Symposium “New Scenarios of Solar System Evolution”
University of Bergamo, June 1999
The Usselo Horizon, a Worldwide Charcoal-Rich Layer of Alleröd Age
Johán B. Kloosterman
In 1980 was published the discovery of an iridium anomaly on the K-T boundary, and in 1991 the discovery of a huge impact crater of the same age, at Chicxulub on the tip of the Yucatan peninsula. In between those two dates, in 1985, it was found that that same iridium-rich boundary-layer contained an abundance of charcoal and soot, all over the world: the impact caused a wave of superheated air to roll around the earth, and the forests were incinerated, worldwide. As a direct result of the K-T discoveries, the idea of a Universal Conflagration is no longer taboo in academic circles. The first plants to grow again were ferns, and it must have been a strange sight indeed, to the few animals that survived the disaster: an abundance of fern growing on a black substratum.
A thin layer rich in charcoal also occurs in the Late Pleistocene, the Alleroed interstadial, with a radiocarbon age of about 11.000 years, and dendro-dated at about 13.000 years. If the dinosaur extinction has become symbolic for the K-T massacre, that of the mammoth stands as a symbol of the end of the Ice Age. The horizon, 5 to 15 cms thick, has been found in at least ten countries, on four different continents: \the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Great-Britain, France, Poland, White Russia, Egypt, South Africa, India and Australia. It was first found in 1940 in the Netherlands, in a sandpit at Usselo near Enschede, only a few kilometers from the boundary with Germany, by Dutch archaeologist Cornelis Hijszeler, custodian and later director of the Ryks Museum Twente, Enschede.
The Dutch geologists, a fraternity of dogmatic uniformitarians, felt uncomfortable and tried to hide the discovery. While Hijszeler published his results during the 1950’s, an excavation for a cartunnel was made at Velsen, west of Amsterdam, and the exposed Upper Pleistocene and Holocene section was studied by a interdisciplinary team of sedimentologists, palynologists, archaeologists. The Usselo horizon was found at a depth of 18 meters, significantly by an overseer. The experts who describe the unconsolidated sediments not once use the word charcoal. Only one contributor, Havinga, perhaps a rebellious type, speaks of the Usselo horizon as “a layer of white sand with black speckles”. He reports the absence of pollen in that layer and the presence of Selaginella (mossfern) without realizing the possible importance of that bit of information.
The German geologists did pick up Hijszeler’s discovery. They found that the charcoal-rich layer was synchronous with the huge and unique explosion of the Laacher See volcano, the ashes of which have been found from southern Sweden to northern Italy, and they imputed the gigantic forest fire which, as Hijszeler had found, raged at least from Ostende to Hamburg, to that volcanic eruption. The same causal relationship was accepted in Belgium, and later in northern France. During the 1960’s, the charcoal-rich horizon was also found in England, but the British scientists never tried to find out what had happened on the continent during the Alleroed, they remained in splendid isolation, very much like the Germans, who never showed curiosity for the geographical extension of the conflagration, perhaps because of the assumed causal relationship with the Laacher-See volcanic eruption.
From the people who knew, or knew about the existence of the Usselo horizon in northwestern Europe, only very few, perhaps two or three, heard about its discovery in White Russia, and a few others, perhaps three or four, about the discovery in Egypt, attributed to the Alleroed by radiocarbon dating, backed up by palynological, paleontological and archaeological data. None of them seems to have thought of the possibility that the fires in northwestern Europe, White Russia and Egypt could have started on the same day.
Meanwhile, a charcoal-rich layer dating from the Alleröd was also found in India, and recently (not yet published) from the Late Pleistocene in South Africa and in Australia.
Worldwide charcoal horizons seem to be not very common. Wendy Wolbach, after the discovery of the K-T boundary charcoal, made a literature search throughout the geological column, and found none, possibly because she had to rely on heavily biased literature, written by uniformitarians.
So let us assume that that fire raging from England to Paris and Hamburg and possibly to Minsk, and that fire raging through the Nile Valley, and the others discovered in South Africa, India and Australia, and also those that soon will be discovered on other places now people will start looking for it, are all synchronous. Let us urgently adopt the working hypothesis that they were synchronous and had one and the same cause, and let us then see if everything starts fitting together. The extinction of the Pleistocene megafauna, the sudden ice melting, the catastrophic floods, the rise in sea-level, the sudden demise of the Magdalenian culture after an uninterrupted development of some 30.000 years and the backfall to Mesolithic primitivism.
