Noah and McHugh

14 Jan 2016

This is one of those stories that seemed to die a death. At ... we have a post on John McHugh and his idea the constellations tell a religio-mythic tale that he had hoped would be taken seriously and properly investigated. It never was. His theory involved Noah's Flood - and even mentioning those two words will make some people apoplectic, let alone take you seriously. His dissertation caused a lot of animosity and a soiled debate that was not at all helpful in trying to decide if he was on to something or it was all piffle. Even the Creationists were critical as he did not follow the spirit of Biblical numbers - Noah's flood took place around 2200BC (the Bible says so - all you have to do is count the numbers of the generations back to Noah). Mike Baillie has played that game and found the level of Lough Neagh in Northern Ireland had risen quite a bit after 2300BC, quoting Archbishop Ussher and his number crunching. It's quite possible Ussher knew something that we don't - or we didn't know until recently (something extraordinary happened around 2300-2100BC) but Noah's Flood is presented as a pretty catastrophic kind of event - at least to people living in Sumeria and the Middle East. Surely there is more to it than happened around 2300BC. See

The McHugh dissertation was in 1999 at the Dept of Anthropology at Brigham Young University. It had the title, 'The Deluge: an mythical story that was projected on to the constellations' - and it occurred around the time that Noah's Flood was already causing a stir as a result of Pitman and Ryan's theory the flood had something to do with a catastrophic flooding of the Black Sea basin in around 6000BC. It just so happens that McHugh dated his version of Noah's Flood, as recorded in Sumeria, at exactly the same point in time - 6000BC. In addition, it had become known that there was an actual steep rise in global sea levels - at around 6000BC.

The dissertation was 180 pages long and was available at ... the Call Number being 2675992.2 (but not sure it can actually be accessed nowadays). McHugh is not a Mormon but resided in Utah. He was in fact an archaeologist that had gone back to university, hoping to craft a new career. In other words, he wasn't a young chap fresh out of college but somebody with experience of the work place and with developed views on matters of the world. Many other people have said the constellations tell a religio-mythic story that aided story tellers around a camp fire during the hours of darkness, or just sitting on the porch and supping a drink and reciting tales of yore. It is not a particularly new hypothesis - even the idea of a connection between the Argo and the Ark. This was part of McHugh's overview of the starry night but his critics claimed there was no connection between the Greek tale of the Argo and a boat in the sky in Sumeria. Why they should come to that conclusion when knowledge of Sumerian religio-myth is limited to those clay tablets in museum vaults. We don't know much about their mythology - before the invention of writing. Indeed, nothing at all if it is assumed the Epic of Gilgamesh concerns events in the 3rd millennium BC when there was a certain king who adopted the name of Gilgamesh. Nobody bothered to take the name of his companion Enkidu - he was far too uncouth. However, McHugh clearly was not of that kind of mind as he thought the story in the stars also involved elements found in the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Plenty of cold water has been thrown on the McHugh thesis and some of it is no doubt warranted. However, we know that the Egyptians were fond of depicting Pharaoh in his heavenly barque which is nothing but an ark sailing on a heavenly river in the sky - which is not a lot different to what McHugh  was saying. See  also and

Massey is an interesting fellow and had carved out a nice career for himself in spite of coming from an unpromising beginning, yet became convinced there was a link between Egypt and the rest of the world without realising that if something was happening in the sky it could be seen everywhere and diffusion was not required.