'Noah's flood' kick-started European farming

Nov 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: Asbestos likely more widespread than previously thought

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Researchers use ancient gene to study virus biology

16 hours ago

Researchers at the University of Delaware have discovered that an ancient gene—ribonucleotide reductase (RNR), which occurs in all cellular life—provides important biological insights into the characteristics ...

Rising sea levels of 1.8 meters in worst-case scenario

Oct 14, 2014

The climate is getting warmer, the ice sheets are melting and sea levels are rising – but how much? The report of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2013 was based on the best ...

Few US states preparing for climate change, study says

Oct 10, 2014

Fewer than half of American states are working to protect themselves from climate change, despite more detailed warnings from scientists that communities are already being damaged, according to a new online clearinghouse ...

Recommended for you

Understanding oceanic earthquake precursors

1 hour ago

Published on 14 September in Nature Geoscience, a study conducted by researchers from several institutes, including IFREMER (French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea), CNRS and IFSTTAR, offers the first theore ...

NASA image: Fires in the Egypt River Delta

16 hours ago

This NASA satellite image is of the Egyptian River Delta. Actively burning areas, detected by MODIS's thermal bands, are outlined in red. Each hot spot, which appears as a red mark, is an area where the thermal ...

Terra Satellite sees Tropical Storm Ana over Hawaii

16 hours ago

Tropical Storm Ana made a slow track west of the Hawaiian islands over the last couple of days, and by Oct. 20 was moving westward away from the main Hawaiian islands and heading toward the northwest Hawaiian ...

User comments : 2

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?