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on 24 November 2015
didn't like it. not much detail about the flood but lots about who did this and who did that and the ships and the rigging etc. I was hoping for much more evidence which only really appears late in the book and then its a theory.
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on 8 March 2000
Like many hypotheses, the basic contention is very simple. That the middle-eastern flood myths are rooted in a real event - a catastrophic breach through the Dardannelles that led to the Mediterranean flooding the Black Sea basin in a geological instant (a year or so). This flood replaced the shrinking freshwater lake that had been there, with the much larger saltwater body that we know today and displaced the agricultural communities resident on the shorelines of this lake - south into Anatolia and the fertile crescent, north into Europe and the central asian steppe.
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.
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on 17 December 2015
Excellent well argued text with good evidence for the catastrophic biblical flood.
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on 6 April 2001
This brilliant book is intellectually rich, melding together seamlessly such diverse disciplines as oceanography, geophysics, marine biology, genetics, archeology, geology, history, linguistics, and mythology.
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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HALL OF FAMEon 13 April 2005
Imagine standing on a the crest of a long hill. To one side is a broad, deep valley, a lake glistening in the morning sun. On the other side is the sea, the wind whipping the surf against the hill. One large wave sweeps up the beach into a cleft. Seawater pushes over the top, cascading into the valley, 150 metres below. Following waves enlarge the opening - within hours there's a steady flow of seawater. In days, the cascade is a deafening roar and the distant lake is rising 15 cm per day. People are fleeing as villages and fields are swept away or drowned forever. It's an event you will recount to your grandchildren.
This is the scenario postulated by Ryan and Pitman that transpired less than seven thousand years ago. The Ice Age, they remind us, tied up immense amonts of sea water, dropping coastlines and leaving lowlands isolated. The cold, dry air spilling off the glaciers swept over a freshwater lake northeast of the Mediterranean Sea. The lake evaporated faster than the rivers feeding it could replace. Ultimately, the lake's surface was far below sea level, but the sea was restrained by a land barrier. Once breached, the salty ocean water poured through what is now the Bosphorus to flood the lake's basin. At its height, the flow must have been ten times that of Niagra Falls and gushed through the break at over 70 kph. Evacuation of settlements scattered populations in many directions. The Tigris-Euphrates valley provided one major refuge. There, people settled and the story of the great flooding would have been paramount in their legends.
The revelation of how a flood myth became so important in the arid lands of Mesopotamia and Palestine was slow in exposure. The authors narrate the explorations of early researchers in these areas. Among the many revelations was that the Noachean Flood myth of the Hebrew Bible was actually taken from Babylonian sources during the Jewish Exile. Why should a desert people have a story about the inundation of the entire world? Ryan and Pitman relate how samples from the sea floor sediments indicate a bizarre and sudden shift in ancient sea life offered the first clues. It took high technology to reveal the details, the authors note, but hints were visible to those who knew how to look. Small boats still hang rock-filled nets deep into the waters of the Bosphorus because the deep, northward-flowing currents can pull small boats to the Black Sea against the surface water coming out of it.
This is an excellent account of how scientific detective work merged with innovative thinking. The methods of investigation are well-detailed and the analyses explained clearly. The writers even studied the methods of passing oral traditions and how basic themes persist even when presentation style and emphasis may change. There are excellent maps and the illustrations are "personalised" by transforming photographs into drawings. The footnotes are page-referenced, making sources easily understood by the reader new to the topics, although a full bibliography would have enhanced the work. Since this book was published, support for the thesis has come from the finding of human habitation deep underwater along the Turkish Black Sea coast. On the other hand, a research team has challenged the idea of the Aegean Sea flooding the Black Sea, proposing that the process was reversed. Such is the delightful experience of reading science! [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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on 24 April 2016
What a struggle to get through this book. I was drawn to the topic but I really dislike the way it is handled. The authors who annoyingly talk about themselves in the third person all the time deem it necessary to put in many pretentious overblown pseudo-literary passages that are hardly relevant to the story. I guess about half the book could safely be discarded without any diminishing of the story line. In other words half of the book is unncessary filler that just seems to be there to make it a normal sized book instead of a rather slim one. I first got acquainted with this theory through an article in the National Geographic. In hindsight that really was enough information. I kept struggling through in the hope it would get better in the end, but imo it didn't. I am not qualified to discuss the scientific background and underpinnings of this theory, I can only say how the presentation strikes me. I have to trust these guys know what they are talking about but I would have preferred to have a much more straightforward way of putting it. Don't bother.
