The Ice Age Rise and Fall of the Ponto Caspian, Ancient Mariners and the Asiatic Mediterranean

Download The Ice Age Rise and Fall of the Ponto Caspian, Ancient Mariners and the Asiatic Mediterranean

Post on 29-Jul-2015




10 download


Evidence of massive flooding is written into the Azerbaijani landscape as stepped terraces and strandlines reaching up to 225m above sea level and dating to the last Ice Age. This paper discusses the geomorphological, biological and rock art evidence and aims to show that the causes were due to diverted Russian rivers, glacial meltwater and a possible inundation by the Arctic Ocean.
The consequences of a Eurasian lake – the Asiatic Mediterranean, would have greatly affected regional climates, regional biogeography and human demographics and suggests that intercontinental navigation was possible for millennia in prehistory. The floods and the eventual disappearance of the waterways will have influenced ancient human life and help shape prehistory. This subject and its implications go beyond current scientific understanding and needs to be investigated by various scientific and academic disciplines


The Ice Age Rise and Fall of the Ponto Caspian Ancient Mariners and the Asiatic Mediterranean. Gallagher, R. Keywords: Caspian Sea, Black Sea, Aegean Sea, paleohydrology, marine and freshwater deluge, cultural connections, Arctic Ocean, cart ruts, Gobustan, Azerbaijan, petroglyphs, rock art, Ice Age, sand waves. Abstract. Evidence of massive flooding is written into the Azerbaijani landscape as stepped terraces and strandlines reaching up to 225m above sea level and dating to the last Ice Age. This paper discusses the geomorphological, biological and rock art evidence and aims to show that the causes were due to diverted Russian rivers, glacial meltwater and a possible inundation by the Arctic Ocean. The consequences of a Eurasian lake – the Asiatic Mediterranean, would have greatly affected regional climates, regional biogeography and human demographics and suggests that intercontinental navigation was possible for millennia in prehistory. The floods and the eventual disappearance of the waterways will have influenced ancient human life and help shape prehistory. This subject and its implications go beyond current scientific understanding and needs to be investigated by various scientific and academic disciplines. Introduction Fluctuations in the level of the Caspian Sea have greatly influenced coastal communities for millennia. This is due to the dynamic balance between regional climate, temperature, rainfall in the catchment areas of the rivers feeding the basin (principally the Volga), and evaporation from the surface of the sea. As an endorheic basin (i.e., having no outflow), water level will either rise or fall depending on climate and rainfall. Currently, sea level is around minus 28 m relative to average sea level (a.s.l). In the present era, fluctuations are only on the order of a few meters, and while significant to those living near the coastline these variations are minor when compared to the dramatic regressions and inundations (transgressions) associated with the Ice Ages (Mamedov. 1997). A Caspian Sea high stand of 50 m above average sea level some 15,000 years ago is considered be the highest elevation over the past 100,000 years (Baker. 2007). Scientific understanding is that, during ice ages, the Caspian Sea greatly shrinks due to a cooler, drier climate. But at the end of an ice age, meltwater inundates the northern watershed areas and drains via river systems into low-lying basins of the Aral, Caspian, and Black Seas. Additional ice cap melting from the Caucasus, Himalayas and Hindu Kush supplements the inflow. (Figure 1). This however is not the whole story. Ice Dammed Lakes. It is further recognized that Arctic Ocean ice fronts advanced onto mainland Russia and blocked the north-flowing rivers (Yenissei, Ob, Pechora, Dvina, and others) that supply most of the freshwater to the Arctic Ocean (Baker, 2007), (Grosswald, 1998), (Mangerud et al., 2001 and 2004), (Rudoy, 1998). As a result, large ice-dammed lakes formed between the ice sheet in the north and the continental water divides to the south. Lakes overflowed toward the south and, thus, the drainage of much of the Eurasian continent was reversed. The result was a major change in the water balance on the continent, decreased freshwater supply to the Arctic Ocean, and hugely increased fresh water flow to the Aral, Caspian, Black, and Baltic seas. (Figure 2). Terraces and strandlines. The legacy of these inundations can be detected in the soft Azerbaijan landscape, as terraces and strandlines both above and below present sea level. Personal research shows that fine coastal sediments and mud volcanoes in particular, provide a record of past deluges, as mud, being soft, easily erodes with wave action to show past levels. Prolonged exposure generates terraces while temporary highstands create strandlines. Raised terraces can be observed above 120m between Sumgayit at Siyazan for over 60 km, with strandlines ranging to about 220m above sea level in the valleys immediately to the south of Besh Barmak and at Gilazi. (Figures 3, 4 and 5). These elevations are well in excess of the accepted highstands of 50 m a.s.l. A possible explanation is that the land itself has risen due to tectonic up- 1 lift. However, radiocarbon dating of bulk shell fragments obtained from Gobustan terraces shows that this is not a correct assumption. (Gobustan Coordinates are 40° 6'33.95"N, 49°22'41.46"E). Shell fragments obtained at an elevation of 125m, 80-85m and 18-30m a.s.l., have measured ages of 16,770y, 14,310y and 28,500y respectively (by Beta lab). Obviously, with tectonic uplift, older shells would naturally be located on a higher stratum above younger ones: this is not the case. This demonstrates that massive flooding had to have happened and is a more important factor than tectonic uplift. Intriguingly, correlations of terrace tops can also be made with spillover