Apologetics: The Great Flood
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THE remains of a Bronze Age village have been found more than 300ft below the Black Sea, offering the most compelling evidence yet for the Great Flood described in the Old Testament story of Noah.
The Neolithic settlement 12 miles off the Turkish coast was found on Sunday by a team of scientists led by Robert Ballard, the American oceanographer who located the wrecks of the Titanic and the Bismarck, the National Geographic Society, which funded the expedition, said yesterday.
The discovery appears to prove that human beings lived on the coast of the Black Sea about 7,500 years ago, when it was a much smaller freshwater lake, before they were driven inland by a cataclysmic flood. Geological studies, including one by Dr Ballard last summer, have already uncovered strong evidence that such a flood did happen, when rising sea levels at the end of the Ice Age caused the Eastern Mediterranean to break through the natural dam of the Bosphorus and inundate the Black Sea.
Dr Ballard’s latest findings show for the first time that human beings were killed or displaced by the flood, and suggest that an apocalyptic tale could explain the catastrophic inundations recounted in both Genesis and the Epic of Gilgamesh. “We now know that people were living on that surface when that event took place, because we are now finding evidence of human habitation,” he said yesterday. “This is an incredible find. It’s clear a vast amount of real estate is underwater and that a vast amount of people were living around the Black Sea.”
The remains, 12 miles northwest of the Turkish port of Sinop, consist of a building 12ft wide and 45ft long, with carved wooden beams. The architecture identified it as from the Neolithic Bronze Age, from 7,000 to 7,500 years ago, Dr Ballard said. It was found with the aid of sonar imaging from the surface ship Northern Horizon, and photographed from a remotecontrolled mini-submarine, which also found stone tools that appear to date from the same period. The structure is close to the mouth of a river,
No human remains have yet been discovered, which may suggest that the site was abandoned as the waters rose.
The researchers, who are in the third week of a five-week expedition, are now surveying the surrounding area for further evidence of human settlements. They plan to send divers to recover some of the artefacts for radiocarbon dating.
Fredrik Hiebert, the team’s chief archaeologist, said the site was a “Pompeii of landscapes”, and that the building seemed typical of other wattle and daub homes of the same period. “This find represents the first concrete evidence for the occupation of the Black Sea coast prior to its flooding,” he said. “It will begin to rewrite the history of cultures in this key area between Europe, Asia and the Middle East.”
Flood legends are common to several civilizations with roots around the Black Sea. In the biblical version, Noah’s Ark is said to have come to rest on the summit of Mount Ararat, to the southwest of the sea.
Walter Pitman, a geologist from Columbia University who first advanced the Black Sea flood theory in the 1997 book Noah’s Flood, said: “I certainly believed there had to be people living there but finding the structure was like finding a needle in a haystack.”
SOFIA, Bulgaria — Could it be that Noah’s Ark lies well-preserved somewhere in the inky depths of the Black Sea?
A joint U.S.-Bulgarian scientific expedition is combing the Black Sea for traces of a lost civilization — a mission that could shed more light on the controversial timing and site of the biblical Great Flood.
Under the supervision of American underwater explorer and Titanic discoverer Robert Ballard, the team of 19 scientists left the port city of Varna, about 300 miles east of Sofia, in mid-August. Their ship, the “Akademik,” will use sonar technology to search the mouths of the Provadiyska and Kamchia rivers.
During their 30-day expedition, they will search for undersea evidence of human habitation in the Black Sea region before the flood described in the Old Testament book of Genesis. The Bible says Noah built an ark in which he, his family and living creatures of every kind survived the flood. Numerous towns are believed to have been situated along both rivers.
Some scientists theorize that a society predating those of Egypt and Mesopotamia was submerged by the Black Sea at the time of a massive flood 7,600 years ago. The flood transformed a stillwater lake into the saltwater sea.
Ballard, a National Geographic Society explorer-in-residence, is best known for finding the remains of the sunken Titanic in 1985. He also operates the Institute for Exploration in Mystic, Conn. Three years ago, he found indications of an ancient coastline miles offshore from the current Black Sea coast.
