Deluge (dĕlˈyōj) [key], in the Bible, the overwhelming flood that covered the earth and destroyed every living thing except the family of Noah and the creatures in his ark. Archaeology has yielded little trace of the biblical flood, but some oceanographers and geophysicists have speculated that the actual deluge occurred in the Black Sea region some 7,600 years ago, when rising sea levels in the Mediterranean (due to melting glaciers) flooded into the Black Sea and inundated the surrounding coast.
Many archaeologists and historians, however, do not believe that the inundation of the ancient Black Sea coast is the origin of the flood story, regarding the periodic flooding of the Tigris and Euphrates as a more likely model for the tale. Flood stories resembling the biblical story are found in the folklore of many races—Native Americans, Fiji Islanders, and Australian aborigines. The earliest known of these stories is Sumerian, one form being found in the record of Berossus (3d cent. B.C.), another on a tablet of the Gilgamesh epic of at least 2000 B.C. See Deucalion and Ur.
See N. Cohn, Noah's Flood: The Genesis Story in Western Thought (1996); W. Ryan and W. Pitman, Noah's Flood (1999).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.