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Noah's Ark, how to build one!

The recorded instructions to Noah for the plans of the ark were as follows:

6:14 Make for yourself a coffer ( box, chest, ark ) of pitch trees (cypress); nests shall you make in the coffer ( ark ), and you will cover it inside and outside with a covering ( pitch, bitumen ).

6:15 And thus you shall make it; three hundred cubits (~450 ft.) the length, fifty cubits (~75 ft.) its breadth, and thirty cubits (~45 ft.) its height.

6:16 A light you will make to the coffer ( ark ), and to a cubit you shall finish it above; and the opening to the coffer ( ark ) you will place in its side; with lower, second, and third floors you will do it.

one ark concept

Yes, our view of the ark Noah built is rather fuzzy and many artists have provided various concepts of how Noah's ark could have been constructed. But, from what little we know, how could an early man such as Noah having very little technology have constructed such a large floating structure?

Noah needed something that will float in very extreme circumstances so why not start out with a basic concept of a large log raft or barge. "Build a barge of cypress wood" from "A New Translation of the Bible" by James Moffatt.

A large log raft
A large log raft used in the past to float logs
down from the northwest to San Diego.

The common cypress, native to the Mediterranean region, is a symmetrical evergreen that resembles some poplars and often reaches a height of more than 90 ft. It has a close-grained yellow or reddish wood so resinous that it resists rotting even after prolonged submersion in water so it is an ideal wood to make sure our ark stays afloat and without having a sealed hull. Using a two layer approach, one longitudinal and one cross ways would provide good stability and strength in both directions. Since we don't want Noah to have to make large chains for tying them together as shown in the above photo we will have to assume that Noah and his family have mastered the technology of rope making from vines or made from dried prairie grass. Obviously having an axe to prepare the logs would be great, but as one thinks of it, not really necessary, sharpened hand stones could be used in log preparation. A two layer log raft base would take about 450 two foot diameter logs 75 feet long. And if he, Noah, didn't want to cut his own logs he could steal them from beavers (see note 1) for although they usually selects trees 2 to 8 inches in diameter, they can fell trees with diameters as large as 30 inches. Noah could even study the beaver to learn techniques since colonies of beavers often dig canals from the pond to a grove of trees. Such canals are up to 3 ft wide and deep and often a few hundred yards long. The timber is then readily floated down the canal. If Noah disturbed a beaver's dam they would cut new logs to repair it and continue this cycle until he gets enough logs. (Where there is a will there is a way!)

Now, for the upper part of Noah's ark, consider a pole and beam structure of cypress poles with thatch covering the sides and the top. Thatch roofs have been known to withstand winds of up to 100 miles an hour and to last 40-60 years.

Thatching a roof
Thatching a roof.

Noah was instructed to provide pitch covering for the ark on the outside and inside of the walls which would serve as a protective coating and maybe even to keep the passengers from eating the walls. Obviously, thatching is also a natural for nest construction.

A weaverbird nest and a commune
Weaverbird nests and a commune of weaverbird nests.
The Hebrew word translated as rooms/nests can also imply
the material of the nest, the reeds or grass

A reed boat
A depiction of an ancient Egyptian reed boat. Remains of pitch covered reed boats used in the Euphrates river have been discovered in eastern turkey that have been dated to about 3800 BC (see Appendix A) and from Kuwait an even older, about 5000 BC, ocean-going reed boat used in the Persian Gulf.

For Noah and his family the big job for the thatching would be to gather all the required grass, dry it, weave the rope, tie it onto the framework, and pitch it inside and out.

The actual construction details for the light for the ark is difficult to understand from the description given. Many have envisioned it as a sort of cupola along the top center line. Also one can interpret the Scriptures to indicate that the side covering of the ark was to go up to within one cubit, about 18 inches, of the top, thus allowing this opening all around for light and ventilation. "Put an 18-inch opening in the ark all around ..." from "The Modern Language Bible: The New Berkeley Version in Modern English".

And many have envisioned the opening in the side of Noah's ark to be a combined door and entrance ramp for loading all the animals and their food into the ark.

Now that we have solved all the construction details. How about provisions for the passengers.

6:19 And from every living thing of all flesh, two of all to come into the coffer ( box, chest, ark ), to keep alive with you; male and female they will be,

6:20 from the flying creature after their kind, and from the cattle after their kind, from every creeping thing of the earth after its kind, two from all will come to you to keep alive.

6:21 And you take for yourself of all eatable that is eaten, and you will gather to yourself; and let it be for you and for them for eating.

7:2 From every creature clean will you take to yourself seven by seven, a man and his woman; and the creature that not clean it by two , a man and his woman;

7:3 of the flying creature of the skies seven by seven, a male and his female, to keep alive seed upon the face of all the earth.

The list of "clean" and "not clean" animals that Noah was to collect is not a very long list and includes only those animals that man might consider eating that lived in the localized area. But, many have long said that it is Noah's job "to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth" (King James Version). However, most often when the Scriptures uses the Hebrew word for all or every it is a localized all, not a global all! (see All is How Big?) Obviously, the logical way is to put all the larger heavier animals on the bottom floor and the smaller animals and birds in the two upper stories of nests in the ark. Many of the passengers would possibly help Noah and naturally construct their own nests if materials were readily available. Noah and family would seem to have to stay most of the time on the lower floor to take care of the feeding and clean up chores.

Not often discussed is that Noah's ark was also a food warehouse! So Noah must also include nests for food storage, enough food for a little over a year and probably enough for a short time after the flood until vegetation for food can grow back in the area. Per verse 8:11 we know that olive leaves were growing before they left the ark. The olive tree normally grows below 5000 feet altitude.

Conclusion: We have discussed a possible low-technology version of the ark for those who have expressed the opinion that an early man such as Noah was not capable of building such a structure. Remember, the Hebrew text never says that it was a ship or boat, instead says it was a box, a large box, but never the less a box, and as such Noah would not require a high level of technology for its construction. As mentioned with what can be learned from the beaver, most of the techniques could have been learned from observing the animals and the birds in their nest construction.

Geneva Bible depiction of Noah's Ark

Here is a floating ark model, about 1:150 scale.

A Floating Noah's Ark Model, about 1:150 scale


Note 1: Beaver, semiaquatic mammal noted for the building of dams. One species of beaver occurs in North America, the other in Eurasia. The two species differ chiefly in the shape of the nasal bones and are so much alike that some authorities consider them to be varieties of the same species. They are large rodents; the average adult beaver weighs about 35 lbs., but specimens as heavy as 90 lbs. have been found, and some extinct beavers were almost bear like in size.


Return to Ararat

Biblical Adam: the Evidences for Dating Adam to 14,000 - 15,000 years ago!
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I Love God's Green Earth:
Devotions for Kids Who Want
to Take Care of God's Creation

By Michael Carroll, Caroline Carroll
cover


Book overview: Kids love working on practical projects to help take care of the Earth; they are often the family's biggest proponents of recycling. This book will attract those eco-friendly kids and teach them how creation care can actually draw them closer to God. Each devotion includes a Scripture verse, a "Connection" section to help kids apply both the biblical and environmental lessons, and a "What Can I Do?" section with a takeaway activity. Jokes and fun facts are also included throughout the devotion to make this book fun, informative, and interesting to readers.


Appendix A: Bitumen Artifacts at Hacinebi Tepe, Anatolia, Turkey

Location of Hacinebi Tepe

Bitumen is a naturally occurring petroleum-based tar-like material. Mixed with tempering materials it was widely used and traded in the ancient Near East as a material for waterproofing, as a building material, and as an adhesive. More than 400 bitumen artifacts have been recovered from all the fourth millennium phases (A-B1-B2) at Hacinebi. Chemical compositional analyses permit the identification of bitumen sources, and by extension, the reconstruction of fourth millennium exchange systems. The inhabitants of Hacinebi imported bitumen from a variety of sources in Anatolia, North Syria, south Mesopotamia, and southwestern Iran.

