- I came across this book following watching an entertaining YouTube video of Irving Finkel lecturing on cuneiform provided by Aeon: here1.
- The book is a real page-turner (for me at any rate) – even the technical parts.
- The idea that the Ark was originally conceived as a super-sized coracle, as used in the Iraqi waterways, seems sensible enough (given it’s attested by the Ark Tablet). The mathematics of the construction materials is certainly interesting, and shows – with a few assumptions – that the account in the Ark Tablet – is consistent.
- The presupposition – I think – is that rather than suggesting there really was an ark of this construction, which has been faithfully recorded, that scribal tradition came up with a sensible and consistent account of how the boat was built, possibly using the experience of actual boat-builders, scaled up a bit. The account in the tablet itself is very sketchy – especially given the condition of the tablet and the need to repair the text. However, I found it all quite convincing.
- The book probably deserves a second – more critical – read.
- My concern might be – given the rather odd and undocumented prevenance of the Ark Tablet – that the whole thing might be a forgery, given that the forgery of such ancient artifacts is becoming rather common. But it’s difficult to think how it could have been done without an enormous amount of knowledge, and why it would have been done in the way it was; it’s not as though it either proves or disproves anything that anyone might think important; it doesn’t fall into the “too good to be true” category. But – given the huge number of such tablets – it is a bit odd that this one should turn out to be of such interest, rather than being a shopping list or something else trivial.
- Everyone knows the story of Noah’s Ark and the Flood as recounted in the Book of Genesis. Since the 1870s it has been known that a similar, but much older story existed centuries before in ancient Babylon, but much was shrouded in mystery.
- One day, Irving Finkel, a curator in the British Museum and a world authority on ancient Mesopotamia, found himself involved in a detective story of decipherment and discovery when a member of the public arrived at the museum with a particular cuneiform tablet which he had inherited from his father. Not only did the tablet reveal a new version of the Babylonian Flood Story; the ancient poet describes the size and completely unexpected shape of the Ark, and gives detailed boat-building specifications.
- The gradual decoding of this ancient message reveals where the Babylonians believed the Ark came to rest and has led to a new explanation of how the old cuneiform story ultimately found its way into the text of the Bible.
- The Ark Before Noah: Decoding The Story Of The Flood takes us on a real voyage of discovery, opening the door to an enthralling world of ancient words and new meanings.
- ‘This is certainly a detective story and I had no idea when I started reading that tablet and writing this book where it was going to lead me. It has certainly been an adventure and I found myself facing many unanticipated questions that had to be answered. The Ark Tablet will always be a thing of wonder and I hope that those who read this book will reach the same verdict.’
- Irving Finkel is Assistant Keeper in the Department of the Middle East at the British Museum in London, where he is the curator in charge of the world’s largest collection of cuneiform clay tablets, comprising more than 130,000 pieces. In this remarkably durable medium, all human life survives for posterity in the long extinct languages of Sumerian and Babylonian - thanks to the invention of the art of writing, these most ancient voices can reach us and affect us still. With publications, lecturing and broadcasting, Dr Finkel has brought these inscriptions and their writers to a modern audience.
Amazon Book Description
- In The Ark Before Noah, British Museum expert Dr. Irving Finkel reveals how decoding the symbols on a 4,000 year old piece of clay enable a radical new interpretation of the Noah's Ark myth.
- A world authority on the period, Dr Finkel's enthralling real-life detective story began with a most remarkable event at the British Museum – the arrival one day in 2008 of a single, modest-sized Babylonian cuneiform tablet – the palm-sized clay rectangles on which our ancestors created the first documents. It had been brought in by a member of the public and this particular tablet proved to be of quite extraordinary importance.
- Not only does it date from about 1850 BC, but it is a copy of the Babylonian Story of the Flood, a myth from ancient Mesopotamia revealing among other things, instructions for building a large boat to survive a flood.
- But Dr Finkel's pioneering work didn't stop there. Through another series of enthralling discoveries he has been able to decode the story of the Flood in ways which offer unanticipated revelations to readers of The Ark Before Noah.
- About this Book – 1
- The Wedge between Us – 12
- Words and People – 30
- Recounting the Flood – 84
- The Ark Tablet – 105
- Flood Warning – 111
- The Question of Shape – 123
- Building the Arks – 157
- Life on Board – 184
- Babylon and Bible Floods – 212
- The Judaean Experience – 224
- What Happened to the Ark? – 261
- What is the Ark Tablet? – 298
- Conclusions: Stories and Shapes – 310
Appendix 1: Ghosts, the Soul and Reincarnation – 316
Appendix 2: Investigating the Text of Gilgamesh XI – 327
Appendix 3: Building the Ark - Technical Report – 333
Appendix 4: Reading the Ark Tablet – 357
Textual Notes to Appendix 4 – 367
Notes – 369
Bibliography – 388
Acknowledgements – 401
Index – 405
Hodder & Stoughton; 1st Edition (30 Jan. 2014)
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020
- Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)