The antediluvian period meaning "before the deluge" is the period referred to in the Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 between the Creation of the Earth and the Deluge (flood). The narrative takes up chapters 1-6 (excluding the flood narrative) of Genesis. Colloquially, the term is used to refer to any ancient and murky period.

The Biblical Flood

In the Christian Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 and Hebrew Torah
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

, the antediluvian period begins with the Creation according to Genesis and ends with the destruction of all life on the earth except those saved with Noah
Noah was, according to the Hebrew Bible, the tenth and last of the antediluvian Patriarchs. The biblical story of Noah is contained in chapters 6–9 of the book of Genesis, where he saves his family and representatives of all animals from the flood by constructing an ark...

 in the Ark
Noah's Ark
Noah's Ark is a vessel appearing in the Book of Genesis and the Quran . These narratives describe the construction of the ark by Noah at God's command to save himself, his family, and the world's animals from the worldwide deluge of the Great Flood.In the narrative of the ark, God sees the...

. According to Bishop Ussher
James Ussher
James Ussher was Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland between 1625–56...

's 17th century chronology, the antediluvian period lasted for 1648 years, from creation at 4004 BC and the flood at 2348 BC.
The elements of the narrative include some of the best-known stories in the bible - the Creation itself, Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve were, according to the Genesis creation narratives, the first human couple to inhabit Earth, created by YHWH, the God of the ancient Hebrews...

, and Cain and Abel
Cain and Abel
In the Hebrew Bible, Cain and Abel are two sons of Adam and Eve. The Qur'an mentions the story, calling them the two sons of Adam only....

 - followed by the genealogies tracing the descendants of Cain and Seth
Seth , in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, is the third listed son of Adam and Eve and brother of Cain and Abel, who are the only other of their children mentioned by name...

, the third son of Adam and Eve. (These genealogies provide the framework for the biblical chronology, in the form A begat B in his Xth year).

The Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 speaks of this era as being a time of great wickedness
Total depravity
Total depravity is a theological doctrine that derives from the Augustinian concept of original sin...

. There were Gibborim
Gibborim (biblical)
Gibborim is a Hebrew word that can be glossed "mightiest" which is an intensive for gabar that can be glossed "mighty". Many times it is used of people who are valiant, mighty, or of great stature. There is some confusion between Gibborim as a class of beings because of its use in Genesis 6:4...

 (giants) in the earth in those days as well as Nephilim
The Nephilim are the offspring of the "sons of God" and the "daughters of men" in Genesis 6:4, or giants who inhabit Canaan in Numbers 13:33. A similar word with different vowel-sounds is used in Ezekiel 32:27 to refer to dead Philistine warriors....

; some translations identify the two as one and the same. The Gibborim were unusually powerful; Genesis calls them "heroes of old, men of renown;" (Enoshi Ha Shem). The antediluvian period ended when God sent the Flood to wipe out all life except Noah, his family, and the animals they took with them. Nevertheless, the Nephilim (literally meaning 'fallen ones', from the Hebrew root n-f-l 'to fall') reappear much later in the Biblical narrative, in Numbers
Book of Numbers
The Book of Numbers is the fourth book of the Hebrew Bible, and the fourth of five books of the Jewish Torah/Pentateuch....

 13:31-33 (where the spies sent forth by Moses
Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...

 report that there were Nephilim or "giants" in the Promised Land).

In early geology

Early attempts at reconstructing the history of the Earth were founded on the Biblical narrative and thus used the term Antediluvian to refer to a period understood to be essentially similar to the Biblical one. Early scientific interpretation of the Biblical narrative divided the Antediluvian into sub-periods:
  • Pre-Adamitic (the first 5 days, Gen 1:1 to Gen 2:3)
    • Primary (the formation of the physical universe and the earth)
    • Secondary (creation of plants and animals)
  • Adamitic (or Tertiary, from the creation of man to the Great Flood; Gen 2:5 to Gen 7.8)

Prior to the 19th century, rock was classified into three main types: primary or primitive (igneous
Igneous rock
Igneous rock is one of the three main rock types, the others being sedimentary and metamorphic rock. Igneous rock is formed through the cooling and solidification of magma or lava...

 and metamorphic rock
Metamorphic rock
Metamorphic rock is the transformation of an existing rock type, the protolith, in a process called metamorphism, which means "change in form". The protolith is subjected to heat and pressure causing profound physical and/or chemical change...

), secondary (sedimentary rock
Sedimentary rock
Sedimentary rock are types of rock that are formed by the deposition of material at the Earth's surface and within bodies of water. Sedimentation is the collective name for processes that cause mineral and/or organic particles to settle and accumulate or minerals to precipitate from a solution....

