Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Flood Stories

An article recently in the Huffington Post touched on a few issues I have pondered for some time. Dr. Ballard's discovery of ancient coastlines and fresh water crustacean remains in what must have once been fresh water lake beds, certainly raises the likelihood that the coastline was once some distance and a few hundred feet lower than it is now in the Black Sea.

There are a number of accounts of a 'great flood' occuring in folk stories, many of which coming down to us in oral and mythological accounts recorded by several cultures. Most of us are familiar with the story of Noah in Genesis, but there are similarities to this story in Mesopotamia, India, China and even in the Americas. Most mention a person and sometimes persons building ships and taking aboard a number of animals. In the Biblical account the Ark takes aboard a pair of every living creature and tells the reader that from this single family and the shipload of animals all subsequent life is decended. Dr. Ballard professes to believe that such a flood did occur at the end of the last Ice Age and that the Biblical account is an account of a survivor from the moment, around 12,000 years ago, when the rising level in the Mediterranean finally cut a path through what is now the Bosphorus and flooded the Black Sea basin.

As I mentioned in a previous post, there is a lot of geological and other evidence that the Mediterranean sea level was much lower during the Ice Age than it is now. If we go back even further, we find that the water level was once several hundred feet lower and that there was a landbridge where the Straits of Gibraltar are now.

What Dr. Ballard's survey of the Northern Turkish coast has turned up is a large number of undisturbed wrecks from the period 100 BC to 600 AD and a few sites that archeologists describe as "ambiguous" because the materials recovered could have been deposited there by storms. What is much more difficult to explain is the presence of stone structures at least 100 feet below the present seal level. Unless we plan to revive a belief in Merman and Merwomen, we have to accept that these areas were once above the water level and built by early human farmers.

So, where does this take the story of Noah and the Ark? Essentially it confirms that there was a catastrophic flood and that some escaped by building a boat large enough to carry them and the animals and supplies they needed for survival. the sheer volume of water that must have cascaded over the breach in the Bosphorus would have thrown up a spray cloud of enormous proportions and to an eye witness unaware of what was driving it might well have believed it to be "rain." That it would have been salt as well may well have convinced him of it being the "end of the world."

Could a 'ship' with the proportions of the Ark have been built at this time? Since we know the Chinese built ships of bamboo several times the size of anything any western maritime nation could build in the 15th to 19th Centuries (our construction techniques limited the size of a wooden ship to no more than around 280 feet in length), the chance are that it was possible. However, it is more likely that the writers of Genesis (written down from several oral sources around 400 BC) drew on ships they knew and just scaled upwards to fit the 'cargo' into it. My guess would be that the "Ark" may well have been more raft-like and carried Noah, his family and servants and their domestic animals and the expansion to include everything else is probably an accretion - though it does appear in a few other accounts as well.

I look forward to Dr. Ballard's next excursion to examine the sites he and his team have now identified. Hopefully it will inspire others to look at some of the other mysetrious underwater sites that have been identified since sonar has been developed and refined in the last fifty years. Will what he discovers change my view of the Bible as the foundation of my faith? No, for it will confirm that the "flood stories" have a foundation in reality and that, in turn, confirms the historic foundations of stories gathered, and in places 'embellished' and 'enlarged' for particular audiences at particular times, but essentially founded in fact.

It is my belief that much of what Dr. Ballard may turn up will advance our knowledge of the growth of civilisation and of religion in ways we can't yet imagine, and it will, in the end, be good.

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