In several previous articles I described some of the major climatic and environmental shifts occurring in the third and fourth millennia BC that were associated with dramatic transitions in human social and cultural patterns, shifts that led to the demise of the relatively harmonious goddess worshiping cultures and the rise of martially oriented patriarchal cultures. Significant changes in climate were forcing extensive social disruptions throughout Europe and Asia and, it appears, North America as well. Settled communities were uprooted and displaced when their resource base became diminished in the wake of widespread climate and environmental changes. After many centuries of a relatively clement hunter gatherer existence survival itself became the paramount challenge of day to day life. Coexistence between humans and nature and between competing human groups posed challenges unprecedented for thousands of years.
The world was changing. At the same time that the human population was expanding, climate and environmental changes were causing a contraction in the resource base. Settled social groups were displaced and forced to migrate. This transition involved a significant psychological reorientation to nature and to the world at large. It was during this period of pronounced climatic change and social disruption that evidence of conflict and warfare appears in the archaeological record. It is the time in which civilization as we know it and define it today first emerged out of the background of prehistory. It was the time in which a benevolent, bountiful Earth goddess was displaced by a wrathful sky deity in the psychic and spiritual life of a large portion of humankind. It was the time that witnessed the rise of a vast enterprise of megalithic, monumental and symbolical architecture the world over and in all cases there is reflected in its patterns and orientation an obsession with the celestial realm and with time.
It was the time in which a benevolent, bountiful Earth goddess was displaced by a wrathful sky deity in the psychic and spiritual life of a large portion of humankind. It was the time that witnessed the rise of a vast enterprise of megalithic, monumental and symbolical architecture the world over and in all cases there is reflected in its patterns and orientation an obsession with the celestial realm and with time.
It is this alteration in consciousness and the intensified emphasis upon the sky that provides the key to understanding the forces of change at work during the transition from the Neolithic through the Bronze Age and into the Age of Iron. To shed light on these dramatic environmental and social transformations I am going to turn to the most important and remarkable cosmic event of the Twentieth Century, the great Tunguska Event of June, 1908 and in doing so may come to a better understanding of why the sky and its wrathful deities became such an obsession for Late Neolithic humankind.
As of this writing evidence continues to mount that the extraterrestrial realm has played a far more prominent role in both Earth history and human history than heretofore realized. In fact as I write these lines asteroid 1999 FN53, 3000 feet in diameter, is making a pass through near Earth space, and in spite of the hype and nonsense on the Internet it poses absolutely no danger to Earth, being some 6.3 million miles away. It does, however, remind us that we are not alone in the cosmic neighborhood. We now know that countless asteroids and comets have struck the Earth throughout its lifespan. Every year sees more evidence that these celestial encounters have happened far more frequently than anyone imagined a few generations ago.
Hopefully, we have not already forgotten what happened over the town of Chelyabinsk, Siberia, on February 15 of 2013. On that day a small asteroid, about 65 feet in diameter, entered Earth’s atmosphere at a high rate of speed and exploded with the force of a 500 kiloton blast, about 25 times more powerful than the atomic bomb blast that destroyed Hiroshima. Since the angle of approach was relatively shallow it exploded about 18 miles up in the atmosphere. Even at that height the powerful shockwave damaged over 7000 buildings in the region and caused over 1500 injuries, but, luckily, no fatalities. Had the object been somewhat larger, or arrived at a steeper angle, penetrating lower into the atmosphere, there could have been hundreds, or even thousands of people killed. Had that occurred it is likely that the impact of the Chelyabinsk meteor on the consciousness, and the priorities, of humankind would likely be somewhat different right now. As it is, awareness of the significance of that cosmic wake-up call is quickly fading from popular consciousness.
Had the object that Earth encountered that day had a diameter about 2 ½ times larger it would have been in the estimated size range of the object that exploded over Tunguska, eastern Siberia in late June of 1908. By now many people have heard of this momentous event, but very few are familiar with the remarkable details. Actually, over the last several years I have been surprised at the number of people I have encountered, educated people at that, who had never even heard of Tunguska. Looking back on the Twentieth Century from the long perspective of history, I would dare to say that the Tunguska event could very well turn out to be one of the most, if not the most important event of the modern age, right up there with World Wars, the invention of the Atomic Bomb and the Moon landing. Over this and the several additional articles I will delve into some of the details and the astonishing story they have to tell.
Looking back on the Twentieth Century from the long perspective of history, I would dare to say that the Tunguska event could very well turn out to be one of the most, if not the most important event of the modern age, right up there with World Wars, the invention of the Atomic Bomb and the Moon landing.
The date was June 30, a date that provides us with an important clue as to identity of the celestial intruder responsible for an explosion at least 1000 times more powerful than the Hiroshima atomic blast. Rather than 18 miles up in the atmosphere, as was the Chelyabinsk meteor when it exploded, this object detonated a mere 5 miles above the Earth’s surface. So powerful was the shock wave that over 800 square miles of old growth taiga forest were utterly decimated when the wave front hit the ground. An estimated 80 million huge trees were splayed out in a radial pattern from below the blast epicenter as if they were no more substantial than newly mown hay. Almost one hundred square miles of forest directly below the epicenter was completely incinerated when it was engulfed in a fireball with a temperature some 40 thousand degrees Fahrenheit, almost 4 times hotter than the surface of the Sun.
