Noah’s Flood, the Archaeological and Geological evidence for its 3rd Millennium B.C. occurrence. (Including pictures of Noah’s Ark) and it’s Origins as an Amusing “Tongue-in-Cheek” Mesopotamian Farcial and Satirical Comedy!
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18 July 2005 (Revisions through 22 August 2010)
Methodologies to uncover what is the truth regarding Noah’s Flood:
Try to “think” like a Police Detective in your search for “What is the truth?”:
(1) Establish _the time_ of the crime event; (2) Gather physical evidence for clues also called forensic evidence;(3) Interview possible witnesses; (4) Assemble a list of “persons of interest” who might have a reason for committing the crime and check their alibis and backgrounds to eliminate suspects; (5) Compare witnesses’ statements and investigate for garbled or false information that contradicts the physical evidence; (6) Establish a “motive” for the crime.
Lets look at Noah’s Flood like a Police Detective:
(1) Establish the chronological context (time) for the event:
The Bible’s internal chronology suggests for some Catholic scholars 2958 BC for the Flood (their Bibles give longer ages for some of the pre-flood patriarchs than that found in Protestant Bibles); the Samaritan Bible dates the Flood to circa 2903 B.C. whereas some Conservative Protestant scholars date the flood to circa 2345 B.C. . All of these dates 2958, 2903, and 2345 B.C fall within the 3rd millennium B.C.
(2) Gather evidence for the event:
Is there any physical evidence for a universal worldwide flood circa 2958, 2903 or 2345 B.C. according to the findings of archaeology, geology and paleohydrology? The answer is no. Archaeology dates some villages in Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Iran, Israel to the Neolithic period, the 12th millennium B.C. and no flood deposit has been fround from that era down to the 1st millennium B.C. there simply is no evidence of a worldwide flood anywhere.
(3) If there is no physical evidence for a worldwide flood, then it is necessary to explain “why” the Bible dates the Flood event to the 3rd millennium B.C.
Some scholars understand an archaeologically attested flooding Euphrates river at the city of Shuruppak in Lower Mesopotamia is dated 2900 or 2750 B.C. In Mesopotamian accounts which parallel to some degree the Bible account, the flood hero lives at Shuruppak when told to build a boat by his god to save the seed of man and animal against the flood who’s intent is to destroy all life: man and animal. After the flood he releases three sets of birds to test the abating flood waters just like Noah.
Bingo! We have a match! Well, sort of: The 3rd millennium B.C. biblical date for the flood _matches_ the 3rd millennium B.C. Shuruppak flood. The problem? Scholars disagree on the date of the Shuruppak Flood. Keith Maisels dates the end of the Jamdet Nasr period as circa 2960 B.C. and I note that this flood brings to an end this period at Shuruppak. Maisels’ 2960 B.C. is just 2 years off from the Greek Septuaginta’s flood date of 2958 B.C. David MacDonald, Ph.D., suggests the Shuruppak flood can be dated anywhere from 2950-2850 B.C. I note that the Greek Septuaginta Bible’s 2958 B.C. flood date is just 8 years off from 2950 B.C. Professor H.W.F. Saggs suggests the Shuruppak flood was about 2900 B.C., I note that the Samaritan Bible’s flood date of 2903 B.C. is just 3 years off from Saggs’ 2900 B.C. Shuruppak flood. In other words, using different calculations by different scholars for the Shuruppak flood, and different dates for Noah’s Flood found in various Bible recensions we come up with a series of remarkable “near matches” with differences of anywhere from 2 to 8 years between Noah’s Flood and the Shuruppak flood.
(4) Establish a Motive:
The Bible’s date for Noah’s Flood aligns with the Shuruppak Flood to the degree that both events fall within the 3rd millennium B.C. Archaeology revealed that the flood was local, of a flooding Euphrates river. Why then did the Bible claim falsely it was a worldwide event? Answer: The Mesopotamian myths concerning this flood claimed _falsely_ it was a worldwide event and the Bible’s authors apparently accepted these traditions of a 3rd millennium B.C. worldwide flood.
In a quest of a “motive” behind the false story it should be asked: Why did the Mesopotamians portray the local flood at Shuruppak as a worldwide event? Perhaps for entertainment. All cultures engage in “tall tales” for amusement. The gods are portrayed as “cowering in fear like dogs” during the flood. At its end they accuse Enlil of unjustly killing innocent humans. The gods are being _faulted_ by the narrator of this tall tale, they had no right to send the flood against humans just because they were noisey and disturbing Enlil’s rest.
