Escaping the Flood

14 Jul

A few years ago, there was a burst of interest in a hypothesised abrupt flooding of land around what is now the Black Sea, about 7600 years ago.

What makes this particular flood so interesting? Well, the area would have been an early agricultural / farming region, settled well before most other regions, and probably a very pleasant area of low-lying fertile land around a big fresh-water lake. However, changes in sea level (triggered by the end of the last ice age) caused the Mediterranian sea to rise, eventually spilling over into this lake. A masive flow of water then cut the channel known as the Bosporus and created the Black Sea. If – and there’s plenty of argument about this – the flow was as fast as some theories postulate, then 155,000 km2 of land was flooded in not much over a year. This massive flow (hundreds of times greater than Niagra Falls’ flow) would have been rather dramatic.

More important, however, is what would have happened to the inhabitants of the area. A massive flood that anhilated their lands, possibly  destroying an entire civilisation in a rediculously short time. A period before historical records – but recent enough for myths and legends of a great flood to survive. Various people have linked the event to (a) the biblical great flood, (b) the paradise of the Garden of Eden, and (c) the destruction of Atlantis.

How big a flood it was, how sudden, and the area flooded, are all up for debate. Even if the most dramatic theories prove wrong, it would make an interesting locale for a story.

There’s a Wikipedia article here:

Some other comments (yes, a creationist site – arguing that it can’t have been the biblical flood) here:

Ryan and Pitman have assembled an array of impressive evidence that the Black Sea may have filled rapidly thousands of years ago. It had become evident from numerous investigations of sediment cores from the Black Sea shelf and the Azov Sea that the Black Sea was once at least 110 m below the present surface level. The shallow shelves (Figure 1) were dominated by wind-blown loess12 deposited during the Ice Age, indicating that they were exposed to the atmosphere. It is clear from the alluvium (sediment deposited by water) that the present rivers flowed hundreds of kilometres beyond their existing mouths across the shelf to the shelf edge. Furthermore, there is evidence of a littoral (beach) zone toward the shelf edge indicating a shoreline of an ancient lake.

Evidence that the Black Sea rose rapidly to around its present level emerged from a joint Russian-US expedition in 1993 that surveyed two areas of the shelves. If the sea level had risen slowly over thousands of years, then the rivers would have deposited a wedge of sediment on the shelves as the shoreline gradually transgressed across the land. However, core samples and seismic images of the layers of sediment revealed a thin, uniform drape of fine, soft mud over the entire shelf, consistent with a sudden rise in water level.

I originally came across the theory when I read “Atlantis“, a novel by David Gibbons (“a Canadian-born underwater archaeologist and a bestselling novelist”), which built the idea into a rather lively, if far-fetched, action novel.

Further back in time, but even more spectacular, was the Zanclean Flood:

A channel opened from the Atlantic Ocean, through the modern-day Gibraltar Strait, and carried ocean water over a distance of over 200 km. The Mediterranean Sea was filled over a period estimated between several months and two years. Sea level rise in the basin may have reached rates at times greater than ten metres per day.


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