« Without water, no life » … This is the motto that summarizes well this climate change. This was an ecological disaster not only for Charmutha but also for the entire Arabian Peninsula and beyond. The previous chapter had described the landscape and wildlife of the mysterious Punt Arab kingdom, now disappeared. The frescoes of Deir-Al-Bahari bear witness to this past period. Today Hejaz’s desertification is so surreal that many people can not conceive of it. Without control of this concept, the Punt’s country remains and will remain mysterious for historians. The objective of this study is to look for evidence about this desertification and specially to provide answers to the causes of this climate change. This work is necessary to validate this surprising theory, which will then rediscover Charmutha and its region.
Chapter VIII : Betius, Charmutha : Arabia Felix and the climatic change.
In the pharaohs’ time, around Charmutha, the landscape was completely different from the one we know and did not look like the desert of today. To the north, there was the wonderful land of Banizomenes crossed by many streams. To the south, a forested mountain was spread out: « There is, after, another shore full of fountains and good fresh waters, and here a mountain covered with all kinds of trees called Gabin » (Diodorus the Sicilian, reference n ° 1). Inland, to the south, there were « incense forests which extended in a length of twenty schenes, and in a width of ten (150 km by 75 km) ». These woods were located in « the Atramites’ land, a Sabeans’ district, and whose capital was Sabota, situated on a high mountain, at eight stations of the thuriferous region called Saba » (Pliny the Elder, Book XII, XXX.1 and 2, reference No. 43). Diodorus the Sicilian gives nature’s details of these trees: « … the mountains produce not only fir trees and poplars, but also cedars and a kind of trees they call Baraton« .
Another map of Ptolemy, that of the Middle East (figure VIII.a), sums up this change perfectly. A mountain « Montana Feli » with a cartridge « Desertum » went from the Aqaba’s Gulf to Kuwait today. Around this mountain were three Arab regions: « Felicis Arabia pars », Happy Arabia in the south; « Arabia Petrea », the kingdom of Petra in the north-west; and « Arabia Deserta » Arabia’s desert to the north-east.
The first remark concerns the presence of a mountain since, today, there is no trace that can justify its existence. The « Desertum » cartridge is rare enough for us to mention. To explain this note added by Ptolemy, it is necessary to exploit the satellite photo of the Arabian Peninsula (Figure VIII.b) which brings an interesting information. This shows a large amount of sand in the center of this region and suggests a credible hypothesis. This mountain could have been a huge dune (hence the cartridge « Desertum ») that the north winds have in the meanwhile moved to the center of the peninsula.
Second remark, on the map, between the dunes « Montana Felici » and « Montana Babilonie », there is a zone colored in green called « Heremum Arabia », « Heremum » which can be translated by « Desert ». This desert could have been that of Hagar and Ishmael, where the mother and her son were abandoned by Abraham. Be that as it may, « Arabia Happy » was not a desert region but rather a pleasant country to live in.
To note, between « Petrea » and « Heremum Arabia » (desert of desert Arabia), there is the ancient city Moca (Ptolémée (Lo = 67,88 °, La = 30,17 °)). Given the similarity of the names, some authors (Patricia Crone, reference 33) suggest that Moca could be the original Mecca, knowing that the first mosques steer to the Petra’s country (Don Gibson, reference 34). With a perfectly defined Petra’s location (Ptolemy (Lo = 66.75 °, La = 30.33 °) and GPS (La = 30.33 °, Lo = 35.44 °)), we can deduce the GPS coordinates of this disappeared city: Moca (La = 30,17 °, Lo = 36,57 °), which positions it to the East of Jordan and the Ma’an’s governorate.
As for rivers, the impact of this climatic event was catastrophic for wildlife since many species disappeared from the Arabian Peninsula … The memory of this biodiversity is still visible on the rock engravings but also in some stories … Diodorus the Sicilian will remain an only witness of this time and the missing animals (reference n ° 1): the lions (pages 98 and 130), the leopards (pages 98 and 130), the tigers nicknamed Babylonian (page 98), the wolves (page 130) ) the ostrich (page 98), the giraffe (page 98), the elephant (page 100), deer and deer (page 130), … According to Pliny the Elder, the festivals (in Arabia) were spent in hunts, of which the most agreeable are those whose object is tigers and elephants « (Pliny the Elder, Book VIII, XXIV.10, reference No. 43). The disappearance of all these exotic animals can be explained by several causes, but the two main ones are often deforestation and / or a climate change. At this step of our reasoning, the first question is to know if Man is responsible for this desertification.
