of wars or conquests built upon the ruins of the city or buildings it just conquered – with the cycle repeating over the millenniums.

The region around Tall el-Hammam is different however, in that since the end of the Middle Bronze Age, this region in eastern Jordan suffered some sort of civilization-ending calamity, and remained unoccupied for the next five-to-seven hundred years. Additionally, this area was originally one of the most productive agricultural lands in the region, and which had supported flourishing civilizations continuously for at least 3,000 years. But suddenly the soil in the region was inundated with salts where nothing would grow.

This mystery is being investigated by researchers from multiple universities and organizations and archeologists have been working at the Tall el-Hammam site since 2005. Even the earliest archaeological excavations revealed the presence of unusual materials, including melted mudbrick fragments, melted pottery, ash, charcoal, charred seeds, and burned textiles, all intermixed with pulverized mudbrick. Additionally, further digs revealed incredible destruction.

The researchers eliminated the usual suspects, such as warfare, fires, volcanic eruption, or earthquakes because these events were unlikely to cause the kind of destruction they found at the site, and none of those events could have produced the intense heat required to cause the melting that they found.  But then the excavators found spherules of shocked quartz, a tell-tale sign of an intense and sudden high-temperature event such as a cosmic impact.

Catastrophic leveling of the palace at TeH. (a) Artist’s evidence-based reconstruction of the 4-to-5-story palace that was about 52 m long and 27 m wide before its destruction. (b) Artist’s evidence-based reconstruction of palace site on upper tall, along with modern excavation. “MB II” marks the top of 1650-BCE Middle Bronze rubble. Note that the field around the excavation is essentially flat, unlike the view in panel ‘a’. Originally, parts of the 4-story palace were about 12m tall, but afterward, only a few courses of mudbricks remain on stone foundations, labeled as “wall remnants”. Part of the foundation of the massive wall around the palace is at the bottom. Debris from between sheared walls has been removed by excavation. A comparison of panel ‘a’ to panel ‘b’ shows that millions of mudbricks from the upper parts of the palace and other buildings are missing. Credit: West, et al.

“After eleven seasons of excavations, the site excavators independently concluded that evidence pointed to a possible cosmic impact,” the team wrote in their paper. “They contacted our outside group of experts from multiple impact-related and other disciplines to investigate potential formation mechanisms for the unusual suite of high-temperature evidence.”

While an asteroid impact could have created all the evidence found by the archaeologists, that type of event was dismissed because there was no evidence of a crater in the area.

Using an impact calculator, a group of 21 researchers determined the most likely cause of the destruction was a cosmic air burst caused by a comet or meteor. Their calculations showed such an event would result in the unusal destruction found by archaeologists, such as pottery sherds with outer surfaces melted into glass, some bubbled as if they were boiled, mudbrick fragments and “extreme disarticulation and skeletal fragmentation in nearby humans.”

Human bones in the destruction layer. Credit: West et al.

Also, an airburst-related influx of salt produced hypersalinity in the surrounding soil, making agriculture impossible, causing a 600-year-long abandonment of about 120 regional settlements within a 25-km radius.

“We think the explosion may have vaporized or splashed toxic levels of Dead Sea salt water across the valley,” wrote a group of research collaborators in an article in The Conversation (archaeologist Phil Silvia, geophysicist Allen West, geologist Ted Bunch and space physicist Malcolm LeCompte). “Without crops, no one could live in the valley for up to 600 years, until the minimal rainfall in this desert-like climate washed the salt out of the fields.”

Read the team’s paper in Nature Scientific Reports
More information about the Tall el-Hammam excavation can be found at this website



This article is republished from Universe Today under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License / Title and subtitle have been reworded.
Read the original article here.
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New York City Public School Classroom's Recollections of 9/11

Chalkbeat interviewed instructors and kids 20 years later about what they remember of that day of terror.


