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Noah’s Flood Uncovered?

Image of Noah's Ark.
Artist's representation, based on the Biblical account, of Noah's ark landing on Mt. Ararat after 40 days and nights of rain.

Once upon a time, the Black Sea was actually a large freshwater lake. Then came the end of the last ice age. Under rapid climactic warming, glaciers began to melt quickly. Subsequently, the world’s oceans and seas started to rise. Around 5,600 BC, it is believed that the Mediterranean Sea broke through a land “dam” at present-day Istanbul, creating the short and narrow (about one-mile wide) Bosporus Strait and allowing vast amounts of seawater to flow into the previously fresh waters of the Black Sea. Carbon-14 radio-dating methods support this viewpoint.

However, just how fast and cataclysmic this event actually was has been subject to debate. Several prominent scientists in recent years have argued that the gushing of water from the Mediterranean into the Black Sea was so rapid and extensive that it could have been linked to such a well-known flood legend as the Sumerian epic of Gilgamesh and even the Biblical account of Noah’s flood. William Ryan and Walter Pittman, two marine geologists from Columbia University, give us these statistics to chew on from their l999 book, Noah’s Flood:

  • Water could have inundated the Black Sea with a force as great as many Niagara Falls for as long as two years.
  • About 10 cubic miles of seawater may have been added to the Black Sea each day.
  • The Black Sea expanded 30% over its previous size after the land mass was breached.
  • Water levels in the Black Sea could have risen by 6 inches per day during the flood period.
  • As much as 60,000 square miles of land were swallowed up in less than a year.
  • The Black Sea was formerly about 350 feet lower than it is today.

In research undertaken recently by the National Geographic Society, coring samples from the bottom of the Black Sea indicate that a white or light color typical of lake-mud characterizes the deep sediments, while the upper black layers show an iron-sulfide-containing mud found in marine environments. In addition, the mollusk shells trapped in those same layers shift from freshwater types in the deep sediments to saltwater varieties in the more recently deposited top ones. These sediments show a rapid transition from freshwater to marine, further supporting theories of a fast and violent change — over just a few years — as opposed to a much more gradual filling of the Black Sea.

In the Biblical account of Noah and the ark, of course, only Noah and the seven members of his family survived the flood. Researchers studying the Black Sea have suggested that huge numbers of people dwelling near the pleasant shores of the Black Sea previous to its saltwater invasion would have been forced by the rapid flooding to flee inland, perhaps colonizing new areas of Europe, Asia, and Africa. Some speculate that such a mass exodus could account for the dispersal of Indo-European languages (a group of languages from a single parent tongue), that we see today. Was the Black Sea really the “cradle of civilization,” as some historians suggest? Truly there is much still to be discovered about its secrets.

© Copyright 2003, University of Delaware College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment