'Mountain' is a mistranslation of 'hill' or 'mound'

It is commonly assumed that Noah could see mountains being flooded because the ark reportedly landed on one. But the Hebrew word har (plural harîm, plural possessive harê) translated as "mountains" in Genesis 7:20 and 8:4 can also mean "hills" and is so translated in many other places in the Old Testament including Genesis 7:19b (King James Version): "and all the high hills ..." There are no mountains in the southern Tigris–Euphrates valley where Noah lived, only higher or lower hills on a flat alluvial plain. The nearest mountains are beyond the horizon. Noah could have seen hills being flooded in the Euphrates valley but not mountains.

Har is traditionally translated as mountain because there was a mountainous region known as Ararat that has long been identified with the Armenian mountains in what is now eastern Turkey, a region called Urartu by the Assyrians. But if the land where Noah's barge grounded was not in a mountainous region, then it could not have been in Ararat/Urartu. Ancient scribes who wrote that the barge grounded in the mountains of Ararat made a mistake of identification.

The ambiguous Akkadian word for hill/mountain was shadû and is so used in the Gilgamesh Epic. Shadû could mean a low hill only a few feet high. In the Gilgamesh Epic, the place where the ark grounded is usually translated Mount Nisir. But the word shadû translated as "Mount" could also mean hill or mound. Nisir could be a corruption of the Akkadian word nisirtu meaning 'hidden', 'inaccessible', or 'secluded'. The Gilgamesh grounding place is therefore vague, saying only that the ark grounded on a secluded hill or mound. A sand bar in a swamp would qualify.

In recent centuries it has become customary to identify as "Mount Ararat" the mountain in eastern Turkey called Aghri Dagh by the Turks, and Masis by the Armenians. But this mountain has been linked to the flood story only since the eleventh century CE. Although the plural "mountains of Ararat" mentioned in Genesis 8:4 was part of the original flood myth, Noah's cattle barge did not ground there. The mound on which the ark grounded at the mouth of the river and another hill on which Noah offered a sacrifice were confused with the Ararat mountains in eastern Turkey where Noah's descendants were said to have lived. Storytellers were confused because the ambiguous words for 'hill' and 'mound' in Akkadian and Hebrew can also mean 'mountain'.

The so-called "Mount Nisir" (not a mountain) in the Gilgamesh epic is identified in Chapter 3 of the Noah's Ark book.

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