The Hebrews, objecting to this “storyline” of an _unjust god (Enlil)_ sending a flood over a little noise, recast the story as one God (Yahweh-Elohim) who _is _justified_ in destroying man and animalkind for being evil and filling the world full of bloodshed and violence. The Hebrew “motive” is to _deny, refute and challenge_ the Mesopotomian portrayal of why the flood occurred: An unjust god, Enlil (Ellil) was held responsible for drowning untold numbers of _innocent people_ in the Mesopotamian account.
Special Note: I have determined that the Hebrew Shabbat (English: Sabbath) is _derived_ from the circa 2900 B.C. Shuruppak Flood account appearing in two Mesopotamian literary compositions: (1) The Epic of Gilgamesh and (2) The Epic of Atra-Khasis. Please click here to access this article explaining how the Hebrews derived their Sabbath Day from this mythical Worldwide Flood.
Archaeologists have determined that Noah’s Flood mentioned in the book of Genesis, and dated to the 3rd millennium B.C. on the basis of the Bible’s internal chrononolgy by some Conservative Scholars, is a myth (The Flood being dated to ca. 2348 B.C. according to Archbishop James Ussher’s chronology appearing in King James Bibles) . Excavations in the Near East in Egypt, the Sinai, Canaan, Phoenicia, Syria, and Mesopotamia reveal no universal worldwide flood layer dated to the 3rd millennium B.C., some settlements being dated to the Neolithic or New Stone Age period of the 13th millennium B.C.
The surprise however, is that there was indeed a 3rd millennium B.C. “flood layer” found at Shuruppak in Lower Mesopotamia left by a flooding Euphrates river and its canal. This flood is understood by a number of Liberal scholars to be what underlies the biblical event as the “Mesopotamian Noah” (called Ziusudra, Atrahasis, Atramhasis and Utnapishtim, Uta-napishtim) lived at Shuruppak.
Clay tablets from Lower Mesopotamia dated as early the 2d millennium B.C. do mention a worldwide flood. The Mesopotamian “Noah” is called variously Ziusudra (alternately rendered Zi-ud-sura), Atrahasis (Atra-khasis, Atramhasis) or Utnapishtim (Uta-napishtim). He is portrayed as living in the city of Shuruppak on the Euphrates river and its canal. His patron god, Enki (Ea), warns him of the impending flood to be sent by the angry gods to destroy all of mankind, and to save himself, family and animals. He does so by building a boat.
Professors Lambert and Millard on the “absence” of any mention of a World Flood in Mesopotamian texts of the 3rd millennium but its appearance in texts of the 2d millennium B.C.:
“All the material in list form just described is from the first half of the second millennium B.C. So far there is no evidence for this tradition of a great flood among the Sumerians of the third millennium.” (p. 16. “Introduction.”
W. G. Lambert & A. R. Millard. Atra-Hasis, The Babylonian Story of the Flood. Winona Lake, Indiana. Eisenbrauns. 1969 Oxford University Press. Reprint 1999 by Eisenbrauns)
The details in the Mesopotamian story have been compared to the biblical account and some 17 “correspondences” or “parallels” have been identified by scholars. They have concluded that the Mesopotamian and Biblical accounts are probably two differing versions -polytheistic vs. monotheistic- of the same event!
The city of Shuruppak has been identified as being the ruin-mound of modern Tell Fara (south of Babylon) and when excavated a flood sediment was found dating to circa 2900 B.C. This is the _only_ flood layer at the site, and this layer does not exist at other Mesopotamian sites, so it was very restricted in its locality.
I find it quite remarkable that the Shuruppak flood is dated to the the 3rd millennium BC, the SAME millennium that the Bible dates the flood to.
Below, a map showing the location of Shuruppak (alternately rendered Curuppag by some scholars), modern Tell Fara. This map shows cities listed in the so-called Sumerian King List, enumerating locations from ca. 3000-2100 B.C. Note, the thin dark violet lines represent ancient river courses and canals found by archaeologists. The blue lines are of today’s river courses (cf. p. 83. Map titled “The Cities in the Sumerian King List.” Early Dynastic III Period. Michael Roaf. Cultural Atlas of Mesopotamia and the Ancient Near East.New York. Facts On File, Inc. 1990).
Below, a line-drawing in ink showing the full panel of Sennacherib’s warriors hunting for marsh-dwelling enemies. _All_ the craft are made of marsh reeds but vary in size, the smaller craft hold 3 adults while larger craft can hold as many as 7 adults. Some reed-boats are shown “hiding” amongst reeds which have been pushed down and displaced by the craft, the hiding occupants, men and women, being “seated” rather than standing (cf. p. 176. Henri Frankfort. The Art and Architecture of the Ancient Orient. New Haven & London. Yale University Press. 1954. 4th edition 1970. Reprint 1996).