We have no photographs of the event, no video footage or media coverage and no YouTube clips as we do with Chelyabinsk. In fact, the Tunguska event was not even known to the outside world until two decades after the fact. What we do have is the blast site itself and the clues it has yielded up to determined scientists and investigators, along with the accounts of a few hundred eyewitnesses that have been interviewed over the years, and some limited, but valuable instrumental data. These three sources of information together, however, have enabled the reconstruction of many details of this pivotal event, details that reveal to the perceptive and prepared mind, that it is nothing less than the master key to unlocking the ancient and sacred Mystery of the Grail. But before we address that rather audacious claim let’s become familiar with some background.
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The first scientifically trained eyewitness to reach the blast site was the Russian scientist Leonid Kulik, a mineralogist and the chief curator of the meteorite collection at the St. Petersburg Museum. He was born in 1883 so at the time of the event he was not quite 25 years old. His school and university studies encompassed forestry, physics and mathematics. He participated in both the Russo-Japanese War and World War I. After WWI he taught mineralogy and in 1920 he affiliated with the Mineralogy Museum at St. Petersburg where it became his duty to study and oversee the collection of meteorites. In 1921 he received an assignment to collect meteorites that had fallen in the Soviet Union and also about this time he received a letter describing the experiences of the Evenki people who were camping on the Podkamennaya Tunguska River on the morning of the great explosion. From this vantage point they had a ringside seat to the blast zone, from whence they witnessed the great forest blowdown and were overwhelmed by the intense heat and pressure waves accompanying the blast. About 1923 another letter was sent to him by a geologist who had interviewed a local Tungus herdsman. A translation of the letter reads:
“Fifteen years ago his brother . . . lived on the River Chambe. One day a terrible explosion occurred, the force of which was so great that the forest was flattened for many versts along both banks of the River Chambe. (a verst is a little more than a km) His brother’s hut was flattened to the ground, its roof was carried away by the wind, and most of his reindeer fled in fright. The noise deafened his brother and the shock caused him to suffer a long illness…The Tunguska road had previously crossed this place, but it was now abandoned because it was blocked, impassable, and more over the place aroused terror among the Tungusi people.”
Kulik most likely had access to several newspaper accounts that appeared in the weeks following the mysterious and mighty celestial visitation. One amazing account appeared in a local newspaper Krasnoyarets, dated July 13, 1908 and a translation appeared in E. L. Krinov’s book Giant Meteorites. It describes the events as witnessed in a village about 140 miles south of the blast center.
“Kezhemsk Village . . . An extraordinary atmospheric phenomenon was noticed in this region. At 7.43 a.m. a noise as a strong wind was heard, followed immediately by a fearful crash accompanied by a subterranean shock which caused buildings to tremble. One had the impression that some huge beam or heavy stone had possibly struck the building. This was followed by two further equally forceful blows. The interval between the first and the third blows was accompanied by an extraordinary underground roar like the sound of a number of trains passing simultaneously over rails, and then for five or six minutes followed by a sound like artillery fire. Between fifty and sixty bangs, becoming gradually fainter…the ground trembled…”
Note that the phenomenon is experienced as a powerful force within the Earth as much as it is experienced as an atmospheric force. The account goes on to say
“…As eye-witnesses relate, before the first bangs were heard a heavenly body of a fiery appearance cut across the sky from south to north, inclined to the north east. Neither its size nor shape could be made out owing to its speed and particularly its unexpectedness. However, many people in different villages distinctly saw that when the flying object touched the horizon a huge flame shot up that cut the sky in two…”
Note especially the impression among the eyewitnesses that the flame shooting up cuts the sky in two. The account concludes with potent imagery. Remember, this is from 140 miles away.
“…The glow was so strong that it was reflected in rooms whose windows faced north…Apparently the glow continued for at least a minute, since many peasants in the fields noticed it. The bangs were heard as soon as the “tongue of flame” disappeared. On the island opposite the village horses began to whinny and cows to low and run wildly about. One had the impression that the earth was just about to gape open and everything would be swallowed up in the abyss. Fearful bangs resounded from somewhere, shaking the earth and the invisibility of the source inspired a kind of superstitious terror. People were literally dumbfounded.”
Again, note that in the totality of the event both celestial and terrestrial phenomenon are experienced by witnesses.
Another newspaper report from the village of Nizhne-Karelinsk appeared on July 2. This village lay along the flightpath of the Tunguska Cosmic Body, as it has been referred to by Russian scientists, some 290 miles from the blast epicenter.
“At the beginning of the ninth hour in the morning . . . a most unusual phenomenon of nature was observed here. In the village of Nizhne-Karelinsk…in the north west quite high above the horizon, the peasants saw a body shining very brightly (too bright for the naked eye) with a bluish white light . . . when the shining body approached the ground (which was covered with forest at this point) it seemed to be pulverized, and in its place a huge cloud of black smoke was formed and a loud crash . . . as if from the fall of large stones or from gun-fire was heard. All the buildings shook and at the same time a forked tongue of flame broke through the cloud. All the inhabitants of the village ran out into the street in panic. The old women wept, everyone thought that the end of the world was approaching.”
The belief that this event heralded the end of the world was widespread amongst the varied witnesses. This fact has tremendous significance when considering the meaning of pervasive apocalyptic traditions preserved in one form or another around the world. I will continue this story next in the next installment as Kulik embarks on an arduous and epic scientific expedition to reach the blast site, in the process unlocking the door to a great cosmic mystery and uncovering clues to understanding many of the great global changes which have affected the planet, and human civilization, on a regular basis.
– Randall Carlson
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