elevations. For example the coastal plane to the north of Baku ranges from sea level at minus 28m, up to approximately +26m a.s.l. This upper elevation corresponds to the Manych spillover to the north of the Caucasus where the Caspian Sea would overflow to the Sea of Azov and Black Sea. It seems likely then that the +26 m spillway determines the upper level of the coastal plane terrace. If this is the case then it is reasonable to consider a similar explanation for the stepped appearance of even higher terraces observed in the vicinity of Gilazi valley entrance. Curiously the heights of the two terrace top are similar to the Turgay spillover (+125m), which drained Glacial Lake Mansi, and the Kes Ket spillover at 167m which drained Glacial Lake Yenisei (Figure 6). The latter correlations may be a coincidence, but could indicate that higher terraces are defined by the elevation of the Siberian spillways and associated inflow of Russian rivers. In effect, the stepped terraces in the Azerbaijan landscape may be the result of an incremental freshwater inflow from Glacial Lakes Mansi and Yenisei, so resulting in a staircase like appearance. It is therefore suspected that the swollen Caspian Lake was deluged by a combination of diverted river water for millennia during the Ice Age, followed by transitory glacial meltwater as the Ice Age ended. Prolonged flooding creating broad terraces, (as clearly seen north of Sumgayat), while the glacial meltwater supplemented the water level to create higher strandlines such as those seen ranging some 16km inland into the Gilazi Valley. It is interesting to note in an unpublished discussion paper by Lioubimtseva, et al, evidence of a single giant freshwater lake covering most of the West Siberian Plain. She states: ‘Stretching some 1500 km from north to south, and a similar distance east to west at its widest points, at its maximum extent it would have had a surface area at least twice that of the Caspian Sea. Varying from several tens of metres to over 100 m in depth according to local topography, it would have contained of the order of hundreds of thousands of cubic km of water….this mega-lake appears from the available dates to have reached its maximum extent by around 24,000 years ago, and to have existed in some form up until around 12,000 or 13,000 radiocarbon years ago’ (Lioubimtseva et al). If this is correct, then it indicates that the West Siberian Lake (i.e., Lake Mansi) Turgay spillway at +126m a.s.l. would have been contiguous with the swollen Caspian Lake, as evidenced by the Gobustan radiocarbon dating around 17,000 years BP. Glacial Dam Collapse in the Altai. The diversion of rivers and glacial meltwater were not the only source of flooding into the Caspian Lake, for another more catastrophic type of flood happened with the collapse of glacial dams in the Altai region of Western Mongolia. The largest of these bodies of water involved the Chuya-Kuray lakes, which had a combined volume of 3500 km3. Such dams according to Professor Alexei Rudoy were unstable at the beginning and end of the Ice Ages. (Pers comment). As rivers became trapped by advancing glaciers at valley entrances, lakes built up only to reach a point of instability and the collapse of the ice dam. Glacial dams failed every 100 years or so, and resulted in multiple floods so creating characteristic features such as giant ripples, berms and scabland morphology (Rudoy). A similar sequence of glacial dam collapse has been extensively studied in the United States at Glacial Lake Missoula. Those from the Altai however are not so well known, but would have been equally devastating to those in the flood paths. The volume of water released with the largest of the Altai floods amounts to around 4% of the volume of the present Caspian Sea volume (79,000 km3), (Aladin. 1993), and would be sufficient to raise the Caspian Sea by a maximum of 9m. 2 Catastrophic though these glacial dam collapse floods may have been to coastal inhabitants, they did not play a significant role to the extent of flooding suggested by the Azeri terraces. Indeed, by extrapolating terrace and strandline elevations across the Caucasus and into the Black Sea region, it must have resulted in massive flooding across Eurasia to generate a super inland lake on a scale comparable in size, or larger, than the Mediterranean Sea. Indeed, evidence of flooding and raised terraces can also be found in the Black Sea region where there are many examples of raised terracing also reaching a height of +250m a.s.l. (Ertek, 2011 Meltwater Paradox. With so much fresh water coursing into the Aral and Caspian Seas (Kvalynian Lake) and Black Sea (Euxine Lake), i.e. the Ponto Caspian, a paradox now becomes apparent. According to scientific literature, and given that the world’s longest ever river, the 8000km long meltwater cascade flowing from Siberia to the Mediterranean, it is odd that the river showed no obvious sign of discharging into the Aegean Sea during the period between 16,000 and 10,000 years BP. Instead, sediment core samples demonstrate that freshwater input to the Aegean only became significant between 10,000 and 6,000 years BP. (Aksu et al., 2002; Yanko-Hombach, 2007).