Let us not wait for the uniformitarians to agree, and let us not waste time trying to convince them. While we are born on a planet spinning and spiraling through a wildly dynamic universe, the uniformitarians try to impose upon us a static worldview.
We are in the middle of a major crisis in the biosphere, which started about 13.000 years ago, possibly by a cometary impact. Quite possibly it is the extinction of the Pleistocene megafauna – mostly herbivores but also their predators – which has opened an ecological niche for one predator that survived – humankind. The present population explosion and the continued faunal and floral extinctions occur in the wake of the universal conflagration of which the Usselo charcoal horizon bears witness.
When we start studying these relationships, we’ll have the benefit of the fact that an older charcoal layer has been found already, on the K-T boundary, and has been seriously studied during the last few decades. The past as the key to the present.
To the following persons I am most grateful for their moral support, for help in the search for data and references, for material help, or for their hospitality – or for all that:
Walter Alvarez, Sérgio Bernardes and Rosa, Marc de Bie, Diogenes de Almeida Campos, Victor Clube, Jacques Hinout, Mrs E. Hijszeler, A. de Goër de Herve, Peter James and Ruth, Albert Jongmans, Mme A. Leroi-Gourhan, J. Merkt, E. Paulissen, Klaus Skupin, Alexander Tollmann, Hugo Cuellar Urizar and Teresa, Bart Vanmontfort, Jean-Paul Verdun and Denise, Wera-Mirim, Wendy Wolbach.
General:Alvarez W, 1986: Towards a theory of impact crises. Eos Trans. Am. Geoph. Un. 67/35: 650- 657. _________, 1990: Interdisciplinary aspects of research on impacts and mass extinctions: a personal view. Geol. Soc. Am. Spec. Pap. 247.: 93-98 _________, 1997: T. Rex and the Crater of Doom. Princeton.
Asher DJ. et al., 1994: Coherent Catastrophism. Vistas in Astron. 38: 1-27.
Asher DJ, Clube SVM, 1998: Towards a dynamical history of Proto-Encke.Vol. 69, p.149-170.
Björck and 10 others, 1996: Synchronized terrestrial-atmospheric deglacial records around the north Atlantic. Science 274: 1155-1160.
Broecker W, Ewing H, Heezen B, 1960: Evidence for an abrupt change in climate close to 11.000 y. ago. Ammer J. Sc. 258: 429-448.
Bürek PJ., Wänke H, 1981: Impacts and glacio-eustatic, plate-tectonic episodes, geomagnetic reversals. Phys., Earth Planet. Inter. 50: 183-194.
Clube SVM, 1989: Catastrophes and Evolution. Brit. Ass. Adv. Sc., Mason Meetings Oxford.
Clube SVM, Napier W, 1982: The Cosmic Serpent: a catastrophist view of Earth History. London.
Emiliani C. Ager DV, Kloosterman JB, De Grazia A; 1977: An Alleröd Conflagration ? (a discussion) Catastr. Geol. 2/1: 13-15.
Fleming RF, Nichols DJ, 1990: The fern spore abundance anomaly at the K-T boundary. Lecture Notes on Earth Sc. 30: 347-349. Berlin.
Friedrich M et al., 1999: Paleo-environment and radiocarbon calibration as derived from Late Glacial/ Early Holocene tree-ring chronologies. Quatern. Internat. (submitted).
Hoyle F, 1993: The origin of the Universe and the origin of Religion. London. 1997: Kosmische Katastrophen und der Ursprung der Religion. (Nachwort A.Tollmann). Frankfurt a/M.
Hoyle F, Wickramasinghe, 1978: Comets, Ice Ages, and ecological catastrophes. Astrophys. Space Sc. 53: 523.
Kloosterman JB, 1976: Apophoreta-2. Catastr.Geol. 1/2: 57.
Kloosterman JB (ed.) , 1976: Catastr.Geol 1/1, 1/2; 1977: Catastr.Geol 2/1, 2/2; 1978: Catastr.Geol. 3/1, 3/2.
Napier WM, Clube SV, 1979: A theory of terrestrial Catastrophism. Nature 282: 455-459.
