Ancient Iraqi meteorologists speak to the present on climate

From Wiley-Blackwell via Eurekalert

English: An Arabic manuscript written under th...

Example of an Arabic text - Image via Wikipedia

Ancient Arabic writings help scientists piece together past climate

Iraqi sources from 9th and 10th centuries give new meteorological insights – The team believes the sources show Iraq to have experienced a greater frequency of significant climate events and severe cold weather than today.

Ancient manuscripts written by Arabic scholars can provide valuable meteorological information to help modern scientists reconstruct the climate of the past, a new study has revealed. The research, published in Weather, analyses the writings of scholars, historians and diarists in Iraq during the Islamic Golden Age between 816-1009 AD for evidence of abnormal weather patterns.

Reconstructing climates from the past provides historical comparison to modern weather events and valuable context for climate change. In the natural world trees, ice cores and coral provide evidence of past weather, but from human sources scientists are limited by the historical information available. Until now researchers have relied on official records detailing weather patterns including air force reports during WW2 and 18th century ship’s logs.

Now a team of Spanish scientists from the Universidad de Extremadura have turned to Arabic documentary sources from the 9th and 10th centuries (3rd and 4th in the Islamic calendar). The sources, from historians and political commentators of the era, focus on the social and religious events of the time, but do refer to abnormal weather events.

“Climate information recovered from these ancient sources mainly refers to extreme events which impacted wider society such as droughts and floods,” said lead author Dr Fernando Domínguez-Castro. “However, they also document conditions which were rarely experienced in ancient Baghdad such as hailstorms, the freezing of rivers or even cases of snow.”

Baghdad was a centre for trade, commerce and science in the ancient Islamic world. In 891 AD Berber geographer al-Ya’qubi wrote that the city had no rival in the world, with hot summers and cold winters, climatic conditions which favored strong agriculture.

While Baghdad was a cultural and scientific hub many ancient documents have been lost to a history of invasions and civil strife. However, from the surviving works of writers including al-Tabari (913 AD), Ibn al-Athir (1233 AD) and al-Suyuti (1505 AD) some meteorological information can be rescued.

When collated and analysed the manuscripts revealed an increase of cold events in the first half of the 10th century. This included a significant drop of temperatures during July 920 AD and three separate recordings of snowfall in 908, 944 and 1007. In comparison the only record of snow in modern Baghdad was in 2008, a unique experience in the living memories of Iraqis.

“These signs of a sudden cold period confirm suggestions of a temperature drop during the tenth century, immediately before the Medieval Warm Period,” said Domínguez-Castro. “We believe the drop in July 920 AD may have been linked to a great volcanic eruption but more work would be necessary to confirm this idea.”

The team believes the sources show Iraq to have experienced a greater frequency of significant climate events and severe cold weather than today. While this study focused on Iraq it demonstrates the wider potential for reconstructing the climate from an era before meteorological instruments and formal records.

“Ancient Arabic documentary sources are a very useful tool for finding eye witness descriptions which support the theories made by climate models,” said Domínguez-Castro. “The ability to reconstruct past climates provides us with useful historical context for understanding our own climate. We hope this potential will encourage Arabic historians and climatologists to work together to increase the climate data rescued from across the Islamic world.”

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89 Responses to Ancient Iraqi meteorologists speak to the present on climate

  1. Latitude says:

    They found these manuscripts in the glove box of a 1010 Ford Explorer………….

  2. Larry says:

    I think Latitude is thinking of Minnesota ballot handling procedures.

  3. Jeff D. says:

    Holy Hail Batman, there was climate change before burning of fossil fuel? Anyone else notice the cycle signature in the dates of snow? 908, 944 and 1007.

  4. Bloke down the pub says:

    Did they find any mention of WMD?

  5. Rhys Jaggar says:

    I hope this article invokes the thought that there may be much to be found out from ancient civilisations, be they in Mexico, the Andes, Egypt, the home of Islam, ancient China, the Aborigines, the Inuit, the ancient Indians of North America etc etc.

  6. Steve C says:

    Nobody can accuse Anthony of not drawing his readers’ attention to the widest possible range of sources of evidence! Give this man an award … oh, they did.

  7. AC says:

    Has anyone checked China for records? I know that Halley’s Comet has been recorded by the Chiness going back to before 200BC. I wonder what abnormal weather – or normal weather they recorded.

  8. kbray in california says:

    This article is so Politically Correct….

    “You will recall that just last year (2010) President O directed the head of NASA to focus on highlighting Muslim contributions to science.”

    I feel so at peace.

  9. Unattorney says:

    Chinese have much older weather records which is why they have played us for fools on solar, wind,and other green fantasies.Obama borrowed our children’s money and gave it to China to pay for his gimmicks.

  10. GregO says:

    Rhys – Excellent point.

    I recall reading in a book about lost languages that weather and wildlife observations made by locals (along with oral traditional narratives) are shown to be highly skilled and accurate – it was a rationale for attempting the preservation of native languages, that in losing a language, we lose all the knowledge of animal, plant, and climate knowledge that particular language speaking group had developed.

    This really is an area the UN could (conceivably) play a constructive role, that is, the study, preservation, and publication of native languages and how they have and continue to track the natural world. I would be a bit surprised if the UN is actually engaged in anything like that. Just a thought.

  11. Al Gore's Holy Hologram says:

    It snows in northern Iraq (Kurdistan) and the Zagros mountains most winters, so the author should have been more specific of the region. Iraq is not just some hot flat desert like some westerners imagine. It has every different type of climate and landscape.

  12. Larry says:

    Jeff D: No I did not think of it. I think I just assumed that being that old, the reports represented a reasonable view of reality.

    It IT is interesting, now that you have brought it to attention, to note the pattern fit.

  13. SandyInDerby says:

    Do any of the dates match with those in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (not the only simultaneous record I’m sure)?
    For instance:-

    1046 And in the same year, after Candlemas, came the strong winter, with frost and with snow, and with all kinds of bad weather; so that there was no man then alive who could remember so severe a winter as this was, both through loss of men and through loss of cattle; yea, fowls and fishes through much cold and hunger perished.

    1115 This year was the winter so severe, with snow and with frost, that no man who was then living ever remembered one more severe; in consequence of which there was great destruction of cattle.

    1125 In this same year was so great a flood on St. Laurence’s day, that many towns and men were overwhelmed, and bridges broken down, and corn and meadows spoiled withal; and hunger and qualm in men and in cattle; and in all fruits such unseasonableness as was not known for many years before. And this same year died the Abbot John of Peterborough, on the second day before the ides of October.

  14. Larry says:

    I lost track of the bloggies. Congrats! Suggests that there are honest people about.

  15. Ray says:

    “many ancient documents have been lost to a history of invasions and civil strife”

    I bet we can guess the date when that happened… 2003 maybe?

  16. dfbaskwill says:

    I’m more interested that the Islamic Golden Age is apparently 1,003 years in the past. My how time flies!

  17. Al Gore’s Holy Hologram said @ February 27, 2012 at 11:15 am

    It snows in northern Iraq (Kurdistan) and the Zagros mountains most winters, so the author should have been more specific of the region. Iraq is not just some hot flat desert like some westerners imagine. It has every different type of climate and landscape.

    When was Baghdad in Kurdistan, or the Zagros Mountains?

  18. John Greenfraud says:

    The ancient Iraqis had to pay for harming mother earth. The sky dragon sent down extreme weather to hold the infestations(people) accountable for breathing, cook stoves, and building damns for water and agriculture. Only when the great sky dragon had been paid its penance could man then return to be one with nature.
    Definition of nature: Whatever the eco-fascists say it is.

  19. mkelly says:

    Ray says:
    February 27, 2012 at 11:21 am
    “many ancient documents have been lost to a history of invasions and civil strife”

    I bet we can guess the date when that happened… 2003 maybe?

    Yes Ray all of the following happened after 2003.

