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Ancient tablet reveals new details about Noah

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A recently deciphered 4,000-year-old clay tablet from ancient Mesopotamia -- modern-day Iraq -- reveals striking new details about the roots of the Old Testament tale of Noah. It tells a similar story, complete with detailed instructions for building a giant round vessel known as a coracle -- as well as the key instruction that animals should enter "two by two."

The tablet went on display at the British Museum on Friday, and soon engineers will follow the ancient instructions to see whether the vessel could actually have sailed.

http://www.foxnews.com/science/2014/01/24/ancient-tablet-reveals-new-details-about-noah-ark-prototype/

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It's unfortunate the article doesn't say in which language the cuneiform was written, but if the date of 4,000 years old is correct (I'm not convinced it is), then it's probably either in Akkadian or in Sumerian recorded by an Akkadian scribe. The story itself is no longer groundbreaking. It's the tale of Utnapishtim, the man given immortality by the gods after surviving a world-wide flood. It was later folded into the Gilgamesh epic.

One can only imaging how shocked the original nineteenth century translators were when they first came upon this ancient tale—a tale considerably older than the Hebraic fable of Noah. That the Noah story was adapted from the Utnapishtim story is practically inescapable. Interesting, however, is the detail that Utnapishtim's boat was round. I've read a number of translations of the Gilgamesh epic and it's the first time I've come across that detail, which is what makes the find interesting.

Man, I wish I could go to the British Museum.

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I was about to post something right along the lines of kmt, but given that he did it quite eloquently the only think left to say is: This is "news" to Fox (and probably most of its avid watchers) but certainly not for archeology or for Sumerian literature.

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I prefer the Disney Fantasia version of it where Donald Duck thinks he's lost Daisy.

Doesn't the New Testament refer to the global Flood as literal fact and somewhere?

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It's unfortunate the article doesn't say in which language the cuneiform was written, but if the date of 4,000 years old is correct (I'm not convinced it is), then it's probably either in Akkadian or in Sumerian recorded by an Akkadian scribe. The story itself is no longer groundbreaking. It's the tale of Utnapishtim, the man given immortality by the gods after surviving a world-wide flood. It was later folded into the Gilgamesh epic.

The tablet was written during the Old Babylonian period, broadly 1900–1700BC. The document was not dated by the scribe, but from the shape and appearance of the tablet itself, the character and composition of the cuneiform and the grammatical forms and usages, we can be sure that this is the period in which it was written. It was composed in Semitic Babylonian (Akkadian) in a literary style. The hand is neat and that of a fully trained cuneiform scribe. The text has been written out very ably without error and for a specific purpose; it is certainly not a school practice tablet from a beginner, or anything of that kind. It measures 11.5cm by 6cm and contains exactly 60 lines.

One can only imaging how shocked the original nineteenth century translators were when they first came upon this ancient tale—a tale considerably older than the Hebraic fable of Noah.

It was George Smith that first translated the story from cuneiform:

“Smith took the tablet and began to read over the lines which… had [been] brought to light; and when he saw that they contained the portion of the legend he had hoped to find there, he said, 'I am the first man to read that after more than two thousand years of oblivion.’

“Setting the tablet on the table, he jumped up and rushed about the room in a great state of excitement, and, to the astonishment of those present, began to undress himself!”

Smith’s dramatic reaction achieved mythological status, to the point that all subsequent Assyriologists keep the tactic in reserve just in case they too find something spectacular.

So, people interested in Ancient Mesopotamia are actually waiting for an Assyriologist to perform a striptease.

Hope there's a pole!

That the Noah story was adapted from the Utnapishtim story is practically inescapable. Interesting, however, is the detail that Utnapishtim's boat was round. I've read a number of translations of the Gilgamesh epic and it's the first time I've come across that detail, which is what makes the find interesting.

This is Atra-Hasis.

The most remarkable feature provided by the Ark Tablet is that the lifeboat built by Atra-hasıs – the Noah-like hero who receives his instructions from the god Enki – was definitely, unambiguously round. “Draw out the boat that you will make,” he is instructed, “on a circular plan.”

Read the entire engaging article I got these quotes from.

I was about to post something right along the lines of kmt, but given that he did it quite eloquently the only think left to say is: This is "news" to Fox (and probably most of its avid watchers) but certainly not for archeology or for Sumerian literature.

Fox basically just repeated the AP story, regarding content. Probably with a little more flair.

Harte

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When you think about it, a circular ark makes sense: the most deck space for the least amount of material, and since it doesn't have to navigate in any particular direction, there's no downside to not having a front. I don't believe the Flood legend, but it's an interesting detail.

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It was George Smith that first translated the story from cuneiform:

So, people interested in Ancient Mesopotamia are actually waiting for an Assyriologist to perform a striptease.

Hope there's a pole!

This is Atra-Hasis.

Read the entire engaging article I got these quotes from.

Fox basically just repeated the AP story, regarding content. Probably with a little more flair.

Harte

Excellent post, Harte. I've met some of the Assyriologists at the Oriental Institute but will have to pay closer attention to them, just in case they make a dazzling discovery and break out that pole.

