Anyone seeking alternate versions of the Noah's Ark tale need look no further than Babylonian cuneiform tablets. One, discovered in 1872, pre-dated the Bible and told its own Ark story. Now a tablet has arrived at the British Museum that actually describes how to build the ark, according to Irving Finkel, who works at the museum's Middle East department. The palm-sized tablet dates back to 1900-1700BC, is written in Semitic Babylonian, and has exactly 60 lines of text, writes Finkel in the Telegraph. It also explains that the ark built by Artra-hasis—a Noah-like figure who took instructions from the god Enki—was completely round.
"Draw out the boat that you will make," Artra-hasis is told, "on a circular plan." That contradicts our usual Ark image but does makes sense, because ancient Mesopotamian round boats—called coracles—were hard to sink and hard to steer, but who needs steering during a world-wide flood? The boat was made of coiled, waterproofed rope with a base area of 38,750 square feet, about an acre in all, according to the tablet—which then reads, "and the wild animal[s of the st]ep[pe], two each, two by two." (Read about a modern-day replica of Noah's Ark.)