    At different periods in its history, Iraq was the center of the indigenous Akkadian, Sumerian, Assyrian, Babylonian, and Abbasid empires. It was also part of the Achaemenid, Hellenistic, Parthian, Sassanid, Roman, Rashidun, Umayyad, Mongol, Safavid, Afsharid, and Ottoman empires, and under British control as a League of Nations mandate.[5][6]

  20. Ian W says:

    It was unfortunate that Domínguez-Castro.made this statement:

    ““Ancient Arabic documentary sources are a very useful tool for finding eye witness descriptions which support the theories made by climate models,”
    This approach begs for cherry picking and confirmation bias.

    It would have been far better had Domínguez-Castro said:
    “Ancient Arabic documentary sources are a very useful tool for finding eye witness descriptions with which to validate the results of climate models,”

  21. We also have plenty of climate references from the extensive records of the Byzantine Empire from approx 350 AD to 1450 when Byzantium was sacked by the Ottomans-so that is verey much an adjacent area to that cited in the Spansish study. I wrote about some of that here;

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/11/14/little-ice-age-thermometers-%E2%80%93-history-and-reliability/

    Some of the Roman climate references are fascinating. This observation from a series of cold winters -after many warm ones- around the 8th century in Byzantium (centred around Modern day Turkey)

    “Theophanes’ account recalls how, as a child, the author (or his source’s author) went out on the ice with thirty other children and played on it and that some of his pets and other animals died. It was possible to walk all over the Bosporus around Constantinople and even cross to Asia on the ice. One huge iceberg crushed the wharf at the Acropolis, close to the tip of Constantinople’s peninsula, and another extremely large one hit the city wall, shaking it and the houses on the other side, before breaking into three large pieces; it was higher than the city walls. The terrified Constantinopolitans wondered what it could possibly portend.”

    So we have plenty of human observations which of course are considreed merely ‘anecdotal by climate scientists and largely dismissed.
    tonyb

  22. Bill Porritt says:

    Ray needs to remember the destructive invasion of the Mongols, who made the West’s multiple interventions seem rather puny.

  23. Tom C says:

    In 2008 we were told the Baghdad snow was due to global warming playing havoc with the weather. The parroted talking point in leftist echo chambers was that climate change wasn’t uniform and that as some places got warmer, some places got colder. Never mind their silly analogy supposedly applies to long-term climate but they cite that nonsense as an example to explain away the weather. So be it… but if global warming supposedly caused the 2008 Baghdad snow event – because it was the only snow event there ‘in living memory’ – why is it then, that three snow events over a thousand years ago, each one far enough apart that at the time they would also likely be the ‘only snowfall in living memory’ is indicative of the climate. This is a blatantly false argument. And aren’t we always told that weather events aren’t indicative of climate? Yet in this case, since three outnumbers one, just THREE snowfalls over a nearly 200-year period somehow validates, in the mind of warmists, the idea that is was colder than than it is now, hence global warming is true. It also flies in the face of the anecdotal evidence they routinely dismiss, as they have no issue using a once-in-70 year event as anecdotal evidence to the contrary when it loosely fits their agenda.

    So, what are we to take from this? That anecdotal evidence of it snowing in Baghdad at the rate of once-in-a-lifetime over a thousand years ago is an indicator of climate change, even though there was just a once-in-a-lifetime snowfall just four years ago. And why is it in every article that flimsily links odd weather to climate change they somehow prove that the occurrence of odd weather is, in fact, not all that unusual relatively speaking. What’s even more entertaining to consider is the contortionist positions warmists must twist themselves into trying to explain away all the inconsistencies in their theory.

  24. kbray in california says:

    Wiley-Blackwell, leads to Eurekalert,
    leads to AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science).

    See anyone you recognize?

    http://www.aaas.org/meetings/2012/program/plenaries/

    Theme – Flattening the World: Building a Global Knowledge Society

    The 21st century is shaping up to be a challenging one. The issues that face us are many: climate change, energy, agriculture, health, water, biodiversity and ecosystems, population growth, and economic development.

    http://www.aaas.org/meetings/2012/program/theme/

    So many warmists, so much money !

  25. Mike McMillan says:

    Dr Hansen is already hard at work adjusting the data.

  26. 1DandyTroll says:

    Jeff D. says:
    February 27, 2012 at 10:51 am

    “Holy Hail Batman, there was climate change before burning of fossil fuel? Anyone else notice the cycle signature in the dates of snow? 908, 944 and 1007.”

    944-908=36, 1007-36=971.

    And you know what that means? That means Leif Ericsson was one year of age and so, I conclude, with reasonably accurate deductive capabilities, that he was one year closer to discover North America by ways of Newfoundland.

    But, of course, Al-Sharif al-Radi, a descendent to the Prophet Muhammad had his one year birthday too that very same year, so I guess I could be seeing a different pattern completely.

    :p

  27. Joachim Seifert says:

    The oldest climatological + meteorological observations are referred to in: Fernand Braudel,
    the greatest Frencg historian of the world in “Memories and the Mediterranean”: Quoting
    a (600 BC) conversation of the Pharao with Solon (Ruler of Greece):
    The climate
    …[is not a hockey stick but] …occurs in century long waves, climate waves, dry and cold, moist
    and warm…a continuous temperature up and down on MULTIPLE_CENTENNIAL scale….
    [as the past millenium also shows: MWP to LIA – CWP -21.Cty) a natural up and down…..
    further,
    on decadal scale, there is the changing of the prevalent air currents from North or South….
    ……. Here we have climate knowledge from over 2,500 years before. The only one who
    disregards historical knowledge is the Hockeystick-Mann and his CAGW-scientific dwarfs….
    JS

  28. Pedric says:

    Records in the 9th and 10th centuries (the 2nd and 3rd nominal Islamic, not 3rd and 4th), would have been written by Christian, Persian and Jewish Syriacs. Apart from the Persians they were Chaldeans and Assyrians, ethnically Semitic people but not Arabs. The intelligentsia in early Islam were the same groups of Persians, Jews, and Christians who were the local intelligentsia when greater Syria was still a Byzantine province.

    The reason the 9th-12th centuries were the Islamic “golden age” is because it took 300 years for Islam to finally stamp out original thinking. It’s actually likely that the earliest “Islamic” rulers were Nestorian Christians because Islam, as such, doesn’t appear in the historical record until the early 8th century, about 100 years after Muhammad purportedly died.

    I write “purportedly” because Muhammad has no historical presence, either. Contemporaneous writers are completely silent about him, as they are about Islam.

  29. Phil R says:

    Latitude says:
    February 27, 2012 at 10:45 am
    They found these manuscripts in the glove box of a 1010 Ford Explorer………….

    C’mon, everyone knows they drive nothing but Toyota pickups over there! :)

  30. Bob Diaz says:

    If our whole life was lived for one week, we would have trouble seeing the pattern from Summer to Winter and another Summer coming again. On the other hand, if we lived for thousands of years, we would see other patterns to climate that we don’t see, because our lives are too short.

  31. kellyb says:

    Ray says:
    February 27, 2012 at 11:21 am
    “I bet we can guess the date when that happened… 2003 maybe?”
    no 1258ad

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Baghdad_%281258%29

  32. Gary Pearse says:

    Gee this is a step forward. Historical records like the “Froste Faires” on the Thames were not embraced as a record of Little Ice Age’s existence. It was papered over like the MWP to make the ‘hockey stick” run straight and true until 1980s.

  33. Ray says:

    kellyb says:
    February 27, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    It’s worst then you though…

    “Pillaging 7000 Years Of Iraq History No Accident”

    http://www.rense.com/general37/sack.htm

    People underestimate the wealth of historical artifacts and records that were present in Iraq before the US invasion. There was no WMD but there was a great wealth of culture that is now definitively gone.

  34. David L says:

    How quickly will the AGW crowd show that these ancient manuscripts only show the historical context of local weather and not global climate?

  35. JimF says:

    Bloke down the pub says:
    February 27, 2012 at 10:54 am “…Did they find any mention of WMD?…” They haven’t translated the diaries and other writings from Damascus yet.

