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Spurs of the Greater and Lesser Caucasus ranges, separated by the Kolkhida lowland, confine the Black Sea in the east, while the Pontic Mountains run along the southern coast.
The Crimean Peninsula thrusts into the Black Sea from the north, and just to its east the narrow Kerch Strait links the sea to the smaller Sea of Azov.
The newly created Black Sea basin became gradually isolated from the ocean, and its salinity was reduced; at that time the Crimean Peninsula and the Caucasus probably were islands.
Early in the Miocene Epoch (about 20 million years ago), the Black Sea flowed into a chain of sea lakes but gradually became separated from the Caspian region.
During the last of the great glaciations, the Black Sea became a large freshwater lake.
The present connection to the Mediterranean Sea—and to salt water—is believed to have emerged some 6,500 to 7,500 years ago.