"Tree-ring chronologies present us with independent records of past natural events which, strangely, or perhaps not so strangely,
seem to link with some stories from myth."
Michael G. L. "Mike" Baillie is Professor Emeritus of Palaeoecology at Queen's University of Belfast, in Northern Ireland. Baillie is a leading
expert in dendrochronology, or dating by means of tree-rings. In the 1980s, he was instrumental in building a year-by-year chronology of
tree-ring growth reaching 7,400 years into the past.
Upon examining the tree-ring record, Baillie noticed indications of severe environmental downturns around 2354 BC, 1628 BC, 1159 BC, 208
BC, and AD 540. The evidence suggests that these environmental downturns were wide-ranging catastrophic events; the AD 540 event in
particular is attested in tree-ring chronologies from Siberia through Europe and North and South America. This event coincides with the
second largest ammonium signal in the Greenland ice in the last two millennia, the largest being in AD 1014, and both these epochs were
accompanied by cometary apparitions. Baillie explains the general absence of mainstream historical references to this event by the fact it
was described in terms of biblical metaphors since at that time "Christian beliefs included the dogma that nothing that happens in the
heavens could have any conceivable effect on the Earth."
Since then, he has devoted much of his attention to uncovering the causes of these global environmental downturns. He believes that
impacts from cometary debris may account for most of the downturns, especially the AD 540 event. This hypothesis is supported in work
by British cometary astrophysicists, who find that earth was at increased risk of bombardment by cometary debris in the AD 400-600
time-frame, based on the frequency of fireball activity in the Taurid meteor streams recorded in Chinese archives.
To provide further support to his cometary debris theory, Dr Baillie has searched the written record and traditions embodied in myths.
There he has found evidence that the dates of the environmental downturns listed above are often associated with collapses of
civilisations or turning points in history. The AD 540 event, for example, may have been associated with a catastrophe that ushered in the
Dark Ages of Europe.
His book, Exodus to Arthur: Catastrophic Encounters with Comets (Batsford, 1999), relates the findings of his tree-ring studies to a series
of global environmental traumas over the past 4400 years that may mark events such as the biblical Exodus, the disasters which befell
Egypt, collapses of Chinese dynasties, and the onset of the European Dark Ages. The Celtic Gods: Comets in Irish Mythology (Tempus,
2005), co-authored with Patrick McCafferty, focuses on the AD 540 event as recorded in the historical records and myths of Ireland and
shows that the imagery in the myths and the times between events are consistent with a comet with an earth-crossing orbit similar to
P/Encke, as described by the British astronomers Victor Clube and Bill Napier. His latest book, New Light on the Black Death: The Cosmic
Connection (Tempus, 2006), shows how the tree-ring and Greenland ice core evidence and descriptions in annals, myths and metaphors
adduced in support of the global environmental downturn at AD 540, which included the Justinian plague, also applies to conditions extant
at the time of the Black Death in AD 1348.
Tree-Ring Dating and Archaeology (London: Croom-Helm, 1982)
A Slice Through Time: Dendrochronology and Precision Dating (London: Routledge, 1995)
Exodus to Arthur: Catastrophic Encounters with Comets (London: B.T. Batsford)
The Celtic Gods: Comets in Irish Mythology (Tempus, 2005), co-authored with Patrick McCafferty
New Light on the Black Death: The Cosmic Connection (Tempus, 2006)