CatastrophismOther Ancient Impacts

The Fall of Phaethon

The Chiemgau impact in Bavarian Germany stands out as a particularly sympathetic “martyr” crater. The evidence for a Bronze Age euro-apocalypse is sincerely published and well established as a legitimate hypothesis based on decades of meticulous fieldwork, but entirely dismissed because the proponents believe the impact was relatively recent in geological terms. The authors don’t give the requisite deference to the impact crater establishment. (For more see Crater, Hiawatha)

But the coolest thing about the Chiemgau impact is how it may support a most ancient story concerning the Greek god Phaethon, who crossed the sky in a day.

Phaethon appealed to his father, who swore to prove his paternity by giving him whatever he wanted. Phaethon asked to be allowed to drive the chariot of the sun through the heavens for a single day. Helios, bound by his oath, had to let him make the attempt. Phaethon set off but was entirely unable to control the horses of the sun chariot, which came too near to the earth and began to scorch it. To prevent further damage, Zeus hurled a thunderbolt at Phaethon, who fell to the earth at the mouth of the Eridanus, a river later identified as the Po.

Another cool thing for the Tusk is that I first learned the Phaethon myth may represent an a comet way back in 1995. My original guru is my old buddy Bob Kobres. His World Wide Web Page back in the day opened my eyes to the possibility that ancient myth isn’t all just caveman campfire stories. Bob believed that long related tales of ‘god’s wrestling in the sky’ were based on actual observations of physically realistic cosmic impacts.

Here is Bob just last week commenting on the Chiemgau impact, eleven years after this paper, and 26 years after his original webpage.

This impact could indeed be related to the Phaethon event as the time period spans the 1159 BC climate downturn that is likely impact induced and what led to the Bronze Age cultural collapse. However I doubt that the legend of Phaethon was inspired by this or any object that only became visible as it entered Earth’s atmosphere. As I pointed out in my 1995 article on this subject, only a close passage of a comet that included impact with fragments from that comet fits all of the details of the story of Phaethon. The most distinguishing aspect is the description of Phaethon’s chariot halting about halfway across the sky, pausing, and then rapidly heading back to the east as the chariot begins to fall apart. This apparent reversal of direction is due to the actual motion of the comet overtaking the illusion of motion caused by Earth’s rotation. As there are impact relatable stories from other cultures that are thought to come from the same time period and describe this west to east motion of an object in the sky it is very unlikely that the Phaethon story was derived from a local perspective of a single meteoroid impact. https://web.archive.org/web/20001109055500/http://abob.libs.uga.edu/bobk/phaeth.html


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