Spy, Ghana
Dec 4 2013

'The Incredible Discovery of Noah's Ark': An Archaeological Quest?

By Richard A. Fox Culled from the "Free Enquiry", Summer 1993:43-48

"Babylonia", written in Greek about 275 B.C.E., is lost, but later
chroniclers quoted Berosus. His flood story is a Sumerian version
roughly paralleling the biblical account (see Dundes 1988:42-43). The
hero was Xisuthrus (i.e., Xiusudra). The ark, wrote Berosus, came
to rest in "the land of Armenia." Mt.Ararat is located in what was
ancient Armenia, formerly the kingdom of Ararat (see Bailey 1989).

Berosus, however, identified the Corcyraean mountains (i.e.,
Gordyaeans), also in Ararat, as the landing spot, not the Ararat range
(see Dundes 1988:43). The Gordyaeans are more than two hundred miles
south (roughly) of Mt.Ararat.

Note here that the Genesis reference - "mountains of Ararat" - could
refer to the kingdom, not the range and certainly not the peak.

Indeed, in Jeremiah 51:27, Ararat is called exactly that - a kingdom.

Clearly Berosus had a different understanding than do today's ark
hunters, "Professor" Vleit included. Why they insist on combing
Mt.Ararat is indeed a mystery.

Berosus's version might well prompt the frugal archaeologist planning
to find Noah's ark to ask: a question: Are there more accounts putting
the vessel somewhere other than Mt.Ararat? Of course, but "Incredible"
ignored them all. Ancient Christian, Jewish, and Muslim sources put
the ark on various peaks, ranges, or districts stretching from Ceylon
to Arabia (see Bailey 1989 61-81). Some even record ark wood finds!

The Mt.Ararat tradition is evidently the latest. Bailey (1987:81) has
traced its origin to the eleventh century C.E. (although seventh-ninth
century timbers from Mt Ararat might put it earlier). Sources citing
the Gordyaeans are more numerous, so the archaeologist might well
decide to begin there. Conversely, Mt.Ararat might be a last resort,
since the tradition is further removed in time from the event. More
likely, the archaeologist would investigate what it is on Mt Ararat
that dates to medieval times.

Like the producer of "Incredible," I find no difficulty in straying
from the archaeological "quest." A Dr. Walter Brown ("professor
emeritus, physics") presented a breathtaking synopsis of his
"hydroplate theory." Fancy graphics illustrated how subterranean
waters ten miles deep burst through mid-ocean fissures and inundated
the Earth. Not much need be said about Brown. Geologists will pick
his nonsense apart. Rather, I will emphasize the subtle ploy used by
the scriptwriters. After Brown finished, the narrator capped it off:
"The demonstration you have just seen ... supports the biblical story
of the deluge in every detail." Of course! All Brown did was recklessly
rip hard-won knowledge from legitimate science (e.g., plate tectonics,
glaciology) and force it into the biblical framework.

Brown never did provide a mechanism to trigger his floodwater
eruptions. The scriptwriters remedied that. A David Coppedge
("astronomer") set the stage for Brown, explaining that any one of a
hundred ancient meteorite impact sites on Earth could have produced
a cataclysmic event. Then Brown appeared, mechanism in hand.

Predictably, Coppedge failed to consider why the hundred impacts
did not produce one hundred global floods. Astronomer Coppedge,
evidently without academic credentials, stood next to a small
stargazer's telescope as he pontificated. A Mt. Wilson Observatory
set would have imparted more authority.

Several "experts" were, like Coppedge, less dazzling than Brown.

Addressing the knotty problem of ark space, Whitcomb insisted that
the Bible does not say all species boarded the vessel. He excluded
fish and "major" insect varieties. No evidence or reasons - just
sweep-of-the-hand authority.

The ark: space problem occupied Dr. Kenneth Ebel ("professor of
biology"). He noted that each "family" extant today has a single
pair of ancestors. The-hundred varieties of dogs, for example, have
a single common ancestor. Then Ebel made a deceptive shift. The only
"taxon" mentioned in the Bible is "kinds." Scientific creationists
have a tough time with this, Ebel included. "Kinds" (compare family
above), said Ebel, were put aboard the ark. These "kinds" then, were
the ancestors of all the "species" (compare variety above) that we
know today. So there was plenty of room on that ark. With a sweep of
his hand, Ebel rewrote the binomial classification system. Families
became species and species became varieties, and genera vanished.

Ebel's obfuscation would lead taxonomists to classify him as a
"scientific" creationist, not a professor of biology.

A Dr. Ken Cummings, also a "professor of biology," explained another
tricky issue. How did animals from every corner of the Earth make it
to the ark? They instinctively sensed an impending disaster and were
led or driven to safety (i.e., right to the ark). Evidently the two
lucky survivors of each "kind" were genetically endowed with powerful
instincts. Just as clearly these favorable genes did not survive.

Today, millions of animals everywhere are wiped out annually by
catastrophic floods, wholesale fires, and the like.

Then there is the matter of being on time. Instinct had to kick in
early for those most distant from the ark, maybe decades for turtles.

Nonetheless, Cummings may be on to something. Mark Twain (1962:24)
suggested that the super-sensitive instincts of dinosaurs provoked
these beasts - all of them, not just pairs - into a frenzied, headlong
stampede toward the ark. Imagine the havoc they would have wreaked.

