A 3,700-year-old clay tablet has the British Museum's top specialist on ancient Mesopotamian inscriptions convinced that Noah's Ark was most likely huge, round, made of wickerwork rope, and watertight material.
According to The Guardian, Irving Finkel, who decoded the weather-beaten stone script with its 60 lines of tidy text, is one of the few scholars alive today who knows how to decipher cuneiform, or ancient clay tablets.
Finkel is convinced this particular tablet is "one of the most important human documents ever discovered
," the Guardian reported.
But the expert says he's "107 percent convinced the ark never existed," as least not as described in the Book of Genesis.
Instead, Finkel believes the idea that inspired the Biblical flood story originated in Mesopotamia. The authors of the Hebrew Bible were moved by hearing flood stories during their exile in Babylonia after the destruction of Jerusalem's First Temple in 586 BC.
Mesopotamia corresponds to today's Iraq, and smaller parts of Iran, Syria, Turkey, and Kuwait. Babylon was an ancient city of Mesopotamia.
"The flood story in Genesis basically overlaps with the Babylonian story
. The two are interdependent, cut from the same cloth. The Judean intelligentsia knew Babylon's folk tales, but gave them a Jewish twist," Finkel commented in an interview a few years ago. "The same holds for the similarity between the baby-in-the-bulrushes story of Moses and the story of the Assyrian king Sargon, whose mother also placed him in a reed basket."
The tablet Finkel analyzed is the only one found so far that offers precise dimensions and directions on how to construct the ark— which it says should be circular. The commands call for an ark that would be almost as big as a British soccer field, the Guardian reports.
Finkel does not say the craft actually existed but believes similar though smaller vessels did ply ancient waters, according to the Guardian.
The tablet, which will be put on display at the British Museum, was first shown to Finkel in 2008 by Douglas Simmons, whose father, Leonard, brought it home to England after service in the Middle East with the Royal Air Force.
The tablet also portrays islands beyond the known world. The text says, that is where the remains of the ark can be found.
Finkel details his flood theory in a book due out Jan. 30, "The Ark Before Noah: Decoding the Story of the Flood."
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