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In the Bible, theNoah's ark is a vessel in which Noah took place with his wife, his sons and a couple of animals of each species during the Flood. The many expeditions carried out to find Noah's Ark lead us to question ourselves on the myth of deluge. Is this a story made up from scratch by the Hebrews? Did they inherit an older tradition? The translation of cuneiform tablets in Mesopotamia has revealed other versions of this same story. What to deduce? Did the flood take place? Should we try to rationalize the event by relating it to a natural disaster?
A Mesopotamian myth
The flood is not limited to the biblical myth, the latter was influenced by the Mesopotamian version, much earlier. Indeed, the story of a man named Atrahasis escaping a divine flood thanks to a boat (like a chest) dates from around 2,700 BC.
The story of Noah and the flood would be for some the transcription of a natural disaster that really existed, and as such we generally cite the rupture of the Bosporus following deglaciation. The opening of the Black Sea would have driven out indigenous peoples who would have dispersed, taking with them the memory of this terrible catastrophe which was beyond them.
Others simply refer to an extrapolation of the floods in Mesopotamia. What is certain is that this Mesopotamian version, where Atrahasis built an Ark, directly influenced the Hebrew neighbors, through trade links and then during the latter's captivity in Babylon.
Noah's Ark and the Flood, According to the Bible
The episode of the Flood as it is set out in the book of Genesis has a number of important similarities with the Mesopotamian account. In the biblical account, it is related how God, seeing men doing evil around them, regrets having created them and decides to destroy them. He only wants to spare Noah, whom he asks to build an ark and reunite his family (his wife, his sons and their wives) as well as a couple from each of the animal species.
Then God starts the Flood, which continues for forty days and forty nights. The waters occupy the earth one hundred and fifty days before withdrawing. From his ark, Noah then decides to carry out several experiments, in order to detect the presence of emerged earth. After the first failure (he releases a raven in the air that does not return), he releases a dove which brings him an olive branch, indisputable proof of the existence of dry land and the survivors saved from the rising waters came out of the ark.
The strange worldwide spread of the myth
We also know of Indian versions (with the rescue of Manu) of the subject, either independent or related to Mesopotamians via trade.
The case of the Amerindian versions is much more problematic since this people had for a very long time been separated from the Mesopotamians as from India. This universality of the flood myth was sometimes seen as proof of its veracity, either as a natural disaster or as divine punishment. It has also been hypothesized that there was an original mythology of an Indo-European people who subsequently dispersed throughout the world taking with them the matrix of all mythologies. Lack of evidence to prove or disprove this remains only a hypothesis.
The last interpretation would be to explain this notion of "purification by water" by the very nature of this liquid. As water is universally the quintessential source of life, it is not improbable that different myths have emerged autonomously dealing with a passage from one world to another through water purification. Mankind disappears in the flood to be reborn, through a few righteous, washed of its sins. An image taken, among other things, during Christian baptism.
Finally, if one can debate the origin of this myth, it is also very interesting to study the differences between versions that are similar but adapt to the theological convictions of the people who appropriate the myth. The relationship to divinity was not the same between a monotheistic Noah and a polytheistic Atrahasis, but this is another subject.
Noah's ark discovered in Turkey?
Would we have found theNoah's ark washed up on Mount Ararat (Turkey) after the flood? At least, that's what a mission led by Chinese evangelists asserts. Mount Ararat has already been the subject of several expeditions to find the ship that saved life on Earth. These expeditions, often with funding from American evangelical structures and guided by sometimes controversial project leaders like Ron Wiatt, aimed to prove that a hull-shaped geological formation was the fossil imprint of the biblical ship.
The Chinese expedition stands out from the others since it does not relate to this geological formation but to the exploration of an excavation at the bottom of which the remains of a wooden hull are said to have been found. This discovery allowed a C14 dating which would put the remains back to 4,800 years.
Due to the lack of more information, the results of this expedition must be taken with great care, and only a proper excavation can be able to determine the nature of the remains discovered. The mistrust is all the more in order when we know that evangelical groups like those of Ron Wiatt had themselves announced the discovery of biblical relics either after hasty interpretations or by fabricating pseudo evidence themselves. Without postponing these attacks against this Chinese expeditionary group, we must maintain a certain skepticism while awaiting further study ...
To know more
- Bible and archeology: Flood, Noah's ark and Tower of Babel, by André Parrot. Delachaux and Niestlé, 1970.
- Stories of the end of the world, by Marc Déceneux. Ouest-France Publishing, 1999.
- Lion (B.), "The deluge universal myth", Files of Archeology n ° 204, June 1995.