Is the Black Sea Flood the Flood of Genesis?
Summary: Geological evidence obtained through rock cores indicates the presence of freshwater flora and fauna beneath the Black Sea, suggesting that this area was once a smaller freshwater lake. It has recently been proposed by a few uniformitarian geoscientists that prehistoric human communities living adjacent to this body of water were rapidly displaced when the Mediterranean overflowed and filled the Black Sea with saltwater.
Some marine geologists believe this event to be the basis of the Biblical Flood story. However, none of the work being conducted by these researchers has any bearing on the Flood reported in Scripture. I propose that the drowned dwellings in the Black Sea (if they prove to be such) represent post-Flood communities adversely impacted by the rapid rise of sea level associated with the close of the Ice Age. The overflow of the Mediterranean into the Black Sea forced the people, living in the communities adjacent to the small freshwater lake, to migrate to higher ground.
Relatively shallow submerged areas around portions of the Black Sea are proving to be of considerable interest for both marine geologists and archaeologists. Several years ago, submerged in tens of feet of water, freshwater shells were discovered and reported by scientists conducting underwater research around the Black Sea (Ross and Degens, 1974). More recently, discoveries have been made of what appear to be the remains of human habitation in almost one hundred feet of water. Several uniformitarian scientists are now claiming that the flooding of the Black Sea several thousand years ago provided the basis of the Flood myth of Genesis as well as that of many other cultures (McInnis, 1998; Ryan and Pitman, 1998). How does this discovery fit with Scripture, and is this the Flood of Genesis?
Exploration and Discovery of the Glomar Challenger
For many years geologists have wondered about the stratigraphy and composition of the worlds continental shelves and ocean basins. The interest in finding valuable mineral resources in these submerged settings pushed for their exploration. The technology necessary to undertake such challenging research initiatives only became available in the middle 1960s. Drilling the ocean floors and continental shelves became a reality with the formation of the Joint Oceanographic Institutions for Deep Earth Sampling (JOIDES) more commonly known as the Deep Sea Drilling Project (DSDP). This research program operated from 1968 to 1983. Ninety-six drilling projects (i.e., legs) were conducted covering areas within the Gulf of Mexico; the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans; and the Mediterranean and Black Seas. (Hs, 1992).
Two legs of the DSDP (portions of Leg 13 in 1970, and Leg 42A in 1975) drilled the Mediterranean Sea floor and contributed much to understanding the origin and stratigraphy of this submerged area (Hs, 1983). Probably the biggest theory advanced as a result of the drilling was proposed by Kenneth Hs when he stated that the Mediterranean had dried up during the Miocene (1983, 1992). I will not pursue his ideas further and suggest that the interested reader consult the references cited for additional information. However, much of the information obtained in the drilling of the Mediterranean later contributed toward similar theories about the origin and history of the Black Sea.
The Black Sea
In 1969 the Atlantis II cruised the Black Sea, taking 40 shallow cores from various portions of the floor of the Black Sea. None of these cores reached beyond 250 feet below the sediment-water interface (Ross and Degens, 1974, p. 184). Deeper drilling would have to wait for the DSDP drill ship Glomar Challenger.
DSDP drilling in the Black Sea was originally conducted to determine if it had potential as a large oil and gas province (Hs, 1992). What was found surprised the investigators. It was surmised, through the examination of various rock cores, that the Black Sea was in the recent past a large freshwater lake (Figure 1). This required a disconnection from the Mediterranean, as today saltwater flowing through the Bosporus Strait makes the Black Sea brackish.
It was proposed that during the last ice age, when global sea level was considerably lower, the Black Sea became a land-locked lake which received freshwater from areas to the north. At that time the Mediterranean did not flow into the Black Sea. This interpretation was based on freshwater fossils (both plant and animal) recovered from rock cores drilled in the Black Sea (Hs, 1992; Ryan and Pitman, 1998). Interest in the Black Sea waned as the geology of the Mediterranean took center stage during this leg of the DSDP.