Utnapishtim and Atrahasis are the same person but go by different names according to culture and period. Ziusudra is yet another name for this figure. I can't remember for sure but I think Atrahasis was the original version, and was a mytho-historical Sumerian king.

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I prefer the Disney Fantasia version of it where Donald Duck thinks he's lost Daisy.

Doesn't the New Testament refer to the global Flood as literal fact and somewhere?

I'm better versed in the Old Testament but I recall that Jesus talks about the flood in the gospel of Matthew. It's probably mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament, too. That's not surprising. The New Testament makes many references to the Old Testament, especially in so far as Jesus' fulfilling of prophecy is concerned. And to be frank, the books of the Old Testament were already taken as literal history before Jesus' day, so there's no reason to doubt Jews of the early centuries CE believed it to be true. Fundamentalists still do today,

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Surely a round 'ark' would be much more difficult to build if of plank and frame construction - all the frames would have to be from a central point

not along a keelson which would be a much stronger and easier method of construction. This is particularly relevant with its intended cargo - all the

survivors of all the species on Earth - limited to 2 per of course.

It might therefore be wise to consider this reference to the a 'round' ark in the myths as more symbolic of the circle, a symbol of the completion of a cycle,

and a shape obviously considered very important to early cultures of the world.

A round ark might also have a tendency to spin with the actions of wind and waves which would be rather alarming for its live cargo......!

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Surely a round 'ark' would be much more difficult to build if of plank and frame construction - all the frames would have to be from a central point

not along a keelson which would be a much stronger and easier method of construction. This is particularly relevant with its intended cargo - all the

survivors of all the species on Earth - limited to 2 per of course.

It might therefore be wise to consider this reference to the a 'round' ark in the myths as more symbolic of the circle, a symbol of the completion of a cycle,

and a shape obviously considered very important to early cultures of the world.

A round ark might also have a tendency to spin with the actions of wind and waves which would be rather alarming for its live cargo......!

Circular boats are well attested in ancient Mesopotamia. They were certainly not large like a ship but were simple to make and use, especially for fishing and fowling. I remembered something about it from Herodotus and found this page, which should help clarify the issue.

That such a boat could not possibly serve the purpose for which Utnapishtim would need it is really beside the point. Don't use the logic and sensibilities of a modern person but think with an ancient mind: exactitude in details were not so important. It's the story that matters, and circular boats were familiar to anyone residing in Mesopotamia. As far as that goes, it would go against logic to believe that any sort of boat could hold two of every animal, nor is the collection of two of every animal realistic on the face of it. This was a fable.

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The story itself is no longer groundbreaking. It's the tale of Utnapishtim, the man given immortality by the gods after surviving a world-wide flood. It was later folded into the Gilgamesh epic.

And today I learned something new! I always thought Gilgamesh was the original source.

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And today I learned something new! I always thought Gilgamesh was the original source.

You're not alone, aquatus1. I used to think the same until I started researching Mesopotamian civilizations. It's commonly believed. It's just amazing how ancient these stories are…and how fun they are to read right up to this day and age.

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It's not the quantities of creatures that fills me with disbelief, but the amount of feedstuff that would have been required that makes a mockery of the legend, unfortunately. A pair of elephants are going to consume 1000lbs of food between them daily, for starters. And we're talking about 110 days of this, of course, not the 40 days most people think is the float-time...

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Circular boats are well attested in ancient Mesopotamia. They were certainly not large like a ship but were simple to make and use, especially for fishing and fowling. I remembered something about it from Herodotus and found this page, which should help clarify the issue.

That such a boat could not possibly serve the purpose for which Utnapishtim would need it is really beside the point. Don't use the logic and sensibilities of a modern person but think with an ancient mind: exactitude in details were not so important. It's the story that matters, and circular boats were familiar to anyone residing in Mesopotamia. As far as that goes, it would go against logic to believe that any sort of boat could hold two of every animal, nor is the collection of two of every animal realistic on the face of it. This was a fable.

Even more so when one realizes that the claim is seven (7) pairs of 'clean' animals and two (2) pairs of unclean animals in the Biblical account.

cormac

Edited by cormac mac airt

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"You're going to need a bigger boat." - Chief Brody.

Edited by Likely Guy
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I've seen suggestions that it was from the filling of the Black sea, or even, much earlier, the Mediterranean. These fit neither the time frame nor the geography.

A truly global flood, as far as modern geology is concerned, is ludicrous.

So some really large flooding of the Tigris-Euphrates valley? Now you have the problem of not big enough to fit the story.

I would suggest that human imagination by itself is enough to explain the story -- why not flood as a way to destroy humanity if you are a god. People have been predicting the end of it all since it began -- it makes you seem sophisticated to do that.

Also, people always think there has to be a real event as a kernel for myths, but that is probably rarely the actual case.

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Circular boats are well attested in ancient Mesopotamia. They were certainly not large like a ship but were simple to make and use, especially for fishing and fowling. I remembered something about it from Herodotus and found this page, which should help clarify the issue.

