New Noahs Ark Claims From Iran
Bob Cornuke was interviewed by John Kasich on Fox News Saturday evening, with the first public showing of videos of an anomalous feature in northern Iran proposed as a candidate for Noah’s Ark. The find has also been announced on Christian Worldview Network with 18 photographs and a video. Cornuke, a former police investigator turned hunter for Biblical artifacts (the Ark of the Covenant, the Red Sea crossing, Paul’s shipwreck) had a team of notable Christians with him, including Josh McDowell. Though he did not claim this was the Ark of Noah, he said the team members were “blown away” by the findings.
The evidence consists of a 400-foot object of a dark color in surroundings of lighter rock. The object consists of squared-off beams that look like petrified wood (he claims a sample tested positive as petrified wood) arranged like planks. It is at 13,120′ elevation in the mountains of northern Iran. He said locals claim it is a resting place of the Ark, and that this location was referred to by ancient historians Josephus and Nicholas of Damascus. He also claims he was led to this site by an eyewitness who drew him a map. Cornuke also said the team found an abundance of seashells and clams in the surrounding rocks over a vast area, indicating that this mountain was once under the sea.
The time has come for this claim, and its evidence, to be scrutinized critically yet fairly. Though the pictures are intriguing, the burden of proof will be on the team to associate this object with the Ark of Noah. Years ago Ferdinand Navarra wrote a book about his discovery of hand-hewn timbers found under a glacier on Mt. Ararat; he even had film to prove it. Unfortunately, the artifacts were later discredited as too recent to be associated with Noah’s Ark. Another film made great claims about a boat-shaped structure below Mt. Ararat, yet few became convinced it is anything more than a strange geological feature. This reminder is not to put the new claim in the same boat, so to speak, but to show how initially spectacular photographic evidence does not always match the hoped-for results of scientific tests.
A number of hard questions should be asked. There are many places on the planet where dark rock outcroppings contrast with the surroundings. There are also many mountains with seashell fossils. Petrified wood is also widespread. In many places, columnar basaltic lava looks very geometrical and can give the appearance of hand-hewn wood. How do we know this is not just another spectacular example of an artificial-looking geological formation? Does this object have the expected dimensions and shape of the vessel described in Genesis 6? How conclusive is the evidence this petrified wood was tooled? Are there nails or other marks of artificial construction? Are the sizes and arrangements of the alleged beams consistent with shipbuilding? Is there evidence the structure, now filled in, had internal rooms and compartments? Is there any residual organic matter that can be carbon dated? What is the history of this region, both geologically and archaeologically? Are there other marks of ancient habitation here? Even if this structure proves artificial, could it be something other than a ship, like some later structure that became petrified? What about all the sightings on the traditional Mt. Ararat—were all of them in error? What petrified the wood, if this was a boat—did it get re-buried? If smothered by a landslide or other catastrophe, how could it remain recognizable? Why would the timbers not be dismantled by the descendants of Noah or subsequent generations? How did it get preserved, only to be discovered now? Perhaps you can think of more questions.
Most claims of this sort turn out to contain a mosaic of pieces of evidence, some more convincing than others, some even contradictory. Confidence in the conclusion will rest on the inference to the best explanation from the preponderance of evidence. It may never be convincing to all honest scholars under the best of conditions. We cannot be influenced solely by the pictures or the enthusiasm of the team members—nor by the complaints of skeptics and rivals. Detailed scientific tests will be required. Other investigators should visit the site and consider all possible explanations. The team should be open to sharing information, should be their own best critics, and should not give the appearance of capitalizing on this finding for personal gain or fame. Now that the initial announcement is out, it’s up to the discoverers to prove this is not just an interesting geological formation.
Update 07/05/2006: Tas Walker at Creation on the Web urges caution. He thinks it is a geological formation, similar to others found around the world. National Geographic News also gave prominent press to the claims, but then debunked them with the opinions of geologists.