Image Source: British Museum via news.com.au.
At the British Museum, Irving Finkel, the museum's assistant keeper of the Middle East, has deciphered a 4,000 year old clay tablet, on display as of 24 January 2014, which refers to ancient flood preparations. The tablet came to Britain via an RAF airman's Second World War service in the Middle East. The tablet predates Biblical sources by several centuries:
The tablet originated in Mesopotamia; its 60 lines of text are written in cuneiform:The tablet gives a version of the ark story far older than the biblical accounts, and Finkel believes the explanation of how "holy writ appears on this piece of Weetabix", is that the writers of the Bible drew on ancient accounts encountered by Hebrew scholars during the Babylonian exile [in the 7th-6th centuries BCE].
The text describes god speaking to Atram-Hasis, a Sumerian king who is the Noah figure in earlier versions of the ark story.
Because the tablet stipulates that this 'ark,' or 'coarcle' was round, a new unusual detail has been added to the family of flood myths.He says: 'Wall, wall! Reed wall, reed wall! Atram-Hasis, pay heed to my advice, that you may live forever! Destroy your house, build a boat; despise possessions And save life! Draw out the boat that you will built with a circular design; Let its length and breadth be the same.'
The ancient Babylonian text describes the ark as a round 220-ft diameter coracle with walls 20-ft high.
According to the tablet, the ark had two levels and a roof on the top.
The craft was divided into sections to divide the various animals into their own sections.
The 60 lines of text, which Dr Finkel describes as a 'detailed construction manual for building an ark', claims the craft was built using ropes and reeds before being smeared with bitumen to make it waterproof.
Finkel has penned a book and is preparing a television show around his translation of the tablet and the folk memory it relates, The Ark Before Noah (brought to you by the same people who published Teach Yourself: Complete Babylonian). CNN:
The newly decoded cuneiform tells of a divinely sent flood and a sole survivor on an ark, who takes all the animals on board to preserve them. It even includes the famous phrase “two by two,” describing how the animals came onto the ark. ...Coincidentally, the British Museum translation, book, and Channel Four TV show are being released just before the CGI-300-style, ancient-prepper film, Noah, starring Russell Crowe. The film will premiere on 28 March 2014. See the trailer below the jump. In the same vein, the sequel to 300, which deals with ancient Babylonia in the 5th century BCE, will be released earlier in March.
We have known for well over a century that there are flood stories from the ancient Near East that long predate the biblical account ... .
What’s really intriguing scholars is the description of the ark itself. The Bible presents a standard boat shape – long and narrow. The length being six times the measure of the width, with three decks and an entrance on the side. The newly discovered Mesopotamian text describes a large round vessel, made of woven rope, and coated (like the biblical ark) in pitch to keep it waterproof.
Archaeologists are planning to design a prototype of the ark, built to the specifications of this text, to see if it would actually float. Good luck to them in trying to estimate the weight of its cargo. So, why does this new discovery matter? It matters because it serves as a reminder that the story of the Flood wasn’t set in stone from its earliest version all the way through to its latest incarnation.
The people who wrote down the Flood narrative, in any of its manifestations, weren’t reporting on a historical event for which they had to get their facts straight (like what shape the ark was). Everyone reshapes the Flood story, and the ark itself, according to the norms of their own time and place.
"Irving Finkel poses with the 4000-year-old clay tablet containing the story of the Ark at the British Museum in London on Friday." Image Source: The Hindu.
Video Source: Youtube.