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Redating West-Roman history -about specious twin events and anachronisms in Late Antiquity

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  • Cybis Elektronik & Data AB

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Having postulated that the Christian era was inflated with 232 years already when it was invented at the transition from Late Antiquity to Early Medieval time, we are here looking for possible "twin events" with 232 years interval. These are major incisive events which were dated or reported multiple times in different historical contexts so that it seems that they happened twice. We discuss the onset of the first plague pandemic and the destruction of the ancient city of Petra in Jordan. Both events are related to the development of Christianity within the Roman empire, which becomes a much more dynamic process with our hypothesis of a drastically reduced Late Antiquity, distinguished as a period of clustered natural catastrophes.
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Redating West-Roman history - about specious twin events and anachronisms in Late Antiquity,
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Redating West-Roman history - about specious twin events and
anachronisms in Late Antiquity
Petra Ossowski Larsson* and Lars-Åke Larsson, Sweden
* Corresponding author:
Having postulated that the Christian era was inflated with 232 years already when it
was invented at the transition from Late Antiquity to Early Medieval time, we are here
looking for possible "twin events" with 232 years interval. These are major incisive
events which were dated or reported multiple times in different historical contexts so
that it seems that they happened twice.
We discuss the onset of the first plague pandemic and the destruction of the ancient
city of Petra in Jordan. Both events are related to the development of Christianity
within the Roman empire, which becomes a much more dynamic process with our
hypothesis of a drastically reduced Late Antiquity, distinguished as a period of
clustered natural catastrophes.
Based on our extensive dendrochronological (ref.1) and astronomical (ref.2) studies,
we propose that the Christian era was artificially prolonged by 232 years already
when it was invented, that means in Late Antiquity in Alexandria (ref.3). The qualified
and elegant manipulation was done by means of astronomical retrocalculation, most
probably by professional astronomers while there still were astronomers left.
The centerpiece of the manipulation is Ptolemy's Almagest, which was either created
or rewritten especially for the purpose. The "Canon of Kings" preserved in the
Almagest, which starts with Babylonian king Nabonassar in 747 BC and ends with
Roman emperor Aelius Antoninus in 160 AD, is allegedly confirmed by multiple
observations of astronomical phenomena which can be retrocalculated with modern
models. This is the basis on which European history was consolidated during the
18th and 19th centuries, and this is why most modern historians still vigorously
defend the idea that Roman emperor Augustus lived about 2000 years ago.
Robert Newton (ref.4) recognized that most measurements in the Almagest were not
taken from real observations but fabricated for some reason and concluded:
The historian or chronologist naturally concludes that there is overwhelming
evidence confirming the accuracy of Ptolemy's king list, and he proceeds to
use it as the basis for Babylonian chronology. Yet there is no evidence at all.
The key point is that there may have been no Babylonian record at all.
Ptolemy certainly fabricated many of the aspects of the lunar eclipses, and
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he may have fabricated all of them. When he fabricated them, it did not
matter whether he used a correct king list or not. Any king list he used,
regardless of its accuracy, would seem to be verified by eclipses.
This means that we will be able to trace the truth about the length of the Christian era
only with dating methods completely independent of historical considerations. The
only independent method with high enough resolution known today is tree-ring dating
(dendrochronology). However, this method was not yet established when European
history was consolidated with the aid of astronomy. And when dendrochronology
became established some decades ago, it was initially regarded as an auxiliary
science for the historians and was not granted an own opinion. This is why the early
dendrochronologists missed the unique chance to detect the calendar error in the
Christian era when the first more than 2000 years long European oak chronologies
were assembled in the late 1970ies.
Oak was the preferred construction wood for both the Romans and later builders.
The dendrochronlogists assembled continuous oak chronologies from recent times
back through Early Medieval time. They also assembled floating but continuous oak
chronologies archaeologically anchored in Roman time. The floating Roman
chronologies were "calibrated" with historical considerations in order to get a useful
(i.e. historically correct) dating tool. There was (and still is) a hardly bridgeable gap of
about 200 years between the recent and the Roman oak chronologies. A number of
imaginative explanations have been given for this "Roman gap", but nobody dared to
challenge the historical time line as it seemed reinforced by astronomy.
However, when the supra-long continuous tree-ring chronologies produced for
climatological and geological purposes became available in the first decade of the
21th century, we were able to simply date the floating Roman chronologies. We did
indeed not find them at the date predicted by the historians, but more than 200 years
later. This made the Roman gap collapse, however a valid bridge within the oak
chronologies has not yet been confirmed because the necessary raw measurement
series are still kept secret or are undiscovered.
How long back can we trust European chronology?
European oak chronologies containing archaeologically significant timbers are
continuous from today back to about 400. They are multiple replicated, which means
that their continuity has been verified by comparing them towards each other. They
are also regarded as correctly synchronized with history. Ernst Hollstein's
Mitteleuropäische Eichenchronologie (ref.5) contains for example a long sequence of
large timbers from the Einhardsbasilika in Steinbach with the end year 814. This is
consistent with the traditional date for the dedication of the church in 827.
Moreover, in many of the northern hemisphere chronologies a natural marker in the
form of a dramatic decline in tree growth is visible around 536, see Figure 1.
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Figure 1: Part of the Scandinavian pine master curve showing the narrow ring event at 536 to 542,
compared with a Scottish oak sequence from Whithorn. Whithorn Oak (red normalized curve and
green ring width curve) matched against Scandinavian Pine (black normalized curve and blue ring
width curve), show a quite good correlation around the narrow ring event but do not fit otherwise. This
probably means that the event causing the growth decline had a much stronger and far-reaching effect
than any local climatic factors. The decimal numbers show blockwise calculated correlation
coefficients for the matching between the normalized curves. Note the high numbers around 536.
A new approach uses worldwide observed precise time markers generated by cosmic
abrupt enrichment events (14C in tree-rings and 10Be in ice cores), to synchronize
tree-ring and ice core chronologies (ref.6). With this method tree-ring and ice core
chronologies are at the present synchronized worldwide back to 774.
This means that we can regard European tree-ring chronologies back to about 500
as a true projection of the real time line.
Against this scientific background the first holistic approaches towards an old-world
history considering also climatic factors have emerged. There were precursory
studies (e.g. ref.7) which swept over the whole Roman imperial period as well, thus
including probably corrupt oak tree-ring data and historical "phantom years".
However, we appreciate the recent tendency to step backwards and evaluate
historical events only for "safe" periods in the above meaning. In a recent article
(ref.8), a consortium of scientists around Ulf Büntgen reconstructs the summer
temperatures in Europe and Asia and finds a cold period starting abruptly in 536 and
lasting to about 660. They call this cold period the Late Antique Little Ice Age
(LALIA), and they propose that a number of large volcano eruptions is one of the
triggers for the abrupt onset of the cooling. Further they synchronize with
documented historical events during this time and find crop failure, famine and
plague and in the aftermath political, societal and economic turmoil in the East-
Roman empire and in Asia.
Procopius of Caesarea (c. 500 to 560) gives a unique eye witness report of what was
going on 536 to 537:
(ref.9, Book IV, ch.XIV) And it came about during this year that a most dread
portent took place. For the sun gave forth its light without brightness, like the
moon, during this whole year, and it seemed exceedingly like the sun in
eclipse, for the beams it shed were not clear nor such as it is accustomed to
shed. And from the time when this thing happened men were free neither
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from war nor pestilence nor any other thing leading to death. And it was the
time when Justinian was in the tenth year of his reign.
