Claude Schaeffer

Professor Claude F.A.Schaeffer (1898-1982) of the College de France

Claude Schaeffer was a revolutionary French archaeologist who came to the central conclusion that mankind’s destiny was principally forced by natural mega calamities not seen today. This included continent wide , earthquakes mega tsunamis and volcanoes and massive climate change. In his time he was placed in isolation regarding these conclusions. Then as now archaeology principally placed mankind’s ascent and descent as the result of warfare, politics and decline in competence. It is only recently that archaeologist such as Harvey Weiss and Amos Ben Nur are questioning these theory laden ideas and realizing that natures catastrophic hand may play a larger part in mankind’s destiny

claude schaeffer French archaeologist catastrophe

The task of collecting and interpreting the archaeological evidence of these great natural upheavals in the area of the Near East was diligently performed. He excavated Ras Shamra-Ugarit in Syria and Enkomi-Alasia in Cyprus . During the years of World War II and the years following he laboured on his Stratigraphie comparee et chronologie de l’Asie occidentale. He came to the conclusion that great catastrophes of continental dimensions closed several historical ages; the greatest of them took place at the end of the Middle Kingdom in Egypt and actually caused its downfall; the earth was covered with a thick layer of ash, violent earthquakes shook the entire ancient East, from Troy at the Dardanelles to the Caucasus, Persia, Egypt; civilizations of the Middle Bronze Age were suddenly terminated; traffic, commerce, and pursuit of the arts ceased; populations of all countries were decimated; the survivors became vagrants; plagues took their toll; the climate suddenly changed, too.


Claude Schaeffer wrote to Immanuel Velikovsky in personal correspondence.

Since the publication of Stratigraphie Comparée in 1948, written during the intervals of my wartime duties in the Fighting French Navy, mainly between 1942 and 1945, further reading and research in several Near-Eastern archaeological sites have disclosed new confirmations of the reality of those crises on a continental scale which I have detected and tried to analyse. I would be glad if I could write now immediately the contemplated second and enlarged edition of Stratigraphie Comparée in 2 volumes. For with the new confirmations those crises could no longer be questioned by the great number of sceptical short-sighted archaeologists among which I live now in some sort of scientific isolation, so striking are the proofs and so accurate the dates established by the new discoveries. When their testimony will have been shown, those great crises will explain better than before, the historical development of the most ancient civilizations and its mechanism, and they will definitely take out of the hands of man the command of the great historical happenings we thought he possessed.

Having for the first time established in Strat. Comp. those successive crises during the IIrd and IInd mill from the Caucasus down to Egypt (and there are even more to be analysed of the IVth and Ist mill. B.C.), I was tempted to look for the causes among which were earthquakes, tidal waves, climatic changes and other natural catastrophic agents. The idea of the earthquake disturbances and their consequences has bitten so much the imagination of the archaeologists that some of them which are hostile to new ideas which oblige them to study afresh established scientific opinions, admitted that I wanted to explain all those different crises by earth tremors and their consequences on human occupation and civilization in ancient times. Thus those of my colleagues which are not easily accessible to new ideas used their argument in order to discredit the whole idea of the reality of crises on continental scale. It disturbed their conservative and comfortable outlook on the historical events during the IIIrd and IInd mill. It will take some more time until the new idea has taken root, but it will ultimately take root for the truth always in the end prevails. Of course, as you did it in your vast field mainly of geology, anthropology, astronomy, I would like to hasten the process of ripening of the new ideas by publishing the new material and the new confirmation in the Near Eastern and European prehistorical and protohistorical archaeology. Unfortunately I am so burdened with work that the time has not yet come when I can sit back and write down the new and enlarged Stratigraphie Comparée.

Perhaps it is good, at present, to establish only the reality of those crises and tremendous upheavals during the last millennia before our time, or B.C. and leave the study of the causes to later research. For the historian and the general public are not yet ready to accept the thought that the earth is a much less safe place than they were accustomed to believe. With the removal of the troublesome warlords in some of the modern nations, with Hitler, Mussolini and the Communists finally removed, they think eternal peace and security will automatically be attained on earth everywhere. It is true that the very recent earthquake disaster in the usual Mediterranean area have again slightly shaken that belief. But men are not easily convinced to face reality and to accept the results of objective research. They prefer to live in their imaginative world. And perhaps all the better for them.

The distance from the Dardanelles, near which the mound of Troy lies, to Ras-Shamra is about six hundred miles on a straight line. In modern annals of seismology no earthquake is known to have affected so wide an area. Claude Schaeffer investigated the excavated places in Asia Minor, and the archaeologists’ reports, and in every place found the same picture. He turned his attention to Persia, farther to the East–and the very same signs of catastrophes were evident in each and every excavated place. Then he turned his attention to the Caucasus—and there, too, the similarity of the causes and effects was undeniable. In his own excavations on Cyprus he could once more establish the very same series of interventions by the frenzied elements of nature. He was so impressed by what he found that during the next few years he put into writing the aforementioned voluminous work, Stratigraphie comparée et chronologie de l’Asie occidentale (IIIe et IIe millennaires), published by Oxford University Press in 1948. In over six hundred pages supplemented by many tables, he presented his thesis.