William “Bill” Ryan was the co-chief scientist on Leg 13, which later set the stage for his further investigating the Black Sea (Ryan and Pitman, 1998, p. 74). The DSDP experience in the Black Sea would later contribute to his own work on its origin and history.
Black Sea Research Begins
Bill Ryan took the information obtained from DSDP Leg 13 and the Atlantis II cruise and began his own investigation into the geology of the Black Sea. Over the following years several research cruises and collecting efforts documented both geologic features and freshwater fossils which could only be explained if the Black Sea were formerly much lower, possibly as much as 350 feet below todays sea level position (Ryan and Pitman, 1998, p. 106). I will not review the details of the Ryan and Pitman theory for the origin and history of the Black Sea; the interested reader can consult their work. Rather, I wish to focus on the many differences between the Scriptural Flood documented in Genesis and the local tranquil flood proposed by Ryan and Pitman.
However, before proceeding further it should be noted that research conducted by Ross and Degens (1974) during the Atlantis II cruise documented what they believed to be a slow transition of the Black Sea from a freshwater lake to its present brackish state, starting approximately 9,000 years ago and terminating 7,000 years ago—based on shallow rock cores. Their work did not indicate that the flooding of the Black Sea by the Mediterranean occurred catastrophically, as has been proposed by Ryan and Pitman.
The Genesis Account Versus The Flooding of a Freshwater Lake
The Ryan and Pitman thesis (1998, p. 57) regarding the flooding of the Black Sea as the basis for the Biblical Flood myth can best be summarized using their own words:
…what if the myth story is examined in a different light, one that asks if human history was cleaved into a before and after primarily because the inundation was permanent and not temporary? Might a flood that never subsided have expelled a people from their former homeland and forced them to find a new place to live? Might the boat that the survivors built and filled with seed and animals have been not for the purpose of repopulating the Earth but for transporting to safety the items vital to a continued subsistence (domesticated plants, animals, and knowledge of the arts)? And what if in addressing such a hypothesis one does not limit the investigation to Mesopotamia but looks beyond its borders?
The Ryan and Pitman proposal simply states that communities of humans once lived around the freshwater lake that eventually became the Black Sea. The sea level rise of the Mediterranean, approximately 5,600 years ago, breached the Bosporus Strait and began to fill the freshwater lake with saltwater (Ryan and Pitman, 1998, p. 157). People living adjacent to the lake observed water levels rising in the range of several feet per hour, and they escaped by either floating on the rising water or attempting to outrun it. The eventual result was the filling of the Black Sea and the dispersion of those peoples to areas across Europe, the Middle and the Far East. This, according to their book, is the basis of the Flood myth among the different cultures.
An obvious problem with the Ryan and Pitman concept is that it is completely different from what Genesis records. They believe that the Flood is a mythological story adapted by the many cultures impacted by the event at the time of its occurrence. Ryan and Pitman (1998, p. 56) stated:
Belief in the flood as an agent of global change has subsided in the century since Louis Agassizs momentous discovery of the Ice Age and the conversions of Buckland and Lyell… A modern essay on the Genesis story in Western thought says the "diluvial theory came to be seen as what it was: one of the many imaginative but mistaken ventures that have accompanied the development of Earth-science."
Statements such as this throughout their book imply that the Biblical account of the Flood is one of mythology which is equal to all the other transcultural accounts of a flood. The Ryan and Pitman version of Noahs Flood is sans everything Scriptural except the water, which they never withdrew from the Black Sea. Anyone who wishes to base his worldview on how scientists interpret Scripture should really appreciate this book.
The Ryan and Pitman account completely discounts everything before the Flood. No discussion is provided regarding the Garden of Eden or the first sin. They simply start at what they view as a flood myth which needs to be addressed because it has its basis in so many different cultures. However, they have made a major oversight and I want to offer them another aspect of the flood legend to add to their own. This way they can explain the flood myths and legends of many different cultures, not only locally/regionally, but globally.
