The story of a “Great Flood” sent by God (or gods according to much earlier testimony) to destroy humanity for its sins is a widespread account shared by many religions and cultures around the world, and dates back to our earliest recorded history. From India to ancient Greece, Mesopotamia and even among North American Indian tribes, there is no shortage of such tales that often enough sound very much alike. Some of these stories truly sound so similar that one could wonder whether all cultures around the planet had experienced such an event.
Can it be that all flood accounts so zealously repeated around the world are a collection of myths or isolated incidents, as the mainstream academia maintains? Or was the Great Flood a single worldwide cataclysm that affected all humanity at one point during our prehistory?
While small, isolated disasters can stress and frighten affected populations equally, their overall effect is short-lived, and they often fade from memory within decades, if not years. In the case of the Great Flood, however, we have a story that seems to have no boundaries and one that every culture insists on its worldwide nature. How big and how destructive though, must have been such a disaster that it managed to sear itself into our ancestors’ collective memory for thousands of years? Judging by the shared testimony, this must not only have been an event that affected everyone simultaneously, but in order for it to have become a permanent fixture in the human psyche, it must have been an experience that persisted not only for days or months, but for several generations.
The Rising Oceans
If not an isolated incident, though, what known worldwide catastrophe qualifies to be called the Great Flood? Without a doubt the significant rise of the oceans—a worldwide disaster that at the end of the last Ice Age erased millions of square miles of dry land around the planet—must have been the doomsday event every culture to this day inadvertently is talking about. More particularly, it was the abrupt rise of the oceans around 8000 BC which ultimately led to the flooding of the Mediterranean first, and finally to the flooding of the Black Sea. (Note: Although in 1997 William Ryan and Walter Pitman suggested that the flood of the Black Sea took place around 5600 BC, a later study in 2005 sponsored by UNESCO confirmed that the incident took place much earlier in time and closer to 8000 BC).
The Great Flood (circa 1450) ( Public Domain )
The rise of the oceans was that single, long-lasting event which drastically reshaped the coastlines of our planet and the one which simultaneously affected every coastal civilization around the world at the time. Even when at first look, the gradual rise of the oceans does not seem to meet the criteria as the event behind the legend of the Great Flood, an incident responsible for the sea level to rise globally by more than 400 feet, surely had many random episodes when the flooding was absolutely unpredictable. When considering that humans, by nature, tend to settle in lower elevations and near water, it leaves no doubt that all prehistoric civilizations were totally devastated by this event.
A recent study published in Science News (December 4, 2010) titled “Global Sea-Level Rise at the End of the Last Ice Age Interrupted by Rapid Jumps” better explains that after the end of the last ice age, from around 17000 BC through 4000 BC, sea levels (on average) rose by one meter (3.2 feet) per century. However, the study also indicated that this gradual rise of the seas was marked by abrupt jumps of sea level at a rate of about five meters per century (16.4 feet). More precisely, the study showed that the periods between 13000 BC and 11000 BC, as well as between 9000 BC and 7000 BC, were characterized by abnormal sea-level rise.
When studying closer the abrupt climatic changes during the last 18,000 years, the time between 9000 BC and 7000 BC is of particular interest. As the glaciers began to melt over thousands of years prior to this period, and the temperatures progressively began to increase with each passing century, thus causing the melting process to accelerate, we can easily presume that this must have been the most active period in sea-level rise. More accurately, the absolute worst period must have been the time around 8000 BC and the critical “flood cycle” that preceded the flooding of the Black Sea, which really marked the end of this violent period. (In fact, if past periodic ice ages and floods did not manage previously to add salinity into the fresh water of the Black Sea, then undoubtedly the last global flood around 8000 BC must have been the greatest flood of all time).
Around this period, in addition to all the glacier meltwater that heavily flowed into the Atlantic, two enormous glacial lakes in North America burst open, first Lake Agassiz and later Lake Ojibway, and began to drain into the northern Atlantic. Lake Agassiz alone, covering an area larger than all of the modern Great Lakes combined (440,000 square kilometers), at times it contained more water than all the lakes in the world today. It is estimated that the outburst flood caused by the collapse of Lake Agassiz alone may have been responsible for sea levels to rise globally by as much as nine feet. The total fresh water outflow from both lakes was so immense that not only quickly raised sea levels worldwide by several feet, but this incident may have ultimately caused the “8.2 kilo-year event” that followed approximately 8,200 years ago (a mini ice age that lasted up to four centuries).
Map of Glacial Lake Agassiz and Lake Ojibway ca 7900 YBP. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
It was during this time when most coastal civilizations around the planet were lost. The continuous, rapid rise of the sea during this period (by an average of six to nine meters [20 to 30 feet] per century or more), along with the adverse climatic conditions that accompanied this phenomenon, made it impossible for the remnants of any civilization to reestablish itself.
The Return of Humanity
Only after 7000 BC when the ocean levels finally began stabilizing, human life once more began to return to normal. Coastal sites no longer had to be abandoned for higher ground, at least for the most part, and between 6000 BC and 5000 BC, once more, we begin to see signs of human activity closer to the sea. Is it a mere coincidence that our “recorded” history happens to start around this time? Is it true that early humans were too primitive to leave traces of their existence behind, or the early pages of our history were “washed away” by the Great Flood of the last ice age? After all, it seems that as soon as the adverse climatic conditions receded, it did not take long for humans to thrive once again.