That statement is from a report analyzing the destruction of Abu Hureyra, an early agricultural settlement in Syria, some 12,800 years ago.
Abu Hureyra, it turns out, has another story to tell. Found among the cereals and grains and splashed on early building material and animal bones was meltglass, some features of which suggest it was formed at extremely high temperatures—far higher than what humans could achieve at the time—or that could be attributed to fire, lighting or volcanism.
"To help with perspective, such high temperatures would completely melt an automobile in less than a minute," said James Kennett, a UC Santa Barbara emeritus professor of geology. Such intensity, he added, could only have resulted from an extremely violent, high-energy, high-velocity phenomenon, something on the order of a cosmic impact.
Based on materials collected before the site was flooded, Kennett and his colleagues contend Abu Hureyra is the first site to document the direct effects of a fragmented comet on a human settlement.
. . .
Abu Hureyra lies at the easternmost sector of what is known as the Younger Dryas Boundary (YDB) strewnfield, which encompasses about 30 other sites in the Americas, Europe and parts of the Middle East. These sites hold evidence of massive burning, including a widespread carbon-rich "black mat" layer that contains millions of nanodiamonds, high concentrations of platinum and tiny metallic spherules formed at very high temperatures. The YDB impact hypothesis has gained more traction in recent years because of many new discoveries, including a very young impact crater beneath the Hiawatha Glacier of the Greenland ice sheet, and high-temperature meltglass and other similar evidence at an archaeological site in Pilauco, located in southern Chile.
"The Abu Hureyra village would have been abruptly destroyed," Kennett said. Unlike the evidence from Pilauco, which was limited to human butchering of large animals up to but not younger than the YDB impact burn layer, Abu Hureyra shows direct evidence of the disaster on this early human settlement. An impact or an airburst must have occurred sufficiently close to send massive heat and molten glass over the entire early village, Kennett noted.
There's more at the link.
I found this report fascinating, not just because it appears to offer evidence confirming the hitherto speculative Younger Dryas impact, but because of its similarities to another hypothesis concerning the destruction of the city of Sodom, described in the Bible. Two years ago, the Times of Israel reported:
In 1908, a massive blast near Siberia’s Stony Tunguska River flattened some 2,000 square kilometers of uninhabited taiga forestry. Curiously, no crater was discovered and scientists explain the strange phenomena through a meteor explosion some 5-10 km above land.
Now an interdisciplinary team of archaeologists and scientists are using the Tunguska explosion as a model to explain the equally curious end to a thriving civilization that lived for thousands of years in a plain near the Dead Sea.
. . .
According to the paper’s abstract, the scientists discovered evidence of a “high-heat” explosive event north of the Dead Sea that instantaneously “devastated approximately 500 km2.” The explosion would have wiped out all civilization in the affected area, including Middle Bronze Age cities and towns. Silvia told Science News that the blast would have instantly killed the estimated 40,000 to 65,000 people who inhabited Middle Ghor, a 25-kilometer-wide circular plain in Jordan.
Likewise, the fertile soil would have been stripped of nutrients by the high heat, and waves of the Dead Sea’s briny anhydride salts would have — tsunami-like — washed over the surrounding area. At the same time, the explosion’s fallout caused blisteringly hot, strong winds, which deposited a rain of mineral grains, which have been found on pottery at Tall el-Hammam.
Five large sites in the region which have also been excavated offered additional evidence of an immediate end to settlement at the same time of the proposed Tall el-Hammam disaster. According to Science News, radiocarbon dating of organic archaeological evidence has shown that structures’ mud-brick walls “suddenly disappeared around 3,700 years ago, leaving only stone foundations.”
Contemporary potsherds’s glazes apparently experienced temperatures high enough to transform them to glass, “perhaps as hot as the surface of the sun,” Silvia told the news source.
. . .
According to a 2013 Biblical Archaeology Review article by TeHEP co-director Dr. Steven Collins, the Tall el-Hammam site is a strong candidate for the biblical city of Sodom due to a multitude of factors ... In a jointly authored paper between Silvia and Collins ... the authors write, “The physical evidence from Tall el-Hammam and neighboring sites exhibit signs of a highly destructive concussive and thermal event that one might expect from what is described in Genesis 19.”
Further based on studies by atomic energy researcher Samuel Gladstone, the authors write that, “an airburst yield of 10 megatons over the northeast corner of the Dead Sea would be sufficient to produce the physical damage observed 10 km away at Tall el-Hammam. Note that this is only one-half the yield of the Tunguska airburst event (in Siberia) ... “The destruction not only of Tall el-Hammam (Sodom), but also its neighbors (Gomorrah and the other cities of the plain) was most likely caused by a meteoritic airburst event,” the authors conclude.
In his Biblical Archaeology Review article, Collins writes that the massive disaster was seared into collective cultural memory and preserved in the biblical tradition.
Again, more at the link.
It's fascinating to think that the destruction of Sodom, although occurring thousands of years after the Younger Dryas impact, might have been due to a similar cause. I don't suppose we'll ever know the full truth, because we only have archaeological remnants as evidence; but the tale they tell, even in their degraded, destroyed state, is remarkable. It suggests that, yet again, "folk memories" can be and have been transmuted into sacred writings in many religions, in many lands, over a very long period of time. That, in turn, helps us reinterpret those writings in line with scientific fact, as far as it can be established.
By the way, for those concerned that such investigations undermine the spiritual authority of the Bible, that's simply not true. People of faith have always tried to interpret natural phenomena (earthquakes, or floods, or epidemic illnesses such as the Black Death) as evidence of Divine action or will. They may not have been accurate, but that's never stopped them trying! Perhaps the most recent example is the AIDS epidemic of the 1980's. How many remember fundamentalist claims (from Christians, Muslims and other faith groups) that AIDS was Divine punishment for the immoral, godless homosexual lifestyle? (I never accepted that, BTW. The thought of a God who would point to an individual, or a group, and say "I'm going to kill you in a nasty, horrible way because you aren't behaving as I said you should" appears to me to contradict the message and even the personality of Christ in a fundamental way [you should pardon the expression].)
The folk memory of the destruction of what became known as Sodom would have been interpreted in very similar, judgmental terms by the fundamentalists of the day, and passed down in oral tradition. By the time the Old Testament was written down, that tradition had become accepted religious and historical "fact". In the absence of scientific investigation, who was to gainsay it?
At any event, the research at Abu Hureyra looks fascinating. One hopes the scientists will take it further.