I wasn’t really going to get into this, but… what the heck!

I have to admit, every time one of these discoveries hits the news, I (figuratively) roll my eyes and shake my head. “Here we go again,” I tell myself.

It’s not that I don’t believe in the veracity and accuracy of the Biblical story of the Flood. I do. (Although, I think the best date for it is well before the 4000-5000 years ago that most ark-hunters and their followers place it.) But, I really doubt it would be on Mt. Ararat itself, even if it is the same peak as the one called that in Scripture. Genesis 8:4 says that “the ark rested upon the mountains of Ararat.” No specific peak was identified, so it could have been anywhere in the area. In fact, the complex of mountain ranges where Ararat is located covers more than 100,000 square miles, from northeast of Mount Ararat itself to the foothills skirting the Mesopotamian plain. (Read this article for more.) So, why do these “arkeology” groups put so much focus on that one mountain?

Mount Ararat from east of Dogubeyazit, Turkey

Mount Ararat from east of Dogubeyazit, Turkey

Another problem I have with the idea of finding Noah’s Ark — intact, that is — is that I doubt Noah and his family would have left all that great, pre-treated lumber up there. I think it’s reasonable to postulate, at least, that they would have made many trips up & back to bring wood down to their new home site. (It might not have been that difficult if the ark actually rested in the foothills.) They could have used it to build cabins/shelters, wagons, bridges, animal pens, etc. Maybe just burned some as firewood. After all, the local tree population would have been pretty devastated for some time, even if they managed to get some seeds or saplings to (re)plant from a nearby region. (This last speculation assumes that the Flood was local/regional, as I do, though I believe it was “universal” in terms of wiping out all of humanity (save eight).)

So, when this latest “discovery” was announced — and in the MSM, yet — I couldn’t help but groan (inwardly, of course). The hopeful and the uncritical just ate it up. A filmmaker accompanying the evangelists/explorers from Noah’s Ark Ministries International (NAMI) said, “we think it is 99.9 percent that this is it.” So, many of “the faithful” assumed it must be so. The rest of us were a bit more careful and held a wait-and-see pattern.

Nothing in the Fox News report seemed particularly suspicious, although it’s a little unclear exactly what was found. (A wooden structure on an icy mountainside with some rooms/compartments with wooden beams, apparently.) But, frankly, nothing I saw in the pictures and video or read in the news articles were proof of anything on their own, either. (For example, how do we know where the images/videos were really taken?) And, upon further consideration, there were a couple things that seemed a little suspect. (For example, loose, dry straw that hadn’t disintegrated after 4800 years?) I also found it amusing that they supposedly used carbon-14 dating to determine the wood was 4800 years old — i.e., right in the allowable range for the Flood as calculated by many young-Earth creationists and those who hold to “flood geology”. Yet, that is the group that typically pooh-poohs the accuracy and validity of radiometric dating, especially carbon-14 dating!

Wooden beam in "ark" remains (NAMI)

Wooden beam in "ark" remains (NAMI)

I prefer some more scientifically tested evidence and confirmation by disinterested, or even hostile, third parties. Plus, I know nothing of NAMI or any of the people involved, so I have no idea whether they are an honest ministry with good reputation or a fly-by-night sham organization pulling off a stunt for fame & fortune. Some skeptics’ objections I did not feel were necessary (especially if one does not feel an historical ark & flood are inextricably linked to “flood geology”), but others were quite legitimate. A few more questions I and others wanted to have answered were:

1) How carefully was the excavation performed and documented?

2) Where were the samples tested for radiocarbon dating (i.e., what lab)?

3) Have all the data been released for peer-review by other scientists?

4) Are there enough remains — and of the Biblically-stated dimensions, composition, etc. — that rule out any other hypothesis? Could the remains be from some mountainside shelter built by ancient travelers?

5) Are there any apparent anachronisms present? And what to make of other things that appear out of place (e.g., straw and cobwebs)?

6) Any evidence for a catastrophic Flood in that time period?

NEWSFLASH! Now, the latest news seems to indicate that this “discovery” is indeed a fraud. Randall Price, a REAL archaeologist and professor at Liberty University, recounts — in a leaked letter, citing first-hand knowledge and other sources — the origins of the expedition and the supposedly ancient wood remains.

In the late summer of 2008 ten Kurdish workers hired by Parasut, the guide used by the Chinese, are said to have planted large wood beams taken from an old structure in the Black Sea area (where the photos were originally taken) at the Mt. Ararat site…. During the summer of 2009 more wood was planted inside a cave at the site. The Chinese team went in the late summer of 2009 (I was there at the time and knew about the hoax) and was shown the cave with the wood and made their film.”

Price says he knows one of the Kurdish locals who “has all of the facts about the location, the men who planted the wood, and even the truck that transported it.”

To my knowledge, the Chinese took no professional archaeologist or geologist who could verify or document the wood or the structure in situ (in its place of discovery). They were duped in 2006-2007 by Parasut when they were shown a similar cave with something they thought was wood. [It turned out to be volcanic rock, called ‘tuff’.]”

Those who organized the expedition have ignored requests by Price to return the $100,000 he and his partners invested for the expedition but was not used.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m afraid we have another “Bogus Ark” — an elaborate hoax based on deception and naivete. Was the Chinese group from NAMI in on it, or was it just the Kurdish guide and his partners scheming to bilk the Chinese evangelical explorers? Not sure, yet.

Anybody learn any lessons from this? I certainly hope so. This wasn’t the first attempt to scam believers, Christian or otherwise, and it won’t be the last. We need to be less gullible and better critical thinkers. Agreed?

(Tip of the hat to Krista Bontrager, Todd Bolen, Michael S. Heiser, and Santi Tafarella for helping me think about the issue/questions and — in the cases of Michael & Todd — for reproducing Dr. Price’s letter.)

Noah's Ark (real design, not storybook)

Painting of Noah's Ark (based on design in Bible, not storybook pics)

Here are some more fascinating articles on Noah, the Ark, and the Flood, and NOT from the usual perspectives you hear about in the news or at church:

The Unsinkable Search for Noah’s Ark

Noah’s Flood: A Bird’s-Eye View

Noah’s Floating Zoo

Rapid Post-Flood Speciation: A Critique of the Young-Earth Model

Pitching Noah’s Ark–and its implications

  1. […] advances, tree-ring dating trackback While writing about the recent purported discovery of Noah’s Ark, supposedly dated to about 4800 years old, I was reminded of an article I read several weeks ago. […]

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