A source for the stories of Noah's flood
The catastrophic deluge
that entered the Black Sea
"The [Black Sea] flood is a fascinating
story, all the better for being told by working scientists. What comes
across clearly is the thrill of discovery....The mixture of
disciplines and ways of doing science is exhilarating and paints a
realistic picture of the way research works." Sue Bowler of
the New Scientist.
"...an interesting and provocative story.... a
detective story that rollicks along, sweeping up everything in its
path..." Richard Ellis, The New York Times Book Review
"The Sumerian 'Deluge' story, the Akkakian 'Atrahasis'
epic, the Epic of Gilgamesh, and Noah's Flood are 7000 year old echoes
of this awesome event." A book reviewer from Arlington VA on the Amazon.com
Two senior scientists from Columbia University have
proposed a theory that a massive transfer of water occurred about 5600 BCE
- over seven and a half millennia ago. They wrote: "Ten cubic
miles of water poured through each day, two hundred times what flows over
Niagara Falls." "The Bosporus flume roared and surged at
full spate for at least three hundred days." 60,000 square
miles of land were inundated. 1 The Black Sea shoreline significantly expanded
to the north and east. The lake's its water level was raised many hundreds
of feet. It changed from a fresh-water landlocked lake into a salt water
lake connected to the world's oceans.
They have drawn on the findings of experts in agriculture,
archaeology, genetics, geology, language, development of textiles and
pottery, etc. They postulate that this deluge had catastrophic effects on
the people living on the shore of the Black Sea. It triggered mass
migrations across Europe and into the Near East, Middle East and Egypt. It
may have been the source of many flood stories in the area. Some
researchers believe that the story of Noah's flood in the Biblical book of Genesis
is a myth that had its origin in this cataclysmic event.
A book by William Ryan and Walter Pitman describes one of
the most fascinating scientific puzzles of recent years. We found it far more
riveting than any detective novel. 1
About 300 cultures around the world have stories of a massive flood. 2
In Judeo-Christian countries, the most famous is the story of Noah's
Flood, as recorded in the Bible: Genesis, chapters 6 to 8.
The story of the worldwide flood of Noah has fueled conflicts
between geologists and Christians since the early 19th century
- long before Darwin was born.
|Conservative Christians generally believe that the the book
of Genesis was written by Moses under the inspiration of God.
Thus, the original Hebrew text of Genesis was preserved from all
The worldwide flood happened just as Moses
recorded it: all humans and animals were exterminated, except
for those who made it to safety on the ark: 2 or 7 animals of each "kind," and Noah, his
wife, and family. Considering the percentage of the human race who
were killed, it can be argued that the universal flood was the largest
genocide in history, involving the extermination of all almost every
man, woman, youth, child, infant and newborn. The catastrophic filling of the Black Sea might
have happened, but it is unrelated to the Noachian flood for three
|The timing is wrong. The Noachian flood happened circa 2350 BCE;
the Black Sea deluge apparently happened circa 5600 BCE, over three millennia
|The area covered by the flood is wrong. The Noachian flood was
universal -- it covered the entire world to a level above that of
the tallest mountains. The Black Sea merely
enlarged the borders of the lake to its present size, and raised
it level by only a few hundred feet. The Genesis account states
that God's intention was to exterminate the entire human race in
the most complete act of genocide ever performed; he left only 8
people alive: Noah, his wife, three sons and three
daughters-in-law. In order to accomplish this, then entire world
must have been submerged in water.|
|God intentionally triggered the physical processes that would
lead to the extermination of all of the land animals and all but eight humans in
the flood because of humanity's sinful behavior. It was not an event that
simply happened naturally, due to the rise in ocean levels. |
The reality of the worldwide flood forms a vital part of the belief
system of conservative Christians -- particularly those who are Creation
Scientists. They have based their theories of astrophysics,
geology, paleontology, linguistics, and anthropology upon the creation, flood and
Tower of Babel stories in the book of Genesis. In particular,
they hold the universal flood responsible for the deposit of massive
amounts of sediment in successive layers. This, in turn, solidified to
produce the layers of rock observed by geologists.