We will now focus on an event directly starting after the abrupt cooling in 536: the
onset of the Justinian plague.
The plague of Justinian
This is what Procopius writes about the plague which occurred during the reign of
Justinian I (527 to 565):
(ref.9, book II, ch.XXII) During these times there was a pestilence, by which
the whole human race came near to being annihilated.
He then goes on to try to find an explanation for the cause of this extraordinary
calamity which "embraced the entire world" and killed men and women, young and
old, high and low without discernment, and he refers to God.
Then Procopius tells us that the disease started in Egypt, in Pelusium near todays
Port Said, in 541. It then divided and reached Alexandria and the rest of Egypt, and
also Palestine before it arrived in Constantinople (which he calls Byzantium) in 542 in
the middle of spring. Here he became an eye-witness of the course of events.
Procopius describes how the victims hastily fell ill, and how those who still were
healthy got paranoid. He also describes the disease processes in detail including the
bubonic swelling inside the armpit, on the thighs and beside the ears, and the
impotence of the physicians.
In ref.9, book II, ch.XXIII, Procopius tells us that the disease scourged Byzantium for
four months, and its greatest virulence lasted about three. When it was worst, the tale
of dead reached five thousand and more each day which led to confusion and
disorder regarding the burials. The emperor ordered mass burials, and later on the
fortifications at Sycae (Galata) were used as a body dump which resulted in "an evil
stench" over the city.
In this disgusting situation the citizens of Byzantium behaved quite well and actually
got a bit religious, but when the hardship had lifted they turned sharply about and
were "altogether surpassing themselves in villainy and in lawlessness of every sort".
Work and trade ceased in the city which led to famine. Also the emperor became ill
but recovered. Finally Procopius mentions that also the Persians and other
barbarians were afflicted by the plague.
We have other first hand witness reports of the plague, e.g. by Evagrius Scholasticus
(c.535 to at least 593), ref.10, book IV, ch.29. New with Evagrius' report is his own
story, he got the disease as a child but survived. He then lost children, his wife and
other relatives and members of his household in "various subsequent visitations of
these great misfortunes", because the plague returned repeatedly until about 750.
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The Justinian plague was such a traumatic event that it apparently resulted in
multiple reports. Moreover, it dates to the very beginning of the European chronology
section which is secured by scientific methods, that means it dates to the younger
edge of the Roman gap described in the Introduction. Therefore we may now
challenge our hypothesis and see if there are reports of "twin events" on the older
edge of the Roman gap. That means we could look for events reported around 542
minus 232 = 310 in Roman context (RomAD 310).
The plague described by Eusebius
This is what Eusebius of Caesarea (c. RomAD 263 to 339) writes for the year
RomAD 310 or 311 in his "Church History" (ref.11, book 9, ch.8):
The usual winter rains and showers were denying the earth its normal
downpour when famine struck, as well as plague and an epidemic of another
sort of disease: an ulcer that was called a carbuncle because of its fiery
appearance. It spread very dangerously over the entire body but attacked the
eyes in particular, blinding countless men, women, and children. ... He
(Maximin) and his army were worn out by the Armenian war, while people in
the cities under his rule were so ravaged by famine and plague that 2,500
Attic drachmas were given for a single measure of wheat. Countless
numbers died in the cities and even more in the villages and countryside.
Rural registers that were once full of names now were all but obliterated,
since lack of food and disease destroyed almost the entire population at the
same time. ... No less horrible (than the famine) was the plague that infected
every house, especially those that had survived the famine because they
were well stocked with food. The affluent, rulers, governors, and numerous
officials, as if intentionally left by the famine for the plague, suffered a
sudden, bitter death. Moaning was heard everywhere, and funeral
processions were seen in every lane, square, and street, with the usual flute
playing and breast beating. Death, waging war with the two weapons of
plague and famine, quickly devoured whole families, so that two or three
bodies might be removed for burial in a single funeral procession.
Finally Eusebius imagines that the misfortunes were sent by God to recompense for
the recent persecution of the Christians by the Romans. He also tells about the
humanity which the Christians showed during the calamity, and which probably led to
the edict of tolerance issued by Maximin shortly before his death in RomAD 313.
Discussion of the plague and its time
To say it at once, the description of two episodes of plague and famine in the written
sources with 232 years in between is of course a "through ball" for our hypothesis.
Kenneth Philbrick dates Eusebius' plague to RomAD 310 in his thesis (ref.12), and
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Constantine’s alleged conversion occurred at almost the same time as the
last mention of a plague in historical sources (310 CE, by Eusebius), after
which the Roman empire apparently did not suffer another major epidemic
until the outbreak of bubonic plague in 541 CE in Egypt and Constantinople,
by which time the process of Christianization was largely complete.
But is it realistic to propose that the plague in Caesarea in RomAD 310 was the
same disease as the plague in Constantinople in 542?
Scientists have suspected for quite a long time that the disease in 542 described by
Procopius was the bubonic plague caused by the pathogen Yersinia pestis. But it
was not before 2013 that DNA analysis of samples collected from a graveyard in
Aschheim, Bavaria, in Germany provided a definite proof (ref.13). This graveyard was
dated archaeologically to Early Medieval time and had a cluster of double and
multiple burials in the second half of the 6th century from which the samples were
taken. Moreover, radiocarbon datings of bones from three of the plague victims were
compatible with the historical date for the first plague pandemic. Remarkable is also
the fact that the pandemic crossed the Alps.
In a later article (ref.14) the 6th. century Y.pestis DNA was also analyzed for well-
characterized virulence factors which might have contributed to the high mortality (up
to 40% has been suggested).
The report of Eusebius is much more diffuse except for the mortality which appears
to be similar to what is described for Constantinople by Procopius. However,
Eusebius lists three factors for the high mortality: famine caused by drought, plague
and "an epidemic of another sort of disease". This third factor is characterized by a
carbuncle (anthrax in Greek) which affects the whole body and particularly the eyes.
Richard Swiderski (ref.15) proposes that Eusebius actually describes an anthrax
outbreak caused by drought, which occurred at the same time as there was a plague
(i.e. smallpox or the plague). Smallpox is otherwise suggested (ref.12) to be the
disease described by Eusebius, because there had been three devastating
epidemics in the Roman empire before RomAD 310: in RomAD 165, RomAD 189
and RomAD 251. The first and second epidemics got the name "Antonine Plague"
and were described by the physician Galen with symptoms matching smallpox. As
there were no plague reports for the years between RomAD 310 and 542,
connections of Eusebius' report were not made with the description of the Justinian
plague by Procopius 232 years later, but rather with the smallpox epidemics a few
years before.
If we are right, it is unlikely that any reports of major plague outbreaks exist between
RomAD 310 and 542 because these two historical years would be the same on the
real time line. Thus the disease would be the same in both cases, that means the
bubonic plague.
If both Eusebius and Procopius described the same pandemic they would have been
contemporaries. This would of course be impossible according to the mainstream
historical writing, as Eusebius writes about the time of Constantine I and Procopius
writes about the time of Justinian I. On the other hand, to prolong the historical time
line does also require the invention of history for the invented years.
