Alice C. Linsley
Noah is one of the most fascinating figures of the Bible. He was an archaic ruler who lived in the region of Lake Chad during the African Humid Period (Holocene Wet Period) between 10,000 and 3,000 BC. This region is called "Borno" - country of Noah - and is the only place on Earth that claims to be Noah's homeland.
The Holocene Wet Period has be called the "Gurian Wet Period" and the "Aqualithic." The latter term was coined by British archaeologist John Sutton (Journal of Africa History 1974; Antiquity 1977). The Holocene Wet Period owes the abundance of water to climate cycles related to Earth's Great Year, to monsoons off the Indian Ocean, and to the African rifts that created great watersheds or troughs.
|Rifting combined with prolonged rains caused this entire region to flood.|
Lake Chad is located at the boundary of Niger, Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon.
Between 12 and 10 thousand years ago, the Nile connected to the Chadic and Niger water systems through a series of shallow lakes in the Sahara Desert. This explains the common plant and animal species found in all three water systems. Living at Lake Chad he would have had a fleet of boats and he likely controlled commerce on the Lake and the major waters ways that connected Lake Chad to the Nile and to the Benue Trough.Noah kept a personal menagerie of exotic animals, as was the custom for Proto-Saharan rulers. The oldest known zoological collection was found during the 2009 excavations at Nekhen on the Nile. The royal menagerie dates to about 3500 BC and included hippos, elephants, baboons and wildcats.
There are at least ten species of dove found in Africa and the species indigenous to the Land of Noah is the pink-bellied turtle dove (Streptopelia hypopyrrha). In the ancient world the dove represented heavenly confirmation or divine appointment. Noah's dove returned with an olive branch. In paintings of the Annunciation, the dove is portrayed as descending to Mary as confirmation or God's Word. Likewise, the Sonship of Jesus is confirmed by the dove that descended at His baptism.
According to Genesis 6:14, Noah's Ark was constructed of גפר (gofer/gopher) wood, which is the word used to describe the basket in which Moses floated on the Nile. In other words, the ark was constructed of reeds. The hollow reeds were extremely buoyant.
Available Boat Building Materials
The common people of Noah's time used log dugouts, indicating the presence of forests in west central Africa. As the ruler of Borno, Noah would have had at his disposal the best building materials in plentiful supply and the best boat builders. After years of wetness the mahogany forests would have failed since their roots require firm ground to survive. Some of this wood would have been available, so we can't rule out the possibility that the Ark was made at least partially of African mahogany. Yet there is no evidence that gofer wood is mahogany.
A fully preserved black mahogany dugout was excavated in Borno in 1987. The Dufuna dugout (shown above) was buried at a depth of 16 feet under clays and sands whose alternating sequence showed evidence of deposition in standing and flowing water. The dugout is 8000 years old. By comparison, Egypt's oldest boat is only about 5000 years old.
According to Peter Breunig (University of Frankfurt, Germany), “The bow and stern are both carefully worked to points, giving the boat a notably more elegant form”, compared to “the dugout made of conifer wood from Pesse in the Netherlands, whose blunt ends and thick sides seem crude”. Judging by stylistic sophistication, Breunig reasons that, “It is highly probable that the Dufuna boat does not represent the beginning of a tradition, but had already undergone a long development, and that the origins of water transport in Africa lie even further back in time.”
Another theory is that the Ark was made of reeds, a building material that would have been abundant in Bor-nu during the Gurian Wet Period. This is supported by the fact that the word translated "ark" in Genesis 6:14 is found only one other place in the Bible: in the story of Moses' mother putting him in a reed basket (Exodus 2:3). Taking this line, the Schocken Bible reads: "Make yourself an Ark of gofer wood, with reeds make the Ark...", Vol. I, p. 35.
There is also the possibility that the word gofer doesn't refer to a building material at all. Perhaps it is a description of the Ark's role in ransoming Noah and his household from destruction. The Hebrew word for ransom or compensation is kofer and the Hebrew kaphar means to propitiate, to atone for sin, or to cover. Kpr refers to the deified priest standing at altar to make atonement.
This view is supported by the literal translation of Genesis 6:14: Make for you a box of woods of gofer nests you will make the box and you will cover (kaphar) her from the inside and from the outside with a covering (kaphar).
It should also be noted that the Hebrew radicals k p r refer to "pitch" (bitumen) so the meaning may simply be to cover the box with pitch inside and out. Artifacts dating to over 70,000 years found in Syria, Israel and South Africa reveal that stone points were "hafted" to hand implements and weapons using various types of adhesives, including bitumen, resins and ground pigments.
However, it is interesting that the word kaphar resembles the Hausa word for atonement - kafa. Is it possible that gofer is kofer (ransom) and the meaning of this verse entails atonement? Are the boxes like the Ark of the Covenant with its angelic covering? If so, we have in Noah's Ark a picture of both divine protection and the work of Jesus Christ known as propitiation. This, of course, is how the Church Fathers have interpreted Noah's Ark.
Related reading: Was Noah Mesopotamian or Proto-Saharan?; Saving Noah; Noah's Birds; Noah's Homeland; Answers to Students' Questions About the Flood; Genesis and Climate Change; Boat Petroglyphs in Egypt's Central Eastern Desert; Who Were the Kushites?; The Saharan Origin of Pharaonic Egypt; When the Sahara Was Wet; Finding Noah's Ark