Saturday, January 10, 2009

Noah's Ark

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.

The raven mentioned in the Noah story is probably the fan-tailed raven, which is in the crow family. Its habitat extends across North Africa, Arabia, Sudan and the Horn of Africa. It also ranges across the Air Massif in Niger where it nests in crags. The red area on the map (right) shows the Fan-Tailed Raven’s habitat. This is also the location of Biblical Eden, a vast well-watered area that extended between the source of the Nile and the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

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.

The Ark

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. The reeds were bundled and attached to a wood frame.

Genesis 6:14 tells us that reeds were used in the construction of the ark. "Make yourself an Ark of gofer wood, with reeds make the Ark." (The Schocken Bible, Vol. 1) Compare that to the King James Version - "Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms [Hebrew: kinnim] in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch." Some scholars believe that instead of kinnim, the word should be read kanim, meaning reeds. The Jewish Encyclopedia believes "gofer" is likely from the Akkadian giparu, meaning reeds. The idea of rooms or compartments may be because the Sumerian word giparu also refers to reed huts. Keep in mind that ancient Hebrew is written without vowels.

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 ChangeBoat 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


Bronwen said...

This is really interesting research. Clearly, the evidence points towards the biblical Noah being from Africa, not Armenia.

Alice C. Linsley said...

In my mind at least, that is certainly the case. Perhaps one day others will recognize the validity of this research. : )

It is wonderful to hear from you, Ellie! Thanks for the comment.

jinni said...

Great reading always.thanks for highlighting the greatness of this basin of civilisation.Being from this area,I am humbled that it is only foreigners that are studying it.

Alice C. Linsley said...

How wonderful to hear from you again, Jinni!

I track the visitors to Just Genesis and there are others who visit from west central Africa, especially from Nigeria.

Chris Larimer said...

I wonder if there's any connection with an UrAegyptisch source, given the resemblance of gfr to Kephre.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Yes, I think so. Kfr is related to the ancient Egyptian word for reed. Reeds made excellent boats as they are hollow and their exteriors swell when in water. Reeds in bundles that are strapped together can made very sizeable and extremely bouyant boats. There is more on this here:

"Ararat" in Arabic means Mount of Vehemence. This fits the Noah flood story better than a mountain in Armenia. "Armenia" is probably ar or har (mountain) "meni" which is less than 230 miles from the present limits of Lake Chad. Mt. Meni is the logical landing place for Noah's ark during the Halocene Wet period. Satellite photos indicate that the waters of Mega-Chad came right up to Mt. Meni during that period.

Jay Eppinga said...

This study piqued my interest, for obvious reasons. Not my engineering specialty, but this is drawing on concepts and methods I use frequently.

By your estimation, the design assumptions they are using seem to be making the same error as poking around Mr. Ararat - mighty effort, but wrong place. Have you ever seen stability analyses for ships designs that would have been around Megachad at the time of Noah?

The Dufuna Dugout design wouldn't have cut the mustard, imho. The beam is too small and therefore would have been prone to tip over.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Good comment, Jay!

When we place Noah in the right region, we find material evidence related to his existence and we can investigate that evidence to understand more about the culture of Proto-Saharan and Nilo-Saharan rulers like Noah.

The same is true for Abraham. I recently had a disagreement with some "Biblical archaeologists" who insist that there is no material evidence for Abraham's existence. Of course, he are looking in Judah when they should be following the clues in Genesis, which would lead them to look in Edom, south of Judah. Once we begin looking int he right place we find all kinds of evidence, not only that Abraham existed, but also that he was a Horite and that the metal workers in his employ were devotees of Horus and his mother Hathor. The metal workers and miners of Timna, for example, had shrines dedicated to Hathor.