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To start with a simple case of invented history, we could look at the list of popes
which is apparently continuous since the time of Saint Peter (1st century AD). The list
is found in the Liber Pontificalis which is a collection of biographies of the bishops of
Rome up to the 15th century edited by several authors at different times. In his recent
article (ref.16), Eivind Heldaas Seland uses the Liber Pontificalis as a source of
information about the Roman Red Sea trade around the time of Eusebius and states:
Based on the apparent knowledge of contemporary events and church policy
evident in the text, modern commentators hold that the early lives, including
that of Sylvester [314 - 335], were composed ca. AD 535-540.4) The contents
of these brief biographies are formulaic, giving details about name, place of
birth, father’s name, duration of office and number of ordinations conducted.
In some cases information on important events, decisions, persecutions and
martyrdoms are also included. The names and dates up to 354 seem to be
derived from a chronicle of that year called the “Liberian Catalogue” after
Pope Liberius,5) who held the papacy from 352 to 366. Most of the other
information contained in the biographies up to the period from which the
author had personal experience or information, that is until the late 5th
century onwards, is either impossible to confirm, apparently misinformed and
in some cases even plainly invented.6)
It is hard to say it more explicit: the lives of the popes between 314 and 540 were
written in one piece with elements of misinformation and fabrication. Just what we
would expect if those years were invented.
Now to Eusebius and Procopius themselves. Is it possible that they were
contemporaries? Eusebius was a Christian historian and theologian and became the
bishop of Caesarea Palestinae (a harbor in todays Israel) in about RomAD 314. He
wrote about the last Roman persecutions of Christians, the end of the tetrarchy and
Constantine's conversion to the Christian faith after his seizure of power in RomAD
312. This conversion came immediately after the first plague episode, and in RomAD
313 Constantine and Licinius issued the Edict of Milan which gave Christianity a legal
status within the Roman empire. In RomAD 380 Christianity became the state church
of the Roman empire.
Procopius also came from Caesarea Palestinae, but was a secular historian and
lawyer and therefore had no natural points of contact with Eusebius. Moreover, he
did not stay in Caesarea but moved to Constantinople and followed Justinian I and
his chief military commander Belisarius closely. Procopius is said to have written
about 160 years after Christianity became the state church of the Roman empire. We
would surely expect the emperor and all his court members to be Christians, at least
formally. Therefore it is peculiar that Procopius writes in a somewhat dissent manner
about Christians, for example:
(ref.9, book IV, ch.XIV) At the opening of spring, when the Christians were
celebrating the feast which they call Easter ...
This may be a stylistic trick, but it is as anachronistic as the consequent reference to
Constantinople as Byzantium 200 years after the refoundation of the city.
Constantine I made the ancient city of Byzantium the capital city of the Roman
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empire and called it Nova Roma in RomAD 330. After his death in RomAD 337 the
city was named Constantinople. So we might actually wonder if Procopius still was
pagan and Rome still was the capital city of the Roman empire when Procopius
wrote his "History of the Wars". To this fits also his description of the imperial family's
hardly Christian behavior in his "Secret history".
As a consequence of this reasoning we also have to look at Constantine and
Justinian as contemporaries, or maybe as the same person. Maybe his name was
Constantine as emperor in the west, and Justinian after he founded his Nova Roma
and became emperor of the whole empire. A dualistic person of this kind would of
course be a finding for somebody who wants to insert a period of time in history for
some reason.
Before you reject this idea as being impossible and ridiculous, have a look at one of
the mosaics in the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople (Appendix A). It is the one over
the southwestern entrance, depicting the Virgin Mary with Child flanked to her left by
Constantine offering a model of his Nova Roma and to her right by Justinian offering
a model of the Hagia Sophia. The two emperors are clad identically, and the mosaic
has been interpreted to present the connection between the church and the empire
and the church as the seat of imperial ritual ( accessed 2016-
07-09). But while Constantine is depicted as a young man with brown hair and rosy
cheeks, Justinian is an old man with grey hair and wrinkles. Why did the artist make
such a difference between the two emperors if they were meant as "ideal" symbols?
The mosaic is dated to the mid 10th century.
Then, who built the Hagia Sophia? Most probably already Constantine devoted three
churches to God's attributes: Hagia Irene (Holy Peace), Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom)
and Hagia Dynamis (Holy Power). Socrates Scholasticus (of Constantinople, c.
RomAD 380 to 439) tells us about Hagia Sophia and Hagia Eirene in his Historia
Ecclesiastica (ref.17):
(Ch.16) About this period the emperor [Constantius, RomAD 346] built the
great church called Sophia, adjoining to that named Eirene, which being
originally of small dimensions, the emperor's father [Constantine I] had
considerably enlarged and adorned. In the present day both are seen within
one enclosure, and have but one appellation.
(Ch.43) The great church named Sophia was at that time consecrated, in the
tenth consulate of Constantius, and the third of Julian Cæsar, [RomAD 360]
on the 15th day of February.
The official story is that this first church was destroyed by fire in 404 and rebuilt in
405. The second church was completely destroyed during the Nica riots in 532. The
present building was inaugurated by Justinian in 537 and rededicated after some
misfortunes in 562. The mosaics were finished during the reign of Justin II (565-578).
( accessed 2016-07-09). Interesting with our hypothesis in
mind is that 562, the date for the rededication of the present Hagia Sophia, would be
the same year as RomAD 330, the year of the dedication of Constantinople by
Constantine. See the table in appendix A for a comparison of some of Constantine's
and Justinian's life dates, and some events visible on the scientific time lines.
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Interesting is also that the original 6th century mosaics were made before the
introduction of the Byzantine Christian era around 644, which is the date we
postulate for the manipulation of the historical time line (ref.2). Maybe the mosaic
over the southwestern entrance is a piece of the original artwork of the church, or a
copy, depicting something that was denied and forgotten a few years later? Maybe it
survived the periods of iconoclasm during the 8th and 9th centuries under a thick
layer of plaster?
Constantine's conversion and the evolution of Christianity
This is what Eusebius tells us about the conversion of Constantine (ref.18):
(Ch. XXVII) Being convinced, however, that he needed some more powerful
aid than his military forces could afford him, on account of the wicked and
magical enchantments which were so diligently practiced by the tyrant, he
sought Divine assistance, deeming the possession of arms and a numerous
soldiery of secondary importance, but believing the co-operating power of
Deity invincible and not to be shaken. He considered, therefore, on what God
he might rely for protection and assistance. While engaged in this enquiry,
the thought occurred to him, that, of the many emperors who had preceded
him, those who had rested their hopes in a multitude of gods, and served
them with sacrifices and offerings, had in the first place been deceived by
flattering predictions, and oracles which promised them all prosperity, and at
last had met with an unhappy end ... and therefore felt it incumbent on him to
honor his father’s God [Sol Invictus] alone.
(Ch. XXVIII) Accordingly he called on him with earnest prayer and
supplications that he would reveal to him who he was, and stretch forth his
right hand to help him in his present difficulties. And while he was thus
praying with fervent entreaty, a most marvelous sign appeared to him from
heaven, the account of which it might have been hard to believe had it been
related by any other person. But since the victorious emperor himself long
afterwards declared it to the writer of this history, when he was honored with
his acquaintance and society, and confirmed his statement by an oath, who
could hesitate to accredit the relation, especially since the testimony of after-
time has established its truth? He said that about noon, when the day was
already beginning to decline, he saw with his own eyes the trophy of a cross
of light in the heavens, above the sun, and bearing the inscription, Conquer
by this. At this sight he himself was struck with amazement, and his whole
army also, which followed him on this expedition, and witnessed the miracle.