Bitumen "ingot" with reed impressions, HN6106 Op. 11 locus 40 (Schwartz and Hollander 2000:fig. 5).

Bitumen with basketry impression. HN3516 Op. 7 locus 39 (Schwartz and Hollander 2000: fig. 3).
Uruk bevel rim bowl with bitumen-coated interior, possibly used for processing melted bitumen.. HN6212 Op. 10 locus 65 (Schwartz and Hollander 2000:fig.4).
Juglet with bitumen waterproofing. HN201 Op. 1 locus 12
(Stein and Misir 1994b:fig. 7).
Chipperd stone sickle blade with bitumen hafting. HN12057 Op. 12 locus 145.
Bitumen hafting from tool handle showing string impressions.
HN2259 Op. 7 locus 25.
(source: http://faculty-web.at.northwestern.edu/ anthropology/ stein/ HNfindsBitumen.html)

copied from: http://www.northwestern.edu/ univ-relations/
media_relations/ releases/ 11_2002/ riverboats.html

Northwestern News

  Last updated 11/20/2002
   

MEDIA CONTACT: Pat Vaughan Tremmel at (847) 491-4892 or at p-tremmel@northwestern.edu

November 18, 2002

Earliest River Boats May Have Carried Petroleum

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Recently discovered boat fragments found at the site of Hacinebi in southeast Turkey offer evidence of the world’s earliest riverboats and the earliest transport of trade goods -- including petroleum products -- by river, according to Mark Schwartz, a graduate student in anthropology at Northwestern University, whose findings were published in the fall edition of the British archaeological journal, Antiquity.

The only direct evidence linked to the world’s first boats to travel by river, rather than by sea, Schwartz’s finds bolster scholars’ understanding of the early development of maritime technology and its tie to transportation and trade during the very early stages of the development of civilization.

While finds in the Persian Gulf demonstrate early transport on oceans, it was river trade that played a greater part in the development of the earliest civilizations both in terms of the sheer volume of goods moved and the strength of the trade routes.

Dating to 3800 B.C., the fragments are remnants of the bitumen (natural petroleum tar) coating placed on early reed boats to waterproof them. Evidence suggests that the bitumen-coated boats also were likely to have carried petroleum products as cargo. Coupled with chemical sourcing data from Hacinebi, Schwartz’s discovery points to the earliest form of the petroleum trade in the Near East.

"With all the current, heated discussions about the petroleum industry in the Near East, it is ironic that the world’s earliest river boats in this area -- and indeed the world -- were also transporting petroleum," said Schwartz.

The presence of the waterproofed boats provides a more complete picture of the ancient exchange economy of southeast Anatolia. The fragments directly document the boat’s connection to a trading center and the first time boats were used to transport trade goods on a river system."

Much of the research on trade and transport in the Near East has focused on Mesopotamia, where the world’s first cities appeared during the fourth millennium. But this boat find and the site of Hacinebi lie outside of the "heartland of cities." While evidence does point to trade with southern Mesopotamia (present day Iraq) during the later phases of Hacinebi’s history, excavations, led by Gil Stein, the director of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, suggest that the site played an important role in local Anatolian trade even before the arrival of merchants from Mesopotamia.

"The presence of local trade goods such as copper, shell and chlorite at the site along with our recent discovery of the early reed boat fragments demonstrate that the people of Hacinebi were developing impressive long-distance exchange relationships on their own before the arrival of Mesopotamians," said Schwartz.

The people of Hacinebi were involved in early metallurgy and likely were using bitumen-covered boats to transport copper ore, among other items, down the Euphrates from the Ergani source 200km north in the river. The Hacinebi area was historically an important place for trade and transport.

Stable carbon and hydrogen isotope analyses performed by Schwartz, with David Hollander of the University of South Florida, suggest that bitumen was transported to the site from at least three different Anatolian sources and document a non-Mesopotamian, Anatolian source of bitumen for the reed boat coating. The fragments show distinct impressions of reed bundles and rope and clearly document ancient boat building and the widespread use of this ancient technology.

Modern reconstruction of ancient reed boats try to depict these types of vessels, but bitumen is rarely used on them, making them prone to water logging and/or rotting.