Image by David Z from Pixabay
By Gabrielle BirknerChalkbeat - September 11, 2021
"On 9/11, they were at school. Here’s what happened inside their classrooms." was originally published by Chalkbeat, a nonprofit news organization covering public education.
Sign up for their newsletters here: chalkbeat.org/pages/newsletters.


It was the beginning of the school day at the beginning of the school year at the beginning of the millennium. Millions of American children were in classrooms on the morning of September 11, 2001, when hijackers flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Then-President George W. Bush was in the classroom, too — reading with young Florida students until his chief of staff whispered in his ear: “America is under attack.”

Across the country that morning, there were hushed conversations among teachers and attempts to explain to students what was happening — or shield them from it. Students remember pained looks on their teachers’ faces. Some said it was the reaction of the adults around them, rather than the images of burning buildings and pulverized steel, that conveyed the life-changing nature of the attacks.

News back then moved slowly by today’s standards. The world was still largely without smartphones or social media. Teachers and students watched the news on boxy TVs strapped to rolling carts that moved between classrooms. Across the country that day, lesson plans were futile. Then, one by one, students were called out of class as parents arrived early to bring them home.

In New York City, things were even more dramatic — the day’s horrific events were playing out nearby. At P.S. 1, in Lower Manhattan, one teacher remembers another lowering the shades so kindergartners wouldn’t see the burning towers out the window. At P.S. 124, a few blocks away, another teacher watched as crowds covered in ash walked toward Brooklyn. New York City educators did their best to provide students a steady hand even as some feared for loved ones who worked in the towers, or struggled to get through to friends and family on jammed phone lines. There were harrowing evacuations, long walks home, and eerily silent subway rides.

As for the aftermath of 9/11, some teachers and students recalled with nostalgia how Americans came together, and they wondered if such shows of unity would be possible today. Others saw the attacks as having the opposite effect, citing the rise in Islamophobia, and long, costly, and polarizing wars that are only now ending.

With the 20th anniversary of 9/11 approaching, Chalkbeat asked those in school on that day to share what they remember and what they think K-12 students growing up today should know about the generation-defining terror attacks.

These are their words, edited for length and clarity.

Paula McDonel was teaching a World Geography class at Collierville High School in Collierville, Tennessee, when a colleague, looking somber, entered her classroom.

She asked me where my husband, a FedEx pilot, was that morning. I said he was home. Only then did she tell me that a commercial plane had struck the World Trade Center. I asked my students if anyone had a parent that was flying on a plane that morning. Our community had many pilots and others who may have been flying. No one in my class did. We had finished our lesson, so I turned on CNN, thinking this would be part of the current events we covered in class that week. We didn’t understand how radically our day was changing.

McDonel is retired and lives in Rosharon, Texas.

Debbie Castellani, then a student-teacher at Cambridge Rindge and Latin high school in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was teaching a World History class alongside her mentor teacher.

Suddenly, another teacher burst into the room and yelled: “Oh my goodness, the World Trade Center was just bombed!” The students started to chatter, and we tried to calm them, frustrated that this teacher thought it appropriate to share this publicly in front of the students, but also concerned about this news.

Between periods, my mentor teacher and I were able to slip into a workroom where a science teacher had a television. This was all pre-smartphone. The news featured the first World Trade tower with smoke billowing from the side, and the newscasters were sharing that a plane had crashed into the building. Then, suddenly, we saw the second plane flying into the south tower.

Castellani is now a high school history teacher in Highland Park, Illinois.

Yvette Ho taught kindergarten at P.S. 1 Alfred Smith School in Lower Manhattan. On the morning of 9/11, she remembers hearing a crash, followed by sirens.

I was a new teacher at the school and was so unaware of the events that were taking place just blocks away. I kept teaching. I even brought the class to their scheduled art class. When we arrived at the art room, the class of older children was buzzing with a nervous energy, and the teacher had a look of shock on her face as she lowered the window shades. The fifth-floor room had a direct view of the towers, and the students were witnessing people jumping out of windows.

