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535 A.D. - what happend?

File:Krakatoa eruption lithograph.jpg

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Catastrophe: An Investigation into the Origins of Modern Civilization

Something happened in 535A.D. that started the Dark Ages. Something happened that caused the large civilizations around the world to fall about the same time .... But what was it?

Everybody knows the Dark Ages weren't really dark, right? Not so fast, counters archaeological journalist David Keys, maybe it's more than just a slightly judgmental metaphor. His book Catastrophe: An Investigation into the Origins of the Modern World, based on years of careful research spanning five continents, argues that sometime in A.D. 535, a worldwide disaster struck and uprooted nearly every culture then extant. Given contemporary reports of the sun being blotted out or weakened for nearly a year and a half, followed by famine, drought, and plague, it's hard not to think that so many reports from all over the world must be related.

Keys shows a keen grasp of both the written historical record from Asia, Africa, and Europe and the archaeological evidence from the Americas, and tells many tales of great havoc destroying old empires and laying the ground for new ones. Rome may have fallen, but Spain, England, and France rose in its place, while farther east, Japan and China each unified and gained strength after the chaos. Could an enormous volcanic eruption have had such influence on the world as a whole, and could the same thing happen tomorrow? Catastrophe makes no predictions, but leaves the reader with a new sense of history, nature, and destiny.

David Keys, Ken Wohletz, and others have postulated that a violent volcanic eruption, possibly of Krakatoa, in 535 may have been responsible for the global climate changes of 535-536. Keys explores what he believes to be the radical and far-ranging global effects of just such a putative 6th-century eruption in his book Catastrophe: An Investigation into the Origins of the Modern World. Additionally, in recent times, it has been argued that it was this eruption which created the islands of Verlaten, Lang, and the beginnings of Rakata—all indicators of early Krakatoa's caldera's size. To date, however, little datable charcoal from that eruption has been found.

The extreme weather events of 535–536 were the most severe and protracted short-term episodes of cooling in the Northern Hemisphere in the last 2,000 years. The event is thought to have been caused by an extensive atmospheric dust veil, possibly resulting from a large volcanic eruption in the tropics, or debris from space impacting the Earth. Its effects were widespread, causing unseasonal weather, crop failures and famines worldwide.

 

Documentary evidence:

The Byzantine historian Procopius recorded of 536, in his report on the wars with the Vandals, "during this year a most dread portent took place. For the sun gave forth its light without brightness...and it seemed exceedingly like the sun in eclipse, for the beams it shed were not clear."

The Gaelic Irish Annals record the following:

  • "A failure of bread in the year 536 AD"—The Annals of Ulster
  • "A failure of bread from the years 536–539 AD"—The Annals of Inisfallen

Further phenomena reported by a number of independent contemporary sources:

  • Low temperatures, even snow during the summer (snow reportedly fell in August in China, which postponed the harvest there)
  • Crop failures
  • "A dense, dry fog" in the Mideast, China, and Europe
  • Drought in Peru, which affected the Moche culture

 

Scientific evidence:

Tree ring analysis by dendrochronologist Mike Baillie, of the Queen's University of Belfast, shows abnormally little growth in Irish oak in 536 and another sharp drop in 542, after a partial recovery.[The Holocene 1994 fig 3 page 215 "Dendrochronology, the AD536 dust-veil event"] Similar patterns are recorded in tree rings from Sweden and Finland, in California's Sierra Nevada and in rings from Chilean Fitzroya trees. Ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica show evidence of substantial sulfate deposits around 533–534 ± 2 years, evidence of an extensive acidic dust veil.

David Keys is archaeology correspondent for the London daily paper, The Independent, frequent television commentator on archaeological matters and author of the controversial book, Catastrophe: An Investigation into the Origins of the Modern World published in 1999. He has visited over a thousand archaeological sites in sixty countries. He was featured as one of the main interview subjects in the 2000 pilot to the PBS series, Secrets of the Dead giving insight into subject of the climatic catastrophe which is the subject of his book.

Keys's book:

Keys's thesis in Catastrophe is that a global climatic catastrophe in A.D. 535 to 536 –– a massive volcanic eruption sundering Java from Sumatra –– was the decisive factor that transformed the Ancient World into the Medieval Era (and beyond). Ancient chroniclers recorded a disaster in that year that blotted out the Sun for months (possibly years) causing famine, droughts, floods, storms and an epidemic of bubonic plague. Keys uses tree-ring samples, analysis of lake deposits and ice cores, as well as contemporaneous documents to bolster his speculative thesis. In his scenario, the ensuing disasters precipitated the disintegration of the Byzantine Empire, beset by Avar, Slav, Mongol, and Persian invaders propelled from their disrupted homelands. The Sixth Century collapse of Arabian civilization under pressure from floods and crop failure created a religiously apocalyptic atmosphere which set the stage for the emergence of ’Islām. In Mexico, the cataclysm supposedly triggered the collapse of Teotihuacán; while in China, the ensuing half-century of political and social chaos led to a reunified nation. Keys stokes anxieties about future cataclysms by finishing with a roundup of trouble spots that could conceivably wreak planetary havoc.


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Product Details (From Amazon.com)

  • Paperback: 350 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace (November 30, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1449913172
  • ISBN-13: 978-1449913175
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds

 

READ WHAT OTHERS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT DONAREE:

"Nicely done. I really enjoyed the history in the introduction and the duel is well written. Best of luck with the novel!" ~ Author David Lee Summers, author of five books: Vampires of the Scarlet Order, The Solar Sea, and the "Old Star" science fiction series: The Pirates of Sufiro, Children of the Old Stars, and Heirs of the New Earth. www.davidleesummers.com

"Very exciting read! Felt like I was there witnessing the action!" ~ Candle Artist Jfay,
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"I really enjoyed the humour and really laughed, not at Monsieur de la Donaree but with Monsieur de la Donaree! I dont know if you wrote it in this spirit but if you had a bit of Molière in you, I would not be surprised! He knew how to study people and would turn situations into a comic play! I laughed out loud, this is a gem! Not only de la Donaree is a fine sword, he has also a fine nose when it comes to pinpoint personalities, I'm talking about the Inkeeper and his situation with the wife here!! The second part is indeed in pure swashbuckling spirit, in rhythm and enthusiasm! And the end is a cliff-hanger! The beginning is "cocasse" (funny) as they might have said then in Gascony, and witty! Indeed Alexandre Dumas had a sense of humour too and satirically created at least one of his character ( in another book) to a character made up by Molière in one of his comic play. And Molière also took his inspiration from Dumas' s Musketeers and "The Man in the Iron Mask." I liked it! I had fun while reading this chapter about Monsieur de la Donaree, as while following the spirit of the Musketeers you gave a contemporary touch to the text!" ~ Artist Nicole Marques,
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