An account virtually identical with the biblical story of the deluge and Noah’s ark was found in the much older Gilgamesch epic.
The good thing about the deluge is that it covered an extremely large territory. That should facilitate finding traces. On the other hand deluges where very common occurrences. The big kingdoms flourished near the big rivers. In Mesopotamia the land is very shallow, large areas of modern Iraq are permanent swamps. These are ideal circumstances for large scale floods. Nevertheless people lived there because the river brought big advantages in terms of agriculture, transport and trade. They learned to live with the floods. If the house was destroyed once in 10 years the build a new one.
The flooded areas can be large and maybe so large that the affected people cannot see any land when they sit on the roof of their houses. So it might appear that everything is flooded. Maybe it was even common to build an emergency vessel – much smaller than Noah’s 500 feet ark - as a safe place for people and animals. At least in regions that were so flat that there was no elevation to flee to. I think the deluge story is based on the common collective flood experience of the people in Mesopotamia. Maybe it was triggered by an unusual heavy flooding. Duration of rainfall and flooding are vastly exaggerated as usual. Complete unrealistic is the height of the flood. Large scale floods are usually quite shallow, maybe few meters. According to Christian tradition the ark landed on Mt. Ararat which is some 5000 m high. No flood ever reached this height. In my opinion the mountain was added to the story because it is very high and very well known in the Near East. By the way, according to Islam tradition the ark landed on another, smaller mountain.
1957 a US military plane discovered and photographed a ship-shaped structure on the Mt. Ararat. It was a natural formation but caused countless articles and books, as always.
It appears tooled wood, several thousand years old, was found on Mt. Ararat. It seems that prehistoric dwelling places were on that mountain. Today these places are under glaciers which are in the process of melting. Maybe in 100 years we can examine these dwelling places..
Recent studies of the Black Sea brought this ocean to the attention of the deluge searchers. It appears the black sea was a sweet water lake only 15000 years ago. When the ocean levels rose by some 70-100 meter at the end of the last ice age 10.000 years ago the Mediterranean Sea crashed a natural dam at the Dardanelles and flowed into the Black Sea basin. Drill cores indicate that the Dead Sea shifted from freshwater to salt water in a very short period of time of just a few years.
Even if these theories can be substantiated in the future I do not consider the Black Sea as the place of the biblical deluge. The biblical deluge was temporary – the Black Sea flooding was not. The biblical deluge does not mention a giant lake before the flooding – the Black Sea was such a lake.
The biblical deluge was accompanied by very heavy rainfalls which is typical for floodings caused by rivers. The Black Sea flooding was caused by a slow rise of the sea level due to melting ice. It was not influenced by any rainfall no matter how heavy.
If the ark existed it was certainly much smaller than described in the bible. A few people cannot build such an enormous vessel and we know how much antique authors like numerical exaggerations. Even if remains are found it will not be possible to identify them as pieces of the ark. They can be pieces of any vessel from that period unless the pieces indicate a most unusual size.
Also wood does not survive for several thousand years unless, maybe, it is sealed without oxygen in some clay sediment or it is stored in an extremely dry environment without microorganisms. Apart from these very special storage conditions the vessel’s wood is gone by now .
To sum it up: It is certainly possible to find layers caused by floodings but there is no way to prove that this flooding is THE biblical deluge. I am afraid I see no chances for explorers for a targeted search.
(C) 2006-2011 Thorsten Straub, www.biblical-finds.com