Johan "Han" Kloosterman in front of the Usselo horizon at Lommel, Belgium
By Andrew Collins
Lommel, Belgium. September 26, 2014. Today I am in Lommel, a quiet Belgian town just over the border from Holland. I am here to do some filming for the History Channel's ever-popular "Ancient Aliens" TV show. As part of their wish to get more "hands on" with regards the topics featured in the much-anticipated ninth season, they have flown me over from the United Kingdom in search of absolute proof of the Bible's Great Flood, the theme of an upcoming episode. All around the world hundreds, if not thousands, of catastrophe myths speak not only of an all-encompassing deluge that devastated the world during some former epoch of human kind, but also of a terrifying conflagration, a cosmic fire that reigned down from the sky.
Almost certainly these myths derive from personal accounts of what scientists refer to today as the Younger Dryas Boundary (YDB) impact event, which took place around 12,900 years ago, just after the end of the last Ice Age. At this time a comet is thought to have entered the inner solar system and as it reached perihelion, its close approach to the sun, this huge plasma-driven ball with an icy core and characteristic long tail is likely to have disintegrated into hundreds if not thousands of tiny pieces. These were then sent on a collision course with the earth (see fig. 1).
The human populations existing at this time would have witnessed bright meteor-like objects careering through the sky. Many probably exploded into multiple fragments that on impact would have created mass firestorms consuming everything in their path. As they raged the resulting ash would have risen to form thick clouds in the upper atmosphere. This would have caused day to become night, blotting out the sun, moon and stars for weeks, maybe even months afterwards. Accompanying this disaster scenario would have been super-tsunamis, as well as worldwide earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, caused when the larger comet fragments impacted with the planet's underlying continental plates, making them rock up and down in a manner that would have been disastrous to life on earth.
Comet fragments that impacted with the ice sheets in the Northern Hemisphere would have caused the water they held to instantly vaporise. This would then have risen into the already darkened skies as plumes of steam, which would have mixed with the gradually forming ash clouds to produce a highly toxic concoction that fell back to earth as acid rain. This constant downpour would have continued for weeks on end, accounting perhaps for the forty days and forty nights of rain mentioned in the Bible's flood narrative.
Fig. 1. The sight the world would have woken up to one day 12,900 years ago.
Even more disturbing is that chemical changes found in ice core samples from Greenland indicate that long after the initial impact of 12,900 BC, forest fires, most likely triggered by constant volcanic eruptions and perhaps even further cosmic events, continued to plague the world for anything up to 700 years.
In addition to this terrifying scenario, the extended period of darkness caused by the prevailing ash cloud - a so-called nuclear winter - is now thought to have triggered a sudden temperature drop that brought on a mini ice age known to scientists as the Younger Dryas event. The onset of this cold spell was just a few short decades, and yet it was to last a full 1,300 years, bringing us to around 9600 BC, the date that marks our entry into the current geological age known as the Holocene.
This brings me to why I was here in Lommel, Belgium, on this dull overcast day in September 2014. The answer is that the all-consuming firestorms that raged in the wake of the comet impact left behind a noticeable layer of ash and fire debris known today as the Usselo horizon. First noticed during the 1940s at its "type site" of Usselo in the eastern Netherlands, it has now been found in countries located on six different continents. They include France, England, Wales, Denmark, Poland, Belarus, Egypt, Syria, the United States, Canada, Mexico, Columbia, Venezuela, Australia, and here at Lommel in Belgium.
The Usselo horizon is a thick, black, charcoal-rich layer anything between 1.5 centimetres (1 inch) and 13 centimetres (8 inches) in thickness, which has recently been found to contain nanodiamonds, tiny siliceous, i.e. silica-based, glassy objects and magnetic spherules only produced at extremely high temperatures in excess of 2000º centigrade (see fig. 2).
Archaeologists originally put down the presence of this ash layer to some kind of localized conflagration, caused perhaps by forest fires. These, they felt, were triggered either by lightning strikes or the eruption of a local volcano. What they had not anticipated, however, was just how widespread the Usselo horizon actually is, this being realized only after the published findings of Dutch geochemist Johan "Han" Kloosterman.
