Ancient History & Civilisation

Appendix 4

Reading the Ark Tablet

The fortified reader is now encouraged to have a look, line by line, at how the Babylonian cuneiform text translated and discussed in this book is actually written on the tablet. By now, this process cannot be as intimidating as it might once have sounded. As we have seen, it is up to Flood scholars to jump right in. Reading a new document from antiquity is always an exciting process, and this example is about as exciting as it gets.

The words of the Babylonian text of the Ark Tablet are largely recorded in Akkadian syllabograms, with some words given determinatives and others written with a Sumerian logogram.

First come the cuneiform signs in transliteration. Here the pronunciation of each syllabogram or syllable sign that makes up the Babylonian words is given in italic English letters; for example the first three signs, which are i-ga-ar.

Next comes the translation into English, the first word being ‘wall’. Printed below that in smaller script (for anyone who might be really interested) is the ‘joined-up’ form of the Semitic Akkadian word, in this case igāru, as it appears in a modern dictionary of the language.

Words that are written with old Sumerian logograms or word signs are shown as they are in capital letters, and the Babylonian reading is supplied in the line underneath.

In this transliteration:

x means one broken or unidentified sign

x (x) means the traces might reflect two broken or unidentified signs rather than one

[x x] means space for two signs of which nothing survives and

[x (x)] means space for one or two broken or unidentified signs.

Lines 1–5: Atra-hasīs for Flood Hero

1 i-ga-ar i-ga-a[r k]i-ki-iš ki-ki-iš
Wall, wall! Reed wall, reed wall!
igāru, ‘wall’; kikkišu, ‘reed wall’

2 µat-ra-am-ḫa-si-[i]s a-na mi-il-ki-ia qú-ul-[ma]
Atra-hasīs, pay heed to my advice,
ana, ‘to’; milku, ‘advice’; qãlu, ‘to pay attention to’

3 ta-ba-al-lu-uṭ [d]a-ri-iš
that you may live for ever!
balāṭu, ‘to live; dāriš, ‘for ever’

4 ú-bu-ut É bi-nim[a-a]k-ku-ra-am ze-e[r-ma]
Destroy (your) house, build a boat; spurn property
abātu, ‘to destroy’; É (ideogram) = bītu, ‘house’; banû, ‘to build’, MÁ (ideogram) = eleppu, ‘boat’; makkūru, ‘property’; zêru, ‘to despise’

5 na-pí-iš-tam šu-ul-lim
and save life!
napištu, ‘life’; šullumu, ‘to save’

Lines 6–12: Plan and Dimensions

6 MÁ te-ep-pu-šu e-[]e-er-ši-ma
Draw out the boat that you will make
MÁ (ideogram) = eleppu, ‘boat’; epēšu, ‘to make’; eṣēru, ‘to draw’

7 e-ṣe-er-ti ki-[i]p-pa-tim
on a circular plan;
eṣirtu, ‘design’; kippatu, ‘circle’

8 lu mi-it-ḫa-ar ši-id-da-[š]a ù pu-u[s-sa]
Let her length and breadth be equal,
mitḫuru, ‘to be the same’; šiddu, ‘length’; u, ‘and’; pūtu, ‘breadth’

9 lu-ú 1 (AŠ) IKU ka-aq-qá-ar-š[a lu]-ù 1 NINDAN
i-ga-r[a-tu-ša]
Let her floor area be one field, let her sides be one nindan (high).
, ‘let it be that’; 1 is written AŠ; IKU (ideogram) = ikû, ‘field’; ‘acre’; qaqqaru, ‘floor area’; u, ‘and’; NINDAN (ideogram) = nindan, ‘a measure’; ‘a rod’; igāru, ‘wall’, ‘side’

10 ka-an-nu aš-la-a ta-mu-u[r] ša [MÁ]
You saw kannu ropes and ašlu ropes/rushes for [a coracle before!]
kannu, ‘rope’; ašlu, either ‘rope’ or ‘rush’; amāru, ‘to see’; ša, ‘of’; MÁ (ideogram) = eleppu, ‘boat’, ‘coracle’

