A Short History of Noah's Ark Discoveries

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Last week an organization called Noah’s Ark Ministries called a press conference in Hong Kong to announce that they had made one of the most significant archaeological discoveries in history. Yeung Wing-Cheung claims he and his research team located the remains of Noah’s Ark on Turkey’s Mount Ararat.

Yeung says that wood samples taken from the site were carbon-dated to about 5,000 years ago, and that he is “99 percent certain that it is Noah’s Ark based on historical accounts, including the Bible and local beliefs of the people in the area, as well as carbon dating.”

The story of Noah’s Ark is told in the Book of Genesis. Before God sends a great flood to destroy the world and cleanse it of its wickedness, he commands Noah to build a huge wooden ark. Noah’s family, along with a menagerie of animals collected from around the world, are then saved. After the flood killed nearly everything on earth, the Ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat in present-day Turkey (according to Genesis 8:4). The great explorer Marco Polo wrote around 1300 in his book The Travels of Marco Polo that “In the heart of Greater Armenia is a very high mountain shaped like a cube (or cup), on which Noah’s ark is said to have rested, whence it is called the Mountain of Noah’s Ark.”

Yeung is not the first person to claim to have found the ark; in fact Noah’s Ark has been “discovered” at least a half-dozen times in the past 50 years. While many believe the story of Noah’s Ark is merely a fable, some are convinced that everything in the Bible is literally true, and finding the Ark is merely a matter of time.

Interest in the Ark spiked in the 1970s after a man named Georgie Hagopian said he located and climbed on the remains of the Ark at least twice—though he claimed it occurred some 60 years earlier (in the early 1900s) and could offer no evidence to back it up. One of the first people to claim to have found the Ark on Mt. Ararat was a woman named Violet Cummings, who in the early 1970s wrote a book titled Noah’s Ark: Fable or Fact? Despite its intriguing title, the claim turned out to be fable, not fact. A few years later, in 1976, yet another man claimed to have discovered the Ark on Ararat, and offered ambiguous photos as proof but nothing more came of it.

Interest waned until the 1990s, when CBS television aired a primetime special titled The Incredible Discovery of Noah’s Ark, which finally offered seemingly definitive proof in the form of an eyewitness who owned a piece of wood he claimed was from the ark. The whole thing turned out to be a huge hoax; CBS and its viewers had been duped.

In June 2006, a team of archaeologists from a Christian organization found a rock formation in Iran that they claimed was Noah’s Ark. They brought back pieces of stone they claim may be petrified wood beams, but once again the claims remained unproven and came to nothing.

So what do we make of the latest claims by Yeung and his group? Time will tell whether or not they produce real evidence, but history is not on their side.

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