David Keys (author)

David Keys (author)

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David Keys is archaeology correspondent for the London daily paper, The Independent
The Independent
The Independent is a British national morning newspaper published in London by Independent Print Limited, owned by Alexander Lebedev since 2010. It is nicknamed the Indy, while the Sunday edition, The Independent on Sunday, is the Sindy. Launched in 1986, it is one of the youngest UK national daily...

, frequent television
Television
Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...

 commentator on archaeological matters and author of the 1999 book Catastrophe: An Investigation into the Origins of the Modern World. He has visited over a thousand archaeological sites in sixty countries. He was featured as one of the main interview subjects in the 2000 pilot
Television pilot
A "television pilot" is a standalone episode of a television series that is used to sell the show to a television network. At the time of its inception, the pilot is meant to be the "testing ground" to see if a series will be possibly desired and successful and therefore a test episode of an...

 to the PBS series
Television program
A television program , also called television show, is a segment of content which is intended to be broadcast on television. It may be a one-time production or part of a periodically recurring series...

, Secrets of the Dead
Secrets of the Dead
Secrets of the Dead is a PBS television series produced by Thirteen/WNET New York. The show generally follows an investigator or team of investigators exploring what modern science can tell us about some of the great mysteries of history...

giving insight into subject of the climatic
Climate
Climate encompasses the statistics of temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind, rainfall, atmospheric particle count and other meteorological elemental measurements in a given region over long periods...

 catastrophe which is the subject of his book.

Catastrophe


Keys' book Catastrophe was published in 1999 by Random House. The book's thesis is that a global climatic catastrophe in A.D. 535 to 536 –– a massive volcanic eruption sundering Java
Java
Java is an island of Indonesia. With a population of 135 million , it is the world's most populous island, and one of the most densely populated regions in the world. It is home to 60% of Indonesia's population. The Indonesian capital city, Jakarta, is in west Java...

 from Sumatra
Sumatra
Sumatra is an island in western Indonesia, westernmost of the Sunda Islands. It is the largest island entirely in Indonesia , and the sixth largest island in the world at 473,481 km2 with a population of 50,365,538...

 –– was the decisive factor that transformed the Ancient World into the Medieval Era (and beyond). 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
Epidemic
In epidemiology, an epidemic , occurs when new cases of a certain disease, in a given human population, and during a given period, substantially exceed what is expected based on recent experience...

 of bubonic plague
Bubonic plague
Plague is a deadly infectious disease that is caused by the enterobacteria Yersinia pestis, named after the French-Swiss bacteriologist Alexandre Yersin. Primarily carried by rodents and spread to humans via fleas, the disease is notorious throughout history, due to the unrivaled scale of death...

. Keys uses tree-ring samples
Dendrochronology
Dendrochronology or tree-ring dating is the scientific method of dating based on the analysis of patterns of tree-rings. Dendrochronology can date the time at which tree rings were formed, in many types of wood, to the exact calendar year...

, analysis of lake deposits and ice cores, as well as contemporaneous documents to bolster his speculative thesis. In his scenario, the ensuing disasters precipitated the disintegration of the Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

, beset by Avar
Eurasian Avars
The Eurasian Avars or Ancient Avars were a highly organized nomadic confederacy of mixed origins. They were ruled by a khagan, who was surrounded by a tight-knit entourage of nomad warriors, an organization characteristic of Turko-Mongol groups...

, Slav, Mongol, and Persian invaders propelled from their disrupted homelands. The sixth-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. In Mexico, the cataclysm supposedly triggered the collapse of Teotihuacán
Teotihuacán
Teotihuacan – also written Teotihuacán, with a Spanish orthographic accent on the last syllable – is an enormous archaeological site in the Basin of Mexico, just 30 miles northeast of Mexico City, containing some of the largest pyramidal structures built in the pre-Columbian Americas...

, while in China the ensuing half-century of political and social chaos led to a reunified nation. The book concludes with a roundup of trouble spots that could conceivably wreak planetary havoc.

Keys' most recent work is as series consultant on a television series called 'Back from the Dead' which will start on Channel 4 at 8pm on Sunday 4 September 2011. Starting with Nelsons Navy followed over subsequent weeks by documentaries on Crusaders and on Samurai.

Publishers Weekly
Publishers Weekly
Publishers Weekly, aka PW, is an American weekly trade news magazine targeted at publishers, librarians, booksellers and literary agents...

criticized the book, writing that Keys "relentlessly overwork[s historical events'] explanatory power in a manner reminiscent of Velikovsky's theory that a comet collided with the earth in 1500 B.C." Writing in The New York Times Book Review
The New York Times Book Review
The New York Times Book Review is a weekly paper-magazine supplement to The New York Times in which current non-fiction and fiction books are reviewed. It is one of the most influential and widely read book review publications in the industry. The offices are located near Times Square in New York...

, Malcolm W. Browne instead insisted that "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."