  36. kellyb says:

    Ray says:
    February 27, 2012 at 2:56 pm
    It’s worst then you though…
    “Pillaging 7000 Years Of Iraq History No Accident”

    http://www.rense.com/general37/sack.htm

    —-snipped from link—-
    Copyright 1998-2003
    World Socialist Web Site
    All rights reserved
    ————————-
    agenda driven reporting ?

  37. Psalmon says:

    Curiously, 891 AD was also the year al-Ya’qubi wrote in another document that Baghdad announced plans to use Windmills and Algae to help power itself into the next millennium.

    “In 891 AD Berber geographer al-Ya’qubi wrote that the city had no rival in the world.”

  38. Hector Pascal says:

    Anyone seriously interested in historic records of climate should consult the Late, Great, Jean Grove’s “The Little Ice Age”. Mine is the first edition (Routledge 1988), but there is a 2nd. It is 498 pages long and meticulously documents all of the sources available to her at the time of writing.

    From memory, for example, she draws on historic records including Scandinavian tax records and tithes (taxmen always write stuff down) showing good and bad harvests, crop failures etc. Scandinavia is a good source because it wasn’t repeatedly invaded and pillaged, so quite a lot of stuff is preserved. Another source is French grape harvest dates. Grapes require a set total number of sunshine hours before they ripen, so harvest date is a useful proxy.

    She also covers non-European/North American sources where available. Everything is fully referenced, so her books are an excellent entry into the literature.

  39. bushbunny says:

    If I remember my studies in archaeology at one time Mesopotamia were like Egypt, growing grains.
    Egypt was thought to be the granary of the world. Rarely did it rain, and they were dependent on the floods that came down the Nile, to irrigate like Mesopotamia did. Somewhere along the line
    they were invaded and the irrigation canals destroyed, but can’t remember when. Think it was
    BCE. But the mini ice age of the 14th Century to mid 1850 in UK, stopped grape or vine growing.
    But they turned the grape presses into the first printing presses. I didn’t know that these climatic events also effected agriculture and animal husbandry in the middle east though.

  40. pekke says:

    Here is two lists of historical weather events covering nearly the last 2 000 years.

    http://www.breadandbutterscience.com/Weather.pdf

    http://www.breadandbutterscience.com/climatehistory.pdf

  41. sHx says:

    I was looking forward to reading a few original quotes related to weather and climate direct from these ancient Arabic texts.

    All we have are quotes from researchers. Meh!

  42. bushbunny says:

    sHx, but – these ancient texts prove one thing, it has happened before, weather patterns, LOL

  43. Philemon says:

    kellyb says:
    February 27, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    —-snipped from link—-
Copyright 1998-2003
    
World Socialist Web Site
    
All rights reserved

    ————————-

    agenda driven reporting ?

    Oh, no! Not Socialists! Well, at least they’re honest and don’t call themselves Progressives or Neoconservatives or, heaven forbid, Rockefeller Republicans. ;)

    http://costsofwar.org/sites/default/files/articles/54/attachments/Gusterson_Universities_and_the_Costs_of_the_Iraq_Wars-2.pdf

    Somehow, I don’t have any difficulty in imagining a brain drain in the circumstances.

  44. Hector Pascal said @ February 27, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    Another source is French grape harvest dates. Grapes require a set total number of sunshine hours before they ripen, so harvest date is a useful proxy.

    Not sunshine hours, Growing Degree Days.

    From the Wikibloodypedia:

    Unless stressed by other environmental factors like moisture, the development rate from emergence to maturity for many plants depends upon the daily air temperature. Because many developmental events of plants and insects depend on the accumulation of specific quantities of heat, it is possible to predict when these events should occur during a growing season regardless of differences in temperatures from year to year. Growing degrees (GDs) is defined as the number of temperature degrees above a certain threshold base temperature, which varies among crop species.

    Growing degree days are only an approximate guide for grapes (and other crops). Drought, pestilence and disease all restrict plant development as do days when the temperatures rise above the plants’ upper threshold for growth. These days we use bunch thinning and leafing to alter the rate of ripening and it’s not at all clear that these techniques were not used in the past. There is also considerable competition for labour at grape harvest in a peasant community and likely harvesting staple crops would have taken precedence over luxury goods.

    The study of periodic plant and animal life cycle events and how these are influenced by seasonal and interannual variations in climate is called phenology.

    Hubert Lamb’s books Climate, History and the Modern World and Climate Present Past and Future are well worth reading if you’re into the history of climate.

  45. Hector Pascal says:

    @The Pompous Git says:

    Fair enough PG, I stand corrected, thanks. My CYA was that it was from memory, and it’s been more than 10 years since I read it. Lamb noted.

    BTW, Grove goes back a lot further than the LIA where sources allow.

  46. Evan Thomas says:

    I am a touch surprised that learned posters have not quoted from Jo Nova. Go to http://joannenova.com.au/2011/12-chinese-tree-ring-study-shows etc. A fascinating study of tibetan tree rings covering 2485 years with interesting comments on the methodology and significance. I look foreword to reading comments/critiques o experts in this field. Cheers from soggy Sydney.http://joannenova.com.au/2011/12/chinese-2485-year-tree-ring-study-shows-shows-sun-controls-climate-temps-will-cool-til-2068/

  47. Hector Pascal said @ February 27, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    @The Pompous Git says:

    Fair enough PG, I stand corrected, thanks. My CYA was that it was from memory, and it’s been more than 10 years since I read it. Lamb noted.

    BTW, Grove goes back a lot further than the LIA where sources allow.

    And thank you for the referral to Groves :-) So much to read and and so little time…

  48. Evan Thomas said @ February 27, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    I am a touch surprised that learned posters have not quoted from Jo Nova. Go to http://joannenova.com.au/2011/12-chinese-tree-ring-study-shows etc. A fascinating study of tibetan tree rings covering 2485 years with interesting comments on the methodology and significance. I look foreword to reading comments/critiques o experts in this field. Cheers from soggy Sydney.http://joannenova.com.au/2011/12/chinese-2485-year-tree-ring-study-shows-shows-sun-controls-climate-temps-will-cool-til-2068/

    Thanks Evan; I’d forgotten about that post. Anyone else notice that there have been a lot more papers worth reading the last six months, or so? Your first link’s a dud BTW. And Jo kindly puts a tinyURL at the bottom of the post: http://tinyurl.com/c2f7cs4

    I’m not an expert on treerings, so I will refrain from saying anything other than it certainly looks intriguing.

  49. alan says:

    “Islamic Golden Age”, PC science fiction!

  50. agfosterjr says:

    One of the great achievements of Sadaam’s fall was the immediate restoration of much of the marshland he dried up to fight rebellion:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/martyrs-of-the-iraqi-marshes-1673421.html

    –reversing one of the worst ecological catastrophes of all time.

    And don’t forget, the B52 bombing of the first gulf war shook the ground and its archeological treasures worse than the bombardment of the second. It was the museums that suffered. –AGF

  51. alan said @ February 27, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    “Islamic Golden Age”, PC science fiction!

    So presumably you have nothing to do with such “PC science fiction” as algebra, algorithms, quadratic equations, Arabic numerals, spectacles and so on. What a peculiar life you must lead!

  52. Brian H says:

    Tom C;
    Yes, gaps of 37 and 61 years would about do it for living memory!

    IAC, it’s cooling that generates weather extremes. Pre-MWP swings were brutal.

  53. Ian Ogilvie says:

    I have often read that the Nile river froze in 829 AD but have never been able to find any primary historical source to confirm it. Can anyone enlighten me?

  54. johanna says:

    alan says:
    February 27, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    “Islamic Golden Age”, PC science fiction!
    —————————————————
    Sorry to have singled you out, but there are quite a few analogous comments on this thread along the lines of ‘what could these murderous, ignorant savages teach us.’

    While your ancestors (if they were European) were living in wattle and daub huts, illiterate, short lived and infested with vermin, there were very advanced civilisations in other parts of the world.

    Islamic scholarship regrettably started to go downhill for ideological and religious reasons about eight hundred years ago. But it is xenophobic and ignorant not to acknowledge the greatness of past civilisations just because you don’t like the people who currently live at those locations.

