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Noah's Flood: The New Scientific Discoveries About the Event that Changed History

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Over the millennia, the legend of a great deluge has endured in the biblical story of Noah and in such Middle Eastern myths as the epic of Gilgamesh. Now two distinguished geophysicists have... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

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Not a babbling brook

Imagine standing on a the crest of a long hill. To one side is a broad, deep valley, a lake glistening in the morning sun. On the other side is the sea, the wind whipping the surf against the hill. One large wave sweeps up the beach into a cleft. Seawater pushes over the top, cascading into the valley, 150 metres below. Following waves enlarge the opening - within hours there's a steady flow of seawater. In days, the cascade is a deafening roar and the distant lake is rising 15 cm per day. People are fleeing as villages and fields are swept away or drowned forever. It's an event you will recount to your grandchildren. This is the scenario postulated by Ryan and Pitman that transpired less than seven thousand years ago. The Ice Age, they remind us, tied up immense amonts of sea water, dropping coastlines and leaving lowlands isolated. The cold, dry air spilling off the glaciers swept over a freshwater lake northeast of the Mediterranean Sea. The lake evaporated faster than the rivers feeding it could replace. Ultimately, the lake's surface was far below sea level, but the sea was restrained by a land barrier. Once breached, the salty ocean water poured through what is now the Bosphorus to flood the lake's basin. At its height, the flow must have been ten times that of Niagra Falls and gushed through the break at over 70 kph. Evacuation of settlements scattered populations in many directions. The Tigris-Euphrates valley provided one major refuge. There, people settled and the story of the great flooding would have been paramount in their legends. The revelation of how a flood myth became so important in the arid lands of Mesopotamia and Palestine was slow in exposure. The authors narrate the explorations of early researchers in these areas. Among the many revelations was that the Noachean Flood myth of the Hebrew Bible was actually taken from Babylonian sources during the Jewish Exile. Why should a desert people have a story about the inundation of the entire world? Ryan and Pitman relate how samples from the sea floor sediments indicate a bizarre and sudden shift in ancient sea life offered the first clues. It took high technology to reveal the details, the authors note, but hints were visible to those who knew how to look. Small boats still hang rock-filled nets deep into the waters of the Bosphorus because the deep, northward-flowing currents can pull small boats to the Black Sea against the surface water coming out of it. This is an excellent account of how scientific detective work merged with innovative thinking. The methods of investigation are well-detailed and the analyses explained clearly. The writers even studied the methods of passing oral traditions and how basic themes persist even when presentation style and emphasis may change. There are excellent maps and the illustrations are "personalised" by transforming photographs into drawings. The footnotes are page-referenced, making sources easily understoo

An epic adventure within an epic's origins

Near the end of their chronicle of the discovery of the catastrophic Black Sea flood, authors Pitman & Ryan quote another researcher's wonder at the power of the oral tradition. The quote, from Albert Lord's analysis of the Trojan War epic, speaks to Pitman's and Ryan's research and their part in the oral tradition.In truth, the story of the Black Sea covers more than plate tectonics, glaciation, human evolution or ten cubic miles of water flowing through a narrow channel in less than a day over seven thousand years ago. The neat trick with this book is that the authors have managed to include all that and more. There are really two stories here. One is about the evolution of the human species from the Pleistocene to the present day, told in scientific language with scientific explanations for the actions & discoveries of the story's scientific participants. The other story is an epic tale of crafty researchers, cooperating scientists, story-tellers, myths and legends, told in skillfully written & documented prose that sweeps the reader along in the current of human successes, failures & terrors.Beginning with Rawlinson's work in 1835 on a monument in Persia, Pitman & Ryan weave the reader through a fabric of time that is, as Lord is quoted saying, a past "of various times . . . assembled into the present performance." Using this motif, the authors introduce themselves only as two participants in a story of discovery, narrated by a fictive bard who is present only in the words. However the authors' parts in the discovery of the Black Sea flood event deserves respect. Meanwhile they have written a book that shows the respect they have for all who have been part of the story. Most importantly, they also have not forgotten the story itself. In the final chapters Ryan & Pitman review the Black Sea's effect on history from the geological, genetic, linguistic and archeological evidence. They then compare this evidence with the numerous universal flood legends. Ryan & Pitman show how the power of the historical and geological event that created the Black Sea is the power behind the oral tradition. They then close the last chapter with the final lines of the story of Atrahasis: "I shall sing of the flood to all people! Listen!" Most intriguing of all the information in this book is a dedication that includes a quote from the Gilgamesh epic. The dedication reveals the epic nature of the science and the mythos involved the Black Sea. It shows the sensitivity that the authors have for a legend and event that made humanity the species smart enough to wonder why and sensitive enough to pursue the wonder of life itself.Whether you're interested in the science or the myth, Noah's Flood is a marvelous read. Clearly written, scientifically concise, sensitive to the human heritage in the rise of agriculture, language & story, it is worth the time you'll take in reading it. And you'll gain a sense for timeless wonder of the story within the words.

