a review of

Earth in Upheaval
by Immanuel Velikovsky

Earth in Upheaval is the sequel to Velikovsky's Worlds in Collision, and unlike its predecessor, it doesn't refer to any myths or legends at all, but rather to geological evidence of past upheavals on a world-wide scale, some of these in our very recent past. Earth in Upheaval was better received by the scientific community than was Worlds in Collision, and indeed became required reading at some universities. In this review, I propose to examine Velikovsky's theories in light of discoveries over the last 45 years since it was written.

In the Acknowledgments, Velikovsky writes "the late Dr. Einstein, during the last eighteen months of his life (November 1953 - April 1955) gave me much of his time and thought. He read several of my manuscripts and supplied them with marginal notes. Of Earth in Upheaval he read chapters VIII through XII; he made handwritten comments on this and other manuscripts, and spent not a few long afternoons and evenings, often till midnight, discussing and debating with me the implications of my theories. In the last weeks of his life, he reread Worlds in Collision and also read three files of memoirs on that book and its reception, and expressed his thoughts in writing. We started at opposite points; the area of disagreement, as reflected through our correspondence, grew ever smaller, and though at his death (our last meeting was nine days before his passing) there remained clearly defined points of disagreement, his stand then demonstrated the evolution of his opinion in the space of eighteen months." [1]

It may be worth noting that Albert Einstein was also involved in discussions with Dr. Charles Hapgood about the same time. It should also probably be noted that the "hand written comments" Einstein made to Velikovsky's Worlds in Collision included "nonsensical" and "impossible". Be that as it may, Earth in Upheaval differs from Worlds in Collision in that it makes no outlandish claims of giant comets passing close by the earth, but relies solely on hard evidence, painstakingly collected from an enormous wealth of information. Of course, the information available to Velikovsky is dated by our standards, but it is interesting to note that catastrophism has become an accepted fact in evolutionary history today. In the 1940s and 50s, uniformity was the standard model of evolutionary processes, with no interruptions, but only slow changes over vast periods of time; what has become known as classical Darwinism.

Recently, researchers have seemed to have confirmed that it was a mile wide asteroid striking the earth in the Yucatan region of Mexico that led to the demise of the dinosaurs, some 65 million years ago. Yet, many researchers still cling to the notion of these catastrophes never occurring at all. [see Did sea level fall kill the dinosaurs?] Richard Leakey is a proponent of the human factor in what he calls the "sixth" extinction, which is going on now as you read these words. However, he also attributes the extinctions that occurred 10 to 12 thousand years ago, all over the globe, to the human factor as well. This would seem to be a last ditch effort by the classical school of thought to save gradualist evolution, yet it boggles the imagination to think that roving bands of widely interspersed humans, armed only with spears and arrows, could have wiped out most of the megafauna in the Americas alone, much less over the rest of the globe. This megafauna included woolly mammoths, weighing up to ten thousand pounds, giant ground sloths 12 feet tall and weighing over a ton, and giant beavers weighing over 500 pounds, not to mention the saber tooth tiger, the fossilized remains pictured to the right. All these species, and many more, died out at the end of the last ice age, naturally begging the question, why?

The first part of the gradualist theory Velikovsky attacks is the ice age theory. Citing numerous anomalies in the geological record, Velikovsky determines that the last ice age probably ended a scant 10 to 12 thousand years ago, in stark contrast to conventional dating at the time which assigned the end of the last ice age to over a million years ago. In recent years, it has become pretty much accepted that the last ice age did end only 10 or 12 thousand years ago, although the older version of one million or more years ago is still commonly taught.

Velikovsky proposed that the ice age could not have been a gradual process, neither in its original occurrence nor in its end, but rather, was sudden. He cited mastodons found in Siberia, still frozen and unthawed since they died, which sled dogs fed on without harm. When examined, leaves were found in the stomachs of the mastodons that now grow only 500 miles to the south of where the mastodons were found. Velikovsky felt that these huge creatures must have been "quick frozen" in a catastrophic event that suddenly shifted the global climate.

