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Noah's Ark reveal: Ancient tablet goes on display at British Museum

This 4,000-year-old tablet could offer new insight into the shape of Noah's Ark.
British Museum

Those images depicting Noah's Ark as a long vessel with a pointy bow? Likely wrong, say researchers after studying an ancient tablet that went on display at a London museum Friday.

According to FOX News, the 4,000-year-old clay tablet from ancient Mesopotamia, which is modern-day Iraq, reveals striking new details about Noah's Ark, as found in the Old Testament. The stories have many parallels, complete with detailed instructions for building a giant round vessel known as a coracle. It includes key directives that animals enter "two by two."

Visitors can now check out the historic tablet at London's British Museum, and soon engineers are expected to follow the tablet's instructions to determine whether the vessel could actually have sailed, saving the lives of hundreds of animals and a smaller number of humans.

The tablet is 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. Finkel, in conjunction with the exhibit's opening and book release, held a press conference Friday.

Finkel says a man had brought in an old tablet his father had acquired in the Middle East after World War II. It was light brown, about the size of a mobile phone and covered in the jagged script of the ancient Mesopotamians.

It turned out, Finkel said, to be "one of the most important human documents ever discovered."

Surprised about the boat's shape? Many were, but Finkel said a round boat makes sense. Coracles were widely used as river taxis in ancient Iraq and are perfectly designed to bob along on raging floodwaters.

"It's a perfect thing," Finkel said. "It never sinks, it's light to carry."

Other experts said Finkel wasn't simply indulging in book-promotion hype. David Owen, professor of ancient Near Eastern studies at Cornell University, said the British Museum curator had made "an extraordinary discovery."

Extraordinary, maybe. But Finkel isn't convinced the Biblical account of Noah's Ark is true.

"I'm sure the story of the flood and a boat to rescue life is a Babylonian invention," he said.

If you want to check out the exhibit, find more information about the museum here. Perhaps you're still in the States or another far-away country, but are extremely intrigued by the findings. It might be the perfect time to plan your trip to London.

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