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The "Noah's Flood" Theory


December 18, 2000
Extract: National Geographic

Titanic discoverer Robert Ballard has identified the remains of a wooden building preserved near the oxygen-less waters of the Black Sea. It appears that the structure was consumed by floodwaters that inundated the Black Sea.

· In 1999 Ballard discovered an ancient shoreline, about 550 feet (168 meters) below the current level of the Black Sea. Sediment samples indicated that a massive flooding event inundated the region approximately 7,500 years ago.

· It is estimated that during the flood, water poured into the Black Sea at a rate about 200 times the flow of Niagara Falls.

· Stories of a great flood are common to many mythologies around the world, and may have roots in a remembered catastrophe such as the flooding of the Black Sea. The Old Testament, The Epic of Gilgamesh, and Greek and Roman mythologies all describe such an event.

In their 1999 book,Noah's Flood, Columbia University marine geologists William Ryan and Walter Pitman describe a possible scenario at the end of the last ice age—about 12,000 years ago. As the Earth's temperatures rose and the ice melted, waters in the Mediterranean Sea swelled, apparently putting pressure on a natural earthen dam that separated the Black Sea (then a freshwater lake) from the Mediterranean.

About 7,500 years ago the Mediterranean water supposedly spilled over the earthen dam and into the Black Sea. This flooding raised water levels in the Black Sea region by about 6 inches (15 centimeters) per day. The salt water of the Mediterranean was much denser than fresh water of the Black Sea.

As this freshwater lake became the enlarged Black Sea that we know today, the denser salt water sank to the bottom, and the fresh water rose to the top. This effect stifled oxygen exchange between the surface and deeper waters. With no oxygen, creatures trapped in the saltwater layer soon died.

In 1999 Robert Ballard lent support to Ryan and Pitman's theory by identifying an ancient shoreline beneath 550 feet (168 meters) of water off the coast of Sinop, in northern Turkey. Sediment samples confirmed that the Black Sea was a freshwater lake before about 7,500 years ago and that it supported saltwater species after the date of the proposed flood.

This catastrophe for living creatures has been a boon for underwater archaeologists: The deep, oxygen-poor layer at the bottom of the Black Sea cannot support wood-boring mollusks or other creatures that could consume wooden structures.

The Black Sea was an important link in ancient trade routes between Greece, Egypt, and the Near East. It is possible that ancient ships lie completely intact on the bottom. It is also possible that ancient settlements consumed by the rising waters may lie entombed in the oxygen-less 'dead' layer—looking just as they did when the waters started rising.

NGS: Interview: Ballard on Oldest Deep-Sea Wrecks
World's Oldest Deep-Sea Shipwrecks Found
Ballard and the Black Sea
University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology Black Sea Trade Project
Institute of Nautical Archaeology
Mystic Aquarium: Institute for Exploration
Flood Stories From Around the World
Robert Ballard Biography
Underwater Archaeology Resources

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