New book on Noah's Flood
Tue, 16 Mar 1999 05:42:11 EST

Noah's flood has been the source much discussion on this list-serve. An
important book on this topic came out early this year. Some of you may have
read it. It provides a completely different take on this subject from
anything I have ever read. I am including a review of the book much of it
drawn from the review in <>.

Noah's Flood: The New Scientific Discoveries about the Event That
Changed History
List: $25.00
Available at <> and <> Price: $17.50
Hardcover, 352 Pages, Simon & Schuster Trade, January 1999
ISBN: 0684810522 
Authors: Ryan, William / Pitman, Walter  

Description: Combining modern geophysics and archaeology with ancient
mythology, two senior scientists at Columbia University present astonishing
evidence of the reality of the biblical flood. 8 maps. Illustrations

Description: "William Ryan and Walter Pitman's NOAH'S FLOOD is a fascinating
and compelling scientific detective story. A must-read. It will definitely
launch many expeditions thinking to prove it right or wrong." --Robert D.
Ballard, Ph.D., President, Institute for Exploration


The book first addresses a question that has been raised in discussions we
have had about Noah and the flood. Was the Mediterranean Sea the site of
Noah’s flood? What was the history of the Mediterranean Sea since more than 5
million years ago? The authors conclude the Med. Sea had once dropped more
than five thousand feet below its present level having been separated from the
Atlantic Ocean by a natural dam at the present site of the Gibraltar. The
book describes the climate of the desert at the bottom of the Med. Sea basin
as an inferno of heat thirty times farther below sea level than Death Valley
in California. The cores brought up from the bottom of Med. Sea showed a
“picture of a five-to-seven-million year-old Mediterranean desert landscape
with drying lakes and their coastal mudflats, evaporating under a scorching
sun.” The cores contained seeds and fossil roots of desert sagebrush.

The authors write, "The Gibraltar dam must have collapsed catastrophically
five million years ago. Salt water from the Atlantic inundated the
Mediterranean desert at the pace of a thousand Niagara Falls....Although no
humans lived five million years ago, had any been present, they would have
witnessed the Mediterranean desert disappearing permanently beneath a mile of
salt water in a matter of a single lifetime.” These findings do not support
the idea of Noah inhabiting the basin of the Med. Sea and building an ark as
salvation from the pending flood.

The second phase, the Black Sea phase, is the more significant part of the
book . It contains the heart of the concept of Noah’s Flood. A great flood
actually took place about 7,500 years ago in what is now the Black
Sea---perhaps the source of the biblical story of Noah's flood, as the
reviewer stated. Drawing on modern geophysics as well as ancient mythology,
the authors, William Ryan and Walter Pitman demonstrate that the great flood
myths of the Middle East appear to have a basis in scientific fact. For
nearly a year a great flood roared through what is now the Bosporus Strait,
emptying the floodwaters from the Mediterranean into what was then a
freshwater lake on the site of today's Black Sea. With more than 200 times
the force of Niagara Falls, this flood caused water levels in the lake to rise
six inches a day and inundated some 60,000 square miles. The consequences of
this flood were monumental--as salt water replaced fresh it transformed the
ecology of the region, ruining farming and spurring human migration. This
dispersal in turn spread civilization and provided the inspiration for the
great flood stories described in the Babylonian epic of Gilgamesh and the
biblical story of Noah's flood.

Ryan and Pitman---both of Columbia University's internationally-renowned
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory---base their extraordinary findings on
firsthand study of the Black Sea region, and in particular, on a 1993
expedition organized with the Russian Academy of Sciences. On that trip, they
used high-tech sonar equipment to map how the shoreline and floor of the Black
Sea changed drastically around 5,600 B.C. Using core samples and computer
reconstructions of the seabed, the authors established that before the flood,
the Black Sea was a freshwater lake lying 350 feet below the Bosporus. It
provided a unique oasis in a vast desert, The Mediterranean Sea was held back
by a natural dam in the Bosporus Strait until it finally broke through with
such incredible violence that it created a catastrophe of epic proportion.
Water rushed over the ground in a thunderous roar crushing everything in its
wake, and great bursts of spray collected to form a swirling black cloud. The
incoming waters quickly turned the lake salty, destroyed its existing
ecosystem, and flooded the fertile land that surrounded its shores.

Expelled, the culturally-advanced people of the Black Sea region dispersed
throughout the Near East and across Europe, spreading agriculture and laying
the foundations of modern civilization. Ryan and Pitman believe that the
diaspora of the Black Sea people affected everything from the development of
farming to the birth of the Indo-European languages to the growth of great
Mesopotamian city-states such as Nineveh and Babylon. Drawing on the work of
experts in anthropology, genetics and linguistics, Ryan and Pitman trace how
the Black Sea people may have carried their culture, technology and enduring
memories of the great flood as far as what are today France, Egypt, and
Central Asia.

The authors hypothesize that various legends of the Black Sea flood survived
for 3,000 years as oral history and provided inspiration for the epic of
Gilgamesh and the story of Noah in the Book of Genesis, among other Middle
Eastern flood legends. Scholars have recognized for roughly a century that
all of the Middle Eastern flood stories contain common elements. Modified to
conform to local conditions, all the flood legends contained the same basic
theme as the story of Noah: a warning, a violent flood, the escape of one
single family or one hero, the apparent inundation of the entire world, the
evident retreat of the waters, and the landing and salvation of the hero and
his people.

While William Ryan and Walter Pitman concede that no one can ever prove a
direct link between the Black Sea flood and Noah's flood, their discoveries
raise important scientific, historical, and religious questions, which they
hope will spark debate among scholars and scientist. At once sensational and
authoritative, NOAH'S FLOOD is part scientific detective story and part
historical reconstruction that gives new meaning to ancient myths. Ryan and
Pitman's fascinating book will engross those eager to learn that an important
biblical story might be historically true, and those fascinated by how modern
science has drawn facts out of legend.