|Liberal Christians typically regard the Noachian, Babylonian,
and hundreds of other flood stories as a myths. Many might linked in some way with
a historical flood. The legend of a universal, worldwide flood, as in
the Genesis account, might be an interesting myth with spiritual significance; however, it
did not happen in reality. There is no source of sufficient water to
produce a world-wide flood that covered the highest mountains. Even if
it did happen, there is no place to which the flood waters could
subside. Genesis was written over an interval of
many centuries by at least five author/editors.
The universal flood story was derived from an
earlier Babylonian myth by two of these authors. The Genesis flood
myth is obviously based on an earlier Babylonian myth; there are many
correspondences between the two legends. The Babylonian myth appears
to be based on an earlier legend that, in turn, might well have been based on dimly remembered memories of the
Black Sea catastrophe. |
What happened to the Black Sea?
The theory presented by Ryan & Pitman is partly based on generally
agreed scientific findings, and partly on their observations at the Black
Sea. The dates will not make much sense to conservative Christians and
others who believe in "creation science."
This is the belief that God created the earth and the rest of the universe less
than 10,000 years ago. We will use the dates used by the 95% of scientists who
believe in an "old earth" -- one which coalesced about 4.5
billion years ago.
|Circa 5 million BCE: What is now the
Mediterranean Sea was a largely dry valley. A narrow height of land
between what is now Spain and Northern Africa held back the Atlantic
Ocean. The height of land collapsed -- perhaps due to an earthquake, and
the Atlantic Ocean flowed in to form the Mediterranean Sea. |
|120,000 to 18,000 BCE: During the last
ice age, sheets of ice up to two miles thick covered much of the
northern parts of North America, Europe and Russia. So much water had
been withdrawn from the world's oceans that their level was about 400
feet (120 meters) lower than it is today. |
|18,000 BCE: Temperatures started to warm again. The ice at
the southern boundaries of the glaciers began to melt. Some of the
water fed what is called the New Euxine Lake -- a fresh water lake
located within the area of today's Black Sea. It had a small outlet to the
Sea of Marmara and thence to the Aegean and Mediterranean
|13,000 BCE: The flow of freshwater from the glaciers into
this lake had almost stopped.|
|10,500 to 9400 BCE: Both the temperature and rainfall dropped in
the region -- an event called the Younger Dryas. The flow of
fresh water into the New Euxine lake almost stopped. The lake level
dropped, due to evaporation. Eventually, the lake level fell below its
outlet to the Sea of Marmara. The New Euxine Lake then became a
landlocked, fresh water lake. Various tribes in the Near East were
experiencing drought conditions. They gravitated to the shores of this and other large lakes where the water
supply was fresh and plentiful. They built villages, hunted, fished and learned
to cultivate grain crops. They may even have experimented with
primitive irrigation methods.|
|9400 BCE: Decent levels of temperature and rainfall returned
|6200 BCE: Another ice age arrived. With it was a lessening of
rainfall which produced difficult times for those farmers throughout
the Middle East who were not situated beside a reliable water supply. Many "farming
villages in Anatolia and along the Fertile Crescent were abandoned,
while others dwindled." 1 Villagers from
many cultures gravitated in large numbers to the New Euxine lake.
Along the shores of the lake there would have been villages with
farmers and hunters from many cultures in the region. They spoke
"many different languages -- Proto-Semitic,
Proto-Indo-European, Proto-Kartvalian and others..."|
|Circa 5650 to 5500 BCE: Warmth and rain returned once more. The New Euxine
lake was still landlocked and fresh. But the Mediterranean Sea and Sea
of Marmara had gradually risen to a level some 426 feet (130
than the lake. It was held back only by a small rise of land at the
Bosporus River -- now the Bosporus Straight near present-day Istanbul,
Eventually, the ocean level rose high enough to slosh over into the Euxine Lake. It would have cut a small channel down to the lake.