Spedicato E, 1992: Apollo objects, Atlantis and the Deluge – a catastrophist scenario for the end of the last glaciation. Quaderni 90/22, Univ. Bergamo.
Nelson J, 1989: Fractility of soot smoke: implications for the severity of nuclear winter. Nature, June 22: 611-613.
Melosh HJ et al., 1990: Ignition of Global Wildfires at the K-T boundary. Nature 343: 251-254.
Taylor KC and 7 others, 1993: The flickering switch of Late Pleistocene climate change. Nature 361: 432-436.
Tollmann E, Tollmann A, 1992: Der Sintflut Impakt. Mitt.Oesterr.Geol.Ges. 84: 1-63.
Tollmann E, Tollmann A, 1993: Und die Sintflut gab es doch: vom Mythus zur historischen Wahrheit. München.
Tschudy RH et al., 1984: Disruption of the terrestrial plant ecosystem at the K-T boundary event, western interior. Science 225: 1030-1032.
Verschuur GL, 1978: Cosmic Catastrophes, Reading.
___________, 1996: Impact – the threat of comets and asteroids. Oxford U.Pr.
Wolbach WS, Lewis RS, Anders E, 1985: Cretaceous Extinctions: Evidence for Wildfires and search for meteoritic material. Science 230: 167-170.
Havinga AJ, 1957: Pollen analysis of fossil vegetation profiles. In: Van Straaten LMJU, De Jong JD (eds), 1957: The excavation at Velsen: a detailed study of Upper Pleistocene and Holocene Stratigraphy. Verh. KNGMG 17/2: 139-145.
Hijszeler CCWJ, 1947: Werkplaatsen van vuurstenen voorwerpen in het Usselerveen, Enschede. In: Oudheidkundig Bodemonderzoek in Nederland. Van Giffen Gedenboek.
_____________, 1951: Archaelogical-palynological investigations made at Usselo, near Enschede. Ber. Rijks Dienst Oudh.k. Onderz. 2: 52-54.
_____________, 1955: De Laag van Usselo. Grondboor en Hamer 2: 29-41.
_____________, 1957: Late-glacial human cultures in the Netherlands. Geol. Mynb. NS 19: 288-302.
_____________,1974: De oudste sporen v. cultuur in Twente. Jaarb.Twente 13: 5-21.
Van der Hammen T, 1957: The age of the Usselo culture. Geol. Mijnb. NS19: 396-397.
Van Geel B, Van der Burgh J, 1984: Reconstruction and interpretation of the local vegetational succession of a Late Glacial deposit from Usselo. Acta Bot. Neerl. 33/4: 535-546.
Van Geel B, et al., 1984: The vegetational succession at Usselo, the Netherlands. Acta Bot. Neerl. 33: 547-557.
Van Geel B, Coope GR, Van der Hammen T, 1989: Palaeocology and stratigraphy of the lateglacial type section at Usselo. Rev. Paleont. Palyn. 60/ 1-2: 25-129.
Berg A von, 1994: Allerödzeitliche Feuerstellen unter dem Bims im Neuwieder Becken. Archaeol. Korres. Blatt 24: 355-361.
Bosinski G, 1979: Stratigraphie du Paléolithique Supérieur récent et du Paléolithique final dans le bassin de Neuwied (vallée du Rhin moyen). In: De Sonneville-Bordes D (ed): La fin des temps glaciaires en Europe. Paris. Vol. 1: 193-201.
Dubber HJ, 1982: Paläoböden im Westfälischen Tief- u. Hügelland. Geol. Jb. F14: 226, Hannover.
Dücker A, Maarleveld GC, 1958: Hoch u. Spätglaziale äolische Sände in NW Deuschland u. in den Niederlanden. Geol. Jb. 73: 215-234. Hannover.
Erbe J, 1958: Spätglaziale Ablagerungen im Emsland und seinen Nachbargebieten. Geol. Jb. 76: 103-128. Hannover.
Frechen J, 1953: Der rheinische Bimstein. Die vulkanologische u. petrographische Gliederung der Laacher Bimstuffe.
Mertens H, 1982: Paläoböden im Paderborner Raum. Geol. Jb F14: 217-218. Hannover.
