New Archaeology and Ancient Stories ; A Catastrophic Black Sea Flood 7,600 Years Ago May Be Source of The

Article excerpt

For most of the past 200 years, archaeologists have struggled to discover any evidence that one of the greatest stories in the religious anthology is more than just tribal myth.

The biblical flood and Noah's building of the ark harks back to the earliest days of Western religion, providing a link between the account of creation and the rise of the patriarchs.

Yet attempts to ground the Bible's words in archaeological proof proved unsuccessful, and the absence of geological evidence to support such a global catastrophe convinced many that Noah's flood, if it occurred at all, was a local event writ large through the prism of oral history.

New research along the Black Sea coast of Turkey, however, has led two geologists to theorize that they have found evidence of the event that spawned the Old Testament story. The find is actually a part of a broader project to study the history of the Black Sea basin, and it in no way proves the existence of Noah or his ark.

Yet it is one of several archaeological discoveries giving credence to claims that some the events and people chronicled in the Bible might indeed have a basis in historical reality. In the past decade, scientists have discovered in Israel a 9th century BC inscription mentioning the "House of David," as well as a crypt some believe contained the remains of Caiaphas, the priest who called for the arrest of Jesus.

As for the current find near the ancient Black Sea port of Sinop, the evidence of a major flood - biblical or not - was bolstered by sonar data released last week. Robert Ballard, who has made a name for himself by finding long-lost shipwrecks, confirmed that there is a sunken beach 15 miles off Sinop and 550 feet beneath the sea surface - precisely where two Columbia University marine geologists had expected it to be.

William Ryan and Walter Pitman say that beach disappeared when the neighboring Mediterranean Sea breached a natural dam at the Bosporus 7,600 years ago, resulting in a flood that may have destroyed numerous villages and sparked a major diaspora.

"The event they have documented is on the scale of the destruction of Pompeii by Vesuvius," says archaeologist Andrew Moore of the Rochester Institute of Technology. "It would have had an impact every bit as great on the people who were living in the basin of the Black Sea at the time the flood occurred."

Beginnings of the theory

Dr. Pitman and Dr. Ryan began building their flood hypothesis in the early 1970s, when they first collected core samples a mile beneath the Mediterranean loaded with odd salt crystals. The samples suggested that the level of the Mediterranean dropped dramatically during the last Ice Age.

As a result, the theory went, the Black Sea had been cut off from the world's oceans. Over thousands of years it shrank into a brackish freshwater lake. …