Ho is an early childhood administrator in New York City.


Most kids didn’t fully understand what was going on or the gravity of the situation, but we were worried because we had never seen our teachers this worried.


Katie Lootens, a seventh grader at Northview Middle School in Indianapolis, was on the school bus just before 9 a.m. Eastern that day.

The last girl to get on told us something “bad” had happened but didn’t know exactly what. When we got to school, half of the students were worried about the attacks, and the other half were worried about a rumor that a kid had brought a gun on the bus. Once we got to homeroom, my teacher had the news on, and we just watched.

The second plane hit during first period, French. Most kids didn’t fully understand what was going on or the gravity of the situation, but we were worried because we had never seen our teachers this worried. Later in the day, my English language arts teacher had us journal our feelings and then share. By social studies that afternoon, I remember my teacher pulling out the map and showing us where Afghanistan was. I remember my math teacher trying to teach us math, but nobody was paying attention, and eventually, he gave up and put the news back on. In band and PE, we had the option to participate in the normal day if we wanted some normalcy, or we could sit out if we wanted.

Lootens now teaches English learners in Washington, D.C.

Mike Brown, a sixth grade teacher at Berkeley Middle School in Williamsburg, Virginia, was reviewing the day’s agenda with the students in his homeroom when he heard a commotion outside his classroom.

Middle school teachers very quickly are able to decipher kids running in the hallway. This was not that. I heard an “oh my God,” at which point I walked quickly to look out into the hallway. One of my teacher teammates was approaching the room as I was opening the door. She had a startled look on her face and asked if I was watching TV. When I turned it on, we were immediately heartbroken for the people that were on the plane as well as those in the building that was just hit. But we still thought it was a tragic accident. That only lasted for a minute as the news camera focused on the burning building caught a glimpse of a second plane hitting the second tower. Immediately we knew our country was under attack, and we were sitting in the middle of a military town. A number of my students’ parents were living in the neighborhood solely because they were enlisted in the military.

Brown is the director of new school development at New Schools for Alabama. He lives in Memphis.

Eric Nordstrom was a student at Battle Mountain High School in Edwards, Colorado. When the news first broke, Nordstrom’s English teacher, Mr. Loetscher, took the class down to the cafeteria, where there were TVs with cable.

Prior to the second plane hitting, it seemed like there was confusion over what was happening. The second strike made it clear that it was an attack, which made things more terrifying and confusing, especially to a high school student.

Now, looking back, I mostly think about all of the terrible things that have emanated from that terrible day. Whether it’s the lives lost, the money squandered that we could have done actual good with, the many stupid policies that came out of the aftermath that do nothing to keep us safe, or how it caused so many people to abandon their moral compasses and embrace hate. I think about the anti-Islam hate that spiked overnight.

Nordstrom lives in Vail, Colorado.

Alex Tronolone, a junior at Curtis High School in Staten Island, was the photographer for his school’s yearbook and newspaper. After the first plane crashed into the north tower, he was called out of class to snap some pictures. As he made his way up to the roof, where the janitors were looking out at the towers, Tronolone was imagining a small passenger plane.

When I finally got to the roof, you could tell it was more than that. While I was up there, the first tower fell. At first, it looked like water was being used to put out the fires, but as the smoke spread and cleared, it became obvious that the tower fell. After that, I returned to class, incredulous. I remember looking at my watch to note the date because I knew it would be something that would be remembered.

Tronolone is an educator from Staten Island.

Rashid Johnson taught fourth grade at Bruce-Monroe Elementary School in Washington, D.C. The principal there began evacuating the school after a third plane hit the Pentagon. (A fourth hijacked plane crashed into a Pennsylvania field soon after.)

I was paralyzed, and my students were terrified and asking me if we were going to die. It felt like an alien invasion.

