A recently deciphered 4,000-year-old tablet from ancient Mesopotamia purportedly contains the specifications for an ark to endure a great flood — and it predates the Biblical story of Noah.
It describes a huge vessel, two-thirds the size of a soccer field, with high walls and made with so much rope that "stretched out in a line would reach from London to Edinburgh."
[sharequote align="center"]"...one of the most important human documents ever discovered."[/sharequote]
The tablet — subject of a new book titled, "The Ark Before Noah" — was put on display Friday at the British Museum and is claimed by the museum's assistant keeper of the Middle East, Irving Finkel, to be "one of the most important human documents ever discovered."
The 4000 year old clay tablet containing the story of the Ark and the flood stands on display at the British Museum in London during the launch of the book 'The Ark Before Noah' by Irving Finkel, curator in charge of cuneiform clay tablets at the British Museum, Friday, Jan. 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)
Finkel said he received the tablet several years ago from a man who said his father had acquired it in the Middle East.
"This tablet, however, turned out to be one in a million," he said in a blog post.
[sharequote align="center"]"This tablet, however, turned out to be one in a million."[/sharequote]
Other historians agree.
David Owen, professor of ancient Near Eastern studies at Cornell University, told Fox News it was an "extraordinary discovery."
Irving Finkel, curator in charge of cuneiform clay tablets at the British Museum, speaks to the media during the launch of his book 'The Ark Before Noah' at the British Museum in London, Friday, Jan. 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)
But, while the tablet describes an ark strikingly similar to Noah's and would be designed to save two of each animal, the tablet specifies a circular vessel, not a rectangular ark.
"It was really a heart-stopping moment — the discovery that the boat was to be a round boat," said Finkel, according to Fox News. "That was a real surprise."
Finkel added that a circular vessel would be a "perfect thing," because it "never sinks, it's light to carry."
He also contends that his discovery does not provide evidence supporting the Biblical story of Noah's ark, instead saying the tale was likely passed down from Babylon.
"I'm sure the story of the flood and a boat to rescue life is a Babylonian invention," he reportedly said.
"I don't think the ark existed -- but a lot of people do," Finkel added. "It doesn't really matter. The Biblical version is a thing of itself and it has a vitality forever."
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