To determine its responsibility, it should be noted that, whatever the environment, plants and animals cannot survive without the molecule essential to the life called H2O. This water necessary for the ecosystem is brought either by the rain or by the rivers. For the Arabian Peninsula, its supplies stopped up to the point of drying up the various rivers described by Ptolemy:
– Becius : source (69,5° ; 20,66°) ; mouth (76° ; 24,5°).
– Prionis : source (84° ; 13,5°) ; mouth (82° ; 17,5°).
– Laris : source (86,5° ; 23,5°) ; mouth (87° ; 18°).
Other mythical rivers would have disappeared from our collective memory if they had not been mentioned, for example the Corys and the Phison which threw themselves respectively into the Red Sea (Homer, reference n ° 7) and into the Persian Gulf (the Bible, reference 11). These two rivers were to have their source, surely, in the same mountains as those of Becius (see Chapter No. VI, « Becius, this disappeared river »). Others, smaller, dried up like the one mentioned by Diodorus the Sicilian at the Debes’ level or those drawn on the map published in 1554 by Allain Manesson Mallet (reference n ° 14). The disappearance of these rivers cannot be explained by excessive deforestation, which accredit the theory of a climate change. On the other hand, the human degradations did not help the fauna and the flora, mistreated by the Nature.
After excluding the Man’s responsibility, this desertification of the Arabian Peninsula is necessarily the decrease’s result in rainfall. And this rainfall’s evolution is confirmed by Strabo (reference n ° 2): « The air of this country (Macine, on the border of Mesopotamia) is unhealthy; the climate is foggy, rainy and hot all at once; the soil is however fertile … « (Page 258); « The last countries towards the south and vis-à-vis Ethiopia are watered by summer rains; and it is sown twice a year, as in India. They are crossed by rivers that are lost in plains and marshes … « (Page 261). According to Diodorus the Sicilian (reference No. 1, page 100), the southern region was so well watered that peasants could sow twice a year.
This depletion of the rainy seasons caused a fatal drought and after turned savannas and forests into deserts. But was this event located in the Arabian Peninsula alone or was it much more important? To answer this second question, we must look at maps of Mediterranean Africa (Figures VIII.d, VIII.e and VIII.f). This northern part of the continent was decomposed by Ptolemy into five main regions: « Marmarica » (Mediterranean Egypt), « Cyrenaica provincia », « Affrice minoris », « Mauritania Cesariensis » and « Mauritania Tinganice ». Like « Arabia Happy », many rivers noted on the map have disappeared. This list is long from the Nile delta to the Atlantic coast : Lathenis (48.25 °, 31.33 °), Cynipbi (42.25 °, 31.5 °), Trigonis (38.66 °; 30.5 °), Cathade (34.88 °, 32.5 °), Bagrade (34.5 °, 32.66 °), Rubricati (30.75 °, 32.25 °), Ampsage (26.25) 31.75 °), Avil (24.66 °, 31.88 °), Audi (23.88 °, 32 °), Sisaris (23.33 °, 25 °), Nasath (22.15 °; 32.5 °), Serbetis (19.5 °, 32.88 °), Savi (18 °, 33 °), Calinaph (16.66 °, 33.33 °), Malus (11.12 °; 75 °), Malochthi (10.75 °, 34.75 °), Thalude (8.5 °, 34 °), Sane (8.33 °, 27.33 °), Agne (8.5 °; 88 °), A (8.66 °, 28.33 °), Pthua (7.5 °, 30 °), Diurus (7.33 °, 31.66 °), Asame (6.25 °, 32 °) Cuse (6.66 °, 32.75 °), Diu (6.12 °, 33.33 °), Sale (6.66 °, 32.88 °), Suburi (6.33 °; 33 °), Lix (6,33 °, 34,25 °), Zile (6 °, 34,33 °) … As for the Nile, it has not disappeared, but its flow has greatly decreased to the point of causing famines of Cleopatra’s time.
Today, the Ptolemy’s maps are one of the rare testimonies of this bygone era, during which Mediterranean Africa was a welcoming region for Man. There was, then, a large watershed with several lakes (denoted « pallus »). The first « pallus Pallas » received water from a mountain in the south then fed a second « pallus Triton », which fed a river named « Trigon ». These lakes were famous because Triton and Pallas were mythical personas. The first was a sea god, son of Poseidon, while Pallas was the daughter of Triton, one of Lake Tritonis naiads.