This is said to have happened the day before the battle of the Milvian bridge in
RomAD 312 which ended with the death of Maxentius and made Constantine the
sole emperor of West-Rome. The sign he saw above the sun might very well have
been some halo effect and/or sun dogs, but has also been interpreted as a meteor
burst like the Tunguska event, or a meteorite. There are no Roman reports of comets
around RomAD 312 (ref.19), but Procopius reports the following for year 539 (=
RomAD 307):
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(ref.9, book II, ch. IV) At that time also the comet appeared, at first about as
long as a tall man, but later much larger. And the end of it was toward the
west and its beginning toward the east, and it followed behind the sun itself.
For the sun was in Capricorn and it was in Sagittarius. And some called it
"the swordfish" because it was of goodly length and very sharp at the point,
and others called it "the bearded star"; it was seen for more than forty days.
Now those who were wise in these matters disagreed utterly with each other,
and one announced that one thing, another that another thing was indicated
by this star; but I only write what took place and I leave to each one to judge
by the outcome as he wishes.
This report is exactly matched by the Chinese chronicles (ref.20), with a winter
observation in 539 of a comet in Sagittarius growing from one cubit to about ten
cubits in length. It was observed for about two weeks, entered Arietis and then
Of course we can not derive from this that Constantine actually saw a bright
meteorite originating from a recently passed comet, but it is a possibility if our
hypothesis is right. Moreover, it is an interesting coincidence as an impact has been
proposed as one of the elicitors for the abrupt cooling event after 536. Finally, the
exact compliance of Procopius' report with the Chinese chronicles is an additional
indication for the correctness of the historical time line back to about 500.
Whatever Constantine saw in RomAD 312, it convinced him that his decision to stick
to monotheism was right. Already one year later he issued the Edict of Milan together
with Licinius, which granted Christians (and all others) religious freedom. He founded
a new capital city when he had got rid of Licinius, probably because he realized that it
was difficult to remake the old Rome with its gods and their priests. Then he started
to build churches and held the first council of Nicaea in order to reach consensus
about some disputed questions, especially the Arian controversy.
Also Justinian built churches and held a council in Constantinople continuing the
dispute about the true nature of Jesus and his mother. He even sent out “flat-pack”
churches "in his efforts to fortify and regulate Christianity across his empire". Under
his rule large stone-carrying ships laden with prefabricated marble church interiors
were sent out from quarries around the Sea of Marmara to sites in Italy and North
Africa (ref.21). If he is identical with Constantine, it would be one man's decision in a
desperate situation which changed the history of Christianity so to say "overnight".
However, a comet appears directly connected to the end of Constantine's life.
Eutropius reports it for RomAD 336 as one of the portents announcing Constantine's
death (ref.19). According to our hypothesis we have to look in the Chinese chronicles
for 568. There is a comet report for August that year (ref.20).
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Long distance trade and the plague
Harbeck et al. (ref.13) suggest that the origin of the Y. pestis strain causing the
Justinian plague was in Asia (somewhere in western China or Mongolia). Wagner et
al. (ref.14) consider the strain as an evolutionary dead-end, because no extant
descendants of it have been identified so far. That means that the Y.pestis strain
causing the Black death in the middle of the 14th century came all the way again
from Asia, and the Justinian plague died out after about 200 years as historically
Procopius tells us that the disease started in Pelusium in Egypt. This observation is
compatible with an Asian origin for the plague pathogen, which means that it came
by long distance trade most probably via the Red Sea. But how did the plague arrive
in Pelusium? Pelusium was a Mediterranean port in the eastern Nile delta near
todays Port Said, connected via a system of channels with Alexandria from where
ships to Constantinople and other ports in the Mediterranean left. Tsiamis et al.
(ref.22) suggest that the plague came via the port of Clysma in the Red Sea.
Clysma was situated close to todays Suez, but there was of course no Suez canal
yet which connected Clysma with Pelusium directly. Instead the water connection
was made by the "river Traianus", a channel between Clysma and the antique city of
Bubastis via the Bitter Lakes of the Sinai. Bubastis and Pelusium were connected via
the easternmost branch of the Nile.
As Clysma was situated in a desert-like area with minimal annual precipitation, it
depended on the river Traianus not only for communication but also for its fresh
water supply. There are two periods when Clysma appears in the written sources: in
the 2nd century AD when the river Traianus was new-built, and in the early Arab
period (7th century) when the channel had been dredged to facilitate transports of
grain to Arabia (ref.23). Otherwise the sources are sparse, and - because of
navigational difficulties in the Gulf of Suez - Clysma was not a first choice port for the
long distance trade which instead preferred ports like Myos Hormos and Berenice.
In the late 5th and early 6th century the situation changed. Myos Hormos and
Berenice were abandoned most probably because the thoroughfares connecting the
ports with the Nile were not safe anymore because of increasing activity of the
Saracens and others in the region (ref.24). Instead Clysma, together with Aila (todays
Aqaba), got engaged in foreign trade and started to develop as a port city. After Aila
had been abandoned by the Roman authorities as a result of the Persian occupation
of Palestine in the early 7th century (614 to 629), it seems that Clysma remained the
only Red Sea port in the Roman empire.
This retraction of ports for foreign trade is worth a little detour, as there are some
sources mentioning Clysma explicitly.
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Figure 2: Map of Egypt and southern Palestine showing the location of Red Sea ports and other
places during Roman time.
Gregory of Tours (538 to 594) mentions Clysma when he describes the Exodus in his
"History of the Franks" (ref.25):
Now the stream mentioned above [the Nile] coming from the east passes in a
westerly direction towards the Red Sea; and from the west a lake or arm of
the Red Sea juts out and stretches to the east, being about fifty miles long
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and eighteen wide. And at the head of this lake the city of Clysma is built, not
on account of the fertility of the soil, since there is nothing more barren, but
because of the harbor, since ships coming from the Indias lie there for the
convenience of the harbor; and the wares purchased there are carried
through all Egypt. Toward this arm the Hebrews hastened through the
wilderness, and they came to the sea itself and encamped, finding fresh
Peter the Deacon, writing in the 12th century, gives a similar description of Clysma in
his "Liber de locis sanctis" (ref.26):
Before you reach the Holy Mount Sinai you come to the fort of Clysma on the
Red Sea, the place where the children of Israel crossed the sea dryshod. ... it
is on the shore, right by the sea. It has an enclosed harbour which makes the
sea come right inside the fort, and it is the port from India, which is to say that
it receives ships from India, for ships from India can come to no other port
than this in Roman territory. And the ships there are numerous and great,
since it is a port renowned for the Indian merchants who come to it. Also the
official (agens in rebus) known as the logothete has his residence there, the
one who goes on embassy each year to India by order of the Roman
emperor, and his ships lie there. The children of Israel came to this place on
their way out of Egypt when they were escaping the Pharaoh, and the fort
was built later on, to be a defense and deterrent against Saracen raids.
Both accounts certainly describe the situation before 639 when the Arabs conquered
Pelusium which acted as the "key of the Nile delta". However, Peter the Deacon's
statement "ships from India can come to no other port than this in Roman territory"
would make sense only if written after Aila had been abandoned in the early 7th
The problem with this is the source used by Peter the Deacon. While Gregory of
Tours most probably uses information from contemporary (6th century) pilgrims,
Peter the Deacon is believed to cite the itinerary of the nun Egeria, who travelled
through the Holy Lands between RomAD 381 to 384. Philip Mayerson vigorously
rejects this latter assumption (ref.27):
Peter the Deacon's account of the port of Clysma can not be placed in a
fourth-century context, nor can it be construed in any way as having been
based on a reading of Egeria's memoir. The likelihood is that Peter the
Deacon had before him a late - sixth century or later - account of a traveler
(pilgrim?) who is reporting on what he has heard from a poorly informed
If our hypothesis is right Egeria would have travelled between 613 and 616, only a
few years before the Arab conquest and during the Persian occupation of Palestine.
