The ancient flood that some scientists think gave rise to the Noah story may not have been quite so biblical in proportion, a new study says.
Researchers generally agree that, during a warming period about 9,400 years ago, an onrush of seawater from the Mediterranean spurred a connection with the Black Sea, then a largely freshwater lake. That flood turned the lake into a rapidly rising sea. (See a map of the region.)
A previous theory said the Black Sea rose up to 195 feet (60 meters), possibly burying villages and spawning the tale of Noah’s flood and other inundation folklore.
Marine geologist Liviu Giosan and colleagues carbon-dated the shells of pristine mollusk fossils, which the researchers say bear no evidence of epic flooding.
Found in sediment samples taken from where the Black Sea meets the Danube River, the shells “weren’t eroded, agitated, or moved,” said Giosan, of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts. “We know the mud is exactly the same age as the shells and so can determine what the sea level was about 9,400 years ago.”
The results suggest the Black Sea rose 15 to 30 feet (5 to 10 meters), rather than the 150 to 195 feet (50 to 60 meters) first suggested 13 years ago by Columbia University geologist William Ryan and colleagues.
I realize today that what has driven a lot of my posts on this blog is lingering annoyance towards organized religion because I was given wrong information in Sunday school’s as a kid. I trusted the adults there to tell me the truth about the world, about history, about what we really are, why we are here, and so on. We learned about Noah, the ark, the animals, the dove. They never told us about Gilgamesh, written long before Genesis.
… the closest to Genesis 6-9 was found in a 7th century BC Babylonian copy of the Epic of Gilgamesh: the hero Gilgamesh meets the immortal man Utnapishtim, who tells how the god Ea warned him to build a vessel in which to save his family, his friends, and his wealth and cattle from a great flood which the gods planned to use to destroy all life on earth.
I now feel the Old Testament is the result of stories being handed down orally over many thousands of years. As in a game of “telephone” the stories changed. Face it, we humans aren’t very accurate. We exaggerate. We simplify. Our memories change things over time, and we repeat stories which are factually incorrect. The changes made by our brains are usually done to fit the story we are telling to the facts we already know, to make “sense” of the information we have.
In 1932 someone named Bartlett observed in experiments that human memory for even the simplest material is extremely inaccurate. Stories become shorter, more concrete, and more modern in phraseology as they are passed on. Most people are completely unaware that they are making changes. The reason is due to the way memory works. Each time we recall an event or story, we actually build the story fresh every time by recalling, not the event, but the last time we remembered the event. Memory is a re-construction of a re-construction and changes creep in each time the story is re-told and as each person alters facts to make the story fit his or her own experience.
Thus, Utnapishtim’s Ark was built in a few days, while in the later story Noah’s was built over a sensible time period. Utnapishtim’s Ark was a Cube in the original story and eventually became Noah’s seaworthy ship. Utnapishtim’s raven released from the Ark at sea finds food and does not return. Noah’s dove brings an olive twig back to show it has found land.
Having learned the details of the Noah story so well, I was convinced upon reading the older story that these are not two different disconnected tales. There are too many common elements. I think the Noah story is a modification of the original. (Which seems itself to be a compilation of previous stories much morphed by repeated telling.)
Realizing how human memory really works has freed me from my anger. I now understand that in most cases people are not evil purposeful manipulative liars, nor are they mostly fools who ignore reality in favor of wishful thinking, they are, in fact, only human with normal defective human brains.
With our unique human self-awareness, we have realized these flaws, and have thus invented writing, audio recording, photographs, movies, computers, the Internet and blogs.