There are some mysteries that always seem to draw us into the question, "what if?"
Noah's ark is one of those that has intrigued the world over. One of the first Biblical stories shared with children is the story of Noah, his family, and two of every kind of animal that were saved from the wrath of God.
According to a newly discovered ancient tablet, the roots of the Old Testament story may come from an old Mesopotamia story. And the image of the "boat" that comes to mind when thinking of the ark may be erroneous. Instead, it could very well be a nearly flat, round, bowl-like boat, instead of the typical form one thinks of.
A 4,000-year-old clay cuneiform tablet from ancient Mesopotamia went on display Friday at the British Museum that apparently instructed builders how to build the vessel.
Irving Finkel, the museum's assistant keeper of the Middle East and the man who translated the tablet, got hold of the tablet when a man brought in the damaged tablet to the museum, saying his father acquired it in the Middle East after World War II.
"It was really a heart-stopping moment -- the discovery that the boat was to be a round boat," said Finkel. "That was a real surprise."
According to Finkel, a television documentary will attempt to build the ark according to the ancient manual. It calls for the vessel to be made of rope, reinforced with wooden ribs and coated in bitumen and be about two-thirds the size of a soccer field in area.
The flood story is not limited to the Bible but is found in ancient Mesopotamian writings, including the "Epic of Gilgamesh."
"I'm sure the story of the flood and a boat to rescue life is a Babylonian invention," he said.
He also doubts the ark's existence, but believes it's just a story that has found its way into Judeo-Christian folklore.
"I don't think the ark existed -- but a lot of people do," he said. "It doesn't really matter. The Biblical version is a thing of itself and it has a vitality forever.
Image via Wikimedia