That such a boat could not possibly serve the purpose for which Utnapishtim would need it is really beside the point. Don't use the logic and sensibilities of a modern person but think with an ancient mind: exactitude in details were not so important. It's the story that matters, and circular boats were familiar to anyone residing in Mesopotamia. As far as that goes, it would go against logic to believe that any sort of boat could hold two of every animal, nor is the collection of two of every animal realistic on the face of it. This was a fable.

As you say small round boats are well known even today as in the coracle made of a wicker with waterproof hides but the construction of a large round vessel is

very difficult and inherently weaker than a boat with a longitudinal beam on the centreline - the keelson.

Of course this is a myth or fable but some of these may have a few grains of truth in them and the story of a round ark must have been recorded for a reason

and maybe the round shape is representative of the circle, the end of a cycle of time or events, which the flood is supposed to have been.

Macroramphosis's post talks about problems the purser would have had aboard this vessel but the float time of this craft seems to vary, any firm records

of that aspect of the story from the ancient world because that may have been important ?

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As you say small round boats are well known even today as in the coracle made of a wicker with waterproof hides but the construction of a large round vessel is

very difficult and inherently weaker than a boat with a longitudinal beam on the centreline - the keelson.

Of course this is a myth or fable but some of these may have a few grains of truth in them and the story of a round ark must have been recorded for a reason

and maybe the round shape is representative of the circle, the end of a cycle of time or events, which the flood is supposed to have been.

It's the earliest version we've found that describes how to build the ark. It's definitely not the earliest version of the story itself, which was no doubt oral.

We should note that Ancient Mesopotamia is known to have been prone to some huge river floods. In fact, one early investigator there, Leonard Woolley, was sure for some time that he had actually found evidence of "THE" flood there.

The Ancient Mesopotamian version of the flood myth (and thus the latter versions around the Near East) is thought to be based on river floods. This makes sense, given the boat in mentioned in this version is a river boat.

I can see a story arising around during a flood coming up like" "Oh yeah? Well,you should have seen the flood we had when I was a kid. And My Dad told me about one they had that was even worse!"

Add that to the livestock trade moving up and down the river all the time and you get drowned unicorns, eventually.

Harte

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It's the earliest version we've found that describes how to build the ark. It's definitely not the earliest version of the story itself, which was no doubt oral.

We should note that Ancient Mesopotamia is known to have been prone to some huge river floods. In fact, one early investigator there, Leonard Woolley, was sure for some time that he had actually found evidence of "THE" flood there.

The Ancient Mesopotamian version of the flood myth (and thus the latter versions around the Near East) is thought to be based on river floods. This makes sense, given the boat in mentioned in this version is a river boat.

I can see a story arising around during a flood coming up like" "Oh yeah? Well,you should have seen the flood we had when I was a kid. And My Dad told me about one they had that was even worse!"

Add that to the livestock trade moving up and down the river all the time and you get drowned unicorns, eventually.

Harte

It is interesting that when the bible was put together the Ark is not mentioned as being round which was obviously a key element of the much

earlier accounts on which the Noah story is based.

Like other elements of the bible stories they were adaptions of ancient tales, true or false, to suit the ideas of the bible writers.

Hopefully children today will be told this and not misled into believing unsubstantiated beliefs.

Edited by laver
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Add that to the livestock trade moving up and down the river all the time and you get drowned unicorns, eventually.

Insurance guy: "Unicorns. You were transporting...unicorns...at the time of the incident?"

Claimant: "Uh, yeah? So, um, how much can I get re-imbursed for the unihorns? I mean, unicorns, yeah, unicorns..."

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Am I correct in assuming that the Pharoahs dreams in the Biblical tale of Joseph are similar to passages in the Gilgamesh epic,I am sure i read a translation somewhere, but unfortunately I can't find the source now.

Correct me if I am wrong..... :tu:

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Hopefully children today will be told this and not misled into believing unsubstantiated beliefs.

How disturbingly amusing. You are aware of the irony of the above, are you not?

.

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It is interesting that when the bible was put together the Ark is not mentioned as being round which was obviously a key element of the much

earlier accounts on which the Noah story is based.

Like other elements of the bible stories they were adaptions of ancient tales, true or false, to suit the ideas of the bible writers.

Hopefully children today will be told this and not misled into believing unsubstantiated beliefs.

Obviously the round shape of the boat is not a key element to the story because the article in the OP clarifies that the tablet in question is the only known source identifying it as round. And this tablet isn't the oldest with fragments of the Utnapishtim fable.

I think you're trying to make far too much out of the round shape, laver. There's nothing mystical about it—again, it was a common shape for a boat in Mesopotamia—and there's no evidence it symbolizes anything. The fable has much larger, and more important, messages to convey.

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The fable has much larger, and more important, messages to convey.

The bonobos and the gigantopitheci should never have shared the same cabin. Look at the trouble that's caused.

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I would suggest that human imagination by itself is enough to explain the story -- why not flood as a way to destroy humanity if you are a god. People have been predicting the end of it all since it began -- it makes you seem sophisticated to do that.

Also, people always think there has to be a real event as a kernel for myths, but that is probably rarely the actual case.

Oh yeah, just see how many Nibirus, alien invasions and zombie apocalypse we had in these years....

Edited by KhanDo Sensi

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