"The fact that the ancient people of Hacinebi took the time to waterproof their reed boats demonstrates a high degree of investment," said Schwartz. "These boats were meant to last, and the very thick coating signifies a boat that was much larger than a simple canoe."

These findings relate directly to recent discoveries from Kuwait which point to even older (5000 B.C.) ocean-going reed boats in the Persian Gulf.

"Taken together, these finds point to interesting parallels between different regions and cultures and reinforce each other’s validity," said Schwartz. "You may be able to refute that one find of reed-impressed bitumen is not part of a reed boat, but it is much more difficult to argue against many finds from different areas and time-periods of the Near East."

Ethnographic records point to the existence of reed boats in many cultures throughout the world including the Sudan, coastal Peru, lake Titicaca, New Zealand and the marshes of southern Iraq. The boats in the Near East were constructed in similar ways -- reed bundles waterproofed with bitumen --illustrating ingenuity in the construction of impressive watercraft with simple materials that ancient people found nearby.

The discoveries were all found at sites where trade is believed to have played an important role in ancient economies. Many ancient societies such as Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Harrappa used riverine trade routes extensively in the formative stages of their development. It was only after they had been states for a few hundred years that they relied on long-distance trade on the world’s oceans.

Shipping timber, stone, copper and bitumen down the Euphrates River would have been relatively cheap, quick and efficient means of supplying a developing society with materials it needed to grow and flourish.

While many ancient civilizations were started on rivers for agricultural reasons, trade on these rivers was an important outgrowth and a key ingredient for their development.

"With all of the recent advances in technology, water transport is still the most efficient way to move cargo and goods long distances," said Schwartz. "Even though the Euphrates has always been a dangerous river to navigate, these ancient merchants had a lot of incentive to engage in this early version of the petroleum industry."

 


Appendix B: Genetic and Linguistic Studies
Point toward the Location and the Time.

All people are related, but "In the article in the November 2001 issue of The American Journal of Human Genetics, Ariella Oppenheim of the Hebrew University of Israel wrote that this new study revealed that Jews have a closer genetic relationship to populations in the northern Mediterranean (Kurds, Anatolian Turks, and Armenians) than to populations in the southern Mediterranean (Arabs and Bedouins)." (from http://www.barzan.com/ kevin_brook.htm)

Also:

"A family tree of Indo-European languages suggests they began to spread and split about 9,000 years ago. The finding hints that farmers in what is now Turkey drove the language boom - and not later Siberian horsemen, as some linguists reckon. ... Around this time, farming techniques began to spread out of Anatolia - now Turkey - across Europe and Asia, archaeological evidence shows." (From "Language tree rooted in Turkey" by John Whitfield, http://www.nature.com/ nsu/nsu_pf/ 031124/ 031124-6.html)

Both of these studies would place the location in the Ararat area since we have recorded (Genesis 11:2-9) that soon after the flood they migrated out of the mountainous regions from the east. Then soon after that the multiple languages were developed as their speech was confused and then from there they were scattered. Also the linguistic study places the scattering to about 9,000 years ago for those of the Indo-European languages, therefore, the flood would be sometime prior to 9,000 years ago.

Very interestingly "11,600 years ago marked the beginning of the Rule of Mortal Humans on Earth according to Manetho (Egyptian historian ca. 343 BC)" prior to that was "Rule by Demigods and Spirits of the Dead (followers of Horus)". (from http://www.innerx.net/ personal/ tsmith/ iceciv.html) A very close correspondence to the indicated termination of the Younger Dryas (11,550 +-70 B.P. per the GRIP ice core data) and the time we would choose as the most likely time of the flood and Noah's ark, and soon afterward the tribes would start multiplying and migrating from the "Ararat" area into lower lands of the most northern part of the fertile crescent where the archaeologists have uncovered the first evidences of large scale farming and community building, around 10,000 to 11,000 B.P..

map
The New York Times: "How the First Farmers Colonized the Mediterranean"
by Nicholas Wade,August 11, 2008

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