Having examined examples of the Usselo layer from a larger number of sites Kloosterman concluded that it constituted overwhelming evidence of a worldwide conflagration caused by a cosmic impact event around 12,900 years ago (see Kloosterman, 1999). Predictably, his findings were given a lukewarm reception by the academic community. Why? Because the scholarly world was simply not willing to accept that such a terrifying cataclysm had occurred in such recent geological history.
Not only would accepting the implications of the Usselo horizon mean rewriting history, but promoting such a disaster scenario would be a chilling warning to the world that these terrible events could occur in our own time, and that out there somewhere might be another comet that could cause very similar destruction in the world.
Fig. 2. Analysis of the Usselo horizon at Lommel, Belgium.
I was one of the first people to run with Kloosterman's findings in my 2000 book Gateway to Atlantis (Collins, 2000), which attempted to describe the consequences of the Younger Dryas impact event. Others were also now beginning to champion this disaster scenario, most noticeably Dr Richard Firestone, a scientist with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. His book The Cycle of Cosmic Catastrophes (Firestone et al, 2006, and see also Firestone et al, 2007) painstakingly records his virtually one-man crusade to establish absolute proof of the YDB impact.
Yet it was Han Kloosterman who really identified the smoking gun of the cosmic impact with his important realisations regarding the nature of the Usselo horizon. This can be seen at Lommel where it appears on top of sandy layers laid down during the 2,000-year warm period known as the Allerød oscillation, which followed the end of the last Ice Age, ca. 13,500 BC.
As our party crossed a vast, flat area of sandy scrubland, which is gradually being eaten up by nearby sand-mining operations, I looked forward to seeing for myself this smoking gun of a cosmic catastrophe. Present was a film crew from the History Channel, along with local archaeologist Ferdi Geerts (see fig. 3), who has uncovered the activities of the hunter-gatherer population that occupied the site when the Usselo horizon was formed, and Han Kloosterman himself. Although now 83, wheelchair bound and suffering from throat cancer, he remains as sharp as a razor when it come to discussions regarding the intricacies and greater implications of the charcoal-rich layer that has brought him such acclaim in the study of catastrophism.
Wavy black Line
Prior to our arrival at Lommel a mechanical digger had cut a wide trench in the sandy soil down to a depth of around 2 metres (6.5 feet). This exercise revealed a vertical wall of geological layers going back at least 15,000 years. Half way down the wall an unmistakable wavy black line is seen. This is the Usselo horizon. It looks so pristine it could have been left just a few years earlier.
Using a trowel to dig into the charcoal-rich layer revealed that it continues without interruption into the sandy loess, and picking up and rolling around some of the black muck in my hands showed that it has a greasy consistency, exactly what you might expect if you dug out some burnt soil from beneath a garden fire.
Beneath the ash layer for a depth of up to 20 centimetres (8 inches) the usually yellow-brown sand has been bleached almost white (see fig. 4). This is something that Han has examined in detail within his laboratory in Amsterdam. His analysis shows that the chemical composition of this white sand differs from that of the sand below and above the Usselo horizon, and results either from an intense, high-temperature air blast and/or from the effects of the acid rain that fell in the days and weeks following the initial impact event.
Fig. 3. Archaeologist Ferdi Geerts, Han Kloosterman and the author examine the Usselo horizon at Lommel, Belgium.
These are controversial findings, which Belgian and Dutch archaeologists, such as Ferdi Geerts, here with us today, find difficult to accept. The conventional view among academics is that the whitened layer of sand was caused by strong winds blowing in from the north, with the ash layer itself being the result of localised volcanic activity. They refer here to the eruption at Laacher See, a huge lake formed from a volcanic caldera 2 kilometres (1.2 miles) in diameter located in the Rhineland-Palatinate region of neighbouring Germany. Yet as Han points out, the Laacher See eruption is known to have occurred a full 600 years after the Usselo horizon was laid down. What is more, the Laacher See eruption was most likely triggered, like so many other eruptions around the world at this time, by the shifting of the earth's continental plates in the wake of the initial impact event.
Fig. 4. Geological strata at Lommel showing the layer of white bleached sand beneath the Usselo horizon.
