A flood myth or deluge myth is a narrative in which a great flood, usually sent by a deity or deities, destroys civilisation, often in an act of divine retribution. Parallels are often drawn between the flood waters of these myths and the primeval waters found in certain creation myths, as the flood waters are described as a measure for the cleansing of humanity, in preparation for rebirth. Most flood myths also contain a culture hero, who “represents the human craving for life”.
The flood myth motif is widespread among many cultures as seen in the Mesopotamian flood stories, the Hindu religious books from India called Puranas, Deucalion in Greek mythology, the Genesis flood narrative, and in the lore of the K’iche’ and Maya peoples in Mesoamerica, the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa tribe of Native Americans in North America, the Muisca people, and Cañari Confederation, in South America.
“The Deluge”, frontispiece to Gustave Doré’s illustrated edition of the Bible. Based on the story of Noah’s Ark, this shows humans and a tiger doomed by the flood futilely attempting to save their children and cubs The Mesopotamian flood stories concern the epics of Ziusudra, Gilgamesh, and Atrahasis. In the Sumerian King List, it relies on the flood motif to divide its history into preflood and postflood periods. The preflood kings had enormous lifespans, whereas postflood lifespans were much reduced. The Sumerian flood myth found in the Deluge tablet was the epic of Ziusudra, who heard the Divine Counsel to destroy humanity, in which he constructed a vessel that delivered him from great waters. In the Atrahasis version, the flood is a river flood. Further discoveries produced several versions of the Mesopotamian flood myth, with the account closest to that in Genesis 6–9 found in a 700 BCE Babylonian copy of the Epic of Gilgamesh. In this work, the hero, Gilgamesh, meets the immortal man Utnapishtim, and the latter describes how the god Ea instructed him to build a huge vessel in anticipation of a deity-created flood that would destroy the world. The vessel would save Utnapishtim, his family, his friends, and the animals.
In the Genesis flood narrative, of the Hebrew Bible, Yahweh decides to flood the earth because of the depth of the sinful state of mankind. Righteous Noah is given instructions to build an ark. When the ark is completed, Noah, his family, and representatives of all the animals of the earth are called upon to enter the ark. When the destructive flood begins, all life outside of the ark perishes. After the waters recede, all those aboard the ark disembark and have God’s promise that He will never judge the earth with a flood again. He gives the rainbow as the sign of this promise.
Noah’s Thanksoffering (c.1803) by Joseph Anton Koch. Noah builds an altar to the Lord after being delivered from the Flood; God sends the rainbow as a sign of his covenant (Genesis 8-9)
It should be noted that The rainbow, a natural phenomenon noted for its beauty and mystical appearance, has been a favorite component of mythology throughout history. Rainbows are part of the myths of many cultures around the world. The Norse saw it as Bifrost; Judeo-Christian traditions see it as a covenant with God not to destroy the world by means of floodwater. According to Genesis, after Noah saved the animals from the Great Flood, a rainbow appeared. As the flood had killed all other living beings, the rainbow came to symbolize God’s promise that he would never send another flood to destroy all of the earth and that never again would all living things be killed in the waters of a flood. Whether as a bridge to the heavens, messenger, archer’s bow, or serpent, the rainbow has been pressed into symbolic service for millennia. There is a myriad of beliefs concerning the rainbow. The complex diversity of rainbow myths are far-reaching, as are their inherent similarities.
The Deluge, by John Martin, 1834. Oil on canvas. Yale University
In Plato’s Timaeus, Timaeus says because the Bronze race of Humans had been making wars constantly Zeus was angered and decided to punish humanity by a flood. Prometheus the Titan knew of this and told the secret to Deucalion, the Greek equivalent of Noah advising him to build an ark in order to be saved. After 9 nights and days the water started receding and the ark was landed at Mount Parnassus.
Speculation regarding the Deucalion myth has also been introduced, whereby a large tsunami in the Mediterranean Sea, caused by the Thera eruption (with an approximate geological date of 1630–1600 BC), is the myth’s historical basis. Although the tsunami hit the South Aegean Sea and Crete, it did not affect cities in the mainland of Greece, such as Mycenae, Athens, and Thebes, which continued to prosper, indicating that it had a local rather than a regionwide effect.
It also should not be ignored that the flood / deluge could have resulted from a rise in sea level after the Ice Age. Another hypothesis is that a meteor or comet crashed into the Indian Ocean around 3000–2800 BC, created the 30-kilometre (19 mi) undersea Burckle Crater, and generated a giant tsunami that flooded coastal lands.
The Ararat Anomaly
The Ararat anomaly is an object appearing on photographs of the snowfields near the summit of Mount Ararat, Turkey and advanced by some Christian believers as the remains of Noah’s Ark.
