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Allegedly Discovered Noah's Ark in Iran
08 July 2006
(CAIS) -- High in the mountains of northwestern Iran,
an archaeology expedition has discovered a rock formation that its members say
resembles the fabled Noah's ark.
The team discovered the prominent boat-shaped rocks at just over 13,000 feet
(4,000 meters) on Mount Suleiman in Iran's Alborz mountain range.
"It looks uncannily like wood," said Robert Cornuke, president of the
Bible Archaeology Search and Exploration Institute (BASE), the Palmer Lake,
Colorado-based group that launched the expedition.
Photos taken by BASE members show a prow-shaped rock outcrop, which the team
says resembles petrified wood, emerging from a ridge.
"We have had [cut] thin sections of the rock made, and we can see [wood]
cell structures," Cornuke said.
Cornuke acknowledges that it may be hard to prove that this object was Noah's
ark. But he says he is fairly convinced that the rock formation was an important
place of pilgrimage in the past.
The BASE team has uncovered evidence of an ancient shrine near the outcrop,
suggesting that this was an important place to people in the past, Cornuke says.
"We can't claim to have conclusively found the ark, but it does look like
the object that the ancients talked about," Cornuke said.
Fiction of Noah and the Flood
The fiction of Noah's ark is told in three Semitic beliefs: Judaism,
Christianity, and Islam, in which the new claimed religion copied from its' predecessor.
Book of Genesis describes a great flood created by God "to destroy all life
under the heavens." But before the flood, God told Noah, one of his human
followers, to build an ark and fill it with two of every species on the Earth.
Once Noah had done this, it rained for 40 days and 40 nights. After 7 months and
17 days the waters receded, according to Genesis, and the ark came to rest on
the mountains of Ararat.
Bible scholars have interpreted this to refer to Mount Ararat in eastern
Anatolia. But this location doesn't fit the description given in Genesis of the
ark's passengers journeying from the east to arrive at Mesopotamia.
Cornuke and his team think that Mount Ararat might be a red herring.
"The Bible gives us a compass direction here, and it is not in the
direction of Anatolia. Instead it points directly towards Iran," Cornuke
Using the Book of Genesis and other literary sources, the BASE team
journeyed to Iran in July 2005 to climb Mount Suleiman. They chose Mount
Suleiman after reading the notes of 19th-century British explorer A. H. McMahan.
In 1894, after climbing Mount Suleiman, McMahan wrote in his journal,
"According to some, Noah's ark alighted here after the deluge."
McMahan also spoke of wood fragments from a shrine at the top of the mountain
where unknown people had made pilgrimages to the site.
"We found a shrine and wood fragments at 15,000 feet [4,570 meters]
elevation, as described by McMahan," Cornuke said.
Subsequent carbon dating of samples from the shrine showed the wood fragments
from the site to be around 500 years old.
Lower on the mountain, expedition members came across the ark-like rock
formation, which they estimate to be about 400 feet (122 meters) long.
Science vs. Fiction
Not everyone is convinced by the BASE team's claims.
Kevin Pickering, a geologist at University College London (UCL) who specializes
in sedimentary rocks, doesn't think that the ark-like rocks are petrified wood.
"The photos appear to show iron-stained sedimentary rocks, probably thin
beds of silicified sandstones and shales, which were most likely laid down in a
marine environment a long time ago," he said.
Pickering thinks that the BASE team may have mistaken the thin layers in the
sediment for wood grain and the more prominent layers as beams of wood.
"The wider layers in the rock are what we call bedding planes," he
"They show fracture patterns that we associate with ? the Earth processes
that caused the rocks to be uplifted to their present height."
The boat-shaped structure can also be explained geologically, says retired
British geologist Ian West, who has studied Middle Eastern sediments.
"Iran is famous for its small folds, many of which are the oil traps. Their
oval, ark-like shape is classical," he said.
Meanwhile, ancient timber specialist Martin Bridge, of England's Oxford
Dendrochronology Laboratory, is doubtful that a wooden structure would have
lasted long enough to petrify under ordinary conditions.
"Wood will only survive for thousands of years if it
is buried in very wet conditions or remains in an extremely arid
environment," he said.
Bible scholars think that Noah built his ark somewhere between 6,000 and 10,000
years ago, making preservation highly unlikely except in extreme environmental
And even if the wood had petrified, there seems to be little evidence of Noah's
carpentry, according to Robert Spicer, a geologist at England's Open University
who specializes in the study of petrifaction.
"What needs to be documented in this case are preserved, human-made joints,
such as scarf, mortice and tenon, or even just pegged boards. I see none of this
in the pictures. It's all very unconvincing," Spicer said.
Bridge, the Oxford timber specialist, points out that it would also be
impossible for a boat to run aground at 13,000 feet.
"If you put all the water in the world together, melting both the ice caps
and all the glaciers, you still wouldn't reach anywhere near the top of the
mountain," he said.
Source: National Geography
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