Although he didn’t join the current expedition, Ballard is in constant satellite communication with the crew. Ballard has said that if the expedition is successful, he’ll return in 2003, when he would to continue the search with Hercules, a robot being developed for underwater archaeological excavations.
The expedition is sponsored by the National Geographic Society, which is planning a book and television programs on Ballard’s Black Sea research.
“We are looking for evidence of settlements where people had been living before the flood,” Ballard told journalists during a brief stay in Bulgaria ahead of the expedition. Flooding occurred all over the world 7,600 years ago, he said, but “this was the flood of floods.”
In 1999, Ballard’s team discovered a wooden ship in “absolutely astounding” condition — despite being up to 1,500 years old — in the Black Sea off the coast of Turkey.
“When archaeologists saw the ship, they said that it could have sunk a week ago,” Ballard said.
The unique oxygen-free deep water of the Black Sea allowed the ship to be preserved without the normal worm damage that affects wooden vessels. Unlike other oceans, its deep water does not circulate and the lack of oxygen prevents the development of microorganisms that destroy shipwrecks.
In addition to the preserved ship, three other wrecks were found in shallower water where there is some oxygen. Those suffered some worm damage.
According to a theory to which Ballard and his Bulgarian colleagues subscribe, when glaciers melted at the end of the Ice Age, water flowing from the Mediterranean surged over the Bosporus at a speed 200 times greater than that of Niagara Falls.
“Our mission now is to find the ancient shore line 510 feet down and find evidence of human habitation before the flood,” Ballard said. “We are undertaking the expedition thanks to maps prepared by Professor Petko Dimitrov and his colleagues, which show the ancient shoreline.”
Dimitrov, who heads Bulgaria’s Oceanological Institute, also believes evidence of a lost civilization could be found in the deeps of the Black Sea.
“In 1972, a Neolithic necropolis containing the oldest tomb discovered in Europe to this day was discovered near Varna,” Dimitrov said.
The necropolis on display at an archaeological museum in Varna dates back to 4600-4200 B.C. It contains 294 tombs and about 3,000 gold objects, 200 copper objects, various tools made of flint and stone, and numerous religious and funeral objects.
During a Bulgarian-Russian expedition in 1985, Dimitrov found an ancient stone plate 40 miles offshore. He later called it “Noah’s Plate.”
“My impression was that it had not fallen from a sunken ship, but had been used there by people,” Dimitrov said.
A new, high-resolution digital image of what has become known as the “Ararat Anomaly” is reigniting interest in the hunt for Noah’s Ark.
Satellite image of ‘Ararat Anomaly,’ taken by DigitalGlobe’s QuickBird Satellite in 2003 and now made public for the first time (courtesy: DigitalGlobe)
The location of the anomaly on the northwest corner of Mt. Ararat in eastern Turkey has been under investigation from afar by ark hunters for years, but it has remained unexplored, with the government of Turkey not granting any scientific expedition permission to explore on site.
But the detail revealed by the new photo from DigitalGlobe’s QuickBird satellite has a man at the helm of the probe excited once again.
“I’ve got new found optimism ... as far as my continuing push to have the intelligence community declassify some of the more definitive-type imagery,” Porcher Taylor, an associate professor in paralegal studies at the University of Richmond, told Space.com.
For more than three decades, Taylor has been a national security analyst, and has also served as a senior associate for five years at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C.
“I’m calling this my satellite archaeology project,” Taylor said.
Space.com reports the project has been combining the photographic resources of QuickBird with GeoEye’s Ikonos spacecraft, Canada’s Radarsat 1, as well as declassified aerial and satellite images snapped by U.S. intelligence agencies.
While it’s quite possible the item of interest could simply be a natural ridge of rock, snow and ice, Taylor says there’s also a chance it could be something manmade.
“I had no preconceived notions or agendas when I began this in 1993 as to what I was looking for,” he said. “I maintain that if it is the remains of something manmade and potentially nautical, then it’s potentially something of biblical proportions.”
