This fascinating book investigates a lost culture that thrived in northern Turkey before an inundation in 5600BC turned a freshwater lake into what is now the Black Sea by connecting it to the Mediterranean. Such a cataclysmic event must have caused major destruction and caused the death of thousands of people. It would also not have been restricted to the area under consideration.
By looking at the archaeological evidence brought to light by Robert Ballard's submarine explorations and by comparing the flood myths of the world, Wilson connects this disaster with the Biblical account of the Great Flood. He demonstrates that the Biblical account is composed of two different texts that were integrated, texts that he calls J and P. The opening part of original separate strands are displayed side by side. I found this very interesting; each of them is coherent in its own right but has a different emphasis. Both are in fact more coherent on their own than integrated as in the Bible.
Wilson suggests that Turkey and the Black Sea area may be the real cradle of civilization. It was the first Post Ice Age civilization and it flourished until about 6000BC. The metropolis of this culture was what is today called Çatal Hüyük, a city that was abandoned around this time, most probably because of climate change. It gets really interesting when he looks at the diaspora caused by these natural disasters; Wilson points out shared characteristics of the Minoan culture and the megaliths on the islands of Malta and Gozo. This includes the worship of bulls and the prevalence of the Mother Goddess which is found over an even larger geographic area.
There are far flung cultures displaying similarities to traits found at Çatal Hüyük, including in Egypt and Sumeria. I found his discussion of loan words in Sumerian very enlightening. Although Wilson is not a linguist, I would have liked a deeper exploration of historical linguistics to cast more light on the matter. He does look at the work of Indo-Europeanists Marija Gimbutas and Colin Renfrew. According to the consensus, the original Indo-European language is considered to have broken up into daughter languages between about 5000 and 4000BC.
Another puzzle is why the Indo-European and Semitic parent languages share so many common vocabulary items. Looking at the bigger picture of the Nostratic (or Eurasiatic according to Joseph Greenberg) language family, one finds that there is a great structural similarity between Indo-European, Uralic-Yukagir and even Eskimo, but relatively few shared vocabulary items, the fewer the further North and Northwest you from the Black Sea/Caucasus area. Semitic (a member of the large Afro-Asiatic family) and Indo-European display fundamental structural differences, but share certain phenomena that are clearly linked across their family lines, including key words for concepts like "full, horn, ear, eye, bull, earth."
Wilson refers extensively to the work of Dr James Mellaart, the excavator of Çatal Hüyük. This theory of an original civilization in the Anatolian/Black Sea area before Egypt and before Sumeria is highly original and very plausible. Wilson is just scratching the surface and further investigation would no doubt lead to more remarkable discoveries. According to the Good Book, there is no end to many books. In this case, the more the merrier.
This is a bold direction and needs an interdisciplinary approach. It would be of great value if the author incorporates the work of linguists like Greenberg and Merritt Ruhlen in his further writings. The book concludes with notes & references, a bibliography, an appendix of some key documents and an index. The text is illumed by some really gripping maps and illustrations. I would not classify Before The Flood as "alternative history" - rather the cutting edge of historical research, already underpinned by significant archaeological discoveries.