( Figure 7) This can only mean that water was somehow trapped within a massive interior Eurasian lake—one that must have functioned in an endorheic manner. Indeed, the lack of significant discharge to the Aegean demonstrates that massive flooding of the continental interior had to have happened. This implication supports the observations of terraces and strandlines in the Black and Caspian Seas. It also means that the Bosporus and Dardanelles were not yet opened to discharge excess meltwater. Surely there would be some signature found in the Aegean Sea as meltwater flowed into it from the height of the last Ice Age upon deglaciation from 18,000 to 10,000 years? Noting that terrace and strandline elevations are in excess of 120m, it is probable then that the Black Sea exit to the Bosporus acted as a bottleneck or choke point. Bosporus topography suggests that there had to be a waterfall cascading into the channel, eroding it away. In effect, it may be hypothesized that spillover from the swollen Black Sea basin may be the cause of the Bosporus channel opening around 10,000 years ago. (Figure 8) Strandlines and Stratigraphy. If looked for, evidence of massive Ice Age river discharge into to the Caspian Lake can be found in the coastal landscape to the north and south of Baku. Near to the town of Gobustan there are two notable locations. The first is the mud volcano Kanizadagh which has an intriguing ‘strandline’ at an elevation of around 115m a.s.l. Above this horizon vegetation is seen noted, while below the horizon the soil is salinated and supports no life. Digging into the hillside both above and below the 115m horizon reveals dark brown soft soil. This suggests that the Kanizadagh mud volcano erupted on top of soft muddy sediments protecting the underlying sediments from marine erosion. (Figure 9). (Kanizadagh Coordinates 40° 8'24.18"N, 49°22'55.97"E). Surface erosional features, or gulleys reveals are contiguous from top to bottom across the strandline of the mud volcano. Long finger like protrusions from the base of the gulley ridges suggests marine erosion. This then raises the question of where the sedimentary mud might have come from? This may be answered at the second site of interest: i.e. an unnamed escarpment to the south of the Gobustan World Heritage Rock Art outdoor museum. Here a series of apparent strandlines can be observed at an elevation of between 60 and 80 m asl. (Escarpment Coordinates: 40° 3'49.47"N, 49°21'14.71"E). (Figure 10). Closer inspection in water erosion channels on the hillside reveal sedimentary layers eroding from within the hillside, which outwardly appear like strandlines. In an attempt to date the layers, bulk shell samples were found and collected from the top of the escarpment at an elevation of 100m a.s.l. Radiocarbon dating found the measured age to be 32460 +/480 years. (Beta Lab). In geological terms this is extremely recent and provides evidence of sedimentary deposition into the Caspian on a huge scale. In this regard sedimentary layering may be akin to varve formation with seasonal pulses of water creating the fine silt/mud layers. This suggests that Caspian functioned as a massive sediment collecting basin for the world’s longest river. 3 It is interesting to note that the bulk shell samples from the escarpment are at a lower elevation and are older than those found on terraces at nearby Gobustan. If the radiocarbon dating is accurate this then suggests huge fluctuations in the Caspian Sea/lake level during the Late Pleistocene. It is also interesting to note evidence of coastal subsidence, which further argues against tectonic uplift as the main cause of terraces and strandlines. A large mud flow at the entrance to the Gilazi Valley clearly exhibits parallel strandlines. See Figure 11. (Gilazi mud flow coordinates: 40°50'50.43"N, 49°18'7.43"E). While it is certain that the Caucasus mountains continue to rise at a rate of 1cm/year (i.e. 10m/millennium) this is not the situation near to the Caspian Sea. The mountain Besh Barmak provides one example of stratigraphic subsidence closer to the basin. See Figure 11. (Besh Barmak Coordinates: 40°56'3.17"N, 49°14'16.83"E). While the situation is almost certain to be dynamic and complex over geological time, (with slow tectonic uplift and rapid transgressions and regressions) it is reasonable to consider that transgressions played a greater role and to higher elevations than scientists have so far considered. Indeed,the Gilazi mud flow strandline sequence clearly represent the most recent and relatively rapid flooding and given the soft nature of the material cannot be of any great age. The strandlines may also have formed with a receding Caspian Sea and could be associated with the emptying of the Eurasian lake with the opening of the Bosporus. Could there also have been a Marine Flood? In view of the many ice ages during the 2.5 million years or so of the Pleistocene period, and the subsequent fresh water transgressions coursing through Caspian basin, a new question arises concerning the salinity of the Caspian Sea. With so much fresh water winnowing away saltwater it seems paradoxical that the Caspian Sea should have retained a salinity of around 120/00 (i.e. 1/3 oceanic water strength). Why should this be? After all, it is recognized that the Black Sea suffered a similar Ice Age fate and was considered fresh water before 7500 years ago. Indeed, the Black Sea oscillated from a completely isolated interior lake to a marine environment more than eight times (Schrader, 1979; Zubakov, 1988). Logically, even though the Ponto–Caspian may have functioned as a massive Eurasian endorheic basin, so retaining some saline waters, flushing and winnowing should be anticipated thus rendering the Caspian Sea a fresh water basin. While the Black Sea can refill with Mediterranean Sea water during interglacial oceanic highstands via the Bosporus, the Caspian Sea could not. It is reasonable then to ask how and from where did the Caspian Sea replenish its salt? In exploring these questions other paradoxes became apparent that seemingly support the theory of an Arctic marine flood as being the source of the extra salt. Marine Species. The Ponto Caspian exhibits a number of relic Arctic species chief among which is the Caspian Seal Pusa caspica, which is a distant relation to the Arctic Ringed seal P. hispida. DNA studies indicate that P. caspica separated from its northern cousin by some 700,000 years. Looking at another species, Ivanova et al., reports the presence of the common or Blue Mussel Mytilus edulis in gravity cores at a depth of 100m in the North East of the Black Sea, dating between 6000 and 4400 year BP (Ivanova et al 2007). This is of interest for two reasons:  M. edulis is a temperate shallow water northern species found in the Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean/Barents Sea. It neither lives in the Caspian Sea nor the Mediterranean Sea, which excludes introduction from these locations. Its cousin Mytilus galloprovincialis—the Mediterranean mussel—only began to colonize the Black Sea from around 7500 BP once two way Bosporus flow was established (Major 2002). Radiocarbon dating shows that the period when the animals lived corresponds to a sea level approaching mean sea level (Ivanova, 2007., Major 2002). As the animal typically filter feeds on plankton, it suggests that it was once living in shallower marine conditions and not at a depth of 100m. Assuming the identification of M. edulis is accurate, its presence in the mid-Holocene Black Sea sediments needs to be explained, but suggests Arctic water inflow .  