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Posts Tagged ‘Noah’

Robert Pershing Wadlow. via Wikimedia.

Robert Pershing Wadlow. via Wikimedia.

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post showing that some popular photos of giant skeletons were faked — see “Have Archaeologists Found Skeletons of Biblical Giants in Greece?

However, in that post I didn’t say much about whether giant humans could in fact have existed at one time. The “giant skeletons” article has been viewed tens of thousands of times and has received many comments from people who seem to take it personally that I exposed these photos as faked. Many took it that I was contradicting the Bible account in Genesis, which they believe speaks of a time when giant humans walked the earth.

I should point out that very large people have been known even in modern times. The American Robert Pershing Wadlow lived from 1918 to 1940. Wadlow reached 8 feet 11.1 inches (2.72 meters) and 492 pounds (223 kg). So it doesn’t seem impossible to suppose that a human could reach a height of 10 feet or so.

About giants in the Bible: According to 1 Sam. 17:4, the Philistine giant Goliath was six cubits and a span, about 9 ½ feet tall (2.9 meters). That’s not too much larger than Wadlow. Pre-flood creatures described at Gen. 6:1,2,4 are sometimes called “giants,” but the actual word used there is nefilim, meaning “fellers” in Hebrew, or those who cause others to fall down by striking them. The Bible doesn’t say how big they were.

giants6smallIf you look at the first faked photo I show in the “giant skeletons” post, you will see that it shows a skull appearing to be about five feet high (or 60 inches). If you figure that a normal human skull is about seven inches high, the skull in the faked photo would have to represent a human about 50 feet tall.

Could a human exist at a height of 40 feet, 50 feet, or more? It’s an interesting question, but it has been explored by competent researchers.

In 1928, geneticist J.B.S. Haldane wrote a well-known essay called “On Being the Right Size,” in which he wrote that “it is easy to show that a hare could not be as large as a hippopotamus, or a whale as small as a herring. For every type of animal there is a most convenient size, and a large change in size inevitably carries with it a change of form.” Haldane gives an extensive discussion of the relationship between size and function in living things, but he also addresses the problem of a giant human by supposing a human were the size of the giants Pope and Pagan in the version of John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress that he, Haldane, had when he was a child. He shows what engineering problems would result from being so large:

Let us take the most obvious of possible cases, and consider a giant man sixty feet high — about the height of Giant Pope and Giant Pagan in the illustrated Pilgrim’s Progress of my childhood. These monsters were not only ten times as high as Christian, but ten times as wide and ten times as thick, so that their total weight was a thousand times his, or about eighty to ninety tons. Unfortunately the cross sections of their bones were only a hundred times those of Christian, so that every square inch of giant bone had to support ten times the weight borne by a square inch of human bone. As the human thigh-bone breaks under about ten times the human weight, Pope and Pagan would have broken their thighs every time they took a step.

Such problems are solved in nature by what we might call “right-sizing.” Haldane offers the example of the gazelle:

To turn to zoology, suppose that a gazelle, a graceful little creature with long thin legs, is to become large, it will break its bones unless it does one of two things. It may make its legs short and thick, like the rhinoceros, so that every pound of weight has still about the same area of bone to support it. Or it can compress its body and stretch out its legs obliquely to gain stability, like the giraffe. I mention these two beasts because they happen to belong to the same order as the gazelle, and both are quite successful mechanically, being remarkably fast runners.

Movie poster by Reynold Brown via Wikimedia.

Movie poster by Reynold Brown via Wikimedia.

Cecil Adams of The Straight Dope goes into greater detail about the structural problems of being a 50-foot-tall human in his post “Could an attacking 50-foot woman actually exist?” The reference here is to the science fiction movie Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.

Adams explains that, according to the Principle of Similitude, “women, men, and critters in general can only get so big,” because “strength increases with the square of height while bulk increases with the cube.” So if an animal were to get taller while keeping the same proportions, it would get too weak to support its weight: “doubling the size of an animal while keeping its proportions the same increases the cross-sectional area of its muscles and bones by a factor of four while increasing its weight by a factor of eight.” Consequently, “if a woman starts off at five feet and 100 pounds and then grows to 50 feet, she’ll have 100 times the bone and muscle area but weigh 1,000 times as much — 50 tons.”

Adams also explains that a human of that size would run into insurmountable problems with its cardiovascular system, among other difficulties.

