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Noah’s Ark Found! (Again)

April 30, 2010

The last few weeks I have had my head down finishing my first year of full-time teaching at Temple and editing the dissertation, but I had to come up for air to post on this story. From the South China Morning Post:

New evidence, including wood specimens dating back 4,800 years, discovered by a Hong Kong-Turkish team 4,000 metres above sea level, may suggest the existence of the biblical Noah’s ark.

The team of 15, which included six Hong Kong evangelists and cameramen, said they had excavated and ventured inside seven large wooden compartments on snow-capped Mount Ararat in Turkey last October. The whole process was also videotaped for the first time.

ABCNews also reported on the story on Good Morning America and tried to inject reason into the sensationalism (follow link to watch clip).

“I’m not quite 99.9 percent sure it’s Noah’s Ark, but they’ve got something,” George Washington University’s Eric Cline told “Good Morning America.” “I’m waiting for them to convince me.”

He suggested it could even be a very old shepherd’s hut.

“I would want to first of all try to figure out their data, verify it,” he said.

Even though the precise location of the latest find has been kept secret, Cline said Yeung and his scientists would need to “parachute in” a large team of independent experts and archaeologists to study the wood and surrounding areas.

“In terms of Noah’s Ark, I would have suspected it would have perished long ago,” he said. “The wood should just have disintegrated.”

Cline said that if Noah’s Ark had come to rest atop a remote mountain, as the Bible suggests, it’s reasonable that he would have dismantled his ship to use the wood for shelter.

“Instead of Noah’s Ark, I would be looking for Noah’s first house or something like that,” he said.

Cline is, of course, being quite generous. A carbon dating of 2800 BCE would still pose problems for the biblical text since we indeed have texts from before that time. Every time I hear a date in the third millennium BCE being bandied about  I feel a bit like Ashurbanipal who was able to boast: “I have studied inscriptions from before the flood.”

The ability to treat such claims in the media with any credibility is sad. And Cline was forced to argue the position in this way by the way the reporter asked him questions. The truth is, probably 99.9% of biblical scholars in America (and perhaps, throughout the world?) are likely to see this as another unfortunate misidentification, if not a full out hoax.

See previous discussion by Abnormal Interest, PaleoBable and the excellent post by Richard Bartholomew of Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion.

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