4 Another species of interest is the Common Cockle Cardium edule (i.e. Cerastoderma edule) which is found in the Ponto Caspian basins. Scientists consider the animal was transported into the Black Sea as larvae once the global sea level reached the Bosporus sill at minus 40m a.s.l. around 7500 years BP. This however presents a biological problem for the common cockle is not native to the Mediterranean Sea. While there is a possibility that the bivalve is misidentified (from its cousin C. glaucum) it does not explain how the Caspian and Aral Seas became populated by the species. In order to reach the Caspian and Aral basins, it would have had to migrate overland and uphill hundreds of kilometers, against the current—clearly an unlikely event. However, birds and even anthropogenic influences may be involved as vectors (Figure 11). Of significance, too, is that C. edule cannot survive in salinities lower than 11 ppt. Given that it is not native to the Mediterranean Sea and could not survive in brackish water an Arctic Ocean influx may explain the mystery of C. edule, as it is endemic to the Barents Sea. Genetic research on the lagoon cockle - Cerastoderma glaucum, also shows that populations in the Eastern Mediterranean have their genetic origins in the Ponto Caspian region (Tarnowska, 2010). This is highly significant because it demonstrates an outflow of genetic material from the Ponto Caspian into the Mediterranean, not the other way round. Also important is the fact that the bivalve cannot survive in water with salinity less than 5ppt. Noting that the Black Sea was fresh water before it reconnected with the Mediterranean and that the animals do not have a parent population in the Mediterranean, it begs the question: where could the parent population have originated? As the Black Sea is most unlikely, and the Caspian Sea improbable, a logical answer could be the Arctic Ocean. However there is a difficulty with this theory in that today C. glaucum is neither endemic to the Barents or White Seas. Consequently its provenance remains a puzzle. Other research in the Black Sea may further support the theory of an Arctic marine inflow. For example, Major et al. observes the following:  A sharp transition to lower CaCO3 at 9,400 years BP and a pronounced increase in (the isotopes) 18O, 87Sr/86Sr, and Sr/Ca. These changes signal the marine incursion, thus showing that marine input commences after the carbonate peak. the presence of two shell of euryhaline species (Cardium and Adacna). The 14C age of both shells, measured at two different labs, was 9,850±80(90) 14C years (~10.85 ka BP cal.) Deep basin and continental slope cores document a pronounced shift in the 18O of bulk carbonate from light freshwater values (~-6 per mil) to heavier values approaching the modern marine range (0 to +2‰) between 9,000 and 8,000 y 14C BP (10.1 to 8.85 ka BP cal.) (Deuser, 1972; Major et al., 2002). Over this interval the mollusk stratigraphy shows a change in assemblage reflecting a transformation to increasingly brackish environments (Popov, 1973; Shcherbakov & Babak, 1979). A final shift to marine values in Sr and oxygen isotope ratios at 9.4 ka BP cal corresponds to connection with the global ocean, and marks the onset of sedimentation on the Black Sea continental shelf. This date for the marine incursion is earlier than previously suggested based on the appearance of euryhaline fauna and the onset of sapropel formation in the deep basin.    Major concludes that ‘we also show that the inundation by the Mediterranean began at ~9.4 ka BP cal., earlier than previous indications of ~7.6 ka BP cal. based on fauna and the onset of sapropel deposition in the Black Sea (Ryan et al. 1997).’ (Major et al., 2002). Major’s observations provide a controversial set of results and demonstrate that brackish and marine conditions began to develop in the Black Sea, some 2000 years before the Mediterranean even began to flow northwards through the Bosporus. Allied to this is the equally baffling observation by Aksu et al, demonstrating a Holocene outflow to the Aegean Sea from around 10,000 yr BP. For this to have happened the theory requires a rapid Black Sea refill from a low level standpoint below 100m to an outflow elevation of the Bosporus 5 sill at minus 40m (Aksu et al 2002). This again is of interest for in order to raise the Black Sea/Lake by some 60 meters, the amount of water required would be around (284,000 km3), - i.e. the equivalent of about 800 years of rainfall, assuming double today’s rainfall level. (Note. Currently, North European river input is largely responsible for a net outflow from the Black Sea of around 300 km3/yr). This also presents a puzzle for in the Late Pleistocene/Early Holocene rainfall and run off from the north European watersheds into the Black Sea was most likely much lower than in today’s climate. Indeed the flooding appears to have happened towards the end of the Younger Dryas period when glaciers were still reforming and the climate was very cold and dry. With reduced rainfall and minimal glacial meltwater inflow to the Black Sea, the question of where such vast amounts of water could have come from to fill the Black Sea basin becomes very pertinent. Marine Flood To account for the above puzzles