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Noah's Ark - Universal Deluge

Noah's Ark

Noah was the only man capable of building a sufficiently large ship to face such a dangerous journey in the midst of the Flood, to save men, women and animals destined to repopulate Earth. Only a man and a family of such probity could escape divine punishment. The Bible relates the great natural disaster that struck the Earth: God, furious against men because of their violence and malignancy, decided to submerge the land, thus removing the totality of living beings. Anxious to spare the righteous, he would have asked Noah to build a cypress wood arch, divided into several compartments, paved with bitumen inside and out. The Lord's plan was concerned with every detail: the ark was to measure 300 cubites long (156 meters), 50 wide (26 meters) and 30 high (15 meters). The entrance should be on the side, and the interior should be on three floors. The sealed alliance pact between God and Noah was just as accurate: the ark was to welcome Noah and his sons Sem, Ham, and Jafet, as well as his wife and the wives of his children, as well as the males and females of "that which lives, of every flesh, "two specimens of every kind, destined to repopulate the planet one day, with food for all, men and animals.

Rising water

The Bible also says that Noah was six hundred years old at the time of the flood. Respecting the divine will, he built the ark and waited for the moment when the waters "sprang from all sources of the great abyss and opened the cataracts of the sky". Animals "climbed in pairs in Noah’s Ark". From then on, incessant rains began to fall, forty days and forty nights. The flood lifted the ark and made it float. The rain covered the highest mountains and the water surpassed their summits by seven meters. All living beings were drowned, only Noah and his companions of the ark were saved. The level of the waters remained very high for a hundred and fifty days, until the moment when God made it fall by blowing a saving breeze. The ark stopped on Mount Ararat. Noah then opened a window and brought out the raven to make sure the waters had receded.

Then he dropped twice a dove that ended up returning with an olive twig inside its beak: the Flood was finally over, the Earth was released from the waters and a new life could begin on the planet.

In Search of the Lost Ark

The ark would have landed on Mount Ararat, Turkey, where archaeologists still look for it, in the middle of snow and glaciers. But what is the truth in the biblical text? To find out, dozens of researchers, armed with the most sophisticated instruments, have followed each other on these summits since 1829 in search of even a tiny piece of the ark. In the past, even the last Tsar of Russia was passionate about this quest.

In 1876, Lord James Bryce brought a 3,000-year-old piece of wood back to London, claiming that he had found the ark in the glaciers of Mount Ararat at an altitude of 4,000 meters. A short time later, an Armenian explorer states that not only did he reach the ark, but he was able to enter it. Even today, this search fascinates specialists from all over the world. Some are convinced they have already found a fragment - this is the case of the cross-shaped, preserved in the Orthodox Turkish Monastery of Echmiadzin - while others spend their entire lives there. The Italian explorer Angelo Palego began in 1984 a long series of expeditions on Mount Ararat; in 1989, he claims to have reached the remains of the Ark at 4300 meters above sea level, following the exact indications of the Bible. Other expeditions have been guided by these same indications as well as by satellite data, and seem to have found an unidentified form at the top of Mount Ararat.

Before Noah

A scientific expedition organized by the Italian National Research Center and Columbia University found at the bottom of the Sea of ​​Marmara geological evidence that would confirm the hypothesis of an immemorial cataclysm that could coincide with the event that triggered the deluge described by the Bible.

According to anthropologists, the myth of the Universal Flood is one of the most widespread in the history of mankind. In the world, there are about three hundred different stories that accompany the myths of the creation of civilizations sometimes very far apart geographically. The antiquity of this myth was updated in the middle of the last century, when archaeologists of the British Museum discovered in Nineveh the huge library of King Ashurbanipal, ruler of Assyria (669-627 BC) which kept thousands of tablets engraved in cuneiform characters. Treaties of magic, medicine, philosophy, astronomy, history and poetry were found, as well as the clay tablets of the Epic of Gilgamesh - legendary king of Ur, city of Sumer - in the form of a poem dating back to 3,000 BC

About thirty thousand of these tablets were transported to the British Museum. Some evoked a story much older than that of the Bible (Genesis, 6-9): "Six days and seven nights during, it was the flood and the wind," tells Gilgamesh an old wise survivor of the cataclysm.

The history of the oldest Mesopotamian civilization - that of Sumer - begins with the deluge. In the 1st millennium BCE, the Gilgamesh Epic was known throughout the Middle East. The Bible writers were therefore likely to know the Mesopotamian stories of the flood, although the two versions diverge on many points. These differences suggest the existence of an equally ancient oral tradition.

A universal myth

Indeed, the myth of the flood has spread especially through oral tradition, which could explain the "contaminations" from one people to another. Now, if analogies between certain African myths and those of South-West Asia astonish researchers, it is not in all civilizations that the deluge is justified by divine punishment.

The myth is spread around the world as evidenced by the different traditions below. In Alaska, human race fled aboard a gigantic ark; in California, among the Indians of the north coast, men and animals are annihilated; in Paraguay, at a distant time, a great flood submerges all the land and only a few young people escape, helped by a large white bird; in Peru, the rise of water reaches and surpasses the highest peaks and all mankind perishes, with the exception of a man and a woman who float in a vegetable shell to Tiahuanaco, pushed by the wind.

Closer to home, Greek mythology tells us that Zeus unleashes a deluge to destroy humanity, but Prometheus manages to warn his son Deucalion who builds a large ship to save himself. In Rome, Jupiter angry with men decides to annihilate them; thanks to the help of Neptune, he unleashes storms and earthquakes so powerful that all lands are submerged, with the exception of Mount Parnassus where Deucalion and his wife Pyrrha find refuge. In Ireland, only Fintan escapes the deluge provoked by the gods; then, after having slept for centuries on a beach, it arrives in our time by sailing on the waves to transmit to savants of Ireland all the science of which it is the depositary. This same myth also exists in the East: in China, the god Gong Gong causes a deluge that lasts twenty-two years and forces men to live on the mountains; in Thailand, a brother and a sister, warned by a little mouse of the impending downpour, dig a squash to make a boat for it and save themselves from the waves.

Opinion of scientists

But what about the scientific soundness of these legends? Was there really a time when the Earth was submerged by waters?

According to our current knowledge, the great climatic changes that have occurred for about a million years, a time when mankind already existed, have led to the alternation of periods when large ice caps covered most continents, and warmer periods when these glaciers melted. In the last seven hundred thousand years alone, the Earth has experienced seven ice ages.

7,600 years ago (about 5,600 BC), the level of the Mediterranean was 15 meters lower than today. Two American researchers, William Ryan and Walter Pitman, argue that at that time, the Mediterranean Sea suddenly spilled into the Black Sea depression, creating a kind of cataclysm that might have inspired the description of the Epic from Gilgamesh. Such an event would have happened just after the last ice age. Thus, the water would have submerged the lands and the villages by advancing from 2 to 3 kilometers per day. To save their lives, men would have fled as far as possible, transmitting the story of a universal deluge.