This would legitimate Mayerson's protest although Peter the Deacon indeed could
have cited Egeria. In that case her unique report caught the moment when the
Roman trade already had retracted to the core areas (lower Egypt), but immediately
before the total collapse of the trade following the Arab conquest.
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The absence of written sources about Clysma from the 3rd to the 5th century would
of course be due to this period's non-being. This also means that only about 300
years would have expired between the opening of the river Traianus and its dredging
by the Arabs. This in turn could mean that it indeed was navigable or at least water
bearing all the time, especially as there are papyri mentioning conscripted labor to
help clean debris and silt from the channel in Roman times (refs.23 and 24).
The end of Petra
As we have demonstrated for the traumatic first plague pandemic, it takes a major
incisive event to generate multiple reports of it by many different writers. This
increases the chance that these reports were written in different historical contexts,
which could reveal an anachronism or a dislocation in time. Because it is only in a
narrow time frame we can expect to find "twin events" at all, we postulate from about
the time of Constantine I to the introduction of the Byzantine world era (c.300 to 644),
or roughly the time during which West-Rome and East-Rome existed simultaneously.
Everything written in West-Roman context would have to be redated by 232 years
while reports written in East-Roman context already appear dated on the real time
line as we use it today.
The same reasoning is of course valid for archaeological findings which usually are
dated within their historical context by ceramic, coins etc. We will now look at another
major event within this postulated time frame where the historical sources are
underpinned by archaeological and geological evidence: the end of the city of Petra
in Jordan.
A short portrait of Petra is published on the Internet by the Jordan Tourism Board
(, accessed 2016-07-15):
Petra, the world wonder, is without a doubt Jordan's most valuable treasure
and greatest tourist attraction. It is a vast, unique city, carved into the sheer
rock face by the Nabataeans, an industrious Arab people who settled here
more than 2000 years ago, turning it into an important junction for the silk,
spice and other trade routes that linked China, India and southern Arabia with
Egypt, Syria, Greece and Rome. Petra was first established sometime
around the 6th century BC, by the Nabataean Arabs, a nomadic tribe who
settled in the area and laid the foundations of a commercial empire that
extended into Syria. Despite successive attempts by the Seleucid king
Antigonus, the Roman emperor Pompey and Herod the Great to bring Petra
under the control of their respective empires, Petra remained largely in
Nabataean hands until around 100AD, when the Romans took over. It was
still inhabited during the Byzantine period, when the former Roman
Empire moved its focus east to Constantinople, but declined in importance
What caused the decline of Petra? It was apparently not the first outbreak of the
Justinian plague, as in East-Roman context dated papyri - the most recent from 592 -
have been found in the Petra church which was destroyed in a fire (ref.28). Instead it
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has been proposed that Petra declined rapidly after a major earthquake which
crippled the city's water managing system.
Now, when exactly took such an earthquake place? Petra is situated almost directly
on the southern section of the Dead Sea Fault, on the edge of the Arabian plate. The
Dead Sea Fault forms the boundary between the African and Arabian plates and is
seismically highly active. Large surface-rupturing events (which could be
accompanied with major earthquakes) appear in the area with roughly 800 years
interval. One such event has been identified and radiocarbon dated to 560 to 660 in a
recent work by Ferry et al. (ref.29). Furthermore, a large earthquake within this
interval has been predicted by Rucker and Niemi (ref.30), who refer to a dedicatory
inscription found at Areopolis (todays Ar-Rabbath) further north of Petra and east of
the Dead Sea. The inscription, dated in the "Era of the Province of Arabia", reads:
"Restored in 492 [597-598 CE] after the earthquake".
If these threads of evidence would point to the same event, we would expect a large
earthquake in the southern part of the Dead Sea Fault after 592 (the most recent
date on the Petra papyri) and before 597 (which is the date mentioned for the
restoration after the earthquake in Areopolis). A very narrow time frame indeed.
The problem is that there are no written sources what so ever mentioning a large
earthquake even near that date. On the other hand, we know a well-documented
earthquake which devastated the Roman cities of Palestine from Haifa in the north to
Petra in the south, including Areopolis: the one of the night between the 18 and 19
May RomAD 363. Redated according to our hypothesis, this year would be 363 +
232 = 595, just in the middle of the predicted narrow time frame. Too much of a
With our hypothesis, Roman Petra and Byzantine Petra existed side by side, maybe
in separated quarters, and were destroyed in the same earthquake in 595. The Petra
church, probably built during the reign of Constantine I as attested by Eusebius, took
fire. Some minor rebuilding was attempted but the city was soon abandoned,
probably because of the ruined water managing system which made normal life
impossible. Maybe also changed economical prerequisites played a role, both
because of the Sasanide occupation (614 to 629), and the subsequent Arab
conquest which in this region took place 633 to 636.
The archaeological evidence as described by Zbigniew Fiema (ref.28) rather
supports this hypothesis. Nabataean/Roman infrastructure was never rebuilt after the
earthquake, it is thought that the post-363 inhabitants dwelt for more than two and a
half centuries in a city affected by flash floods and with a primitive economy. Petra
suddenly and mystically disappears from the sources after that period. However, this
picture is in striking contrast to the contents of the Petra papyri, which talk about
impressive honorifics of the city (Augustocolonia, Petra Metropolis, Metrocolonia
etc.), and a quite prosperous normal life at least for the upper classes in the second
half of the 6th century.
If the time between RomAD 363 and 595 would collapse to nothing, we would once
again look at the early Christian period in the Roman empire and not at a time when
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Christianity had been the state church for more than 200 years. This is what Fiema
says about it (ref.28, p.219):
The heritage of classical pagan culture was still vivid in Petra, even in the
5th-6th c. Christianity in Petra had progressed at a rather slow pace, living
side -by-side with pagan temples and traditions at least through the 4th c., if
not longer. Greco-Roman art still survives in the mosaics of the Petra
Church. Study of their design s (e.g. the personifications of the Four
Seasons) points to the Gaza and Madaba mosaic schools as inspiration, but
Roman influence is also visible, coming perhaps from the cultural center of
Caesarea Maritima. However, these personifications, which have clearly
pagan implications in Hellenistic and Roman culture, must in the Byzantine
period have become more of a rhetorical figure than an actual bearer of old
religious ideas. Similarly, the door jambs of the central entrance to the
church, which feature Greco-Roman deities with their attributes, indicate a
wish to preserve and re-employ a high-quality architectural decoration
without concern for its pagan character. On the other hand, some pagan-
period structures or elements still in use in the Byzantine period became
'Christianized': crosses cut on the facade of Shop XXVIII by the Colonnaded
Street and on the pagan inscription mentioning Aphrodite on stone re-used in
the Petra Church illustrate this phenomenon.
