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Archive for the ‘Pre-Flood World’ Category

I was just alerted to an extensive online collection of historical artifacts from the Penn Museum. With almost 700,000 items, many from antiquity, the database includes photos and descriptions that are very useful for research and for writing. You’ll find many everyday objects that should help you visualize how life was during ancient times.

For example, I recently needed to write a scene where someone was using a scoop. Searching the Penn database for “scoop” revealed many hits, including this nice example of a woven scoop from Asia:

Asian woven scoop

 

ARK — 6 July 2014

 

 

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Robert Pershing Wadlow. via Wikimedia.

Robert Pershing Wadlow. via Wikimedia.

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post showing that some popular photos of giant skeletons were faked — see “Have Archaeologists Found Skeletons of Biblical Giants in Greece?

However, in that post I didn’t say much about whether giant humans could in fact have existed at one time. The “giant skeletons” article has been viewed tens of thousands of times and has received many comments from people who seem to take it personally that I exposed these photos as faked. Many took it that I was contradicting the Bible account in Genesis, which they believe speaks of a time when giant humans walked the earth.

I should point out that very large people have been known even in modern times. The American Robert Pershing Wadlow lived from 1918 to 1940. Wadlow reached 8 feet 11.1 inches (2.72 meters) and 492 pounds (223 kg). So it doesn’t seem impossible to suppose that a human could reach a height of 10 feet or so.

About giants in the Bible: According to 1 Sam. 17:4, the Philistine giant Goliath was six cubits and a span, about 9 ½ feet tall (2.9 meters). That’s not too much larger than Wadlow. Pre-flood creatures described at Gen. 6:1,2,4 are sometimes called “giants,” but the actual word used there is nefilim, meaning “fellers” in Hebrew, or those who cause others to fall down by striking them. The Bible doesn’t say how big they were.

giants6smallIf you look at the first faked photo I show in the “giant skeletons” post, you will see that it shows a skull appearing to be about five feet high (or 60 inches). If you figure that a normal human skull is about seven inches high, the skull in the faked photo would have to represent a human about 50 feet tall.

Could a human exist at a height of 40 feet, 50 feet, or more? It’s an interesting question, but it has been explored by competent researchers.

In 1928, geneticist J.B.S. Haldane wrote a well-known essay called “On Being the Right Size,” in which he wrote that “it is easy to show that a hare could not be as large as a hippopotamus, or a whale as small as a herring. For every type of animal there is a most convenient size, and a large change in size inevitably carries with it a change of form.” Haldane gives an extensive discussion of the relationship between size and function in living things, but he also addresses the problem of a giant human by supposing a human were the size of the giants Pope and Pagan in the version of John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress that he, Haldane, had when he was a child. He shows what engineering problems would result from being so large:

Let us take the most obvious of possible cases, and consider a giant man sixty feet high — about the height of Giant Pope and Giant Pagan in the illustrated Pilgrim’s Progress of my childhood. These monsters were not only ten times as high as Christian, but ten times as wide and ten times as thick, so that their total weight was a thousand times his, or about eighty to ninety tons. Unfortunately the cross sections of their bones were only a hundred times those of Christian, so that every square inch of giant bone had to support ten times the weight borne by a square inch of human bone. As the human thigh-bone breaks under about ten times the human weight, Pope and Pagan would have broken their thighs every time they took a step.

Such problems are solved in nature by what we might call “right-sizing.” Haldane offers the example of the gazelle:

To turn to zoology, suppose that a gazelle, a graceful little creature with long thin legs, is to become large, it will break its bones unless it does one of two things. It may make its legs short and thick, like the rhinoceros, so that every pound of weight has still about the same area of bone to support it. Or it can compress its body and stretch out its legs obliquely to gain stability, like the giraffe. I mention these two beasts because they happen to belong to the same order as the gazelle, and both are quite successful mechanically, being remarkably fast runners.

Movie poster by Reynold Brown via Wikimedia.

Movie poster by Reynold Brown via Wikimedia.

Cecil Adams of The Straight Dope goes into greater detail about the structural problems of being a 50-foot-tall human in his post “Could an attacking 50-foot woman actually exist?” The reference here is to the science fiction movie Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.