The great perturbations which left their traces in the stratigraphy of the principal sites of the Bronze Age of Western Asia are six in number. The oldest among them shook, between 2400 and 2300, all of the land extending from the Caucasus in the North down to the Valley of the Nile, where it became one of the causes, if not the principal cause, of the fall of the Egyptian Old Kingdom after the death of Pepi II. In two important sites in Asia Minor, at Troy and Alaca Huyuk, the excavators reported damage due to earthquakes. Under the collapsed walls of the buildings contemporaneous with the catastrophe, the skeletons of the inhabitants surprised by the earthquake were retrieved. However, in the actual state of our knowledge, it is not possible to say to what extent the earthquakes are the direct cause of the disasters which, at a date situated between 2400 and 2300, fell upon so many of the countries of Western Asia.

We are better informed in that which concerns the second of the great perturbations which in the order of time shook all of the Bronze Age civilization in Western Asia. In Anatolia, these brutal and sudden events struck fatally the brilliant centers of Troy III, of Alaca Huyuk famous for the riches of its royal tombs, and Alishar I B and of Tarse.

As to the nature of this third great perturbation, registered in all of the countries of Western Asia at the end of the Middle Bronze Age, and whose effects, in certain regions, were prolonged into the midst of the Recent Bronze period, we are reduced, in the actual state of our knowledge, to hypotheses. In most countries occupancy suffered a notable reduction, in others sedentary occupancy was replaced by nomadic. In Palestine and the island of Cyprus the situation appears to have been complicated by epidemics; collective tombs without durable offerings and apparently established with a certain haste were brought to light in the necropolises of the end of the Middle Bronze Age and the beginning of the Recent Bronze Age. Calamities of the same nature appear to have caused the eclipse of the Hittite empire from 1600 on in round figures. Persia and Mesopotamia in their turn then went through a severe crisis; likewise in the North, the countries of the Caucasus; our study has shown that here too there is no continuity between the civilizations of the Middle Bronze Age and of the Recent Bronze Age.

This brilliant period of the Middle Bronze Age, during which flourished the art of the Middle Kingdom in Egypt and the refined industrial art of the Middle Minoan, and in the course of which the great commercial centers such as Ugarit in Syria enjoyed a remarkable prosperity, was ended between 1750 and 1650 by a new catastrophe, equal in severity and in scope to the two preceding perturbations.

However, around 1450, a new perturbation, the fourth since the middle of the third millenium, struck Western Asia, particularly the Mediterranean regions. Evidently less severe than the preceding ones, it was accompanied by revolts in Syria and in Palestine, resisted by Thutmose III and subdued by Amenhotep II.

A century later, around 1365, mean date, in the time of the reign of Amenhotep IV or Akhnaton, an earthquake of great violence ravaged several cities on the Syrio-palestinian coast as well as in the interior of the countries. In Asia Minor also the urban centers (Tarse and Boghazkeui and Troy) suffered damage in the same period. This fifth perturbation is very distinctly marked in the stratigraphic sections of most of the sites explored in these countries.

From about 1250 or 1225, the sixth and last great catastrophe fell upon the civilizations of the Bronze Age in Western Asia. Vast ethnic movements are launched again of which one, probably the most important, proceeds across the Syrio-Palestinian corridor and along the coast toward Egypt.

Professor Schaeffer then searches for causes and assigns the greatest weight to natural disaster, and not necessarily purely seismic disturbances.

Our inquiry has demonstrated that these successive crises which opened and closed the principle period of the third and second millenia were not provoked by the action of man. On the contrary, compared to the amplitude of these general crises and to their profound effects, the exploits of conquerors and the machinations of statesman at that time appear modest indeed.

Thus in summary we can say that several times during the third and second millennia before the present era the ancient East was disturbed by stupendous catastrophes; he also found evidence that in the fourth, as well as in the first millennium, the ancient East went through great natural paroxysms, but their description Schaeffer reserved for future publications. In the published work covering the third and second millennia, Schaeffer discerned five or six great upheavals. The greatest of these took place at the very end of the Early Bronze, or the Old Kingdom in Egypt. At each of these occurrences, life was suddenly disturbed and the flow of history interrupted. Schaeffer also indicated that his acquaintance with European archaeology made him feel certain that Europe, too, was involved in those catastrophes; if so, they must have been more than continental—actually global in dimension.

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  • steve

    you say the survivors became vagrants. the survivors became desperate raiders, demonic northerners, invaders from the east, unneeded mouths to feed, lost boys, boogymen on the run, nomads in farmland, etc.
    humanity barely survived all this catastrophy!

    • mungo

      yes you can also read accounts from Thomas Shortwhere in many instances the starving turned to cannibalism. People sold their children and parents as food. Terrible times