A look at the numismatic evidence is also interesting. All post-363 coins found in
different places in Petra are of course counted in their own imaginary time (ref.28,
The chronological pattern of coins recovered from the Petra Church is
indicative. Of 239 identifiable coins, the 4th c. was represented by 92 (38%),
the later 4th-5th c. by 38 (16%), the 5th c. by 9 (4%), and the 6th c. by 58
24%) with only 1 coin being post-Justinianic and post 6th c. Of 190
identifiable coins found by the Roman Street Project, 52 (27%) are definitely
post-363. This may imply that commercial activities in the street had at least
partially recovered from the disaster of 363. Some of that coinage may relate
to commercial transactions conducted in the secondary ("Byzantine") shops.
However, only two coins from the excavations of the shops were dated to the
6th c. That scarcity, and especially of coins later than the mid-6th c., confirms
the pattern already noted during previous excavations in the street area.
But if we postulate that Constantine I and Justinian I were at least contemporary, we
would have to regard the 4th and 6th century coins as contemporary as well. In that
case only few coins remain which could be post-catastrophic.
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Discussion and Conclusions
With our hypothesis that 232 years were invented for some reason at the transition
between Late Antiquity and Early Medieval time, we have searched and found two
"twin events", i.e. events where parts of the historical and scientific evidence are
dated in different context. This means more explicitly that part of the evidence is
dated with West-Roman dating methods and thus has been dated 232 years before
the other part of the evidence which is dated with East-Roman dating methods which
are correctly synchronized with our own Christian era. The twin events we have
found are the onset of the first plague pandemic, and the major earthquake on the
southern Dead Sea Fault which destroyed Petra in Jordan among many other cities.
There is multiple evidence just because these events were major and incisive. In the
case of the Petra earthquake, the written sources about the event are dated in West-
Roman context (RomAD 363) which caused the archaeologists to postulate a more
than 200 years long Byzantine period after the Roman period and the earthquake. To
explain the inferiority of this period, at least two other earthquakes which affected the
already mangled city were postulated as well.
Epigraphic data and geological data which do not comply with historically derived
"Earthquake Catalogues" finally indicated that something was wrong. Rucker and
Niemi (ref.30) identified a major earthquake after 592 and before 597 in East-Roman
context which was not on the lists. They did, however, not identify the reason why
this earthquake was not recognizable.
In the case of the Justinian plague, most written sources are already in East-Roman
context. The few sources in West-Roman context talking about a plague 232 years
before can easily be explained with some other sort of disease. But also in this case
there are mystical circumstances which reveal that something is wrong, e.g. the
anachronistic statements of both Procopius and Peter the Diacon/Egeria.
Now let's make a historical synthesis according to our hypothetical time line.
Constantine becomes Augustus in the West after turbulent years with famine, plague
and civil war which convinced him about monotheism. He starts supporting the
Christians which already have communities in the empire. When he becomes the
Emperor of the whole empire, he drops old pagan Rome and moves the capital city
to the new-founded Constantinople. At the same time he changes name to Justinian
and starts a new life building churches throughout the empire. After his death there
are again emperors in the west and in the east simultaneously who "produce" parallel
history. First after Justinian the Roman empire starts to crumble.
The climatic events 536 to 542 which most probably were among the drivers for
famine and plague also affected other people in Europe and Asia. Some of these
start to migrate, as for example the "Huns" who are still around in the late reign of
Justinian (ref.31) and cause turmoil and upheaval. Büntgen et al. (ref.8) postulate
that the cooling after 536 to 542 may have affected the Arabian Peninsula positively,
that means it could have boosted scrub vegetation as fodder over arid areas, and
thus indirectly contributed to the rise of the Arab empire.
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A number of large devastating earthquakes weakens the Roman empire even more.
The Levant earthquake of 551 (ref.30) causes massive destruction between Tripoli
and Beirut, and the subsequent tsunami affects the coast of Lebanon. The Palestine
earthquake as discussed above destroys cities in the Dead Sea region from Haifa in
the north to Petra in the south and causes seiche in the Dead Sea. At about the
same time, a large earthquake lifts the shoreline of western Crete with several meters
in a single event and is probably followed by a large tsunami affecting the whole
eastern Mediterranean coast (ref.32). Also Constantinople is severely affected by an
earthquake in 557 "when the traditional Roman Festival of the Names was being
celebrated", as reported by Agathias (ref.31, book 5, ch.3). This clustering of
earthquakes has been named the Eastern Mediterranean Tectonic Paroxysm and is
tentatively explained as a remarkable episode of strain release during an unusually
active period of plate interaction in the region (ref.33).
Deprived of population and tax-paying cities, the Roman empire has difficulties to
defend its boundaries and outer trade routes. The Sasanides occupy Palestine with
the result that Clysma remains the only port for foreign trade. In a last effort the
Sasanides are defeated, but then the Arab conquest sets in. Egypt's grain shipments
are redirected to Arabia, the foreign trade ceases.
In this situation the East-Roman empire replaces Latin with Greek as the language of
administration. The Byzantine world era becomes the official year count, stating that
this is the year 644 since the birth of Jesus Christ. The computations for the new
world era also include a manipulation of the historical time line, maybe to try to make
Christianity look older than it is in order to gain legitimacy in relation to the young
Islam. With nobody left in Rome who would be able to protest, Jesus, Augustus and
the whole West-Roman history are antedated by 232 years over a night. Some
manipulations in the astronomical literature and chronicles are made subsequently,
the rest is history.
According to our hypothesis, the crash of the West-Roman empire came with the
start of the Arabian expansion after 630. This has been postulated by Henri Pirenne
(ref.34), who rejected that the collapse of the West-Roman culture and economy was
caused by the barbarian invasions during the 4th and 5th centuries. Instead, Late
Antiquity ended in the west following the Arab conquest of north Africa, when the
east-western trade routes in the Mediterranean were cut off.
Our historical synthesis spans the time from about RomAD 300 to 644, which is
greatly identical with the period defined by historians as "Late Antiquity". But while
the mainstream historians count about 350 years during this period, we count just
slightly more than 100 years which unarguably adds a dynamic touch to the "dark
ages". Because in the end it is the time frame given by the scientific consensus which
allows the historians to spread the known historical events over the available time
span. Do you dispose of 350 years, you will have to write history for 350 years. This
means for example that in mainstream history the early Byzantine period always
comes after the late Roman period, never parallel with it, which might be problematic
as in the case of Petra. Byzantine Petra seems to exist for 232 more years among
the ruins of Roman Petra.
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The same is valid for the advance of Christianity in the Roman empire. Initiated under
Constantine, the process seems still not finished under Justinian though Christianity
has been the state church for almost 200 years. Prominent chroniclers contemporary
with Justinian write in a "classic style" which evokes the question if they are already
Christians or still pagans (ref.35). Pagan festivals are still observed in Constantinople
as reported by Agathias (ref.31).
Also the name which the chroniclers use for Justinian's capital city seems a little
anachronistic, to say the least. At that time it should have been known as
Constantinople for about 200 years. Procopius however, writing until Justinian's 26th
year (554), calls it consistently "Byzantium", while Agathias, writing after Justinian,
calls it consistently "Constantinople" with a few exceptions. These exceptions where
he uses "Byzantium" seem to refer to history from Justinian's early years.
Ultimately, we also have to consider the lack of oak trees in Late Antiquity. Building
with oak becomes uncommon after RomAD 250 and ceases completely around the
time of Constantine. New activity starts first in the 7th century. For the intermediate
period not even oaks in the river beds could be found which left a hardly bridgeable
gap in the European oak tree-ring chronologies. Was it for climatic reasons that oaks
did not grow during this period? Malicious tongues claim that the lack of oaks from
the Migration period is due to many people migrating to and fro, trampling all oak
seedlings in their way ...
