On Design of Noah’s Ark (Opinion)

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Giorgi Margishvili


The study was inspired by the paper of Dr. Alexey Yuditsky, who interpreted the description of Noah’s Ark from the Dead Sea Scrolls with the use of the word “ne’esefet” (gathered) to describe the height of the construction. Dr. Yuditsky interprets this text as the one describing the “ribs” (beams) of the ark that come together at the top and give the “roof” some quasi pyramidal shape. Dr. Yuditsky also refers to “Septuagint” - a Greek word with a similar meaning used in the same paragraph, and to Maimonides, who also states that at its upper end the Ark ended in a “point.”

Jewish, Greek and Georgian sources contain the similar descriptions: Noah built a 2-3 story arch with 137.4 x 22.9 x 13.7 (in meters) dimensions out of logs that were bundled in sections, narrowed it to the top to 0.5m size, and cut a door on its side. The graphic representations of the Ark, mostly medieval, rarely match the aforementioned text and show a ship-like wooden structure with a double-pitched roof.

It is difficult to imagine the structure of the Ark in its entirety. However, similar wooden structures narrowed towards the top, known as “Gvirgvini” in Georgian culture (“a dome” or “a crown”) are found in different shapes or designs in the areas where Noah’s descendants spread during the last thousands of years between Pamir, Caucasus (including Georgia) and all the way to the Iberian Peninsula. The difference can be found in the shape and height of the dome. Its substructure also varies (bearing on 1, 2, 3 or 4 pillars, on the walls, on wooden pylons along the wall, etc.).

As the author of the article observed the domed housing structures which is typical for Georgia/Caucasus they bear certain similarities with the structure of the Ark. Gvirgvini is topped with “Erdo” (oculus, on average approximately 0.5m wide), which lets the light and air in, and the smoke out. In some houses Erdo was used as the main entrance and had various other uses, such as for praying to the God, star observation and divination, passing gifts to the first foot. Although animals and poultry lived together with humans, typically a Darbazi dwelling had no other sources of light or air besides Erdo and the main entry door. There was a curious tradition practiced in Georgia and some areas of the Caucasus where domed houses were considered a common structure. If a family moved to a new location, it organized a special ritual/prayer, followed by disassembling of Darbazi and taking the Dedabodzi (often the main support of girder and Gvirgvini dome) with it. The ritual demonstrated respect towards the ancestors and continuous strength of the family.

As Noah and his companions depended on God’s will, their main concern focused on the strength of the Ark and its protection from water penetration rather than its navigation. We believe that a domed construction with an oculus and not the stereotypical representation of the Ark with double-pitched roof would provide it with better water-tight structure since the probability of the water inflow through the highest point Erdo would be low. At the same time, Erdo would allow sufficient light and air for day-to-day life, as proved by the dwellings that lasted for thousands of years.

Based on the above information and facts the author of the article presents a schematic model of the Ark and believes that it had a dome-like roofing with oculus. Bearing on pillars and Darbazi houses carry inherited properties of Noah’s Ark which are expressed not only in spiritual and domestic connections, but in structural design as well.

Published: Nov 13, 2022

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მარგიშვილი გ. (2022). On Design of Noah’s Ark (Opinion). Academia, 75–83. Retrieved from https://openjournals.ge/index.php/academia/article/view/3543