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Doubt cast on Noah's ark found in Turkey

A group of Chinese and Turkish explorers announced this week they are '99.9 percent' sure of their discovery on Mt. Ararat. While Noah's ark found in Turkey would bolster Bible literalists, an American ark-hunter says the latest discovery could be a hoax.

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“I’m a scientist. I need to have good evidence,” says Dr. Morris. “As of right now, there is not.”

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Morris, who is also a fundamentalist Christian, led 13 expeditions to Mount Ararat between 1971 and 1990 as he searched for the ark. He has been in contact with the Chinese-led team for the past decade.

He says their finding is inconclusive and calls for more research. Video available on the team's web site shows the team exploring inside a wooden structure embedded in a sort of ice cave. The wooden walls of one compartment are smooth and curved. Morris says it is almost unfathomable that such heavy materials could be hauled up to 12,000 feet and lodged in the mountain ice without a major operation using heavy machinery.

“I think it would be highly unlikely that anybody could carry wood up. I can’t comprehend that. I don’t think there’s fraud involved. But that is a possibility. And only serious scientific work on-site can resolve that,” Morris said in a telephone interview from Dallas.

The Noah's Ark Ministries International has no contact information on their web site, and the Monitor was unable to track down team members today for further comment. But in the press conference, they appeared to be aware that skeptics may question the findings.

"We are not saying that we are 100 percent certain that what we found is Noah's Ark. No one has ever seen the ark, no one knows what it looks like," said team member Yeung Wing-cheung. "We are only 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."

Yeung would not reveal the location of the site because he says the team is waiting for the Turkish government to set up an official preservation area to continue their work.

Wood dated 4,800 years old

Morris, Price, and the Chinese-led team are a few of the many who have gone in search of the biblical boat. In the Book of Genesis, God commands Noah to built the massive vessel and bring “every sort [of animal]...male and female ... everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life.” Then a 40-day flood hits.

A 2004 ABC News poll showed that 60 percent of Americans read the story of Noah’s Ark as literally true.

Within that group of believers is a large subsection who believe not in a worldwide flood but rather a regional flood as is mentioned in alternative texts such as the Epic of Gilgamesh. However, a mere regional flood would not send Noah’s ark up 12,000 feet on Mount Ararat.

Yeung told the South China Morning Post that a piece of wood obtained from the site was dated as 4,800 years old by a carbon-dating method in Iran. This matches with the range of years stated in the Bible, suggesting when the vessel was built.

Reinforcing a fundamentalist view

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