  55. Aussie says:

    If you want real ancient records for that region then start with Genesis and the Scripture. Sumeria which was between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers was wiped out by floods….. Guess which cities now lie between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers.

    The period mentioned is not all that ancient. It is relatively modern, as these are records from the Middle Ages.

    It would be better if they were examining records from Ancient Rome, Ancient Greece and yes, even Ancient Israel. For example, was it really snowing when Jesus was born? For centuries it has always been depicted that way.

  56. alfonso vallejo says:

    Many of this strongs climatic changes, are relationed with different solar activity. An, is possible, with anothers cosmis events.
    WVR, cali, colombia

  57. MarkW says:

    The Pompous Git says:
    February 27, 2012 at 11:42 pm

    Much of that was “borrowed” from cultures the Arabs conquered.

  58. E.M.Smith says:

    Ian Ogilvie says:
    February 28, 2012 at 12:45 am

    I have often read that the Nile river froze in 829 AD but have never been able to find any primary historical source to confirm it. Can anyone enlighten me?

    Well, I found both 829 and 1010 AD as freeze dates, but this s a pointer to what you want, I think, even if it is just an inline citation:

    http://www.kolumbus.fi/tilmari/some200.htm

    Now it seems like this 100/200-year Maunder-like cyclity continued. The period of 200 years seems to oscillate between 180 and 220 years. The 220 is best approximated by 100+120 years and the 180 years by 60+120 years.

    120 years of warm period passed. Then in 608 AD Euphrates froze. After the warm 700’s, in 829 AD Nile froze (Cambridge CCNet 1998). The century of 800’s belong to the dark ages. Again we have here 220 years.

    So it looks like a search on “Cambridge CCNet 1998″ ought to get you the source.

    Wonder if the freezing of the Euphrates and Nile would convince the Warmers that it got colder… This 200 ish year cycle would have another cold spell about now ( LIA in about 1800 to now in 2000 being 200 years spread…)

    lots of other interesting history in that link, BTW….

  59. Peter Plail says:

    Bloke down the pub says:
    February 27, 2012 at 10:54 am
    Did they find any mention of WMD?

    Is that Weather of Mass Disruption?

  60. Ulric Lyons says:

    SandyInDerby says:
    February 27, 2012 at 11:20 am
    “Do any of the dates match with those in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (not the only simultaneous record I’m sure)?”

    1047?

    http://booty.org.uk/booty.weather/climate/1000_1099.htm

    1115

    http://booty.org.uk/booty.weather/climate/1100_1199.htm

    more on Syria:

    http://www.bethmardutho.org/index.php/hugoye/volume-index/120.html

  61. Ulric Lyons says:

    “We believe the drop in July 920 AD may have been linked to a great volcanic eruption but more work would be necessary to confirm this idea.”

    After examining the best heliocentric analogue within the range of CET (1692), I am quite satisfied it was due to a short term change in solar activity. The next analogue at 1871 also shows such sharp short term drops: http://climexp.knmi.nl/data/tcet.dat

    http://www.fourmilab.ch/cgi-bin/Solar

  62. Dario from NW Italy says:

    There’s a lot of records in an old book (first published in French in 1967, the first English edition was in 1973) by the French historial Emmanuel LeRoy Ladurie, “Time of feast, time of famine. History of climate since AD 1000″. Allways a suggested reading.
    Of course, “time of feast” were the warmer periods, “time of famine” the colder…

  63. MarkW said @ February 28, 2012 at 4:43 am

    The Pompous Git says:
    February 27, 2012 at 11:42 pm

    Much of that was “borrowed” from cultures the Arabs conquered.

    And what was Christendom doing when it took the Islamic invention of clear glass to make optical instruments, test tubes, retorts, barometers, thermometers etc? Don’t forget either that the Caliphate encompassed far more than the Arabs. It exceeded Europe in size.

    As johanna points out, my Western European ancestors were largely ignorant savages when the Caliphate was at its peak. I must point out though that there was one holdout of scholarship in Western Europe: Ireland. For every Johannes Scotus Eriugena there were at least a dozen of his calibre in the Caliphate though.

  64. agfosterjr says:

    Myrrh: thanks for the Jerusalem snow link. Unfortunately it provides no dates.

    Mishnah Mikvaoth (c.100 CE) tells how snow could be had at will in the wintertime to partially fill the bathing pools. And this is in Jordan, near Amman where however, it still commonly snows a little in the winter. It seems that compressed air from the Jordan Valley, at 1300 feet below sea level, decompresses at 2600 feet in Amman, leading to snow at low latitude and moderate elevation. My guess is that east winds do the same to Jerusalem, maybe with a little lake effect from the Dead Sea.

    Without Arabic and Syriac scholarship much of the Classical science history would have been lost. Some Latin MSS were translated from Arabic and Hebrew, not directly from Greek. And don’t forget the zero. Of course the Islamic conquerors assimilated science from the converted nations, and they left a lingua franca south and east of the Mediterranean as a counterpart to Latin. The same could be said of the Greek conquerors. Many of the Classical thinkers haled from the Maghreb and the Fertile Crescent. Same for Christian theologians: where did Augustine come from? North Africa.

    In Utah we see CA plates all over. In CA you almost never see Utah plates. The incidence ratio is the ratio squared of the respective populations: (10:1)^2 = 100:1. Through such circumstantial data we get some idea about the relative population of North Africa. We also learn from archaeology. The decline of Islam coincided with the decline of Oriental Jewry, and was due to climate change more than any other factor–Africa and the Middle East dried up. The Moors were cut off from Baghdad while the European population was growing.

    And the history: Pliny said Alexandria had an average of 3 thunderstorms every summer. Not any more.

    Genesis? Composed of 3 sources, J, E, and P; J: c.900BCE, E: c.800, and P: c.450. Hardly as ancient as Akkadian, and who knows when Jacob’s sons and daughter escaped the famine for Egypt? George Washington had 13 children too, but more daughters: Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, etc. –AGF

  65. Laurence Crossen says:

    “time of feast” were the warmer periods & “Islamic Golden Age”

    The Medieval Warm Period was on balance a boon so great as to foster this great flowering of civilization. That warming is more beneficial than cooling undercuts the whole AGW case Eugenie Scott!

  66. johanna says (to alan)
    February 28, 2012 at 1:50 am

    …there are quite a few analogous comments on this thread along the lines of ‘what could these murderous, ignorant savages teach us.’….While your ancestors (if they were European) were living in wattle and daub huts, illiterate, short lived and infested with vermin, there were very advanced civilisations in other parts of the world…..Islamic scholarship regrettably started to go downhill for ideological and religious reasons about eight hundred years ago. But it is xenophobic and ignorant not to acknowledge the greatness of past civilisations just because you don’t like the people who currently live at those locations.

    First of all, johanna, many people living in those great past civilizations also lived in wattle-and-daub huts if they were lucky, as that’s a pretty efficient and sophisticated building system. Stone and brick were used not because they were better, they were not (fragile, inflexible, poorly insulated), but because there wasn’t enough wood to go around and also because they provided for better fortification and security…which tells us about the stability of those societies which relied on masonry in architecture. I’ve worked as a brick and stone mason, and even taught in the trade, and have also build with and repaired wattle and daub, and I found the latter far more exacting, difficult and technologically advanced than old-style brick and stone, i.e., before steel reinforced masonry, cavity walls, moisture-resistant membranes, modern insulation materials and Portland cement based mortars.

    As for literacy, the vast majority of people everywhere were illiterate, and literacy is a function of centralized, usually despotic regimes which cannot work without record keeping. It wasn’t for being stupid that Europeans, with good annual rainfalls and rich and deep soils enjoyed autonomy from despots and didn’t need to, for a long time, bother with permanent record keeping. As for being “short-lived and infested with vermin,” that applied to everone everywhere, especially in civilized societies, which had great masses of poor, serfs and slaves. Furthermore, lot of the “great wisdom” of the classical civilizations is little more than universal vernacular knowledge written down and gilded with the puffery of scholarship. Humans everywhere have the same capacity for intelligence, the same ability to imagine and philosophise, and if you have travelled the backwoods of many places, you would find that many a “simple” shepherd would put a Plato to shame. It is writing…an “external information storage system”… that will eventually, but not always, make a difference, as it allows for better transmission, accummulation and building up on what was done before.