"The rivulet became a gentle brook, flowing ever more swiftly,
scouring and tugging more forcefully at the bottom and walls of its
channel." In a short time, the flow would reach 10 cubic
miles of water per day -- 200 times the flow of the present Niagara
Falls. Its velocity would have reached 50 miles per hour (over 80 km/hour)!
Its noise would have been audible 120 miles (200 km) away. The lake
level would have risen about six inches a day. The shoreline would
have expanded up to a mile each day in some areas. The effect on
the multiple cultures who had settled on the lake shore would have
Verification of this theory:
Their theory has been verified in a number of ways:
|In 1999-summer, maritime explorer Robert D. Ballard and
located the ancient coastline, almost exactly where Ryan and Pitman said
that they would find it. The team dredged up samples of
rocks from the old shore line of the
New Euxine Lake. They found seven distinct species of salt-water mollusks,
all of which were carbon dated as being from 2,800 to 6,820 years old.
They also found two species of freshwater mollusks which ranged from 7,460
to 15,500 years old. This supports the theory that the Black Sea switched
from being a fresh water lake to a salty sea about 7,000 years ago. |
|A survey of the floor of the Black Sea shows that the river beds of
the Dniester, Dnieper, Danube, Don, Volga and other rivers continue
beyond the present sea shore for as much as a hundred miles. The river
beds all stop at the same level. This would have been the ancient
shoreline of the New Euxine Lake. |
|A number of features have been detected on the bottom of the Black
Sea near its old shoreline. They are shaped like tells -- a
characteristic shape of the remains of ancient towns or cities.|
|At one site, some 150 meters (500 feet) under water, archaeologists
found more than 30 stone blocks, pieces of wood and other objects --
possibly ceramics. The site "appeared uniquely rectangular." The
stone blocks did not appear to be part of a natural geological
formation. They tentatively conclude that they have found a site that
was once occupied by people. 10|
|A tell near Ilipinar which is south of the Bosporus Straight, has
been excavated. At the approximately 5500 BCE level the excavation
reveals a sudden change in pottery design. Archaeologists have studied
other tells in the area which also showed similar abrupt changes in
pottery at the same time. This shows that one society was overrun by
another culture at about the same time that the New Euxine Lake was
flooded. Presumably the more recent culture were refugees from the
The next logical step will be to search for the remains
of villages and sunken boats from the 6th millennium BCE. 4,5
Human consequences of the deluge
The fields in all the villages which surrounded the lake would have
been quickly inundated. Most or all of the fish life in the lake would die
as the salt level became intolerable to the fresh water species. The
salinity would eventually be high enough to support salt-water species. The
people would have had to scatter immediately in all directions in order to survive.
Ryan and Pitman suggest that groups of immigrants migrated into islands in
the Aegean, and up the Dniester, Dnieper, Danube, Don and Volga rivers.
This would have led them into much of Europe, the Balkans, and what is now Russia. Other groups
migrated to areas of what is now Turkey, Egypt, the Levant (now Israel,
Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine), northern
Mesopotamia (now Iraq) and Anatolia (now Turkey). Within a few years, the lake level reached
equilibrium, at more-or-less its present value.
Did the Noachian flood story originate in the Black Seas event?
As noted above, conservative Christians generally believe that God prevented
the authors of Genesis from making any errors in writing. They believe that the Noachian flood
must have happened precisely as the Bible says. The story was derived from the
events of a world-wide flood, circa 2350 BCE. It was not
based on a local flood of the Black Sea in the 6th millennium BCE.
To many conservative Christians, the 6th millennium BCE did
not exist, since they believe that the world was created circa 4004 BCE.