Another witness of this bygone era, Herodotus had described this magnificent region before the desertification: « CXCVIII. As for the soil’s goodness, Libya (here from Algeria to western Libya today) cannot, it seems to me, be compared to Asia or Europe: I only except the Cinyps (the Cyneriac, east of today Libya), a country which takes the same name as the river (Cynipbi for Ptolemy), country in which it’s watered. It can be compared in parallel with the best wheat lands, so it does not look like the rest of Libya. It is a black earth, and sprinkled with several springs: it has nothing to fear from the drought, and the excessive rains only watering it, it suffers no harm: It is raining in this part of Libya. This country brings back as much grain as Babylonia. That of the Evesperides is also an excellent country. In the years when the lands surpass themselves in fertility, they pay back a hundredfold; but the Cinyps is worth about three cents for one. «
Not only was the landscape around the Mediterranean exceptional but its fauna was rich and diverse. The animals in this place then resembled those of an exotic country, which Herodotus confirms (reference n ° 42):
« CXCI. West of the Triton River, the Libya’s plowboys touch the Auseans; they have houses, and they are called Maxyes. They let their hair grow on the right side of the head, they shave the left side, and they paint their body with vermilion: they say they are descended from the Trojans. The country they inhabit, as well as the rest of western Libya, is much more filled with wild beasts, and covered with wood, than that of the nomads; for the part of eastern Libya inhabited by the nomads is low and sandy to the Triton River. But from this river, towards the west, the country occupied by the plowboys is very mountainous, covered with wood and full of wild beasts. It is in this western part of Libya that are snakes of prodigious size, lions, elephants, bears, asps, donkeys which have horns, cynocephali (animal with a dog’s head) and acephalous (headless animals), which, according to the Libyans, have their eyes on their chests. There are also wild men and women, and a multitude of other ferocious beasts, which really exist.
« CXCII. In the nomads’ country, none of these animals are found; but there are others, such as bald eagles, deer, bubalis, donkeys, not of this kind of donkey with horns, but of another who does not drink. We also see oryx the size of an ox: we use the horns of this animal to make the zithers’ elbows.
There are also foxes, hyenas, porcupines, wild rams, dictyes, thoes, panthers, borys, terrestrial crocodiles about three cubits long that resemble lizards. ostriches and little snakes, each with a horn. All these types of animals are found in this country and next to all those who are elsewhere, with the exception of deer and wild boar, because there is no wild boar or deer in Libya. We can also see three types of rats, the dipodes, the zegories, the Libyan name meaning hills in our language; the rats of the third type are called hedgehogs. There was born in silphium, weasels that resemble those of Tartessus. Such, as far as I have been able to know from the most exact researches, are the species of animals which we see among the nomadic Libyans. «
In the fourth century BC, according to Herodotus, there were many exotic animals around Lake Triton: elephants, ostriches, panthers, lions, crocodiles, boa snakes … Later, in the first century after JC, Pliny the Elder reported the presence of these animals in Africa but was less precise for localization, except for the elephant: ”Some authors report that, in the forests of Mauritania, herds of elephants descend on the edge of a river named Amilas « (Pliny the Elder, Book VIII, I.2, reference 43); « Africa produces elephants beyond the deserts of Syrtes and Mauritania.” (Pliny the Elder, Book VIII, XI.1, reference n°43). These elephants of the African forests, smaller than those of Asia (Pliny the Elder, Book VII, IX.1, reference n°43), were captured by the Carthaginians to integrate them as weapon of war in their garrisons (War of Pyrrhus, 280 BC, Second Punic War, 18 BC).
Among the other exotic animals cited by Herodotus, there were « cynocephalic » with a dog’s head and « acephalic » which had eyes in the chest. These strange animals could be monkeys that we call today « cynocephalic » (figure VIII.g). Their faces resemble those of a dog and their neck muscles do not allow to straighten their heads which are found at the level of the chest. The same monkeys, those with a dog’s head and who could be hamadryas baboons, lived in the country of Punt. We can still see them on the frescoes of Deir-Al-Bahari (figure VIII.h).