Johnson is a senior director of school support in New York City.


It was and still is the most devastating storyline of my life. One moment you’re in class learning, and the next, you’re thinking about death, violence, religion, war, and safety all at once.


Barbara Gottschalk was a teacher at Flynn Middle School in Michigan’s Warren Consolidated Schools district. As events unfolded that morning, school leaders told teachers to turn off their TVs and keep teaching.

The message was to continue on and not let the students know. At the end of the school day, the principal came on the intercom to announce after-school activities had been canceled. One of my students said, “I wonder why they’re canceling everything.” That’s how protected we’d managed to keep our students. Our principal wanted the students to learn about this from their family members. To this day, I admire how my principal handled this.

Gottschalk is retired and lives in North Carolina.

Gloria Turner, a teacher at Southside Middle School in Florence, South Carolina, remembers the principal coming over the loudspeaker to say that we could not watch the news on TV or the computer.

We turned on the radio instead. I spent the day calming the fears of young teenagers while trying to control my own. All these years later, the unity of our nation is what comes to mind. We had prayer services in the park, and people from all walks of life attended. This is unusual in our town. We held hands and prayed and hugged. American flags were everywhere.

Turner teaches media arts and theatre in Florence, South Carolina.

Alyson Starks was in her fifth grade math class at Mt. Juliet Elementary School in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, when the science teacher, Ms. Jeffries, rushed into the room without knocking.

Ms. Jeffries told Mrs. Hahn something behind the piece of paper as if to tell her a secret. Mrs. Hahn rolled in the TV — those big ones, strapped to a rolling cart with the VHS that never worked — and turned on the news. Later that day, I remember getting off the bus and my parents being home. They were never home when my brother and I got home from school. The TV was on, and I’ll remember my mom’s face as she turned to notice us walk in for the rest of my life.

Starks is a senior graphic designer in Nashville.

Suzanne Werner was an educator at P.S. 124, which backs up to the Manhattan Bridge. That morning she was asked to cover for a fifth grade teacher whose husband worked at the World Trade Center.

At first, there was a steady stream of sirens, then silence and a steady stream of people covered in ash walking [toward Brooklyn]. By noon most of the children had been picked up, and the teachers were sent home. I stayed with a small group and the principal till 4 or 4:30 p.m., when the last child was collected. By then, the F train was running, and I was able to get back home to Brooklyn. The train was packed and completely silent.

It was so hard to get back to teaching that fall. There were so many distractions. Chinatown was impacted in so many ways. Businesses closed. There was no phone service for many, many months. The stench of the cloud hung over the neighborhood. The number of boxes of letters and boxes of teddy bears from school kids all over the country was overwhelming.

Werner is retired and lives in New York City.

Latasha Fields-Frisco, who on 9/11 was the dean of students at Bronx School for Law, Government & Justice. Her own daughter had just started kindergarten.

It was a regular morning that ended with a bomb threat to our school. We evacuated and ensured all of our students were safe. I lived in Harlem at the time and was unable to drive home. The bridges were closed off. I walked from the Bronx to 122nd Street in Harlem. It seemed like the longest walk ever. I was happy to reach home safely to see my family and just broke down in tears.

Fields-Frisco is an assistant principal in the Bronx.

Sonia Algarin was a school counselor at Health Opportunities High School in the Bronx when the NYPD ordered an evacuation of the school. The city had shut down mass transit temporarily.

How could we dismiss students who now had to walk home during a crisis situation? When would their parents get home if they had to walk from their jobs? Was it safer to keep them at the school? Our school was across the street from a highway, the Major Deegan. The police said we needed to seek shelter at Hostos Community College three blocks away. We had to walk all 500 students through the busy streets. Some were scared there could be another bombing or another airplane crashing into Yankee Stadium 10 blocks away.

Algarin is a school counselor in the Bronx.