    Another view on the Arab civilization holds that the Arabs were a religious warrior culture which conquered many of the advanced civilizations, looted, used up what they found and once the bureacrats and scholars died off or were converted, slunk back to the default position of warfare and banditry, where they are largely to be found today. There wasn’t much more to Islamic scholarship than looted libraries and artifacts and captured or Islamicized Indian, Syriac, Nestorianm Jewish, Chinese and Persian scholars.The “arabic” numerals are actually Indian, and most of the scientific and wisdom lit in Arabic…like astronomy, medicine and alchymy, was Classical Greek, Roman, Indian and Chinese in origin, much of it translated into Arabic and Latin and spread around by Jews. There was a brief burp in Al-Andalus/Spain, with a heavy input by Jews and Chrisians, but “religious reasons,” i.e., Islamic fundamentalism, stamped that out pretty quickly.

  67. Aussie says:

    There are a number of points being raised, and some of them seem to be based upon what can only be described as revisionism.

    First of all, Islam did not exist until the 7th century AD. Second, one of the most advanced civilizations of the ancient world was Persia (now known as Iran). There are other civilizations mentioned in the Scripture for example which are easily recognizable from the location e.g. Babylon, Ninevah. Those ancient civilizations had nothing to do with Islam – no caliphate, nothing, nada, zilch. Third, two of the other most advanced civilizations were Rome and Greece but note it was Philip and Alexander of the ancient (not modern) Macedonia who had advanced across the Middle East, and who conquered Jerusalem (read the books of the Maccabees to get an idea of the impact of the Greeks on life in ancient Judea). Each of these civilizations brought their skills with them.

    The Caliphate did not invent glass. Perhaps some of the peoples conquered by the Arabs had skills in glassmaking, but the caliphate and the Arabs did not necessarily have those skills. So again we must not ascribe to them that which belonged to other ancient and conquered races.

    Another point raised concerned St. Augustine of Hippo (North Africa). This region was controlled by the Romans at the point in time when St. Augustine existed. It was an early point in Christendom that was just emerging from persecution under a variety of Roman emperors. At that time North Africa had been converting to Christianity but paganism (not Islam) was still rife in the region.

    Then there is the issue with regard to the dating of the texts for the Scriptures. That information is almost correct, but the person left out a vital detail. Before it was written down, it was passed down in oral form. The authors of the texts were careful to pass on the various “stories” including at least two versions of the Creation story. People should not get bogged down with the notion that these texts are historical and that they can be dated in some way. Some of the stories relate to the various regions where those ancient peoples had lived. I find it interesting that most of the stories involved a very small region that includes the ancient city of Ninevah (Iraq) and that there is constant mention of Egypt in those early chapters. The point that I raised about the Scripture as any form historical record is that they recorded floods and famine. The story about the Noahine flood is probably the story of the flood that wiped out the ancient Sumerian civilization.

    All of these ancient peoples and tribes pre-dated Islam. There were wise men, probably astrologers and even astronomers amongst them, and they were knowledgeable but they were never a part of Islam because it did not exist in the ancient world.

  68. agfosterjr says:

    Aussie says:
    February 28, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    “The story about the Noahine flood is probably the story of the flood that wiped out the ancient Sumerian civilization. ”
    =======================================================================
    Minor problem: the oldest known Mid-Eastern version of the flood myth was the Sumerian version. How then can the Noachian Flood recount the destruction of Sumeria when the J version clearly derives from the Sumerian version? Similarly 19th century archaeologists thought they had discovered Noah’s flood until they found Gilgamesh tablets beneath their flood layer.

    Look people: in 830 AD you could not find a more advanced civilization than in Baghdad. Period. Al Mamun recalculated the size of the earth among his many achievements–he had a better idea of its size than Columbus or Eratosthenes. His calculation of the length of a degree would not be improved upon till nearly modern times. In the 19th century presidents of American universities claimed Europeans believed the earth was flat, so barbaric were they (the university presidents). Most moderns still believe this myth.

    The point I make with Augustine is not to show Islamic superiority–I know very well how to convert AH to AD. I’m trying to show serious historical climate change. Like Augustine, like al-Ya’qubi (the Berber geographer), and like Lactantius and Cosmas Indicopleustes–two anomalous flat earthers–all came from North Africa. This should give you an idea of how populous North Africa was. It was like America in 1492, except that it was depopulated by climate change rather than disease. This continued clear till at least the middle of the 20th century, and you might argue that it continues till the present.

    But the truth is slightly more complicated: its climate is unstable; its populace lives a precarious existence. It goes through periods of drought and greening, feast and famine. But overall, it has dried up. Climate change is the rule, and as far as climate goes, we live in a benign age. –AGF

  69. Aussie said @ February 28, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    The Caliphate did not invent glass. Perhaps some of the peoples conquered by the Arabs had skills in glassmaking, but the caliphate and the Arabs did not necessarily have those skills. So again we must not ascribe to them that which belonged to other ancient and conquered races.

    Please note that I did not say that “The Caliphate” invented glass.

    “Abbas ibn Firnas (810–887) was an Andalusian scientist, musician and inventor. He developed a clear glass used in drinking vessels, and lenses used for magnification and the improvement of vision. He had a room in his house where the sky was simulated, including the motion of planets, stars and weather complete with clouds, thunder and lightning. He is most well known for reportedly surviving an attempt at controlled flight.”

    Abbas ibn Firnas certainly lived in the Caliphate during the Islamic Golden Age. And I wrote this contra the assertion that the Islamic Golden Age was politically correct nonsense. FWIW it is my opinion that it was the development of glass suitable for lenses and other scientific instruments that allowed modern science to develop. Glass objects from 4,000 years before Abbas Ibn Firnas’ time are known, but it was not until he developed clear glass vessels and lenses that it became technologically significant.

  70. Armagh Observatory says:

    mkelly says:

    “…At different periods in its history, Iraq was the center of the indigenous Akkadian, Sumerian, Assyrian, Babylonian, and Abbasid empires. It was also part of the Achaemenid, Hellenistic, Parthian, Sassanid, Roman, Rashidun, Umayyad, Mongol, Safavid, Afsharid, and Ottoman empires, and under British control as a League of Nations mandate.[5][6]”

    What we now now as Iraq, is indeed the birthplace of what we now call human civilisation.

    However, as always, despite the brutal, murderous empires which have come and gone, over the last eight thousand years, the politically correct will always blame the British for whatever mess the country gets itself into.

    It might be informative to realise that from the time of Alexander until us Brits loaded the tanks and aircraft onto transport ships and sailed away in the 1950s, Iraq was never a state in its own right, always a province in some empire or other.

    The same applies to every modern state in the Mid East, including Israel.

    The liberals always forget that the modern Mid east is a product of the later British Empire.

    (OK, yeah, I suppose its our fault! Sorry about that)

  71. Armagh Observatory says:

    AS regards glass and other innovations supposedly credited to Arab technology- the Arabs swept over the Roman and Persian empires in the 7th centuries, putting an end to them forever.

    The Arabs simply discovered technologies which had been in use for thousands of years and being a pragmatic lot, were quite happy to put them to their own use. They may have made improvements, but the Arabs never really made any great discoveries in science or engineering. They just developed the discoveries and inventions of others and stagnated when they could take a basic idea no further. Hence why they have never really made the leap out of the Dark Ages..

  72. agfosterjr says:

    Armagh Observatory says:
    February 28, 2012 at 2:55 pm
    “…but the Arabs never really made any great discoveries in science or engineering.”
    =====================================================================
    It doesn’t get much sillier than that. Algebra? The zero? “The Book of Ingenious Devices”?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Ingenious_Devices

    Their contributions to all fields of science were as vast as is AO’s ignorance. True, they did not anticipate the Copernican Revolution, but they did provide much of the data that Copernicus relied on. And they don’t need my cheering. AO had best hit the books. –AGF

  73. Armagh Observatory said @ February 28, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    “…but the Arabs never really made any great discoveries in science or engineering.”

