for National Geographic News
The flood that is said to have inspired the story of Noah's Ark may also have sparked the rapid rise of agriculture in Europe, a new study says.
Scientists have speculated for some time that the biblical account of Noah's flood was rooted in a real event thousands of years ago.
(Read about archaeologist Bob Ballard's search for Noah's flood.)
One theory is that it could have been a flooding of the Black Sea, an inland sea wedged between southeastern Europe and the Anatolian peninsula. (See a map of Europe.)
Such a flood could have been caused by the melting about 8,000 years ago of a gigantic ice sheet that once covered most of North America.
The deluge may have also contributed to an explosion in European agriculture—especially throughout inland regions near the Black Sea, where farms were previously scarce, the researchers found.
Dating the Flood
In 1997 geologists William Ryan and Walter Pitman of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University in Palisades, New York, argued that the Black Sea had once been a freshwater lake.
Then, as the last ice age ended and sea level rose, the Mediterranean Sea surged over a strip of land known as the Bosporus sill, which is part of modern-day Turkey, and into the Black Sea.
The geologists based their controversial claim on sonar maps, which showed old shorelines buried beneath the mud, 295 to 328 feet (90 to 100 meters) below the surface of today's Black Sea.
They also found perfectly preserved dunes, suggesting that submergence had been quick, as well as freshwater and marine shells in mud cores.
In the new study, researchers looked at the ages of the youngest freshwater shells and the oldest marine shells found in mud cores.
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