'Noah's flood' kick-started European farming

November 19, 2007

The flood believed to be behind the Noah’s Ark myth kick-started European agriculture, according to new research by the Universities of Exeter and Wollongong, Australia.

Published in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews, the research paper assesses the impact of the collapse of the North American (Laurentide) Ice Sheet, 8000 years ago. The results indicate a catastrophic rise in global sea level led to the flooding of the Black Sea and drove dramatic social change across Europe. The research team argues that, in the face of rising sea levels driven by contemporary climate change, we can learn important lessons from the past.

The collapse of the Laurentide Ice Sheet released a deluge of water that increased global sea levels by up to 1.4 metres and caused the largest North Atlantic freshwater pulse of the last 100,000 years. Before this time, a ridge across the Bosporus Strait dammed the Mediterranean and kept the Black Sea as a freshwater lake. With the rise in sea level, the Bosporus Strait was breached, flooding the Black Sea. This event is now widely believed to be behind the various folk myths that led to the biblical Noah’s Ark story. Archaeological records show that around this time there was a sudden expansion of farming and pottery production across Europe, marking the end of the Mesolithic hunter-gatherer era and the start of the Neolithic. The link between rising sea levels and such massive social change has previously been unclear.

The researchers created reconstructions of the Mediterranean and Black Sea shoreline before and after the rise in sea levels. They estimated that nearly 73,000 square km of land was lost to the sea over a period of 34 years. Based on our knowledge of historical population levels, this could have led to the displacement of 145,000 people. Archaeological evidence shows that communities in southeast Europe were already practising early farming techniques and pottery production before the Flood. With the catastrophic rise in water levels it appears they moved west, taking their culture into areas inhabited by hunter-gatherer communities.

Professor Chris Turney of the University of Exeter’s School of Geography, Archaeology and Earth Resources, lead author of the paper, said: “People living in what is now southeast Europe must have felt as though the whole world had flooded. This could well have been the origin of the Noah’s Ark story. Entire coastal communities must have been displaced, forcing people to migrate in their thousands. As these agricultural communities moved west, they would have taken farming with them across Europe. It was a revolutionary time.”

The rise in global sea levels 8000 years ago is in-line with current estimates for the end of the 21st century. Professor Chris Turney continued: “This research shows how rising sea levels can cause massive social change. 8,000 years on, are we any better placed to deal with rising sea levels? The latest estimates suggest that by AD 2050, millions of people will be displaced each year by rising sea levels. For those people living in coastal communities, the omen isn’t good.”

Source: University of Exeter

Explore further: Researchers study the impact of saltwater intrusion on tidal wetlands

Related Stories

Undersea volcano called Kick 'em Jenny rumbling off Grenada

July 24, 2015

An active underwater volcano off Grenada's northern coast called Kick 'em Jenny was rumbling Thursday and regional disaster authorities were put on alert, though they said it posed no threat of triggering a destructive tsunami.

Controlling interactions between distant qubits

July 23, 2015

A big part of the burgeoning science of quantum computation is reliably storing and processing information in the form of quantum bits, or qubits. One of the obstacles to this goal is the difficulty of preserving the fragile ...

Predicting the shape of river deltas

July 22, 2015

The Mississippi River delta is a rich ecosystem of barrier islands, estuaries, and wetlands that's home to a diverse mix of wildlife—as well as more than 2 million people. Over the past few decades, the shape of the delta ...

Recommended for you

Study calculates the speed of ice formation

August 3, 2015

Researchers at Princeton University have for the first time directly calculated the rate at which water crystallizes into ice in a realistic computer model of water molecules. The simulations, which were carried out on supercomputers, ...

'Snowball earth' might be slushy

August 3, 2015

Imagine a world without liquid water—just solid ice in all directions. It would certainly not be a place that most life forms would like to live.

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Reaper6971
3 / 5 (2) Nov 19, 2007
LearmSceince
5 / 5 (1) Nov 19, 2007
Reaper: Interesting in itself, but what does it have to do with the Black Sea and climate change?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.