Adams explains that, according to the Principle of Similitude, “women, men, and critters in general can only get so big,” because “strength increases with the square of height while bulk increases with the cube.” So if an animal were to get taller while keeping the same proportions, it would get too weak to support its weight: “doubling the size of an animal while keeping its proportions the same increases the cross-sectional area of its muscles and bones by a factor of four while increasing its weight by a factor of eight.” Consequently, “if a woman starts off at five feet and 100 pounds and then grows to 50 feet, she’ll have 100 times the bone and muscle area but weigh 1,000 times as much — 50 tons.”

Adams also explains that a human of that size would run into insurmountable problems with its cardiovascular system, among other difficulties.

Given the engineering obstacles around human gigantism, I suggest that we all be satisfied with imagining giants of more modest size. After all, a nine-foot-tall guy would be pretty impressive, no?

ARK — 6 Nov. 2013

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I was researching metalworking in the ancient world and came across a mention of the “seven metals of antiquity.” I found a good short summary, “A Short History of Metals,” by Alan W. Cramb, a metallurgist who is now provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Cramb identifies “the metals upon which civilization was based” as:

  1. Gold (ca) 6000BC
  2. Copper (ca) 4200BC
  3. Silver (ca) 4000BC
  4. Lead (ca) 3500BC
  5. Tin (ca) 1750BC
  6. Iron,smelte, (ca) 1500BC
  7. Mercury (ca) 750BC

Cramb discusses each of these metals and their history in more detail and says that

These metals were known to the Mesopotamians, Egyptians, Greeks, and the Romans. Of the seven metals, five can be found in their native states, e.g., gold, silver, copper, iron (from meteors) and mercury. However, the occurrence of these metals was not abundant and the first two metals to be used widely were gold and copper.

One of the sources he lists is the much more extensive 1960 book, A History of Metals, by Leslie Aitchison. I found an electronic copy of this Aitchison book available through the HathiTrust. You might be able to get access to it if you have an account with an academic library.

Credit: Phirosiberia via Wikimedia Commons

Credit: Phirosiberia via Wikimedia Commons

ARK — 8 September 2013

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I previously posted an entry linking to various maps of the hypothesized supercontinent of Pangea that might have existed 250 million years ago during the Paleozoic and Mesozoic ages. Here’s a new map that was recently uploaded to Reddit by LikeWolvesDo. Click on the image to enlarge it:

10.-pangea_politik

ARK — 26 May 2014

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The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Fresher than ever.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 12,000 times in 2010. That’s about 29 full 747s.

 

In 2010, there were 17 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 47 posts. There were 17 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 4mb. That’s about a picture per month.

The busiest day of the year was September 11th with 154 views. The most popular post that day was ‘Snowflake Method’ Offers Innovative Method for Writing a Novel.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, twitter.com, mail.yahoo.com, mail.live.com, and en.wordpress.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for pangaea, pangea map, giant archaeological find in greece, pangaea map, and giants found in greece.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

‘Snowflake Method’ Offers Innovative Method for Writing a Novel September 2010
1 comment and 2 Likes on WordPress.com

2

Have Archaeologists Found Skeletons of Biblical Giants in Greece? May 2010
7 comments

3

Images of Pangaea October 2009

4

The Connection Between Halloween and the Great Flood October 2009
1 Like on WordPress.com,

5

Group Claims New Noah’s Ark Find on Ararat April 2010
1 comment

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I’ve been intrigued by Biblical Hebrew’s lack of verb tenses (past, present, future) and what it might have to say about the psychology of the people who originally spoke it.

Considering the Bible account, it seems likely that Hebrew or something like it was the original human language. According to one way of thinking, the worshipers of the true God would not have gotten involved in the rebellious centralization and tower-building project of Nimrod and his cohorts, so presumably their language would not have been confused (see Gen 11:1-9). So the language of Jehovah’s true worshipers would have been preserved, and this would be the one in which the Bible got written.

Although the Bible writers were able to express ideas of past, present, and future, time as a factor in Hebrew verb expression has a relatively low priority. Rather, Hebrew verbs are expressed in two states, perfect (action completed) and imperfect (incomplete action).

Kyle M. Yates, in The Essentials of Biblical Hebrew, writes:

The time as understood in most modern languages is not the same as that of the Semitic mind. The discernment of the time of an action is not of vital importance to the Hebrew thought pattern. It is necessary for the Indo-germanic thinker only to fit the action into his overemphasized estimation of time. The understanding of the condition of the action as to its completeness or incompleteness was sufficient generally to the Semite and if not, there was some word of temporal or historical significance which would bring time into focus.