an Arctic Ocean inflow and very different late Ice Age environmental conditions should be considered. With 2-3 kilometers of ice pressing down on the land, the Earth’s crust was depressed. This would have allowed sea water to travel much further inland. With the ice sheets stretching south of Moscow it seems plausible that a route was opened through to the Caspian Sea. This would require an isostatic depression of between 100-200m. Another aspect of note is that tides are particularly high in northern latitudes: for example spring tides at the Bay of Fundy can reach 16m. This tidal phenomenon exists because the bay has a few distinct features: a substantial amount of water, a unique funnel shape and immense depth that causes resonance where its natural period of oscillation is between 12 and 13 hours. Indeed, each day, the tides move more than 100 km3 in and out of the bay, a volume four times greater than the discharge of the world’s rivers combined. Sediments at the mouth of the bay are also characterized by huge sand waves. (Gulf of Maine Census, 2012). To the south of the Barents Sea, the tides at Mezen Bay are up to 10 metres and sand waves are also present offshore with wave heights up to 17m. (Pavlidid, Ionin, Scherbakov, et al., 1998). Like the Bay of Fundy these are hydrogenic scultural relief forms of tidal origin. Perhaps then due to a combination of lower Ice Age topography and oceanographic conditions, (with tidal action and the North Atlantic Conveyor funnelled water into the newly exposed and the isostatically depressed landscape), conditions may have been created that favoured tides pumping seawater into the headwaters of the Volga. Other than a cosmic collision and super tsunami, this may provide an explanation for an Arctic inflow. The suggestion may even provide an explanation for the odd Baer’s Hills near the Volga delta. Previously these were though to be sand dunes, but research has shown them to be alluvial, and in need of a satisfactory explanation of their origins. Classical References. Curiously, there are also references in classical texts that allude to Russian rivers swelling and flowing into the Black Sea. One even involves seals becoming more common in the Caspian: From the history of Berossus, quoted by Syncellus and Eusebius, it is clear that seals began to appear in greater numbers (in the Caspian) as the deluge drew near, which is significant as indicating an inflow from the Arctic into the Asiatic Mediterranean (Fessenden, 1933). It is worth noting too that there are a number of ancient maps such as Eratosthenes and Strabo, indicating the Caspian Sea was connected to the Arctic Ocean in antiquity. (Figure 12). Indeed, Strabo also mentions that some persons still believed in a connection of the Caspian with the lake Maiotis (Sea of Azov), thus indicating a much later connection between the two basins. (Flinders Petrie, 1924). Diodorus Sicula further provides an account of the Black Sea bursting through into the Bosporus. (1BC – Bibliotheca Historica): The Samothracians have a story that before the floods which befell other people, a great one took place among them, in the course of which the outlet at the Cyanean Rocks was first rent asunder and then the Hellespont'. Note. The Cyanean Rocks were two islets 6 which in Diodorus' time stood at the Bosporus strait where this joins the Black Sea. (Strabo). Diodorus was clearly referring to the Samothracians, remembering that the former Bosporus land bridge had been 'rent asunder' by a bursting through of water. He then says: For the Pontus (Black Sea) which had at that time the form of a lake, was so swollen by the rivers that flow into it, that, because of the great flood which had poured into it, the waters burst forth violently into the Hellespont. In all of the writings that survive from antiquity only Diodorus mentions the Black Sea was once a lake before 5600 BC. While Diodorus gives no explanation for the large volumes of water filling the northern rivers, and as this cannot be explained by glacial meltwater or rainfall, then however improbable it may be, consideration should be given to an inflow of Arctic waters. Rock Art at Gobustan Looking at the marine influx question from yet another perspective and acknowledging that the Caspian Sea once overflowed to the Sea of Azov/Black Sea, it becomes possible to reinterpret some intriguing rock art at Gobustan archaeological reserve. Four examples are relevant. (1) Whale. (Kichickdash, Boulder No.5) The 4m long ‘fish’ carved on this outcrop bears no anatomical relationship to any Caspian Sea species. The large size of the carving and its anatomical features suggests it may in fact be a beaked whale as viewed from above. Indeed the curator Dr Malahat Farajova describes it as a being a dolphin (Figure 13) (2) Odd bird like carving. The carving shown in Figure 14 has two fin-like forelimbs, two flipper like rear limbs and a tail. If it is accepted that the ancient rock artists were accurate in their observations, the closest similarity to any animal is actually to a bird—possibly a member of the Auk family, the Guillemot. Coincidentally the most common Auk in Arctic waters is Brunnich’s Guillemot and a characteristic feature of this bird is a distinct white stripe on its beak, - the gape stripe. It is interesting to note that the rock art also appears to show a line or stripe on the beak and suggests the Stone Age artist has done a remarkable job in portraying this species. (Figure 14) If both interpretations are correct, (whale and auk) then it suggests that cetaceans and seabirds penetrated far into the continental interior. If so, perhaps the ancient cartographers were correct in their ancient maps showing a Caspian Sea channel open to the Arctic. (3) Whaling scene. (Boyukdash Boulder No. 8) A third example of rock art that has yet to be recognized, acknowledged and studied is even more bizarre as it may depict an elaborate whaling scene. This involves two prominent, though different design of boats, a fleet of smaller