The Lake People’s Story

The Lake People’s Story
AP Photo/Sam McNeil
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Around 5,500 BCE, or about 7,600 years ago, just north of what is now Turkey was a valley with a large plain with a very large freshwater lake in its center. Since this lake valley was very habitable and welcoming – and right in the middle of the arc of civilization at that time - thousands of people lived and practiced their primitive farming along the shore.

Just a couple thousand years before, an Ice Age had ended. Glaciers that had covered most of northern Europe were melting and receding. This was good news for the lake people. Glacier water is fresh water, and their lake got its water from several rivers that came from the north. These rivers were fed by glaciers that were melting in what are now Russia and Ukraine.

Unfortunately for the lake people the blessing of the fresh glacier water brought with it a terrible curse.

The melting of the glaciers across northern Europe meant another thing: the sea levels of the world’s oceans were rising. As the level of the Atlantic Ocean rose, so too did the level of the Mediterranean Sea. As the level of the Mediterranean rose, the water climbed up what was then a valley between Greece and Turkey. First it inundated what is now the Dardanelles Straits. Then, as the water climbed a little further to the northeast, it flooded a basin creating what we today call the Sea of Marmara. Relentlessly the water kept climbing up the valley to the northeast until it reached the crest. On the other side was our large, flat valley with its enormous lake and thousands of farmers.

Finally, the rising water of the Mediterranean Sea began to spill over the crest and into our valley. Very slowly it dribbled at first. But as it continued, it began to wash away the soil on the crest. This made the crest lower, allowing more and more Mediterranean Sea water to spill into the valley.

At a critical moment, the crest caved in and the flow of water accelerated exponentially, becoming a massive torrent.

At its peak, scientists estimate that the flow over the crest had the force of “20 Niagaras”. Niagara is the largest waterfall in North America. Water flows over the Falls at a rate of 6 million cubic feet per minute. So 20 “Niagaras” would have meant 120 million cubic feet per minute. There are about 7.5 gallons of water in a cubic foot. So, at the peak of the flood about 900,000,000 gallons PER MINUTE of seawater were pouring into the valley.

The people along the lake must not have noticed much at first when the flow was small. Maybe just that the water was a bit salty. And the flow was probably small for several years. But when the crest broke and the flood reached its peak, the scientists say that the water in the lake rose at a rate of ONE FOOT PER HOUR. At this rate, there was no escape. There was no way the people in the valley could get out. They all – ALL – drowned. Every one of them – every man, woman, and child – died.

The towns along the lake are now buried under about 6,600 feet of the water of the Black Sea.

When the waters of the Mediterranean were only a few feet deep along the crest - as they were for many years – shepherds used to cross their cattle there. It was an “ox-ford.” The word “cattle crossing” or “ox-ford” in Greek is “bous-poros”. Today we refer to this area as the Bosporus Straits. But the shepherds can’t cross their cattle there any more: the Straits that the cattle used to walk across are now over 200 feet deep.

The process that melted the glaciers is called “global warming.” The effect this produced is called “climate change.”

Michael Curley is an attorney and Visiting Scholar at the Environmental Law Institute.

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The Lake Peoples’ Story is a true story documented by two American oceanographers, Dr. William B. F. Ryan and Dr. Walter C. Pitman of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University in New York City. As they were mapping the floor of the Black Sea, to their unbelievable shock, instead of finding the usual subsea mountains, valleys, and sediments, they found ruins of cities, towns, and other human habitations that had existed 7,600 years ago and are now buried under 6,600 feet of water.

In their own words: “Using sound waves and coring devices to probe the sea floor, they discovered clear evidence that this inland body of water had once been a vast freshwater lake lying hundreds of feet below the levels of the world’s rising oceans. Sophisticated dating techniques confirmed that 7,600 years ago the mounting seas had burst through the narrow Bosporos valley, and the salt water of the Mediterranean had poured into the lake with unimaginable force, racing over beaches and up rivers, destroying or chasing all life before it. The margins of the lake, which had been a unique oasis, a Garden of Eden for an advanced culture in a vast region of semidesert, became a sea of death.”

The name of Drs. Ryan and Pitman’s book is Noah’s Flood.



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