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The book Noah The Person and the Story in History and Tradition deals with the story of a universal deluge in which many people died and few survived It also contains the life of Noah Although flood stories from around the world vary widely in their content those from Syro-Palestine and Mesopotamia the so-called land of the Bible are strikingly similar While it is difficult if not impossible to believe that the former descended from a single source or described a single event the reverse may indeed be the case in the Ancient Near East It is after all an area given to regular and catastrophic flooding for which adequate archaeological and geological evidence has come to light Furthermore it is an area through which the story of the flood could easily spread it is geographically small and well defined the fertile crescent its inhabitants spoke closely related Semitic languages there was occasional political unity of the whole and commerce was widespread throughout at all periods There are four accounts of the flood The first story is The Sumerian account of the deluge or the story of Ziusudra This story is the oldest version that men know up to now with the single surviving copy dating to the first half of the second millennium about 1600 BCE This account can only be understood with the aid of other sources because it is very sketchy only about one-third of this broken text has survived It is learned from elsewhere that Ziusudras was King of the Mesopotamian city of Shuruppak and that the place was destroyed by a great flood The second account is the Akkadian text of the Gilgamesh Epic In this account we can see how Utnapishtim and his family survived the flood The larger account tells of the search for immortality by Gilgamesh king of the city of Uruk in southern Mesopotamia He learns that such status has actually been achieved by one Utnapishtim
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