Modern organised searches for the ark tend to originate in American evangelical circles. One academic study comments on
According to Genesis 8:4, the Ark came to rest “on the mountains of Ararat.” Early commentators such as Josephus, and authorities quoted by him, Berossus, Hieronymus the Egyptian, Mnaseas, and Nicolaus of Damascus, record the tradition that these “mountains of Ararat” are to be found in the region then known as Armenia, roughly corresponding to Eastern Anatolia.
When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.
God decided to destroy what he had made and start again with the righteous Noah. God chose the flood as the instrument for destruction which is portrayed as a veritable reversal of creation.
The priestly (Elohim) source of Genesis 7:11; 8:1-2 describes the nature of the flood waters as a cosmic cataclysm, by the opening of the springs of the deep and the floodgates, or windows, of heaven. This is the reverse of the separation of the waters recounted in the Genesis creation narrative of chapter 1. After Noah and the remnant of animals were secured, the fountains of the great deep and the floodgates, or windows, of the heavens were opened, causing rain to fall on the Earth for 40 days. The waters elevated, with the summits of the highest mountains under 15 cubits (22 feet 6 inches) of water, flooding the world for 150 days, and then receding in 220 days.
Syrian tradition of the early centuries AD had a tradition of the ark landing at Mount Judi, where according to Josephus the remains of the ark were still shown in the 1st century AD. The location of the “Place of Descent” (αποβατηριον, i.e., Nakhchivan) described by Josephus was some 100 km to the southeast of the peak now known as Mount Ararat, in what is today Northern Iraq.
Depiction of Noah’s ark landing on the mountain top, from the North French Hebrew Miscellany (13th century)
According to Jewish Rabbinic tradition, the Ark was looted in antiquity, the remains being used for idol worship, as related in the Talmud Tractate Sanhedrin by Sennacherib circa 705 – 681 BC, and as related in the Midrash anthology Yalkut Shimoni by Haman circa 486–465 BC.
The “mountains of Ararat” in Genesis have become identified in later (medieval) Christian tradition with the peak now known as Mount Ararat itself, a volcanic massif on the border between Turkey and Armenia and known in Turkish as “Agri Dagh” (Ağrı Dağı).
The anomaly is located on the northwest corner of the Western Plateau of Mount Ararat (approximately39°42′10″N 44°16′30″: 39°42′10″N 44°16′30″E) at about 15,500 ft (4,724 m), some 2.2 km (1.4 mi) west of the 16,854 ft (5,137 m) summit, on the edge of what appears from the photographs to be a steep downward slope. It was first filmed during a U.S. Air Force aerial reconnaissance mission in 1949 — the Ararat massif sits on the former Turkish/Soviet border, and was thus an area of military interest — and was accordingly given a classification of “secret” as were subsequent photographs taken in 1956, 1973, 1976, 1990 and 1992, by aircraft and satellites. Marcos Polo wrote in his book, The Travels of Marco Polo:
The Durupinar Site
The structure claimed to be Noah’s Ark in Durupınar site, Agri, Turkey
Syria had a legend of the ark resting on the Djûdi mountain in the land of Corduene (Kard, Korchayk, Carduchoi). This legend may in origin have been independent of the Genesis account of Noah’s flood, rooted in the more general Near Eastern flood legends, but following Christianisation of the Syrians, from about the 2nd century AD, it became associated with the Mountains of Ararat where Noah landed according to Genesis, and from Syria also this legend also spread to the Armenians. The Armenians did not traditionally associate Noah’s landing site with Mount Ararat, known natively as Masis, but until the 11th century continued to associate Noah’s ark with Mount Judi.
It is to be noted, the biblical Ararat is thought be a variation of Urartu, an ancient term for the region north of ancient Assyria which encompasses the Armenian plateau.
According to Josephus, the Armenians in the 1st century showed the remains of Noah’s ark at a place called αποβατηριον “Place of Descent” (Armenian: Նախիջեւան, Nakhichevan, Ptolemy’s Ναξουανα).
