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on 18 February 2014
Not since the days of George Smith has an archaeological discovery with such rich significance come to light!

To fully appreciate what this book discusses in the context of real history(!!) it is absolutely essential to compare it with two others:

1. Nissen, H. (2004), "Noah's Ark Uncovered - An Expedition into the Ancient Past", Copenhagen: Scandinavia Publishing House. ISBN: 8772478136

2. Marinatos, N. (2010), "Minoan Kingship and the Solar Goddess: A Near Eastern Koine", Urbana, Chicago, and Springfield: University of Illinois Press. ISBN: 9780252033926

For more information relevant to this detailed koine in ancient iconography c.f. the new blog post pdf paper "Noah's Ark in Ancient History: An International Koine" link (18/02/14) found by searching "Studies in Genesis 1-11, Noah's Ark"

Finkel helpfully translates the cuneiform of the Ark Tablet in a rigorous way, yet some of his conclusions are non sequitur - especially regarding the landing place of the Ark, the shape of the Ark and the alleged non-existence of the vessel in real history.

The vessel certainly did exist and the sacred historical account in Genesis 6-10 is correct in every detail regarding a global deluge.

The Ark of Noah was soon after represented in ancient iconography by the ANE/Egyptian split rosette, the double axe, the solar disc, the lotus flower, the solar palm (tree of life) and the funerary barque of Seker or Ra. The Ogdoad of Hermopolis is not a cosmogony, but rather an account of the eight survivors of the global deluge which took place approx. 2600 B.C.
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on 30 November 2014
In 'The Ark before Noah' Dr Finkel gives an enthralling and authoritative account of a 150 year old problem. His analysis is solidly based on his knowledge as an expert in cuneiform, and he successfully conveys his enthusiasm for the subject. Huge amounts of information are communicated in a deceptively easy style, covering not just the technicalities of flood texts but the whole range of Mesopotamian writing - business documents, court records, dreams and omens, educational primers, mathematics, myths and rituals and works of reference - a whole world now lying in innumerable fragments on museum shelves or still buried in Iraq. He take us through the many 'flood tablets' which have been identified since George Smith made his epoch-making identification in 1872, not just the nine main texts in Sumerian and Akkadian but the related sources in Genesis, the Qur'an and the Greco-Babylonian Berossus, then, conjuror-like, adds his own contribution, an unrecognised version of the Atrahasis myth, the so-called 'Ark Tablet', which gives new details of dimensions, design and construction methods. On this he founds a wholly original theory: in its original Babylonian conception the ark was a gigantic 'quffa', a huge circular coracle. Traces of this extraordinary idea survive in other tablets, and Dr Finkel is able to show how the design evolved from the early reed-boat of the Sumerian texts to the Babylonian circular ark, then to Utnapishti's cube and finally the rectangular box of Genesis 6-9. Necessarily this takes the discussion to the relationship with Genesis, and the author seeks to argue, again in my view convincingly, that we are not dealing with parallel, independent traditions but direct literary dependence, in which a version of the Utnapishti narrative in Gilgamesh XI was incorporated in Genesis at the time of the Babylonian Exile (597-538 BC). Here he has useful things to say about the crisis in Judaean history and its effects. There is a large measure of speculation in all this - maybe the author lets his enthusiasms run away with him at times - but there is nothing in the book that is not scholarly or worth considering. There is also valuable supporting material about the construction of coracle boats in Iraq, now alas a lost art, drawn from the pages of the Mariner's Mirror. This is a fascinating and rewarding investigation, and I thoroughly recommend it.
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on 4 May 2014
This was a very interesting book about a very interesting subject. Irving Finkel has tried to explain the history of the well known story about Noah's Ark based upon his studies in Cuneiform and ancient Mesopotamian clay tablets. It is no doubt that Dr Finkel is a world expert on the subject.

There is a lot of information in the book and I learned a lot but the approach to the subject was to in great detail penetrate old Sumerian and Babylonian languages and their written form, Cuneiform. There are large parts of this book that gets very technical and for a serious student in those languages is is probably of great value. My interest was more toward the story itself and of course there are a lot to learn here but it takes some time since you have to go through a lot of Cuneiform discussions.

