Thursday, January 23, 2014

News on that other Ark

IRVING FINKEL'S NEW BOOK, THE ARK BEFORE NOAH, gets extensive coverage in two articles in The Telegraph.
Irving Finkel: reader of the lost Ark
Tom Chivers meets the man who deciphered a 4,000-year-old blueprint – for the original Noah’s Ark

By Tom Chivers

7:00AM GMT 19 Jan 2014

Four thousand years ago, a millennium and a half before the first Jewish scholars put pen to parchment on the Book of Genesis, a scribe in what is now Iraq carved the story of a great flood on to a clay tablet, in the strange and beautiful script known as cuneiform. The story told of how a god came and warned a great man to build a boat, and to take his family on that boat, and two animals of every kind, because the world was to be cleansed with a flood.

About 30 years ago, one Douglas Simmonds wandered in to the British Museum, and handed the tablet to a man called Irving Finkel, who immediately recognised it as one of the most important archaeological finds of recent years. Dr Finkel, an Assyriologist or student of the civilisations of ancient Mesopotamia, begged Simmonds to leave it with him, but he would do no such thing. It took him until 2009 to convince Simmonds to let him have it; when he did, what he discovered was a piece of the flood story – the Assyrian story of the Ark, centuries before Noah.

Dr. Finkel himself also has written an article that tells the story of acquiring the tablet and deciphering it, as well as what it says and why it is important: Noah's Ark: the facts behind the Flood. A recently discovered Babylonian tablet is a blueprint for a round-shaped ark that animals could board two by two . The headline sums up the unique information in the tablet: it gives detailed instructions for building a gigantic round boat, or coracle, and it has the animals enter the boat "two by two," the latter point paralleling the biblical account. The parallel is interesting, because it has not shown up in a cuneiform text until now, although, really, how else were they supposed to go in?

George Smith, the original discoverer of the cuneiform Flood story, is mentioned in both articles. More on his sad story here. This new tablet also appeared briefly in the news several years ago.

Irving Finkel is looking as iconically scholarly as ever. More on Dr. Finkel here, here, here, here, and here.