Blast from a near-Earth comet may literally have destroyed this culture

WION Web Team
New Delhi Updated: Feb 04, 2022, 01:31 AM(IST)

This handout picture taken with a telescope and released on December 9, 2021 shows the comet C/2021 A1 Comet Leonard Photograph:( AFP )

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Researchers maintain that more study was required to come to a definite conclusion but cultural and archaeological indications surely point towards a fascinating episode when humanity 'interacted' with the sky

We all know that a direct impact from an asteroid brought about end of dinosaurs who ruled the planet millions of years ago. Humanity, fortunately, has not suffered such a globe-spanning fate but if researchers are to be believed, we have already got a taste of what such an event can bring about.

This celestial event took place about 1500 years ago. It was not an asteroid but a comet that is being thought to have brought an end to a local culture in the eastern USA. The near-Earth comet literally sent debris towards Earth which caused widespread fires in area spanning 9200 square miles.

Researchers are studying reasons behind decline of Hopewell Cuture in eastern USA. Though war and climate factors have been considered as reasons, they think that blast from the near-Earth comet may have played a huge role.

Researchers found unusual amounts of Iridium and Platinum at 11 Hopewell archaeological sites. These elements are tell-tale signs of meteorite fragments. A charcoal layer in sediments of the ground indicates a period of intense heat. 

The team of researchers comprising those from University of Cincinnati hypothesizes that the near-Earth comet may have sent the debris and may have caused a massive airburst that had profound effect on the existence of these tribes.

The hypothesis of a near-Earth comet is given strength by folk tales from that period that have been passed down orally to present day.

Tales in some tribes talk of a giant serpent slithering across the sky. A comet with a distinct tail may well have appeared as a serpent to members of the tribe who did not have a word for comet. Tales in few other tribes talk of a 'sky panther' having the power to tear down forests, probably a reference to widespread fires caused by the air blast.

Researchers maintain that more study was required to come to a definite conclusion but cultural and archaeological indications surely point towards a fascinating episode when humanity 'interacted' with the sky.

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