'The Ark Before Noah' - curator Irving Finkel decodes the story of the Flood

Associated Press
Irving Finkel, curator in charge of cuneiform clay tablets at the British Museum, poses with the 4000 year old clay tablet containing the story of the Ark and the flood during the launch of his book 'The Ark Before Noah' at the British Museum in London, Friday Jan. 24, 2014. The book tells how he decoded the story of the Flood and offers a new understanding of the Old Testament's central narratives and how the flood story entered into it. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)

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It was a vast boat that saved two of each animal and a handful of humans from a catastrophic flood.

But forget all those images of a long vessel with a pointy bow — the original Noah's Ark, new research suggests, was round.

A recently deciphered 4,000-year-old tablet from ancient Mesopotamia — modern-day Iraq — reveals striking new details about the roots of the Old Testament tale of Noah. It tells a similar story, complete with detailed instructions for building a giant round vessel known as a coracle — as well as the key instruction that animals should enter "two by two."

The tablet went on display at the British Museum on Friday, and soon engineers will follow the ancient instructions to see whether the vessel could actually have sailed.

It's also the subject of a new book, "The Ark Before Noah," by Irving Finkel, the museum's assistant keeper of the Middle East and the man who translated the tablet.

(AP)

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