In a rare marriage of science and myth, two geologists draw on their worldwide oceanographic expeditions in search of evidence of the biblical flood. The authors first trace attempts to establish the historicity of the flood back to the work of archaeologists and scientists in the 1820s and ’40s. Then, looking at the physical evidence, according to Ryan and Pitman (both geology professors at Columbia University), indicates that the cataclysm actually occurred 7,600 years ago; it consisted of the Mediterranean rising in Marmara and crashing through the natural dam of the Bosporus, raising the Black Sea 280 feet in 12 months. The archaeological evidence, according to the authors, is that the resulting dispersion of the populace led to the spread of farming skills, languages, and cultures to new settlements in southern Europe, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Anatolia, and Asia. The archaeological record is supported by DNA studies that reveal genetic connections between modern peoples of these regions and remains found around the flood region. But Ryan and Pitman don—t draw only on science, they study as well the flood stories of various cultures, from Sumer to India, contending that they remain remarkably similar despite local coloring and storytellers— embellishments. These tales tell of the destruction of the world as it was then known, but they universally also offer hope of salvation, regeneration, and divine forgiveness. The authors offer clear explanations of the scientific techniques involved in gathering evidence of the flood, and couch it in a historical narrative that preserves for readers the sense of discovery and wonder experienced by scientists through the 19th and 20th centuries (somewhat oddly, in keeping with this narrative, they relate their own research in the third person). An impressive marshalling of geophysical and archaeological evidence to reconstruct the truth behind an ancient myth. (illustrations and maps)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-684-81052-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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