Eerie abandoned historic malthouses in Lincolnshire

This is the historic and massive Bass Maltings in Sleaford, Lincolnshire.

The site comprises a large group of eight disused malthouses.

The former industrial site was originally owned by the Bass Brewery, of Burton on Trent, and was constructed between 1901 and 1907.

Designed by Herbert A. Couchman design, the maltings are the largest group of malthouses in England.

They have been designated Grade II-listed and are recognised as “particularly important of more than special interest.”

Built in red brick with Welsh slate roofing, the complex follows a rectangular plan along an east–west orientation: a central four-storey water tower is flanked by four malthouses.

Behind the tower is a tall, octagonal chimney. The malthouses are identical in design and layout; barley was fed into a granary section, before being moved onto the germination floors and eventually transported to one of the twin kilns, where malting took place.

Their southern fronts consisted of a six-storey building of five bays with a gable spanning three windows that faces the other ranges.

Projecting northwards is a ten-bay section of four-storeys which formed the germination floors.

The location represents the importance of the English brewing industry in the late-19th and early 20th centuries and large-scale malting at its peak.

Owing to its derelict state, the building was also placed on English Heritage’s ‘Heritage at Risk’ register, in 2011.

After a number of potential new uses for the site, including development for housing and use as a Tesco supermarket, which all fell through due to planning issues and political wrangling over the decades, the site remains disused and derelict to this day.

It is unknown how long the stalemate will continue as the site falls further into disrepair.

It now stands as an eerie relict of a bygone age.

Neolithic standing stone attacked by vandals sparking police appeal

Police are on the trail of vandals who attacked ancient standing stones and carved graffiti into one of them.

Shocked Historic Environment Scotland (HES) staff found the markings on a routine monitoring visit to the Machrie Moor standing stones on Arran.

HES said the stones are a scheduled monument, which means they are legally protected and damage to them, such as graffiti, is a criminal offence.

The heritage body said it would be working with Police Scotland to investigate the incident.

HES tweeted: “On a recent visit to monitor its condition, we were concerned to discover that one of the stones has been damaged by incised (i.e. carved) graffiti.

“As well as being a Property in the Care of Ministers, the standing stones are also designated as a scheduled monument.

“This means they are legally protected and damage to them, such as graffiti, is a criminal offence.”

A subsequent tweet read: “Heritage crime can cause damage that can never be repaired and forces us to spend less resources on important conservation work.”

The impressive megaliths are believed to have been used in ancient rituals and ceremonies.

The landscape includes standing stones, stone circles, cairns and other Neolithic and Bronze Age constructions, as well as hut circles and an extensive field system, which all date to between 3500 and 1500 BC.

HES urged anyone with information to contact Police Scotland or Crimestoppers.

WW2 RAF hero’s Victoria Cross medal sells for massive amount

London auctioneers Spink has sold a Victoria Cross, awarded posthumously to a hero Royal Air Force bomber pilot, for an astronomical £660,000.

Just 26 Victoria Crosses have been awarded to the Royal Air Force to date, of which exactly half of them posthumously – highlighting the sacrifice involved in receiving them.

This particular medal was awarded to Squadron Leader Arthur Scarf for his incredible bravery in the Battle of Malaya, in December 1941.

Joining the RAF in 1936, by December 1941 Arthur Scarf was in Command of his Squadron who were flying Bristol Blenheims close to the Malay-Thai border when relentless Japanese attacks were unleashed; having hurriedly moved to Butterworth airfield, the requirement to stem the rapid advancement and devastating aerial bombardments coming out of Singora saw Scarf take to the air: he could do nothing as he saw every single Blenheim in his Flight shot up before they could even get ‘wheels up’.

Scarf then decided to undertake the mission alone and without fighter support.

The hero made his bombing run despite being constantly harassed, but was mortally wounded on the return journey, having his left arm shattered and several holes in his chest and back from heavy strafing.

Somehow, with the assistance of his two Sergeants – and barely conscious – he kept pressure on the controls despite his shattered arm and managed to crash-land at Alor Star, being rushed to the hospital and swiftly being administered morphia and two pints of blood donated by a nurse who was a blood match; that nurse turned out to be his wife, whom he had only been married for a few months, she was carrying their unborn child.

Despite the best efforts of medics Scarf slipped away whilst in surgery but in the chaos of the Battle of Malaya – and eventual Fall of Singapore on 15 February 1942 – it would be over four years until his widow would be presented with the Victoria Cross by King George VI.

