2003 Seattle Annual Meeting (November 2–5, 2003)
Paper No. 178-3
Presentation Time: 2:00 PM-2:15 PM

CONFLUENCE OF CLIMATE CHANGE AND CULTURAL COMPLEXITY IN SOUTHERN MESOPOTAMIA: IMPLICATIONS FOR BIBLICAL FLOOD MYTHOLOGY

KENNETT, James P., Department of Geological Sciences and Marine Science Institute, Univ of California Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA 93106-9630, kennett@geol.ucsb.edu and KENNETT, Douglas J., Anthropology, Univ of Oregon Eugene, 5219 University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 974035219

The evolution of the earliest complex state-level societies and cities, from small sedentary communities, took place in southern Mesopotamia between 7.5 and 5 ka during the 'Ubaid and Uruk Periods. Recent attempts to explain this transition discount the role of environmental change and evaluate the available archaeological evidence for the development of cultural complexity in this region within a static environmental context and/or under conditions similar to those of the modern environment. However, new paleoenvironmental records clearly indicate that modern conditions differ considerably from those of the early to middle Holocene, a time of major environmental and cultural change in this key region. We hypothesize that the development of complex societies in southern Mesopotamia resulted, in part, from human responses to resource change caused by a critical confluence of eustatic and climatic changes unique to this circumscribed region. Although it is inherently difficult to link past cultural and environmental developments with mythology, we argue, based on the environmental and cultural history of the region, that the Sumerian flood myth (as recorded in the Gilgamesh Epic) and the succeeding biblical flood narrative, most likely have their origins in the glacioeustatic latest Quaternary transgression in the Arabo-Persian Gulf; the largest, shallowest inland sea contiguous with the ocean. Flood myths, often orally transmitted through to modern times, appear widespread among maritime societies and can be attributed to late Quaternary deglaciation and sea-level rise. The earliest written flood myth narrative (Gilgamesh) likely reflects environmental changes in Southern Mesopotamia that contributed to the emergence of cultural complexity, and hence its documentation through the development of the first writing systems.

2003 Seattle Annual Meeting (November 2–5, 2003)
Session No. 178
“Noah's Flood” and the Late Quaternary Geological and Archaeological History of the Black Sea and Adjacent Basins
Washington State Convention and Trade Center: 606
1:30 PM-5:30 PM, Tuesday, November 4, 2003

Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 35, No. 6, September 2003, p. 460

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