boats and possibly a breaching whale. The centre of the boulder has been rubbed smooth to provide the panel on which the carvers composed their scene. Collectively, many details in this rock art panel appear to show the outline of a large whale—complete with a fin and two flukes in anatomical proportion, examples of the comblike baleen, several small boats and a curious trellis like structure, which may be interpreted as a device for drying meat. (Figure 15) While this may sound most bizarre, there are similarities to the Stone Age whaling scenes at Bangudae in South Korea, where some 18 species of whale can be identified. (Figure 16) Like Bangudae, where anthropologists considered the Late Neolithic to Early Bronze Age carvings as a ceremonial site, (perhaps to pray to the gods for a good catch), the Gobustan carvings may have served a similar purpose. Prehistoric cultures evidently had the technology and skill to use boats and harpoons to catch and kill large leviathans, much as they do today in Indonesia at Lamerla. While it is possible that the Gobustan carvings may represent memories of distant oceans, they may provide eye witness evidence of a past connection to the Arctic Ocean, one that allowed the passage of larger mammals, and hence provided the possibility of prehistoric whaling operations in the Cas- 7 pian Sea. (Figure 17). Readers may wish to consider the odd prevalence of references to leviathans in the Bible, and how the Caspian Sea is close to where the bible stories originated. (4). Sun Boat and Zig Zag lines. (Boyukdash Boulder No. 29) Perhaps the most famous carved panel at Gobustan is that of the Hunter Scene and a multioared ‘sun boat’. Here, it is interesting to observe that the wavy or zigzag lines behind the hunter are interpreted as water. Azeri archaeologists consider the zigzags to represent rainfall. However knowing that the Caspian Sea overflowing across the Manych corridor at +26m a.s.l, it becomes possible to consider that the long thin set of zigzag lines running behind the hunter, - with an off take to the top left, may in fact, be a representation of a swollen the Caspian Sea. The Caspian Sea similarly is elongated and had an outflow to the North West. In effect, this carving may provide an eye-witness account of the swollen Caspian Sea spilling through the Manych corridor into the Sea of Azov during the Neolithic Age. If so it supports Strabo’s comments. Given that there are many multi oared boats carved at Gobustan, it further suggests that Early Man had the knowledge and capability to navigate great distances potentially from Central Asia to the Mediterranean. (Figure 18) Indeed, evidence of possible navigation and cultural connections may be implied from the presence of ‘cart ruts’ on the Apsheron Peninsula (Figure 19). While it is not known exactly what these man made carvings were used for, they are very similar to the more extensive ‘cart ruts’ found around the Mediterranean. The latter, particularly those in Malta date, from around 7000 to 4000 years BP and are the product of a maritime culture (Gallagher, 2002; Mottershead, 2008). With an elevated sea level, East to West navigation, seems a distinct possibility. Of importance here are numerous rock art carvings of multi-oared boats in Egypt’s Wadis Hamamat and Barramyia (Wilkinson, 2003). These carvings have strong similarities to those found at Gobustan. This could be archaeologically significant, for the famous Egyptologist Sir William Mathew Flinders Petrie was convinced (based on philological and some archaeological evidence) of ancestral connections between pre-dynastic Egyptians and the Caucasus. He was, however, unable to explain how this could have come about, and so he left the challenge open to future generations. Perhaps, knowledge of flooded landscapes and possible navigational waterways might have further strengthened his contention (Petrie, 1926). In this context it is noteworthy that pottery from the pre-dynastic Badarian period similarly shows twin pennanted multi oared boats passing by a long line of mountains which is interpreted by Margaret Murray as descriptive of the landscape passed on the journey made by Egyptian incomers (Murray, 1949). (Figure 20). This frames the question, - could the migrants be navigating along the Caucasus Mountain range? It is also significant that the upraised arm gesture is a relatively common symbol in Azerbaijan’s rock art, and even appears in an as yet unstudied huge 200m geoglyph. (Gallagher, 2010). Curiously in Egypt the upraised arm gesture it is closely associated with boats and pottery and may be a religious gesture or one of identity. Interestingly similar motifs are found in ancient Minoan and in Berber cultures. In the context of a massive inland body of water – the Asiatic Mediterranean, and the probability of navigation over huge distances, the central nature of the Caucasian isthmus begins to assume greater significance than it does today. For example in Figure 8 it can be seen that the Caucasus becomes an obvious place for mariners to settle. In this regard, one of the perplexing problems confronting linguists is the large and extremely varied array of languages spoken in and around the Caucasus Mountains. Indeed, linguistic comparison allows these languages to be classified into several language families with little or no discernible affinity to each other. (Wikipedia). While it is difficult to comprehend how this situation could have arisen, the puzzle perhaps begins to resolve itself if ancient navigation in a deluged landscape is taken into consideration. Linguists may wish to consider this possibility. Conclusion For several years now, efforts to try to understand the archaeological and geomorphological puzzles in the Azerbaijani landscape have been perplexing and frustrating, but remain a captivating challenge. The raised terraces and strandlines are obviously very real and call for scientific explanation. Trying to make sense of them has been a stretch of the imagination, involved