by Tas Walker

In the late 1990s, two marine geologists, William Ryan and Walter Pitman, claimed to have found evidence that there was a catastrophic flooding of the Black Sea area about 7,600 years ago.1 Their idea became well known when they alleged that their Black Sea flood was the source of ancient flood legends and in particular, the account of Noah’s Flood as recorded in the Bible.2 Indeed, this speculative claim has proved remarkably popular in television documentaries, books, journals and lectures,3–8 which is probably why they made the claim.

Earlier examinations of the claims of Ryan and Pitman concluded that, even if there was a catastrophic flooding of the Black Sea, it was definitely not the Flood of Noah.9–11 If the Black Sea flood did occur, it would not have been 7,600 years ago but more likely around 1650 BC. We based our analysis on the account of Noah’s Flood in the Bible, including the chronological information recorded there, and creationist models of the post-Flood Ice Age. From the limited geological evidence Ryan and Pitman presented, we felt that they had made a good case for a sudden drowning of the Black Sea and we had no reason at the time to challenge that conclusion. 

Now, an international research team have reported additional geological findings from the region and conclude that there never was a catastrophic flooding of the Black Sea as Ryan and Pitman proposed. 12,13 It seems that the whole idea of a Black Sea flood may evaporate completely.

The Black Sea Flood hypothesis

According to Ryan and Pitman’s hypothesis, the Black Sea was originally a freshwater lake, some 110 m lower than today and isolated from the Mediterranean Sea by a land ridge across Bosporus Strait (Figure 1). Supposedly, about 7,600 years ago, rising water levels in the Mediterranean Sea breached this land barrier and flowed catastrophically into the Black Sea, rapidly raising it to its present level. The force of the watery cascade is alleged to have swept away the soil and debris and excavated the channel now called Bosporus Strait. Forty cubic kilometres of Mediterranean water is envisaged to have poured through the channel and into the Black Sea every day (two hundred times what flows over Niagara Falls), raising the level of the Black Sea and inundating kilometres of shoreline. By linking this event and the subsequent displacement of human settlement to Noah’s Flood in the Bible, Ryan and Pitman caught the popular imagination. In their view, the biblical record of the Flood is an embellished, distorted account of their Black Sea flood….

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