His was truly the V.C. that represented the ‘Forgotten War’.

The two other crewmen from Scarf’s Blenheim were also given awards after the war for their courage during the action; Sergeant (later Squadron Leader) Paddy Calder was awarded a Distinguished Flying Medal and Sergeant Cyril Rich (killed in action in 1943) received a posthumous mention in Despatches.

When you consider the incredible bravery involved in winning the medal, perhaps £660,000 is a small price to pay.

Does ‘Viking DNA’ stoke division and excuse violence?

Fascinating new research into the increasing use of home DNA testing kits has revealed that those claiming Viking DNA could foster unhealthy ideas of genetic pre-determinism.

The study, called ‘I am a Viking! DNA, popular culture and the construction of geneticized identity’, published in the journal ‘New Genetics and Society: Critical Studies of Contemporary Biosciences’, was conducted by Sweden-based academics Anna Källén, of Stockholm University and Daniel Strand, of Uppsala University.

The paper’s abstract read: “In this article, we analyse how genetic genealogy reshapes popular notions of historical identity, as it facilitates a genetically informed understanding of ethnicity and ancestry.

“Drawing on interviews with Swedish, British and American individuals who have employed genetic ancestry tests (GATs) to prove ancestral connections to Vikings, we explore how the desire to ‘be a Viking’ is articulated through a convergence of pre-existing discourses around Vikings and DNA.

“By combining signs from genetic science and popular depictions of Vikings, our interviewees create a new discourse of geneticised Viking identity.

“In this new discourse, socio-historically constructed ideas about Vikings are naturalised as the innate qualities of individuals who possess a certain genetic composition.

“Images of ‘the Viking’ once created for political, cultural or commercial purposes are revived in new embodied forms and can start to circulate in new social contexts, where they, by association, appear to be confirmed by genetical science.”

Anna Källén expanded on the theme, in an article in The Conversation, where she mentioned the unhealthy obsession with so-called ‘Viking DNA’ and it’s social consequences.

She wrote: “In our new study, we carried out interviews with people from the US, the UK and Sweden who had purchased genetic ancestry tests to see if they were related to Vikings.

“Since the test results did not include the term ‘Viking’, most of them pointed to the category ‘Scandinavia’ in their ethnic charts as proof of having Viking ancestry.

“Almost all of the people in our study saw their results as scientific confirmation of either ‘being related to Vikings’ or of actually ‘being a Viking’.

“As a man from the US put it, the results ‘began to confirm or at least lay the basis for the person that I am.’

“In a similar way, a woman from Sweden said that her test allowed her to ‘know who I am and what my origins are’.

“However, what the tests actually proved was based on creative interpretation. In this sense, several of our interviewees took images of ‘the Viking’ fostered in popular culture and political propaganda, and used them to make sense of their own lives.”

She added: “For example, people with experiences of violence and abuse used their ‘Viking genes’ as explanation – describing Vikings as warriors and berserkers. ‘Knowing that I am descended from Vikings,’ a man from the US said, ‘has made it clearer to me why there might be a genetic preponderance of violence and explosive anger in my family.’

“In a similar way, interviewees who considered themselves to be restless described the Vikings as explorers and naval engineers.

“A woman from the US said: ‘I have to see new lands,’ adding that it was due to ‘the Viking’ in her.”

The academic said that it seemed that the use of genetic ancestry tests can facilitate a kind of “genetic determinism”, in which a person’s life is the natural result of their genome.

She said: “From this perspective, humans appear to not have much control over their lives.

“By dividing people into racial or national categories, genetic ancestry tests might be used to trigger tensions between different groups.

“Even if a person’s ‘Viking DNA’ only amounts to a small amount, it can still provide an allegedly scientific basis for racial division.”

She concluded: “In an era marked by increasing xenophobia and ethnic chauvinism, it is important to be aware of the interplay between genetics and ideas about race.”

On a personal note I know I was pleased to find a reasonable amount of Scandinavian DNA in my own Ancestry DNA results and I did automatically assume Viking lineage.

So, is this just harmless fun and general historical interest, or could it have a darker side?

Stone Age hunter-gatherer slate rings: The oldest currency or bands of friendship or ritual?

Around 6,000 years ago, hunter-gatherer communities in northeast Europe produced skillfully manufactured slate ring ornaments in great numbers.

