For generations, folks have been mystified by the story of Noah’s Ark. An important story across various faiths, it has stayed consistent over the years. Some even believe that a flood of that level did happen at one point. However, has there been proof of these claims? This expedition team went to investigate it.
Like a lot of biblical stories, it was thought to be a historical event until the end of the 18th century. It was later believed to be symbolic instead. The creation story has been disproved to a certain extent, but many believe that there is some historical basis for Noah’s Ark. Did it actually happen in the past?
The biblical account of the global flood said that Noah brought the ark to the “mountains of Ararat” at the end of the ordeal. He then sent out a dove and raven to see if the water has receded. The hatches were then opened to release the animals into this new world. In 2009, armed with the geographical location of the mountain, a team went out to look for archaeological evidence of this story.
An Important Mountain
Located in the east, Mount Ararat is the tallest mountain in Turkey. It is near the border with Armenia and Iran. It is a sacred mountain in Armenia. Together with Noah’s Ark, it is on the Armenian coat of arms. It snows at the 16,854-peak year-round. It went unexplored for a long time, and the first recorded ascent was in 1829.
Explorer Marco Polo has described his exploration of the mountain in his book, The Travels of Marco Polo. However, modern explorers only got there in the 19th century. Dr. Friedrich Parrot made the ascent in 1829 and explained that “no human being is allowed to approach it” because of how sacred it was to Armenians. Nearly 50 years later, James Bryce found something that changed it all.
James Bryce is a historian, diplomat, explorer, statesman, and law professor. He climbed the mountain in 1876. He wanted to look for proof to back up the story. While he did not reach the peak, he did make it up to a tree line with a view of its snowy slopes. It was there that he found something strange.
What He Saw
He was hoping to see evidence of the Ark, although he was not too hopeful. You can imagine how shocked he was to find an ancient wooden beam somewhere in the slopes! However, it was too big to move it. Upon his return to England, many explorers decided to go there to investigate further.
While it must have been thrilling to find that beam there, this did not mean the Ark did exist. Some explorers believe the found more evidence but failed to cough up actual evidence. In the ‘60s, Ron Wyatt found a photo of a place 18 miles south of the peak. There was a structure there that looked just like a boat. This was what brought the expedition of 2009 to the mountain.
The story goes on to say that Noah brought the boat to the mountains of Ararat. However, not one peak in the mountain range is called that. On top of this, biblical scholars say that Ararat referred to the whole region back then and not a mountain. The Durupinar site, a big aggregate structure 18 miles away from the modern Ararat, looks a lot like what the Ark should look like. Can Ron Wyatt prove his theory?
Exploring The Region
David Fasold is a salvage expert and former United States Merchant Marine Officer. In 1985, he and geophysicist John Baumgardner joined forces with Wyatt. Fasold believed that it was a shipwreck and used a “frequency generator” to scan the area. The scans showed that this formation was 538 ft long, which matched the estimated 300 Ancient Egyptian cubits of 515 ft. However, there was more.
Wyatt and Fasold went through the area to look for more proof of the Ark. They then found boulders that had ancient carvings. Fasold said they were drogues or anchor stones that stabilize big ships during storms. There was no water nearby, however, so he believed they were for the Ark. Did it hold water?
Wyatt and Fasold made their case, but other archaeologists, geophysicists, and geologists refuted the claims. Fasold’s “frequency generator” was called a “sounding rod” with extra bells and whistles. They said the drogues were only headstones like the other boulders there. In the end, the theory about the Durupinar site was dismissed. This was not the last time people explored the area for the Ark, however.
The thought of an epic flood sent down by a deity is not new and exists in different religions and cultures. Manu of the Hindu Satapatha Brahmana and Utnapishtim of the Epic of Gilgamesh also made boats after receiving divine warnings. There are also similar tales in Plato’s writing and the Sumerian Epic of Ziusudra. There are similar stories in Chinese and Hopi cultures as well. There are various religion-specific versions, but everything was consistent about the world immersed in water. But why?
Among the oldest tales of apocalyptic floods would be the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh. This 4000-year-old poem was inscribed on stone tablets and followed the king’s search for eternal life. He encountered men, gods, monsters, and an old man called Utnapishtim, who knew the answer to his question. In his quest to find it out for himself, Gilgamesh listened to the tale of the old man.
Utnapishtim told him about the time the gods flooded the world to resolve overpopulation. Ea told Utnapishtim to build a huge boat, an advice that was heeded. The vessel housed his helpers, family, and “all the animals of the field.” Shortly after its completion, a massive storm wreaked destruction.
His entire family was kept safe inside the ark. When it stopped raining, he opened a hatch and released a raven and dove to survey the aftermath. He later deposited the vessel at the side of the mountain. The physical writing went undiscovered for a millennium and then spread across the Babylonian empire.
An Old Story
The story of such a flood and the ark that survived it has been told many times. Despite everything, the narrative has stayed the same. The story has been retold across different civilizations and even in modern times. In 2014, a film directed by Darren Aronofsky called Noah was released!
Tales of this great flood have persisted over the years, but there are certain variations. The biblical tale has a passage about how Noah rescued a pair of every animal. However, a different passage said he was asked to “seven pairs of every kind of clean animal,” “one pair of every kind of unclean animal,” and “seven pairs of every kind of bird”. It brings the accuracy of the story into question, as you can imagine.