So the question is, what does this indicate about the psychology of the original speakers of this language? Did they have a different view of time from modern humans, because they had a longer lifespan (and originally the prospect of living forever)? Interestingly, the Bible encyclopedia Insight on the Scriptures (Vol. 1, Watchtower, 1988) follows this line of thinking:

If, as the Bible indicates, Hebrew was the original tongue used in Eden, this lack of emphasis on verbal time may reflect the outlook of man in his perfection, when the prospect of everlasting life was before Adam and when life had not been reduced to a mere 70 or 80 years.

– ARK, 3 Dec. 2010

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Most students of the Bible’s account of the Great Flood or Deluge are aware that many peoples of the earth had early knowledge of the Deluge before they had contact with Christianity.

One interesting account based on Roman and Greek mythology comes from the Roman poet Ovid. There appear to be many online texts of Ovid’s Deluge account, but one can be found at Mythology.us. Following are some excerpts that might be of interest to students of the Bible.

From Book I:274-292, “The Flood”:

Neptune himself strikes the ground with his trident, so that it trembles, and with that blow opens up channels for the waters. Overflowing, the rivers rush across the open plains, sweeping away at the same time not just orchards, flocks, houses and human beings, but sacred temples and their contents. Any building that has stood firm, surviving the great disaster undamaged, still has its roof drowned by the highest waves, and its towers buried below the flood. And now the land and sea are not distinct, all is the sea, the sea without a shore.

From Book I:313-347, “Deucalion [the Greek equivalent of Noah] and his wife Pyrrha”:

Phocis, a fertile country when it was still land, separates Aonia from Oeta, though at that time it was part of the sea, a wide expanse of suddenly created water. There Mount Parnassus lifts its twin steep summits to the stars, its peaks above the clouds. When Deucalion and his wife landed here in their small boat, everywhere else being drowned by the waters, they worshipped the Corycian nymphs, the mountain gods, and the goddess of the oracles, prophetic Themis. No one was more virtuous or fonder of justice than he was, and no woman showed greater reverence for the gods. When Jupiter saw the earth covered with the clear waters, and that only one man was left of all those thousands of men, only one woman left of all those thousands of women, both innocent and both worshippers of the gods, he scattered the clouds and mist, with the north wind, and revealed the heavens to the earth and the earth to the sky.

ARK — 12 September 2010

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A recent story from BBC News emphasizes how difficult it can be to pick out the science from the hype when reading science news reporting.

The article, “Woolly mammoth extinction ‘not linked to humans’,” explains some recent research by a Durham University professor based on a computer simulation of climate change over the last 42,000 years, and how this would have affected vegetation.

This sounds pretty interesting, but what struck me more than anything was the way the results were reported, certainly by the BBC reporter, possibly by the researchers as well.

Reading the headline, you would think the case is closed — our hunter-gatherer ancestors are not guilty — vindication at last! “Woolly mammoth extinction ‘not linked to humans’.”

One clue that the truth is more nuanced can be seen in the BBC headline writer’s weaselly use of single quotes. The headline writer can make the article sound more sensational, while using the quotation marks to shift the burden of proof on others. (See a colleague’s comments on this practice: “John the Baptist’s Bones and BBC’s Quotation Marks.”)

The article says that the reason for the mammoth’s extinction has been controversial. Some scientists claim it was climate change, others that it was encroachment by humans. Others have rolled in the beloved deus ex machina of a meteor strike.

Now, according to the BBC writer, “that debate has been settled.” Case closed! Congratulations on your latest sensational science story!

But then I notice a quote from the actual scientist:

What our results have suggested is that the changing climate, through the effect it had on vegetation, was the key thing that caused the reduction in the population and ultimate extinction of mammoths and many other large herbivores,” he said.

“Our results have suggested…“? Humans have been exonerated and debates have been settled based on … ‘suggestions’?

Certainly a computer simulation of climate change and its affect on vegetation is interesting and useful, but it’s really just one piece of scientific evidence. And, like any computer program, a simulation is subject to one of the basic limitations on any computer program: Garbage in, garbage out. Not that the simulation is wrong, but it could be, especially if it is programmed based on erroneous assumptions.

