During latest Quaternary glaciation, the Black Sea became a giant freshwater lake. The surface of this lake drew down to levels more than 100 m below its outlet. When the Mediterranean rose to the Bosporus sill at 7,150 yr BP1, saltwater poured through this spillway to refill the lake and submerge, catastrophically, more than 100,000 km(2) of its exposed continental shelf. The permanent drowning of a vast terrestrial landscape may possibly have accelerated the dispersal of early neolithic foragers and farmers into the interior of Europe at that time. (C) 1997 Elsevier Science B.V.