Web sites are buzzing over claims that remains from Noah’s Ark may have been found on Turkey’s Mount Ararat. The finders, led by an evangelical group, say they are “99.9 percent” that a wooden structure found on the mountainside was part of a ship that housed the Biblical Noah, his family and a menagerie of creatures during a giant flood 4,800 years ago.
But researchers who have spent decades studying the region – and fending off past claims of ark discoveries – caution that a boatload of skepticism is in order.
“You have to take everything out of context except the Bible to get something tolerable, and they’re not even working much with the Bible,” said Paul Zimansky, an archaeologist and historian at Stony Brook University who specializes in the Near East – and especially the region around Ararat, known as Urartu.
Cornell archaeologist Peter Ian Kuniholm, who has focused on Turkey for decades, was even more direct – saying that the reported find is a “crock.”
The quest to find remnants of the Bible’s most famous cargo ship goes back to, well, virtually biblical times (or at least back to the time of the ancient historian Josephus). In the Book of Genesis, God tells Noah to build a boat that would be longer than a modern-day football field and more than three stories high. Animals were sent to seek shelter in the ship and ride out a flood that wiped out the entire world.
Zimansky points out that Genesis identifies the mountains of Urartu (a.k.a. Ararat) as the landing zone for the ark, but not a specific peak. Over the centuries, 16,946-foot Mount Ararat and the nearby boat-shaped Durupinar rock formation have emerged as the favored locales for ark-hunters. (Others, meanwhile, have looked for evidence of an ancient flood in Turkey’s Black Sea region or Iran.)
It seems as if evidence of the ark pops up at least every couple of years – and not always in the same place. The latest report appears to follow up on a 2007 expedition that came upon a wooden structure “in the interiors of an unusual cave” at the 14,700-foot level of Ararat’s slopes.
That expedition was organized by Hong Kong-based Noah’s Ark Ministries International, the group that is also behind the fresh reports appearing this week. Leaders of the Chinese-Turkish expedition said wooden specimens recovered from the structure on Ararat had been carbon-dated to yield an age of 4,800 years.
They said several compartments had been found, some with wooden beams, and suggested that the compartments were used to house animals. Because the evidence of habitation in that area is scant, Noah’s Ark Ministries International said the best explanation for the artifacts’ existence was … you guessed it.
“It’s not 100 percent that it is Noah’s Ark, but we think it is 99.9 percent that this is it,” Yueng Wing-cheung, a Hong Kong documentary filmmaker who was on the exploration team…
[continues at MSNBC]