Part 1: The catastrophic deluge
that created the Black Sea
Quotations from reviews of William Ryan and Walter Pitman's book: "Noah's Flood: 1
"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 of the same book on the Amazon.com
In 1996, William Ryan and Walter Pitman, two senior scientists from Columbia University proposed a theory that a massive transfer of water occurred about 5600 BCE
- over seven and a half millennia ago. They wrote:
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."
The result was that 60,000 square
miles of land were inundated. 1The shoreline of what is now called the Black Sea significantly expanded
to the north and east. The water level was raised many hundreds
of feet. The sea changed from a fresh-water landlocked lake into a salt water
lake connected to the world's oceans.
They drew 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. Many
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.
In the year 2000, Ryan and Pitman published their book about the titled event: "Noah's Flood: The new
scientific discoveries about the event that changed history." It describes one of
the most fascinating scientific puzzles of recent years. We found it far more
riveting than any detective novel. 1
Many different estimates of the date of the deluge exist: about 5500 BCE and 7300 BCE are often cited. The first writings about the flood appeared millennia later.
About 300 cultures around the world have stories of a massive flood. 2In 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 conservative 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 inerrant -- 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 eight humans: Noah, his
wife, their three sons and the wives of the three sons. On the basis of 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 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. According to the Bible, the Noachian flood happened circa 2350 BCE;
the Black Sea deluge apparently happened circa three to five millennia
The area covered by the flood is wrong. The Noachian flood is described as having been worldwide -- 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 except for Noah and 7 members of his family. Thus, the entire world
must have been submerged in water.
God intentionally triggered the physical processes that would
lead to the extermination of all of these land animals and people because of humanity's sinful behavior. It was not an event that
simply happened naturally. It was an intentional genocide by God. The Bible states that God realized he had made a mistake when he created the original couple. Apparently, God was unable to foretell the future, and wanted to start over.
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 stories, the 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 all over the world. 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. Some might linked in some way with
historical floods in different areas of the world. 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
later subside. Genesis was written over an interval of
many centuries by at least five author/editors.
The universal flood story seems to have been derived from an
earlier Babylonian myth by two of these authors. There are many points of comparison between a Babylonian myth and the Genesis account. 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?
One theory is presented by Ryan & Pitman is partly based on generally
agreed scientific findings, and partly on their observations at the Black
Sea. 1 The dates will not make much sense to those conservative Christians and
others who believe in the young earth version of "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. This 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: Normal 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 composed of fresh water. 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 many groups who had settled on the lake shore would have