David Keys (author)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

David Keys is archaeology correspondent for the London daily paper, The Independent and has contributed to more than 20 archaeological documentaries and other TV programmes in the US and the UK.[1] He has visited over a thousand archaeological and historical sites in sixty countries.[2] He was featured as one of the main interview subjects in the 2000 pilot to the PBS series, Secrets of the Dead discussing the ancient climatic catastrophe which is the subject of his book.[3]

Keys has been Archaeology Correspondent for The Independent since the paper launched in 1986[citation needed]. Major TV documentaries he initiated and acted as consultant on include The Immortal Emperor (1996), Flight Paths to the Gods (1997), Catastrophe: The Day the Sun went out (1999), The Mummies of Cladh Hallan (2004), The Killer Wave of 1607 (2005), Gladiators: Back from the Dead (2010), Nelson’s Navy (2011) and Spying on Hitler’s Army (2013)[citation needed].

Keys has worked in historical and archaeological journalism since the mid-1980s[citation needed]. Before that, he worked in international trade and aviation journalism for ten years (1976-1986) as aviation editor of the London-based trade newspaper, International Freighting Weekly and also often contributed to Middle East Economic Digest, Africa Confidential and British Airways’ in flight magazine, High Life[citation needed].


Keys' book Catastrophe: An Investigation into the Origins of the Modern World was published in 2000 by Random House. The book's thesis is that a global climatic catastrophe in AD 535 to 536 –– a massive volcanic eruption sundering Java from Sumatra –– was the decisive factor that transformed the Ancient World into the Medieval Era (and beyond)[citation needed]. Ancient chroniclers recorded a disaster in that year that blotted out the Sun for months (possibly years) causing famine, droughts, floods, storms and an epidemic of bubonic plague[citation needed]. Keys uses tree-ring samples, analysis of lake deposits and ice cores, as well as contemporaneous documents to bolster his speculative thesis[citation needed]. In his scenario, the ensuing disasters precipitated the disintegration of the Byzantine Empire, beset by Avar, Slav, Mongol, and Persian invaders propelled from their disrupted homelands[citation needed]. The 6th-century collapse of Arabian civilization under pressure from floods and crop failure created a religiously apocalyptic atmosphere which set the stage for the emergence of Islam[citation needed]. In Mexico, the cataclysm supposedly triggered the collapse of Teotihuacán, while in China the ensuing half-century of political and social chaos led to a reunified nation[citation needed]. The book concludes with a roundup of trouble spots that could conceivably wreak planetary havoc[citation needed].

Publishers Weekly criticized the book, writing that " Huge claims call for big proof, yet Keys reassembles history to fit his thesis, relentlessly overworking its explanatory power in a manner reminiscent of Velikovsky's theory that a comet collided with the earth in 1500 B.C."[4] A mainly critical review in The New York Times Book Reviewby Malcolm W. Browne concluded that "Still, this book must be taken seriously, if only as a reminder that survival in a world threatened by real dangers hangs by a very slender thread".[5] British archaeologist Ken Dark commented that "much of the apparent evidence presented in the book is highly debatable, based on poor sources or simply incorrect. [...] Nonetheless, both the global scope and the emphasis on the 6th century AD as a time of wide-ranging change are notable, and the book contains some obscure information which will be new to many. However, it fails to demonstrate its central thesis and does not offer a convincing explanation for the many changes discussed".[6][7] Archaeologist Brian M. Fagan referred to it as "investigative journalism" and "an interesting and, at times, compelling narrative (and good television)" concluding that "Keys is right to draw attention to the importance of short-term climatic change, but, in our present state of knowledge, the deterministic and somewhat sensationally written Catastrophe goes too far."[8]<ref>

See also[edit]


  1. ^ David Keys. "Mummification in Bronze Age Britain". BBC. Retrieved 2015-04-17. 
  2. ^ David Keys. "Mummification in Bronze Age Britain". BBC. Retrieved 2015-04-17. 
  3. ^ Amazon. "Secrets of the Dead - Catastrophe (vol. 1) [VHS]". Amazon. Retrieved 2015-04-17. 
  4. ^ Publishers Weekly
  5. ^ Malcolm W. Browne. "Under the Volcano". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-04-17. 
  6. ^ Dark, Ken (November 1999). "Review of David Keys' Catastroph". British Archaeology (49). 
  7. ^ Gunn, Joel D. (2000). The Years Without Summer: Tracing A.D. 536 and its Aftermath. British Archaeological Reports (BAR) International. Oxford, England: Archaeopress. ISBN 1-84171-074-1. 
  8. ^ Brian Fagan. "Catastrophe: An Investigation into the Origins of the Modern World". History Today. Retrieved 2015-04-17.