Re: Plumbing Black Sea for Proof of the Deluge

James Taggart (
Thu, 7 Jan 1999 15:08:00 -0500

For the more pop-culturally minded of you, I discovered an article about
this in the January 1999 issue of Discover magazine (Special Issue: The
year ins science). Should still be on the newsstands. (by way of Moorad Alexanian <alexanian on 01/06/99 01:04:14

cc: (bcc: James Taggart/Multilink)
Subject: Plumbing Black Sea for Proof of the Deluge

Plumbing Black Sea for Proof of the Deluge

Two Columbia University marine geologists, inviting incredulity, came
forward in 1996 with astonishing evidence suggesting that a catastrophic
of the Black Sea 7,600 years ago could have played a pivotal role in the
spread of early farming into Europe and much of Asia. The deluge also may
cast such a long shadow over succeeding cultures that it inspired the flood
account in the Babylonian epic of Gilgamesh and, in turn, the story of Noah
the Book of Genesis.
Now the geologists, Dr. William B. F. Ryan and Dr. Walter C. Pitman III
Columbia's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, N. Y., say they
even more archeological, geological and climate data to support their
provocative thesis. They argue their case in "Noah's Flood: The New
Discoveries About the Event That Changed History," a book being published
week by Simon & Schuster.
While the authors have yet to win over skeptics of the Black Sea flood's
possibly sweeping influence on history, other scientists have weighed in
new findings that seem to confirm the fact of the flood itself. In about
B.C., with rising global sea levels, salt water from the Mediterranean and
Aegean seas apparently burst into the Black Sea, then a landlocked
lake. The Black Sea rose with terrifying swiftness, inundating more than
60,000 square miles of coastal plains and giving the body of water its
size and configuration.
The thesis, however it is ultimately judged, has already inspired a wave
archeological and other scientific research in the previously neglected
Sea region.
"It has captured the archeological community's attention and enthusiasm,"
Ryan said in a recent interview. "The atmosphere has changed in just two
years. People from many countries are keen to take part in exploring the
in many ways."
Working on Turkey's Black Sea coast at Sinop, Dr. Fredrik T. Hiebert, a
University of Pennsylvania archeologist, has detected possible ruins of a
Stone Age village that was submerged in the flood. He is planning an
expedition this summer to expand the search for preflood settlements. One
objective is to determine if the people were farmers and so, as refugees
the deluge, might have spread the practice of agriculture into Europe for
first time.
Dr. Robert D. Ballard, the oceanographer who used modern underwater
technologies to find and explore the Titanic wreck, is preparing an
survey of submerged Black Sea archeological sites this summer. Ballard,
formerly with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod, is
president of the Institute for Exploration in Mystic, Conn.
Until Ryan and Pitman advanced their hypothesis, archeologists had little
reason to believe the preflood Black Sea shore was particularly hospitable.
In the last two years, moreover, new cores from the Greenland ice cap
revealed that the world underwent a cold, arid period, beginning in 6200
and ending about two centuries before the flood. Archeological digs in the
Middle East appear to show many Neolithic settlements' being abandoned
this drought.
"We speculate that this cold and arid period may have driven people to
Black Sea as an oasis," Pitman said. "They would have brought farming with
them to this water hole, so to speak, and also exchanged ideas and
The timing of the flood, Pitman said, happened to coincide with
archeological evidence of newcomers in the Balkans and in northeastern
and with some of the earlier signs of agriculture in these regions. Some
pottery at these sites is similar to that found near the Sea of Marmara in
Turkey from around the time of the flood.
Making connections between people displaced by the flood and the rise of
agriculture in Europe -- even in Egypt and Central Asia -- is the most
controversial aspect of the Ryan-Pitman thesis. In a review of the book in
current issue of Archaeology magazine, Mark Rose, the managing editor, said
the farming connection "is predicated on a huge archeological assumption"
there was a drought and it did force Middle Eastern farmers to find refuge
the preflood Black Sea coast. He also noted that some farming had already
begun to appear in parts of Europe 500 years before the putative flood.
Rose concluded: "If Ryan and Pitman are right about the inundation of the
Black Sea, they have made a real advance in our understanding of the
past. But making it Noah's flood and claiming it was the 'event that
history' was a mistake."
In other recent research, Dr. Gilles Lericolais, a French oceanographer,
an expedition last spring that conducted more seismic and echo-sounding
of the submerged shelf off the Black Sea coast. He discovered deep
canyons where the Danube and Dnieper rivers had once cut deep to reach the
declining waters of the preflood Black Sea.
Turkish geologists recently reported evidence that, contrary to most
assumptions, the Bosporus Strait was cut at the time of the flood and not
before. At the end of the last ice age, more than 12,000 years ago, the
connecting the freshwater Black Sea to the Mediterranean was probably a
channel through the Sakarya River to the Gulf of Izmit, an eastern arm of
Sea of Marmara. But this passageway had closed well before the flood,
no outlet for Black Sea's steadily evaporating and diminishing waters.
"We have no way of knowing what caused the change," Ryan said. The
outlet "is on the Anatolian fault, so a slip of the fault may have choked
In any event, where the Bosporus flows today by Istanbul, separating
and Asia, there was a low valley just before the flood. Ryan and Pitman
propose in their book that a natural dam across the valley kept the ocean
waters, rising since the melting of ice-age glaciers, from entering the
Sea basin. This, they said, would explain why the world ocean did not make
contact sooner with the lowered Black Sea and why, when it did break
the event was so catastrophic and left such a deep scar as the Bosporus

Tuesday, January 5, 1999