While these ornaments are commonly referred to as ‘slate rings’, they were rarely used as intact rings.

Instead, the ornaments were fragmented on purpose, using pieces of rings as tokens. These fragments were further processed into pendants.

According to new research from the University of Helsinki, in Finland, the fragments were deliberately broken and most likely served as symbols of the social relations of Stone Age hunter-gatherers.

As most archaeological material is found in a fragmented state, the phenomenon has been considered a natural consequence of objects’ having been long buried underground.

However, according to Postdoctoral Researcher Marja Ahola from the University of Helsinki, not all objects have necessarily been broken by accident.

Instead, it is possible some were fragmented on purpose as part of maintaining social relations, bartering or ritual activities.

New research could demonstrate a widespread Stone Age exchange network.

With a substantial number of ornaments found in central locations of what is now Finland.

As some of the ornaments originate in the Lake Onega region and have been transported to Finland it is possible that they symbolise cordial connections established within the network.

By matching pieces of slate ring ornaments, analysing their geochemical composition and investigating traces of use and manufacture in the objects, a research group at the University of Helsinki and the University of Turku demonstrated that the ornaments had not only been worn, but also intentionally broken.

Because fragments from the same ornament were found in two different locations, it is possible that they were worn by two different individuals.

Another indication of this is the fact that one of the fragments had been worked on more finely than the other.

Marja Ahola said: “These fragments of the same object may show the handprint and preferences of two individuals.

“Perhaps they wore the ornaments as a symbol of a connection established.”

A similar link was found in slate ring ornaments created during the same manufacturing process, one of which was found in a settlement-site context and the other in a burial site investigated near the settlement.

Ahold added: “What we see here may be one way of maintaining connection between the living and the dead.

“This is also the first clear material connection between a certain place of residence and a burial site.

“In other words, the people who lived there most likely buried their dead in a site close to them.”

An X-ray fluorescence analysis (XRF) of a little over 50 slate ring ornaments demonstrated that some of the ornaments or fragments thereof had been imported from the Lake Onega region, Russia, hundreds of kilometres from the site where they were found.

XRF analyses can be used to determine the element concentrations and raw materials of inorganic archaeological materials with a very high precision.

The technique can be applied as an entirely non-invasive surface analysis, which makes it perfectly suited to the study of archaeological objects.

Docent Elisabeth Holmqvist-Sipilä said: “By comparing the elemental concentrations of the objects under investigation with findings published on the basis of international datasets, we were able to demonstrate that some of the ornaments or the stone material used in them was transported to Finland through an extensive exchange network, primarily from the Lake Onega region.

“There was also variation in the chemical composition of the objects, which correlates with their design.

“These factors indicate that the ornaments were produced at Lake Onega region in several batches, most likely in different locations and by a number of makers.”

Stonehenge still threatened as new tunnel consultation launches

Stonehenge still faces an uncertain future as a fresh consultation was launched by the UK Government on its plans to build a road tunnel nearby.

The latest twist came after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps received updated information on the scheme’s carbon impact.

National Highways has submitted a report on its calculation of operational and construction-linked CO2 emissions.

The updated documents claim that the cumulative effects of greenhouse gas emissions from the scheme have decreased compared with previous estimates in 2018.

National Highways measured the impact using the current version of the National Highways Carbon Tool.

It put the decreases in construction carbon emissions down to “a change in GHG (greenhouse gas) emission factors” and it explained lower road user emissions because of “the projected uptake of electric vehicles up to 2050”.

The £1.7bn scheme would involve the construction of a new 12.8km two-lane dual carriageway, with a 3.2km tunnel, for the A303 between Amesbury and Berwick Down, in Wiltshire – very close to the Neolithic World Heritage Site.

The High Court quashed the Transport Secretary’s decision to allow development consent for the scheme last July.

The decision was seen as a welcome victory for campaigners from the group Save Stonehenge World Heritage Site.

But, unfortunately, the plans are still lingering.

The scheme, if it goes ahead, is thought likely to cause considerable harm to the Stonehenge World Heritage Site, which includes the historic landscape around the iconic monument.

Following the court’s judgement that the development consent order was “unlawful”, Mr Shapps and the Government are now “redetermining” the application.

Interested parties have until 10 June to make their feelings known on the updated environmental information.

A link to this document, which includes relevant contact details, is here.

