Noah's Flood: The New Scientific Discoveries About The Event That Changed History

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9780684859200: Noah's Flood: The New Scientific Discoveries About The Event That Changed History
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Over the millennia, the legend of a great deluge has endured in the biblical story of Noah and in such Middle Eastern myths as the epic of Gilgamesh. Now two distinguished geophysicists have discovered a catastrophic event that changed history, a gigantic flood 7,600 years ago in what is today the Black Sea.
Using sound waves and coring devices to probe the sea floor, William Ryan and Walter Pitman revealed 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 rim of the lake, which had served as an oasis, a Garden of Eden for farms and villages in a vast region of semi-desert, became a sea of death. The people fled, dispersing their languages, genes, and memories.

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The Deluge of Noah has long been one of the points of tension between geology and Christianity. Scientific diluvianism--the theory that the earth's history was shaped by a universal flood--collapsed in the early 19th century, well before Charles Darwin wrote The Origin of Species. Since that time, scientists and historians have assumed that the flood story derived from local events in Mesopotamia.

In 1997, geologists Walter Pitman and William Ryan proposed the first truly novel interpretation of the flood in over 150 years. Their studies of sediments in the Black Sea convinced them that the body had been a freshwater lake until about 5600 B.C. When the rising waters of the Mediterranean broke through the Bosporus, "ten cubic miles of water poured through each day, two hundred times what flows over Niagara Falls."

With great intellectual daring, Pitman and Ryan have moved outside of their academic niche to suggest that this event had enormous consequences for human history. They marshal evidence from archeology, mythology, linguistics, and agriculture to describe a flood-driven diaspora of early farmers. Subsets of these people became (variously) proto-Indo-Europeans, Sumerians, Beaker People, Vincas, Tocharians--the founders of the early cultures of Europe and western Asia. --Mary Ellen Curtin

About the Author:

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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