and colloquia

special events

and the deep sea
conference '02

toward a new
conference '99




An Abrupt Drowning of the Black Sea Shelf
Walter Pitman & William Ryan, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University
October 30, 1998

Bill Ryan - Neolithic flood in the Black Sea

During an Atlantis II cruise in the Black Sea in 1969, Degens and Ross found evidence of a flood. They surmised that the sea level change was only 30-40 m, assuming that the Bosporus was an ancient feature.

In 1972-74, Soviet scientists published results of sediment coring experiments along the north shore of the sea. These cores showed formerly exposed land existed at greater depths. The scientists also found evidence of deeply incised river channels. There was alluvial deposits, fluvial, and loess covering the ancient landscape. On the basis of these findings, the Soviets propose a sea level change on the order of 80 - 100 m.

After Chernobyl, Pitman and Ryan conducted research at the mouth of the Sea of Azov and west of the Crimea. They tried to use CHIRP subbottom profiling sonar, but gas in the sediments of the submerged coastal plain reflected the sonic energy, making it impenetrable with that instrument.

In 1993 a joint Russian-American project in the Black Sea revealed paleochannels an erosion surfaces at depths of approximately 160 m. A uniform overburden blanket draped the subsurface topography, indicating a rapid sea transgression.

During the spring of 1998 the survey was extended to the Danube margin. The looked for evidence to disprove the sudden flooding theory, but evidence in support of it continued to mount. High-resolution seismic reflection, gravity cores and vibracores were used to collect data. Mollusk shells from three different species were recovered in the cores, and all Carbon-14 dates of the shells from 49 - 123 m fell within a range of 7500 years Before Present, +- 115 years. The mollusks in the ash layer from the Santorini eruption and mollusks in the Ukranian museum collected in 1920s served as the control references.

Walter Pitman on the Black Sea Flood

Pitman admits that in Noah's Flood, the archaeology, mythology, and biblical studies are all pure speculation. However, they drew on scientific evidence to make their speculations. Even at its lowest sea level before the flood, the Black Sea had a salinity of 2 - 4 parts per thousand. It was potable - the pre-flood Black Sea would have been an oasis for Neolithic peoples living on its shores.

Pitman and Ryan estimate the volume of the flood would have been about 50 km3/day. At the breakthrough point the flood waters would have been tens of meters deep very quickly, and moving at extremely high velocity. The rate could have been 100 km/hour at the narrowest point of the flow.

Sea levels would have risen about 15 cm/day every day for 200 - 300 days. Compare this to the 4 cm/ day maximum rise in sea levels due to glacial melting!




Deep Water Archaeology Research Group
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
77 Massachusetts Ave. Rm e51-194
Cambridge, MA 02139



links research events expeditions home education publications in the press events