The Black Sea yields up a treasure trove of history

I’ve been fascinated by the archaeology of the Black Sea region ever since, in the late 1990’s, I read the book ‘Noah’s Flood‘ by William Ryan and Walter Pitman.  It postulated that an inundation of the Black Sea area by the Mediterranean, several thousand years ago, was the origin of the Biblical flood myth.

Over the years since then, archaeologists and other specialists have tried to debunk Ryan and Pitman’s theory, but no-one has been able to prove conclusively that they’re wrong.  Their theory remains the subject of a lot of academic debate.  Fuel was added to the fire by an expedition to the Black Sea in the early 2000’s, led by Robert Ballard, rediscoverer of the Titanic.  He made a TV documentary about that expedition.  As recently as 2012 he said:

“We went in there to look for the flood,” he said. “Not just a slow moving, advancing rise of sea level, but a really big flood that then stayed… The land that went under stayed under.”

Four hundred feet below the surface, they unearthed an ancient shoreline, proof to Ballard that a catastrophic event did happen in the Black Sea. By carbon dating shells found along the shoreline, Ballard said he believes they have established a timeline for that catastrophic event, which he estimates happened around 5,000 BC. Some experts believe this was around the time when Noah’s flood could have occurred.

“It probably was a bad day,” Ballard said. “At some magic moment, it broke through and flooded this place violently, and a lot of real estate, 150,000 square kilometers of land, went under.”

. . .

Ballard said he is aware that not everyone agrees with his conclusions about the time and size of the flood, but he’s confident he’s on the path to finding something from the biblical period.

“We started finding structures that looked like they were man-made structures,” Ballard said. “That’s where we are focusing our attention right now.”

. . .

Ballard does not think he will ever find Noah’s Ark, but he does think he may find evidence of a people whose entire world was washed away about 7,000 years ago. He and his team said they plan to return to Turkey next summer.

“It’s foolish to think you will ever find a ship,” Ballard said, referring to the Ark. “But can you find people who were living? Can you find their villages that are underwater now? And the answer is yes.”

There’s more at the link.

I was reminded of this by a New York Times article a few days ago, describing recent marine archaeology discoveries in the Bulgarian economic zone of the Black Sea.  The level of preservation of these shipwrecks is remarkable.  An expedition participant had this to say.

Professor Jon Adams, Founding Director of the University of Southampton’s Centre for Maritime Archaeology and Principle Investigator on the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project (Black Sea MAP) says: “We’re endeavouring to answer some hotly-debated questions about when the water level rose, how rapidly it did so and what effects it had on human populations living along this stretch of the Bulgarian coast of the Black Sea. As such, the primary focus of this project … is to carry out geophysical surveys to detect former land surfaces buried below the current sea bed, take core samples and characterise and date them, and create a palaeoenvironmental reconstruction of Black Sea prehistory.”

. . .

During these surveys, members of Black Sea MAP have also discovered and inspected a rare and remarkable ‘collection’ of more than 40 shipwrecks, many of which provide the first views of ship types known from historical sources, but never seen before. The wrecks, which include those from the Ottoman and Byzantine Empires, provide new data on the maritime interconnectivity of Black Sea coastal communities and manifest ways of life and seafaring that stretch back into prehistory.

Professor Adams comments: “The wrecks are a complete bonus, but a fascinating discovery, found during the course of our extensive geophysical surveys. They are astonishingly preserved due to the anoxic conditions (absence of oxygen) of the Black Sea below 150 metres.

“Using the latest 3D recording technique for underwater structures, we’ve been able to capture some astonishing images without disturbing the sea bed. We are now among the very best exponents of this practice methodology and certainly no-one has achieved models of this completeness on shipwrecks at these depths.”

Again, more at the link.

I’m fascinated to see how much is slowly coming to light about a previously neglected part of the seven seas.  Who knows?  Maybe they’ll prove the Flood hypothesis after all.  I’m sure both Gilgamesh and Noah would be pleased by that, if they’re watching from the hereafter.



  1. I've long been aware of stories about the Ararat anamoly…often claimed to be the remains of Noah's vessel, trapped "in the mountains of Ararat".

    However, I wasn't aware of the Black Sea Deluge hypothesis.

    This is, indeed, interesting.

  2. I saw a couple of natural history TV shows back to back that cemented that idea for me. They were on Discovery or NatGeo. The first talked about an enormous fresh water sea created by the run-off of the glacier melt on North America. One day it over-topped the terrain keeping it back and whoosh! a ridiculous amount of water run into the world ocean. The next program talked about the evidence of a catastrophic flood in the Black Sea basin. It's not just the Jews that have the flood story. All the old cultures in that area have the flood story. The Black Sea was a fresh water lake fed by the glacier run-off of central Asia. The living was good. Lots of villages set up around it. People growing crops and domesticating horses and aurochs. But, the Black Sea was below the level of the world ocean. One day, for some reason , the world ocean over-topped the terrain and started flooding into the basin, carving out the Bosporus Straight. The entire area was inundated permanently, the waters rising to the new much higher level of the world ocean. And that's why we have the story of the great Flood.

  3. ROFL…

    I just now (2:23 PM pacific) discovered that Joe Rogan is hosting THE SAME TWO GUESTS on a live stream on you tube at this very moment!

  4. I spent a year on Diogenes Station and Sinop AAF at Sinop, Turkey on the Black Sea. Flying over the Black Sea three or four times a week at anywhere from 500' to FL250. Could be calm or terrible, a lot like what I imagined the worst weather over the Great Lakes can be. "Interesting" naval ops occasionally although the (then) Soviets usually managed to stay hidden when they wanted. As an aside, many think that the Ark has been found on a mountain just east of Incirlik AB in SE Turkey and can be seen on left downwind for landing South. regards, Alemaster

  5. I read the same book, Peter, perhaps at about the same time, & found it fascinating. I think it's entirely a possible source of the flood legend. Others I've heard are flooding of the Tigris/Euphrates area, and even the original flooding of the Med (in the same fashion that Ryan & Pitman postulate for the Black Sea, but very much earlier).
    I remember reading about Ballard's discoveries & thinking back to R&P's book.
    Somehow my acquaintances think I'm missing out on entertainment, just because I don't watch TV!
    Great post, but I've come to expect such pretty often on this blog (no pressure or anything).
    –Tennessee Budd

  6. …except flood myths are world wide and not just local to the med/cradle region. there is very good evidence that a comet or asteroid impacted the North American ice sheet 12,800ya and caused destruction and flood of "biblical proportions". one of the biggest mysteries of paleoarchaeology is why were all of the Pleistocene mega fauna wiped out(35 genera of mammals), everywhere, when they had been so successful for so long (not to mention the çlovis people). there is a line called 'the black mat' that separates the Pleistocene/Holocene boundary that is a carbon layer as if there was a planet wide fire. see jim Kennett and Richard firestone. their research explains many things from extinctions to the scablands…plus, with a 300-400 foot world wide sea level rise and millions of square kilometers of formerly dry land (for 10s of thousands of years) under water there could very well be a submerged civilization of the ice age like all the myths say.

  7. Just so long as they don't open and Stygian coffers they may stumble across, this research should be safe enough:-).

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