The Barawi Asteroid Impact (or Saharan Asteroid Impact) was an asteroid impact that occurred in the summer of 1429. Almost all modern historians cite it as the turning point between the organized states of the short-lived renaissance, and the chaos that engulfed the entire world in the dark ages for the 15th and much of the 16th centuries.

The Impact

The impact occurred on July 18, 1429 (the date is understandably well accounted for in texts from the time) in the

Aorounga crater meteor impact sahara desert

The crater, as seen today.

northwestern Sahara desert. The most common estimates put the asteroid's speed at approximately 11 km/sec, and was probably about a mile wide. It released 430 exajoules of energy (more energy than the world uses in a year), and fused the desert sand for tens of miles in each direction.[1][2]

Damage Caused

The asteroid was devastating for the entire planet. World population declined by 60% between 1420 and 1460, and a further 15% from 1460 until 1500.[3]

The first to feel the Asteroid's impact were the Islamic civilizations of Libya, Morocco, Egypt, and Mali. Morocco and Mali suffered earthquakes that toppled houses and started fires. All of northern Africa was covered with a dusting of glass shards that damaged the lungs and prevented sunlight from reaching their crops. This was compounded by mass psychological panic, as entire populations alternately packed the streets to flee in terror, or cowered in their basements. As stated by famed Berber historian Mohamad Hussam ibn Zayid Abujamal al Hasaf:[4][5][6]

The masses cried out for God, and it seemed as if God cried back. The earth broke, and the sky was filled with fire [...]

Meanwhile, the tremors caused buildings to topple into the streets, crushing the multitudes that packed the streets and starting fires that raged uncontrollably across many cities. In Europe the coastlines were swamped by tsunamis that flooded cities such as Barcelona, Marseilles, Pisa, Genoa, Venice, Palermo, Athens, and Tripoli. A contemporary French account describes wooden scraps from ships dashed against houses floating down the Boulevard du Cabot in Marseilles.[7]

Extrasolar Theory

Professor Laurence Banks has put forward a different theory for the source of the asteroid. He claims that the asteroid was much smaller that supposed, but was also travelling much faster and was thus able to impact the surface before it was destroyed by the atmosphere. He has further claimed that the asteroid, to be going fast enough, would have to have been of extrasolar origin. [8]

Conspiracy Theories

Numerous amateur theories have been put forth for the cause of the impact. One of the most widely believed is that the asteroid was actually an alien starship that crashed into earth on a reconnaissance mission.[9]

Most conspiracy theories not involving aliens are either supernatural in nature, or involve some sort of time-travel. Bogdana Constantin theorizes that this is because the event had such an effect on the psyche of the entire area, and that local societies are still in a state of cultural shock.[4]


  1. Karialea, Iosef, and Mendel Schieuw. "The Impact." The Sahara Asteroid'. 2nd ed. New Siena: Teller, 2012. 4-11, 16. Print.
  2. Analyzing the Barawi Asteroid. University of Paris, 1997. DVD.
  3. Imeret, Jordaan. "De 15e Eeuw." De Mensen; Een Atlas Van De Historische Bevolking. Nieuw Essen: Abbes Uitgeverij, 2013. 30-35. Print.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Constantin, Bogdana. "The Lasting Psychological Impact of the 1429 Sahara Impact." Transylvanian Journal for the Psychological Sciences 97 (1981): 28-38. Print.
  5. David, Corning. "The Short-Term Affects of the Barawi Impact." Magazine of Renaissance History 3 Sept. 1998. Print.
  6. Coppens, Alfred, ed. "Barawi Impact, The." Encyclopedia Americana. 14th ed. Vol. 2. New London: Encyclopedia Americana, 2000. 18. Print.
  7. Bardin, Jean-Yves. La Chute; A Translation. Paris: New Abraham, 1972. Print.
  8. Banks, Laurence.An Extrasolar Origin for the Barawi Asteroid. New Siena: Engleton, 2003. Print.
  9. "ALEINS 1429!!!1!" ALIEN INVASIONS. 30 Oct. 1999. Web. The website was recently taken down, and is now inaccessible.

External Links

A map of Europe and northern Africa shortly before the impact, published by Euratlas Periodis

Additional crater photographs

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