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Legends describing a Great Flood are found in the narratives of several world religions, and the biblical account of Noah's Flood is the surviving heir to several versions of the ancient Mesopotamian Flood Myth. Recently, the story of the biblical deluge was connected to the Black Sea, together with the suggestion that the story's pre-Mesopotamian origins might be found in the Pontic basin [Ryan, W.B.F., Pitman, III, W.C., 1998. Noah's Flood: The New Scientific Discoveries About the Event That Changed History. Simon and Schuster, New York]. Based on the significance of this flood epic in the Judeo-Christian tradition, popular interest surged following publication of the idea. Currently, two Great Flood scenarios have been proposed for the Black Sea: (1) an Early Holocene event caused by catastrophic Mediterranean inflow at 7.2 ky BP (initial hypothesis of [Ryan et al., 1997. An abrupt drowning of the Black Sea shelf. Marine Geology 138, 119-126]) or 8.4 ky BP (modified hypothesis of [Ryan et al., 2003. Catastrophic flooding of the Black Sea. Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Science 31, 525-554.); and (2) a Late Pleistocene event brought on by Caspian influx between 16 and 13 ky BP [Chepalyga, A.L., 2003. Late glacial Great Flood in the Black Sea and Caspian Sea. GSA Annual Meeting and Exposition, 2-5 November 2003, Seattle, USA, p. 460]. Both hypotheses claim that the massive inundations of the Black Sea basin and ensuing large-scale environmental changes had a profound impact on prehistoric human societies of the surrounding areas, and both propose that the event formed the basis for the biblical Great Flood legend. This paper attempts to determine whether the preponderance of existing evidence sustains support for these Great Floods in the evolution of the Black Sea. Based upon established geological and paleontological data, it finds that the Late Pleistocene inundation was intense and substantial whereas the Early Holocene sea-level rise was not. Between 16 and 13 ky BP, the Late Neoeuxinian lake (the Late Pleistocene water body in the Pontic basin pre-dating the Black Sea) increased rapidly from ∼-14 to -50 m (below the present level of the Black Sea), then rose gradually to ∼-20 m by about 11 ky BP. At 11-10 ky BP (the Younger Dryas), it dropped to ∼-50 m. When the Black Sea re-connected with the Sea of Marmara at about 9.5 ky BP, inflowing Mediterranean water increased the Black Sea level very gradually up to ∼-20 m, and in so doing, it raised the salinity of the basin and brought in the first wave of Mediterranean immigrants. These data indicate no major drawdown of the Black Sea after the Younger Dryas, and they do not provide evidence for any catastrophic flooding of the Black Sea in the Early Holocene. In addition, available archaeological and paleoenvironmental evidence from the Pontic region reveal no recognizable changes in population dynamics between 14 and 6 ky BP that could be linked to an inundation of large magnitude [Dolukhanov, P., Shilik, K., 2006. Environment, sea-level changes, and human migrations in the northern Pontic area during late Pleistocene and Holocene times. In: Yanko-Hombach, V., Gilbert, A.S., Panin, N., Dolukhanov, P.M. (Eds.), The Black Sea Flood Question: Changes in Coastline, Climate, and Human Settlement. Springer, Dordrecht, pp. 297-318; Stanko, V.N., 2006. Fluctuations in the level of the Black Sea and Mesolithic settlement of the northern Pontic area. In: Yanko-Hombach, V., Gilbert, A.S., Panin, N., Dolukhanov, P.M. (Eds.), The Black Sea Flood Question: Changes in Coastline, Climate, and Human Settlement. Springer, Dordrecht, pp. 371-385]. More specifically, Mesolithic and early Neolithic archaeological data in southeastern Europe and Ukraine give no indications of shifts in human subsistence or other behavior at the time of the proposed catastrophic flood in the Early Holocene [Anthony, D., 2006. Pontic-Caspian Mesolithic and Early Neolithic societies at the time of the Black Sea Flood: A small audience and small effects. In: Yanko-Hombach, V., Gilbert, A.S., Panin, N., Dolukhanov, P.M. (Eds.), The Black Sea Flood Question: Changes in Coastline, Climate, and Human Settlement. Springer, Dordrecht, pp. 345-370; Dergachev and Dolukhanov, 2006. The Neolithization of the North Pontic area and the Balkans in the context of the Black Sea Floods. In: Yanko-Hombach, V., Gilbert, A.S., Panin, N., Dolukhanov, P.M. (Eds.), The Black Sea Flood Question: Changes in Coastline, Climate, and Human Settlement. Springer, Dordrecht, pp. 489-514]. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA.
Author(s): Yanko-Hombach V, Gilbert AS, Dolukhanov P
Publication type: Article
Publication status: Published
Journal: Quaternary International
Print publication date: 01/06/2007
ISSN (print): 1040-6182
ISSN (electronic): 1873-4553
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