Lakes could easily have been created that were held in place only by glaciers or rubble dams, which naturally, as glaciers melted or levels again rose, would give way as water pressure overpowered them.
It would seem that history is littered with major flood legends, so that iconic bible figure Noah might not by any means have been the only one to be caught up in a maelstrom of seething waters. Looking at the myths and folklore of many countries reveals narratives about huge flood events in many cultures, including Tibetans and Native Americans.
University of Washington boffin David Montgomery decided to take a scientific look into facts that might lay at the heart of these tales, and found that there is little doubt of their having some truth to them. You see, as Ice Ages progressed, the advancement and subsequent retreat of ice sheets would have altered sea levels.
Lakes could easily have been created that were held in place only by glaciers or rubble dams, which naturally, as glaciers melted or levels again rose, would give way as water pressure overpowered them. The failing of such natural barriers of course released untold billions of gallons of water.
Thus on many occasions, in all probability, such cataclysmic events would have scoured away all life in their paths, including any humans in the way, and it is almost certain that the recounting from memory of such events, over many generations, formed the seeds of fact combined with fiction which became the accepted mythology.
In Tibet, for example, a 2002 expedition found evidence of a mud and ice dam having created a 780 ft deep lake in the Tsannpo river gorge around 1300 years ago, which eventually gave way, releasing 50 cubic miles of water to sweep down the mountain and in so doing create the fertile plain that is the breadbasket of Tibet today.
The legend had it that Buddhist missionary Guru Rinpoche – Padmasambhava – defeated the demon of the lake, so that it drained away to leave fertile farmland behind. In the same way, both the American Indian tribes of the Yakima and Spokane told missionaries of past great floods.
These had been the result of the continual re-forming of two giant, deep lakes behind eastern Washington mountain valley glaciers, which over the course of several thousand years caused major floods on at least 25 occasions. As far as the Noah story goes,researchers have found massive floods evidence just where it needed to happen for the Biblical story.
There was once, where the waters of the Persian Gulf now lie, an area as big as the UK – possibly the oldest and largest human foothold outside of Africa – where lush pastures provided sanctuary for over fifty millennia, at which point rising seas could have overcome natural barriers and flooded the region in devastating fashion.
In actual fact, the very fact of this area having been so verdant might well have given rise to the Garden of Eden story as well as the flood tale, because both Babylonian and Sumerian sources seem to agree on the time-lines in the Gulf basin. Not that anyone is stating these speculations to be fact, because that could easily stir up great controversy, but it is certainly fascinating food for thought.