) and tertiary (sediment
Sediment is naturally occurring material that is broken down by processes of weathering and erosion, and is subsequently transported by the action of fluids such as wind, water, or ice, and/or by the force of gravity acting on the particle itself....

s). The primary rocks (like granite
Granite is a common and widely occurring type of intrusive, felsic, igneous rock. Granite usually has a medium- to coarse-grained texture. Occasionally some individual crystals are larger than the groundmass, in which case the texture is known as porphyritic. A granitic rock with a porphyritic...

 and gneiss
Gneiss is a common and widely distributed type of rock formed by high-grade regional metamorphic processes from pre-existing formations that were originally either igneous or sedimentary rocks.-Etymology:...

) are void of fossils and were thought to be associated with the very creation of the world in the primary Pre-Adamitic period. The secondary rocks, often containing copious fossils, though human remains had not been found, were thought to have been laid down in the secondary Pre-Adamitic period. The tertiary rocks (sediments) were thought to have been put down after Creation and possibly in connection to a flood event, and were thus associated with the Adamitic period. The post-flood period was termed the Quaternary
The Quaternary Period is the most recent of the three periods of the Cenozoic Era in the geologic time scale of the ICS. It follows the Neogene Period, spanning 2.588 ± 0.005 million years ago to the present...

, a name still in use.

As mapping of the geological strata
In geology and related fields, a stratum is a layer of sedimentary rock or soil with internally consistent characteristics that distinguish it from other layers...

 progressed in the early decades of the 19th century, the estimated lengths of the various sub-periods were greatly increased. The fossil rich Secondary Pre-Adamitic period was divided up into the Coal period
The Carboniferous is a geologic period and system that extends from the end of the Devonian Period, about 359.2 ± 2.5 Mya , to the beginning of the Permian Period, about 299.0 ± 0.8 Mya . The name is derived from the Latin word for coal, carbo. Carboniferous means "coal-bearing"...

, the Lias
Early Jurassic
The Early Jurassic epoch is the earliest of three epochs of the Jurassic period...

 and the Chalk period
The Cretaceous , derived from the Latin "creta" , usually abbreviated K for its German translation Kreide , is a geologic period and system from circa to million years ago. In the geologic timescale, the Cretaceous follows the Jurassic period and is followed by the Paleogene period of the...

, later expanded into the now-familiar geologic time scale
Geologic time scale
The geologic time scale provides a system of chronologic measurement relating stratigraphy to time that is used by geologists, paleontologists and other earth scientists to describe the timing and relationships between events that have occurred during the history of the Earth...

. The term antediluvian was used in natural science
Natural science
The natural sciences are branches of science that seek to elucidate the rules that govern the natural world by using empirical and scientific methods...

 well into the 19th century and lingered in popular imagination despite increasingly detailed stratigraphy
Stratigraphy, a branch of geology, studies rock layers and layering . It is primarily used in the study of sedimentary and layered volcanic rocks....

 mapping the Earth's past
Geological history of Earth
The geological history of Earth follows the major events in Earth's past based on the geologic time scale, a system of chronological measurement based on the study of the planet's rock layers...

, and was often used for the Pleistocene
The Pleistocene is the epoch from 2,588,000 to 11,700 years BP that spans the world's recent period of repeated glaciations. The name pleistocene is derived from the Greek and ....

 period, where humans
Homo may refer to:*the Greek prefix ὅμο-, meaning "the same"*the Latin for man, human being*Homo, the taxonomical genus including modern humans...

 existed alongside now extinct megafauna
In terrestrial zoology, megafauna are "giant", "very large" or "large" animals. The most common thresholds used are or...


Creationist interpretation

Writers such as William Whiston
William Whiston
William Whiston was an English theologian, historian, and mathematician. He is probably best known for his translation of the Antiquities of the Jews and other works by Josephus, his A New Theory of the Earth, and his Arianism...

 (A New Theory of the Earth
A New Theory of the Earth
A New Theory of the Earth was a book written by William Whiston, in which he presented a description of the divine creation of the Earth and a posited global flood. He also postulated that the earth originated from the atmosphere of a comet and that all major changes in earth's history could be...

1696) and Henry Morris
Henry M. Morris
Henry Madison Morris was an American young earth creationist and Christian apologist. He was one of the founders of the Creation Research Society and the Institute for Creation Research...