The Flooding of Coastal Environments and the Global Rise in sea level
Ryan and Pitman only appear to address cultures found in association with the Middle East. So, their version of a flood myth would only occur in those cultures which had some direct experience with the event. What about all the other cultures, which had already settled away from this area, and which were not impacted by this event, for example, the native Americans? Why do they have flood legends if they were already in the New World and were not affected by the rise and dispersion of cultures from the Black Sea?
The answer is quite simple, and I offer this up for their use to help them explain why almost every ancient culture of people has some version of a flood legend. Simply stated, they, too, were displaced by a global rise in sea level position associated with the breakdown of the polar ice caps, which occurred just a few thousand years earlier.
Dr. Brian Rucker and I reported on the many evidences of drowned paleo-Indian communities which have been documented along the coast of Florida (Rucker and Froede, 1998). These ancient communities were rapidly displaced when the polar ice caps began to disintegrate, and worldwide sea level rose tens of feet in what was probably a decade at the close of the Ice Age. These cultures also developed flood myths to deal with the local flooding. The only problem with this approach is their account of a boat—one which sounds like the Ark of Genesis. Perhaps they, too, built such a craft to float to the new sea level position? Good thing they knew beforehand to build that boat so that they got the story straight!
What About the Submerged Ruins?
Marine geologist Robert Ballard is exploring the Black Sea in an effort to document the dwellings and structures of folks who were displaced by the rise of the Black Sea thousands of years ago (Reed, 2000). While this effort is not being done to “prove” the Ryan and Pitman hypothesis, it is being advanced by the popular press as proof of the flood myth. I predict that all of the work done by Ballard and others will be used to explain away what Scripture accurately records. The local and tranquil flood of the Black Sea will help certain folks sleep better knowing that “science” can explain away the “myths” of the Bible.
I propose that the structural ruins and tools discovered by Ballard and others in the Black Sea (if they prove to be of human design and origin) reflect post-Flood cultures which moved into the basin seeking food and a fresh water supply. Their eventual dispersion from these areas followed the end of the Ice Age and the concomitant rise in global sea level position. This is in opposition to the Ryan and Pitman belief that these artifacts reflect the onset of the localized and tranquil flood which inspired its incorporation into Scripture. I believe that the Ryan and Pitman book provides an interesting account of what may have happened to post-Flood communities living adjacent to the freshwater lake when the Mediterranean overflowed and filled the Black Sea.
The submerged ruins and artifacts documented in the Rucker and Froede (1998) article can also be used by individuals uncomfortable with the Genesis account to document the flood and dispersion of paleo-Indian cultures living in the new world. These cultures would have developed a flood myth, only a few thousand years earlier from those cultures displaced with the flooding of the Black Sea basin. Thank goodness the flood myth has been solved by “science” in a way that does not create a conflict. Science and the Bible do not conflict when the Bible totally yields everything to what science dictates.
According to Ryan and Pitman, the flooding of a large freshwater lake (the ancestral Black Sea) by the Mediterranean Sea, approximately 5,600 years ago, permanently displaced the human communities living around it. These various groups of people spread away from the Black Sea region, taking with them a flood story which eventually became the flood myth recorded by many different cultures. A serious problem with this approach occurs where Ryan and Pitman fail to follow Scripture or explain how other cultures, not impacted by this event, came up with their own similar story of the global Flood, including a large boat to save a few individuals and the animals, which is faithfully recorded in Genesis.
The entire concept of the flooding of the Black Sea, as the basis of the Genesis Flood story, provides an excellent example where “science” supersedes the facts of Scripture with the ideas of man. The Ryan and Pitman tale begins with the idea of explaining away the mythological fable of the flood. However, their flood story simply stands on its own merit—with nothing to compare it to the Biblical account. Ryan and Pitman (1999, p. 16) readily admit this in a reply to a letter written in complaint of the scientific basis for the flood story of the Bible; they stated:
It is a stretch to link the catastrophic filling of the Black Seas freshwater lake to the deluge myth recorded in Scripture. The circumstances of this special flooding (one without 40 days and nights of rain, and one that never receded) deserve elaboration for readers curious about prehistory.