What Ferdi Geerts, curator at Lommel's Museum De Kolonie, does make clear, however, is that present on the sandy loess when the cataclysm took place were the camps of an Epi-paleolithic, or terminal Palaeolithic, hunter-gatherer society known as the Federmesser. Thousands of their distinctive tools and arrowheads, made from local flint pebbles and a nearby source of grey quartzite, have been found at Lommel.
These people were little different in appearance and intelligence to those still living in the region today. They had a well developed stone tool technology, lived in temporary round houses, and even left behind evidence of highly symbolic art in the form of polished river pebbles with sequences of carved notches. These long, pocket-sized stones, Ferdi believes, could constitute some kind of calendric record or calculator (one of these stones is on display at Lommel's Museum De Kolonie - see fig. 5).
The Federmesser culture thrived in the Low Countries of mainland Europe in the millennium prior to the onset of the Younger Dryas impact event. Yet archaeological excavations at Lommel show that directly after the Usselo horizon their activities cease. It is almost as if they are wiped clean from the geological record after this time. What happened to them? Were they destroyed by the impact event?
Sometime after the departure of the Federmesser culture a new post-Palaeolithic, or Mesolithic, population enters the scene at Lommel. They have their own distinctive style of tool manufacture known to prehistorians as the Ahrensburgian tradition. Clearly, there is every reason to conclude that the Federmesser people did not survive the impact, or that if they did they were forced to move into new territories due to the gradually worsening conditions in Western Europe at this time.
Fig. 5. Polished pebble stone with a series of carved notches perhaps constituting some kind of symbolic art or script.
Witnesses to the Event
Whereas the Federmesser populations suffered the full force of the YDB impact event in the Low Countries of mainland Europe, in England it was the Cresswell culture that got to witness these terrible events. In central and eastern Europe it was the privilege of the Swiderians, while in France it was the Magdalenian IV culture that faced the onslaught of the cataclysm. In eastern Anatolia and the Zagros Mountains of northern Iraq and Iran this position was taken by the Zarzian culture, while in the Levant it was communities belonging to the Natufian tradition that faced the full brunt of the impact. In North America it was the Clovis culture that would seem to have been decimated by the impact. Indeed, some estimates suggest that the American population was reduced by as much as seventy-five percent at the time.
It would have been a similar story in every part of the world - indigenous societies suffering incredible losses of life, with those left having to survive in whatever way they could for hundreds of years afterwards.
Appeasing the Gods
It was in the aftermath of this global catastrophe that legends from around the world speak of the survivors of the human race emerging from caves, where they had been hiding from the devastation going on outside. Thereafter these people go on to build the first temples in order to appease the gods, whom they had clearly angered or forsaken in some way in order for them to treat the human race so badly. And this is indeed what would seem to have happened in the aftermath of the Younger Dryas impact event. Almost as a response to what had happened, the first monumental architecture in human history begins to spring up around the world. At Göbeklitepe in southeast Anatolia (Collins, 2014a), at Gunung Padang in the West Java province of Indonesia (Collins, 2014b), and perhaps even at Stonehenge in southern England, gigantic human-made structures appear as if out of nowhere. Their purpose, unquestionably, was to ensure the future stability of the world by countering, outwitting and even appeasing the supernatural forces seen as responsible for the virtual annihilation of the human race.
From the creation of this first monumental architecture came a gradual shift away from the age-old hunter-gatherer lifestyle to one embracing wide scale agriculture and animal husbandry. This almost certainly occurred in order that the many human communities involved in the building and maintenance of these gigantic stone and earthen structures might more easily be fed. This in turn led to the emergence of the first towns and cities, and eventually the rise of civilization itself. None of this is likely to have happened without the mass human response to the impact event of 12,900 years ago.
So we have this almighty cataclysm to thank for the rise of civilization, while catastrophist pioneers like Han Kloosterman can be thanked for finding the smoking gun that tells us this cosmic catastrophe really did take place. No longer can the scientific community ignore the fact that the world was brought to its knees by a comet impact in fairly recent geological history, and that unless we act now, it can all happen again, and just maybe, next time, the human race might not be so lucky.
"Ancient Aliens" TV show is broadcast in on the History Channel. Watch out for the new ninth series in 2015. For more information see: http://www.history.com/shows/ancient-aliens