The mysterious old barn ‘built using wood from the Pilgrim Fathers’ ship The Mayflower’

Welcome to the historic Quaker village of Jordans, deep in the Buckinghamshire countryside.

The village proper lies down a road with an earlier allusion to religious practices – Seer Green Lane – and it is a picturesque place, with a large village green and a quaint little shop selling all manner of necessities including, fittingly, Quaker Oats porridge.

But at the other end of the lane and along a fairly busy main road is a mysterious, and now privately owned, barn with a fascinating history.

The barn, which dates to around the early 17th century, now lies towards the front of a private estate and appears unremarkable.

But it was once at the centre of a media sensation.

This furore, which saw visitors flock to the site from as far afield as the United States, was because an Englishman, James Rendel Harris, had claimed to have discovered within it the last resting place of the Mayflower.

The Mayflower was the English ship that transported a group of English families, religious outcasts, that became known to history as the Pilgrim Fathers, from England to the New World in 1620.

After a gruelling ten-week voyage, the Mayflower, with 102 passengers and a crew of about 30, reached America, dropping anchor near the tip of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, on November 21, 1620.

The American national holiday of Thanksgiving derives from the first Thanksgiving feast held by the Pilgrims in 1621.

The event was a prayer event and dinner to mark the first harvest of the settlers.

With this in mind the final resting place of the ship has huge cultural and historical significance in the story of the birth of America.

Harris believed that timbers from the famous vessel had been used in the construction of the barn in Old Jordans.

His claim was that he had been attending a funeral in the area when a man told him of the incredible construction material.

With interested parties wanting to verify the story, mystery descended as Harris was suddenly unable to trace the man who had relayed the story to him.

He conducted an investigation and his research was said to have revealed that local farmers, who had shares in the Mayflower in the 17th century, may have received its timbers after it was broken up.

Harris put this information together with details from the Plymouth Colony’s first governor, William Bradford.

Harris was a senior member of the local Quaker community and a leading figure within the English Mayflower Club, and an author of Mayflower plays.

So was this an embellishment, or an outright hoax perpetrated by a man with a keen interest in the subject, or a happy coincidence?

As the 300th anniversary of the voyage drew closer in the run up to 1920 the ‘Mayflower Barn’, as the building was dubbed, caused a sensation.

The story gained such credence that, during the Second World War, wood from the rafters was used to create a ‘Mayflower medal’ for Winston Churchill to give to US President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Before this, in 1921, the Quakers presented part of one of the timbers to Samuel Hills (an American Quaker), who placed it in a chest inside the Pacific Highway Association Peace Portal (today Arch) on the boundary of the USA and Canada.

Whatever the truth of the claims, the area has another connection to the birth of the entity that would become the USA, as nearby lies the grave of William Penn, founder of the Province of Pennsylvania.

So, do you believe the story or is this merely a hoax by an eccentric obsessive?

Stonehenge Mesolithic landscape BEFORE the stone circle revealed

A new study has revealed the incredibly ancient pre-stone circle landscape, upon which Stonehenge now stands.

New research by the University of Southampton has plotted the Mesolithic environment of the now Salisbury Plain, 4,000 years prior to the construction of the world famous sarsen and bluestone monument.

A team of academics explored Blick Mead, a Mesolithic archaeological site within a chalkland spring area about a mile from Stonehenge.

They discovered evidence that the landscape was not covered in dense, closed canopy forests during the later Mesolithic period, as was previously theorised.

Instead, it was only partially wooded and was a grazing ground for huge bovine aurochs, red deer, elk and wild boar.

This would have made it an attractive hunting ground for ancient human hunter-gatherers, before the arrival of the Neolithic farmers, who would go in to build Stonehenge and a host of similar monuments.

Lead researcher, Samuel Hudson, of Geography and Environmental Science at Southampton said: “There has been intensive study of the Bronze Age and Neolithic history of the Stonehenge landscape, but less is known about earlier periods.

“The integration of evidence recovered from previous excavations at Blick Mead, coupled with our own fieldwork, allowed us to understand more about the flora and fauna of the landscape prior to construction of the later world-famous monument complex.”

He added: “Past theories suggest the area was thickly wooded and cleared in later periods for farming and monument building.

“However, our research points to pre-Neolithic, hunting-gatherer inhabitants, living in open woodland, which supported aurochs and other grazing herbivores.”

The researchers studied pollen, fungal spores and traces of DNA preserved in ancient sediment, alongside optically stimulated luminescence and radiocarbon dating to map an environmental history of the site. 

