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14 October 2004
Expedition fails to settle the Noah flood debate

Four years ago, scientists thought they had found the perfect place to settle the Noah flood debate: A farmer's house on a bluff overlooking the Black Sea built about 7,500 years ago - just before tidal waves inundated the homestead, submerged miles of coastline and turned the freshwater lake into a salty sea. Some believed the rectangular site of stones and wood could help solve the age-old question of whether the Black Sea's flooding was the event recounted in the Biblical story of Noah.
     That story told of a calamitous flood occurring over 40 days and nights. Scientists had largely dismissed it, believing the Black Sea filled up gradually with gently rising waters. That wisdom was rocked, however, when two scholars claimed several years ago that the Black Sea's flooding was more recent - and so rapid and widespread that it forced people to move as far away as mainland Europe.
     Scientists who in the summer of 2003 visited the underwater site off the northern Turkish coastal town of Sinop couldn't arrive at any conclusions. The settlement, about 330 feet underwater, was 'contaminated' by wood that had drifted in, foiling any attempt to accurately date the ruin - and thus date the flood. "We were not able to get a smoking gun," said Robert Ballard, the underwater explorer and discoverer of the Titanic, who led the $5 million Black Sea expedition. But the trip was successful nonetheless, and the scientists are preparing to publish their findings early next year.
     Ballard heralded the work of Hercules, an underwater excavator that was used for the first time. The 7-foot robot gingerly dug around the deep-water ruins and retrieved artifacts using pincers outfitted with sensors that regulated the pressure they exerted - much like a human hand. Fredrik Hiebert, an archaeology fellow at National Geographic, said the mechanical excavator's success ushers in a new era in ocean archaeology. "We now have the technical capabilities to excavate scientifically in underwater environments," the former University of Pennsylvania professor said. "We've moved beyond the grab and look part of (underwater) archaeology."

Source: Associated Press, Philly Burbs.com (11 October 2004)

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