Noah's Ark: Did Hollywood Get It Right?: Page 2

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Over the centuries, the ark has been depicted in many ways. Although the Bible specifies its dimensions -- 300 cubits (about 450 feet) long, 50 cubits (about 75 feet) wide, and 30 cubits(about 45 feet) high -- it doesn't provide any clue about what it looked like.

Biblical creationists imagined Noah's Ark like a large, box-like vessel similar to the version shown in Aronofksy's $130 million epic movie. Other designs added a sloping roof and matched the ships of the day, from square-rigged caravels to long vessels with pointy bows.

The most elaborate depiction of the ark was produced in the 17th century by the German Jesuit scholar and polymath Athanasius Kircher. He calculated the number of animals that could fit in the ark and conceived a three-storied box with a double-pitched roof, a door and a window. He placed quadrupeds on the bottom, birds and humans on the top and serpents in the bilge, while food and water were stored in the middle.

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His design fit popular imagination and set the standard for children's story books. There, the ark is often depicted as a large house on a boat, with a pair of giraffes sticking out of the roof.

According to Genesis, after the flood killed nearly everything on Earth, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat in Eastern Turkey.

Despite innumerable expeditions to find the biblical vessel, none has been successful.

"I do not believe the ark really existed," Finkel said.

"I think that the flood story echoes the memory of a real devastation but that the ark is a component of the mythology that developed to avert the fear of its happening again," he concluded.

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