Dr Finkel tell us how the Ark was constructed, what it looked like and who went on board. There is also a discussion where it ended it's voyage. He is comparing old Babylonian and Assyrian records with the Bible and even the Koran. It is very clear that the story is far older than what is presented in the Bible.

Dr Finkel is also one of those really enjoyable English scholars that lets his fine sense of humor be presented in the book.

But after having more or less proven when the story was created, how the Ark was constructed etc. there are still a lot of questions. If we accept the story of the Ark as a real event, we must also accept that some god told Noah to build it and collect all the animals. If there are no gods, it all falls apart since how would Noah know about the storm so far in advance that he had time to construct, build and man the Ark?

Dr Finkel does not state that the story about Noah's Ark is an historical proven fact, just that the story is very old and that if it is true the Ark would have looked like he describes.

This is far from the last book on the subject but if it interests you read it. It is well wort doing that.
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on 15 December 2014
I was very disappointed with this. It read OK, being based on a cuneiform tablet long in the British Museum and another in a private collection. Bible literalists may like it, others will be irritated by it.
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on 8 March 2015
From the perspective of this reader this is a very readable book, the subject matter of which is of interest to many. But it is of particular interest to the inquisitive reader who is not content with plain dogmatic statements for answers or for more of the established versions. Or, as in the case of this reader, seeks an expert’s view and opinion, for the story of Noah’s ark is an important part of a much bigger story of great import, the Biblical Deluge.

In this book the author, in the light of new and very recent evidence, has made a painstaking re-assessment of the available evidence starting from the few ancient sources that are known, from what can be gleaned from the remaining texts of these same sources. It is a marvellous piece of detective work in teasing out information, especially from the ancient clay tablets from Mesopotamia.

The first three chapters are a necessary and useful refresher before delving into the subject proper. This is followed by a concise but complete review of the available documentation about the deluge. Most of the rest is then about the ark proper, a treatment as detailed as the non-specialist can hope for.

To this reader the book provided information and answers not readily available anywhere. A review of the texts relating to the Flood, placed in proper perspective by age and language, plus many pertinent and informative comments by the author that are invaluable to other avenues of research. In fact one or two questions raised in the book may have answers from new research in a totally different field.

To anyone with interest in any of the many related subjects, historical, cuneiform, biblical, or whatever, this book is a must-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 16 March 2014
It was a book. I ordered a book.; What I got was a book. What more could I ask than to receive a book.
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on 16 January 2015
I downloaded The Ark Before Noah from Audible in a version which is read by the author, Dr Irving Finkel. For the first few minutes, I found his unpolished narrating style awkward to listen to and wondered if I had made a mistake. However, once his wonderful enthusiasm began to shine through, I was hooked. Finkel discusses his academic life, British Museum career and fabulous fairly-recent discovery of an ancient clay tablet containing details concerning the story of the ark and the flood. He also introduces us to the earliest origins of the story - waaay before the Hebrew Bible - and collects together other tablets with parts of the famous tale and shows how it evolved over some 4000 years into what we know today.
I was particularly fascinated by the comprehensive comparisons of the different tablets and their meshing story versions. As I have only heard the heroes' names, I am not going to attempt to spell them, but it had not previously occurred to me that Noah wasn't always called Noah! The earliest flood version wasn't occasioned by sin either - humans had simply become too noisy for the Gods to endure! Finkel goes into immense detail in his tablet comparions. He examines ark building techniques, mountain landing sites, and intricacies of language in a way that could be too in depth for less nerdy souls. I appreciated his dry humour throughout but am unsure whether this would come across via the printed page. This purely aural version obviously didn't contain images though so I think now a trip to the British Museum is called for so I can see the Ark tablet and Babylonian Map tablet 'in the flesh'. I am so intrigued by their existence that I might visit even if it's not raining!
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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 14 March 2014
I was unfortunately disappointed with this book, I must stress this was through no fault of the supplier ( the delivery time was excellent ) or the author.I made the mistake of purchasing it without first perusing some of the content. I would admit to being only an interested layman in all things pertaining to the ancient world. While the book did have some interesting disclosures, I feel it would be better suited to students or those with more than a layman's interest in ancient writing styles and the first known written accounts of the middle east.
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