Friday, May 23, 2008

Earthquakes and their impact on human history

Here is a review of an interesting book, Apocalypse: Earthquakes, Archaeology, and the Wrath of God, and I really like the set-up story, which is also the cover-image of the book:
In the middle of the fourth century AD, a series of earthquakes struck the port of Kourion on the southern coast of Cyprus. Originally built by the Greeks a millennium and a half earlier during the Late Bronze Age, the town had no doubt experienced its share of seismic events, but nothing prepared its inhabitants for the major earthquake and tsunami that struck just after dawn, most likely on July 21, AD 365.

Because of the early hour, farm animals were trapped in their stables, and most of the population was caught beneath the rubble of their collapsing homes. The few survivors, probably too overwhelmed to recover and bury the dead, abandoned Kourion forever. When archaeologists excavated the site in the 1980s, little had been disturbed.

Among the many discoveries was the heartbreaking tableau of a skeletal family. The man holds his wife protectively while she cradles their one-year-old child. The image, both poignant and instructive, graces the cover of Stanford University Earth Science and geophysics professor Amos Nur's new book, Apocalypse: Earthquakes, Archaeology, and the Wrath of God, written with the assistance of his graduate student Dawn Burgess.

And it also looks at some religious stories through a geological (or seismological) lens:

In one chapter, Nur examines the record of earthquakes in the seismically active "Holy Land" (to use his choice of geographical nomenclature). Most readers, regardless of religious persuasion, will appreciate the connections between geological and archaeological evidence and sections of the Bible.

Read the full review here.