…the belief that this particular flood or any other is the one directly experienced by Noah is an individual decision. It is not a question that can be answered by scientific method.
In following the Ryan and Pitman hypothesis, Rucker and I could just as easily have proposed that the displacement of paleo-Indian cultures living out on the Florida continental shelf adjacent to the smaller Gulf of Mexico, during the close of the Ice Age, lead to the flood stories recorded in native American legends. This suggestion, like that of Ryan and Pitman, fails to acknowledge the accuracy of Scripture over the ever-changing concepts of mankind.
The discovery of drowned villages in the Black Sea (if additional research proves such) possibly records the rise of sea level following the climax of the Ice Age. Many such post-Flood human communities found themselves displaced from their dwellings with the rapid rise of sea level associated with the close of the Ice Age. The structures that Ballard and others might identify in the Black Sea were not a part of the Genesis Flood; rather, they reflect post-Flood communities living close to a source of food and water.
Marine geologists and oceanographers are just now starting to look for drowned structures associated with displaced people and the rise of sea level. I am sure that many more will be found, especially along coasts impacted by the rapid rise of sea level associated with the close of the Ice Age. Brian Rucker and I have identified several such sites around the Florida coast. Nothing being discovered in the Black Sea defends the Ryan and Pitman flood hypothesis.
Rather it shows that the Earth was much different from the present during the Ice Age. Sea level rise at the end of the Ice Age, which was a recent event, did more than raise water levels globally—it displaced various late ice-age communities.
Does the Bible claim that the Flood of Noah covered the entire Earth? Answer
Thanks to Dr. J. K. Reed for his encouragement to write this article, and to Dr. E. L. Williams for providing a helpful review. Any mistakes are my own. As always, I thank my wife, Susan, who continues to support my research and writing efforts. (Proverbs 3:5-6).
- Hs, K. J. 1983. The Mediterranean Was a Desert. Princeton University Press. Princeton, NJ.
- Hs, K. J. 1992. Challenger at Sea: The Ship that Revolutionized Earth Science. Princeton University Press. Princeton, NJ.
- McInnis, D. 1998. And the waters prevailed. Earth 7(4):46-54.
- Reed, C. A. 2000. Noahs village. Geotimes. p. 15.
- Ross, D. A., and E. T. Degens. 1974. Recent sediments of Black Sea. In Degens, E. T. and D. A. Ross (Editors). The Black Sea—Geology, Chemistry, and Biology. Memoir 20. American Association of Petroleum Geologists. Tulsa, OK. pp. 183-199.
- Rucker, B. R. and C. R. Froede, Jr. 1998. Archaeological and geological evidence of a recent and rapid sea level rise from sites along coastal Florida. Creation Research Society Quarterly 35:54-65.
- Ryan, W. B. F. and W. C. Pitman III. 1998. Noahs Flood: The New Scientific Discoveries about the Event that Changed History. Simon and Schuster. New York.
- Ryan, W. B. F. and W. C. Pitman III. 1999. Reply to “On the trail of the great flood.” Discover 20(3):16.
Carl Froede Jr., is a professional geologist and young-Earth creationist author who lives and works in Atlanta, Georgia. He has been active in creation-science for over ten years and has written numerous articles for various creationist organizations.
Author: Carl R. Froede, Jr., P.G. Text previously published in Creation Research Society Newsletter, Volume 6, Number 1 Jan. / Feb. 2001. Provided by Creation Research Society. Copyright © 2003, 2001, Creation Research Society, All Rights Reserved—except as noted on attached “Usage and Copyright” page that grants ChristianAnswers.Net users generous rights for putting this page to work in their homes, personal witnessing, churches and schools. All photos were provided by Films for Christ and are copyrighted.
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