11 li-ip-ti-il-kum GIŠ ár-ti pí-[t]i-il-tam
Let someone (else) twist the fronds and palm-fibre for you!
patālu, ‘to plait’; GIŠ arti, ‘foliage, fronds’; pitiltu, ‘palm-fibre’

12 ŠÁR × 4 + 30 ta-qab-bi-am li-[ku]-ul It will surely consume 14,430 (sūtu)!
ŠÁR (ideogram) = 3,600; 3 × 10 = 30; qabû, ‘to speak’; akālu, ‘to consume, use up’

Lines 13–17: Atra-hasīs Builds the Boat

13 30 ṣe-ri i-na ŠÀ-ša a[d]-di
I set in place in thirty ribs
ṣe-ri: for ṣēlu, ‘rib’; ina, ‘in’; ŠÀ (ideogram) = libbu, ‘heart, inside’, nadû, ‘(here) to set up, as of a reed hut’

14 ša 1 PI ik-bi-ru 10 NINDAN mu-r[a]-ak-šu
which were one parsiktu-vessel thick, ten nindan long;
ša, ‘which’; PI (ideogram) = parsiktu, ‘a measure’; kabāru, ‘to be thick’; NINDAN (ideogram) = nindanu, ‘a nindan’; mūraku, ‘length’

15 ŠÁR im-di i-na ŠÀ-ša ú-ki-in
I set up 3,600 stanchions within her
ŠÁR (ideogram) = ‘3,600’; imdu, ‘stanchion’; ina, ‘in’; ŠÀ (ideogram) = libbu, ‘heart’; kunnu, ‘to make firm’

16 ša ½ (PI) ik-bi-ru-ma ½ NINDAN mu-ra-ak-šu
that were half (a parsiktu-vessel) thick, half a nindan long (i.e. high);
ša, ‘which’; understanding PI (ideogram) = parsiktu, ‘a measure’; kabāru, ‘to be thick’; NINDAN (ideogram) = nindanu, ‘a nindan’; mūraku, ‘length’

17 ar-ku-ús ḫi-in-ni-šá e-le-nu-umù ša-ap-lu!-um
I constructed her cabins above and below;
rakāsu, ‘to tie, construct’; ḫinnu, ‘cabin’; elēnum, ‘above’; u, ‘and’; šaplum, ‘below’

Lines 18–33: The Waterproofing

18 1 ŠU.ŠI ESIR ki-da-ti-ša ap!-[r]u-ús
I apportioned one finger of bitumen for her outsides
ŠU.ŠI (ideogram) for ubānu, ‘finger’; ESIR (ideogram) = iṭṭû, ‘bitumen’; kidītu, ‘outer surface’; parāsu, ‘to apportion’

19 1 ŠU.ŠI ESIR qí-ri-ib-šaap-[r]u-ús
I apportioned one finger of bitumen for her interior;
ŠU.ŠI (ideogram) for ubānu, ‘finger’; ESIR (ideogram) = iṭṭû, ‘bitumen’; qerbu, ‘interior’; parāsu, ‘to apportion’

20 1 ŠU.ŠI ESIR a-na ḫi-in-ni-ša aš-[t]a-pa-ak
I had (already) poured out one finger of bitumen onto her cabins;
ŠU.ŠI (ideogram) for ubānu, ‘finger’; ESIR (ideogram) = iṭṭû, ‘pitch’; ana, ‘for, onto’; ḫinnu, ‘cabin’; šapāku, ‘to pour’

21 uš-ta-ar-ki-ib ŠÁR × 8 ESIR.UD.DU.A [i-n]a ki-ra-ti-ia
I caused the kilns to be loaded with 28,800 (sūtu) of kupru-bitu[men] into my kilns
šutarkubu, ‘to cause to be loaded’; ŠÁR (ideogram) = ‘3,600’; ESIR.UD.DU.A (ideogram) = kupru-bitumen’; ina, ‘in’; kīru, pl. kīrātu, ‘kiln’

