Day By Day

Friday, January 30, 2009

Noah's Flood Update

A few years ago geologists Bill Ryan and Walt Pitman caused quite a stir when they published a study of Black Sea sediments that suggested a sudden and massive inundation of the region approximately 7,500 years ago. They suggested that this event, triggered when waters from the Aegean Sea broke through a land bridge at the Bosphorous, was the factual basis for Middle Eastern flood legends, including the Biblical account of Noah's Flood [here].

Their study was widely popularized and generally well-received by a credulous and sensationalistic journalistic estabilishment, although some geologists questioned the evidence as to the size and duration of the inundation and nearly all archaeologists rejected the causal link they asserted between the Black Sea flood and the Noah story. I myself was quite sceptical. The Sumerian stories upon which the Biblical account is based were simply too far distant both geographically and temporally from the original event for such a connection to be plausible. Moreover, the Mesopotamian stories were clearly of local origin and contained no hints of a Black Sea context.

Still, there remained the tantalizing possibility that the Black Sea inundation may have been linked to the spread of neolithic cultures along the Rhine/Danube axis into Northern Europe. The scenario proposed by figures as illustrious as Colin Renfrew was that flooding of lands along the Black Sea shorelines forced agriculturalists to migrate westward into Central, and eventually Northern Europe producing what archaeologists call the Bandkeramik Culture [here]. These ideas, however, have never been generally accepted.

Now new evidence from Danube delta sediment studies [here] casts further doubt on the flood scenario. In now appears that the inundation did take place, but was on a far smaller scale than was previously hypothesized. Earlier estimates suggested that the waters in the Black Sea basin rose as much as eighty meters and submerged many thousands of square miles of fertile land. The new study suggests that the rise in sea level was probably no more than ten meters and that the area submerged was much smaller than previously thought. In other words, there is now little reason to believe that the Black Sea inundation precipiated any major migration.

Oh well, it was a fun idea to play around with.