Scientists have translated an ancient stone tablet found at a temple in Turkey. The tablet confirms that a comet struck Earth around 11,000BC, leading to global destruction including the extinction of the woolly mammoth and the rise of new civilizations.
The carvings were found in Gobekli Tepe in southern Turkey, the world's oldest known temple and a site for ancient observatory and worship. In fact, the temple dates back to 9,000BC, approximately 6,000 years older than Stonehenge.
The carvings at the center of the recent scientific publication were found on a pillar known as the Vulture Stone. The carvings depict various animals corresponding to astronomical constellations. The stone also shows a swarm of comet fragments as they hit Earth and a headless man symbolizing human disaster and death.
The symbols found point to a large comet impact around 13,000 years ago. This was then cross-checked against simulations of what the Solar System would look like during that time and scientists were able to identify the comet strike was around 10,950BC. Likely not coincidentally, this is the start of the global cooling event called the Younger Dryas.
The Younger Dryas was a pivotal moment in human civilization. Previously, humans were largely nomadic hunters that harvested wild grains without establishing permanent locations. The onset of the global cooling led groups of people to begin cultivating crops to endure a harder climate. This gave rise to farming and livestock breeding that we still employ today.
The Younger Dryas took place as Earth was transitioning from the Last Glacial Maximum ice age to an interglacial warm period. The event was unusual in that there was a small short lived reversal in the overall warming trend causing the Earth to cool for approximately 1,200 years.
Some hypotheses link the cooling to a large influx of fresh water from melted glaciers on North America into the northern Atlantic Ocean. This, in theory, caused a fresh water cap over the North Atlantic and slowed down the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation which in part distributes heat from the equators to the poles. However, another potential cause of the cooling was the aforementioned comet strike around the start of the Younger Dryas. This could have initiated a global cooling period and extinction caused from upthrown debris and dust into the atmosphere. While there is significant evidence of a comet strike, there is still debate as to whether this was responsible for the onset of the Younger Dryas.
The comet hypothesis must be tempered by the fact that no physical impact site has been found, the smoking gun evidence needed to confirm the onset of the Younger Dryas was due to a comet impact. Unlocking the events that led to the Younger Dryas would provide further understanding of the agricultural boom and rise of the first Neolithic civilizations.
Trevor Nace is a geologist, Forbes contributor, and adventurer.