22 ù ŠÁR ESIR a-na li-ib-bi aš-pu-uk
and I poured 3,600 (sūtu) of iṭṭû-bitumen within.
u, ‘and’; ŠÁR (ideogram) = ‘3,600’; ESIR (ideogram) = iṭṭû, ‘crude bitumen’; ana, ‘to’; libbu, ‘heart’; šapāku, ‘to pour’

23 ESIR ú-ul iq-r[i]-ba-am-ma
The bitumen did not come to the surface (lit. up to me);
ESIR (ideogram) = iṭṭû, ‘pitch’; ul, ‘not’; qerēbu, ‘to approach’

24 5 ŠU.ŠI na-ḫa-[a]m ú-re-[e]d-di
(So) I added five fingers of lard,
ŠU.ŠI (ideogram) for ubānu, ‘finger’; nāḫum, ‘lard’; redû, ‘to add’

25 -ta-ar-[k]i-ib ki-ra-ti × (x) mi-it-ḫa-ri-iš
I ordered the kilns to be loaded in equal measure;
šutarkubu, ‘to cause to be loaded’; kīru, pl. kīrātu, ‘kiln’; mitḫāriš, ‘equally’

26 GI[Š].ŠINIG GIŠ? × i
With tamarisk wood (?) and stalks (?)
GIŠ.ŠINIG (ideogram) = bīnu, tamarisk’; GIŠ × i perhaps ‘stalk’

27 × x × e? na? as tum i? bi? ma? ba-ar-tam
… […] (= I completed the mixture(?))

28 × x × (x) MEŠ × in? bi?
MEŠ (ideogram) for plural

29 il-la-ku bi-rit ṣe-e-ri-ša
Going between her ribs;
alāku, ‘to go’; birīt, ‘between’; ṣe-e-ri for ṣēlī, ‘ribs’

30 × nam? × x ×.…
(indecipherable)

31 × x-ia i × x × ESIR × x
.… … the iṭṭû-bitumen …

32 ESIR UD.DU ki-du-ú [ša k]i-ra-ti × x x
I applied (?) the outside kupru-bitumen from the kilns,
ESIR.UD.DU (ideogram) = kupru-bitumen; ‘outside’; kīru, ‘kiln’

33 e-zu-ub 2 (x 60) G[UR] ú-pa-az-zi-rù um-mi-[ia-ni]
Out of the 120 gur-measures which the workmen had put to one side.
Compare line 58; ezub, ‘out of’; puzzuru, ‘to put aside’; ummi’ānu, ‘workman’

Lines 34–8: Boarding and Celebrations

34 -ta-na-al × x [x × (x)] x ri-a-ši
I lay myself down (?) … […] … of rejoicing
nãlu, ‘to lie down’; riʾāšu, ‘to rejoice’

35 a-nai-[ru-bu-ma] × x k[i-i]m-<tu>sa-al-la-at
My kith and kin [went into] the boat … ;
ana, ‘to’; MÁ (ideogram) = eleppu, ‘boat’; erēbu, ‘to enter’; kimtu, ‘family’, ‘kith’; sallatu, ‘family’, ‘kin’

36 ḫa-du-ú × [x × x] ki?  × x × e-mu-tim
Joyful … [… …] … … of my in-laws,
ḫadû, ‘to rejoice; emūtu, ‘family of the husband’

37 ù za-bi-il × [x × x x] × x ù su? e? ri a? tum
and the porter with … [ … …] … and …
u, ‘and’; zābilu, ‘porter’;

38 a-ki-lum i-ik-k[a-a]l [ša-tu-ú] i-ša-at-ti
They ate and drank their fill
ākilu, ‘eater’; akālu, ‘to eat’; šātû, ‘drinker’; šatû, ‘to drink’

Lines 39–50: Atra-hasīs Prays to the Moon God

39 a-na-ku a-wa-t[um i-na Š]À-i[a ul] i-ba-aš-ši-ma
As for me, there was no word in my heart, and
anāku, ‘I’; awatu, ‘word’; ina, ‘in’; ŠÀ (ideogram) = libbu, ‘heart’; ul, ‘not’; bašû, ‘to be’