Their findings enabled them to produce a picture of the habitat in the area from the later Mesolithic (5500 BC) to the Neolithic (from 4,000 BC).

The research indicates that later Mesolithic populations at Blick Mead used the open and expansive conditions to repeatedly exploit groups of large ungulates (hoofed mammals), until a transition to an agrarian and monument-building society took place.

These practices over the centuries made the site perfect for the construction of the breathtaking megalithic site and other large-scale monument building, as the land was pre-cleared.

The team suggested there was continuity between the inhabitants of the two eras, who used the land in different ways, but understood it to be a favourable location.

I would note that the lingering presence of the hunter-gatherer caste, which was revered in similar and broadly contemporary Neolithic sites, like Newgrange, in Ireland, may have also rendered the location one of ritual or spiritual significance.

The hunt was of supreme importance, not just for survival, but for religion, with Mesolithic societies donning horned headgear as part of shamanic-style worship.

The conclusions of the team from Southampton, working with colleagues at the universities of Buckingham, Tromsø and Salzburg, are published in the journal PLOS ONE.

The team is now planning further exploration of the Mesolithic history of the area, which they hope to begin at the end of this year.

Are Vikings really ‘winning the culture war’?

An interesting article appeared in the British magazine The Spectator this week, which made the claim that Vikings were “winning the culture war”.

For those unfamiliar with the publication, The Spectator is the oldest English-language magazine in the world and is often at the leading edge of national and international political and cultural conversations. So this article is meaningful in terms of where the Norse raiders currently are in the cultural zeitgeist.

In it author Ed West reproduced one of his Substack posts where he looked at the modern obsession with the Northmen and sought to explain why this was happening.

(Links to the Spectator article and original Substack post are in this paragraph.)

So, what did the article say?

Well Mr West begins by recounting the horrific treatment of a sacrifice victim, as reported to his masters at the Abbasid Caliphate, in Baghdad, by the Arabic diplomat Ahmad ibn Fadlan from the year 922.

This is to, presumably, demonstrate the brutality and backwardness of this Northern European pagans in contrast with the monotheistic Muslims of the Arab world at the time.

This theme continues throughout, when the Norse are contrasted with Anglo-Saxon and Frankish Christians – although the author does allow himself to criticise Charlemagne for his promiscuity and brutality in converting the Germanic peoples at the point of a sword.

There is no mention of the outrage of the destruction of the continental Saxons’ sacred Irminsul tree, by the Holy Roman Emperor’s forces during the Saxon Wars, though.

He cites the new Robert Eggers film They Northman’ as an example of the gratuitous violence and ritual murder of the Scandinavians at this time, which reflects the account ibn Fadlan made.

So why does Mr West believe Vikings are winning the culture war?

Two main themes are at the root of his contention: modern-day attitudes to sex and TV and movie audiences’ seemingly voracious appetite for Viking-based content.

West wrote of the allure of Christianity and the Viking defeat in the original, Medieval, culture war: “… being linked to a wider European civilisation and far more literate, had immense advantages and would win, despite their belief in peace and male sexual restraint being so weirdly counter-intuitive.

“The losing polytheists had their worldview confined to history as Christianity swept across Scandinavia.

“Yet today the Norsemen, or Vikings (a historically imperfect but impossibly attractive term) are themselves embroiled in a new culture war. And this time they might win, from beyond the grave.

“The Northman is part of a wider Viking cultural renaissance of recent years, with The Last Kingdom, the adaptation of Bernard Cornwell’s book series; the Netflix show Vikings, as well as three Thor films, a fourth coming out this summer.”

Where West believes sex has a role in this new phenomenon is in the apparently free and easy attitude the Norse had in this regard.

He contrasted this with traditional Victorian values, which harked back to the alleged morality of Alfred the Great of Wessex.

He wrote: “The fact that Alfred was tormented by sexual desires, which he prayed to God to free him from, made him all the more virtuous and relatable to Victorians. He was a hero for a pre-ironic age.

“Today such an internal sexual struggle is looked down upon, seen as unhealthy and hypocritical, positively weird. English nationalism is worthy only of thralls.”

To prove the Norse we’re comfortable being promiscuous he wrote: “The behaviour of Freyja, the goddess who represented womanhood in Norse mythology, is illustrative; she took many lovers, and is said to have slept with every elf in Asgard, without any sense of shame.