Given the engineering obstacles around human gigantism, I suggest that we all be satisfied with imagining giants of more modest size. After all, a nine-foot-tall guy would be pretty impressive, no?

ARK — 6 Nov. 2013

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The Europeans in antiquity knew very well that they were descended from Noah’s son Japheth, and they recorded that lineage in documents that are still available today.

That’s the premise of After the Flood: The Early Post-Flood History of Europe Traced Back to Noah, by Bill Cooper (Chichester, England: New Wine Press, 1995). Cooper uses ancient sources to reconstruct the royal lineages of the early Britons, Anglo-Saxons, Danes, Norwegians, and Irish Celts back to their descent from Japheth.

Among Cooper’s sources are documents that are much-reviled by mainstream scholars because they contain some accounts that appear to be based on myths and legends, because they have their origins in stigmatized Welsh sources, but most of all because they take the Bible’s account seriously. Anything that connects to Bible chronology and historical accounts is deemed to be a ‘pious fiction’ made up by Christian monks. Although some of the complaints against these sources might have some substance, Cooper makes some good arguments in defense of these sources, which include Brut Tysillo, Nennuis’ Historia Brittonum (History of the Britons), and Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae (Histories of the Kings of Britain).

One very useful step Cooper takes (page 40) is to correlate the various Indo-European branches that recognize a (usually deified) Japheth as an early ancestor. This includes Iapetos of the Greeks, Pra-Japati (Father Japheth) of the Sanskrit Vedas, Jupiter (or Iu-Pater, Father Jove) of the Romans, and Sceaf (pronounced sheaf or shaif) of the Saxons.

Cooper does some interesting analysis to show that the relevant documents should be given more credence than does mainstream scholarship. One important result of his work is to demonstrate that the ancient Celts were literate and had a highly-sophisticated civilization long before the Roman conquest of Britain. Bibliophobic scholars don’t like to admit this, as I mentioned before, because an advanced culture among the Celts would lend support to the original documents collected and transcribed by Nennius, Geoffrey, and Tysillo.

The ancient sources analyzed by Cooper extend British history back to the 12th century BCE. According to these sources, the Britons take their name from Brutus, a royal of Trojan extraction who, at that time, traveled from the Mediterranean and colonized Britain. Geoffrey of Monmouth and the Welsh chronicles give a detailed genealogy of the early British kings, which Cooper summarizes in pages 69-82, showing that there is no reason why British history has to be a blank page before 55 BCE. These chronicles correlate with other sources at several points.

As is the case with many historical sources, the documents Cooper consults are rendered more plausible by their apparent contradictions. Certainly in many cases, such contradictions can be resolved by understanding the points of view of the original authors. The important point, though, is that when two different historical accounts are at variance, it shows that their authors did not collaborate or base their accounts on each other’s.

In spite of Cooper’s fundamentalist leanings, his reader has to endure very little soap-boxing. His analysis is affected by young-earth creationism, and he does diverge into some speculation about ancient accounts of dinosaurs and the possible historicity of Beowulf. Not that these aren’t interesting topics — it’s just that his best work is his extraction of genealogies from the various ancient Indo-European sources, and their connection back to Noah’s son Japheth.

Especially intriguing to me is Cooper’s Appendix 12 (page 243) about the descent of the Miautso (a.k.a. Miao) people of China, a group apparently related to the better-known Hmong. Cooper constructs a chart showing the descent of the Miautso from Jah-phu, son of Nuah, to their ancestor, Go-men. (See also “Genesis According to the Miao People,” by Edgar A. Truax.)

Following is just one example of many of the useful and fascinating genealogical charts Cooper includes in his book, in this case showing the connection and correlation of the descent from Japheth to Brutus according to Nennius, Geoffrey, and Virgil’s Aeneid.

Genealogical table showing descent from Japheth to Brutus

I highly recommended Bill Cooper’s After the Flood for the serious student of history who is not afraid to give credence to the Bible’s historical account of the history of humankind.

ARK — 8 Oct. 2010

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Most students of the Bible’s account of the Great Flood or Deluge are aware that many peoples of the earth had early knowledge of the Deluge before they had contact with Christianity.

One interesting account based on Roman and Greek mythology comes from the Roman poet Ovid. There appear to be many online texts of Ovid’s Deluge account, but one can be found at Mythology.us. Following are some excerpts that might be of interest to students of the Bible.

