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The end of the world

27 May 2012

Some of you might remember my very first post (“We’re all doomed“) which was on the subject of the end of the world. And now here’s another one. But fear not, gentle readers; this post is not a gloomy prediction of things to come. Instead, it’s a gloomy account of what happened not that long ago.

Noah, Manu, Utnapishtim and the rest

There’s one legend that keeps popping up over and over again across the world and it goes something like this:

And I just washed my car. Typical.

Once, a very long time ago, the god(s) got angry with the humans and decided that they needed to be punished. And so, a great flood was sent to the Earth, drowning all and everything but one family who was spared, together with a range of animals and seedlings.

We have Noah from Israel, Deucalion from Greece, Utnapishtim from Babylon, Manu from India, Fuhi from China, Waynaboozhoo of the Ojibwe in North America and Tapi of the Aztec in Central America; they all survived riding the waves on either a ship or boat or on some kind of debris. And after the flood subsided, their families alone were left to repopulate the Earth (Uh oh, incest alert!).

I find this fascinating. How come all those stories are so similar? Did a troubadour travel the world telling everyone the same story? Probably not, especially since some of them are separated by several thousand years. Did all those cultures accidentally make up the same story? Unlikely, as it happened so many times. Two, three occurrences could be put down to pure chance. Perhaps even four. But there are literally dozens of them, and from very disparate types of culture.

Myth or fact?

The Black sea – before and after the deluge

So.. Did the flood actually happen, then? Was the Earth really drowned by an angry deity or two? Well, no. The Earth was never completely covered by water, at least not during our species time span. But, what did happen not long ago was that a series of floods hit our shore lines, floods of a magnitude that dwarfed anything that has happened in historic times. During the end of the last glacial period* the sea rose a massive 120m, moving the shore lines several miles inland and drowning countless human dwellings. In some places it was even more dramatic. What is now the Black sea was once a vast valley of grasslands and forests with a big freshwater lake in the middle, but then the wall separating it from the rising Aegean sea broke down and water rushed in and flooded the entire valley.

Granted, little is known of the speed of these floods. It could have been slow and relentless rise of sea levels over hundreds of years, or it could have happened in gushes, with enormous tidal waves drowning the coast lines within a few hours.

Lost cities

The lost city of the Gulf of Cambay outside India

Whatever the rate of the floods, as we humans tend to settle near coast lines, the world as we knew it would have been destroyed and forever lost. Neolithic settlements have been discovered both at the bottom of the Black sea, outside the coast line of India and in the English Channel. This indicates that countless of societies were either forced to move everything they owned to escape the rising sea levels or brutally drowned in cataclysmic floods.

And it wasn’t always simple hunter-gatherer societies either. The settlements at the bottom of the Gulf of Cambay just West of India seem to have consisted of a vast city, several miles wide and more than 9,500 years old. This contradicts conventional wisdom where cities of that scale didn’t appear until 4,500 years ago in the cradle of civilization, Mesopotamia.

Rewriting history

So perhaps it’s time to reconsider some aspects of our history? It seems like we had advanced civilizations many thousand years earlier than thought. And there’s probably many more sites to be discovered at the bottom of the sea outside the coastlines around the world. It’s almost like a whole chapter of our history had been completely forgotten, except in myths of the great flood. It’ll be very exciting to see what archaeologists will discover in the next 40-50 years or so!

P.S. Observant readers might have noticed I didn’t touch on the subject of Atlantis in this blog post. That’s because Atlantis was destroyed by a volcanic eruption on the island of Santorini and have nothing to do with the tidal waves of the Ice age.

 

* We are currently experiencing a temporary thaw (or interglacial period) in the ongoing Pleistocene ice age. So, the current ice age hasn’t ended yet, it’s just on hold for an unknown number of thousand years.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. 27 May 2012 12:41

    I guess the wrath of God makes a much better story than ice age tidal waves.

  2. 27 May 2012 13:15

    This is terrifying. See, I’m petrified of drowning. Mostly because I can’t swim. Water scares the crap out of me. Can you even imagine just going about your day and then YOUR HOUSE IS FLOODED YOU ARE DEAD NOW? Worst of all, I love water! Well, not really getting IN it, since the not-swimming part. But being near it and looking at it and I’d live next to it in a minute because it’s beautiful. I’d totally have died in a huge tidal wave.

    Also, I find dives where they discover things fascinating. I like to see what survived being underwater all that time, and how the water warped it (or sometimes, barely did at all.) If I could swim, I’d totally go looking for treasure. But since I can’t, guess I won’t do that.

    • 27 May 2012 14:28

      All mammals are scared of drowning, even whales. When dying, other whales help keep the dying whale at the surface to keep it from drowning.

      Although people who have drowned say it’s a very peaceful experience, so perhaps it’s not so bad?

      • 27 May 2012 14:48

        It would be bad. All that water! *shudder* Water and fire are my two scariest things.

        Did you ever see the movie “Open Water” with the people stranded in the ocean and the sharks and the drowning? It was NIGHTMARISH.

        • 27 May 2012 16:36

          No, never saw that film. Thought it would be boring. Although I did enjoy Cast Away and that was just Tom Hanks talking to a ball.

          Also: wouldn’t fire and water cancel each other out?

        • 27 May 2012 16:52

          Speaking of drowning. Have you seen the MythBusters video when they get trapped in an upside down car underwater? http://youtu.be/q3_HEKMgqbE

          This is the video that made me get an emergency hammer for my car.

          • 25 January 2013 19:14

            There’s a professor at the University of Manitoba who regularly lectures (& sometimes demonstrates) on how to escape from a submerged vehicle, particularly in the case where your vehicle breaks through ice on a river or lake. He’s been dubbed “Professor Popsicle” — and the demos prompted me to get that special glass-hammer/seatbelt-knife tool for escape!

            • 25 January 2013 19:28

              Good. Being trapped in a car under water scares the bejeezus out of me. Always wise to keep that hammer/knife ready.

  3. 30 May 2012 00:52

    The image you show off the coast of India, is, I believe, off the coast of Japan.

    • 30 May 2012 03:11

      You’re right, it is! That’s a picture of those odd structures they discovered a while back, isn’t it? Oh boy is my face red! I’ll amend the post with the correct picture. Thanks for your input!

  4. 5 August 2012 16:28

    I’ve read that some of the excess water that resulted in seas rising in the interglacial period was due to the vast amount of fresh water from Lake Agassiz that used to cover a lot of Manitoba. When the northern ice wall holding the water in the lake began to melt, it suddenly dumped into the Atlantic Ocean via Hudson Bay. So Noah may be able to blame Manitoba, not God, for the flood.

    • 5 August 2012 22:55

      Indeed. There were several of those big glacial lakes, but Lake Agassiz was one of the biggest. The collapse would have made the sea water rise by several meters, but again we don’t really know how quickly the water was let out into the ocean. It could have been instant or over several years.

Trackbacks

  1. Science myths with Amy’s Dad. Also, my car hates me. « Lucy’s Football
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