Pyritz E, 1972: Binnendünen u. Flugsandebenen im Niedersächsischen Tiefland. Gött. geogr. Abh. 61: 1-153. Göttingen.
Skupin K, 1982: Weichselzeitliche u. frühholozäne Bodenbildungen im östlichen Münsterland. Geol. Jb F14: 219-221. Hannover.
Verworn M, Bonnet R, Steinmann G, 1919: Der diluviale Menschenfund von Oberkassel bei Bonn. Die Naturwiss. 2/27: 645-650.
Will KH, 1982: Paläoböden in Sanden des Münsterlandes. Geol. Jb. F14: 221-225. Hannover.
Zolitschka B, 1995: Absolute Datierungen des Pleistozän-Hölozän Überganges u. der Laacher See Tephra. Coll. Wandel der Geo- Biosphäre. Göttingen.
De Coninck F, et al., 1966: La superposition de dépôts tourbeux datant des oscillations Alleröd et Bölling à Stabroek (Belgique). Pedologie 16: 293-308.
De Ploey J, 1961: Morfologie en Kwartair stratigraphie van de Antwerpse Kempen. Act Geogr. Lov. 2: 1-130.
Haesaerts P, De Heinzelin J, 1979: Le site paléolithique de Maisières-Canal. Diss. Archaeol. Gandenses 19. Brugge.
Paepe R, 1968: Les sols fossiles plistocènes de la Belgique. Pedologie 2: 176-188.
Paulissen E, Munaut AV, 1969: Un horizon blanchâtre d’ âge Bölling à Opgrimbie. Acta Geogr. Lov. 7: 65-91.
Scheys G, 1955: Bijdrage tot de kennis van de Hagelande bodems. Centr. Bodemkart. Gent.
Verheyleweghen J, Gullentops F, 1956: Le Paléolithique final de culture périgordienne du gisement préhistorique de Lommel. Bull. Soc. Roy. Belg. Arch. Préh.
Evans JG, 1966: Late-Glacial and post-glacial subaerial deposits at Pistone, Buckinghamshire. Proc. Geologists’ Ass. 77: 347-364.
________, 1986: Radiocarbon dates from the Pitstone soil at Pitstone, Buckinghamshire, In: Gowlett JAJ, Hedges REM (eds): Archaelogical Results from accelerator dating. Oxf. U; Comm. Arch., Monogr. 11: 91-93.
Kerney MP, 1963: Late-Glacial deposits on the chalk of SE England. Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. London B 246: 203-254.
_________, et al., 1964 : The Late-Glacial and post-glacial history of the chalk escarpment near Brook, Kent. Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. London B 248: 135-204.
Preece RC, 1994: Radiocarbon dates from the “Alleröd soil” in Kent, Proc. Geologists Ass. 105/2: 111-123.
________, Ridgland DR (eds), 1998: Late Quaternary Environmental Change in NW Europe. London.
FRANCE (Usselo horizon)
Vermeersch PM, Munaut AV, Hinout J, 1973: Un sol d’Usselo d’ âge Alleröd á Saponay (Tardenois). Bull. Ass. Fr. Et. Quatern. 1: 47-51.
FRANCE (Abrupt termination of the Magdalenian Culture)
Gewelt M, Juvigné E, 1988: Téphrachronologie du tardiglaciaire et de l’Holocène dans le Cantal, le Cézallier et les Monts d’Or (Massif Central. France). Bull. Ass. Fr. Et. du Quatern. 88-1 : 25-34.
Laville H, et al. 1980: Rock shelters of the Périgord: geological stratigraphy and archaeological succession. London.
Vernet G, Rayal JP, 1995: La Tephra des Roches, marqueur du volcanisme contemporain de la fin du Magdalénien dans le Massif Central Français. CR. Ac Sc Paris, 321/2a: 713-720.
Vernet G, Rayal JP, 1998: Tephrostratigraphie réactualisée du tardiglaciaire et de l’Holocène en Limagne d’Auvergne. INQUA Symposium, Brives-Charensac.
Vernet G, and 6 others, 1990: La retombée de la Moutade, marqueur stratigraphique de l’Alleröd en Limagne septentionale (Massif Central France). CR. Ac Sc. Paris 310/2: 1077-1082.
Hoffman MA, 1979: Egypt before the Pharaos. New York.
