The Great Flood revealed in the Biblical Story of Noah's Ark may have actually happened, according to one of the world's best-known underwater archaeologists.
Robert Ballard, whose team found the underwater remains of the Titanic, is probing the Black Sea for evidence of a civilisation washed out of existence more than 7000 years ago, around the time Noah's Flood was meant to have happened.
A giant replica of Noah's Ark built in the Netherlands by Johan Huibers
He told Christine Amanpour of abc news his team were investigating a theory proposed by Columbia University geologists, who suggested the flood could have been caused by a giant melt that began at the end of the Ice Age, more than 12,000 years ago.
Columbia's William Ryan and Walter Pitman have suggested that before this time the Black Sea was merely a freshwater lake surrounded by farmland.
By around 5,000BC the sheer volume of the glacier melt caused sea water to surge, drowning the ancient civilisation which made its home in what is now modern Turkey.
The animals go in two-by-two: but where did they end up?
Ballard and his team believe they have discovered evidence of an age-old civilisation below the Black Sea, with a shoreline that dates back as far as 5000BC.
He told abc news his team had found ancient pottery, remains of old buildings and even ancient ships, preserved by the low levels of oxygen deep beneath the surface.
"We started finding structures that looked like they were man-made structures," Ballard said. "That's where we are focusing our attention right now."
Oceanographer Robert Ballard
He made the claims in a new programme, "Back to the Beginning," aired on abc news on Friday, Dec. 21 and part two on Friday, Dec. 28.
With carbon dating he has been able to even find and date shipwrecks. He shows Christine Amanpour, the presenter a "perfectly preserved ancient shipwreck in all its wood," which "looks like a lumber yard,"
He adds,"if you look closely, you will see the femur bone and actually a molar.
"The oldest shipwreck that we have discovered so far of that area is around 500 BC, classical period," Ballard said. "But the question is you just keep searching. It's a matter of statistics."
"It's foolish to think you will ever find [the Ark]. But can you find people who were living? Can you find their villages that are underwater now? And the answer is yes."
Mount Arafat in Turkey
The story of Noah's Ark is told in the Bible, Koran and in the Jewish Talmud. Its narrative of creation and recreation tells the tale of how God cleansed the evil from the Earth with a giant flood.
Before the flood came, God warned Noah, the last good man, of the flood. He instructed him to build a giant ship and take in two animals from every species so that they could repopulate the earth once the floodwaters had ceased.
As the storm subsided, the ark settles on the mountain of Ararat in Turkey, according to the Bible. Archeologists have claimed to have discovered the Ark before, the story losing none of its fascination despite the passage of time.
In 2010, an evangelical group of archaelogists claimed to have found remains of the ark up Ararat mountain, in the shape of seven wooden compartments hidden beneath the snow
However no substantial proof was offered to support their claims, which followed a long line of explorers who claimed to have discovered the ark.
A piece of rock unearthered in the mountains of Iran was claimed by to be a piece of the ark in 2006.
A US businessman and Christian activist claimed he had located the ark below the ice on Mount Ararat, using satellite imagery in 2004, but the Turkish government refused to grant him a permit to launch an excavation.
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