exploring several scientific disciplines and looking well outside the Caspian Sea region and deep into the Ice 8 Ages for clues. While there may be other interpretations for the flood events and the biological and archaeological phenomena observed, the complex picture described above involving river and glacial meltwater flooding plus a possible temporary Late Pleistocene/Early Holocene incursion of Arctic waters, (however improbable), seems to provide an explanation for the varied observations and findings. There is an internal consistency in the observations that seems to point towards multiple and different types of flooding involving river, meltwater and seawater. As a ‘straw man’ the theories and interpretations may well be incorrect. Some however can be tested. Today, science and technology have many powerful investigative tools, and it is hoped that this account will serve to encourage investigation into the above phenomena and puzzles. Soil chemistry and the search for microfossils could provide early confirmation of an Arctic inflow. This would be important for if any of the above ideas were confirmed, especially the sequence and timing of the floods, the, extent of a massive Eurasian lake sea, and the reality of an Arctic marine incursion, then it would have far-reaching significance to many branches of science. The consequences of a Eurasian lake would surely have greatly affected regional climates, regional biogeography, human migrations and demographics. If confirmed, the latter mystery marine flood, suspected from the Barents Sea, may even provide an explanation for Biblical and legendary flood stories. Scientists and academics at the Azerbaijan National Academy of Science are in an ideal location to investigate the geomorphology of mud volcanoes and landscape to confirm flood types, sequences, heights and timelines, though this would involve international collaboration. Determining these would provide invaluable insight into a very different landscape: one where internal navigation may have been possible for millennia in prehistory. Such a scenario, and the eventual disappearance of the waterways, must surely have influenced ancient human life and helped shape prehistory. This is surely worth investigating. References Aksu, Ali E. et al. 2002. Persistent Holocene Outflow from the Black Sea to the Eastern Mediterranean Contradicts Noah's Flood Hypothesis. GSA Today, May 2002, 12(5): 4–10. Aladin, N. V., Plotnikov I. S. (1993), Large saline lakes of former USSR: a summary review: Hydrobiologia 267: 1-12, . Aliyev, Ad.A., Guliyev, I.S., Rahmanov, R.R. (2009). Catalogue of Mud Volcanoes Eruptions (1810 – 2007). 2nd Ed., Geological Institute of Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences. Nafta Press. Baker. V.R. (2007) ‘Greatest Floods and Largest Rivers’. Large Rivers: Geomorphology and Management. John Wiley and Sons. Editor. A.Gupta. 65-74. Deuser, W.G., 1972. Late-Pleistocene and Holocene history of the Black Sea as indicated by stable-isotope studies. Journal of Geophysical Research, 77(6): 1071-1077. Ertek,T.A., Yıldırım,C. Aytaç,A., Kutoğlu,S., Kurban,. K, Erginal,.E. Correlation of the marine terraces at the Turkish coast and their interpretation’. Proceedings of MEDCOAST 03 International Conference.(2011) Farajova. M. (2009). ‘Rock art of Azerbaijan’. Aspoligraph. P.192. Fessenden, R.A. The Deluged Civilisation of the Caucasus Isthmus (1933) Gallagher, R (2002). Cart Ruts and Stone Circles’. Azerbaijan International. Gallagher, R.. Anthropomorphic Images in Azerbaijan’s Landscape. Visions of Azerbaijan. July/August 2011.,307/ Grosswald, M. G. (1988). An Antarctic-style ice sheet in the northern hemisphere: Toward a new global gla- 9 cial theory. Polar Geography, Vol12,Issue 4, p. 239-267 Grosswald, M.G., (1998). ‘New Approach to the Ice Age Paleohydrology of Northern Eurasia’. ‘Paleohydrological and Environmental Change’. Editors Benito.G and Baker., V.R. 199-214. Gulf of Maine Census. 2012. Gurbuz, A and Leroy,.S.A.G. (2010). Science versus myth: was there a connection between the Marmara Sea and Lake Sapanca? J. Quaternary Sci., Vol 25 pp. 103-114. Ivanova, E.V., Murdmaa, I.O., Chepalyga,A.L., Cronin, T.M. Pasechnik, I.V. Levchenko, O.V , Howe, S.S., Manushkina, A.V d, Elena A. Platonova, E.A. Holocene sea-level oscillations and environmental changes on the Eastern Black Sea shelf. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 246 (2007) 228–259. Kaminski, M.A., Aksu, A.E., Hiscott, R.N., Box, M.,Al-Salameen, M., and Filipescu, S., 2002, Late glacial to Holocene benthic foraminifera in the Marmara Sea:Marine Geology. Lioubimtseva, E.U., Gorshkov S.P. , Adams J.M., A Gianr Siberian Lake During the Last Glacial: Evidence and Implications. Unpublished paper. Major, C.O, Goldstein, S.L., Ryan, W.B.F., Lericolais, G., Piotrowski, A.M., Hajdas, I., The co-evolution of Black Sea level and composition through the lastdeglaciation and its paleoclimatic significance. Quaternary Science Reviews 25 (2006) 2031–2047. Mangerud. J., Astakhov. V., Jakobsson. M, Svendsen. J.I. (2001) ‘Rapid Communication - Huge Ice Age Lakes in Russia’. Journal of Quaternary Science 16(8) 773-777. Mangerud. M.J. et al. (2004) ‘Ice Dammed Lakes and Rerouting of the Draining of northern Eurasia During the Last Glaciation’. Quaternary Science Review 23 1313-1332. Mamedov, AV, (1997), The late Pleistocene–Holocene Quaternary International, v. 41–42, 161–166. history of the Caspian Sea: Mottershead, D., Pearson, A. & Schaefer, M. (2008). The cart-ruts of Malta: an applied geomorphology approach. Antiquity, 82(318), 1065–1079. Murray, M. (1949). The Splendour That Was Egypt. Sidgwick & Jackson Ltd ed (1964) Pavlidid, Yu.G., Ionin,A.S.., Scherbakov, F.A., et al (1998) Arctic Shelf. Late Quaternary history as a basement for future forecast scenario. Moscow: GEOS, p.187 (in Russian). (Ref Seabed Morphology of the Russian Arctic Shelf by Sergey Nikiforov, editor. Nova Science Publishers.