According to a reading from a newly digitized fragment of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Noah’s Ark was something different than what is currently believed. The 2,000-year-old text may be prove that the Ark was the shape of a pyramid.
Over 50 years ago, a stone thrown by a Bedouin shepherd into a cave led to what some have called the greatest archaeological discovery of the 20th century. The Bedouin heard the stone crack open an earthenware jar. Upon investigating, he found the first of what came to be known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. When all the scrolls and fragments were sorted out, they accounted for about 800 manuscripts. About one quarter, or just over 200 manuscripts, are copies of portions of the Hebrew Bible text.
Two scrolls from the Dead Sea Scrolls lie at their location in the Qumran Caves before being removed for scholarly examination by archaeologists. (public domain)
Now, after almost five years, a laboratory established by the Israel Antiquities Authority as part of the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library project, has scanned tens of thousands of fragments from the scrolls with a custom-made camera. Each fragment was photographed 28 times at high resolution using different wavelengths of light. The sophisticated technology enabled researchers to read letters and words that were previously illegible. Some of the newly-digitized fragments offered new interpretations of well-known Biblical stories.
Part of the scroll discussing judgment day, before being scanned. Credit: Israel Antiquities Authority
Part of the scroll discussing judgement day after the scan. Credit: Israel Antiquities Authority
New Fragments Deciphered
Haaretz reported that the new reading of the fragments has changed our understanding about Noah’s Ark. Thanks to the high-resolution imagery, a word following the phrase “the ark’s tallness” had previously been illegible. However, the new scans showed that the correct words is ne’esefet, meaning “gathered,” which according to researcher Dr. Alexey Yuditsky, means that the ark’s ribs were gathered together at the top in the shape of a pyramid. Dr Yuditsky said that the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Bible dating to the third century BC, used a Greek verb with a similar meaning to describe the Ark. Moreover, medieval authors like Maimonides suggested that the ark’s roof was pointed.
The newly deciphered words on the ancient parchments stayed hidden for centuries, but are now bringing answers to many long standing questions, as well as raising new ones. Previously, the story of Noah’s Ark was known mainly from the Book of Genesis. However, the Dead Sea Scrolls found in Qumran cave in the Judean Desert shed new light on this story.
Qumran cave 4 in the Judean Desert, where ninety percent of the scrolls were found (public domain)
Noah’s Ark – Not Just a Biblical Story
The Dead Sea Scrolls contain information about many controversial and fascinating topics from the past, the story of Noah and the legendary flood being just one of them. Christos Djonis, guest author of Ancient Origins, explained in his articles ”Evidence of The Great Flood – Real or a Myth? ”(part 1 and part 2), that the story of Noah is not just a Biblical account:
”The story of a “Great Flood” sent by God (or gods according to much earlier testimony) to destroy humanity for its sins is a widespread account shared by many religions and cultures around the world, and dates back to our earliest recorded history. From India to ancient Greece, Mesopotamia and even among North American Indian tribes, there is no shortage of such tales that often enough sound very much alike. Some of these stories truly sound so similar that one could wonder whether all cultures around the planet had experienced such an event (…)
Only after 7000 BC when the ocean levels finally began stabilizing, human life once more began to return to normal. Coastal sites no longer had to be abandoned for higher ground, at least for the most part, and between 6000 BC and 5000 BC, once more, we begin to see signs of human activity closer to the sea. Is it a mere coincidence that our “recorded” history happens to start around this time? Is it true that early humans were too primitive to leave traces of their existence behind, or the early pages of our history were “washed away” by the Great Flood of the last ice age? After all, it seems that as soon as the adverse climatic conditions receded, it did not take long for humans to thrive once again. ”
The panels of the elaborate door to the Baptistery in Florence by Lorenzo Ghiberti illustrate scenes from the Old Testament. One of the panels (left-hand-side, second from top) illustrates the life of Noah, in particular the period after the Great Flood when Noah returns to dry land with the help of God. Strangely, the Ark is depicted as a pyramid.
Digitization Solves Decades-Long Puzzle
Another discovery resulting from the digitization is connected with two fragments that shed light on a puzzling word in the Bible. Chapter 39 of Genesis describes how Judah had sex with his daughter-in-law Tamar. She disguised herself as a prostitute, and as a guarantee of payment she received his signet, staff and ptil. After many centuries of debate regarding the meaning of the word ptil, the Dead Sea Scrolls have finally given the answer with the following sentence: ”Ptil is his belt”. As Moshe Bar-Asher, the academy president, said:
“The word ptil is mentioned in the Bible 10 times. In every place, we know what it is and what its function is, except for the ptil Tamar received. On this, our ancestors were divided. But now we have an early text, from the first century at the latest, which gives the meaning of this ptil – it’s the belt with which he tied his trousers or his robe.”
Despite decades of study and analysis, the Dead Sea Scrolls are still giving up their secrets.
Top image: A panel from the door of the Baptistery in Florence, which appears to show Noah’s Ark as a pyramid.