The story of a universal flood near the beginning of human history is deeply ingrained in the memories of many cultures. The best-known is probably the flood at the time of Noah recorded in the Bible: this book takes its title from that flood. But other traditions, such as the Gilgamesh epic from Mesopotamia, which was transmitted orally for maybe as long as 2000 years, before being recorded in cuneiform writing, and the even older but now fragmentary Sumerian version of the flood called ‘The Deluge’, may well record the same event.

Although geological evidence does not support the occurrence...

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