reports that the Assistant Keeper of Ancient Mesopotamian script at the British Museum, Irving Finkel, who translated the tablet, says of the ark’s shape:
In all the images ever made people assumed the ark was, in effect, an ocean-going boat, with a pointed stem and stern for riding the waves – so that is how they portrayed it. But the ark didn't have to go anywhere, it just had to float, and the instructions are for a type of craft, which they knew very well. It's still sometimes used in Iran and Iraq today, a type of round coracle, which they would have known exactly how to use to transport animals across a river or floods.
The tablet follows the well-known Biblical and earlier Mesopotamian flood stories, such as the Epic of Gilgamesh.
In Finkel’s translation, the Noah figure is a legendary pre-flood Sumerian king, Atram-Hasis. (Or Atra-Hasis
) The instructions of the Deity in the tablet read:
Wall, wall! Reed wall, reed wall! Atram-Hasis, pay heed to my advice that you may live forever! Destroy your house, build a boat; despise possessions and save life! Draw out the boat that you will build with a circular design; Let its length and breadth be the same.
says the tablet was found when Leonard Simmons, a history enthusiast serving with the Royal Air Force from 1945 to 1948, obtained it along with much else. He bequeathed it to his son, Douglas, who described how his father got the ancient artefacts:
When my dad eventually came home, he shipped a whole tea chest of this kind of stuff home – seals, tablets, bits of pottery. He would have picked them up in bazaars, or when people knew he was interested in this sort of thing, they would have brought them to him and earned a few bob.
The newspaper describes what happened when Douglas Simmons took the tablet to Finkel, one of the few people today who can read the ancient script. Finkel:
Took one look at it and nearly fell off his chair.
Simmons said of the tablet:
It is the most extraordinary thing. You hold it in your hand, and you instantly get a feeling that you are directly connected to a very ancient past – and it gives you a shiver down your spine.