(RNS) Archaeologists have announced their discovery of remnants of a man-made structure under the Black Sea that provides evidence of an ancient flood that may have inspired the biblical story of Noah.

The expedition by explorer Robert D. Ballard also found beams, planks, and other chunks of wood that had not been touched by mollusks or worms, The Washington Post reported.

"It is beyond our wildest imagination," Ballard said in an interview with the newspaper on Tuesday (Sept. 12). "Wood is existing much shallower than we thought. When we do go deep, it can only get better."

A robotic submersible is being used to investigate the site. It found a collapsed rectangular building--"about like a good-sized barn," Ballard said--as well as two shipwrecks with jars used in ancient times to carry such liquids as wine or olive oil.

Columbia University geologists William Ryan and Walter Pittman suggested in their 1999 book "Noah's Flood" that the modern-day sea was created 7,500 years ago when melting glaciers caused the Mediterranean Sea to overflow and dramatically raise the sea level.

Some scholars view the recent discovery as supportive of the theory about the quick rise in sea level causing the destruction of communities and deaths of people, animals, and plants.

"Among scholars who take the Bible literally this will be confirmation," said Hershel Shanks, editor of Biblical Archaeology Review. "Critical Bible scholars are almost unanimous in regarding the flood story as a legend. On the other hand, legends arise not out of imagination but from an experience. I don't think we'll ever know what flood that was."

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