Noah's Ark makes waves

Noah's Ark makes waves

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Doubts are raised over a claim that the biblical ship has been found in Turkey, writes Chris Taylor

News that a Christian group based in Hong Kong may have discovered the biblical Noah's Ark in Turkey is making headlines around the world.

The announcement has also prompted Turkey's Ministry of Culture and Tourism to investigate how parts of the alleged find ended up in Hong Kong.

Explorers from Noah's Ark Ministries International said they had found wood and compartments that could have housed animals that were believed to have been saved from the global flood narrated in the Bible.

They said they were '99.9 per cent sure' that they had finally located the legendary boat, about 4,200 metres up Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey. The evangelist group said carbon dating had proved wood from the site was 4,800 years old.

The group also raised eyebrows when it made the same announcement in 2008.

One of the sceptics, archaeologist Peter Kuniholm, said of the latest finding: 'There's not enough H2O in the world to get an ark that high up a mountain.'

More damaging still, an e-mail by evangelist and Ark researcher Dr Randall Price was leaked to the PaleoBabble website, in which he describes the discovery as a hoax.

Price says he was the archaeologist in the 2008 trip, a claim that one of the expedition members, Yeung Wing-cheung, has confirmed to Young Post.

Price's e-mail details how the expedition's Turkish guide had beams of wood moved from 'the Black Sea area' - where he says the original 2008 ark pictures were taken - up the mountain and put in a cave.

He says in the e-mail: 'I and my partners invested US$100,000 in this expedition ... which they have retained, despite their promise and our requests to return it, since it was not used for the expedition.'

Price elaborated on his leaked e-mail last Tuesday on the World of the Bible Ministries website. He said: 'In Dogubabyazit, the village at the foot of Mount Ararat, where Parasut, the Chinese guide, is well known, the locals know that the true story that the structure in the cave is a grand hoax.'

He quoted from an alleged e-mail from one of the villagers, saying Parasut had been putting 'wood in the cave ... for money' for three years.

Yeung denied the claim, pointing out that road access on Ararat only went up to 2,000 metres and it was 'physically impossible to carry such a large structure' up 4,200 metres.

'Everyone who has ever climbed Mount Ararat would know the terrain above 3,800 metres is so rugged that you cannot carry anything more than a backpack,' the group said on its website.

Yeung also defended the team's use of the US$100,000 'investment', saying part of the money had gone to local mountaineers who filmed video to prove to Price that the 2008 expedition could be not be undertaken due to bad weather.

Meanwhile, scientists who were not involved in either expedition were sceptical for other reasons.

Paul Zimansky, an archaeologist at Stony Brook University in New York State, said that he would want to see evidence of a particularly catastrophic flood in Turkey 4,800 years ago. 'We know what was going on with Turkey archaeologically at that time, and there was no major interruption in the culture,' he said.

Other scholars doubted whether Noah's Ark - if it was not merely a biblical myth - actually came to rest on Mount Ararat.

'The whole notion is odd, because the Bible tells you the ark landed somewhere in Urartu,' biblical scholar Jack Sasson said, referring to an ancient kingdom in the Armenian highlands. 'It's only later that people identified Mount Ararat with Urartu.'

Ark hunter Bob Cornuke, of the Bible Archaeology, Search and Exploration Institute, said the ark landed in the Alborz mountains, in what is now northern Iran.

Not that any of this is likely to deter future expeditions and 'discoveries', which have been taking place since the early 1820s, as Zimansky said ironically in an interview with National Geographic: 'I don't know of any expedition that ever went looking for the ark and didn't find it.'

Additional reporting by Zoe Mak

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