Noah's Flood: The New Scientific Discoveries About the Event That Changed History Paperback – 3 Jan 2000
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The authors do a good job of ranging across disciplines (hydrography, paleology, comparitive linguistics, anthropology etc) to assemble a compelling array of evidence in support of the thesis, much of it only gathered since the fall of the Berlin Wall has permitted increased collaboration between scientists in the US and the former USSR.
Unfortunately the general tenor of the writing frequently falls into an irritatingly breathless narrative account of the work of the various scientists who feature in the story. For example whilst the Cold War tensions that made hydrographic surveys of the Black Sea a fraught process before the 1990s are a valid point to be covered, they don't need several pages of prose (and a cheesy full page illustration) describing a hydrographic survey vessel being buzzed and shadowed by Soviet forces in the 60s. This sort of thing recurrs in most of the chapters of the book. I also found the regular reiteration of points made a few chapters before superfluous. Its as if the authors are worried that the points they have to make aren't interesting enough to stand on their own two feet (which is most definitely not the case), but must be bolstered by pictures, 'Boys Own Paper'-esque digressions and reminders of what has gone before. Perhaps this is necessary to hook an MTV-watching teen, but as far as I'm concerned anyone interested enough to start reading this sort of book doesn't need the hand-holding that the authors, or their editors, think they need.
There is also little discussion of alternative explanations for this evidence - which is perhaps an unfair criticism for a book of popular science which is very much advocating a position. Of course this absence may because there are no alternatives, I'm not qualified to say; but from what I know of paleaoantrhopology I'd be suprised if someone hasn't tried to refute these ideas over the last decade and some discussion of these alternatives would have been useful.
As it is I feel that this is a very interesting subject that could have been covered in half the space, leaving the other half of the book for a deeper exploration of the implications of the thesis or a consideration of some alternatives (if they have been proposed).
The poor execution would normally warrant 2 stars, but the fundamental interest of the subject gets it another star from me.
Based on scientific arguments, Ryan and Piton hypothesize that the origins of the first known civilizations derive from the Black Sea basin. The Black Sea, having once been a fresh water lake and the single largest available source of potable water available on the Eurasian land mass, was the likely homeland of the ancestors of those who eventually founded the civilizations in Mesopotamia, Anatolia, Egypt and beyond. Geological and fossil evidence suggest that the depth of this fresh water lake was approximately 400 feet shallower than its present depth. At some point around 5500 BC, the dam broke that prevented the waters of the Mediterranean from mixing with this fresh water lake. Ryan and Pitman argue that this flooding happened rapidly forcing any inhabits to permanently evacuate the region.
The book is intriguing and reads like a suspense novel. At times, though. it is written in highly technical jargon (such as the use of the word "tsunami" --why don't they just say "tidal wave" if they are seeking to appeal to a mass audience?). Also annoying is the tendency of Ryan and Pitman to refer to themselves in the third person --as Ryan and Pitman, instead of acknowledging that they themselves are the authors. I think it would have been even more accessible had they simply said "we believe...".
Perhaps the most refreshing aspect of Ryan and Pitman's theory is that they recognize it as such. "Short of finding the remains of Neolithic settlements beneath the mud of the present Black Sea shelf, no archeological observation can prove a human occupation of the now submerged landscape." Indeed, they challenge future marine archeologists to search "the drowned remains" for the archeological evidence that would support their theory.
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