Two of Each: The Nippur Deluge Tablet and Noah's Flood

August 30, 2014 – July 26, 2015
One of the most exciting events in Near Eastern archaeology was the discovery of a cuneiform tablet from Nineveh that recounted the ancient story of Gilgamesh. The tale is remarkable not only for being mankind’s oldest epic, but also because it tells the story of a catastrophic flood that parallels the biblical story of Noah.The translation of the tablet caused a sensation when it was first announced in 1872. Other tablets with versions of the flood story were later discovered at a number of ancient Near Eastern sites. A tablet discovered in the ruins of the ancient Babylonian city of Nippur in the nineteenth century by a team from the University of Pennsylvania also tells the story of a plan by the gods to destroy the world by means of a great flood and recounts the tale of an immortal man named Utnapishti, who builds a huge boat to rescue his family and every type of animal. Dating from the seventeenth century BC, the tablet contains six columns of text, three per side, with ten to fifteen lines in each column. Written in Sumerian, it not only tells the story of the deluge, but also describes the creation of humans and animals, and records the names of antediluvian cities and their rulers. It reads, in part: “… A flood will I send which will affect all of mankind at once. But seek thou deliverance before the flood breaks forth, for over all living beings, however many there are, will I bring annihilation, destruction, ruin. Take wood and pitch and build a large ship! … take into it … the animals of the field, the birds of the air and the reptiles, two of each … and the family …”

From Nippur to Noah: Stories of the Flood
Saturday, October 18
2 pm, Reception Hall, Level 3

Accounts of a great primeval flood have resonated throughout history, from ancient Mesopotamia to modern concerns about environmental catastrophes. Join faculty from the Candler School of Theology and alumni of Emory's Graduate Division of Religion as they explore the significance of these accounts. This symposium coincides with the arrival of the Nippur Flood Tablet at the Carlos, one of the earliest Near Eastern texts to describe a world overwhelmed by water. A distinguished panel of scholars will give short papers about what these stories of devastation tell us about our history, our anxieties about humanity's place in the world, and the relationship between religion and the environment. More Information



The Nippur Tablet is on loan to the Michael C. Carlos Museum by the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology to highlight programming and research focused on ancient biblical sources in conjunction with Emory University’s Creation Stories project.

The exhibitions and educational programs in conjunction with the Creation Stories Project have been made possible by generous grants from the Thalia N. and Chris M. Carlos Foundation, Inc.; the Thalia and Michael C. Carlos Foundation, Inc.; and the Massey Charitable Trust.