Archeology as Detective Story

Archeology is not one of my major interests, yet I found this book both fascinating and compelling; Pitman has created a compelling narrative, combining historical, archeological and scientific discoveries. The story begins with the discovery and translation in the early 19th century of the ancient Persian histories and legends. One of these- the legend of Gilgamesh, an ancient Persian king- stunned the Western world with its tale of a great flood that closely paralled the Biblical flood told of in Genesis. The second piece of the puzzle came from geological research in the 1960s and 70s. This was the stunning discovery that the Mediterranean was once a desert that had been turned into a sea in one cataclysmic event. This in turn suggested that there may well have been other such events during the time of human habitation, including one massive flooding that was the basis of all the flood stories found in all the cultures of Europe and Asia.Starting from that discovery, the authors explore the geological, historical and linguistic data in search of the event or events that became the basis for all flood legends of the Mideast, and explore the possibility that it was just such a flood that motivated a great exodus of people that eventually populated areas as far away as Western Europe and China. The authors have been deeply involved in this research from the beginning, with one (Ryan) having been aboard the Glomar Challanger in the 1970s when the evidence of the great Mediterranean deluge was discovered. They do an excellent job not only of explaining the scientific data, but of sharing the real excitement of discovery that they have felt. Highly recommended for students of geology, archeology, ancient history, classics and biblical studies, as well as the casual educated reader looking for an excellent tale of scientific and historical discovery.

Reads like the great mystery it is...

This book addresses one of the oldest mysteries in the world, the "flood" story from the Bible. Some people view the Bible quite literally, while others see the writings as metaphore or allegory. As a social scientist and former church school teacher, I have come to believe Bible stories have a mythical quality (in the sociological sense -- designed to instill a code of behavior and promote the cohesion of a people), but also have a basis in fact, however altered by time. Archeologists have discovered evidence that many events depicted in the Bible do indeed have a basis in reality. Historians and linguists have shown written text reflects the writers' beliefs and interpretation of events, as well as the constraints of language. For example, it seems the city walls fell as a result of the 'Battle of Jerico' but they may have been demolished when the city was sacked. Those who told the story (likely scribes and priests, not soldiers) saw the hand of God at work and reflected this in their depiction of the events. Many have searched for the remains of Noah's Ark, but the flood story has always seemed one of the most tenuous and least likely of Bible events to have left a material record. Evidence of past floods and shifting land masses, that might have formed a basis for the Bible story, reflect events that happened before humans were around to act as witnesses. William Ryan and Walter Pitman tell the story of how they inductively arrived at their hypothesis, and then assembled a great deal of evidence to support it -- that a very big flood occurred in the area of the Black Sea about 7,5000 years ago (within the memory of humankind) and this flood may be the basis for the Noah story.This book reads like a mystery novel. The main characters are the scientists themselves, first rate detectives taking note of odd coincidences, and then actively searching for answers. I have stood on the southern coast of Spain near Tarifa and looked across at the mountains of Northern Africa -- so close you feel you could touch them. I can see how the pounding waves of the Atlantic eventually eroded the rock formations, and the cold waters rushed through into the Mediterranean Basin. It doesn't take much imagination to see the same thing could have happened where the Bosporus connects the Black Sea to the Mediterranean -- especially if the ice caps had melted and raised the sea level. A great deal of information not presented in this book supports the theory these scientists put forth. Undoubtedly, they will go on to assemble new material and hopefully write a second book.

Adds Vital Understandings To Indo-European Cultures

For a long time now, linguistics has recognized that languages throughout a broad region of the world, from India through Western Europe, all shared a common root language. What was missing was a decent explanation for how this commonality came about.Ryan & Pitman begin decades ago with a friend's suggestion that there might be an actual cataclysmic event behind the story of Noah's flood. No event known at that time seemed to fit the known facts. The first two-thirds of this book relates their story of how decades of seabed research by numerous scientists from several nations leads to the inescapable conclusion of just the right sort of cataclysmic flood of the Black Sea occurring about 7,500 years ago.In the final third of this book, Ryan & Pitman collect the work of a diverse group of scientists far outside of their own areas of specialization. Taken together, the body of work summarized by Ryan & Pitman provides a convincing first theory of how the population dispersal caused by this flood could have led to the broad distribution of various common cultural elements, like the Indo-European language group, styles of pottery, methods of farming, and so forth.Ryan & Pitman clearly indicate that this last third of their book is collected from the works of other scientists. Accordingly, it is totally unfair to criticize this part of their book as either "outside of their areas of expertise" or even "totally lacking in any scientific foundation." The scientists whose work is presented in this last third of this book are all well-respected experts in their own specialties. If further support is required for the theories presented in this part, an inquiring mind should look to the works of those clearly-identified scientists whose works are summarized by Ryan & Pitman.In future times, anybody wondering just how we got to be who we are today will be forced to take into account the Great Black Sea Flood. It clearly had an incalculable effect on the development of nankind.Ryan & Pitman are to be commended for their discovery and their overview of its probable impact. I'm sure future scientists will find Black Sea flood-related research to be a fertile ground for seeking even more insights as to exactly who we are and how we got to be here.
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