Search for Noah's Lost Ark: History and Background

About the search for Noah's Ark the ship from the Bible that saved man from the flood, history and background.

The Continuing Search for. . . Noah's Ark

BACKGROUND: The story of Noah's ark begins in a time when people did cruel things to each other, and God decided to destroy the world by water, but he saved one good family. Before the flood came, this family built a boat and outfitted it with humans and animals. Then, in due time, when the waters receded, the ark landed safely on a mountain. In almost all mythology, such a tale exists; with slight variations, it can be found in Muslim, Scandinavian, Polynesian, and American Indian folklore.

Upon hearing the tale, people have wondered--did it really happen? In the Western world, a lot of time and energy has gone into trying to locate Noah's famous ark, reputed to have been launched in the great deluge about 5,000 years ago. Here is an outline of how the search has been conducted through the years, and a summary of what has been learned.

CLUES FOR THE HUNT: One fact has presented little trouble, and that is what the ark looked like. All sources begin with the description in the Old Testament of the Judeo-Christian Bible. According to Genesis, God instructs Noah:

Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be 300 cubits, the breadth of it 50 cubits, and the height of it 30 cubits. A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, 2nd and 3rd stories shalt thou make it...

Over the years research has enabled us to flesh out the Genesis meaning. Particularly helpful have been archaeological discoveries of ancient tablets and inscriptions that parallel the biblical story, most notably the Gilgamesh Tablet of Babylonia, uncovered about 1872 but written some 2 millennia before Christ and, at an estimate, one millennium after the flood. Scientists and theologians in rare agreement assume the ark to have been 450' long, 75' wide, 45' high--in other words, tall as a 3-story building and half again as long as a football field. It was divided vertically into 7 layers or stories, and horizontally into 9 sections, altogether making 63 compartments. Noah and his family along with the animals occupied the top stories, while the supplies of food and water served as ballast down below. The ship when fully loaded weighed around 100 tons with a displacement of 43,300 tons. Such a boat of pine, cedar, or cypress (gopher) and pitched with resinous bitumen would have been able to stay afloat for a year--the time required to wait for the subsiding of the flood which, according to computation, put the entire globe under 6 mi. of water.

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