Flood stories have been a common thread in many religions across the globe. One of the stories we are most familiar with in our culture, the story of Noahs Ark, is a well known segment of the old testament, and an interesting story of how God punished the world for how corrupt it had become. God accomplished this reportedly by flooding the world, and annihilating all the creatures upon it, save for Noah and his family and a pair of each type of creature on the earth .
This story, however, has roots deep in the past, some of which have only come to light with the development of new archeological techniques and technology. As more and more is found out about the era from whence this story originates, discoveries are made as to the origin of the story, what tale it was based upon, and as to the authenticity that such an event may have actually even occurred, if on a somewhat smaller scale. Based on the information available at the present time, one can make fairly confident inferences as to the root of this story.
One could argue that the story of Noahs Ark was based on the Epic of Gilgamesh, and that in turn was based on older stories that were based on a real flood of the Black Sea. The story of Noahs Ark was first written as part of the old testament by the Jewish people. However, it is predated by far by the story of the Epic of Gilgamesh, a story that originated in the same area that holds many striking similarities to the tale of Noahs Ark.
Though the story was modified to accommodate new characters, many properties of the story are similar, from small details like the creatures used as scouts to the religious purpose of the flood itself. For example, both the flood stories start with the characters receiving specific building instructions for a ship, which is to be used to spare the lives of one set of pairs of the creatures of the world. The dimensions of the ship underwent some drastic changes however, quite possibly because the dimensions of Gilgameshs boat were rather unreasonable: Equal shall be her width and her length .
Both Gilgamesh and Noah received 7 days notice, and after the flood ceased, both employed doves and ravens as scouts to determine if the land was dry yet (Gilgamesh also employed a swallow , but the results of its trip did not greatly differ from the first trip of the dove in Noahs tale ). After the flood waters recessed, and the ships were able to empty their contents, both Noah and Gilgamesh also offered sacrifices to their respective gods, Noah with burnt offerings and Gilgamesh with a libation he poured on the mountainside his ship came to rest on .
The other really large change was that God showed some signs of remorse and sorrow in Noahs tale, opposed to Gilgameshs tale, where God showed little involvement beyond the initial instructions and the flood itself. It was Gilgamesh alone who displayed sorrow for the loss of his people . The shift of sympathy from Gilgamesh to God, however, does good to accommodate the Christian and Jewish perspective of a loving and forgiving God, who would only sweep the world of his own creations at a deep sentimental price.
This idea is further confirmed by his promise never to commit such an act again after the flood ceases: Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. . It seems fairly clear that the story of Noahs Ark evolved from the Epic of Gilgamesh, with changes made to accommodate the different faith of its authors. But what was the Epic of Gilgamesh based on? Quite possibly a real flood.
Recent discoveries made in 1993 on the voyage taken by the Aquanaut offer fairly concrete evidence of a flood, in the Black Sea, which would have taken place at about the time as the time indicated in the Epic of Gilgamesh. The aquanaut, a vessel being shared by a Russian team searching the Black Sea for fallout and an American team searching for the evidence of a flood, employed the a CHIRP (an echo-locator) and a coring pipe to gather information and even samples of the sediments at the bottom of the lake and their contents .
Evidence all pointed to a flood. The echo-locator showed evidence that the basin of the Black Sea was originally exposed erosion from wind and streams, but was suddenly thoroughly covered by a uniform layer of sediment. This is best explained if there indeed was a rapid rise in sea level. The data retrieved by coring also supported this idea. Coring involved the obtaining of samples of up to three meters of sediments from the bottom of the sea, which could then be observed and evaluated.
At the base of the sea, the same signs were present of land that was at one time exposed to air, including some phenomena only present in dry conditions, like cracked mud. Directly above this was evidence of some freshwater life. However, a little higher in the sediment, there was a sudden appearance of salt water creatures, including snails which came from the Mediterranean . Above this there was continued evidence of a sudden rise in water level, and the entry of salt water into the previously mostly empty basin.
The flood waters would have come from an overflowing Mediterranean Sea, which would have been bloated by the flooding of the Atlantic which was in turn caused by the melting of the great glaciers from the previous ice age. The sudden breakdown of the land separating the Mediterranean from the Black Sea would have caused rapid flooding, the likes of which were unheard of in a majority of the world (Water would have been cascading in with the 200 times the force of Niagara Falls! This flood would have had serious impacts on its witnesses, and the severity and unpredictability of the flood would have made it an occurrence outstanding of all others. Other instances of major flooding, such as those of the Tigris and the Euphrates, may have had more catastrophic results, but at people were aware that these rivers were prone to flooding, and wouldnt make any overly special explanations for it in their beliefs.
The sudden, certainly dramatic flooding of such a seemingly innocent basin would have been totally unpredictable and equally inexplicable, and would have demanded the creation of some story to account for it. These stories most likely evolved into stories such as the Epic of Gilgamesh. Thus the event behind the root of Noahs Ark, the Epic of Gilgamesh, could be accounted for, by real traumatic flooding of the Black Sea. Indeed the account of Noahs Ark has a deep ancestry into the past, and as we unearth the history of such stories, we come ever closer to discerning what really could have lead to their creation.
Be it from other ancient scriptures or from evidence in the Earth itself, we are developing the technology and means to extract confirming (or disproving) evidence for these accounts, and our understanding over them is rapidly changing. As things stand now, it appears most likely that Noahs Ark was founded on The Epic of Gilgamesh, and this was in turn created to help explain the sudden, very real flooding of the Black Sea.