The story of Noah's Ark and the great Flood
The Biblical story of the epic deluge was originally written by Mesopotamian pagans at least 1,000 years earlier.
The original story is written in the Akkadian language of Sumer on stone tablets bearing cuneiform letters. At 4,000 years old, these are the oldest syllabic texts on Earth. Moses is popularly perceived as the author of the Old Testament including Genesis, but the stories to his credit were already carved in stone several centuries before the earliest period in which the would-be author could have lived. The popularly accepted notion of Moses in the court of Ramses II would have meant that these stories preceded the alleged author by as much as 1,000 years. These ancient tablets include the first versions of the Creation myth and multiple versions of a single theme that is remarkably similar to that of Noah.
In each of these versions as in the Bible, a man is said to have had divine inspiration to construct a vessel in which he had loaded breeding stock of each of the animals he could get aboard. Now his name was not Noah and his inspiration was not the Hebrew god. The divine command in this earliest account came from the gods of the polytheistic Sumerian mythos, but it is still unlikely that the original story did not inspire the Biblical counterpart. The tablets of
Enuma Elish name the hero of the flood as Ziusudra. other versions report his name as Ubar-Tutu. After some translations, editing, and embellishment, it was changed to Utnapishtim in a more detailed account in the Epic of Gilgamesh, After at least 1,000 generations of further translation, interpretation, and some enthusiastic exaggeration into the Hebrew version, the name was finally changed to Noah.
Genesis relates the cause of the deluge as being God's punishment of Man's wickedness.
Enuma Elish has the gods causing the flood to drown the savage man for being too loud and disturbing their rest.
Almost certainly, there was profound flooding of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers particularly during the Jemdat Nasr period which lasted from 3200 BC to 2900 BC. While the Mesopotamian authors did not suggest any limitation to the effected area, they did not go so far as to state that the flood engulfed the entire Earth. In fact, the depth of the flood is limited to 22 feet beyond flood depth, just as it is first described in the Bible. At that depth, the Tigris / Euphrates valley would have been under water for many miles in every direction being quite flat and already marshy. Noah's counterpart in this story finds dry land after only seven days and not the year suggested in the Bible. Utnapishtim's account is also quite grisly in its eventual details of the hundreds of human and animal corpses damming the receding waterways.
The Sumerian text also does not limit the number or type of animals that were loaded aboard, but then again they do not say that it was all inclusive. It can be assumed that if this document was based on a historic event, that he would have loaded only his own livestock, but this proto-Noah may even have had his own managerie. Many middle-eastern societies in ancient times kept manageries of all types of animals as an indication of status or simply a display of wealth and Zuisudra was after all, a king as opposed to the humble herdsman described in Genesis. Such zoos included many more creatures than what would now be considered barnyard stock and even the domestic animals might have included elephants, camels, gnus, and many types of antelope.