    Conflating the Caliphate with the Arabs is akin to conflating Christendom with the Sicilians. It’s beyond silly…

  74. evilincandescentbulb says:

    Rumor is, the alarmists of the day burned witches to appease the weather gods.

  75. evilincandescentbulb, the wave of late medieval witch burnings coincided during prolonged colds spell in Europe and the accused women were often charged with bringing in early frosts and cold winters.

    There are some curious parallels between the CAGW frenzy and the witch scare. First, it took a while to develop the “hypothesis” with learned discussion over such points as whether witches physically, flew or imagined that they did, and what role the Devil played. Church law became involved from the start, at first making it a heresy to believe that witches physically flew, then that they only imagined to do so. The most prestigious scholars and the top seminaries and universities were involved in the “study” of witchcraft and its supposed effects, and the Church and the secular governments directed and protected their research and declared the “science” as settled, with heavy penalties for skepticism. Tremendous amounts of propaganda were published and issued from pulpits and market squares with the intent to enrage and terrify the population. An examination of the economics behind the craze, suggest that the religious fervour behind the craze was stoked-up to provide an unassailable fig leaf for a substantial revenue grab. The Church and governments collected donations, fines, bribes and duties to “save” the population and nature from the malevolent “actions” of witches. The victims were typically widowed women with property which would have gone to relatives, but upon their conviction and execution this property was split up between the Church and secular authorities according to well-developed formulas. A similar process occurred with the heretic persecutions and because serious money was involved in both of these scams, we have good records on the collection methods and the sums involved. The French historian Le Roy Ladurie did some work on the Fournier Register covering the heresy Inquisition in mountain village of Montaillou in the Occitan region of Southern France and the late great anthropologist, Marvin Harris, wrote a readable book which in part covers the economic dimension behind the European witch hunts in his, Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches.

    These cases illustrate the difficulty of fighting such massive fraudulent schemes. As with the CAGW scare today, the “science” is the fig leaf, the scare propaganda is the delivery system, but the money is the driver and the end game. While it’s important to clarify the science, by itself this effort is fruitless, equally if not more important is to undermine the propaganda and to expose and disrupt the money flow, without which such schemes always collapse under the weight of their obvious idiocy.

  76. evilincandescentbulb, PS: Sorry, I’m on a roll here, it seems. I forgot to mention that similar dynamics were involved in the persecution of Europe’s Jewish communities and that those cases are even more obvious and better documented. Again, there are patterns and dynamics there which you’ll note resemble those of the CAGW craze…although, thank goodness, without the insane brutality, craziness and violence. So far, at least.

    Typically, Jews would be invited to a city or a duchy to manage taxes, mint coinage or lend money to the Church authorities, monarchs, nobility, the emerging burgher bourgeoisie and land owning peasantry. Once these services were no longer needed and the lenders rang up unsustainable debts, the friars, priests and others would “suddenly discover” awful things in the Jewish scriptures and fantastic rumours would emerge as if out of nowhere about Jews with horns and hoofs, well poisonings, blood libels and such.

    Usually, the process began with the kehilla, (the Jewish community self-government) paying fines or protection bribes and writing off debts to the important people, which usually just bought them time. Once the money ran dry, though, the community would be expelled if “lucky.” As with the other apparently religiously-motivated persections, the real estate property again being split-up between Church and secular authorities, and the case of the loans, the Church would typically take these over and begin collections with the help of secular militia. In many cases, where the hatred reached a feverish pitch, and it became useful to cover-up debts, the Jewish communities would be totally annihilated.
    As with the witches and heretics, the officially sanctioned and aggressively defended “settled science” flew under the flag of theology. The dynamics were quite complex over the length and breadth of the continent, with some regions and Church sectors discovering religious tolerance, especially if they were in dire need of the Jews’ services, while others, where Jews were no longer needed or competed against emerging Christian financiers and capitalists, “discovered” the terrible evils of Jews.

    It’s unfortunate that historians have almost exclusively focused on the obvious and manifested causes of these cases. Most studies fixate on the theology and belief systems behind the heresy, witchcraft or anti-Jewish charges, with little if anything on the substantial material causes. Superstition, religious fervour, beliefs and philosophies are important, but they do seem to flourish or perish depending on what they can earn and so, I’d say, it always pays to apply the cui bono (who profits) rule on any unusual social phenomena we encounter.

  77. Peter Kovachev said @ February 29, 2012 at 7:26 am

    These cases illustrate the difficulty of fighting such massive fraudulent schemes. As with the CAGW scare today, the “science” is the fig leaf, the scare propaganda is the delivery system, but the money is the driver and the end game. While it’s important to clarify the science, by itself this effort is fruitless, equally if not more important is to undermine the propaganda and to expose and disrupt the money flow, without which such schemes always collapse under the weight of their obvious idiocy.

    Nothing much to argue with there. Of course while the disciplines scientific continue to denigrate history as “a pack of lies” they will ever fall victim to such scams. Being human is ever interesting :-)

  78. True, Pompous Git, I’ve always marvelled how it’s often the scientists who fall victim to the most ludicrous pseudoscientific scams, especially those outside of their area of expertise. I’m certain that the majority of self-declared “climate scientists” genuinely believe in the science, not really understanding that what they actually believe in is the cause and that what lubricates their enthusiasm are the material rewards. Historiography can never attain the certainties the physical sciences can. The reliance on spotty evidence and biased recordings and assessments will always bedevil the field. Still, this shouldn’t prevent the honest historian from scrupulously applying the strict rules of the scientific method. Alas, this is not where the fad of “post-normal” science is dragging all disciplines towards. It’s essentially an obscurantist reaction against empirical science, with its re-warming of Marxism and Neo-Marxism, its abandonment of “bourgeois” objectivity and adoption of whatever the Hell are “narratives,” social justice imperatives and sexy causes. Well, the pendulum will swing back again, eventually and after much damage has been done, although seeing from your website how your beard is as grey as mine is becoming, probably not in our lifetimes!

  79. Armagh Observatory says:

    “agfosterjr says:
    February 28, 2012 at 3:37 pm
    Armagh Observatory says:
    February 28, 2012 at 2:55 pm
    “…but the Arabs never really made any great discoveries in science or engineering.”
    =====================================================================
    It doesn’t get much sillier than that. Algebra? The zero? “The Book of Ingenious Devices”?”

    I stated that “They just developed the discoveries and inventions of others and stagnated when they could take a basic idea no further.”

    The Arabs swept over the territories of the Romano- Greek world and the Persian Empire and in doing so, discovered the libraries and academies containing the works of all the philosophers, engineers and scientists of the ancient world.

    They will come across the instruments of navigation, the methods of calculation, geometry, mathematics and architecture and law and all the other achivements of the thousands of year history of the Greek, Roman and Persian worlds.

    They translated these libraries into Arabic and following the Korans stricture to Learn, began to study and in doing so added to and improved upon the works of the ancients.

    Of course they developed algebra, but only after absorbing the works of Greek and Babylonian scholarship.

    Zero comes from Indian and Persian mathematics, as do the so called “Arabic” numerals. They didnt invent these themselves, what they did was to bring all this ancient knowledge together within one culture, Islam. In doing so they saved it from being lost to history despite this being the work of Pagans. Considering that the Library of Alexandria. had been burned to the ground by Christian fundamentalists, its a good thing too. They did not, however, make any great original discoveries themselves.

    They took the work of the ancients and improved upon it, by an understanding of it and intellectual evolution, but they remained stuck in the world view of Aristotle so could not take it any further as they failed to make the cultural leap away from myth, magic and the need to for the supernatural.

    There was not an Arabic parallel to Newton, who started his adult life as the last of the sorcerers, looking for the Philosopher’s Stone, but was able to do a 180 degree intellectual turn and write the Principia.

