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Dispatch 10: 1999 Black Sea Expedition Test Results

November 17, 1999

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In our last dispatch of July 21, 1999, we reported that Ballard and team dredged the Black Sea floor and hauled up shells and other detritus. During the intervening months, the samples were tested and dated. The following conclusions were announced by Ballard at the headquarters of the National Geographic Society.

“Nine distinct species of mollusks were identified by Gary Rosenberg of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia. Seven of the species are saltwater mollusks; the other two are extinct freshwater mollusks, similar to species found today in the freshwater Caspian Sea.”

Samples of each shell species were radiocarbon—dated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. It found that the saltwater species ranged in age from 2,800 to 6,820 years. The freshwater species ranged from 7,460 to 15,500 years. These tests support the theory that the Black Sea was a freshwater lake until it was flooded by the Mediterranean Sea about 7,000 years ago. The tests suggest the inundation of the Black Sea occurred between 6,820 and 7,460 years ago.

Ballard plans to return to the Black Sea in the summer of 2000 to look for evidence of human settlements along the ancient flood surface. Among the shells his team collected in 1999 was a piece of obsidian "that had no business being there," indicating, Ballard said, "the possibility of human presence on the ancient beach. The 2000 expedition will look for evidence of buildings, pottery and ships."

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