 (The Genesis Flood 1961) describe the antediluvian period as follows:
  • People lived much longer than those alive today, typically between 700–950 years, as reported in the genealogies of Genesis
    Genealogies of Genesis
    The genealogies of Genesis record the descendants of Adam and Eve to Abraham, including the age at which each patriarch fathered his named son and the number of years he lived thereafter. The genealogy contains two branches: for Cain, given in Chapter 4, and for Seth in Chapter 5...

  • The Earth contained many more people than the Earth contained in 1696. Whiston calculated that as many as 500 million humans may have been born in the antediluvian period, based on assumptions about lifespans and fertility rates
    Total Fertility Rate
    The total fertility rate of a population is the average number of children that would be born to a woman over her lifetime if she were to experience the exact current age-specific fertility rates through her lifetime, and she...

  • There were no clouds or rain. Instead, the Earth was watered by mists which rose from the Earth. (Another interpretation is that the Earth was covered completely by a global cloud layer; the upper waters mentioned in the Creation. This is commonly called the Canopy theory).

In 19th century science

During the late eighteenth and early 19th centuries, the understanding of the nature of early Earth went through a transformation
Scientific revolution
The Scientific Revolution is an era associated primarily with the 16th and 17th centuries during which new ideas and knowledge in physics, astronomy, biology, medicine and chemistry transformed medieval and ancient views of nature and laid the foundations for modern science...

 from a Biblical or deist
Deism in religious philosophy is the belief that reason and observation of the natural world, without the need for organized religion, can determine that the universe is the product of an all-powerful creator. According to deists, the creator does not intervene in human affairs or suspend the...

 interpretation to a scientific one. Even back in the early 18th century, Plutonists
Plutonism is the geologic theory that the rocks forming the Earth were formed in fire by volcanic activity, with a continuing gradual process of weathering and erosion wearing away rocks, which were then deposited on the sea bed, re-formed into layers of sedimentary rock by heat and pressure, and...

 had argued for an ancient Earth, but the full impact of the depth of time
Deep time
Deep time is the concept that the Geologic time scale is vast because the Earth is very old. The modern philosophical concept was developed in the 18th century by Scottish geologist James Hutton...

 involved in the Pre-Adamitic period was not commonly accepted until uniformitarianism
In the philosophy of naturalism, the uniformitarianism assumption is that the same natural laws and processes that operate in the universe now, have always operated in the universe in the past and apply everywhere in the universe. It has included the gradualistic concept that "the present is the...

 as presented in Charles Lyell
Charles Lyell
Sir Charles Lyell, 1st Baronet, Kt FRS was a British lawyer and the foremost geologist of his day. He is best known as the author of Principles of Geology, which popularised James Hutton's concepts of uniformitarianism – the idea that the earth was shaped by slow-moving forces still in operation...

's Principles of Geology of 1830. While vast aeons of time were involved, the narrative of the Pre-Adamitic world was still influenced by the Biblical story of creation in this transition. A striking example is a description from "Memoires of Ichtyosauri and Plesiosauri", 1839:
A modern view of the ancient world, along with abandoning the term Antediluvian, came about with the works of Darwin
Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.He published his theory...

 and Agassiz
Louis Agassiz
Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz was a Swiss paleontologist, glaciologist, geologist and a prominent innovator in the study of the Earth's natural history. He grew up in Switzerland and became a professor of natural history at University of Neuchâtel...

 in the 1860s.

The Antediluvian monsters

From antiquity, fossil
Fossils are the preserved remains or traces of animals , plants, and other organisms from the remote past...

s of large animals were often quoted as having lived together with the giants
Giant (mythology)
The mythology and legends of many different cultures include monsters of human appearance but prodigious size and strength. "Giant" is the English word commonly used for such beings, derived from one of the most famed examples: the gigantes of Greek mythology.In various Indo-European mythologies,...

 from the Book of Genesis: e.g. the Tannin
Tannin (demon)
In Jewish folklore Tannin is the name of an aquatic demon. Sometimes he is compared with Rahab, another sea monster who is especially associated with the Red Sea. Some scholars associated Tannin with Tiamat, as it happened with Rahab...

 or "great sea monster
Sea monster
Sea monsters are sea-dwelling mythical or legendary creatures, often believed to be of immense size.Marine monsters can take many forms, including sea dragons, sea serpents, or multi-armed beasts. They can be slimy or scaly and are often pictured threatening ships or spouting jets of water...

s" of Gen. 1,21. They are often described in later books of the Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

, especially by God Himself in the Book of Job
Book of Job
The Book of Job , commonly referred to simply as Job, is one of the books of the Hebrew Bible. It relates the story of Job, his trials at the hands of Satan, his discussions with friends on the origins and nature of his suffering, his challenge to God, and finally a response from God. The book is a...