As for the giraffes, they began to be exposed since the middle of the first century BC, and especially since the games given by Pompey (Pliny the Elder, book VIII, XXVII.1). His meat was then on the meals’ menu of the Roman nobility (« A Pompeii, the giraffe on the menu of the last meal before the eruption », reference No. 35). Despite his description, Pliny the Elder had not mentioned their geographical area of origin. The etymology can, however, provide an answer. The Ethiopians called this animal « nabu » (Pliny the Elder, Book VIII, XXVII.1, reference No. 43) while the Syrians called it « Camelopardis » (Varro, reference No. 36). The existence of these two different names reinforces the theory of two distinct geographical zones, a first in Ethiopia with « nabu » and a second in Syria with « camelo ». Since Latin has chosen the prefix « Camelo », it is highly probable that giraffes came mainly from Asia. On the other hand, it must be noted that at the time of his games, Pompey the Roman had just annexed the Middle Eastern regions, where lived the last Asian specimens.
Today, we can say that the rainfall’s drop was felt from the Sahara until the Arabian Peninsula and caused desertification on several continents. Such a magnitude can only be explained by a planetary event. Instinctively, we can suspect temperature as the real cause of this ecological disaster. The first graph (figure VIII.i, reference n ° 37) presents the evolution of this data estimated from 11,000 BC to today. From 9,000 to 8,000 BC, there is a sharp increase in temperature after the glaciation phase. Then, from 8,000 to 2,000 BC, there is a fairly stable period during which the delta was approximately + 2 ° Celsius. Then there is a gradual fall to the value until today. The second graph (figure VIII.j, reference 38) shows again the temperature but this time on a site in Greenland. As expected, this one is raised until the Roman period and then there is progressive cooling since the 1st century BC until today. It is necessary to note punctual warmings or « small climatic optima »: Minoan (1,300 years before JC), Roman (of 100 after JC +/- 200 years) and medieval (also called global warming of the year thousand). These optima have a periodicity of 1,000 years, which could explain the current warming by a natural cycle and not by men’s reason.
Whatever the temperature graphs on the Holocene, they provide a surprising finding that is an estimated drop of 1 ° to 2 ° Celsius whereas we could have expected the reverse. On the other hand, the climatic optimum of the Holocene lasted at least until 2,000 BC and this deadline corresponds to a famous event of the Bible called the Flood. Whether we are believers or not, Mesopotamia experienced significant floods during this period. During Wolley’s Ur drilling, the archaeologist discovered an alluvial deposit and called this area the « Flood Pit ». These floods were a sign of a past period that was hot and humid before and during antiquity, which many scientific studies have confirmed. The tropical climate then changed the distribution of vegetation around the Mediterranean, particularly in Africa and the Middle East. From an analysis on pollens, Stéphanie Desprat was able to reconstruct the map of the different ecosystems (Figure VIII.k, reference n ° 40). In northwestern Africa, there were warm temperate forests, while in the north-east it was a semi-desert region. This map obtained by the scientist looks exceptionally to the description of Herodotus in the fourth century BC, with a border between the forest countries in the west and those of the nomads in the east.
In conclusion, there has been a major climate change due to a cooling of 2 ° on the whole planet. This cooling decreased the seas’ evaporation and consequently the ambient humidity of the atmosphere. Rain-rich depressions, which caused monsoon-like seasons similar to those in India, ceased to rise from the ocean to Mesopotamia, causing a hydraulic deficit. This deficit then turned Happy Arabia with its savannah and forests into a desert region. The rivers, one after the other, disappeared from the landscape and, with them, the typical animals of the mysterious kingdom of Punt. The southerly winds, which beat back the sands northward and maintained a precarious balance over the immense dune of Happy Arabia, could no longer resist the north winds and thus prevent the sands’ movement towards the center of the Peninsula.
On the other hand, with the expected global warming, we can ask ourselves if the new climate will not be identical to that of the pharaohs. Future rains may once again green the Sahara and the Arabian Peninsula, but floods and storms will be more severe for some sensitive areas, including Mecca which will be under the Charmutha waterfalls. As for our quest for the mysterious city, the objective of this chapter was to bring historical pieces to validate the theory of a climatic disturbance on the Hejaz region. Thanks to this work, we will now be able to describe Charmutha and its beautiful region.