Many mainline Christians, liberal Christians, secularists and others are open
to the theory that the Genesis flood story was not based on an actual,
world-wide flood. Archaeologists have found two truly ancient versions of the
flood story which were written down "over two millennia after the [Black
|One in Sumerian "the language of the first known writing, a
language with no known roots and no known descendants" and|
|The other In Akkadia, "one of the ancient tongues of the Semitic language group
to which the Arabic dialects and Hebrew belong."|
Linguists are able to trace elements of languages back before they were first
written down. William Ryan and Walter Pitman claim that "It is possible
through linguistics to tie these people together, with speakers of other
languages at about the time of the flood and to the region of the Black Sea."
The Babylonian flood myth in the Epic of Gilgamesh is generally
regarded as having been derived from these earlier flood stories. The Epic
dates back to the third millennium BCE. The Epic, in turn,
appears to be a main source of the flood stories in Genesis. According to the Documentary
Hypothesis, there were originally two stories written
in Hebrew by two unknown authors, called "J" and "P."
These were interleaved into the single Genesis account by a redactor (editor)
called "R." There are about 20 points of similarity between the Bible
story and the flood story in the Epic of Gilgamesh. 5 The
Hebrew version is a monotheistic re-writing of the original Babylonian
There were other flood stories in ancient times. For example "The
Greeks had the story of Deucalion, son of Titan Prometheus, who was king of
Phthia during the time Zeus destroyed the human race in his own anger-inspired
deluge. [Zeus']... flood did the job in only nine days. Deucalion and his
wife, Pyrrha were the lone survivors, thanks to a warning by Prometheus.
Deucalion constructed a boat, which, after the inundation, came to rest on the
top of Mt. Parnassus." 7
|2000-FEB-17: Search for Noah's Ark: According to ReligionToday: "The explorer who discovered the
wreck of the Titanic wants to find Noah's Ark. Robert Ballard will look in
the Black Sea near the Bosphorous where a cataclysmic flood is believed to
have occurred 7,500 years ago. Ballard, 57, will use a sonar exploration
vessel, undersea search equipment, and a fleet of submarine robots, the
Los Angeles Times said. He has discovered the wrecks of the Lusitania, the
Nazi battleship Bismarck, U.S. and Japanese warships in the Pacific, and
ancient Roman and Phoenician ships. Work begins in a few months."
|2000-JUL: Article in National Geographic: The National
Geographic magazine has published an article titled "Black Sea
Flood" in its 2000-JUL issue. It describes a massive flooding of
the Black Sea by Mediterranean seawater -- perhaps started by an
Related essays on this web site:
- William Ryan and Walter Pitman, "Noah's Flood: The new
scientific discoveries about the event that changed history,"
Sinon & Schuster, (!998) Read
reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
- Norman Cohn, "Noah's Flood: The Genesis story in Western
thought," Yale University Press, (1996). Read
reviews or order this book This is a very attractive book with
many colored illustrations.
- Holy Bible, Scofield Reference Edition, Oxford University
Press, (Copyright date 1917).
- "Ballard & the Black Sea: The search for Noah's
flood," at: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/blacksea/
- Frank Lorey, Impact #285: The Flood of Noah and the Flood of
Gilgamesh", Institute for Creation Research, El Cajon,
CA (1997) Online at: http://www.icr.org/pubs/imp/imp-285.htm
- William Ryan and Walter Pitman, op. cit., Page 200.
- AANEWS for 1999-NOV-23.
- ReligionToday for 2000-FEB-17. They provide free newsletters to which you can
subscribe at: http://www.ReligionToday.com.
These summaries are part of GOSHEN.net
- "Seeking Noah," TV program on The Learning Channel
(TLC) for 2001-SEP-20.
- John Wilford, "Black Sea Clues to Biblical-era Flood," New
York Times Service, at:
Copyright © 1999 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on
Originally written: 1999-NOV-20
Latest update: 2008-APR-21
Author: B.A. Robinson