(2010) Petrie, Sir William Flinders. (1924) ‘The Caucasian Atlantis and Egypt’. (Ancient Egypt, December) Petrie, Sir William Flinders. (1926) ‘The Origins of the Book of the Dead.’ (Ancient Egypt, June). Polat, C., and Tu˘grul, S., 1996, Chemical exchange between the Mediterranean and Black Sea via the Turkish Straits, in Briand, F., ed., Dynamics of Mediterranean straits and channels: Bulletin de l’Institut Oceanographique, Monaco, Special No. 17, CIESME Science Series No. 2, p. 167–186. Popov, G.I., 1973. New data on the stratigraphy of Quaternary marine sediments of the Kerch Strait. Doklady Akademii Nauk SSSR, 213(4): 84-86. Rudoy. A., (1998) ‘Mountain Ice Dammed Lakes of Southern Siberia and their Influence on the Development and Regime of the Intercontinental Runoff Systems of North Asia in the Late Pleistocene. ‘Paleohydrological and Environmental Change’. Editors Benito.G and Baker., V.R. John Wiley and Sons. 215-234. Ryan, W.B.F., Pitman III, W.C., et al., 1997. An abrupt drowning of the Black Seashelf. Marine Geology, 138, 119–126. 10 Shcherbakov, F.A. and Babak, Y.V., 1979. Stratigraphic subdivision of the Neoeuxinian deposits in the Black Sea. Oceanology, 19(3): 298-300. Schrader, H., J., 1979. Quaternary paleoclimatology of the Black Sea basin. Sedimentary Geology, 23(1 4): 165 -180 Strabo,. Geography Book II Chapter 1 Tarnowska, K. Genetic structure and physiological variation of a widespread European lagoon specialist Cerastoderma glaucum (Bivalvia) living in extreme environmental conditions 25 mars 2010. THÈSE DE DOCTORAT, UNIVERSITÉ DE GDANSK, POLOGNE, Institute of Oceanography Department of Marine Ecosystems Functioning Spécialité Biosciences de l'Environnement. Wikipedia. ‘Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape’. Wikipedia. ‘Languages of the Caucasus’, Yanko-Hombach , Valentina. 2007. The Black Sea Flood Question: Changes in Coastline, Climate and Human Settlement. Springer ISBN 1-4020-4774-6. Wilkinson, T, (2003), Genesis of the Pharaohs, Thames and Hudson. Zubakov, V.A., 1988. Climatostratigraphic scheme of the Black Sea Pleistocene and its correlation with the oxygen isotope scale and glacial events. Quaternary Research, 29(1):1 -24. 11 Figure 1. Diagram showing the Eurasian ice sheets, pro-glacial lakes and di- Figure 2. Diagram showing the 8000 km meltwater river from Siberia to the verted river route from Siberia to the Ponto Caspian region. Mediterranean with elevations and catchment basins. Figure 3. Raised terrace near to the town of Siyazin with satellite image showing Figure 4. Stepped terraces at Gilazi valley entrance with terrace top heights. Mud dimensions volcano flow to right shows several strandlines. See Figure 11. 12 Figure 5. Parallel strandlines of Gilazi Valley. The upper strandline is at an eleva- Figure 6. Apparent correlation between Azerbaijan’s terrace top elevations and tion of ca 225m above average sea level and thought to be due to a combination spillway elevations. Spillway elevations may determine terrace top heights. river and glacial meltwater flooding. Strandlines are relatively young. Figure 7. Core sample information from Aegean Sea dating back to 16,000 BP. Figure 8. Approximation of areal extent of swollen Caspian Lake based on strandFreshwater out flow only began at 10,000 BP when Bosporus opened. Prior to this lines above 150m and 220m a.s.l. a continental interior endorheic lake must have prevailed. 13 Figure 9. Kanizadagh Mud Volcano showing white strandline at ca 115m a.s.l. Soil salinization is evident at lower levels where there is little to no vegetation. Contiguous erosion gulleys indicate similar weathering characteristics of mud volcano and lower sediments. Figure 10. Apparent strandlines on sheltered face of a mud volcano near Gobustan. Their presence in erosion channels indicates sedimentary origins. Elevation is between 60 and 80m a.s.l. Figure 11. Satellite image of Gilazi Valley entrance mudflow. Parallel strandlines Figure 12. While inland strandlines are horizontal near the Caspian Sea, sedimentary cut across the soft strata and provide evidence of recent flooding/transgression. horizons (strandlines) tilt downward towards the basin. 14 Figure 11. The common cockle shellfish appears throughout the Ponto Caspian Figure 12. Classical map from antiquity by Erastothenes 200 BC, - one of several about 7500 BP, even into the Aral Sea. Its provenance remains a puzzle. maps that show the Caspian Sea connected to the Arctic Ocean. Figure 13. A large fish like petroglyph which bears more of a resemblance to Figure 14. Comparison of dolphin like petroglyph to the Arctic Brunnich’e Guila toothed whale. Large cetaceans can only be present if the Caspian Sea was lemot. Note feathered tail like appearance and characteristic ‘gape’ stripe on bill. connected to the Arctic Ocean. 15 Figure 15. Thor Heyerdahl at two prominent rock art boats. The boulder has Figure 16.Late Neolithic rock art in South Korea showing 18 species of whale. been smoothed in the center panel and is curved. Additional carvings suggest Mankind was clearly a competent hunter of whales. Cross stick trellis array may this is a whaling scene. Tail flukes a fin and eye can are evident be for drying meat. Trellises are evident at Gobustan Figure 17.Suggested whaling scene at Gobustan Boulder 18. Rock site is rich Figure 18. Zig zag lines behing hunter are recognized as meaning water. Archaein imagery and includes a breaching whale, two main hunting vessels, several ologists consider it to be rain. However the juxtaposition near to the Sun Boat support vessels, a trellis, and odd carvings that could represent baleen combs and the elongated shape plus the off take to the top left suggests this may be a 16 representation of the Caspian Sea at an elevation in excess of 26m a.s.l. Figure 19. Azerbaijan’s ‘cart ruts’ are similar to those found across the Medi- Figure 20. Rock art boat with multiple oarsmen, a twin pennant and human figterranean indicating probable cultural connections ure with upraised arms show similarities between Azerbaijan and Egypt. 17


View more >