From Book I:274-292, “The Flood”:

Neptune himself strikes the ground with his trident, so that it trembles, and with that blow opens up channels for the waters. Overflowing, the rivers rush across the open plains, sweeping away at the same time not just orchards, flocks, houses and human beings, but sacred temples and their contents. Any building that has stood firm, surviving the great disaster undamaged, still has its roof drowned by the highest waves, and its towers buried below the flood. And now the land and sea are not distinct, all is the sea, the sea without a shore.

From Book I:313-347, “Deucalion [the Greek equivalent of Noah] and his wife Pyrrha”:

Phocis, a fertile country when it was still land, separates Aonia from Oeta, though at that time it was part of the sea, a wide expanse of suddenly created water. There Mount Parnassus lifts its twin steep summits to the stars, its peaks above the clouds. When Deucalion and his wife landed here in their small boat, everywhere else being drowned by the waters, they worshipped the Corycian nymphs, the mountain gods, and the goddess of the oracles, prophetic Themis. No one was more virtuous or fonder of justice than he was, and no woman showed greater reverence for the gods. When Jupiter saw the earth covered with the clear waters, and that only one man was left of all those thousands of men, only one woman left of all those thousands of women, both innocent and both worshippers of the gods, he scattered the clouds and mist, with the north wind, and revealed the heavens to the earth and the earth to the sky.

ARK — 12 September 2010

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I think most investigators believe the waters of the Great Flood came from a vapor canopy suspended above the ancient atmosphere, and that certainly seems consistent with the historical account in Genesis.

I did think it would be of interest, though, to highlight an alternative idea — that the waters of the deluge came mostly from underground reservoirs that burst and ejected waters upward.

In his book In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood, engineer-scientist Walt Brown explains what he calls the Hydroplate Theory. If I understand it correctly, under Brown’s model, the earth’s crust lies suspended on vast underground waters. This drawing from his book shows in dramatic fashion what that might have looked like:

Proposed eruption of flood waters according to Hydroplate Theory

Mid-Atlantic RidgeHe proposes that the flood waters surged up principally along the mid-Atlantic ridge, shown in this model pictured in his book — see image to left.

ARK — 18 June 2010

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[Updated 22 May 2010]

I was intrigued recently when someone sent me a series of photos purporting to show the skeletons of giant humans excavated at archaeological sites. Here is an example to the right.

However, some quick Internet research revealed that these photos are all doctored. You can see all the photos at About.com — here is an explanation and analysis by urban-legends specialist David Emery: “Giants in Greece — Analysis.”

The photo shown here turns out to be an altered version of a 1993 photo from a dinosaur dig by the University of Chicago — see the original here.

From the detail shown below, you can see that the image of the skull is inconsistent with the rest of the photo — the inserted segment is flat, and one of the workers at the site even appears to have his foot on the skull:

Giant skull detail shows doctoring

[Update added 22 May 2010] A reader asked about another photo in the series, showing a skeleton with a hole in its temple, lying in a grave. I believe she is referring to this one (linked from the About.com article):

Photo of giant skeleton in a grave - probably a fake

David Emery points out that the skull in this photo show “incongruously bright highlights on the teeth and around the edges of the gaping temple wound.” I’m no expert at analyzing photos, but to me the skeleton in the photo looks like a black-and-white image, whereas the surface of the ground surrounding the hole seems to be in color, which is certainly the case in the image of the two people in the photo.

Here’s a detail showing the suspicious bright highlights on the image of the skull:

Detail from photo of supposed giant skeleton

All that said, just because somebody was able to fake some photos and a bunch of people believed them only proves that somebody can use image-editing software to fake photos and fool other people. It doesn’t mean that the Bible’s accounts about the Nephilim and other giants aren’t true.

The Bible’s account of the Nephilim appears in Gen. 6:1,2,4 — you can look up Bible texts here. Apparently the Nephilim were hybrids resulting from the marriage of materialized angels and human women. Most likely they were sterile and had no descendants themselves. They would not have survived the global deluge.

The historical account in the Bible does not say how tall the Nephilim were. It does, however, say that the height of the Philistine warrior Goliath was six cubits and a span, which would make him about 2.9 meters or 9 1/2 feet tall — see 1 Sam. 17:4.

This height is not much greater than the heights of some humans recorded in modern times — see this list at Wikipedia of the world’s tallest people.

