irving Finkle looks a lot like Santa, but of course, being a Jewish curator of ancient tablets at a museum, I doubt if he has ever played the role. He is the author of a book titled, The Ark Before Noah– a title which sends shockwaves down the spine of biblical literalists. Yes, and sorry folks, Noah’s ark wasn’t the original source of the myth: the Babylonians wrote it first. And the ark was round. Here is a description of his book from the publisher:
In THE ARK BEFORE NOAH, 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.
Round. Of course it was round because the fishermen in that region discovered that the round design made the boat impossible to capsize. Noah’s ark took on the shape of boats that the Israelites used in the lakes and rivers in their neck of the woods. Common sense.
The upshot of this post is obvious. Myths are often borrowed by other cultures who adapt them for the time and people they serve.