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Noah's Flood: The New Scientific Discoveries About the Event That Changed History
William Ryan & Walter Pitman
From The Publisher:
For thousands of years, the legend of a great flood has endured in the biblical story of Noah and in such Middle Eastern myths as the epic of Gilgamesh. Few believed that such a catastrophic deluge had actually occurred. But now two distinguished geophysicists have discovered an event that changed history, a sensational flood 7,600 years ago in what is today the Black Sea.
Ancient clay tablets excavated from the ruins of biblical Nineveh more than a hundred years ago revealed a much older version of the same flood legend. Archaeologists searched the length and breadth of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Mesopotamia for evidence of such a flood, to no avail. Then, as earth scientists made new discoveries about the history of rapid climate change, they learned that the Mediterranean had once been a desert and that five million years ago, the Atlantic Ocean burst through the Strait of Gibraltar and refilled the Mediterranean basin. William Ryan and Walter Pitman posed the scientific question "Could some more recent, similar catastrophe have been the source of Noah's Flood?"
The end of the Cold War enabled Ryan and Pitman to team up with oceanographers from Bulgaria and Russia, as well as Turkey, to explore the Black Sea. Using sound waves and coring devices to probe the sea floor, they discovered clear evidence that this inland body of water had once been a vast freshwater lake lying hundreds of feet below the level of the world's rising oceans. Sophisticated dating techniques confirmed that 7,600 years ago the mounting seas had burst through the narrow Bosporus valley, and the salt water of the Mediterranean had poured into the lake with unimaginable force, racing over beaches and up rivers, destroying or chasing all life before it. The margins of the lake, which had been a unique oasis, a Garden of Eden for an advanced culture in a vast region of semidesert, became a sea of death. The people fled, never to return.
The authors explore the exciting archaeological, genetic, and linguistic evidence suggesting that the flood rapidly created a human diaspora that spread as far as Western Europe, Central Asia, China, Egypt, and the Persian Gulf. They suggest that the Black Sea People could well have been the mysterious proto-Sumerians, who developed the first great civilization in Mesopotamia, the source of our own.
Could the people who fled the Black Sea Flood and their descendants have preserved for thousands of years the stories that became the myths we know today? Ryan and Pitman show how illiterate storytellers in our own century still recited tales thousands of lines in length that had been transmitted down through the ages with remarkable fidelity. So, they argue, the mythology of the Great Flood is an oral narrative, preserving the memory of a traumatic event -- the great divide in human history.
Noah's Flood is solidly grounded in contemporary science. It is an astonishing story that sheds new light on our roots and gives fresh meaning to ancient myths.
In a rare marriage of science and myth, two geologists draw on their worldwide oceanographic expeditions in search of evidence of the biblical flood. The authors first trace attempts to establish the historicity of the flood back to the work of archaeologists and scientists in the 1820s and '30s. Then, looking at the physical evidence, according to Ryan and Pitman (both geology professors at Columbia University), indicates that the cataclysm actually occurred 7,600 years ago; it consisted of the Mediterranean rising in Marmara and crashing through the natural dam of the Bosporus, raising the Black Sea 280 feet in 12 months. The archaeological evidence, according to the authors, is that the resulting dispersion of the populace led to the spread of farming skills, languages, and cultures to new settlements in southern Europe, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Anatolia, and Asia. The archaeological record is supported by DNA studies that reveal genetic connections between modern peoples of these regions and remains found around the flood region. But Ryan and Pitman dont draw only on science, they study as well the flood stories of various cultures, from Sumer to India, contending that they remain remarkably similar despite local coloring and storytellers embellishments. These tales tell of the destruction of the world as it was then known, but they universally also offer hope of salvation, regeneration, and divine forgiveness. The authors offer clear explanations of the scientific techniques involved in gathering evidence of the flood, and couch it in a historical narrative that preserves for readers the sense of discovery and wonder experienced by scientists through the 19th and 20th centuries (somewhat oddly, in keeping with this narrative, they relate their own research in the third person). An impressive marshalling of geophysical and archaeological evidence to reconstruct the truth behind an ancient myth. (illustrations and maps)
Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
About the Authors
William B. F. Ryan and Walter C. Pitman are senior scientists at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University and recipients of the Shepard Medal of excellence in marine geology.
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