Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Did "Noah's flood" trigger European farming?

There is considerable debate amongst researchers about whether there was an actual flood that became the basis of Noah's flood story. One hypothesis is that the Black Sea got flooded about 8000 years ago, and that this may be the source of the legend. Now it appears that the same flood may also have triggered farming in Europe:
The flood believed to be behind the Noah’s Ark myth kick-started European agriculture, according to new research by the Universities of Exeter, UK 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.
And its is pretty cool that Black Sea used to be a fresh water lake:
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.
Read the full story here.

And while at it, please read this (hilarious) story of Donald Duck being expelled from Noah's ark. Apparently the Ark story in Disney's Fantasia 2000, featuring Donald Duck, strays too far from the Biblical account (watch a clip of Fantasia 2000 showing the ark story - its only six minutes long and is quite entertaining; did Noah really outsource his work to DD??). But may be the criticism is justified - after all, there is no strong evidence that there was indeed a historical Donald Duck. The jury, I think, is still out on this.