The Deluge Story

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[1966 B.C.]
114 x 90 mm.
MLC 1889
Curatorial Comments: 

This ancient clay tablet is in cuneiform script, the oldest form of writing, which originated in Mesopotamia around 3,200 BC. Texts were written by pressing a cut, straight reed into moist clay; the characteristic wedge-shaped strokes give the writing its modern name (cuneiform means simply "wedge-shaped"). This tablet was made around 1646-1626 BC in the Babylonian city of Sippar, on the east bank of the Euphrates. We know this thanks to the colophon--a brief statement containing information about the scribe, the text, and the title, "When gods were men"--that is preserved in this fragment. Here we have the earliest known version of the Deluge story, a source for the Epic of Gilgamesh and the story of Noah's Flood recounted in Genesis. This tablet, written in Akkadian, is part of the Epic of Atrahasis and contains the creation myths of the Sumerian gods of sky, wind, and water. Enki, god of water, warns the hero Atrahasis that the cruel god Enlil is planning to destroy humankind by casting a devastating flood over the land and urges him to build a boat in order to escape.
"The wild animals...of open country,/Two by two he brought on board the boat./The flood roared like a bull,/Like a wild ass screaming the winds/...For seven days and seven nights/The torrent, storm and flood came on."


Second chapter of the Epic of Atra-hasis; earliest known copy of an Akkadian version of the Deluge story.
Copied from a still earlier inscription by a junior scribe named Azag-Aya, on the 28th day of Shebet, in the 11th year of Ammi-zaduga.