Few years back there was a PBS documentary titled Walking the Bible, which was based on Bruce Feiler’s book. In the documentary Feiler climbs Mt. Ararat in Turkey in search of Noah’s Ark: Bible literalists believe that an actual Ark came to rest on top of this mountain.
The Noah’s Ark story is of course an adaptation of the Sumerian epic – the Atra-Hasis.
In this epic, the gods want to destroy humans because they have become noisy and the gods can’t get sleep. They try various tricks – plague, famine, and, drought; nothing works. The gods then take the draconian step of unleashing a flood. Again the dossier containing the plan gets leaked to Atra-Hasis by one of the gods, Enki. Thus Atra-Hasis builds a boat, carries animals and survives the flood which lasted seven days. [Noisy Epics]
If you want to see how Noah’s Ark looked like, here is a replica built by some folks in Netherlands. Here is a cartoon version and here is another. The Ark is imagined to be a large ship since as per Genesis 6:13-16, it 300 cubits long, fifty cubits wide and thirty cubits high.
A new translation of a 3700 year old tablet tells a different story about the Ark – the one in Atra-Hasis: It was not a boat, but a circular raft.
“In all the images ever made people assumed the ark was, in effect, an ocean-going boat, with a pointed stem and stern for riding the waves – so that is how they portrayed it,” said Finkel. “But the ark didn’t have to go anywhere, it just had to float, and the instructions are for a type of craft which they knew very well. It’s still sometimes used in Iran and Iraq today, a type of round coracle which they would have known exactly how to use to transport animals across a river or floods.” [Relic reveals Noah’s ark was circular]