The recent translation of a Babylonian tablet launches a groundbreaking investigation into one of the most famous stories in the world, challenging the way we look at ancient history.
Since the Victorian period, it has been understood that the story of Noah, iconic in the Book of Genesis, and a central motif in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, derives from a much older story that existed centuries before in ancient Babylon. But the relationship between the Babylonian and biblical traditions was shrouded in mystery. Then, in 2009, Irving Finkel, a curator at the British Museum and a world authority on ancient Mesopotamia, found himself playing detective when a member of the public arrived at the museum with an intriguing cuneiform tablet from a family collection. Not only did the tablet reveal a new version of the Babylonian Flood Story; the ancient poet described the size and completely unexpected shape of the ark, and gave detailed boat building specifications. Decoding this ancient message wedge by cuneiform wedge, Dr. Finkel discovered where the Babylonians believed the ark came to rest and developed a new explanation of how the old story ultimately found its way into the Bible. In The Ark Before Noah, Dr. Finkel takes us on an adventurous voyage of discovery, opening the door to an enthralling world of ancient voices and new meanings.
About Irving Finkel
Dr. Irving Finkel is Assistant Keeper of ancient Mesopotamian script, languages, and cultures at the British Museum. He is the curator in charge of cuneiform inscriptions on tablets of clay from ancient Mesopotamia, of which the Middle East Department has the largest collection of any modern museum.
"A gem of a book." —The New Yorker
"Fascinating. . . .If you're interested in the history of religion, or detective stories—because this is definitely one—check out The Ark Before Noah." —NY1
"[E]ngaging and informative. . . . Finkel is an enthusiast and shows evident delight in bringing this find to the wider public." —The Wall Street Journal
"[T]he charged thrill of Finkel's chase permeates the book — the pages don't just join dots, they supply new pieces for a beautiful, Bronze-Age jigsaw-puzzle. . . . Consistently scholarly and droll, Finkel’s writing is also eccentrically vivid. . . . It is a joy, at times laugh-out-loud funny. . . . The antediluvian past of the Middle East might seem arcane but this book demonstrates its relevance. . . . Thank God there are still men who can translate [these ancient] messages." —The Times
"A serious book, but rarely a heavy one: in a sprightly good-humoured way, Finkel communicates the thrill of true scholarship. . . . This book does more than change the way we imagine the sources of a Bible story, however. It rescues cuneiform from its dusty place in the museum basement. . . . Fresh and exciting." —Sunday Times
"[Finkel's] conclusions will send ripples into the world of creationism and among ark hunters." —Guardian
"Beguiling. . . . [Written] with great wit and warmth. . . . Finkel is a master at deciphering these ancient cuneiform clay tablets, but this book is far more than a fine piece of detective work: it is a humane work of scholarship that enlarges the soul." —Observer
"Self-described 'wedge reader' Finkel is a scholarly and often witty guide to the antediluvian civilization and our shared lineage. . . . Finkel’s happy primer on historic Mesopotamia is, on the whole, wonderfully rewarding." —Kirkus Reviews