Part Two: Geological Issues
June 14, 1974To: Professor Howard Winters
Department of Anthropology
New York University
From: Professor Alfred de Grazia
Dear Professor Winters:
Thank you for the materials on the S. Illinois digs at Modoc, Riverton, Koster (et al), and the U. S. Corps of Engineers surveys on Southern Illinois. I am returning them herewith, since I shall be leaving for Greece soon, but I would like to talk to you more about them before leaving, if that is possible.
My problem was this: the stratigraphic work of Schaeffer and others show heavy ashes and calcinated debris from natural disasters over "Old World" settlements and cities, ending the Old, Middle, and Recent Bronze Ages; that is, effectively terminating these civilizations. Therefore, the "New World" in some likelihood would show the same. If, however, the stratigraphy of American Indian settlements of the Mississippi Valley is continuous and shows no catastrophic effects between, say, 3,000 B. C. and 600 B. C., then the hypothesis of world-wide catastrophe is disproved. (The same would hold for Meso-America, which I am not considering here.)
Catastrophes are indicated by effects of violent flood, wind, fire, and material fall-out. Hence I examined your materials for evidence of such effects. First I considered cases without reference to carbon dating, which in all cases produced dates during and before the mentioned critical period. I note the following:
The strata in all cases involve very narrow bands of settlement, measurable in inches. For instance, the Modoc case is said to move one foot per 1,000 years (in the earliest period) to one foot per century in the latest. But the question arises whether we are dealing with short-term values. The cross-sections show only thinly settled camping materials; nothing indicated the presence of women and children.
The fauna and flora remain unchanged throughout the period of several millennia, even from 9,000 B. C. The same mammals, fish, birds, nuts, and vegetation characterize all periods with frequency distributions that could be annual or irregularly annual. One wonders, then, too, about the Indian campers whose successive waves occupied a great stretch of time.
The technology scarcely changes. Even the mix of material does not radically alter.
The area in general is subject to flooding even nowadays. The stratigraphies show effects separating older layers of artifacts an hearths from newer ones; that is, silt, loess, and clay. Again these are in thin layers.
The area generally exhibits frequently strata of lignite and coal near the surface, which is mined farther north. These can be scenes of catastrophic combustion (See e. g. State Coal Circ. 332, table 5,3 and Francis, COAL, new ed.)
The stratigraphy of the area in general permits the hypothesis of catastrophic swirling cross-currents of flood occurring in a short period of time (i. e. weeks or centuries), depositing in rapid succession thin layers of loess, silt, clay, and organic matter that are noted everywhere. Whereupon in a late period, after the catastrophes, human occupancy resumed in periods of resettling of the landscape and regrowth.
The descriptions of the limestone "foundations" that underlie the more evident material are typically vague. Limestone, I imagine, could signify a conglomerate of sudden sediment soaked by heavy floods and solidified by heat [electricity] and pressure.
The settlements are sunk into the same "alluvial" material that they rest upon. That is, the pit sides, except for the ploughed area, contain the same material layers as the bottom projections of the pits up to a certain rock depth. Hence, unlike the sites of the Near East, apparently nature was building up as rapidly as the human settlements were accruing. That is, either the land mass was building up enormously, or the occupancy of the sites was exceedingly thin, or was sinking or dug in. If the first, 30,000 years would have built up an extensive plateau.
Therefore, I ask myself (and you) the following questions:
Apart from the superposition of artifacts, is there any proof of a succession of ages?
If a succession of ages is granted, is there any proof that more than a century or two of occupancy were involved?
Could not the occupancy take the typical form of returning to a site, clearing the brush and grass to a clay and pebble base, and thus digging in the site over a period of time under a couple of centuries?
In view of the major catastrophic hypothesis, might not catastrophe in the central Mississippi Valley region take the form of devastating floods and fire, wiping out most of the biosphere? The old biosphere would be represented in the near surface lignite, fusain, and coal deposits where flood waters and tides, driven by wind and surface plate movements, would dump the burning debris, cool it by flooding and bury it with successive waves of sand and silt dragged from other mostly denuded surface areas. In a few years, a new growth would occur overall, but evidences of antediluvian human occupancy would be totally absent. Also absent, of course, would be any calcinated debris of settlements, and in this area of America, any huge aqueous intrusions or lava flow.
If this set of questions is answered in a way tending to support the possibility of neartime catastrophe, that is, between 3,000 and 600 B. C., then there still remains the defiant evidence of radiocarbon dating.
These data, as given, are often irregular and sometimes conflicting. At Modoc, for instance, Stratum 3 which goes from 15.3 feet (below the ploughline?) to 22.3 feet moves from 3314 B. C. to 9246 B. C. or 6,000 years more or less in 7 feet (with one gross anomalous reading). This seems excessive for a "continuous occupancy" site. I cannot conceive of any kind of settlement building only about one foot per thousand years. (I knew the American Indian was a great natural recycler of materials, but this is too much, especially since the occupants were carelessly dropping their hard-worked stone implements all about.)
Radiocarbon dating is known to present three types of problems. The first involves stratigraphic techniques of sampling and cleaning, that is, selection malfunctions. These can be serious and amount to a general bias in a set of cases.
Another C14 problem is presented by water-soaking. Water is known to wash out C14 and produce great age even for young organisms. The materials of Illinois Indians were frequently flooded and therefore may give old readings.
A third is in the atmospheric mix and flux that builds up the Carbon-14 residue in the organism to the point of death. Here the difficulty lies with the factors creating Carbon-14, the flux of cosmic particles and the density of the earth's atmosphere. The geo-physicist, Melvin Cook, argues in a fully detailed quantitative study, that the carbondating method in itself gives us an atmosphere that is only 12,000 years old. (" Carbon 14 and the Age of the Atmosphere," Creation Research Society Quarterly, June 1970.) Apart from this, it is apparent that carbondating as a test begs the question of an inconstant atmosphere. That is, like so many tests, the IQ for example, it tests itself.
All of this leaves us, don't you think, with thermoluminescence tests, if the antiquity of the Illinois Indians is to be proven, and then not for pre-ceramic periods?