Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Chronology Incognito

The one issue that keeps cropping up in our ongoing perusal of the literature is that dating the past is fickle. A consensus slides into the literature and when overturned, taints all the prior work. I find myself constantly rechecking sources to get some comfort, and yes, making mistakes. We need to think about this.

For the past several thousands of years we are dependent on carbon dating. This method must be corrected by tree ring matching and that has been improving since its first discovery. That is why we know Hekla blew up in 1159 BC. Thank god we know something! On the other hand, the acknowledged error factor is significant in its own right and the wood itself can easily be decades old. This means that one sample can throw you all over the map.

Imagine dating Hekla on the basis of an ash collapsed roof. This sounds very straight forward. The assay will come back based on the apparent age of the wood which must be younger than the event. The house stood for a hundred years and the assay accounts for an error factor of one percent for ninety five percent of the time. That suggests that the date lies between 1300 BC and 1200 BC. You see how easy this is.

Now imagine trying to convince your peers that on the basis of other weaker evidence that the date is a hundred years too old.

The problem is that data does get written up and made to look convincing. This is hard to overcome. We have just reviewed the Vostok Ice Core. A marvelous chart lays out the apparent sequence of the data in clear chronological order. We have no way of confirming the reliability of the corrective factors used, if any, and thus are susceptible to been misled.

It is clear that hotspots occurred that were clearly significant and briefly countered the effects of the general ice age. The spacing is such that we can say that this is a periodic event that has yet to reoccur because the curve shape of the Holocene is radically different. The Holocene is the first stable climate regime in the past one million years because the Northern Ice Cap has been eliminated.

So what are these hotspots? They appear periodic. If they are periodic, then the probability exists that the cause is both cosmological and strongly periodic within a narrow predictable time range. If it is a solar event then it will be say 100,000 years plus or minus 10,000 years. If it is orbital then it will be say 100,000 years plus or minus 1000 years.

The data is showing three precisely similar events with a high degree of probability and clear apparent periodicity. So within the confines of our data we have clear unique and similar events that are separable from the ice age data. The probability of real periodicity is also very high and certainly approaching ninety percent plus.

If for example, the orbit were most of 150,000 years, then simple stretching of the data will preserve the near term data chronology and fit in the remainder handily giving us a 600,000 year chart. I would suspect that our weak present knowledge puts such an orbit well within the probability range. Right now we merely know that we are traveling in the right general direction and at a relative velocity that certainly supports an orbit hypothesis. We do not really know were we are on the curve of the orbit let alone a refined knowledge of the path of perigee.

Returning to the issue of carbon dating, we have illustrated just how controversial any single carbon dated data point must be. It also reaffirms the need for careful methodology and multiple samples to pin down chronologies. It also tells us that the documentary record needs to be disciplined by facts on the ground. This is slowly happening in the Mediterranean and other selected regions around the globe.

On the other hand there is still far too much ‘terra incognito’. Had the Maya built only in wood, what would we know? Millions lived in the Amazon and we have only just discovered them. And that is all within the past several thousands of years. Deeper and older, we have barely turned a spade.

When we dig down though a couple hundred feet of mud and discover man made stonework from seventy thousands of years ago, how will we explain it? Certainly our endeavors have raised the possibility.

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