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The Ark Before Noah: Decoding the Story of…

The Ark Before Noah: Decoding the Story of the Flood (original 2014; edition 2014)

by Irving Finkel (Author)

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1565111,536 (3.93)2
Title:The Ark Before Noah: Decoding the Story of the Flood
Authors:Irving Finkel (Author)
Info:Nan A. Talese (2014), Edition: First American Edition, 432 pages
Collections:Your library

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The ark before Noah : decoding the story of the flood by Irving L. Finkel (2014)



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Deep within the British Museum is the Arched Room, a soaring vaulted hall lined with shelves of cubbyholes. This is where the cuneiform tablets are kept and it feels rather like the Holy of Holies. I’ve only been once, but that single visit impressed me mightily: not just the architecture, but the hushed air of industry as scholars and students sat hunched over at the central line of desks, working away at deciphering these ancient fragments. Tablets might be business letters, court records or poetry. It’s an ongoing detective story and my brilliant Assyriologist colleagues never know what they’re going to turn up. In this book, the irrepressible Irving Finkel tells the story of the most exciting recent discovery, when a member of the public brought in a cuneiform tablet which offered fascinating new evidence about the story of the Ark and the Great Flood...

For the full review, please see my blog:
https://theidlewoman.net/2018/03/28/the-ark-before-noah-irving-finkel/ ( )
  TheIdleWoman | Mar 28, 2018 |
Written by an enthusiastic specialist who tells the story of his translation of a cunieform tablet acquired by the British Museum that provides detailed instructions on how to build an Ark (which he calls the Ark Tablet).
The book teases out as much as possible from this 60 line tablet and in the process you learn much. I had previously read the Bible Ark story and I had also read Gilgamesh, but had not particularly focused on the Ark story in it. What this book succeeds in doing is looking at the various Mesopotamian stories that survive on cuneiform tablets, and suggesting how it came about that the Bible Ark story came into the Western World so effectively.
The author advises that the Mesopotamian Flood Story surfaces in three distinct cuneiform incarnations, one in Sumerian, two in Akkadian. These are the Sumerian Flood Story, and major narrative episodes within the Atrahasis Epic and the Epic of Gilgamesh respectively.
The most interesting and rewarding part of the book is Finkel's analysis of these stories, adding what can be gleaned from the Ark Tablet. What I came to appreciate was that small parts of these stories are found on cunieform tablets over a long period of time (more than one thousand years) and the underlying theme of the Ark story was modified over time, as it was retold for different audiences.
At some stage this will mean that i want to read a good book about how it is thought that the Bible was written, as Finkel's chapter about how the Mesopotamian Ark story was incorporated into Judaism, Christianity and Islam is fascinating.
Finkel includes photos and descriptions of reed boat building in 19th and early 20th century Iraq to help illustrate his arguments and these are very interesting. Finkel also includes delightful quotes at the beginning of his chapters.

Near the beginning the author notes that the book is strongly dependent on ancient inscriptions and what they have to tell us. Most of them are written in the said cuneiform, the world’s oldest kind of writing. The author therefore not only says what "we know" ie his interpretation, but also explains how we know it, and tries to make it clear when some word or line is persistently obscure, or open to more than one interpretation. I did not agree with all his interpretations, but this is more to do with him running with an interpretation that is favourable to his overall argument, whereas I considered the evidence that he presented inconclusive, rather than positively disagreeing with his interpretation.

Overall, a very stimulating and enlightening book about a very specialised area of history. ( )
  CarltonC | Dec 22, 2015 |
The author is Assistant Keeper of Ancient Mesopotamian script, languages and cultures in the British Museum. He writes about the discovery of a cuneiform tablet that contains a story very similar to that of Noah in the Bible. He goes on to compare it to several other cuneiform tablets with different versions of the same story, and he speculates on how they are all related, and how the story of Noah ended up in the Bible. For good measure he relates an attempt to build an ark as described in the new cuneiform tablet. This book is fascinating, with a great deal of information about Mesopotamian culture and history, along with the impact that Mesopotamian culture had on Jewish culture and history. ( )
  baobab | Apr 26, 2015 |
Yeoman work, scholarly opinion, great story, well told. ( )
  swift1 | Aug 29, 2014 |
The recent translation of a Babylonian tablet ... challenging the way we look at ancient history. Since the Victorian period, it has been understood that the story of Noah, ... derives from a much older story ...
... a new explanation of how the old story ultimately found its way into the Bible
  kgreply | May 19, 2014 |
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"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."--Publisher's website… (more)

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