In our short version of Late Antiquity, Constantine and Justinian are at least
contemporaries. Byzantine Petra is destroyed in the same earthquake as Roman
Petra. Christianity is new to the Romans and there are a lot of people, especially the
intellectuals like Procopius and Agathias, who still follow classic ideals. Byzantium is
the name used for the capital city until the end of the reign of Justinian, after his
death Constantinople is used instead. And the Roman tree-ring gap, which still is
apparent even after the postulated time collapse, is probably due to over-exploitation
of oak timber by the Romans.
The cold period which is called the Late Antique Little Ice Age is in our version not
only a part of Late Antiquity, it is pari passu with Late Antiquity. This means that
climatic coincidences most probably started the course of events which hundred
years later led to the fall of the West-Roman empire and the transformation of the
East-Roman empire, simultaneously and not after each other with 232 years in-
between. See figure 4 in appendix B for a graphical presentation.
Who is right, the mainstream or we or somebody else? This will at the end of the day
be determined by a science which is completely independent of historical
considerations. We have already published our dendrochronological results (ref.1) as
a basis for scientific discussions, however the mainstream dendrochronologists have
still to publish the raw data on which they base their assertions. First when the time
frame for Late Antiquity has been established with scientific methods, we can get the
full picture of the historical course of events for that period. This is not a pastime for
historians, it is by contrast essential knowledge when attempting to extend
climatological and geological models back beyond 536. What happened in Late
Antiquity can happen again, at any time, and there is risk that we do not grasp the
true story if we stubborn persist to work with possibly corrupt data.
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Appendix A: Compilation of some of Constantine's and Justinian's life dates,
and some events visible on the scientific time lines
In our short version of Late Antiquity, Constantine I and Justinian I are at least
contemporaries. This conclusion is derived from our hypothesis that the plague
episodes described by Eusebius and Procopius are connected to the same outbreak
of bubonic plague. See the following table with a compilation of some of
Constantine's and Justinian's life dates, and some events visible on the scientific time
lines, synchronized according to our hypothesis. Both emperors have a close relation
to Constantinople as depicted in the mosaic shown in figure 3: Constantine to the
right offering a model of the city to the Virgin Mary with Child, and to the left Justinian
offering her a model of the Hagia Sophia.
Hagia Sophia , mosaic over the southwestern entrance.
Life of Justinian I
Events visible
on scientific
time lines
Life of Constantine I
Date in
(i.e. minus
232 years)
527 Emperor 295
528 296
529 Codex Iustinianus, draft 297
530 298
531 299
532 Nika riots, peace with
Sasanide empire 300
533 Vandalic war 301
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Life of Justinian I Events visible
on scientific
time lines
Life of Constantine I
Date in
(i.e. minus
232 years)
534 Codex Iustinianus, final,
Vandalic war
535 begin of Gothic war 303
536 Volcano eruption 304
537 Inauguration Hagia
538 Caesar in the west 306
539 Comet observation Chinese comet obs.
540 begin of war with
Sasanide empire
Volcano eruption 308
541 309
542 Plague outbreak Tree-ring minimum
scand. pine
Drought, plague and
probably anthrax outbreak
543 311
544 Battle of Milvian bridge,
Augustus in the west,
senior Augustus in the
545 Edict of Milan 313
546 314
547 Volcano eruption 315
548 316
549 317
550 318
551 Earthquake in Lebanon 319
552 320
553 Second council of
554 end of Gothic war, Italy
secured for the empire
555 323
556 Emperor of the whole
Empire, foundation of
557 Earthquake in
First council of Nicaea 325
558 326
559 327
560 328
561 329
562 Rededication Hagia
Sophia, peace with
Sasanide empire
Dedication of
563 331
564 332
565 dies 14 Nov. in
Constantinople 333
566 334
567 335
568 Chinese comet obs.
comet observation 336
569 dies 22 May in Nicomedia 337
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Appendix B: The Late Antique Little Ice Age and related historical events
Figure 4: From ref.8, figure 4 | Cooling and societal change during the LALIA. ac, Reconstructed
summer temperatures from the Russian Altai (a) and the European Alps (b), together with estimated
volcanic forcing (c). Blue lines highlight the coldest decades of the LALIA that range among the ten
coldest decades of the Common Era. Horizontal bars, shadings and stars refer to major plague
outbreaks, rising and falling empires, large-scale human migrations, and political turmoil. Black
dashed lines refer to the long-term reconstruction mean of the Common Era.
Completed by us with some notable events in West-Roman context (violet stars), redated 232 years
according to our hypothesis. Major earthquakes in the eastern part of the empire: violet circle with
yellow ring (with tsunami), with pink ring (with seiche).
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... Scientific evidence suggests that Procopius' narrative is staged on the real time line as we use it today (ref. 7). ...
... The West-Roman empire fell later in the 7 th century, following the Arabian conquest of north Africa around year 640 (RomAD 408) when the east-western trade routes in the Mediterranean were cut off (ref. 7). ...
... The contemporaneity of the Justianian and Constantinian dynasties has been discussed elsewhere (ref. 7 206 26 207 25 208 24 209 23 210 22 211 21 212 20 213 19 214 18 215 17 216 16 217 15 218 14 219 13 220 12 221 11 222 10 223 9 224 8 225 7 226 6 227 5 228 4 229 3 230 2 231 1 BC 232 1 AD 233 2 234 3 235 4 236 5 237 6 238 7 239 8 240 9 241 10 242 11 243 12 244 13 245 14 Augustus 287 56 288 57 289 58 290 59 291 60 292 61 293 62 294 63 295 64 296 65 297 66 298 ...
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This article is about the historical consequences of our scientifically reinforced hypothesis that the West-Roman empire is conventionally dated some 232 years too old. We offer an alternative interpretation of some Roman heirlooms retrieved from the grave of the Frankish king Childeric, and from a Japanese grave dated to the late 5th century.
... A large comet was observed in 539 with concurrent details both in Constantinople and in China (ref. 7). ...
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In the recent update (2022-08-31) of our article “Tree growth downturns in the Iron Age” we postulate that - due to a dendrochronological error of 218 years - an extreme narrow ring event in Scandinavian pine tree-ring chronologies at -329 CE is contemporary with the “Hallstatt gap” in central European oak tree-ring chronologies as well as the termination of the work at the old Hallstatt salt mine dated on dendrochronological grounds around -570. However, based on archaeological/radiocarbon evidence the Hallstatt settlement (its cemetery) was abandoned first around -350. We further postulate a large cosmic catastrophe with impacts distributed over north-western Europe as the cause for the -329 extreme narrow ring event. We added a postscriptum to the article (due to the consideration of recent research) on 2022-11-03. An old preliminary manuscript from 2015 is still available here, see tab "Public files".
Full-text available
Published or otherwise available European oak tree-ring chronologies archaeologically anchored in Roman time are all separated from early medieval chronologies by a severe timber depletion in late antiquity. Our recent dendrochronological study shows that this gap probably is unnecessarily wide because the Roman dendro complex as a whole appears dated too old by 218 years. The subject of the here presented astronomical study was to investigate if there is additional scientific support for such a mistake which would mean a large calendar error in the Christian era. Our results indicate that the Christian era was inflated with 232 years already when it was invented. This was done by backdating West-Roman and related history by means of astronomical retrocalculation after the western part of the Roman empire had declined. A remarkable result of our astronomical study is that the postulated astronomical/ historical error (232 years) appears to be offset by 14 years from the dendrochronological error (218 years). This means that, if we are right, then all current dendrochronological dates within the Roman time complex are given 14 years too young. According to our interpretation, the 14 years offset was caused by an improper synchronization of the Roman dendro complex towards Roman history done more than 30 years ago.
