The fall of Phaethon: Does this myth reflect an impact ("Chiemgau Impact") in Bavaria during the Celtic period?

Category Other
Group GSI.IR
Location International Geological Congress,oslo 2008
Author Rappenglueck, Barbara and Michael
Holding Date 08 September 2008

In Greek mythology there exists one story that had been interpreted by modern scholars as well as by authors of classical antiquity to describe the fall of a heavenly body: the story of Phaethon. Its main features are the following ones: Phaethon, the son of Helios, borrows the sun-chariot of his father for just one day. But he is not able to keep course along the sun’s accustomed path and the un-oriented, burning chariot sets parts of heaven and earth on fire. To prevent an even bigger catastrophe, Zeus strikes Phaethon by his thunderbolt and the youth falls to earth into the river Eridanos.
In an article published in 2007 (Barbara and Michael Rappenglück: Does the myth of Phaethon reflect an impact? — Revising the fall of Phaethon and considering a possible relation to the Chiemgau Impact, in: Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry, special issue vol. 6 no. 3 [2007], 101-109) we analysed the arguments given by the ancient classical authors for interpreting this story as the reflection of a natural phenomenon. Then we compared the old descriptions of Phaethon’s fall with nowadays knowledge of impact phenomena. Furthermore we examined the texts for clues to the time and the location of the hypothesised impact. These considerations resulted in the hypothesis that the myth of Phaethon reflects a concrete strike of an extraterrestrial body, the so-called Chiemgau Impact. This impactor hit the south-east of Bavaria/Germany at some time during the Celtic period. It left a crater-strewnfield of about 100 craters with a size ranging from 3 m to 400 m in diameter.
As our published article represents the state of research given in the year 2005, we will now present the actual state of research. We interlock details of the ancient texts with the results of our interdisciplinary geological, geophysical, mineralogical, pedological and archaeological research in the affected area. Additional support is given by astronomical considerations concerning the modelling of the Chiemgau Impact. Based on these arguments there is some good evidence for our hypothesis, that the Phaethon-myth indeed reflects the Chiemgau Impact.