Biblical Archaeology Review 31:3, May/June 2005

Was Noah’s Ark a Sewn Boat?

By Ralph K. Pedersen

The story of Noah’s Ark may be the best known of all Biblical tales. The destruction of a sinful world by an angry God, the cleansing waters of the flood and the redemption of mankind through one righteous man continues to fascinate young and old alike. With the possible exception of the Titanic, Noah’s Ark may be the most famous vessel in history or literature. Yet little is actually known of its construction. A few lines in Genesis contain all we know of it:

Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it.

(Genesis 6:14–16, King James Version)

This short passage reveals little beside the boat’s overall dimensions, the presence of a door and a window, the use of an unknown wood type and the application of “pitch” as a sealant.

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