Sunny Asra, a fifth grader at P.S. 220 Edward Mandel School in Queens, thinks about the repercussions of 9/11 for America’s South Asian community.

[On Sept. 13], schools had a two-hour delayed opening. Still having not processed the events, it started to hit us when the kids met each other and our parents hugged one another, and we kind of did the same. In the following weeks, major hate was thrown at the South Asian community due to a lack of knowledge about religion and race. Being that I had a turban, I was even more fearful. Many innocent South Asians were killed, stabbed, and beaten.

Asra is an operations manager for the New York City Department of Education. He lives on Long Island.

Elvis Santana, a student at P.S. 66 in the Bronx, remembers listening to the radio that morning from under his desk at school. Many of his classmates wondered aloud if their parents were OK and tried to call them.

It was and still is the most devastating storyline of my life. One moment you’re in class learning, and the next, you’re thinking about death, violence, religion, war, and safety all at once. As a Bronx native, by the age of 8, you have already previewed violence and discrimination. The incident of 9/11 broadened that violence and triggered something we weren’t prepared to deal with. To anyone born after 2001, it was a testament to how America handled hatred and violence. In the end, we failed in achieving our objective, and today we see that in places like Afghanistan.

Santana is an education outreach director in the Bronx.

Dale Chu, a third grade teacher in East Palo Alto, California, heard about the terror attack from a local Spanish-language radio station on his drive to work. He had no idea of the scale of the disaster until he walked into the teachers lounge and saw the images on TV.

For the most part, we decided not to address it with our students at the time because of their age and because the feelings were all so visceral. I also vividly remember my brother in Los Angeles calling me that morning, and me stepping out of my classroom to take it. He told me that America was now at war.

9/11 is one of those rare life-defining moments. I can’t believe it’s been 20 years. The recent image of the Afghan boy falling from the U.S. Air Force jet over Kabul brought back for me — in stark relief — this picture of a falling man from the World Trade Center. Most of all, I remember how I felt in the following weeks. The sense of national pride and unity, like when George W. Bush threw out the first pitch at the World Series game in New York City. Given today’s raging culture wars and swirling currents of polarization, we could use a little bit of that now.

Chu is an education consultant in Parker, Colorado.



Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.


The Rich History of Tattoos Dates Back to Colonialism and the Ancient World

The Picts, the indigenous people of what is today northern Scotland, were documented by Roman historians as having complex tattoos.
Engraving by Theodor de Bry, 1588
Public domain image via Wikimedia Commons


















By Allison Hawn - September 6, 2021

This article was originally published in  The Conversation
While most of us would likely care to forget the pandemic as soon as is possible, a few have opted for a permanent reminder of the health crisis – in the shape of a tattoo. Some of these tattoos are meant to serve as a reminder of the year gone by, depicting motifs around toilet paper shortages, social distancing and other pandemic-related messages. But those who lost loved ones to the disease are also using tattoos to create memorials.

This is not a recent phenomenon – tattoos have long served as a way for people to express their emotions.

As a tattoo historian, I often enjoy asking people where they think tattoos originated. I hear the mention of countries such as China, Japan, “somewhere in Africa or South America,” or Polynesia. What is interesting is that in the past five years of holding these conversations, no one thus far has answered that tattoos could have originated in Europe or North America.

What geographical areas these answers include, and what they miss, speak to a deeper truth about the history of tattoos: What we know and think about tattoos is heavily influenced by oppression, racism and colonialism.


As Catholic churches expanded their influence via missionaries and campaigns of assimilation beginning in A.D. 391, tattoos were frowned upon as “un-Christian.”

History of tattoos

Tattooing practices were common in many parts of the ancient world.

There were tattoos in both ancient Japan and Egypt. The Māori of New Zealand have been practicing sacred Ta Mōko tattooing for centuries as a way to indicate who they are as individuals as well as who their community is.

