Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Africa in the Days of Noah



Alice C. Linsley

8000 year old black mahogany dugout found in the region of Lake Chad, in the Land of Noah. The Dufuna dugout was buried at a depth of 16 feet under clays and sands whose alternating sequence showed evidence of deposition in standing and flowing water. The dugout is 8000 years old. By comparison, Egypt's oldest boat is only about 5000 years old.

Peter Breunig of the University of Frankfurt, Germany, an archaeologist involved in uncovering the Dufuna boat, reports that the canoe’s age “forces a reconsideration of Africa’s role in the history of water transport”. He adds, “that the cultural history of Africa was not determined by Near Eastern and European influences but took its own, in many cases parallel, course”. According to Breunig, “The bow and stern are both carefully worked to points, giving the boat a notably more elegant form”, compared to “the dugout made of conifer wood from Pesse in the Netherlands, whose blunt ends and thick sides seem crude”. To go by its stylistic sophistication, he reasons, “It is highly probable that the Dufuna boat does not represent the beginning of a tradition, but had already undergone a long development, and that the origins of water transport in Africa lie even further back in time.”

Indeed, the Dufana dugout was found in what is now the Sahara desert, but in the days of Noah this region of wet and the major water systems were interconnected. Lake Chad, a freshwater lake located in west-central Africa, was then a sea. Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria, and Niger all have shorelines on Lake Chad. This is the only place on the surface of the earth that claims to be Noah's homeland - Bor-No, meaning Land of Noah. Noah's boat probably came to rest on Mount Meru or possibly on Mount Kenya in Tanzania. Or it may have landed on a mountain in eastern Niger.

About 8000 years ago, the Chadic Sea was about 600 feet deep and sustained boating and fishing industries. The average fishermen used canoe dugouts (as shown above) which they could carve themselves, but nobles used boats constructed of marsh reeds lashed together and sealed with pitch.

Between 10,000 and 8000 BC the climate changed, ushering in years of persistent, heavy rains. The Nile was transformed from a slow stream into a roaring river with mile-deep gorges. This was the beginning of the wet period that would turn the Sahara into vast grasslands able to support elephants, antelopes, gazelles, ostriches, giraffes, and hyenas.

Lakes formed in the basins, large enough to support fish, crocodile and hippopotamus. Early hunters camped along the lakes, as evidenced by heaps of domestic refuse at many sites along the lake shores. Lake Chad filled and merged with the Mega-Chad Sea, creating a body of water comparable in size to the state of Sudan. The overflow spilled southwest out the Benue River to the Atlantic.

The flood of Noah likely occurred during the late Holocene Wet Period which lasted from about 10,000 to 3000 B.C. During the peak of the rainy period, around 8000, Mega-Chad would have covered 157,000 square miles. The surrounding land was spongy and there was great flooding at the confluence of the Niger, Benue, Yobe and Osimili Rivers. The floodwaters created a disaster of such proportions that it is still remembered. Rainbows would have been a common sight over the region due to rising mists.

In the ancient world, regional chiefs controlled rivers, lakes and wells from west central Africa to the Indus River Valley. The region where Lake Chad is located is called “Bor-no”, the “Land of Noah", suggesting that Noah controlled the water commerce in the area. As a chief he would have had access to the best and the most plentiful supply of boat building materials and shipwrights.

Since the worst flooding occurred about 8500 years ago we can assume that Noah ruled this region at that time. Noah was a figure of such importance that a great portion of the Genesis Prehistory pertains to him. We are told that the land of Noah was tilled and there were grape vines. In the late 1980s, German archaeologists found remains of wine making equipment in the tomb of the ancient Nubian king Scorpion I (dating to about 3150 BC). That find consisted of grape seeds, grape skins, dried pulp and imported ceramic jars covered inside with a yellow residue chemically consistent with wine. Ancient Egyptian murals depict details of wine-making. Egyptians flavored their wines with tree resins, herbs, and figs.

An oracle concerning Noah states, “This one shall bring us relief from our work and the toil of our hands.” (Genesis 5:29) We are also told that Noah was drunk with wine on at least one occasion.

Many factors caused population migration from the area of Borno. The region suffered the effects of a massive volcanic explosion on the floor of the Dead Sea. The eruption caused earthquakes and likely more severe flooding. The loss of life and homesteads among the peoples living in the southern edge of Lake Chad was apparently great and archaeologists report that the area shows no evidence or re-habitation for at least 200 years.

Doubtless the territories of the lake region declined in power and influence as a result of the Monsoon Belt moved more to the south and the desert began to encroach. This caused people to move toward the Nile and the center of political power moved from central west Africa to eastern Sudan, Egypt and Canaan.


Related reading: Boat Petroglyphs in Egypt's Central Eastern DesertWho Were the Kushites?; The Saharan Origin of Pharaonic Egypt; When the Sahara Was Wet; Finding Noah's Ark


3 comments:

NORTHERN PLAINS ANGLICANS said...

Were the Mesopotamian flood stories myths? Or were there, coincidentally, catastrophic events on their flood plains that produced similar remembrances?

What of the traditional location of the ark's landing, Mt. Ararat in Armenia?

Alice C. Linsley said...

There were two river regions that flooding during the Guirian Wet Period. Both the Tigris-Euphrates region and the Benue-Niger-Lake Chad depression flooded extensively. Remember that the peoples living at that time in both regions were in the Afro-Asiatic language family and their ruling houses were all inter-related by marriage. So we shouldn't be surprized that there are 2 Noah accounts in the Bible. One represents the Western tradition (Chadic) and the other the Eastern Tradition (Accadian). In Africa, the hero is Nu (Noah) and in Mesopotamia, the hero is Ziusudra. However, there is only one place on the surface of the earth that claims to be Noah's homeland, "Bor-nu" in the area of Lake Chad. In Turkey all wet lands are refered to as "Bernu", showing that the story of Noah had indeed traveled as far east as Turkey and the legend about the ark resting on a mountain in Ararat develops out of the Turkish belief that Noah was one of their own.

Dharmashaiva said...

Fascinating!