“To many post-Christians there is huge attraction to such a society. Sympathetic historians point out the prejudices of sexually-frustrated Medieval monks whose lack of a healthy outlet resulted in lurid fantasies about pagan behaviour, as well as misogyny.”

Is Freyja really the benchmark upon which Norse women should be judged – I think not and there is little real substance to the notion of the freewheeling, bed-hopping, town-raiding shield maiden.

On occasions when women did accompany men on raids, they were unlikely to be involved in any of the fighting, and would have been restricted to provisioning the warriors or, potentially, performing rituals and magic to aid the menfolk.

And does ubiquity really represent victory?

The Northman faced a barrage of criticism from those on the left for it’s realistic portrayal of gender roles in Norse society, and its historically-accurate casting choices, which only featured white actors.

The same cannot be said of TV shows like ‘Vikings’, the spin-off ‘Vikings: Valhalla’ and ‘The Last Kingdom’, which have featured a number of female warrior characters and more diverse casting.

So are Vikings really winning a culture war – or have they been subsumed and conquered by it?

Furthermore, it is bizarre to use the Marvel franchise’s ‘Thor’ films as evidence of a Viking victory in the so called culture war.

There are many things one can say about these, but that they are a fair and accurate portrayal of Norse history is not one of them.

Yes, nominally Viking-connected content is currently popular, but if these shows and films are inaccurate caricatures of the real history, often with the addition of plot themes based on modern day social issues, is this really a win for them?

I suppose there is a chance that, after watching these shows, people may seek out the Eddas or study the history of the Vikings and their precursor Bronze Age traditions.

And it is certainly true that books on Vikings are also popular, but these are sometimes fairly revisionist efforts, aiming to amp up controversial new theories to ensure often sensationalist media coverage and generate book sales.

I think in reality Norse history and mythology is a rich source of story and intrigue for unimaginative TV and movie execs to plunder. It is the Vikings who are now being raided – and that doesn’t sound like a victory to me.

Noah’s Great Flood: Does mountain in Bulgaria prove it happened?

The story the great flood, which in the Judeo-Christian sphere, is associated with Noah’s Ark, is an almost universal archetype.

Tales exist not just in the Bible, but in Hindu, Sumerian and Chinese folklore. The story also appears in the Epic of Gilgamesh and in Native American folklore.

One might also consider the scant references, from Plato, of the mythical disappearance of Atlantis beneath the waves.

Was this rendition an allegorical injunction against hubris, or a kernel of truth from a dim and distant past at the dawn of human society?

The only primary sources for Atlantis are Plato’s dialogues Timaeus and Critias.

The dialogues claim to quote the Athenian lawmaker Solon, who visited sacred Egyptian sites between 590 and 580 BC.

The story goes that he translated Egyptian records of Atlantis.

Writing in 360 BC, around 200 years after the death of Solon, Plato introduced Atlantis in Timaeus.

He wrote: “For it is related in our records how once upon a time your State stayed the course of a mighty host, which, starting from a distant point in the Atlantic ocean, was insolently advancing to attack the whole of Europe, and Asia to boot.

“For the ocean there was at that time navigable; for in front of the mouth which you Greeks call, as you say, ‘the pillars of Heracles,’ there lay an island which was larger than Libya and Asia together; and it was possible for the travellers of that time to cross from it to the other islands, and from the islands to the whole of the continent over against them which encompasses that veritable ocean.

“For all that we have here, lying within the mouth of which we speak, is evidently a haven having a narrow entrance; but that yonder is a real ocean, and the land surrounding it may most rightly be called, in the fullest and truest sense, a continent.

“Now in this island of Atlantis there existed a confederation of kings, of great and marvellous power, which held sway over all the island, and over many other islands also and parts of the continent.”

It seems the Atlanteans had got too big for their boots in attacking and conquering other lands and were ultimately brought low by a series of natural disasters following a war between the empire of Atlantis and the nations that lay inside the pillars of Hercules, thought by many to refer to the Straight of Gibraltar.

This cataclysmic battle and subsequent disastrous reckoning was said to have taken place 9,000 years before Plato’s Socratic character Critias’ lifetime.

On the destruction and deluge that swallowed the continent, Critias said: “But afterwards there occurred violent earthquakes and floods; and in a single day and night of misfortune all your warlike men in a body sank into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared in the depths of the sea.

“For which reason the sea in those parts is impassable and impenetrable, because there is a shoal of mud in the way; and this was caused by the subsidence of the island.”