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on 22 November 2014
Stunning. Increasingly it is clear that there was a Universal Flood - it's called the post Ice Age and it took place around 12,000 years ago & the world (their world not ours) was consumed in a deluge. What was their world? Dogger Bank; the Black Sea etc... Their local world disappeared and characters of various titles/names are credited with survival. This book deals with the inundation of the Black Sea from the Mediterranean. Ryan and Pitman provide a convincing explanation for the roots of the Old Testament story - though the wider effects of global ocean lift clearly provide alternatives. They posit a possible connection between the event and the creation of the Biblical account - geographically speaking. I have to say, I tend to accept, for now, that this is the source for friend Noah and his wooden ship. Noah's Flood is that convincing.
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HALL OF FAMEon 29 July 2004
In NOAH'S FLOOD, oceanographers turned authors William Ryan and Walter Pitman propose an alternative scenario to Noah's tempest in a teapot.
With the help of other scientific disciplines - archeology, linguistics, geology, climatology, biology, paleoanthropology, paleography, paleontology - Ryan and Pitman hypothesize that the Great Flood tale in the Book of Genesis, as well as similar myths in older cultures, actually had as its source an apocalyptic flooding of the freshwater New Euxine Lake around 5,600 BC when the Adriatic, 500 feet above the lake, broke through the Bosporus isthmus and poured seawater into the former at a rate of ten cubic miles per day for at least a year, raising the lake's level six inches per day over that period, and forming the present-day Black Sea over perhaps two years. The water bill for that one must have been astronomical; don't try this at home.
The authors argue their case methodically. First, they describe a proven precedent, i.e. when the Atlantic breached the junction of North Africa and Spain at Gibraltar roughly 5 million years ago to flood a vast desert and create the Mediterranean. Second, they present data derived from underwater sonar scans and seabed core sampling that give evidence of a Black Sea basin that was originally a glacial melt-water repository, which subsequently shrunk through evaporation until it was those hundreds of feet below an Adriatic Sea swelling (like the rest of the Earth's oceans at the time) with that same glacial runoff. Third, they postulate the nature of the human residents that bore witness to the inundation of their lakeside homes and fields and subsequently fled towards all points of the compass to higher ground. And, more importantly, how the collective memories of the event were preserved and transmitted down through subsequent centuries in oral and written tradition. How far did those refugees flee? Amazingly, Ryan and Pitman have them and their immediate descendents traveling as far west as Paris, as far south as Egypt, and as far east as Chinese Turkestan.
The book included a few small maps, which were adequate, and some scattered drawings, some apparently based on photographs, that were pretty much useless as illustrative aids.
NOAH'S FLOOD is a fascinating and convincing exposition, especially if you don't take the Bible's Noah as "gospel" and you haven't been exposed to any other scientific explanation of the event. (I don't and haven't, and don't intend to ponder further an ancient people's mad rush to the boats. One credible explanation is satisfying enough. I'll leave the controversy surrounding the Ryan-Pitman theory to the theologians, historians, and scientists, who have turf to defend to the death.)
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on 16 September 2014
This is a very interesting book but has not made up its mind whether it is a serious scientific paper or a piece of journalism. The actual fascinating story of how the Mediterranean poured into the Black Sea does not need so much distracting stuff as "he circled the lecture on his calendar with a fat felt tip pen" or "he shook the drops from his umbrella as he entered the hall" or pages and pages ot highly technical information incomprehensible and boring to the lay reader. If there is another edition I hope the authors would reduce it by half.
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on 17 February 2013
The book is interesting from the point of view of the evidence for great floods of the Mediterannean and Black seas, but the severity of Noah`s Flood was far mor world wide which does not come through with this tale.
Compare Charles Hapgood`s "Path of the Pole" and the theory of a major Earth crust movement and then you can appreciate that the resulting devastation caused by the resulting Tsinamis etc would be a nearer representation of the world wide event recorded by many regions in history.
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