Noah, heed the oracle: build yourself a coracle


Noah, heed the oracle: build yourself a coracle

James Gillespie Published: 15 December 2013

Noah’s ark in an 1860 engraving: the vessel may have been round, the book claimsNoah’s ark in an 1860 engraving: the vessel may have been round, the book claims (Getty)

A NEW book claims that Noah’s ark was round, constructed from reeds and had two decks with cabins for the animals.

In The Ark Before Noah: Decoding the Story of the Flood, Irving Finkel, an expert in deciphering the ancient cuneiform script, pieces together evidence suggesting the vessel was much different from the image we have of a traditional ship.

The evidence comes from a 3,700-year-old tablet of clay covered in cuneiform writing.

When it was deciphered by Finkel it revealed instructions for building a round coracle 65 metres in diameter with walls six metres high, and a roof. It was to be made from ropes and rushes waterproofed with bitumen, and the animals were to be loaded “two by two”.

Plans are now under way to reconstruct the circular ark for a Channel 4 documentary.

According to the translation, the god who has decided to spare one just man speaks to Atra-Hasis, a Sumerian king who is the Noah figure in early versions of the ark story.

“Pay heed to my advice, that you may live for ever!” he exhorts, before urging him to destroy his house and “build a boat . . . and save life!”

Finkel says in the book that he found the cuneiform tablet also has a “detailed instruction manual for building an ark”. Cuneiform is one of the earliest forms of writing and comprises a series of wedge-shaped marks on clay tablets.

“I worked very industriously on that inscription, wedge by cuneiform wedge,” Finkel says.

The tablet was found in the Middle East by Leonard Simmons, who served in the RAF from 1945-48.

It was largely ignored until his son Douglas took it to the British Museum in 2008, where Finkel is the assistant keeper of the ancient Mesopotamian script, languages and cultures department.

Archaeologists have long sought evidence for the story of Noah’s flood but many believe the ancient myth was simply incorporated into the Old Testament.

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