Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY

Gilgamesh, represented here in an eighth-century B.C. relief at the palace of Sargon II in Khorsabad, Iraq, was a legendary Sumerian king and the protagonist of the great epic that bears his name. The epic is one of the world’s oldest surviving literary works; fragments, such as one found in Megiddo, Israel, date to the 15th century B.C.; others date even earlier, although the authoritative “official” version dates to the 13th to 11th centuries B.C. Its antiquity and its unmistakable parallels to Genesis—including the flood story—have convinced some scholars that the epic was known to the Biblical writer. In the accompanying article, author Pedersen uses the Gilgamesh epic to shed light on the Biblical story of Noah’s Ark.