[Update added 26 Nov. 2013: I’ve recently written a blog entry exploring how large a human could actually get, given the limitations of physics and biology — see “Could Giant Humans Exist?“]

It’s not impossible that fossil remains of pre-flood humans are among those that have been discovered in the past or that might be found in the future. However, you need to keep in mind that human (and animal) remains normally decompose completely without leaving any trace. Also, the flood waters would probably have been unimaginably violent and destructive and could have covered human remains with hundreds of meters of sediments, making them rare and difficult to recover.

One intriguing archaeological discovery was announced by a group that conducted digs very recently on Mount Ararat, where they uncovered a wooden structure high on the mountain that some believe is the ark of preservation built by the patriarch Noah — see “Group Claims New Noah’s Ark Find on Ararat.”

[Update from 11 Sept 2014] Readers interested in this post might want to know that I have started up an email newsletter. If you want to keep up with my writings about ancient history from a Biblical perspective, as well as progress on my historical fiction series The Edhai, please follow this link to sign up now: http://eepurl.com/2U3Uf

ARK — 10 May 2010

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A group of Chinese and Turkish explorers sponsored by Hong-Kong-based Noah’s Ark Ministries International (NAMI) has reported the discovery of a “4,800-year-old wooden structure on Mount Ararat in Turkey.” (Note that the organization’s Chinese-language web site does have an English version but is very slow-loading.)

Explorer inside the structure thought to be Noah's Ark

This is not the first time someone has reported finding Noah’s Ark — some previous claims have been dodgy — a lone tribesman coming forward years after his supposed visit — an anti-biblical hoaxter who made false claims about finding the ark, proving … what? … that people are capable of making false claims, I guess.

But this expedition has returned with artifacts and some stunning photo and video records showing a wooden structure with multiple compartments encased in ice and frozen earth — see this video of the team exploring inside the structure. The structure was found at a height of about 4,000 meters, which reportedly would place it above any tree growth and above any known human habitations.

At a press conference April 25, 2010, in Turkey,  NAMI organizational representative Man-fai Yuen said:

The search team and I personally entered a wooden structure high on the mountain. The structure is partitioned into different spaces. We believe that the wooden structure we entered is the same structure recorded in historical accounts and the same ancient boat indicated by the locals.

An announcement by the organization says that

Team members entered the wooden structure and proceeded to conduct field studies, take measurements and collect samples, with the entire process filmed. This is the first team in history ever to visually document the interior of the wood structure on the mountain.

Evidently, the group has been conducting secret expeditions to the site on Ararat since about June 2008. One explorer, Panda Lee, who visited the site in October 2008, reported what he saw:

At an elevation of more than 4,000 metres, I saw a structure built with plank-like timber. Each plank was about 8 inches wide. I could see tenons, proof of ancient construction predating the use of metal nails. We walked about 100 metres to another site. I could see broken wood fragments embedded in a glacier, and some 20 metres long. I surveyed the landscape and found that the wooden structure was permanently covered by ice and volcanic rocks. Prior to my expedition, the Turkish team had excavated the site to expose the structure.

Since the structure is broken up, team members have had to enter through various openings to explore the interior.

NAMI reports that Turkish officials intend to initiate scientific inquiries so the structure can be studied as an archaeological site.

NAMI’s web site has many photos and the video linked above. However, due to the slowness of their site, I recommend seeing the photos accompanying the Fox News story: “Has Noah’s Ark Been Found on Turkish Mountaintop?” Go here to see an interesting slide show: “Has Noah’s Ark Been Found?

The Bible’s account of the survival of the patriarch Noah and his family through a global deluge can be found at Genesis chapters 6-9 — go here to find the account in a modern-language translation.

Genesis 6:14-16 describes the ark as a ventilated box-like structure of three stories, constructed of wood and waterproofed with tar. The dimensions are given as 300 cubits long by 50 cubits wide and thirty cubits high. If a cubit was about 18 inches as commonly thought, this would be a structure 133 meters long, with a capacity of 1.4 million cubic feet. This would provide plenty of capacity for Noah, his family, a sufficiently broad representation of animal kinds, and food and provisions.

Although critics have called into question the capacity of the Ark and its ability to accommodate such a floating menagerie as that described in the Bible, these objections have been well countered by defenders of the Bible account. One example for those with an open mind: Noah’s Ark: A Feasibility Study, by John Woodmorappe.

AB — 27 April 2010

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