Charmutha , Becius : Summary :
1 – The old stories of Charmutha
2 – The coastline of Charmutha
3 – The old maps of Ptolemy
4 – the Tropic of Cancer
5 – Charmutha waterfalls
6 – Becius, the disapperead river
7 – The Punt Kingdom and its countries
8 – Arabia Felix and the climatic change
9 – The Quersonnesse of Charmutha
10 – The Cothone of Charmutha
11 – The Acropolis of Charmutha
12 – The divine country
1 – « Les Trois premiers livres de l’histoire de Diodore Sicilien, historiographe grec » de Anthoine Macault en 1541 :
2 – « Géographie de Strabon. » par François Jean Gabriel de L Porte Du Theil en 1819 :
3 – «The Historical Library of Diodorus the Sicilian »
4 – Le catalogue du site “Ancien Ports Antiques” :
5 – Photos satellites à partir du site « google-maps.pro » :
6 – Topographie de la zone à partir du site « fr-fr.topographic-map.com » :
7 – Anciens témoignages sur les arabes :
8 – « Cosmographia » de Ptolémée aux alentours du 2ème siècle :
9 – « Les dieux de l’Égypte : Que sais-je », n°1194
10 – « Inclinaison de l’axe terrestre » : Wikipedia
11 – « La Bible » : Génèse 2, 8-14
12 – « la Mer Rouge » : Wikipedia
13 – « le périple de la mer Erythréenne » :
14 – « Description de l’Univers, Tome II, Asie Ancienne et Moderne » par Allain Manesson Mallet :
15 – « Le monnayage islamique des origines à l’époque ottomane : éléments historiques » :
16 – Traduction de LOTON par le site Dicolatin.fr :
17 – « La Bible », deutéronome 14:5 :
18 – « The shipwrecked sailor again », göttinger miszellen 24, 1977, p.94
19 – « La faune dans la roche » de Hervé Monchot, Charliy Polaikoff, Route de l’Orient, Hors-Serie 2016, p74-93 :
20 – « Les papyrus hiératiques de Berlin » de François Joseph Chabas :
21 – « Seagoing Ships & Seamanship in the Bronze Age Levant » de Shelley Wachsmann
22 – « The temple of Deir el Bahari » par Edouard Naville :
23 – « The XIth dynasty temple at Deir el-Bahari » par Edouard Naville :
24 – « The lost elephants of Arabia » de Dayton, Antiquity, Volume 42, Issue 165, Mars 1968, pp 42-45 :
25 – « Ancient Records of Egypt » de J.H. Breasted :
26 – « Mysterious lands » de O’Connors :
25 – « Villa Casale », mosaïque de la Chasse :
26 – « Le rhinoceros est une licorne en égypte » de Nicolas Manlius :
27 – « Rhinocéros et la licorne » du magazine Pharaon :
30 – « La mission en Arabie des pères A. Jaussen et R. Savignac » de Maurice Sartre, 1996 :
31 – « The lost elephants of Arabia » de Dayton, Antiquity, Volume 42, Issue 165, Mars 1968, pp 42-45 :
32 – « Les voyages de Cyrus » de M. de Ramsay :
Version n°1 : http://misraim3.free.fr/divers/les_voyages_de_cyrus.pdf
33 – « Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam » de Patricia Crone
34 – « Early Islamic Qiblas » de Dan R. Gibson :
35 – « A Pompéi, de la girafe au menu du dernier repas avant l’éruption », de l’AFP, 20minutes.fr :
36 – « De la langue latine », Livre IV, de Varron :
37 – « Holocene climatic optimum », wikipedia
39 – Marcott et al. 2013 in « Reconstructing Quaternary Environments », de J. John Lowe, Michael J.C Walker (page427):
40 – « L’étude du pollen des séquences sédimentaires marines pour la compréhension du climat : l’exemple des périodes chaudes passées » de Stéphanie desprat.
La figure est partiellement déduite des travaux de LEVAVASSEUR G., VRAC M., ROCHE D.M. & PAILLARD D., 2012 – Statistical modelling of a new global potential vegetation distribution. Environmental Research Letters, 7 (4), 044019.
42 – « Histoire » d’Hérodote, Livre IV, Melpomène :
43 – « Histoire Naturelle », de Pline l’Ancien, Ier siècle après JC :
44 – « Le lac de Tritonis et les noms anciens du Chott El Jerid », Antiquité africaines, L.24, 1988, p149-204, Jean Peyras et Pol Trousset :
45 – « L’emplacement de la mer intérieure d’Afrique », séance du 18 janvier 1884, « Comptes rendus des séances de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres », Année 1884, 28-1, pp. 37-48.
46 – « Voyage de Skylax en Europe, en Asie et en Lybie », de J.C. Poncelin, 1797 :
47 – « Gégraphie de Pompoponius Mela », de Louis Baudet, 1843 :
48 – « Apollonius de Tyane » , de Philostrate, traduit de A. Chassang :
49 – « Histoire de Rome », de Dion Cassius, Livre 43, 7.2 :
50 – « Timee », de Platon :
51 – « Météorologie », de Aristode :