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I am currently studying various flood myths from all around the world. I interprete this whole story as a maritime voyage & colonization story:

The ark is simply a ship (bigger than a cockleshell; with roof/deck). The flood is the sea. Land drowns below the horizon (even mountains) when leaving the coast. Where was once land (around you) is now water. The old world is destroyed by leaving it, the new world is populated by the maritime explorers. The "old world" an increasingly unpleasant place due to overpopulation etc. is a very good reason to leave it. When you want to colonize, you take things with you that allow you to build a settlement. This also includes (small) livestock.

But my question is:

Are there any known interpretations of the flood myth to not be a literal flood but a maritime voyage / colonization?

I searched for it, but everyone seems to take the word "flood" literal.

Does this interpretation maybe have a name I can use to search for it?

  • My sense has always been that back in prehistory there was a single ginormous flood event that was so massive it imprinted itself on every surviving human culture, and was written into many mythologies. I find your colonization theory intriguing, but I haven't heard anything in that direction myself either. – Lauren Ipsum Aug 25 '16 at 9:57
  • The first reference we have on the flood is in a fairly broken Sumerian tablet and the Deluge is called to destroy the human race. The survivor is Ziusudra a little bit more known by his semitic name uta-napishtim and even more as biblical Noah. The Deluge/Flood per se is a divine punishment. After that myths and things spread. Sumerians are the first to develop a writing system. Before Indians and Egyptians are developing their own. So Flood just probably came from Sumer (probably, oral tradition was there after all) and spread from there. – Gibet Aug 25 '16 at 12:25
  • The closest to my maritime seafaring interpretation I found so far is a book called "Eden in the East" by Stephen Oppenheimer. He postulates a drowned continent in south east asia that was early populated. The flooding of the continent due to glacial melting after ice age resulted in lots of migrations from there to all over the world, taking flood myths with them. Interesting book that even contains lots of sources. – xaedes May 21 '17 at 13:52
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I don't think this interpretation makes sense. For one thing, there are plenty of "colonization" stories where people go on ocean voyages. I can't think of a single instance where land is described as "drowning" as people move away from the coastline.

The old world is destroyed by leaving it, the new world is populated by the maritime explorers. The "old world" an increasingly unpleasant place due to overpopulation etc. is a very good reason to leave it.

You're essentially describing the biblical story of Noah. There are lots of other flood stories.

I searched for it

take a look at the book The Flood Myth by Alan Dundes. It's a collection of academic essays on flood stories from around the world. I think you will find it helpful and interesting. (I've never read it but I've heard good things about it, and I'm a fan of the author.)

My sense has always been that back in prehistory there was a single ginormous flood event that was so massive it imprinted itself on every surviving human culture, and was written into many mythologies

There are more plausible explanations for the prevalence of certain motifs across cultures.

  • When I came to look into your suggested book and it contains clues to colonization interpretation I will accept the answer. btw: I know of lots of the other stories I just used the most common one to describe my idea =) – xaedes Sep 7 '16 at 8:50
  • @xaedes Have you actually read the book yet? Or are you saying that you will read the book in the future? – user62 Sep 7 '16 at 14:31
  • I couldnt grab a copy of it yet! Ordered it, but due to global shipping it will arrive not until the end of the month. If someone with the book can tell me whether my non-literal interpretation is somehow included I could mark the answer as accepted. Otherwise it will take some time^^ Btw, the author is correctly called "Alan Dundes" – xaedes Sep 7 '16 at 19:20
  • @xaedes what if the book argues against your non-literal interpretation? In fact, I would be shocked if the book offers any evidence to support your theory. – user62 Sep 7 '16 at 20:23
  • then it wouldn't really answer my question – xaedes Sep 8 '16 at 13:24

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