There are no shortages of myths about great floods. Cultures all around the world tell of cataclysmic deluges marking the end of an era and the beginning of another. But we can’t rely on myths alone in determining whether something had occurred or not.
According to the Christian account of Noah’s flood, the wicked had to be punished for their doings so it rained for forty days and forty nights. Of course, ancient cultures tended to chalk up catastrophes as the gods’ ways of showing their displeasure.
In the Epic of Gilgamesh, the council of the gods decided to flood the whole earth to destroy mankind. But Ea, the god who made man, warned Utnapishtim and told him to build an enormous boat. The hero sees a pillar of black smoke in the horizon. The sky then goes dark for a week straight and a horrible storm causes a flood.
As the flood came to a halt, all say that the ark came to rest on a mountain.
The Sumerians arrived in what today is known as Southern Iraq some 5,000 years ago. Their scribes recorded that they were survivors of a great flood caused by divine beings called the Anunnaki, or “The Shining Ones.” The Chinese and Indian mythology also recounts a catastrophic flood occurring around five millennia ago. The present Hindu Age, called Kali Yuga, began in 3102 BC when climate change occurred alongside flooding.
Many of the Native American tribes tell tales of a time when great floods ravaged the lands and they took to the hills. South American and Pacific cultures share similar legends.
So, is there a grain of truth behind all of this?
Well, the scientific community does not dismiss the possibility of a great flood, but they have only few answers with many questions left unanswered. There are two main theories that have arose, one revolving around the flooding of the Black Sea in Eastern Europe and the other being a global flood.
Around 7,000 years ago, water from melting glaciers caused the Mediterranean Sea to overflow with the equivalent force of 200 Niagara Falls. At the time, the Black Sea was a freshwater lake surrounded by farmlands. Discoveries support this theory, as an ancient river valley and shoreline were identified on the bottom of the Black Sea. A team led by National Geographic’s Society explorer Robert Ballard also uncovered fossils of extinct freshwater species that date back from 7,000 to 15,500 years ago.
The second theory’s main supporter is Bruce Masse, an environmental archaeologist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. He believes that major asteroid impacts occur more frequently than commonly believed. According to Masse, the last great impact occurred around 5,000 years ago when a 3-mile wide comet crashed into the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Madagascar. The result was a worldwide catastrophe, containing 600-foot tsunamis, destroying multiple coastlines and massive hurricanes ravaging everything else. The material thrown into the atmosphere caused one week of darkness.
Masse sifted through hundreds of flood myths and found two of interest. A Chinese story tells of a great flood that occurred at the end of Empress Nu Wa’s reign and a Hindu myth recalls of a flood during an alignment of planets that has happened only once in the last 5,000 years. According to Masse, the date for both events is May 10, 2807 BC.
Naturally, an event so destructive had to leave behind evidence other than legends. When Masse presented his theory at a joint conference in 2004, he attracted the interest of his peers and they formed the Holocene Impact Working Group aimed at finding signs of a megatsunami.
When a 600-foot wave hits a coastline, it leaves behind a giant wedge-shaped sandy structure called a chevron. Sometimes these chevrons contain micro-fossils from the bottom of the ocean. Masse and his team found dozens of these around shores of Africa and Asia while believing them to be evidence of a cosmic impact.
While some oppose his theory, Masse is confident that it will eventually be proved correct. Should this happen, it will probably lead to many more inquiries into myths all around the world.
Stay tuned for part 2.