Fortunately, Noah learned of this and wisely sailed without them.

Besides, as Twain wrote and to which Whitcomb can attest, the ancient
mariner was under no obligation to admit all and so the dinosaurs
became extinct.

Roger Oakland ("author/science professor") testified to the variable
evidence for a global flood. Even the fossil record shows it!

Worldwide, fish and animals were buried suddenly in "swimming
positions." Most of us can probably accept the swimming fish. For
animals, however, Oakland cited the "most dramatic" example,
a Nebraska site where rhinos, hippos, and zebras were buried in
"swimming positions" by "volcanic ash." What tephra has to do with
global flooding he did not say. Nor did Oakland define an animal's
"swimming position."

Oakland further noted, in references to the terrifying flood, that
in Scotland "tons of fish have been found in positions of terror,
fins extended and eyes bulging." Ethologists may notice a rather
strong anthropomorphic bias here. Speaking of anthropomorphism,
Oakland did not consider why human skeletons are never found in
swimming positions. In any case, I recall occasionally seeing rather
calm fish swimming about with extended fins and bulging eyes, though
not tons of them.

These examples are representative of the nonarchaeological content.

There is also the laughable model ark test that "proved" that an ark
built to biblical specifications could survive the roughest seas ever.

Space does not allow a look at the "scientific" creationists' water
vapor canopy theory (it went from biblical clue to certainty in
minutes). Neglected also is Grant Richard's ("geologist/geophysicist")
ignorance of orogenic processes (he claims that water-formed lava and
salt crystals on Mt.Ararat prove the flood), and much more nonsense.

Such "theories" expose the biggest single problem confronting
"scientific" creationists. In order to appear scientific, they
cannot suspend natural laws; they cannot invoke the powers of
an omnieverything being in order to get animals to the ark, to
supply floodwaters, or whatever. That is religion, not science. The
restriction results in torturous proofs of the improbable, if not
the impossible, everything dressed up as science.

"Incredible" had to face a more worldly problem. "Thousands," as one
"expert" said, have sought the ark. On the other hand, no one has ever
produced it. This vexation was handled in two ways. Ark: eyewitnesses
were sprinkled throughout the two hours, reinforcing the Noah's
ark claim through repetition. At the same time, repetition avoided
consolidating what are essentially two millennia of negative findings.

Next, the filmmakers' employed what I call the "rotten luck" syndrome.

Just as the ark's physical remains are about to be revealed, something
adverse intervenes. "Incredible" used an inhospitable mountain, a
dangerous and uncertain climb, an earthquake, uncooperative weather,
tricky glacial ice, inopportune deaths, low aircraft fuel, the
Russian revolution, fear of death, lost proofs, religious persecution,
Turkish political strife, terrorism, bandits, and the U.S. government's
refusal to release incontrovertible proof of the ark (it would betray
our sophisticated spying technology).

In the end, though, what about the ancient sources, the nineteenth-
and early twentieth-century eyewitnesses, the past sojourns, the
photographs, and the previous calculations? Well, these are old news.

Though they prove the existence of Noah's ark, too many people continue
to be skeptical. So "Incredible" would chronicle new "archaeological"
expeditions equipped with modern technology. And so we were introduced
to five new eyewitnesses, plus state-of-the-art satellite photo proofs.

The new eyewitnesses, not one an archaeologist, seemed sincere enough.

But the usual caveats apply. People often see what they want to see,
especially religious zealots. Also, things get garbled; what is seen
is not necessarily what is reported. Sometimes people simply fabricate
stories, playing on what folks want to hear. As well, eyewitnesses are
not always capable of comprehending what they see, and so on. But the
most damaging case against these new witnesses lies in results. Like
all before, not one produced an ark or information leading to an ark.

Much was made of the late James Irwin's photograph. The program played
masterfully on Irwin's deep spiritual convictions, his dedication to
discovery, his career, and his untimely death. The skillful emotional
weave helped to convince us that the astronaut had indeed captured
Noah's ark on film. Irwin had wanted to confirm his find. Then death
intervened, the somber narrator reminded us. A tragedy, indeed,
but with such conclusive evidence at hand, what about a follow-up by
colleagues? "Incredible" made no mention of such.

The other photographic "proof" segments reminded me of the story about
the emperor's new clothes. Even with photo enhancements, l seldom saw
an object. Yet the analysts insisted something was there, probable
an ark. One segment reduced a French satellite image to a handful of
pixels. Using a pointer, the analyst carefully outlined an "ark-like"
object protruding from a pixel of known size. The object's dimensions,
he assured us, closely paralleled ark specifications. Expecting, I
am sure, that few would see anything (I saw nothing), a telestrator
finally drew it in.

And so "Incredible" ended. Like the old proofs, the new bore no
semblance to archaeology. Rather, the program abused my profession
and insulted its practitioners. And CBS is responsible. What does
archaeology really say about a global inundation and the rejuvenation
of world populations through Noah's lineage? Wherever post-deluge sites
exist, they must lie above flood deposits. The prediction is fatal to
the historicity of a biblical flood and Noah's harrowing voyage. Few
buried sites in my part of the world lie above flood sediments of any
kind. I guarantee that the situation holds everywhere. Archaeology
joins all historical sciences in refuting the claims made in this
abysmal, irresponsible production.


For references, see