A new Atrahasis tablet
- Dear All,
I just received this link and item from a friend. Does anyone know
anything about it?
Ancient tablet giving new shape to the story of Noah's ArkMAEV KENNEDY
January 3, 2010
THAT they led the enormous floating wildlife collection aboard two by two
is well known. Less familiar, however, is the possibility that the animals
Noah shepherded on to his ark then went round and round inside.
According to newly translated instructions inscribed in ancient Babylonian
on a clay tablet telling the story of the ark, the vessel that saved one
virtuous man, his family and the animals from God's watery wrath was not
the pointy-prowed craft of popular imagination but rather a giant circular
The battered tablet, which is about 3700 years old, was found somewhere in
the Middle East by Leonard Simmons, a largely self-educated Londoner who
indulged his passion for history while serving in the Royal Air Force from
1945 to 1948.
The relic was passed to his son Douglas, who took it to one of the few
people in the world who could read it as easily as the back of a cereal
box - Irving Finkel, a British Museum expert, who translated its 60 lines
of neat cuneiform script.
There are dozens of ancient tablets that describe the flood story, but Dr
Finkel says this is the first to describe the vessel's shape.
''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 Dr 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
Dr Finkel's research throws light on the familiar Mesopotamian story,
which became the account in the Old Testament, of Noah and the ark that
saved his menagerie from the waters that drowned every other living thing
In his translation, the God who has decided to spare one just man speaks
to Atram-Hasis, a Sumerian king who lived before the flood and who is the
Noah figure in earlier versions of the ark story. ''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 built with a circular design; Let
its length and breadth be the same.''
The tablet goes on to command the use of plaited palm fibre, waterproofed
with bitumen, before the construction of cabins for the people and wild
It ends with the dramatic command of Atram-Hasis to the unfortunate boat
builder whom he leaves behind to meet his fate, about sealing up the door
once everyone else is safely inside: ''When I shall have gone into the
boat, Caulk the frame of the door!''
Fortunes were spent in the 19th century by biblical archaeology
enthusiasts hunting for evidence of Noah's flood. The Mesopotamian flood
myth was incorporated into the great poetic epic Gilgamesh, and Dr Finkel
believes it was during the Babylonian captivity that the exiled Jews
learned the story, brought it home with them, and incorporated it into the
Despite its unique status, Simmons' tablet - which has been dated to about
1700BC, only a few centuries later than the oldest known account - was
''When my dad eventually came home, he shipped a whole tea chest of this
kind of stuff home - seals, tablets, bits of pottery,'' said Douglas
Simmons. ''He would have picked them up in bazaars, or when people knew he
was interested in this sort of thing, they would have brought them to him
and earned a few bob.''
His son took the tablet to a British Museum open day, where Dr Finkel
''took one look at it and nearly fell off his chair'' with excitement.
''It is the most extraordinary thing,'' Mr Simmons said of the
tablet. ''You hold it in your hand, and you instantly get a feeling that
you are directly connected to a very ancient past - and it gives you a
shiver down your spine.''
A centuries-old search
HUMAN fascination with the Flood and the whereabouts of the ark shows few
signs of subsiding.
The story has travelled down the centuries from the ancient Babylonians
and continues to fascinate in the 21st century. Countless expeditions have
travelled to Mount Ararat in Turkey, where Noah's Ark is said to have come
to rest, but scientific proof of its existence has yet to be found.
Recent efforts to find it have been led by creationists, who are keen to
exhibit it as evidence of the literal truth of the Bible.
In the Victorian era some became obsessed with the ark story. George Smith
- the lowly British Museum assistant who, in 1872, deciphered the Flood
Tablet that is inscribed with the Assyrian version of the Noah's Ark tale
- could apparently not contain his excitement at his discovery. According
to the museum's archives: ''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.''