Black Sea deluge theory

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The Black Sea deluge is a hypothesized prehistoric flood that occurred when the Black Sea rapidly filled. The theory made headlines when The New York Times published it in December 1996.

In 1998, William Ryan and Walter Pitman, geologists from Columbia University, published evidence that a massive flood through the Bosporus occurred about 5600 BCE. Glacial meltwater had turned the Black and Caspian Seas into vast freshwater lakes, while sea levels remained lower worldwide. The fresh water lakes were emptying their waters into the Aegean Sea. As the glaciers retreated, rivers emptying into the Black Sea reduced their volume and found new outlets in the North Sea, and the water levels lowered through evaporation. Then, about 5600 BC, as sea levels rose, Ryan and Pitman suggest, the rising Mediterranean finally spilled over a rocky sill at the Bosporus. The event flooded 60,000 mile² (155,000 km²) of land and significantly expanded the Black Sea shoreline to the north and west. Ryan and Pitman wrote:

Black Sea today (light blue) and in 5600 BCE (dark blue) according to Ryan's and Pitman's theories
"Ten cubic miles [42 km³] of water poured through each day, two hundred times what flows over Niagara Falls. …The Bosporus flume roared and surged at full spate for at least three hundred days."

Although neolithic agriculture had by that time already reached the Pannonian plain, the authors link its spread with people displaced by the postulated flood. More recent examinations by oceanographers such as Teofilo A. "Jun" Abrajano Jr at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and his Canadian colleague Ali Aksu of Memorial University of Newfoundland have cast some doubt on this catastrophic flood theory. Abrajano's team, finding sapropel mud deposits in the Sea of Marmara, have concluded that there has been sustained interaction between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea for at least 10,000 years:

"For the Noah's Ark Hypothesis to be correct, one has to speculate that there was no flowing of water between the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea before the speculated great deluge. We have found this to be incorrect."

In a series of expeditions, a team of marine archeologists led by Robert Ballard identified what appeared to be ancient shorelines, freshwater snail shells, drowned river valleys, tool-worked timbers, and man-made structures in roughly 300 feet (100 m) of water off the Black Sea coast of modern Turkey. Radiocarbon dating of freshwater mollusk remains indicated an age of about 7,000 years.

According to a report in New Scientist magazine (May 4, 2002, p. 13), the researchers found an underwater delta south of the Bosporus. There was evidence for a strong flow of fresh water out of the Black Sea in the 8th millennium BCE.

The review of sediments in the Black Sea in 2004 by a pan-European project (Assemblage - Noah Project) confirmed the conclusion of Pitman/Ryan. Further, calculations made by Mark Siddall predicted an underwater canyon that was actually found.

The hypothesis remains an active subject of debate among archaeologists.

[edit] Identifications with mythical floods

The proposed deluge has been connected with various Great Flood myths, notably Noah's Flood.

Hershel Shanks, editor of the Biblical Archaeology Review, said that "all modern critical Bible scholars regard the tale of Noah as legendary. There are other flood stories, but if you want to see the Black Sea flood in Noah's flood, who's to say no?" Fundamentalist Christians claimed that "Noah's Flood was not a local flood in the Black Sea area, but a world-wide flood that has left its mark on every continent on this planet,"<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> and that the timing was wrong, although this claim is not compatible with science, since it would require the sudden production and then disappearance of three times more water than is contained in the Earth's oceans, and for millions of locally endemic land-dwelling species to have been collected from and then returned to their endemic habitats.

There were also identifications with the Atlantis myth, as well as suggestions that the flood caused the Proto-Indo-European diaspora.

[edit] References


  • John Noble Wilford, "Geologists Link Black Sea Deluge to Farming's Rise," The New York Times, December 17, 1996, pp. B5 and B13.
  • W.B. Ryan and W.C. Pitman, Noah's Flood: The new scientific discoveries about the event that changed history 1998

[edit] External links

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Black Sea deluge theory

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