: e.g. Re'em in verse 39,9, Behemoth
Behemoth is a mythological beast mentioned in the Book of Job, 40:15-24. Metaphorically, the name has come to be used for any extremely large or powerful entity.-Plural as singular:...

 in chapter 40 and Leviathan
Leviathan , is a sea monster referred to in the Bible. In Demonology, Leviathan is one of the seven princes of Hell and its gatekeeper . The word has become synonymous with any large sea monster or creature...

 in chapter 41. With the advent of geological mapping
Geologic map
A geologic map or geological map is a special-purpose map made to show geological features. Rock units or geologic strata are shown by color or symbols to indicate where they are exposed at the surface...

 in the early 19th century, it became increasingly obvious that much of the fossil
Fossils are the preserved remains or traces of animals , plants, and other organisms from the remote past...

s associated with the "secondary" (sedimentary) rock, notably large animals like Ichthyosaur
Ichthyosaurs were giant marine reptiles that resembled fish and dolphins...

s, Mosasaur
Mosasaurs are large extinct marine lizards. The first fossil remains were discovered in a limestone quarry at Maastricht on the Meuse in 1764...

s, Pliosaur
Pliosauroidea is an extinct clade of marine reptiles. Pliosauroids, also commonly known as pliosaurs, are known from the Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods. The pliosauroids were short-necked plesiosaurs with large heads and massive toothed jaws. These swimming reptiles were not dinosaurs but distant...

s and the various giant mammal
Mammals are members of a class of air-breathing vertebrate animals characterised by the possession of endothermy, hair, three middle ear bones, and mammary glands functional in mothers with young...

s found when excavating the Catacombs of Paris
Catacombs of Paris
The Catacombs of Paris or Catacombes de Paris are an underground ossuary in Paris, France. Located south of the former city gate , the ossuary holds the remains of about 6 million people and fills a renovated section of caverns and tunnels that are the remains of Paris' stone mines...

, were neither those of giant humans nor of any extant animals. The geologists of the day increasingly came to use the term "Antediluvian" only for the younger strata containing fossils of animals resembling those alive today.

Other uses

  • The adjective antediluvian is sometimes used figuratively to refer to anything that is of great age and/or outmoded. H. P. Lovecraft
    H. P. Lovecraft
    Howard Phillips Lovecraft --often credited as H.P. Lovecraft — was an American author of horror, fantasy and science fiction, especially the subgenre known as weird fiction....

     was particularly fond of the term, using it frequently in his horror stories.

  • In Charles Stross
    Charles Stross
    Charles David George "Charlie" Stross is a British writer of science fiction, Lovecraftian horror and fantasy. He was born in Leeds.Stross specialises in hard science fiction and space opera...

    's Saturns' Children the religious order who believe in evolution refer to the antediluvian period as the time in which man lived alongside Tyrannosaurs
    Tyrannosaurus meaning "tyrant," and sauros meaning "lizard") is a genus of coelurosaurian theropod dinosaur. The species Tyrannosaurus rex , commonly abbreviated to T. rex, is a fixture in popular culture. It lived throughout what is now western North America, with a much wider range than other...


  • Atlantis: The Antediluvian World
    Atlantis: The Antediluvian World
    Atlantis: The Antediluvian World is a book published during 1882 by Minnesota populist politician Ignatius L. Donnelly, who was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during 1831...

    is a 1882 book by Ignatius L. Donnelly that attempted to establish that all known ancient civilizations were descended from Atlantis
    Atlantis is a legendary island first mentioned in Plato's dialogues Timaeus and Critias, written about 360 BC....

    . Many theories mentioned in the book are the source of modern-day concepts about Atlantis.

  • In the tabletop role-playing game
    Role-playing game
    A role-playing game is a game in which players assume the roles of characters in a fictional setting. Players take responsibility for acting out these roles within a narrative, either through literal acting, or through a process of structured decision-making or character development...

     Vampire: The Masquerade
    Vampire: The Masquerade
    Vampire: The Masquerade is a role-playing game. Created by Mark Rein·Hagen, it was the first of White Wolf Game Studio's World of Darkness role-playing games, based on the Storyteller System and centered around vampires in a modern gothic-punk world....

    the Antediluvians
    Antediluvians (World of Darkness)
    Antediluvians is a term used by White Wolf Game Studio in their fictional role-playing game, the World of Darkness.According to in-game legends, antediluvians are the vampires of the Third Generation. Supposedly they were created by Caine's first childer, Enoch, Irad & Zillah...

    are the early vampires that lived in the pre-flood world and the supposed progenitors of the original clans.
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