When reading science news reporting, or original scientific research for that matter, it’s important to realize that it’s difficult to prove definitively what happened in the past. And the further in the past the events in question, the harder it is to prove anything, without written records by reliable observers.

Digging up bones, fossilized pollen, or pottery shards from the ground is valuable work, as are analyzing DNA and running computer simulations. But the interested reader needs to keep in mind that scientists (and the journalists who write about their work) have skin in the game in one way or another — whether that be professional ambitions, funding to attain, reputations to uphold, or just plain personal ideologies to justify.

ARK — 21 August 2010

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I think most investigators believe the waters of the Great Flood came from a vapor canopy suspended above the ancient atmosphere, and that certainly seems consistent with the historical account in Genesis.

I did think it would be of interest, though, to highlight an alternative idea — that the waters of the deluge came mostly from underground reservoirs that burst and ejected waters upward.

In his book In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood, engineer-scientist Walt Brown explains what he calls the Hydroplate Theory. If I understand it correctly, under Brown’s model, the earth’s crust lies suspended on vast underground waters. This drawing from his book shows in dramatic fashion what that might have looked like:

Proposed eruption of flood waters according to Hydroplate Theory

Mid-Atlantic RidgeHe proposes that the flood waters surged up principally along the mid-Atlantic ridge, shown in this model pictured in his book — see image to left.

ARK — 18 June 2010

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[Updated 22 May 2010]

I was intrigued recently when someone sent me a series of photos purporting to show the skeletons of giant humans excavated at archaeological sites. Here is an example to the right.

However, some quick Internet research revealed that these photos are all doctored. You can see all the photos at About.com — here is an explanation and analysis by urban-legends specialist David Emery: “Giants in Greece — Analysis.”

The photo shown here turns out to be an altered version of a 1993 photo from a dinosaur dig by the University of Chicago — see the original here.

From the detail shown below, you can see that the image of the skull is inconsistent with the rest of the photo — the inserted segment is flat, and one of the workers at the site even appears to have his foot on the skull:

Giant skull detail shows doctoring

[Update added 22 May 2010] A reader asked about another photo in the series, showing a skeleton with a hole in its temple, lying in a grave. I believe she is referring to this one (linked from the About.com article):

Photo of giant skeleton in a grave - probably a fake

David Emery points out that the skull in this photo show “incongruously bright highlights on the teeth and around the edges of the gaping temple wound.” I’m no expert at analyzing photos, but to me the skeleton in the photo looks like a black-and-white image, whereas the surface of the ground surrounding the hole seems to be in color, which is certainly the case in the image of the two people in the photo.

Here’s a detail showing the suspicious bright highlights on the image of the skull:

Detail from photo of supposed giant skeleton

All that said, just because somebody was able to fake some photos and a bunch of people believed them only proves that somebody can use image-editing software to fake photos and fool other people. It doesn’t mean that the Bible’s accounts about the Nephilim and other giants aren’t true.

The Bible’s account of the Nephilim appears in Gen. 6:1,2,4 — you can look up Bible texts here. Apparently the Nephilim were hybrids resulting from the marriage of materialized angels and human women. Most likely they were sterile and had no descendants themselves. They would not have survived the global deluge.

The historical account in the Bible does not say how tall the Nephilim were. It does, however, say that the height of the Philistine warrior Goliath was six cubits and a span, which would make him about 2.9 meters or 9 1/2 feet tall — see 1 Sam. 17:4.

This height is not much greater than the heights of some humans recorded in modern times — see this list at Wikipedia of the world’s tallest people.

[Update added 26 Nov. 2013: I've recently written a blog entry exploring how large a human could actually get, given the limitations of physics and biology -- see "Could Giant Humans Exist?"]

It’s not impossible that fossil remains of pre-flood humans are among those that have been discovered in the past or that might be found in the future. However, you need to keep in mind that human (and animal) remains normally decompose completely without leaving any trace. Also, the flood waters would probably have been unimaginably violent and destructive and could have covered human remains with hundreds of meters of sediments, making them rare and difficult to recover.

One intriguing archaeological discovery was announced by a group that conducted digs very recently on Mount Ararat, where they uncovered a wooden structure high on the mountain that some believe is the ark of preservation built by the patriarch Noah — see “Group Claims New Noah’s Ark Find on Ararat.”

ARK — 10 May 2010

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