Keys, David

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Keys, David




Office—The Independent, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, England.


The Independent, London, England, archaeology correspondent; writer; commentator for television.


(With Graham Allen and Adam Sharples) Thatcher's Britain: A Guide to the Ruins, Pluto Press (London, England), 1983.

Catastrophe: An Investigation into the Origins of the Modern World, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2000.


David Keys is an archaeology correspondent for the Independent in Great Britain. His book Catastrophe: An Investigation into the Origins of the Modern World grew from a two-hour television documentary first aired by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in 1999. The book investigates the possibility that a massive volcanic eruption in the year 535 A.D. so disrupted weather patterns on the earth that it ushered in the so-called Dark Ages and caused political upheaval, famine, and mass starvation across the globe. Keys ranges from civilizations in South America, the Middle East, Europe, and the Far East to show how the decades after 535 brought ruinous consequences for many cultures. He also examines the geology of the islands of Java and Sumatra and finds evidence of the eruption in the Sunda Strait that lies between the two landforms.

It is Keys's conviction that Java was once all one island, but the volcano that now lies beneath the Sunda Strait erupted in 535 and split the island into two parts. The massive blast sent clouds of dust, acid, and water vapor into the air, blocking sunlight and plunging the planet into the equivalent of a nuclear winter. Keys demonstrates how other, smaller eruptions have produced similar weather abnormalities, including an Indonesian event in 1815 that caused widespread crop failure and starvation in the United States the following year. In his New York Times Book Review piece on Catastrophe, Malcolm W. Browne observed that many of Keys's contentions have not been subjected to a process of peer review in the scientific journals. Nevertheless, Browne concluded, "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." Booklist contributor Gilbert Taylor expressed similar reservations about the science behind Keys's work but added: "The skeptical reader can still engage with Keys' lively, popular story."



Booklist, January 1, 2000, Gilbert Taylor, review of Catastrophe: An Investigation into the Origins of the Modern World, p. 866.

Library Journal, February 1, 2000, Harry Frumerman, review of Catastrophe, p. 101.

New York Times Book Review, February 27, 2000, Malcolm W. Browne, "Under the Volcano," p. 11.

Publishers Weekly, January 10, 2000, review of Catastrophe, p. 53.