Velikovsky pointed out that in many places around the world, vast profusions of bones, jumbled together in mass graves, are found, some with more than 100 bones per square foot. "The state of the bones indicates a long and violent transportation before finally coming to rest." [2] The Agate Spring Quarry in Nebraska was partially excavated, a space of about 3450 square feet, which yielded over 164,000 bones, or about 800 animals. The most numerous were a small rhinoceros, a small, clawed horse and a giant swine. In Germany, in a gravel pit at Neuköln, fossilized remains of mammoth, musk oxen, reindeer, bison, lion, hyena, and two species of elephant were uncovered, again, with the bones all jumbled together, like the site in Agate Spring Quarry around the world. These fossilized remains have been dated to approximately 10 to 12 thousand years ago, or the end of the last ice age.

This begs a question ... why did so many splendidly adapted animals perish at the end of the last ice age, instead of at the beginning? Velikovsky saw the answer in the geological record, and next examined mountain ranges and their reputed age of millions of years, and questioned whether instead that the mountains have risen to their present height in the age of mankind. One example he pointed to was Tiahuanacu in the Andes of South America. This city is situated on the Altiplano, an elevated plain some 12,500 feet above sea level. Agricultural terraces rise to 18,400 feet above sea level, to the present line of eternal snow on Mount Illimani. Since the conventional geologist's view is that mountain building takes hundreds of thousands of years, if not millions of years, this city high in the Andes has caused considerable controversy.

If the mountains were their present height when the city was built, it seems unlikely the terrain would support the large body of workers needed to haul the 60 ton blocks of granite into place. On the other hand, if the mountain was lower, that would be no problem. But because conventional geology has mountain building occurring slowly over many eons, this would mean the city was perhaps millions of years old. Clearly, this theory is bizarre, although it was advanced by H.S. Bellamy in his book Built Before the Flood; The Problem of the Tiahuanacu Ruins. The alternative, that the city rose to its present height after being built, perhaps some 10 to 12 thousand years ago, seems much more plausible.

In chapter 8, Velikovsky looks into the displacement of the poles as a cause of the ice ages. Charles Hapgood approached Einstein with a radical theory about the very same time, of which Einstein wrote: "I frequently receive communications from people who wish to consult me concerning their unpublished ideas. It goes without saying that these ideas are very seldom possessed of scientific validity. The very first communication, however, that I received from Mr. Hapgood electrified me. His idea is original, of great simplicity, and - if it continues to prove itself - of great importance to everything that is related to the history of the earth's surface." [3]

The theory that Hapgood proposed, unlike plate tectonics, envisioned that the lithosphere of the earth, the whole outer crust, shifting at times over the soft inner body, much like the skin of an orange, if it were loose, might shift over the soft inner body of the orange. Hapgood went on to write Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings; Evidence of Advanced Civilization in the Ice Age, which I hope to review in another paper soon. Hapgood's theories were treated by the scientific community in much the same fashion that Velikovsky's were, however, since neither man was a geologist by training.

Velikovsky proposed a much more recent ending to the last ice age, roughly 3500 years ago, around 1500 bc. In this, I feel he was mistaken. However, much of the evidence he gathered in Earth in Upheaval does point to a series of catastrophes occurring within the age of mankind, and although Velikovsky rejected Plato's statement that Atlantis sank beneath the waves some 9000 years before Plato's time, Hapgood used that same evidence to show that Atlantis could have been Antarctica before it "drifted" 2000 miles to the south.

All in all, Earth in Upheaval makes for excellent reading, and although dated, still presents a very valid alternative viewpoint to history of life, and the history of humans on the earth. Unfortunately, if you want to read it, you may have to visit a library, as it is currently out of print.

This ends the review. Thanks for reading! Comments are appreciated!


[1] Earth in Upheaval, pp. vii

[1] Ibid., pp. 62

[3] From Einstein's foreword (written in 1953) to C. H. Hapgood, "Earth's Shifting Crust: A key to some basic problems of Earth Science", Pantheon Books, New York, 1958, pp. 1-2

Related Links of Interest

Popsicle Planet - Did Ice Ages Spur Evolution?

Immanuel Velikovsky Archive

Atlantis - Possible ice age implications?

Micro Miniature Objects of Extraterrestrial Origin?

Catastrophism - Very nice, up to date page with much, much info

After Velikovsky? The Saturn Theory