As children many of us thrilled to the story of Noah building an Ark to save his family and animals from a world Flood – only later to learn from science teachers that within the time of humankind there has never been a universal Flood. (This despite many ancient cultures seeming to remember such an event in their folklore).
So who might have dreamed that so early in our twenty-first century substantial elements of the Noah story would be discovered to be true after all? Or that the discoverer would be Dr. Robert Ballard, who brought us such spectacular images of Titanic more than seven decades after the vessel disappeared beneath the waters of the Atlantic?
It was a quite remarkable turn of events, not least of the surprises being that the ‘Noah’ Flood can be dated with some confidence to circa 5600 BC, and that the region mainly affected was the rim of what is today the Black Sea, just to the north of Turkey’s Mount Ararat.
This was the mountain the Bible specifically describes as Noah’s Ark’s resting-place following the Flood.
Admittedly this Black Sea location makes the Noah event rather more localized than the totally world-engulfing catastrophe described in the first book of the Bible, Genesis. For the people of that time there is no doubt that it was a very real mega-catastrophe in which many thousands of square miles of previously dry land became permanently engulfed.
And that for any people who were living in this area at the time the watery event would have had an impact far greater than that of the fiery World Trade Centre tragedy in New York on September 11, 2001.
First to glean some inkling of this very real Flood event were two veteran New York-based marine biologists, William Ryan and Walter Pitman of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.
In the early 1990’s while helping the Russians take cores of sediment samples from the Black Sea’s seabed shortly after the Chernobyl environmental disaster, Ryan and Pitman discovered something very strange about the marine organisms whose remains they found mixed amongst the seabed sediments.
In the upper, or more recent, sediment levels all the molluscs were of seawater varieties, consistent with the known saltwater content of the Black Sea, joined as it is to the Mediterranean Sea by two narrow straits, the Bosporus and Dardanelles.
Puzzlingly, however, the molluscs from the sediment’s lower, and therefore older levels were all of freshwater type, from species that are found only in freshwater lakes, and are unable to tolerate saltwater.
Since radiocarbon dating showed the freshwater molluscs all to date from before 5600 BC (with an extraordinarily high proportion dating from that date), whereas the upper level, saltwater varieties were all more recent, it was as if a hugely devastating saltwater incursion had suddenly occurred sometime around 5600 BC, instantly exterminating the old freshwater mollusc population and washing in the seawater varieties as their replacements.
There is essentially universal scientific agreement that when the last Ice Age finally gave up its grip sometime around 9000 BC, the world’s sea-level was a great deal lower than its present level.
The depression now filled by the present-day Black Sea was then occupied by a much smaller, very low-lying freshwater lake cut off from the saltwater Mediterranean by a narrow land-bridge.
Then, as the Ice Age ice melted, the outside world’s sea level gradually rose relative to this lake, until the water pressure became too great for the narrow land-bridge to hold it back any longer.
Suddenly the Mediterranean burst through with devastating force, scouring out the channels that are now the Dardanelles and Bosporus straits and cascading megatons of seawater onto the dry land that formerly surrounded the lake, drowning it to a depth of 300 feet. Any humans settled close to the burst-through point would therefore have been devastatingly overwhelmed.
The date of circa 5600 BC for this ‘Flood’ is an absolutely fascinating one, well within the period that human beings had ceased roaming around as hunter-gatherers, and had begun planting crops, domesticating grazing animals, settling down into ‘permanent’ townships, even (arguably) developing the capability to build Ark-size boats.
While the start-up of the great ancient civilisations of Egypt and Mesopotamia lay two millennia into the future, i.e. c.3500 BC, in inland parts of Turkey, just south of where Ryan and Pitman’s Flood occurred, archaeologists have long been puzzled to find isolated pockets of much older cultures at a surprisingly high level of advancement.
Back in the 1960s, for instance, at a site that Turks call Çatal Hüyük, British archaeologist James Mellaart discovered a spectacularly large 7th millennium BC township with rectangular, neatly plastered houses built of properly squared-off bricks, also evidence for advanced carpentry, bread-making, pottery, the weaving of textiles, even metallurgy.
Could other townships, perhaps even more advanced than Çatal Hüyük, have been nestled around the pre-Flood Black Sea’s freshwater lake – only to be drowned when the Mediterranean burst through so spectacularly circa 5600 BC?
So fired was Dr. Robert Ballard by this possibility that in 1998 he mounted a preliminary exploratory expedition to the Black Sea, sending robotic ‘roving eye’ vehicles down into depths otherwise inaccessible to human beings.
And when these brought back the first clear evidence of an ancient drowned coastline extending all around the Black Sea’s rim, Ballard lost no time mounting a second expedition directed to finding submerged houses and other evidence of human settlement.
With the University of Pennsylvania’s Dr.Fredrik Hiebert on board as chief archaeological advisor, this expedition found its first pre-Flood-house in the year 2000, twelve miles out from the Black Sea’s present shoreline, and 300 feet below its present sea level.
Glimpsing intriguing-looking debris surrounding this, the expedition asked for, and received, the Turkish government’s permission to scoop up a few samples, even though this had not originally been intended, or thought practically possible.
During October 2001 while the world was still shell-shocked from the events of September 11, Ballard, Hiebert and their colleagues published the first official report of their findings in the prestigious American Journal of Archaeology. Their sonar readings clearly show the pre-Flood house structure to be composed of more than 30 stone blocks, and ‘uniquely rectangular’.
Visual images captured by Ballard’s ‘roving eyes’ show what appear to be accompanying pottery. Chemical analysis of the scooped-up core samples suggest human faecal and urine residue as from toilet facilities.
In the words of the Journal‘s editor Dr. Bruce Hitchner, so far the Ballard-Hiebert Black Sea expedition has ‘convincingly’ confirmed ‘an important element of the Flood theory’.
© Ian Wilson 2001-2014
Ian Wilson’s Before the Flood, was the first book to evaluate the archaeological and historical implications of Dr. Robert Ballard and Dr. Fredrik Hiebert’s Black Sea findings. It was published by Orion and available from www.bookoffers.com.au
About the Author
Ian Wilson is a prolific, internationally published author specializing in historical and religious mysteries. Born in south London, he graduated from Magdalen College, Oxford University, in 1963 with honours in Modern History. The TV documentary that he co-scripted to accompany his 1978 Shroud book won a BAFTA award, and his later book Jesus: The Evidence was a best-seller on both sides of the Atlantic. Accompanied by his wife Judith, Wilson emigrated from England to Queensland, Australia, in 1995, where he remains enthusiastically continuing his wide-ranging research projects both at home, and around the world.