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Climatic changes during the first half of the Common Era have been suggested to play a role in societal reorganizations in Europe1,2 and Asia3,4. In particular, the sixth century coincides with rising and falling civilizations1–6 , pandemics7,8 , human migration and political turmoil8–13. Our understanding of the magnitude and spatial extent as well as the possible causes and concurrences of climate change during this period is, however, still limited. Here we use tree-ring chronologies from the Rus- sian Altai and European Alps to reconstruct summer tempera- tures over the past two millennia. We find an unprecedented, long-lasting and spatially synchronized cooling following a cluster of large volcanic eruptions in 536, 540 and 547 AD (ref. 14), which was probably sustained by ocean and sea-ice feedbacks15,16 , as well as a solar minimum17 . We thus identify the interval from 536 to about 660 AD as the Late Antique Little Ice Age. Spanning most of the Northern Hemisphere, we suggest that this cold phase be considered as an additional environmental factor contributing to the establishment of the Justinian plague7,8, transformation of the eastern Roman Empire and collapse of the Sasanian Empire1,2,5, movements out of the Asian steppe and Arabian Peninsula8,11,12, spread of Slavic-speaking peoples9,10 and political upheavals in China13.
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Volcanic eruptions contribute to climate variability, but quantifying these contributions has been limited by inconsistencies in the timing of atmospheric volcanic aerosol loading determined from ice cores and subsequent cooling from climate proxies such as tree rings. Here we resolve these inconsistencies and show that large eruptions in the tropics and high latitudes were primary drivers of interannual-to-decadal temperature variability in the Northern Hemisphere during the past 2,500 years. Our results are based on new records of atmospheric aerosol loading developed from high-resolution, multi-parameter measurements from an array of Greenland and Antarctic ice cores as well as distinctive age markers to constrain chronologies. Overall, cooling was proportional to the magnitude of volcanic forcing and persisted for up to ten years after some of the largest eruptive episodes. Our revised timescale more firmly implicates volcanic eruptions as catalysts in the major sixth-century pandemics, famines, and socioeconomic disruptions in Eurasia and Mesoamerica while allowing multi-millennium quantification of climate response to volcanic forcing.
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Based on published and otherwise available tree-ring data, we have analyzed the dendrochronological support for the current dating of Roman activities in western Europe. Manuscript rejected by Tree-Ring Research, details of peer review see:
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Growing scientific evidence from modern climate science is loaded with implications for the environmental history of the Roman Empire and its successor societies. The written and archaeological evidence, although richer than commonly realized, is unevenly distributed over time and space. A first synthesis of what the written records and multiple natural archives (multi-proxy data) indicate about climate change and variability across western Eurasia from c. 100 b.c. to 800 a.d. confirms that the Roman Empire rose during a period of stable and favorable climatic conditions, which deteriorated during the Empire's third-century crisis. A second, briefer period of favorable conditions coincided with the Empire's recovery in the fourth century; regional differences in climate conditions parallel the diverging fates of the eastern and western Empires in subsequent centuries. Climate conditions beyond the Empire's boundaries also played an important role by affecting food production in the Nile valley, and by encouraging two major migrations and invasions of pastoral peoples from Central Asia.
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The continuous record of large surface-rupturing earthquakes along the Dead Sea fault brings unprecedented insights for paleoseismic and archaeoseismic research. In most recent studies, paleoseismic trenching documents the late Holocene faulting activity, while tectonic geomorphology addresses the long-term behavior (10 ka), with a tendency to smooth the effect of individual earthquake rupture events (Mw7). Here, we combine historical, archaeological, and paleoseismic investigations to build a consolidated catalog of destructive surface-rupturing earthquakes for the last 14 ka along the left-lateral Jordan Valley fault segment. The 120-km-long fault segment limited to the north and the south by major pull-apart basins (the Hula and the Dead Sea, respectively) is mapped in detail and shows five subsegments with narrow stepovers (width3 km). We conducted quantitative geomorphology along the fault, measured more than 20 offset drainages, excavated four trenches at two sites, and investigated archaeological sites with seismic damage in the Jordan Valley. Our results in paleoseismic trenching with 28 radiocarbon datings and the archaeoseismology at Tell Saydiyeh, supplemented with a rich historical seismic record, document 12 surface-rupturing events along the fault segment with a mean interval of ∼1160 yr and an average 5 mm/yr slip rate for the last 25 ka. The most complete part of the catalog indicates recurrence intervals that vary from 280 yr to 1500 yr, with a median value of 790 yr, and suggests an episodic behavior for the Jordan Valley fault. Our study allows a better constraint of the seismic cycle and related short-term variations (late Holocene) versus long-term behavior (Holocene and late Pleistocene) of a major continental transform fault.
The field of archaeoseismology has been plagued by a persistent problem. The problem has been the integration of several lines of evidence to produce a holistic conclusion without entering into a situation of circular reasoning, wherein the sources are used to build on each other without foundation. The four main sources of evidence are historical texts, epigraphy, archaeology, and geology. Any seismic event may appear in any or all of them, but only the most extreme events in fortuitous locations would be expected to appear in all four. This paper uses some aspects of the interpretation of the 551 C.E. earthquake in the Levant to illustrate how this circular reasoning can develop, and how it tends to corrupt the different lines of evidence. We conclude with a suggested new approach, making the database of regional seismic events both more specific and more complete.
Yersinia pestis has caused at least three human plague pandemics. The second (Black Death, 14-17th centuries) and third (19-20th centuries) have been genetically characterised, but there is only a limited understanding of the first pandemic, the Plague of Justinian (6-8th centuries). To address this gap, we sequenced and analysed draft genomes of Y pestis obtained from two individuals who died in the first pandemic. Teeth were removed from two individuals (known as A120 and A76) from the early medieval Aschheim-Bajuwarenring cemetery (Aschheim, Bavaria, Germany). We isolated DNA from the teeth using a modified phenol-chloroform method. We screened DNA extracts for the presence of the Y pestis-specific pla gene on the pPCP1 plasmid using primers and standards from an established assay, enriched the DNA, and then sequenced it. We reconstructed draft genomes of the infectious Y pestis strains, compared them with a database of genomes from 131 Y pestis strains from the second and third pandemics, and constructed a maximum likelihood phylogenetic tree. Radiocarbon dating of both individuals (A120 to 533 AD [plus or minus 98 years]; A76 to 504 AD [plus or minus 61 years]) places them in the timeframe of the first pandemic. Our phylogeny contains a novel branch (100% bootstrap at all relevant nodes) leading to the two Justinian samples. This branch has no known contemporary representatives, and thus is either extinct or unsampled in wild rodent reservoirs. The Justinian branch is interleaved between two extant groups, 0.ANT1 and 0.ANT2, and is distant from strains associated with the second and third pandemics. We conclude that the Y pestis lineages that caused the Plague of Justinian and the Black Death 800 years later were independent emergences from rodents into human beings. These results show that rodent species worldwide represent important reservoirs for the repeated emergence of diverse lineages of Y pestis into human populations. McMaster University, Northern Arizona University, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Canada Research Chairs Program, US Department of Homeland Security, US National Institutes of Health, Australian National Health and Medical Research Council.