Yesterday, I posted 5,000 words of reviews, so today I’m taking a breather. I’m going to share with you a little nugget from the medieval writer Isidore of Seville (560-636 CE), who was one of the very first to argue that fossils found atop mountains were “proof” of the reality of Noah’s flood. His claim appears in book 13, chapter 22 of the Origines (Etymologies). I have translated the section below, but if you would like to read the whole of chapter 22, you can find it on Google Books here.
XIII.xxii.ii. Primum diluvium extitit sub Noe, quando hominum sceleribus offensus Omnipotens, toto orbe contecto, deletis cunctis, unum spatium caeli fuit ac pelagi. Cuius indicium hactenus videmus in lapidibus quos in remotis montibus conchis et ostreis concretos, saepe etiam cavatos aquis visere solemus.
Today, of course, we know that fossil shells atop mountains are the result of the ancient seabed rising up as the earth’s plates push together, but from Isidore down to modern creationists, these marine fossils served as evidence of the Noachian Flood. Many researchers believe that at least some flood myths around the world may have been inspired by early observations of such fossils and subsequent attempts to explain them.
[Update: I've posted extended excerpts from Isidore of Seville in my Library.]
1/13/2013 11:18:02 pm
My professor's take on it was that most kf the early civilizations sprang up in river valleys, so of course they were all going to have to deal with a flood at some point or another. It is understandable they told stories about massive floods the way we tell stories of Hurricane Katrina. Just because it was their known world does not mean it was the entire planet.
1/17/2013 05:16:31 pm
Isn't it possible, as Joseph Campbell talked about, that the flood myths are fundamentally symbolism of psychological concepts. So, local floods and the discovery of sealife fossils in mountains helped evolve the myths to the common narratives we see now. Ancient people had used everyday ideas that the masses understood to communicate complex ideas, like most sci-fiction writers do today.
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I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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