According to an article by Will Hunt, published in the Examiner, Dr. Irving Finkel, Assistant Keeper of Department of Middle East at the British Museum, has translated an ancient Babylonian tablet which provides a physical description of the Babylonian ark. After translating the ancient tablet, Finkel concluded that the ark was a circular raft, made of reeds.
The following is an excerpt from the article:
According to a recently translated ancient Babylonian text, Noah’s famous vessel depicted in the Christian imagination as a double-prowed wooden ship, was actually a circular raft, made of reeds. The text in question was written in cuneiform on a 3,700-year-old tablet brought to England from the Middle East more than sixty years ago by an RAF soldier, Leonard Simmons. Douglas, son of Leonard, recently brought the tablet to Dr. Irving Finkel Assistant Keeper of Department of Middle East at the British Museum, who read the 60 lines of text and “nearly fell off his chair.”
According to Finkel, dozens of such tablets have told the ancient Mesopotamian story of the flood, which was later adopted as the account of Genesis, in the Old Testament. But this is the first to describe the actual shape of the boat itself. “In all the images ever made people assumed the ark was, in effect, an ocean-going boat, with a pointed stem and stern for riding the waves – so that is how they portrayed it,” said Finkel. “But the ark didn’t have to go anywhere, it just had to float, and the instructions are for a type of craft which they knew very well. It’s still sometimes used in Iran and Iraq today, a type of round coracle which they would have known exactly how to use to transport animals across a river or floods.”
The view that the Babylonian ark was similar in shape to Noah’s is just a guess. The Babylonian ark may have been in the shape of a circular raft, but when one read the dimensions of Noah’s Ark in the book of Genesis, the Biblical Ark probably was built in the shape of a box rather than double-prowed wooden ship or a circular raft.
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
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