Köfels Impact Event

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The "Planesphere" Tablet, a possible record of an asteroid impact in Köfels, Austria

The Köfels Impact Event was originally assumed to be a massive rockslide that occurred in the valley of Ötztal, Tirol, Austria, and discovered in the mid-19th century. A reevaluation of the evidence led researchers to believe that the valley may have been hit by a small asteroid around 3120 B.C.; the record of the observation of this event was carved into a Sumerian clay tablet known as "the Planisphere".

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The valley landslide

The landslide at Köfels, Austria is three miles long and a quarter-mile wide, with a determined volume of the rockslide mass set at 3.28 km3 [1]. Since it was found, geologists have pronounced it a mystery, but even then settled on the explanation that it may have been hit by a meteorite due to explosion and pressure evidence. Modern studies, however, settled on "deep creep" (masses of bedrock sag downhill on steep mountain-sides [2] as late as 1997, the sag resulting in the landslide.

The "Planisphere"

Roughly dating to 700 B.C., the Sumerian tablet called the "Planisphere" (No. K8538, British Museum) was found in the 1850's by archaeologist Henry Layard in the ruins of the royal palace library at Nineveh, in what is now Iraq. Round in shape, and about 6 inches in diameter, the tablet has frustrated scholars for over 150 years; a new look at it (2007-8) indicated it may have been a copy of an earlier tablet recording an astronomical observation of the fall of an asteroid, which according to computer models took place on June 29, 3123 B.C. Although much of the tablet records planetary positions, the trajectory of the asteroid was recorded, giving a remarkably-accurate (within one degree) path for the asteroid in the direction of Köfels [3].

The recorded observation suggested that the asteroid was an Aten - a type which orbits close to earth - and was over a kilometre in diameter. The descent angle was calculated to have been six degrees, striking a mountain (Gamskogel, near Längenfeld, Austria), causing it to explode; the fireball caused the damage to the Köfels valley, creating the pressure damage observed by geologists, but not an impact crater had the asteroid been solid [4].

Sodom and Gommorah?

In discussing the Köfels event, geologist Mark Hempsell stated "Another conclusion can be made from the trajectory. The back plume from the explosion (the mushroom cloud) would be bent over the Mediterranean Sea re-entering the atmosphere over the Levant, Sinai, and Northern Egypt. The ground heating though very short would be enough to ignite any flammable material - including human hair and clothes. It is probable more people died under the plume than in the Alps due to the impact blast" [5]. The falling material from the explosion would have been consistent with the rain of "fire and brimstone" upon the cites of Sodom and Gommorah, which were located in the Levant near the southern end of the Dead Sea.


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