I don’t really like animals, because I’m a city boy who grew up in a world of concrete and pavement. I don’t fish or hunt. I would rather not have a pet, like a dog or a cat, because they are too much work. That’s exactly the reason why I deeply admire the family of Noah that cared for 16,000 animals in their floating zoo. Their intense love of animals can be seen in early artwork on pottery and stone that focused almost exclusively on animals. Animals were their life.
Most of the questions about caring for thousands of animals have been dealt with by the experts who built the life-size replica of the Ark in Kentucky. I recommend reading the reference article in the notes to update yourself on current thinking(1). One discussion that I have never read or heard is how the animals got down off the mountain and where they went from there. No matter which mountain the Ark landed on, getting thousands of animals down to grazing land would have been a challenge.
I have demonstrated in previous articles that people went east (first north) and west (first south) from the summit of the Kagizman Mountain Range, and that humans and animals had sufficient numbers to fill the earth in a Biblical timeframe. Now we can ask what the specific route would have looked like, and a unique answer falls out for both directions. They would have descended the mountain to either the Aras River or the Murat/Euphrates River and been encouraged to follow those rivers downstream to even warmer elevations. Even if the exact routes varied, the imposing mountains in the Ararat highlands would have forced people and animals to the valleys. Options were limited.
The Google Earth map above shows two major cities existing today, one on each side of the Kagizman Mountain Range, Agri and Kagizman, and the crest that is between them. What would it be like back then to step off the Ark with all the thousands of animals and take them down to the closest flat place on a major river? The water that has run off the mountain from the time of the Flood has traced waterways that run down the mountain side. I used Google Earth to trace these rivulets and then obtain an elevation view of the slope going down the rivulet.
The first elevation view, shown below, depicts the descent from the top of the ridge, going north, to the current town of Kagizman on the Aras River. Kagizman is a town of 23,000 locals, just 15 miles north of the ridge. The town lies on a plain four miles long and one mile wide, 4000 ft. above sea level, bounded by mountains and the Aras River. (The crest has an elevation of ten thousand feet.) This plain would provide an ideal temporary containment area and pastureland. At least we know that it would be habitable. The first challenge would be to drive the animals downhill for 15 miles.
According to the elevation view below, the average slope is 9%, but the maximum calculated slope is calculated as 48%, at the top. My first thought was that it would be impossible to get an awkward giraffe to walk down a steep slope. A more careful inspection of the topology of the mountain side, however, reveals that many less steep options are available. We have all seen or driven on roads that wind back and forth down steep mountains. Natural pathways were available, as an alternative to going straight down.
The southern descent goes 23 miles to the location of the current town of Agri, which today has a population over 100,000 and is at an elevation of 5,380 ft above sea level. Its average summer temperature ranges between 60 and 70 degrees, with winter average temperatures between 12 and 30 degrees. This would not be a good place to winter, so it would have been temporary summer housing. Agri is located at the junction of the Murat River and several tributaries coming off the Kagizman Range. The average slope down the southern side is 4.6%. This would have been easier than the northern slope.
According to the article by John Woodmorappe(1), only half of the Ark was needed to house all the animals, so the rest could have been filled with food, tools, and other resources. Food would have been used to direct the routes of the animals to the best path for descending the mountain and to bring them to the desired level grazing areas by the rivers that are today small cities. All the animals were used to being fed on the Ark, so it would not have been a change for them to look for food outside the Ark. Don’t we use deer feeders today to keep wild deer close at hand?
Birds flew off. Wild animals became aloof. Deer and gazelle could be managed in wild herds. Sheep, goats, cows, and pigs were herded or contained. Archeology can bridge the gap and allow us to track the patterns of animal migrations from the Ark. Which animals went west and which went east? Animal bone found at different levels of archeological excavations help us build a model of early animal migrations. This is a discipline that has not been developed as far as I know but should be.
Most early settlements in the East date to the Halaf or Ubaid Periods. Gobustan, to the East, however, is one of the older sites from which we can draw information. Carvings indicate hunting antelope, wild bulls, wolves, tigers, foxes, jackals and other wild animals. Horses, deer, and goats lived there. Bones of a southern elephant were found in an ancient layer. Another very early site, Dmanisi, is early Pleistocene, or immediately after the Flood. Five skull were found there that may relate to the Oldowan culture in far-away Africa. Animals found include pikas, lizards, hamsters, tortoises, hares, jackals, fallow deer, saber-toothed tigers, Etruscan bear, Stenon zebra, Etruscan rhinoceros, giant ostriches, hyena, etc. This merits further discussion at a later time. In general, the East seems to encapsulate wild animals and hunting.
Settlements to the west, along the middle Euphrates River generally follow the same pattern of domestication. Cereals are mostly wheat, barley, and flax. Animals include sheep, goats, cattle, pigs, and dogs. It would seem that wild animals were released to one side of the mountain, and farm animals were taken with them. This is theoretical so far, but is certainly worthy of further research.
People and animals needed to get off the mountain quickly, before winter set in. Can we locate the first settlement? Did people stay together while animals separated? Early settlements help answer these questions next week.
(1) How Could Noah Fit the Animals on the Ark and Care for Them? | Answers in Genesis