In my reading pile this weekend from my father: An excerpt in Smithsonian of a new book about the unlikely man who discovered the Epic of Gilgamesh and made the connection between the oldest flood epic ever uncovered and the story of Noah. I wrote about this quite a lot in WALKING THE BIBLE but I never knew that much about the founder, George Smith, who today we call a high-school dropout who discovered the story quite by accident while working at the British Museum in 1872.

What he had uncovered would become known in the West as The Epic of Gilgamesh, the 3,200-year-old account of the eponymous hero’s exploits and one of the oldest works of literature in the world. It constituted one of the most sensational finds in the history of archaeology. Smith would go on to become the world’s leading expert in the ancient Akkadian language and its fiendishly difficult script, write the first true history of Mesopotamia’s long-lost Assyrian Empire and publish pathbreaking translations of the major Babylonian literary texts. All that from a self-taught laborer who had never been to high school, much less college.

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