A 4000-year-old Mesopotamia clay tablet dealing with the ancient biblical story of Noah's ark has gone on display at the British Museum in London.
The tablet records a Mesopotamian god's instructions for building a giant vessel - two-thirds the size of a soccer field in area - made of rope, reinforced with wooden ribs and coated in bitumen.
Etched in the clay is one of the story's key elements: It describes how the animals must enter "two by two".
George Smith, a British Museum decipherer, first identified the story known from the Book of Genesis in a seventh-century cuneiform tablet from Nineveh. The two accounts – Babylonian and biblical – were closely related. The new tablet, however, written in about 1750 BC, has startling new contents.
As Finkel describes it, "when the gods decided to wipe out mankind with a flood, the god Enki, who had a sense of humour, leaked the news to a man called Atra-hasis, the ‘Babylonian Noah,’ who was to build the Ark.
"Atra-hasis’s Ark, however was round. To my knowledge, no one has ever thought of that possibility. The new tablet also describes the materials and the measurements to build it: quantities of palm-fiber rope, wooden ribs and bath-fulls of hot bitumen to waterproof the finished vessel.