Most people would be familiar with the common depiction of Noah’s Ark – a traditional wooden ship floating on flood waters with animals peering out through the windows. But now new evidence has turned this depiction on its head and has revealed that the ship was in fact a circular disc shape.
For years, archaeologists have scoured the world for factual evidence for the Bible story of Noah’s flood, but due to lack of scientific proof, many believe the story to be an Old Testament myth.
However, linguistic expert Dr Irving Finkel firmly believes that Noah’s Ark and the ‘flood myth’ describe real events that took place, and he bases this belief not on faith, but on archaeological evidence coming from a 3,700-year-old clay tablet. The tablet was found in the Middle East by Leonard Simmons, who served in the RAF during the 1940s. However, the ancient artefact wasn’t subject to any research until Simmons’s son Douglas took it to the British Museum in 2008.
As an expert in deciphering cuneiform script and assistant keeper of the ancient Mesopotamian script, languages and cultures department at the British Museum, Finkel was able to translate the text on the clay tablet, leading to a new interpretation of the Noah’s Ark ‘myth’.
The tablet described a Mesopotamian story, which became the account in Genesis in the Old Testament, of Noah and the ark that saved every animal species from the flood waters. The text describes God speaking to Atram-Hasis, a Sumerian king who is the Noah figure in earlier versions of the ark story.
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 build with a circular design; Let its length and breadth be the same.’
The ancient Babylonian text describes the ark as a round 65-metre diameter coracle with walls 6 metre high, spread over two levels. 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.
Experts have always assumed that the ark was an ocean-going boat with a pointed stem and stern for riding the waves, but according to Finkel, the ark didn’t have to go anywhere, it just had to float.
The story of Noah’s ark is described in dozens of ancient texts and is told in three major world religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam. According to the story, God flooded the world as punishment for its corruption and told Noah to build an ark and fill it with a male and female of every breed of animal. Once the flood receded, the ark came to rest on a mountain. Many people believe that this mountain was Mount Ararat in Turkey, the region’s highest point.