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The investigation of rapid sea-level and climate change is critical to understanding the geologic history of the Black Sea and its effect on ancient civilizations of the region and adjacent areas. The current consensus of western scientists is that only local sea-level curves may be constructed because of local-to-regional changes in sedimentation, tectonics, and other factors. Recently, however, I.P. Balabanov published a synoptic sea-level curve for the entire Black Sea that spans the Pleistocene-Holocene transition and the Holocene based on older radiocarbon dates. This curve has been heavily criticized and is viewed skeptically by western workers for the reasons already mentioned as well as the use of questionable methodologies.

Here, we examine Balabanov's curve in light of these criticisms by comparing his sea-level curve to other independently derived sea-level and environmental indices. We find that, despite its drawbacks, many of the fluctuations of the Balabanov curve coincide with repeated ocean-atmosphere reorganizations, which involve shifts from cool to warm phases and corresponding changes in the species composition of foraminiferal assemblage ecozones, precipitation, and runoff. We suggest that following the initial invasion of the Black Sea by marine Mediterranean waters during the Pleistocene-Holocene transition, climatic amelioration (warming) following each cool phase of an ocean-atmosphere reorganization resulted in shifting precipitation patterns that produced repeated, rapid freshwater discharges into the Black Sea from surrounding rivers. In this scenario, runoff following each reorganization temporarily altered the species composition of foraminiferal assemblages, as noted in earlier studies. Freshwater discharges during the Holocene were likely lower than those envisioned by Balabanov but may have affected sea level sufficiently to alter coastal geomorphology and coastal aquifers rapidly, while causing the translocation of settlements from areas where submarine archaeological sites are now situated. Sea-level and climate change during the Pleistocene-Holocene transition may have been similar to that of the Holocene, but greatly amplified.

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