The end of the world
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:
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?
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.
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.
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.