Legends of catastrophic floods are found in texts from ancient cultures all across the globe, and they share some strange similarities. A man builds a massive ship, the world floods, and the man waits out the storm on the boat until his Weather Channel app says it’s fine to go back outside.
Jokes aside, there’s one story in particular that has captivated archaeologists and treasure seekers for centuries: Noah’s Ark. Many people over the years have falsely claimed to have found the remnants of the Biblical boat, but one team recently made a discovery that could finally be the real thing.
According to the story that appears in the Bible and the Quran, God asked Noah to build a giant ark where he can wait out a world-destroying storm. He needed to take two of every single kind of animal with him. But the holy texts weren’t Noah’s first appearances.
His story debuted centuries earlier in Mesopotamia, though he was called Ziusudra then. Later, he showed up in a Babylonian story under the name Gilgamesh. Noah’s been talked about for a long, long time.
Given the mystery and power behind the original story, it’s no wonder that Hollywood has fallen in love with Noah. As the story of his ark became more and more popular, explorers began launching expeditions to search for what’s left of the boat.
But modern researchers are conflicted on the true story behind the ark. Some interpret the story literally, while many believe the flood might’ve been melting glacial ice as a result of the conclusion of the Ice Age.
One explorer, Robert Ballard, tried to prove this theory in 1989. He theorized that the Ark could have sunk to the bottom of the Black Sea after the glacial floods receded. But what he found surprised him.
After exploring hundreds of square miles beneath the sea, Ballard’s team miraculously discovered a 7,000-year-old settlement destroyed by floodwaters, but no signs of an ark. Though he ended up empty-handed, he wasn’t the last to go searching for the ship.
See, many ark-maniacs believe two blurry government photos of Mount Ararat (the supposed biblical resting place of the Ark) are hiding a secret that could confirm the ship’s location.
So in 2004, when businessman Daniel McGivern set out to explore the anomaly on Mount Ararat, many were disappointed when he was denied access by the Turkish government.
Another team went up into the Alborz Mountains in Iran and located what looked like an enormous blackened ruin. Though some thought this could be an ark candidate, others remarked it could just be a mineral deposit.
Most expeditions were sufficiently debunked as hoaxes. As one archaeologist said, “I don’t know of any expedition that ever went looking for the ark and didn’t find it.” But one group made a shocking discovery in 2007 that changed everything.
When a Hong Kong-based group called Noah’s Ark Ministries International (NAMI) traveled to Mount Arafat, they found something some archaeologists are struggling to explain.
About 13,000 feet up the mountain, NAMI explorers allegedly found large wooden compartments buried in the ground. And when they investigated the ruins further, they discovered something odd.
The group tested the materials using radiocarbon dating, and the age of the wood was revealed to be about 4,800 years old — around the time Noah was purported to have built his ark. One scholar, though, was not so sure.
Somehow believing both in the well-tested science of carbon dating and that God created the world just 6,000 years ago, he disagreed with their findings, purporting the wood should date back much more than 4,800 years. Others have different concerns.
Mount Ararat as the ark’s resting place is a modern concept, not specified in the Bible. “The whole notion is odd because the Bible tells you the ark landed somewhere in Urartu,” noted biblical scholar Jack Sasson. So what was the structure NAMI found?
Some scholars believe the structure could be an ancient shrine dedicated to where some thought the ark could be. But even then, the wood should be much younger for one simple reason: the Bible hadn’t been written 4,800 years ago!
Though the findings hadn’t been corroborated, Turkey planned to petition the United Nations to list the structure as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They were, perhaps unsurprisingly, unsuccessful. Despite all the setbacks, NAMI stuck to their story.
“We believe that the wooden structure we entered is the same structure recorded in historical accounts,” said one member in a statement to the press, “and the same ancient boat indicated by the locals.”
So while no one can yet confirm the veracity of NAMI’s claims, ark-heads across the globe will continue to search high and low for signs of the biblical boat. But some aren’t satisfied just searching for the Ark…