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on 5 March 2014
This was fun. Not only did it tell me things I didn't know, but it did its scholarship with a delightfully light touch. Finkel makes reading cuneiform sound like reading a thriller, and he kept me interested all the way through. Mesopotamian religion might be a niche market, but the general reader is very well catered for in this book. A page turner.
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on 31 March 2014
I am no scholar of ancient history and I'm not sure why I bought this book - but I'm glad I did. Dr Finkel has spent his entire career deciphering and interpreting ancient clay tablets and it amazes me that anyone can read the seemingly random indentations on the tablets! Dr Finkel's infectious enthusiasm for his work and his engaging descriptions of his dealings with other experts in the field make for surprisingly easy reading.

Everyone knows the basic story of Noah's Ark and it has been known for years that the biblical story is based on earlier versions which go back as far as 1900BC. Dr Finkel, who is a curator at the British Museum and an expert on ancient Mesopotamia, carefully carries the reader through the histories of the flood story and even tries to teach us the basics of cuneiform writing. His major contribution to the work is his reading and interpretation of the Ark Tablet; this clearly describes the size and methods of manufacture of the ark. In spite of our preconceptions, it turns out that the original Ark was circular in shape and was, in fact, a super-sized coracle!

This book will be enjoyed by almost anyone who has an enquiring mind and who enjoys history. I was almost persuaded to try and grow a flowing white beard like Dr Finkel's but, perhaps wisely, my wife dissuaded me! A most enjoyable and informative read!
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on 5 March 2014
This is one of the best books available on the middle-eastern Flood myth but it might not be the best. That's fine because it's really about the Ark and for that it might be the best book available. It covers all the extant middle-eastern Flood texts (I believe) with the love of a writer who knows the texts and even some of the original tablets intimately. It also spends a lot of time building up an understanding of the world surrounding the texts - especially that surrounding the Ark Tablet which is the center of this book. You will learn about cuneiform, ship building, marsh dwellers, babylonian ghosts (yes, a whole fascinating seemingly misplaced chapter on them), and, of course, the Ark and you'll (probably unexpectedly) enjoy most of it.

I found it most amazing how the presence of a handful of words in this short tablet have radically changed and coalesced our understanding of these varied Flood myths. It is a masterful work written for the layman but suitable for someone knowledgeable in the field. It even has one of my chief preferences in a text like this, an interlinear interpretation of the text so that you can take a look at the language behind the translation which often provides insight that the translation alone cannot. Amazingly, for all the insights that Dr. Finkel brings to this topic, there are plenty of insights which he seems to have missed or not included awaiting the interested reader.

My only complaint about the book is the referencing. Dr. Finkel (or, more likely, his editors) employ a truly atrocious form of referencing called chapter notes. These are the notes that you find in a section at the back of the book which are usually not terribly specific and can only be linked back to the page by page numbers and general context. Not only is the flipping back and forth awkward and distracting but there were a number of cuneiform texts for which I would have liked to have references to translations that simply weren't there. Fortunately, the power of Dr. Finkel's writing and the information that he provides overwhelms most of the downside to this feature.
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on 18 March 2014
Engagingly written - and pretty topical at the moment - this book investigates the 'Great Flood' myths that existed before they were adapted into the one we know best.
The impact of deciphering Babylonian Cuneiform writing turns out, in its own way, to be as controversial as Darwin's theories - and the Babylonian 'Noah' myth is a rich, human story. I won't spoil the delight of finding out for yourself what this 'Noah' made his Ark from - but, when you come to his complaints to his gods about the quality of the bitumen tar he's had to use to waterproof it, just try not to think of any builder across all of time whistling through his teeth!
A great read, turning what could be a very 'dry' subject into a detective story!
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on 3 March 2014
A clear explanation of the different sources forming the story of Noah and his flood. The writer's dedication to deciphering the British Museum's collection of clay tablets is impressive and his enthusiasm for the subject is infectious.
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on 5 March 2014
Fascinating stuff, written with wit, enthusiasm and authority. I did get confused now and again about which tablet version was from where and when, but that's my fault not the author's. If you have an interest in the history of the middle eastern flood myths then this book is for you. I know he's been doing this all his working life, but the knowledge and insight of Irving Finkel is mind blowing - it's difficult to imagine that another non-academic book on the subject could surpass it.

And it has a surprising link to the kids TV show The Double Deckers!

Great man. Great book.
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on 31 January 2014
The lively style vividly conveys the excitement of academic discovery. The book is bursting with new ideas, and makes you take a fresh look at a seemingly familiar story. Warmly recommended.
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on 27 February 2014
The cuneiform tablets found in the royal library at Nineveh have provided much of the material for Irving Finkel's review of flood stories down the ages. This is a fascinating and comprehensive examination of the flood stories and their origins. Mr Finkel's erudition astonishes.
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on 28 April 2014
This is partly the wondrous story of how the archetypal 'flood' tale was passed around ancient Mesopotamia, being adapted, extended and condensed as it passed between empires and cultures and down the millenia.

It is also the story of how this evolving tale was recorded, through a variety of cuniform dialects.

Some-where along the way, that really awful river flood --Think 'Mississippi breaks its levées'-- was upgraded to 'global', and a big, but plausible coracle or house-raft became an absurd mega-ship that would break its back and founder in the first long swell, provided it didn't just capsize on taking the water...

The cuniform-inscribed clay tablet at the heart of this book supplies the material list and build instructions for one eponymous, but circular 'survival craft'. Almost identical craft, in a range of sizes, were still in use until the start of the 20th Century. See photos..

Must be said that tablet's tale and this book will infuriate many, many people...
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on 15 February 2014
Brought up to the idea that the Ark was built by Noah, and finding that the story of the great flood was present in Sumerian literature was a shock. However the book covers cuniform writing and items such as how to build an Ark!
A must read book for the general reader.
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