Noah's Ark (Utnapishtim)

26 Jan 2014

William Thompson has provided two links for this story from the British Museum - and ... which promotes a book by Irving Finkel, 'The Ark before Noah' Hodder and Stoughton:2014. Finkel is a curator in charge of cuneiform clay tablets at the British Museum. He claims to have decoded, or translated, one of the tablets and came up with a new theory, the ark was round. This all goes back to 2008 and the handing in of a tablet by the son of an ex soldier who picked up the tablet as a souvenir when out in Iraq in WWII (or shortly thereafter). It was found to date to around 1850BC, to the post-Sumerian Amorite ascendancy. It is a Babylonian version of the Flood story and involves Utnapishtim rather than Noah. There was also a Sumerian version involving Zuisudra. The tablet is said to include a description of the ark, which was round. As coracles were common on rivers in the region the roundness is not particularly unusual as a boat design.

The flood story is also a feature of the Epic of Gilgamesh but of course the news blurb repeats the mantra that the Jews picked up the Flood story during the Exile in Babylonia - but they would say that as it is now the consensus viewpoint. This is somewhat simplistic and has come about through laziness, repeating what somebody else has said, over and over again. It ignores the fact that the Babylonian Amorites were a recent migrating element in the population - with an origin in the west (Syria and the Levant). The Flood story, in this instance, is just as likely to have an origin as a result of a  tsunami event in the Eastern Mediterranean. This even appears in the Keret Poem found in the ruins of LB Age Ugarit in Phoenicia. More likely is the fact it was a pretty universal story of a flooding event - the sort of thing that could happen as a result of a small shift in the axis of rotation (as described by Paul Dunbavin - see SIS Book Store). Alternatively, all the action may have been in the sky, as the Ark may well have a connection with the Egyptian barque of the gods, and the Argos of the Greeks.