A Turkish-Hong Kong expedition went to Mount Ararat to look for the Ark in 2007. It included members of Noah’s Ark Ministries International or NAMI. It was hard thanks to the landscape and the snow, but they were determined to look for proof. It was also difficult since it was located in a closed military zone.
Located high up and near the borders with Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Iran, the mountain is in a strategic area. One needs a special permit to go there and an “Ararat Visa” for foreigners. However, it is required to stay on certain paths since it is a military zone. Diverging from this path could mean death!
After obtaining their Ararat visas, the team followed a local guide up to the peak. They endured horrible weather conditions and faced strong winds and blizzards. They did not mind because they were eager to look for evidence of the Ark. They kept going with their mission in mind.
They spent days scaling the mountain in terrible weather conditions and had unpleasant encounters with the militia there. They reached 4000 meters and discovered a cave! They could not believe what they saw. But what exactly did they find inside of it? Read on because it will surely astonish you.
They were totally shocked by the discovery. A researcher on the team, 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.” They collected samples and sent them to the lab to figure out how long the structure had been in there.
To date the findings, they had to resort to a special carbon dating process. They believed that the wood was around 4,800 years old! Next, they had to find out the origins of its material. The Bible said that the Ark had been made with “gopher wood.” However, this material has also mystified people for ages.
The term was used to describe the material just once in the Hebrew Bible. It was not used in context, so it was not possible to verify what it is. A theory said it was reeds, but others believed it was tarred wood. Another theory was that it was the name of a tree. Did the NAMI expedition put an end to this mystery?
In 2010, the explorers finally released the excursion footage from the expedition. It is possible they did so to confirm their findings before publishing it. The video documentation was met with attention. Experts from all over the globe analyzed the footage. Of course, there were many who thought it was fake.
Only A Bluff
Not long after publishing the videos, critics said that everything they turned up was a huge bluff. There were claims that the ancient beams came from the Black Sea and then taken to the Mount Ararat by the guide. Some believed they made the structures before the researchers got to the cave. Was this true?
The researchers said they spoke to Muhsin Bulut, Director of Cultural Ministries, about the accusations. Their website claimed that Bulut said it was impossible to secretly take “such an amount of timber to the strictly monitored area and planting a large wood structure at an altitude of 4,000 meters.”
Even if the findings were authentic, the researchers still had to prove a lot of things to convince us all. Could this be the end of their mission? Maybe not. Should the myth of the flood be real, the fields of geology and biology will have to be reexamined. We are not betting that this is happening.
The problem with their findings would be biological proof. After all, the myth said that the boat released all surviving animals in that spot. At that point in time, human culture already developed tools to build a huge boat. Biologists depend on DNA track codes, so verification of the myth will change everything.
Should the scientists find a way to explain this part of the story, there is still the geological evidence to tackle. Such a huge flood would have left many traces even in the present. Submersions and water lines should have borne witness to it all. However, there are also people who continue to support the theory.
The Same Story
There is no archaeological evidence that corroborates the myth just yet, but the tale does exist in numerous cultures as far back as 5000 years ago. Some believe that this is enough proof that the story is true. These folks believe that the word spread because of some kind of evidence or testimonies.
Accepting that a global flood did not happen does not negate the possibility that local floods did occur. They did find traces of these things in Mesopotamia. Evidence showed that a terrible flood happened in the past and an ark-like vessel was made to save people and animals. Still, there is no conclusive evidence to say that this did happen in Mount Ararat.
The people doubting the accuracy of this flood use scientific facts. For some people, the truth need not be supported by science. The story of the flood and the ark is taken to be an actual description of historical events without any need for evidence. Their faith is all they need to know that the flood happened. Such an approach, of course, would have no place in scientific research.
It Goes On
The findings by the NAMI expedition continue to be controversial without any other evidence to support them. Still, people looking for the Ark have not given up on it. As a matter of fact, more people think the Ark is lying in wait on Mount Ararat. Do you think a future expedition will finally uncover the truth?
To this day, various groups continue to plan expeditions to Mount Ararat. They want to expand knowledge and solve a mystery as old as time. However, the methods employed by the NAMI expedition displeased Turkish authorities. They made it harder to obtain an Ararat visa for this very reason.
It was a major offence for the team to take samples from the beams at the cave and bring them to Hong Kong for carbon dating. They did not get permission from Turkish authorities to seize the archaeological findings. While they did not suffer legal consequences, their recklessness made things harder for others.
The Story Retold
People have been fascinated by the tale of a global flood for generations now. The Sumerians, ancient and modern Christians, and Hebrews all have their own versions of the story and have been inspired by it. Even skeptics have looked into it to check which parts are scientifically improbable and not.
It is still unclear if the findings made by the NAMI team will be accepted or not. At any rate, the story and the likelihood of its existence continue to be one fascinating tale. It has been told time and again for a long time already. Different cultures have come up with their own versions to go with their respective belief systems. If the myth does get corroborated, it will only reinforce how important cultural narratives are.
While the NAMI expedition did not prove that the Ark existed, it does not prove that it did not either. The topic has often resulted in controversy in fields of research like archaeology. People will keep looking for the vessel in the hopes of finding proof. Who knows, maybe we will get the verification we have been craving in the future. In the meantime, we can only admire the cultural influence of the story!