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Environment

Sediment Shows Black Sea Flood was unlikely

Study refutes controversial hypothesis regarding long-ago deluge

by Elizabeth K. Wilson
February 2, 2009 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 87, ISSUE 5

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Credit: NASA
Aerial view of the Black Sea, with the Mediterranean Sea at lower left.
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Credit: NASA
Aerial view of the Black Sea, with the Mediterranean Sea at lower left.

A new report appears to refute a controversial hypothesis that the Black Sea flooded catastrophically thousands of years ago—an idea that some had thought could explain "great flood" myths. During the early Holocene epoch, approximately 10,000 years ago, the Black Sea was an isolated freshwater system. As the last Ice Age drew to a close, glaciers melted and ocean levels rose. The Black Sea then became connected with the Mediterranean Sea via the Bosporus Strait. But whether this process happened slowly or violently has been debated. Now, geologist Liviu Giosan of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and colleagues have found geochemical evidence in sediment cores showing that the Black Sea's levels were high enough during that period that rising Mediterranean Sea levels would have resulted in a more modest deluge (Quat. Sci. Rev., DOI: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2008.10.012). The group radiocarbon-dated mollusks and studied sediment composition to find the level of the freshwater lake at the time of the first salt water influxes.

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