The Gilgamesh Epic is an ancient Mesopotamian story about life and the suffering one must endure while alive. Included in the story, is a tale of a great flood that covered the earth, killing all but a select few of it’s inhabitants. This story of a great flood is common to most people, and has effected history in several ways. It’s presence in the Gilgamesh Epic has caused many people to search for evidence that a great flood actually happened. It has also caused several other religions and cultures to take the same basic story, claiming it for their own.
Whether in Christianity in the form of Noah’s Ark, or through Mesopotamian history in the form of an immortal, the idea of a great flood has proven to be a common story throughout the world. Though Noah’s Ark may be the most popular form of the story, it is not the oldest. Many people believe Noah’s Ark was based on Utnapishnem’s flood story. The two stories are obviously based on the same thing, but one must wonder which one is true or which came first.
The story of Utnapishnem in the Gilgamesh Epic starts with a dream that warns Utnapishnem of the coming flood. The gods are angry and want to rid the world of mankind. Utnapishnem built a boat large enough to carry his family, personal belongings, and “the seed of all other living creatures.” After Utnapishnem finished, the rain fell for six days and six nights, and it was so bad that the gods climbed into heaven for safety. After the rain stopped, the boat came to rest on Mount Nisir, and Utnapishnem released a dove and a swallow. Both birds returned because they could not find land. Then a raven was released and it did not come back, proving that there was land for it to rest on. Utnapishnem then came out of the ship and offered a sacrifice to the gods. When the gods smelled the sweet odor of the sacrifice, they blessed Utnapishnem and his wife to be like the gods and live forever.
The story of Noah’s Ark begins with God being upset at mankind’s wickedness. He decides to destroy it with a flood. God new Noah was righteous and told him to build an ark so he would be safe from the rain. Noah did so and took aboard his family and pairs of every kind of animal. It rained for forty days and nights, until the highest mountains were covered. Then God sent a wind and the waters receded, and the ark came to rest on Mount Ararat. After forty days, Noah sent out a raven, which kept flying until the waters had dried up. He next sent out a dove, which returned without finding a place to rest. A week later he set out the dove again, and it returned with an olive leaf. The next week, the dove didn’t return. Everyone then emerged from the ark. Noah built an altar and made a sacrifice to God, and God promised never again to destroy all living creatures with a flood, giving the rainbow as a sign of His covenant.
The similarities between the two stories are obvious for the most part. It makes one wonder if perhaps Noah and Utnapishnem were the same person, and the different stories may have been caused by the same happening seen from different viewpoints. Though this may be the only logical answer, many people are still searching for the truth behind the tales. This has lead many people to devoting their lives to finding scientific proof that a flood covering a vast stretch of land actually occurred several centuries ago.
The search for proof of a great flood has been going on for decades. Based primarily in the Middle East, the search begins with questioning history for any detail that may suggest there was a flood. Then they must ask what conditions are necessary for causing a flood of the magnitude described in the Gilgamesh Epic, or that may have seemed as large to the people affected by it. If these conditions were indeed met, what scientific evidence do we have that could prove it