ON AIR NOW

LISTEN NOW

Weather

cloudy-day
69°
Partly Cloudy
H 67° L 49°
  • cloudy-day
    69°
    Current Conditions
    Partly Cloudy. H 67° L 49°
  • cloudy-day
    50°
    Morning
    Partly Cloudy. H 67° L 49°
  • clear-day
    70°
    Afternoon
    Sunny. H 73° L 55°
LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest top stories

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest traffic report

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest forecast

00:00 | 00:00

News
Researchers claim to find instructions for Noah's Ark - and it was round!
Close

Researchers claim to find instructions for Noah's Ark - and it was round!

Researchers claim to find instructions for Noah's Ark - and it was round!
Photo Credit: Associated Press
Irving Finkel with the cuneiform clay tablet at the British Museum. Photograph: Sang Tan/AP

Researchers claim to find instructions for Noah's Ark - and it was round!

It turns out Noah's Ark may have looked a bit more like your cereal bowl than the Queen Mary.

At least according to researchers hailing what some antiquities experts are calling "one of the most important human documents ever discovered."

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.

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.

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."

See more irresistible headlines

It's also the subject of a new book, "The Ark Before Noah," by Irving Finkel, the museum's assistant keeper of the Middle East and the man who translated the tablet.

Finkel got hold of it a few years ago, when a man brought in a damaged tablet his father had acquired in the Middle East after World War II.

It was light brown, about the size of a mobile phone and covered in the jagged cuneiform script of the ancient Mesopotamians.

"It was really a heart-stopping moment - the discovery that the boat was to be a round boat," said Finkel, who sports a long gray beard, a ponytail and boundless enthusiasm for his subject. "That was a real surprise."

And yet, Finkel said, a round boat makes sense. Coracles were widely used as river taxis in ancient Iraq and are perfectly designed to bob along on raging floodwaters.

"It's a perfect thing," Finkel said. "It never sinks, it's light to carry."

Other experts said Finkel wasn't simply indulging in book-promotion hype. David Owen, professor of ancient Near Eastern studies at Cornell University, said the British Museum curator had made "an extraordinary discovery."

Elizabeth Stone, an expert on the antiquities of ancient Mesopotamia at New York's Stony Brook University, said it made sense that ancient Mesopotamians would depict their mythological ark as round.

"People are going to envision the boat however people envision boats where they are," she said. "Coracles are not unusual things to have had in Mesopotamia."

The tablet records a Mesopotamian god's instructions for building a giant vessel - two-thirds the size of a soccer field in area - made of rope, reinforced with wooden ribs and coated in bitumen.

Finkel said that on paper (or stone) the boat-building orders appear sound, but he doesn't yet know whether it would have floated. A television documentary due to be broadcast later this year will follow attempts to build the ark according to the ancient manual.

The flood story recurs in later Mesopotamian writings including the "Epic of Gilgamesh." These versions lack the technical instructions - cut out, Finkel believes, because they got in the way of the storytelling.

He is also aware his discovery may cause consternation among believers in the Biblical story. When 19th-century British Museum scholars first learned from cuneiform tablets that the Babylonians had a flood myth, they were disturbed by its striking similarities to the story of Noah.

He believes the tale was likely passed on to the Jews during their exile in Babylon in the 6th century B.C. And he doesn't think the tablet provides evidence the ark described in the Bible existed. He said it's more likely that a devastating real flood made its way into folk memory, and has remained there ever since.

Read More
VIEW COMMENTS

There are no comments yet. Be the first to post your thoughts. or Register.

The Latest News Headlines

  • They believe he was hit by a car Thanksgiving night and left to die. The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office is investigating after a man's body was found in a ditch along Bowden Road on the Southside, early Friday morning.  At this time, JSO hasn't released his identity, but they say the man was in his 40's.  Police say they don't know of any witnesses. There's also no suspect information at this point.
  • British police said they were responding to reports of an incident at the Oxford Circus subway station, one of London’s busiest, Friday evening. >> Read more trending news
  • At least 184 people were killed and 125 were injured Friday when Islamist militants exploded a bomb and opened fire on people attending prayers at an Egyptian mosque in the northern section of Sinai, Reuters reported. >> Read more trending news The attack targeted Al Rawdah mosque in Bir Al-Abed, the Egyptian state-owned news agency MENA reported. No group has claimed responsibility for the assault, so far. State media showed images of bloodied victims and bodies covered in blankets inside the Al Rawdah mosque in Bir al-Abed, west of the city of El Arish. “They were shooting at people as they left the mosque,” a local resident, whose relatives were at the scene, told Reuters. “They were shooting at the ambulances, too.”
  • We're still damp this morning, with some mist and fog early.  Gradually the rain is expected to end and CBS 47/Fox 30 Action News Jax Chief Meteorologist Mike Buresh says skies will clear.   Thursday saw a tremendous amount of rain.  “Unofficial reports of as much as 6’’ in the St. Augustine area, pretty widespread rainfall of 2-5’’ for parts of Clay and St. Johns County and even into southeastern Duval County”, Buresh said.  Mike says we'll gradually see skies clear through the day and by tonight.   That sets up a really nice, dry weekend with temps in the low 70's. LISTEN:  Mike Buresh Weather Podcast
  • UPDATE Friday morning:  Logan Mott’s mother has posted a heartfelt message on Facebook, pleading for a safe return of her 15-year-old son and his grandmother, Kristina French.  UPDATE 11/23/17 5:40 PM: The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office says there’s no new information to release. ORIGINAL STORY: A missing child alert has been issued for 15-year-old Logan Mott out of Neptune Beach.  The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Jacksonville Police believe Logan is in the company of his grandmother, 53-year-old Kristina French.  The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office says firearms are missing from a home they are associated with. Our partners at Action News Jax spoke with Logan’s mother who says the home that had the firearms looked like it had been ransacked.  The two are believed to traveling in a 2015 silver Dodge Dart with Florida tag D-L-L-T-4-2.  JSO says with the firearms missing, you should not approach them if you see them. You are asked to call 911. This is a developing story, check back for more updates. 

The Latest News Videos