In the Biblical sense, the Book of Genesis, chapter 6, verse 17, reads: “And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die.”

But what is the truth, if any, of this alleged divine retribution?

Some researchers argue there was an ancient Black Sea flood, which could – with a few millennia of embellishment – match the level of devastation described.

Although doubts remain, as this location is nowhere near Gibraltar.

However it is only a problem in my own conflation of the great flood and the sinking of Atlantis.

So, leaving that aside for a moment, let us look at the evidence for the Black Sea being the location of the great flood.

In Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, just outside the city centre, en route to the airport, is the majestic volcanic Mount Vitosha, which features a number of caves.

It is in this fascinating geological warren, which is the longest subterranean cave complex in Bulgaria, that Professor Yavor Shopov, of Sofia University, found the evidence he claims proves that the great flood was real.

He pointed to ancient residue in one particular cave, in the form of stalagmites and stalactites, to substantiate his theory.

He said: “All these stalagmites and stalactites, they are formed as a result of rainwater passing through the bedrock.”

Like tree rings he says he was able to calculate rainfall levels going back thousands of years. One layer, in the sequence was found to be far thicker than any of the others.

Professor Shopov said: “It has been formed 7,500 years ago. And there was fifty times present day precipitation. We have a special theory about this.”

He demonstrated the theory using a cross section of one of the stone formations. In one of the bands of sediment there was evidence of a massive increase in rainfall.

The academic claims this could be the result of an impact of a heavenly body on the sun.

“If a very large asteroid would fall directly on the surface of the sun,” he said.

The professor argues the impact of an asteroid, measuring around two to three kilometres in radius, caused a huge increase in solar radiation – known as a solar flare.

Professor Shopov says that after the impact there would be a rapid rise in the Earth’s temperature causing huge seawater evaporation and leading to a massive increase in rainfall.

“That’s the kind of event which is described in the historical sources,” he said.

He added: “There are really not so many asteroids so big, so that’s why, hopefully, this kind of event may happen quite rarely.”

Others point to a Black Sea flood at the end of the last Ice Age, with melting ice causing a drastic increase in sea levels.

Mediterranean seawater rapidly flowed through the Bosphorus creating the Black Sea from a previous freshwater lake.

Professor Petko Dimitrov of the Institute of Oceanology – Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, in Varna, said: “The first evidence for the Black Sea flood are the old shorelines found in the Black Sea basin. This ancient shoreline lies at around 90 to 120 metres deep.”

He analysed core samples from the seabed and found the remains of shells and plankton that could not have lived in saltwater.

It was suggested that Neolithic settlements on the original banks of the body of water were submerged and destroyed by the rising water levels.

In 2011, researcher Konstantin Chterev led a team that carried out surveys in the Black Sea.

One probe was dredged up and contained pieces of wood that Chterev claims were from a drowned Neolithic settlement.

He said: “There’s no way these pieces of wood could be from a ship or something there’s no way [for them] to be there, except [if] there’s an ancient village or something at that depth.”

Professor Dimitrov and colleagues even claim to be confident of one day finding Noah’s Ark in the Black Sea.

In a 2006 paper called ‘The Flood in the Black Sea – Science and Mythology’ the team wrote: “Juxtaposing the data from the Black Sea’s natural events and archaeo-mythology, as well as the legend of Noah’s ark, we can claim with a high degree of reliability that the remains of the ark are located within the Black Sea bottom.

“They are situated at contemporary depths of about 40m, where Noah’s ship anchored after the flood.

“During the last 8,000 years, the remains of the ship and Noah’s grave have been covered with alluvial and marine silts.

“The discovery of the remains is a task of high priority for modern marine archaeology. The restoration of deepwater geo-archaeological exploration is not only a matter of prestige for marine science, but also an important criterion for clarifying a key page of the most ancient human history that transpired in our lands.”

Archaeology could also point to an advanced Black Sea civilisation.

The intricate and mathematically detailed objects in the horde, known as the Varna Necropolis Gold, is more than 6,000 years old and could represent evidence of the oldest European civilisation.

It is theorised that the civilisation was devastated by the flood, but refugees migrated to other places taking their knowledge and stories of the flood with them, leading to ancient Egyptian, Greek and Sumerian civilisations more than one thousand years later.

This could be the genesis of the legend of Atlantis or, at least, the central truth of the far-reaching great flood myth.