    The Arabs could best be described as the librarians of the ancient world.

    If they saw a little further than Archimedes et al, it was because they were standing on his shoulders, while Newton saw further than anyone until then because he was looking at the Universe in an entire different way.

    ie The right way up.

  80. Armagh Observatory said @ February 29, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    Considering that the Library of Alexandria. had been burned to the ground by Christian fundamentalists

    thus clearly showing you haven’t a clue what you are talking about. Amr ibn al-‘As burnt the library at Alexandria in September 641 AD. He was a Muslim, not a “fundamentalist Christian”. Christian fundamentalism, arose out of British and American Protestantism in the late 19thC and early 20thC among evangelical Christians, so there is absolutely no way they could have destroyed the library at Alexandria hundreds of years before they existed. Methinks you need to take your meds more regularly..

  81. Armagh Observatory says:

    As for the Book of Ingenious Devices, do you really, really believe that such wonderous things were devised without reference to books written by others in the distant past?

    Are you seriously telling me that in the two hundred years since invasion by newly converted Islamic camel traders with no history of anything ,other than worshipping a large ferrous meteorite, produced works such as this spontenously?

    The Caliphate had access to every ancient work imaginable. Enough to stir the imagination to recreate the contents and desire to plagerise. In oder to make one’s name one merely had to copy ancient Greek manuscripts into Arabic, claim it as your own work and destroy the original.

    Chances are another copy would never turn up and in this case, they were right, so far, but Im quite sure, somewhere in the sands of Egypt or Arabia is buried another copy waiting to be discovered.

    Funny how archeology is illegal in Saudi Arabia…

    Wouldnt it be fascinating to excavate ancient Mecca and Medina for the real history of pre- Islamic and early Islamic Arabia.

  82. Armagh Observatory says:

    The Libray of Alexandria was actually set fire to by Julius Caesar, by accident during his burning of the Egyptian fleet in 48BC. The remaining books were then stored in the Serapeum in a temple complex.

    How you define Christian fundamentalist is up to you.

    I define Christians who destroy the holy places of others out of bigotry and intolerance ,at any time in history as fundamentalists.
    Whatever the Muslim fundamentalists burned when they turned up in 644 seemed to have already been well flattened by then.

    Decree of Theodosius, destruction of the Serapeum in 391. Paganism was made illegal by an edict of the Emperor Theodosius I in 391. The holdings of the Great Library (both at the Mouseion and at the Serapeum) were on the precincts of pagan temples. While this had previously lent them a measure of protection, in the days of the Christian Roman Empire, whatever protection this had previously afforded them had ceased.[2] The temples of Alexandria were closed by Patriarch Theophilus of Alexandria in AD 391.[29]

    Socrates of Constantinople provides the following account of the destruction of the temples in Alexandria, in the fifth book of his Historia Ecclesiastica, written around 440:

    At the solicitation of Theophilus, Bishop of Alexandria, the emperor issued an order at this time for the demolition of the heathen temples in that city; commanding also that it should be put in execution under the direction of Theophilus. Seizing this opportunity, Theophilus exerted himself to the utmost to expose the pagan mysteries to contempt. And to begin with, he caused the Mithreum to be cleaned out, and exhibited to public view the tokens of its bloody mysteries. Then he destroyed the Serapeum, and the bloody rites of the Mithreum he publicly caricatured; the Serapeum also he showed full of extravagant superstitions, and he had the phalli of Priapus carried through the midst of the forum. … Thus this disturbance having been terminated, the governor of Alexandria, and the commander-in-chief of the troops in Egypt, assisted Theophilus in demolishing the heathen temples.
    —Socrates; Roberts, Alexander; Donaldson, James (1885), “Socrates: Book V: Chapter 16″, in Philip Schaff et al., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, II, II
    The Serapeum housed part of the Great Library, but it is not known how many, if any, books were contained in it at the time of destruction. Notably, the passage by Socrates makes no clear reference to a library or its contents, only to religious objects. An earlier text by the historian Ammianus Marcellinus indicates that, whatever books might earlier have been housed at the Serapeum, none was there in the last decade of the 4th century. The pagan author Eunapius of Sardis witnessed the demolition, and though he detested Christians, and was a scholar, his account of the Serapeum’s destruction makes no mention of any library. When Orosius discusses the destruction of the Great Library at the time of Caesar in the sixth book of his History against the Pagans, he writes:

    So perished that marvelous monument of the literary activity of our ancestors, who had gathered together so many great works of brilliant geniuses. In regard to this, however true it may be that in some of the temples there remain up to the present time book chests, which we ourselves have seen, and that, as we are told, these were emptied by our own men in our own day when these temples were plundered—this statement is true enough—yet it seems fairer to suppose that other collections had later been formed to rival the ancient love of literature, and not that there had once been another library which had books separate from the four hundred thousand volumes mentioned, and for that reason had escaped destruction.
    —Paulus Orosius, vi.15.32

  83. agfosterjr says:

    Re, AO’s endless BS:

    For starters, Newton was hardly a mystic turned rationalist: his alchemy and mysticism consumed more of his effort the longer he lived. He can correctly be said to have stagnated in later life, much like Einstein.

    Mohammed was illiterate, as were most of his followers. The Koran is so called because it was originally a memorized collection of recitations. Accordingly the earliest conquests hardly entailed an assimilation of learning from the conquered civilizations. But unlike Christianity, which from its outset constituted an affirmation of distinction between the legal system and the ethical life, Islam redefined the Torah of the Jews; like Judaism, Islam was a legal system. The establishment of this system on an international scale required political institutions and literacy.

    The Arabs of Mohammed’s time had no script. They adapted the Syriac script for their purposes, and the Koran was early written down. Then legal commentary, the Hadith–equivalent to the Talmud–was built up. This new political and legal system, with lingua franca and newly devised script, incorporated the most enlightened cultures of the day, and the purposeful aquisition of books and information was symptomatic of the scientific and philosophical blossoming. Translators were valued as wards of the court, and I challenge AO to find a single example of destruction of an original for purposes of plagiarism. My hell, what BS!

    Yeah, the zero had prededent, and true, the authors of the “Book of Ingenious Devices” were Persians with a family pedigree in engineering. The point being, such talent was valued! And built on. In the Caliphate Christians and Jews mingled with Moslems in collecting, translating, and commenting on thousands of documents. And the Christians, Jews, and Moslems all contributed to learning that put the northerners to shame. All under the auspices of the Islamic Caliphate.

    “Arab” can mean many things, but it refers in most times and places to the language one speaks. Accordingly there were Arab Christians, Arab Jews, and Arab Moslems. Arabic speakers have constituted a minority in the Islamic world for centuries, if not for a millenium. But the scholars learned Arabic, as the Europeans learned Latin. There is little correspondence between genes from the Arabian penninsula and Islamic learning, but somehow Mohammed’s preaching led to a veritable scientific flowering in Africa and the Middle East which far surpassed anything then extant in the world. Anyone who doubts this has never read a book on the history of science, and again, AO had best hit the books. –AGF

  84. Armagh Observatory says:

    It is interesing that having accused me of “endless BS”, agfosterjr goes on to agree with most of my assertions.

    Newton may have remained a fan of alchemy, as was common in his time, but he still produced the Principia and smashed the blocking hold that that the Aristotelian imodel had had on thought for the previous nineteen centuries, and was one of the 17th century thinkers who heralded the Enlightenment. Agreed?

    Good.

    I am aware that Mohammed was illiterate. Muslims make much of this fact as use it as “proof” that his so called devine revelations which make up the Koran came direct from Al-Lah and were not his own original thoughts.

    (I wasnt aware that their script was derived from Syriac, though. Interesting as the main contact with the Roman world the Meccans had, was trading camels twice yearly into Syria)

    Had he been acknowledged to be literate, it would be a simple matter to convince anyone that much of the Koran was plagerised from Jewish and Christian works. Conveniently, he is also said to have little contact with Jews or Christians, so he he didnt pick it up from them verbally either-so there!

