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I read this English translation in the late-1970s/early 1980s.

All I can remember is the opening: the Catholic Church decides to comb through its religious relics to determine which ones are genuine. They discover a number of 'relics' are not genuine - one, which has been displayed in a church since the Middle Ages, is clearly a 20th-Century pilot's oxygen mask.

A number of other temporal anomalies are discovered, leading people to theorize that time travel is possible. It is possible; a secret government time-travel project already exists (I can't remember if it was U.S. or French & I can't remember what its purpose was).

I also learned that the Mediterranean Sea has periodically been an 'evaporation basin'; if it were cut off from the Atlantic Ocean it would be a desert & a civilization once existed there.

The book started off strong but ended poorly, but I would like to read it again.

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  • Here is a review of Kenneth J. Hsü's nonfiction book, The Mediterranean Was a Desert (1983), which recounts the astonishing discovery of extensive salt deposits underneath the Mediterranean seafloor, from the time when it dried out. Since the discovery in 1970, the idea has entered science fiction. Mar 9, 2021 at 14:12
  • @InvisibleTrihedron As, for instance, in May's Pliocene Saga which also involves a civilization in the Mediterranean basin and time travel to the past, but is otherwise not a match.
    – DavidW
    Mar 9, 2021 at 14:35
  • Also the plot of XKCD 1190 "Time". Mar 9, 2021 at 20:52

1 Answer 1

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It is a translation, but from German: Wolfgang Jeschke, Der letzte Tag der Schöpfung (1981), translated as The Last Day of Creation (1982).

Plot summary from the Wikipedia entry:

The first part describes several anomalous ancient artifacts that turn out to be remnants of modern era items: a part of a pilot's breathing apparatus worshipped for centuries as a Catholic saintly relic, a clearly recognizable trace of a Jeep discovered during archaeological works on Gibraltar, found in the same layer as an early hominid skeleton, and an equally old grenade launcher of a model just introduced in the US Army.

The second part describes the project "Chronotron", the successful implementation of a time machine, which is at first able only to move things into the past. It is believed that time transfer into the future will be solved soon. The American administration decides to move oil pumping machinery 5 million years into the past, set it up on oil deposits in the Near East, and transport the oil through the then dried-up Mediterranean Basin to the shores of the North Sea, where reverse time machines will push it to the modern era. The massively expensive project is kept strictly secret. Objections of scientists that time transfer into the future may be just a dream, that the project could exhaust the country in a new arm race, and that the history of humankind may be irreversibly changed, are ignored.

ISFDB link: Der letzte Tag der Schöpfung - Winner of the Kurd Laßwitz-Preis 1981 (awarded in 1982) for best German Novel published in 1981.

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    Gonger: you have the answer! Now, how did I get the idea it was translated from French? Mar 9, 2021 at 17:28

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