Paulissen E, Vermeersch PM, 1987: Earth, man and climate in the Egyptian Nile valley during the Pleistocene. In: Prehistory of Nort Africa. Dallas USA.
Wendorf F, Said R, Schild R, 1970: Egyptian prehistory: some new concepts. Science 169: 1161-1171.
Wendorf F, Schild R, 1976: Prehistory of the Nile valley. Acad. Pr. New York.
Clark JD, Dreiman R, 1983: An occurrence with small blade technology in the upper members of the Baghore Formation at the Baghore III locality. In: Sharma GR, Clark JD (eds): Palaeoenvironment and Prehistory in the middle Son valley. Allahabad. 197-201.
Sussman C, et al., 1983: Prelim. Rep. Of excavation at the Mesolithic occupation site at Baghore II locality. In: Sharma GR (see above): 161-196.
Sharma MJ, 1982: The Upper Palaeolithic culture in India. Delhi.
Schild R, 1979: Chronostratigraphie et environnement du Paléolithique final en Pologne. In: D.de Sonneville-Bordes (ed): La Fin des Temps glaciaires en Europe. Paris. 799-818.
Manikowska B, 1969: Les sols fossiles des périodes interstadiaires du Würm supérieur (Paudorf, Alleröd) aux environs de Lods. Biul.Periglac. 18: 411-421.
Manikowska B, 1991: Vistulian and Holocene aeolian activity, pedostratigraphy and relief evolution in Central Poland. Zeitschr. f.Geomorph. NF Suppl.90: 131-141. Stuttgart.
Konecka-Betley K, 1977: Soils of the dune areas of central Poland in Late Glacial and Holocene. Folia Quaternaria 49: 47-62.
Cichosz-Kostecka A, and 4 others, 1991: Late Glacial aeolian Processes in the light of sediment analysis from Kamion profile near Wyszogrod. Zeitschr.f.Geomorph. NF Suppl.45-50. Stgrt.
Westerby E, 1946: Da Danmarks aeldste Stenalder boplads blev fundet. Beriingske Aftenavis 22-23 Okt. Reprinted 1986, Aarb.Nord.Oldk.Hist 43-69, with translation in German.
Iversen J, 1946: Geologisk Datering af en senglacial Boplads ved Bromme. Aarböger Nord.Oldk. Hist. 198-231.
Mathiassen T, 1947: En Palaeolitisk Boplads ved Bromme. Aarböger f. Nord.Oldk. og Hist. 121-197.
Korlowski SK, 1975: Quelques remarques sur le Brommien. Acta Arch 46: 134-142. Copenhagen.
Fischer A, 1978: Pa sporet af overgangen mellem palaeoliticum og mesoliticum i Syd-Skandinavien. Hikuin 4: 27-50. Höjberg.
For the presentation at the Bergamo Symposium I had 15 minutes available, kindly ceded to me (from his own 40 minutes) by professor Alexander Tollmann of Vienna University.
I prepared the talk and the bibliography in southern France, where I didn’t have with me the references from Poland. They are added below.
During the two years that followed I also found the presence of the Usselo Horizon in Denmark (the Bromme culture layer), first in the literature available in Dutch libraries, and then I went to Copenhagen to do more research.
The Proceedings of the Bergamo Symposium were published in 2002, and follow below.
In 2001 I became via the Internet aware of the accessibility of the Clovis Layer exposure at Murray Springs, Arizona. In 2002 I went there and took samples. One of these was analyzed on the presence of soot by Wendy Wolbach in Chicago, and gave positive results. However, some samples of the Usselo Horizon which I took in Schleswig-Holstein (Germany) did not contain soot, probably because in the unconsolidated Coversands it has been removed by percolating water. The result was that by 2003 my research got stuck.
Then in 2005, new developments were posted on the Net. In North America some people - William Topping, Richard Firestone, Allen West - had finally also understood that a thin dark layer, dating from the time when the Pleistocene megafauna disappeared, must have something to do with that disappearance. And Firestone and West happened to be full of ideas, and they have what I don’t have: laboratories with sophisticated hardware for analyzing samples.
In one Usselo sample that I took at Lommel (Belgium), early in 2006, an anomalous Iridium content was found, and in 2007 followed the discovery of nanodiamonds in Usselo samples from Holland, Belgium and Germany.