The size and shape of the structure has led to its promotion by some believers as the original Noah’s Ark. However, there are both mainstream scientists and creationists who believe this is merely an interesting natural formation In 1985, Wyatt was joined by David Fasold and geophysicist John Baumgardner for the expedition recounted in Fasold’s The Ark of Noah. As soon as Fasold saw the site, he exclaimed that it was a ship wreck. Fasold brought along state-of-the-art ground-penetrating radar equipment and a frequency generator, set it on the wavelength for iron, and searched the formation for internal iron loci (the latter technique was later compared to dowsing by the site’s detractors). The ground penetration radar yielded a regular internal structure as documented in a report to the Turkish government. Fasold and the team measured the length of the formation as 538 ft (164 m), close to the 300 cubits (157 m, 515 ft) of the Noah’s Ark in the Bible if the Ancient Egyptian cubit of 20.6 inches (0.52 m) is used. Fasold believed the team found the fossilized remains of the upper deck and that the original reed substructure had disappeared. In the nearby village of Kazan (formerly Arzap), they examined so-called drogue (anchor) stones that they believed were once attached to the ark. David Fasold, a promoter of the Durupınar site, stands beside what he claimed was a Drogue Stone (crosses are believed to have been added later) The Arzap Drogue Stones are a number of large standing stones found near the Durupınar site by amateur archaeologist Ron Wyatt with the aid of David Fasold and others. Fasold interpreted the artifacts as drogues, stone weights used to stabilize the Ark in rough seas, because they all have a chamfered hole cut at one end as if to fasten a rope to them, and his reading of the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Babylonian mythical account of the flood, suggested to him that such stones were used.
The following is taken from the article by Bill Crouse in Archaeology and Biblical Research,Noah’s Ark: Its Final BerthVol. 5, No. 3. Summer, 1992.
Cudi Dagh is located approximately 200 miles south of Mt. Ararat in southern Turkey almost within eyesight of the Syrian and Iraqi borders.11 The Tigris River flows at its base. The exact co-ordinates are 37 degrees, 21 minutes N., and 42 degrees, 17 minutes E. In literature it has also been called “Mt Judi”, “Mt. Cardu”, “Mt. Quardu”, “the Gordyene mountains”, “Gordian mountains”, “The Karduchian mountains”, “the mountains of the Kurds”, and to the Assyrians: “Mt. Nipur “(see photo #1) . It is also important to note that at times this mountain has even been called “Mt. Ararat”. At about 7000 feet altitude it is not a terribly high mountain, though it is snow-capped most of the year. The current edition of the ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ISLAM lists it as “over 13,000 feet and largely unexplored.” We are unsure of the exact altitude, but it seems strange that it would not be noted on our modern aerial navigation map if it were 13,000 feet!
Most modern maps do not show the location of Cudi Dagh. It is, however, located about 25 miles from the Tigris River (see map), just east of the present Turkish city of Gizre and still within the bounds of the Biblical region of Ararat (Urartu).
Cudi Dagh overlooks the all-important Mesopotamian plain and is notable for its many archaeological ruins in and around the mountain. There are also many references to it in ancient history. Sennacherib (700 B.C.), the Assyrian king, carved rock reliefs of himself on the side of the mountain. The Nestorians (a sect of Christianity) built several monasteries around the mountain including one on the summit called “The Cloister of the Ark”. It was destroyed by lightning in 766 A.D. The Muslims later built a mosque on the site. In 1910, Gertrude Bell explored the area and found a stone structure still at the summit with the shape of a ship called by the locals “Sefinet Nebi Nuh” “The Ship of Noah”. Bell also reports that annually on September 14, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sabians and Yezidis gather on the mountain to commemorate Noah’s sacrifice.
As late as 1949 two Turkish journalists claimed to have seen the Ark on this mountain, a ship 500 feet in length!
Questionable Mount Judi
For clarity I add this sensational article from the London Observer:
The Observer (London) 16 Jan 1994 ‘Arkologists’ claim to have found Noah’s Ark By Martin Wroe
LONDON — Noah’s Ark has been found on the Turkish-Iranian border, 32 kilometres from Mount Ararat, according to the leader of a team of scientists that has been investigating the site for six years.
The Turkish government is so convinced by the findings that, after years of intransigence, it has designated the site one of special archaeological interest and agreed to its excavation next summer.
The remote site contains a buried, ship-like object, resting an altitude of 2,300 metres.
At 170 metres long and 45 metres wide, it conforms almost exactly to the 300 cubit by 50 cubit boat that God told Noah to build, according to Genesis 6 in the Bible.
On surrounding terrain, the American and Middle Eastern scientists have identified huge stones with holes carved at one end, which they believe are “drogue-stones,” dragged behind ships in the ancient world to stabilize them. Radar soundings indicate unusual levels of iron-oxide distribution.
Salih Bayraktutan, head of geology at Turkey’s Ataturk University, estimates the age of the ‘vessel’ at more than 100,000 years.
The site is directly below the mountain of Al Judi, named in the Qur’an as the Ark’s resting place. Daniel Maclise, Noah’s Sacrifice c.1847-53 Interestingly, The map ‘Tabula Paradisi Terrestris justa Systema Auctoris incisa a P. Stark-Man’ was printed late in the 18th century, probably around 1775, and locates the Garden of Eden deep in old Armenia, near Mount Ararat.