The anomaly remains ensconced in glacial ice at an altitude of 15,300 feet, and Taylor says the photos suggest it’s length-to-width ratio is close to 6:1, as indicated in the Book of Genesis.
The U.S. Air Force took the first photographs of the Mt. Ararat site in 1949. The images allegedly revealed what seemed to be a structure covered by ice, but were held for years in a confidential file labeled “Ararat Anomaly.”
The new image was actually taken in 2003, but has never been revealed to the public until now.
Arking up the wrong tree?
Meanwhile, there are others who believe Noah’s Ark has already been found, and tourists can actually visit it on a mountain next to Ararat.
Some believe this is Noah’s Ark, already found on a mountain next to Mt. Ararat (courtesy: wyattmuseum.com)
The late Ron Wyatt, whose Tennessee-based foundation, Wyatt Archaeological Research, purported the ark has already been found at Dogubayazit, Turkey, some 12-15 miles from Ararat, noting Genesis states the ark rested “upon the mountains of Ararat,” not mountain.
Is this a hair from a large cat aboard Noah’s Ark? (photo: Richard Rives, wyattmuseum.com)
Wyatt’s website is filled with on-location photographs and charts promoting its case with physical evidence including radar scans of bulkheads on the alleged vessel, deck timber and iron rivets, large “drogue” stones which are thought to have acted as types of anchors, and even some animal hair inside, possibly from a large cat like a lion or tiger.
A flood of doubt
However, there’s been no shortage of critics from both scientific and Christian circles who think the Dogubayazit site is erroneous.
Lorence Collins, a retired geology professor from California State University, Northridge, joined the late David Fasold, a one-time proponent of the Wyatt site, in writing a scientific summary claiming the location is “bogus.”
“Evidence from microscopic studies and photo analyses demonstrates that the supposed Ark near Dogubayazit is a completely natural rock formation,” said the 1996 paper published in the Journal of Geoscience Education. “It cannot have been Noah’s Ark nor even a man-made model. It is understandable why early investigators falsely identified it.”
The Answers in Genesis website provides an in-depth report attempting to debunk any validity the Dogubayazit site has, and concludes by stating:
“[A]s Christians we need to always exercise due care when claims are made, no matter who makes them, and any claims must always be subjected to the most rigorous scientific scrutiny. If that had happened here, and particularly if the scientific surveys conducted by highly qualified professionals using sophisticated instruments had been more widely publicized and their results taken note of, then these claims would never have received the widespread credence that they have.”
Officials with Wyatt Archaeological Research remain unfazed in the face of such criticism.
“The site ... is actually something that you can look at. Not some made up story that no one is quite able to reach but something that is really there,” said president Richard Rives. “It is a ‘boat-shaped object’ composed of material containing organic carbon, which is what is found in petrified wood. ...
“While there is more research that needs to be done at the site, there is a substantial amount of evidence that would indicate that the Wyatt site is not a natural object. ...
“Today, everyone wants to tell us how to think. We, at Wyatt Archaeological Research, do not do that. We just present the evidence that we have and let each individual make his own decision.”
In both the Old and New Testaments, the Bible speaks of Noah and the ark, and Jesus Christ and the apostles Paul and Peter all make reference to Noah’s flood as an actual historical event.
‘Noah’s Ark’ by Pennsylvania artist Edward Hicks, 1846
According to Genesis, Noah was a righteous man who was instructed by God to construct a large vessel to hold his family and many species of animals, as a massive deluge was coming to purify the world which had become corrupt.
Genesis 6:5 states: “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
Noah was told by God to take aboard seven pairs of each of the “clean” animals – that is to say, those permissible to eat – and two each of the “unclean” variety. (Gen. 7:2)
Though the Bible says it rained for 40 days and 40 nights, it also mentions “the waters prevailed upon the earth a hundred and fifty days.”
The ark then “rested” upon the mountains of Ararat, but it was still months before Noah and his family – his wife, his three sons and the sons’ wives – were able to leave the ark and begin replenishing the world.