Comets, dragons & prophets of doom
Evidence for a giant comet
Is there any evidence for this giant comet in the terrestrial record? One of the most puzzling and widespread features of early societies is their preoccupation with the sky. People have assumed that this was driven by the need for a calendar for both agricultural and ritual purposes. However, this explanation does not account for the doom-laden nature of much cosmic iconography and early sky-centred cosmic religions associated with these societies. For example, some of them involve celestial combat myths in which winged serpents battle it out in the sky before one or other crashes to Earth. Numerous prophecies of doom, from Zoroaster to the Book of Revelation, clearly show celestial impact motifs: the Persian prophet Zoroaster (c. 500 BC) predicts a world-end in which "Ahriman (Satan) will make a comet strike the Earth causing a huge conflagration"; the Book of Revelation describes a huge burning mountain falling from the sky, dropping hail and fire on the Earth, while the Sun and Moon are darkened by smoke pouring from the abyss; Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by a rain of fire from Heaven, and so on. Cometary as well as meteor motifs are also found in these myths (for example, Revelation has a huge, red, multiple-headed dragon in the sky) and were recognised as such by ancient writers.
Other hints of an interest extending beyond the practical need for a calendar are to be found in the omen astrology of the Babylonians, which was largely fireball-based (a fireball is an extremely bright meteor), and in the widespread occurrence of icons apparently depicting comets, such as the omega symbol found throughout the Near East. The ancient swastika may be another such - for example, it explicitly represents a cometary type in a Chinese classification scheme depicted in a Han dynasty tomb dated 168 BC. This symbol is of great antiquity, going back to at least 1400 BC.