However, no one culture can lay the claim to first inventing the art form. Tattooing practices were known in Europe and North America since times of antiquity. The Greeks depicted their tattooed Thracian neighbors, the Indo-European-speaking people, on their pottery. The Picts, the indigenous people of what is today northern Scotland, were documented by Roman historians as having complex tattoos.

The oldest preserved tattoos come from Ötzi the Iceman, a 5,300-year-old mummified body frozen in ice discovered in the mountains of Italy in 1991. In 2019, researchers identified 2,000-year-old tattoo needles from southeastern Utah’s Pueblo archaeological sites. The cactus spines bound with yucca leaves still had the remnants of tattoo ink on them.

Colonization and tattoos

Tattoo historian Steve Gilbert explains that the word “tattoo” itself is a combination of Marquesan and Samoan words – tatau and tatu – to describe these practices. The sailors who explored these Polynesian islands combined the words as they traded stories of their experiences.

The question then arises, if tattoos existed in Europe and North America since times of antiquity, why did Western cultures appropriate and combine these two words instead of using words that already existed in their own?

As I found in my research, somewhere around the 1400s tattoos became an easy way to draw a line between European colonizers and those colonized, who were seen as “uncivilized.”

Tattooing was still being practiced in Europe and North America, but many of those tattooing practices had been driven underground by the time European colonization was in full swing.

That was in part the result of attempts to “Christianize” parts of Europe by purging towns and villages of “pagan” and nonconformist, nonreligious practices – including tattooing. As Catholic churches expanded their influence via missionaries and campaigns of assimilation beginning in A.D. 391, tattoos were frowned upon as “un-Christian.”


These tattooed individuals were often pointed to as proof that the “untamed natives” needed the help of “good, God-fearing” Europeans to become fully human.

Not like us

As Western colonizers pushed into places like Africa, the Pacific Islands and North and South America in the 1400s and 1500s, they found entire groups of native peoples who were tattooed.

These tattooed individuals were often pointed to as proof that the “untamed natives” needed the help of “good, God-fearing” Europeans to become fully human. Tattooed individuals from these cultures were even brought back and paraded through Europe for profit.

A tattooed Indigenous mother and son, kidnapped by explorers in the late 1600s from an unknown location in Canada, were two such victims. An advertisement handbill of the time read: “Let us thank Almighty God for this beneficence, that he has declared himself to us by his Word, so that we are not like these savages and man-eaters.”

People would pay to gawk at these enslaved human beings, making their captors a healthy profit and reaffirming in the minds of the audience the need for European expansion, whatever the human cost.

This kidnapping of tattooed persons had destructive effects on the cultures they were taken from, as often the most tattooed individuals, and therefore the most likely to be taken, were the leaders and holy persons.

It is worth noting that most captives did not live longer than a few months after arriving in Europe, succumbing to foreign illness or malnourishment when their slavers did not feed them.

This “tattooed savage” narrative was pushed even further as tattooed individuals began to display themselves in carnival and circus “freak shows.”

These performers not only pushed the narrative of tattoos being “savage” or “othering” by performing as freaks, they also invented tragic backstories. The performers claimed they were attacked and forcibly tattooed by marginalized people, such as Native Americans, whom the public at large regarded as “savages.”

One such performer was the American Nora Hildebrandt. Nora weaved an account of being captured by Native Americans who forcibly tattooed her.

This was a more harrowing tale than the reality that her longtime partner, Martin Hildebrandt, had been her tattoo artist. Her tale was particularly baffling, as Nora Hildebrandt’s tattoos were mostly of patriotic symbols, like the American flag.

The voices of colonizers echo into the present. Tattoos carry a certain amount of stigma in Western societies. They can often end up being called a “poor life choice” or “trashy.” Studies as recent as 2014 discuss the persistence of the stigma.

I see tattoos as art and a way of communicating identity. In answering the question “where do tattoos come from?” I would argue that they come from all of us, regardless of what early colonizers may have wanted people to believe.




This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.
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