40 × na ti × [x × x l]i-ib-bi
… […] my heart;
libbu, ‘heart’

41 × ab × x [x × x]-ú-a
… […] … my […]

42 bi-ni-it(?) × x […] … -i?-ti-ia?
… […] of my …

43 … áš-na/gi-an? … […]-e? ša-ap-ti-ia
… […] … of my lips
šaptu, ‘lip’

44 … ne ra? bi … […]-it pi-qum aṣ-la-al
… […] …, I slept with difficulty;
pīqum, ‘with difficulty’ (colloquial for ‘hardly at all’?); ṣalālu, ‘to sleep’

45 e-li a-na ú-ri ú-[sa-ap-pi (?)]a-na dEN.ZU be-li
I went up on the roof and pr[ayed(?)] to Sin, my lord:
elû, ‘to go up’; ana, ‘to’; ūru, ‘roof’; suppû, ‘to pray’; dEN.ZU,; the signs EN.ZU in archaic reverse order spell ZU.EN for ‘zu’en’, the name of the Moon God Sin; bēlu, ‘lord’

46 GAZ? lìb?-bi? li-ib-l[i la ta-ta-a]b-ba-al
Let my heartbreak (?) be extinguished! [Do you not disap]pear!
GAZ (ideogram) = ḫīpu, ‘break’; libbu, ‘heart’; balû, ‘to be extinguished’; tabālu, ‘to carry off’

47 × x × x × x ak? [x × x x] x-ti?-bi ik-la
 … darkness

48 i-na × [x (x)]-ia
Into my […] …

49 dEN.ZU i-na GIŠ.G[U.ZA-šu it-ta-m]e ga-ma-ar-tam
Sin, from his thr[one swo]re as to annihiliation
dEN.ZU for Sin; ina, ‘in’, ‘from’; GIŠ.GU.ZA (ideogram) = kussû, ‘seat’, ‘throne’; tamû, ‘to swear’; gamartu, annihilation’

50 ù ar-m[u-tam i-na u4-mi-im] e-ṭi-i[m (x × x)]
And desola[tion on (the)] darkened [day (to come)].
armūtu, ‘desolation’, ūmu, ‘day’, eṭû, ‘dark’

Lines 51–2: The Wild Animals Come Aboard

51 ù na-ma-aš-t[um i-na ṣe]-ri-i[m (…)]
But the wild anim[als from the st]eppe [(…)]
u, ‘and’, or ‘but’; namaštu, ‘animals’; ina, ‘from’; ṣēru, ‘steppe’

52 ša-na MÁ! lu-[ú × x × x] × x × [x × x x]
Two by two the boat did [they enter] … [… …]
šanā, ‘two by two’; MÁ (ideogram) = eleppu, ‘boat’; , ‘indeed did …’

Lines 53–8: Supplies for the Wild Animals

53 5 KAŠ ar ma? × x uš-t[a- × x × x]
I had … 5 of beer (?) I … […]
KAŠ (ideogram) = šikāru, ‘beer’; -ta- … probably part of a verb in the first person sing.

54 11 12 ú-za-ab-ba-lu × (x) [x × x]
They were transporting eleven or twelve [… …]
zabālu, ‘to transport’

55 3 Ú ši-iq-bi u[k?-ta-x x] × x × x
Three (measures) of šiqbum (?) I […] … …,
Ú = šammu, ‘plant’, determinative sign before plant names; šiqbu, if a useful plant, is unidentified; uk-ta …, part of a verb in the first person sing.

56 1ú-ku-lu-úum?/dub? mu?/gu? [kur(?)]-din-nu
One-third (measure) of fodder, … and kurdinnu plant (?).
ukulû, ‘fodder’; kurdinnu, ‘a malodorous plant.’

