A preview of Nur and Burgess’ book, “Apocalypse: Earthquakes, Archaeology, and the Wrath of God”

Nature has put up a little teaser book review of Amos Nur & Dawn Burgess’ new book, “Apocalypse: Earthquakes, Archaeology and the Wrath of God.” The book investigates the possibility that earthquakes are a cause for the collapse of many ancient civilizations. Nur is a geophysics professor, and my understanding is that he advised Dawn Burgess on her dissertation in the field of geology. If that’s true, both of them have adequate background to look at the archaeological and geological record for the effects of earthquakes. From the Nature piece, they ask how,

“earthquakes might be detected in the archaeological record, by analysing geological formations, faults, structural movement, human remains, the collapse of pillars and walls, and inscriptions. Nur wonders if earthquakes played a part in the collapse of ancient civilizations. Might they explain the enigmatic and quick disappearance of so many Bronze Age civilizations in the eastern Mediterranean during a mere 50 years around 1200 BC.

Most archaeologists today say that earthquakes have had little to do with historical demises. They prefer to attribute the collapse of civilizations to human agency: war, invasion, social oppression, environmental abuse and so on. The conventional explanation of the Bronze Age collapse involves maritime invasion by the mysterious Sea Peoples, whose identities have long eluded scholars…”

Nur and Burgess bring up many recent examples of how earthquakes decimated civilizations, cities, etc. They cite the destruction of the Portuguese capital of Lisbon in 1755, a 1812 earthquake that preceeded the collapse of Simón Bolívar’s Venezuelan republic, and the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923 that decimate the majority of Tokyo.

The Nature article favorably reviews the book, and primes us that it may, “deliberately irritate many archaeologists.”

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