Below, close-up from the above bas-relief:
Below, the reverse side of a Roman coin with a line drawing of Noah’s Ark, portrayed as a box with the dimensions of a cube. Several scenes have been compressed by the coin’s die sinker. Scene one: Noah and wife in the Ark receiving a dove bearing an olive twig in its mouth, a sign that the Flood waters have abated and it is safe to disembark from the Ark, and scene two: Noah and wife standing outside the Ark with upraised hands thanking God for their safe delivery. This bronze coin was issued by the city of Apameia Kibotos in the 3rd century A.D. Apparently Jewish traditions are behind this portrayal as Noah’s name in Greek appears on the box on other coins. Today Apameia is called Dinar and it lies in western Turkey (cf. p. 70. Figure 7. Lloyd R. Bailey. Noah, the Person and the Story in History and Tradition. Columbia, South Carolina. University of South Carolina Press. 1989).
Please click here for additional line-drawings of Noah’s Ark as a large “chest” or “box” from coins issued under five different Roman Emperors: Septimus Severus (reigned 193-211 A.D.), Severus Alexander (222-235 A.D.), Gordian III (238-244 A.D.), Philip I (244-249 A.D.) and Trebonianus Gallus (251-253 A.D.).
Below, Noah’s Ark as conceived by Robert Best. Best understands Noah was a wealthy merchant at Shuruppak who’s business involved the construction of large barges to carry products up and down the Euphrates river. Best has proposed these large boats were made by lashing together several smaller individual craft made of wood (presumably modeled after the lightweight skin-boats called kuffas) after water-proofing them with pitch as shown in the below drawing. This notion however _contradicts_ the Sumerian account of a _single_ reed hut being torn down and a gigantic seven-story reed boat being made by Ziusudra.(for the drawing cf. p. 93. figure 8. Robert M. Best. Noah’s Ark and the Ziusudra Epic. Fort Myers, Florida. Enlil Press. 1999) Please click here to purchase Best’s book.
“If” the above bas-relief is a “memorial” in stone of Ziusudra’s boat, it appears to be made of wood rather than of reeds. Below is a boat similar in appearance. It is a model made of silver, about 65 centimeters or 25 inches in length. It was found in the tomb of King Meskalamdug (reigned ca. 2600-2550 B.C., Early Dynastic IIIa Period, the same time period as the Shuruppak bas-relief boat) of Ur of the Chaldees (modern tel Muqayyar). It would have been made of planks of wood and steered by a rudder. The German commentary calls this craft a “Ruderboote.” Dear reader, I understand that this silver model captures what “Noah’s Ark” originally looked like in 2900 B.C. (cf. p. 198 for the below photo and p. 199 for the commentary. Barthel Hrouda. Editor. Der Alte Orient, Geschichte und Kultur des alen Vorderasiens. Munchen. C. Bertelsmann Verlag GmbH. 1998). In other words, Noah’s Ark was no larger than a big four-man canoe!
Below, a cylinder seal showing Enki (Ea) in his Apsu house. The entrance is guarded by two naked Lahmu gods. The double-faced god is Isimud, Enki’s vizier.
Below, modern-day “descendants” of the 2900 B.C. Shuruppak wooden boat. Note the punting pole used for propulsion (in the myths the Shuruppak boat had punting poles brought on board) and the “high curving prow” of the boat in the foreground. In the background are reed huts, a reed meeting house or shrine and cattle standing on reed matts (for the photo cf. pp. 10-11. John Gray. Near Eastern Mythology, Mesopotamia, Syria, Palestine. London. Hamlyn Publishing House. 1969)
The below extract from the on-line Wikipedia suggests that “kur Nisir” could just as well have been a sandbar or hill or high ground in a marsh, which would align with my proposal that an-Nasiriyah (surrounded by marshes in antiquity) downstream and southeast of Shuruppak (Tell Fara) was “kur Nisir” (Emphasis mine in bold letters):
“The Assyrian king Ashurbanipal claimed that he had been to Mount Nisir and saw the boat of Utnapishtim. His army and he then took artifacts from the boat and put them in his museum of ancient artifacts. However, this museum has long since been destroyed so archaeology doesn’t know how much truth there is in the story. Mount Nisir is supposedly in modern-day Iran.
The word nişir (spelled with a dot under the s) may have come from the Akkadian word nişirtu which, with reference to localities, had the “connotation of hidden, inaccessible, secluded” and also meant arcane and secret. In other words, nişir could be descriptive, in addition to being a proper name. The partly translated sentence in line 141a of the Gilgamesh flood myth is “KUR-ú KUR ni-şir held tight the boat.” The first KUR is followed by a phonetic complement -ú which indicates that KUR-ú is to be read in Akkadian as šadú (hill). The second KUR without the complement is read mātu (country). Since šadú (sha-doo) can mean mountain as well as hill, and scholars were familiar with the expression Mount Ararat, it has become customary to translate “KUR-ú KUR ni-şir” as Mount Nisir or Mount Nimush.
