When it comes to your floatation devices, you can’t get more famous than the Titanic or Noah’s ark—but the connection doesn’t stop there. Oddly enough, the link is Robert Ballard the explorer who found the long-lost, sunken Titanic.
Unlike the notoriety of the Titanic and Noah—both have movies now, for God’s sake! (pun intended)—Noah’s wife, although she does get a role in the Noah movie, received just a brief mention from the only known written documents about the Middle East flood stories. The Bible merely states that she went with her family into the ark. The lady doesn’t even get a name, although all of her sons do.
An even older source, a stone inscription discovered in ancient cities in what is now known as Iraq, is the Mesopotamian epic poem, Gilgamesh, which says pretty much the same thing, although the names are different. The Biblical story credits mankind’s sin for calling down God’s wrath and the great flood. In the Gilgamesh story, the gods are angry at mankind—not for being wicked, but . . . (wait for it) . . . for making too much noise.
Filling in the Tabula rasa of the life of Noah’s spouse was an irresistible lure for me. As a humanistic Jew, the siren call lay in the challenge of writing a story that wove my imagination onto the structure of the Noah tale in a believable, historically accurate setting. I wanted to tell the story of what might have really happened, given the foreknowledge of how the tale was eventually written down in the 6th -5th Centuries BCE by Hebrew scribes. That required a study of the roots of Judaism (and what might have been motivating the scribes) as well as studying available archeological evidence about the culture of the time. I took literary license to give Noah’s wife a form of autism known today as Asperger Syndrome, in order to portray a unique perspective on the culture she lived in.
Normally, a researcher relies on long-accepted works and theories, but archeology is a living science about the dead. Theories and assumptions are being overturned daily in the Middle East with the advance of scientific methods and new discoveries. Only with the Internet can a writer hope to keep up.
But where to start?
The Biblical dating system is fraught with problems and to use it requires buying into a creation date that belies generally accepted current scientific knowledge. Instead, I looked for evidence of a prehistory flood and stumbled on the expedition of Robert Ballard. He was searching for proof of a drowned civilization in the Black Sea, a body of salt water forming the northern border of Turkey. That caught my attention. The Bible mentioned Mount Ararat—a mountain or mountain range in northeast Turkey—as the ark’s resting place. But why was Ballard there?
I learned he was following the trail forged in the late 1990’s by two geologists, William Ryan and Walter Pitman* who had gathered core samples from beneath the Black Sea. The long collection tubes acted as time capsules, capturing history in the layers of sediment, and every location they dredged told the same story: Something catastrophic happened, about 5500 BCE, that changed a small body of fresh water into a salt sea, reversed the flow of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and flooded a large area in the Middle East. That could account for both flood stories. Ballard’s sophisticated cameras confirmed the geologists’ theory by locating underwater ruins off the Turkish coast that fit the time period.
I was hooked.
Four years later, the novel Noah’s Wife was born.
Noah’s Wife is available anywhere books are sold. Now also an audio book on Amazon.com, Audible.com and ITunes.
* Noah’s Flood, The New Scientific Discoveries About the Event that Changed History (Simon & Schuster, 1998)