Sumer Arc Instructions. Many Generations before Noah.

This is a cool story.  For some reason, it's making the rounds again, but was previously published 4 years ago.

Cuneiform (Sumeran) tablet was found giving instructions for how to build an arc for impending flood.  The story of the tablet is interesting.  Apparently, it was picked up by a soldier, or bought in a market, and languished for decades.  Eventually the soldier's  son was able to get it to someone who know what to do with it, Irving Finkel.

"In Mr Finkel's translation, the god speaks to Atram-Hasis, a Sumerian king who is the Noah figure in early versions of the ark story.The tablet's translation says:

"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 is dated to about 1,700 BCE.

Check this link for appearance of the tablet.  The Guardian.  "The tablet gives a version of the ark story far older than the biblical accounts, and Finkel believes the explanation of how "holy writ appears on this piece of Weetabix", is that the writers of the Bible drew on ancient accounts encountered by Hebrew scholars during the Babylonian exile."

This story is so universal.  If we could forget about willfully ignorant christian reactionaries ("see, the universal stories show there WAS a great flood!) and ponder the story, maybe we could gain insights into the human condition.  

Is it just a about a flood?   Probably.  That is the most straightforward translation.  And floods are truly universal.  They occur almost everywhere, throughout human history, and into the current time.

The flood stories also play into submission to virtue, or to gods, and attachment to a physical, transient world, to grief, fear of death, and hope for renewal.  There is reward of the good and faithful, by saving them and them only.  There is punishment of the unfaithful and unbelieving.  Even in my workplace, and past workplaces, managers often express that there is impending disaster unless we act now by working harder and sacrificing more.  Not warning a flood, but warning for other tales of corporate doom.  I have not read much Carl Jung or Joseph Campbell.  I imagine they had something to say about these themes.

The theme of impending disaster, wanting to save loved ones, belongings, and way of life, is universal.  Not only is there the Noah tale, and Gilgamesh (2,000 BC?  I don't know the relation of that ballad to this tablet.  They may be interwoven, or may be unrelated; some speculate the Gilgamesh story inspired the Noah story).  

There is also a great flood of Chinese mythology, dating to 2,000 BC? ...

Like endless boiling water, the flood is pouring forth destruction.

Boundless and overwhelming, it overtops hills and mountains.

Rising and ever rising, it threatens the very heavens. How the people must be groaning and suffering!

—Emperor Yao, as quoted in the Book of History, describing the flood

I won't copy the list, but there are great flood myths from many ancient cultures.  Many of which could not have any connection to the others.

The modern equivalents to the flood story, can be found in christian woe-saying - and schadenfreude - about god about to bring destruction and doom to the world for sinfulness, and among the secular, climate change fears.  I'm not denying that last - it's impossible to escape that climate change may finally be a disaster of biblical proportions.  But the desire to preserve our way of life for future generations, harkens to the floods stories of the ancients.  We all share a strongly human fear of the unknown, attachment to the known, and desire to preserve the known for the benefit of ourselves, our families, and future generations.

For a humanist, these stories describe the universality of human experience.


Images source:  WIkipedia commons.:

Noah's Ark ca. 1590  Miskin Mughal dynasty Akbar(r. 1556 - 1605)  India

The Deluge", Frontispiece to Gustav Doré's illustrated edition of the Bible...shows humans and a tiger doomed by the flood futilely attempting to save their children and cubs...  19th century.

1499, the Aztecs performed rituals, including a child sacrifice, to appease the angry gods who had flooded their capital, Tenochtitlan

Tags: Ark, GIlgamesh, Noah, attachment, change, climate, condition, flood, great, human

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I should say the ground upon which my is house is built was underwater during the Ice Age floods. 

This story has surfaced to promote Finkel's new book, The Ark Before Noah. This tablet went on display recently, but the British Museum has had a similar tablet, containing the flood story from the Epic of Gilgamesh, on display for many years. I saw it in 2003. The stories on the table and in Genesis are quite alike, down to the sending out a bird to find land. Finkel thinks the story was passed onto the Jews of Israel and incorporated into their scriptures.

Of course the news outlets have revised the story to say that "Noah's ark was round." You can alwasy rely on the popular press to get it totally wrong.

The press, popular and otherwise, is not useless but is often highly questionable, shallow, superficial, and as you state totally wrong. Thats why I try to did deeper. Thank you for the enlightenment about the story.

Some day I should read the epic of Gilgamesh. When I have the energy time and ability to concentrate.

It is very frustrating to read the press's version of what is really a science story. For some reason, people just don't understand the meanings and interpretations of things having to do with geology, archeology, genealogy, or any of those sciences that explain, or attempt to offer a hypothesis about things of the past. So many would rather hold onto the bibilical versions, which are nothing more than retold mythologies, sometimes based on real events. 


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