This noun phrase was probably derived from an earlier Sumerian edition and was first written in clay about 2600 BC when the only written language was the Sumerian language. Therefore, we should read KUR as a Sumerian word, not as Akkadian. In Sumerian, KUR did not mean mountain. The Sumerian word for mountain was HURSAG. In Sumerian, KUR meant land, or hill, or country, especially a foreign country. Hence the sentence “KUR-ú KUR ni-şir held tight the boat” should be read as “A mound in an inaccessible country held the boat tight.” A sand bar in a marsh would qualify.”
Maxwell (1919) humorously noting how his Arab boat guides at Basra (surrounded by the marshlands of Lower Mesopotamia) identified various stands of palm trees as being the Garden of Eden and any high land as the mountain that Noah’s Ark grounded itself upon ( Note: I have proposed that the “high ground” about an-Nasiriyah near Ur of the Chaldees is the Epic of Gilgamesh’s kur Nisir which grounded Utnapishtim of Shuruppak’s boat as it drifted downstream from Shuruppak with the receding flood waters of the Euphrates river):
“Every group of palm trees more than twenty in number is pointed out as the garden of Eden, every bump of ground more than six feet high is the mount on which the Ark rested…”
(p. 22. Donald Maxwell. A Dweller in Mesopotamia. Being the Adventures of an Official Artist in the Garden of Eden. London & New York. John Lane & Company. 1921)
Maxwell on the mouth of the Euphrates in antiquity (Abraham’s world) being near Ur (today’s Tell Muqayyar, his Mugheir); Shushan is the name of his boat which he took in 1919 from Basra to Qurna (Kurna), then on to Mugheir (Ur) and Hilla (Babylon):
“To the archaeologist and the historian Mugheir is intensely interesting, for the great mound discloses the site of Ur
-Ur of the Chaldees- from which Abraham set out towards Canaan. Up till now, upon a map of the world in Abraham’s time, the good little Shushan would still be at sea. She would be approaching the coast at the mouth of the river Euphrates, the Tigris flowing out some fifty miles further east. Dockyards and busy workshops would proclaim the vicinity of this capital, the greatest of all cities of Chaldea.
Since these prosperous days the sea has receded about 150 miles, and left Ur a nondescript heap to be disputed over by professors.”
(p. 45. Donald Maxwell. A Dweller in Mesopotamia. Being the Adventures of an Official Artist in the Garden of Eden. London & New York. John Lane & Company. 1921)
What is _most remarkable_ is that Genesis “correctly dated” Noah’s Flood to the 3rd millennium BC, the same millennium that witnessed the Shuruppak Flood!
Below, some additional dates for Noah’s Flood according to Khan (2002):
2970 Samaritan Bible
2105 Seder Olam Rabbah
Munir Ahmed Khan. Noah’s Flood In Bible, Quran and Mesopotamian Stories. Karachi, Pakistan. 2002.
The on-line “New Advent Catholic Bible Encyclopedia” (accessed 19 June 2008) gives the following dates for Noah’s Flood (of interest here is that the Jamdat Nasr period associated with the Shuruppak Flood is dated variously by different scholars to between
3350 and 2750 B.C. and the below Flood dates of the Septuagint and Samaritan Bibles fall within this time period):
3134 Septuagint Bible
2903 Samaritan Bible
2350 Masoretic Text (Klaproth)
2253 Masoretic Text (Lukan)
“Time of the Deluge:
Genesis places the Deluge in the six-hundredth year of Noah; the Masoretic text assigns it to the year 1656 after the creation, the Samaritan to 1307, the Septuagint to 2242, Flavius Josephus to 2256. Again, the Masoretic text places it in B. C. 2350 (Klaproth) or 2253 (Lüken), the Samaritan in 2903, the Septuagint in 3134.”
(http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04702a.htm “Deluge” New Advent Catholic Encylopedia)
The Flood date of 2903 B.C. from the Samaritan Bible _is the closest date_ to Professor Saggs’ circa 2900 B.C. date for the Shuruppak Flood, this date being off by only 3 years! The next “closest date” to Saggs’ 2900 B.C. Shuruppak Flood date is Eusebius’ Flood date of 2958 B.C., this date being off by just 58 years. It has to be stressed here that Saggs’ 2900 B.C. Shuruppak Flood date is not a “hard” date, it is an ‘approximate’ date and could vary perhaps 50 to 100 years on either side of 2900 B.C.
Please click here for Part 2 of this article (It is _very_important_ that you read Part 2 and not just Part 1!)