Update on Noah’s Arc comes into focus at Biennale talk by British Scholar


Kochi, Sep 26: A 14-decade-old decoding managed to throw fresh light into the history of the Ark of Noah, disconcerting all Christians of the times who knew their Bible backwards, eminent British archaeologist-philologist Dr Irving L Finkel said today.

‘The Great Flood Story’ was decoded by a banknote engraver named George Smith, who went on to become an assistant at the British Museum, and came across a cuneiform tablet in 1876, the sexagenarian speaker recalled at a lecture at David Hall in Fort Kochi.

“It had the eleventh chapter of the ‘Epic of Gilgamesh’ in which Utnapishtim plays the role of Noah,” he pointed out in the talk titled ‘A Great Adventure: The Ark Before Noah’ co-hosted by the Kochi Biennale Foundation along with the Kerala Council for Historical Research and the British Council.

 “The words almost seemed to come out of the tablet’s surface,” added Finkel with a streak of a story-teller theatrics, padding up the story on Noah’s Arc—the vessel by which God saves the tenth and last of the pre-flood Patriarch, his family, and a remnant of all the world's animals from the deluge.

“Everything in it was fresh,” says Finkel. For one, the Ark was circular, the shape of a coracle. Finkel flew to Kerala to rebuild a scaled down version of the Babylonian Ark, when collaboration with a documentary filmmaker worked out. The Ark was rebuilt in Kerala’s Punnamada Lake in 2014. It was dismantled, since it could not be ferried to the British Museum.

KCHR Director Dr P J Cherian said it is a proud moment for the people of Kerala to have Dr Finke, a scholar, a scientist and a researcher to share his exploration into human history.

Dr Finkel is the curator in charge of cuneiform inscriptions on tablets of clay from ancient Mesopotamia at the British Museum, London. He specializes in ancient Mesopotamian medicine and magic, and is also doing extensive research in literature and religion in this part of the world.

Dr Finkel’s area of interest lies in the history of board games, especially in the preservation of traditional board games in many non-western societies.

He is currently working on a major project titled “The Indian Board Game Survey” in collaboration with the Anthropological Survey of India.

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