    Going off at a tangent, the tale of a simple, illiterate, Arabic speaking Bedouin shepherd boy being visted by Gabriel with a very important message from God in Arabic, is an interesting parallel to the tale of Gabriel contacting a young Aramiac speaking Jewish girl with a very important message from God in Aramiac. (which had apparently occured some time previously)

    If you’re claiming to have a new revelation of an old established religion, its important for your devine messenger to be consistant in his approach, yeah?

    As for plagerism, if you can convince others that you had no knowledge of the original Jewish works, then your inclusion of the Torah into your new work could only have come from God, eah? You dont have to destroy anything.

    Just convince everyone that you had no previous knowledge of Jewish writings and eventually say, to everyones amazement: “Hey look, these guys have the same stuff! I told you it came from God! Heres the proof! Just call me The Prophet”

    I have no idea if complete Greek or Persian works were plagerised and the originals destroyed.

    Just using an outragious bit of speculation to make the point that a formally illiterate culture 150 years out of the camel trade would be unlikely to produce such works as the Book of Ingenious Devices spontaneously without reference to a great body of earlier work.

    (You dont get to the ’63 Ford Mustang without someone first inventing the steam engine, then someone else, decades later inventing the diesel engine then someone else inventing the petrol engine then someone else making a V8.)

    And of course it took 10000 years for the steam engine to be invented

  85. agfosterjr says:

    AO: “Had he been acknowledged to be literate, it would be a simple matter to convince anyone that much of the Koran was plagerised from Jewish and Christian works.”

    So are you expressing skepticism regarding Mohammed’s illiteracy? Are you claiming he had access to a written Bible? In what language? How do you you explain that a good share of the Koran’s frequent allusions to the Bible don’t get the story straight? It’s pretty obvious that he was going by memory.

    AO: “(I wasnt aware that their script was derived from Syriac, though. Interesting as the main contact with the Roman world the Meccans had, was trading camels twice yearly into Syria)”

    So are you suggesting there was an Arabic script extant in the Hejaz of the 7th century, and that Mohammed and his contemporaries were acquainted with it? Why did the Nabateans have to come up with their own script? Maybe you’ll even claim that Mohammed had an Arabic Bible handy. Or maybe you’ll claim that Mohammed did write his revelations down at the start. Hard to tell what you think.

    AO: “Had he been acknowledged to be literate, it would be a simple matter to convince anyone that much of the Koran was plagerised from Jewish and Christian works. Conveniently, he is also said to have little contact with Jews or Christians, so he he didnt pick it up from them verbally either-so there!”

    I don’t know where you get this nonsense. Any accounting of Mohammed’s teaching with the slightest sophistication fully acknowledges his thorough dependence on Jewish sources. At the same time his acquaintance with Christian teaching is seen to be slight by comparison. He accepts the virgin birth and the prophethood of Jesus, but Islam is in essence Rabbinic Judaism recast. Christians have priests; Jews have scholars–the priesthood is extinct.. Likewise Islam has scholars and no priests. The rabbis act as lawyers as do their Islamic counterparts; they have little concern with theology, which is the main concern of the Christian priests.

    It may well be that Mohammed had hoped to reconcile Christians and Jews, but it is even more likely that he was exasperated with the inaccessibility of both systems: you had to know how to read foreign languages in unfamiliar scripts to navigate their law and religion, and his native literature, great though it was, was restricted to oral tradition–they had no literature in the strictest sense. So Islam, like Hasidic Judaism and a few elements of Protestantism, began as a rebellion against a clerical monopoly, but as Hasidic Judaism quickly reassimilated the older learning, so Islam quickly adopted letters and began to accumulate judicial precedent.

    If your intent is to cast Islam as false or inferior religion as compared to other great religions we can only dismiss your approach as hopelessly parochial. We can’t really communicate if you are unable to step back a few paces and consider the subject as might an extraterrestrial anthropologist, leaving your prejudices and preconceived notions behind. Do you believe in a God who cares nothing for the heathen of Arabia, or do you believe he is unable to speak to them?

    If we are to judge Mohammed by his fruits, the Islamic Rennaisance speaks very highly of him. –AGF

  86. Wow BBC WS prog Science In Action they were talking about records showing in Bagdad the river used to freeze then after 990 it didn’t any more then Richard Black came on and said it seems the MWP stretched as far as Iraq ..I thought he was a MWP denier ?

  87. Armagh Observatory says:

    “So are you expressing skepticism regarding Mohammed’s illiteracy?

    No, I would be astonished if a simple shepherd could read in the 7th century anywhere.

    Are you claiming he had access to a written Bible? In what language?

    No, but Jews and Christians in Arabia most certainly would have had all the works that became the Bible (and no doubt more works which would be considered apocraphal, if not down right heretical in the Roman world of the 7th century. For evidence, consider the Nag Hammadi Gospels in Egypt and the recently discovered works discovered in Jordan- 1st century Christian Gospel writings wrapped in cloth bearing the Menorah, stored buried in a clay pot stamped with a menorah.

    “How do you you explain that a good share of the Koran’s frequent allusions to the Bible don’t get the story straight? It’s pretty obvious that he was going by memory.”

    And here you reach the crux of the emigma that links Judiasm, Christianity and Islam and provides clues to what may be the real origin of what became Christianity.

    As you state in your earlier post, it is quite clear to any sophisiticated observer that Mohammed’s source material came from contacts with Jewish and Christian communities, and not direct from God as claimed.

    The references in the Koran to Jesus are pretty much in line with the Jewish idea of this person- that he wasnt the son of God, was as human as you or I and that he wasnt crucified, but that “they thought they had”

    As he wasnt dead, his reappearence after the crucifiction event couldnt be described in any way as miraculous and no doubt weren’t claimed to be by the people who knew him as a brother and friend.

    When, after 15 years, Paul of Tarsus got involved and his cult of the risen Christ took a different path from the messianic Jewish one, Jerusalem wasnt a good place for those who knew what really happened.

    When Pauline Christianity became the Imperial religion, 4th century, the Roman Empire wasnt a good place for those who knew what really happened (Gnostics and others) and after persecution, they fled to live among the Jewish communities down the Red Sea coast of Arabia.

    Not far from the coast in north east Arabia is Mecca and there are reports of Jewsih communities here in the 7th century.

    Tenous, maybe- but it could explain where Mohammed got his information and why the Koran’s view of Jesus seems so wrong to Western Christians today. Despite the clear Jewish source of Islam, every Muslim I have put this to denies any contact withe the Jews and isists it all came direct from God to Mohammed

  88. Jonathan Grove says:

    It’s nice to see Jean Grove’s book ‘The Little Ice Age’ (or rather books: the second edition, completed by her husband Dick Grove after Jean’s death, is quite a different beast from the first) getting so many name-checks these days.

    A word of warning though. Jean herself was a sceptic of the old school, not the new one: which is to say, she was happy to disagree with everyone in the room if she felt the evidence at which she was looking warranted it; but she knew there was no place for programmatic cynicism in academic research. She was honest enough, and dignified enough, to accept new evidence, and to see the limits of her own data, and her own interpretations of it.

    She was therefore quite unflustered by the fact that some younger scholars in the 1990s disagreed with her accounts of the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age. She was perfectly happy that her accounts of past climate perturbations didn’t correspond with other views of global climate history.

    But as the rest of the world caught up with her life-time’s interest, she did not for one single minute or second challenge the theory of the Greenhouse effect, nor the evidence for various sorts of anthropogenic impact on the earth’s atmosphere in more recent history which began to take shape after the first edition of her book was published.

    If you want to get a sense of a position perfectly in accordance with hers, based on more recent information, which would reflect her own view on the matter were she still alive to voice it, you might find this recent piece by her husband and long-term collaborator of some interest:

    http://www.realinstitutoelcano.org/wps/portal/rielcano_eng/Content?WCM_GLOBAL_CONTEXT=/elcano/elcano_in/zonas_in/dt25-2010.

    You’ll find it disquieting if you were expecting scepticism to wear a different face.

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