57 1 ŠU.ŠI na-ḫa-am a-nagi-ri-ma-de-e aq?-ta?-na?-bi?
I ordered several times (?) a one-finger (layer) of lard for the girmadû
ŠU.ŠI (ideogram) for ubānu, ‘finger’; nāḫu, ‘lard’; ana, ‘for’; girmadû, application tool; qabû, ‘to order’, ‘to demand’.

58 e-zu-ub 30 GUR ú-pá-az-zi-rù LÚ.MEŠ um-mi-a-[ni]
out of the thirty gur which the work[men] had put to one side.
ezub, ‘out of’ (rather than ‘leaving aside’); puzzuru, ‘to put aside’; LÚ.MEŠ, ‘men’ (determinative, not pronounced, omitted in parallel line 33); ummi’ānu, ‘worker’

Lines 59–60: The Door is Sealed

59 i-nu-ma a-na-ku e-ru-bu-ma
When I shall have gone into the boat,
inūma, ‘when’; anāku, ‘I’; erēbu, ‘to enter’

60 pi-ḫi pít ba-bi-ša
‘Caulk the frame of her door!’
peḫû, ‘to caulk’; pītu, ‘opening’; bābu, ‘door’

Textual Notes to Appendix 4

7 eṣirtu is for uṣurtu A.

10 The final -a in aš-la-a is not to mark a long vowel but to confirm the accusative as shown by spacing; traces of -ur are slight but possible.

14 The stanchions are described by length from the point of view of preparation; once cut they will ‘stand up’.

17 ‘Above and below’ here means exactly that, rather than ‘fore and aft’ as these terms sometimes mean in Ark descriptions (George 2003, Vol. 2: 880).

18, 19, 20, 22, 23 In these lines the Ark Tablet scribe consistently writes the sign ESIR, ‘bitumen’, which properly is A.ESÍR (LAGABxNUMUN), as A.LAGAB (i.e. without any small inside sign). This represents a kind of shorthand; the context leaves no doubt that it stands for ESIR. In line 21 he seems to write A.LAGABxBAD.

26 The word signs are read GIŠ.ŠINIG by the overall shape; the following word could refer to a second wood, but GIŠ.GIŠIMMAR.TUR! (wr. erroneously I), ‘young date palm’, is probably to be excluded.

32 ESIR UD.DU is more than possible but not certain, complicated by erasures here.

46 GAZ? lìb?-bi? – this reading, which is allowed by the traces, derives from Old Babylonian Atrahasis III ii 47 in identical context: ḫe-pí-i-ma li-ib-ba-šu, ‘his heart was broken’. For the following restoration, see ibid. 39: ib-ba-b]i-il ar-ḫu, ‘the moon disappeared’.

49 gamartu, ‘annihilation’, is said of the Flood in Old Babylonian Schϕyen: iv 2 (George 2009: 22).

50 For some reason CAD A/2 294 doubts the authority of the lexical compilation that apparently equates armūtu with namûtu, ‘desolation’, ‘wasteland’, and questions its very existence, but the present context does much to support its re-election.

53 ga-ar-ma- is also possible but I do not know how to understand it.

54 The number ‘11’ is written over a partial erasure; it is possible that the text should in fact be ‘12 12’.

55 I cannot find a plant Ú *šiK-bi anywhere, but unless the plan was to annoy Gilgamesh we cannot read Ú igigallu (IGI.GÁL.BI), the ‘plant of wisdom’.

56 The plant kurdinnu is only lexically attested and all we know about it is that it reeked, but along with other animal fodder in the depths of a whacking great travelling zoo, who would be troubled by that? At any rate, the uncommon last word in this line, likeamurdinnu, ‘bramble (or similar)’, ends in -dinnu.

59 For girmadû as ‘roller’ see this page and note on this page.

In the latter stages of writing this book the writer has had the benefit of a first-rate resin cast of the Ark Tablet which was specially made in 2012 from the original by Mike Neilson, the British Museum cast maker. This has now been deposited in the cast collection of the Middle East Department, where it is freely available for inspection or collation. It is virtually indistinguishable from the original tablet.

If you find an error please notify us in the comments. Thank you!