Since the Chinese and Turkish expedition group announced their discovery of a large wood structure on Mount Ararat as the legendary “Noah’s Ark” in late 2009, an internationally-respected and independent archaeologist has made two visits to the prehistoric sites and analyzed their material assemblages. He has reported the findings in details in January this year.
“For an archaeologist, the prehistoric sites on Mount Ararat represent the Super Bowl of Archaeology—sites elucidating the origins of the Neolithic or age of farming and associated with an ancient account of greater magnitude than the Trojan War,” reported the Harvard University educated archaeologist and current president of the archaeological contract firm PRC, Inc.
Dr. Joel Klenck, who received his B.S. in Anthropology/Archaeology from Northwestern University and A.M. and Ph.D. from Harvard University in the same discipline, said in his reports released through his company, “In essence, the association between the prehistoric sites on Mount Ararat and Noah’s Ark involves two questions. The first question is whether the archaeological features on Mount Ararat correlate with aspects of the various accounts of Noah’s Ark in the Torah (Old Testament), Quran, and other sightings in history? My answer to this question: Yes.”
In 2004, Hong Kong-based evangelical ministry Noah’s Ark Ministries International (NAMI), a ministry arm of The Media Evangelism Association (TMEA), sent the first Chinese expedition team to Mount Ararat in search of Noah’s Ark. That November, they’ve announced a discovery of a structure at 4,200 meters above sea level. In 2007, NAMI teamed up with Turkish archaeologist and geologist and made another ascent; they’ve discovered an enormous wooden stone wall, of which they’ve obtained samples and measurements. The entire process was video-taped on film. In 2009, an expedition team consisting of Chinese and Turks once again climbed Mount Ararat and descended into the 4,000 meter deep glacier, where they’ve engaged in excavation and discovered an enormous wood structure.
While the media quickly became abuzz upon this announcement, NAMI’s claim that the discovery to be “Noah’s Ark” turned into a controversy among Chinese scholars and ministers in the Chinese churches, who doubted the claims’ validity without further verification. Other American ark searchers issued joint statement, alleging the discovery to be fake and fabricated.
In 2011, Klenck confirmed the veracity of the site and its prehistoric origin during the transition or change from the Stone Age to the beginning of agricultural communities. Last month, Klenck reported his detailed findings through a press release, stating that the origins of the site are from the Late Epipaleolithic (13,100 to 9,600 B.C.) / Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (9,600-8,500 B.C.) and explained why the site is only recently discovered.
“The monumental wood structure and its artifacts correlate nicely with Ark stories and comprise a three-story structure, made of mostly cypress wood, with an array of botanical remains including wild grains and legumes. The site possesses an archaeological assemblage of great antiquity with architectural features exhibiting coats of pitch, walls angling outward, mortise-and-tenon features, cross-beams at all levels of construction, with animal dung in the interior of the edifice,” he stated.
In seven of the ten loci inside the monumental wood structure, pitch is observed on walls or features, he said, adding that both smaller structures at lower elevations display coatings of pitch, a thick elastic polymer made from naturally occurring petroleum products or plants. Furthermore, non-ceramic containers constructed of a lightweight organic material that dates before the invention of pottery have been located.
Bowl of non-ceramic material (Artifact 3) in cave site, Area C, Ararat.
Bowl of non-ceramic material (Artifact 2) in cave site, Area C, Ararat.
“The vessels would have quickly decomposed at most archaeological sites but are preserved in the high altitude and freezing temperatures near the summit of Mount Ararat,” noted Klenck in his report.
Pitch coating on planks from Locus 2, Area B, Ararat.
Also, a series of mostly small ceramic bowls from a range of periods from the Pottery Neolithic Period (7,000-5,800 B.C.) through the Bronze Age/ Iron Age transition, around 1,350 B.C. were found near the entrance. Klenck concluded, “The edifice was venerated by cultures from the Pottery Neolithic through the end of Bronze Age.”
Pottery Neolithic bowl (Artifact 4) from base of Locus 4, Area A, Ararat.
Significant amount of animal dung were also discovered. Near where vegetable materials such as chickpea and bitter vetch were stored, there is a wood door lined with flax, straw, and wool. Klenck commented on a stench there, which suggests adjacent installation with dung.
“Having entered the locus during the end of the summer on Mount Ararat, the experience was eye-watering,” said the Harvard-trained archaeologist. “The animal dung remains in the monumental wood structure provide researchers with an ideal opportunity to ascertain the animal species that deposited the dung by analyzing the genetic material from these remains.”
Klenck also reported on the wood structure exhibiting advanced wood joinery features that were previously unknown to exist during the Late Epipaleolithic Period.
With the extensive reports of his findings, Klenck also provided an explanation as to why the discovery of the sites on Mount Ararat only occurred during the last decade. He said that the claim or assumption that this site is only a recent discovery is incorrect.
“For centuries, there have been reports by a wide array of people from different periods – including Jewish historian Josephus in the first century and Russian military officers in the nineteenth century – confirming the presence of a monumental, ancient wood structure on Mount Ararat, which they associated with the Ark.”
Other reasons are that few archaeologists completed surveys of Mount Ararat at elevations above 3,000 meters above sea level, and surveyors had backgrounds in historic periods instead of prehistoric archaeology. “They looked for ceramic material but perhaps were not at focused on searching for debitage, lithic tools, or prehistoric features,” he noted.
Addressing the second question that arises from the association between the prehistoric sites on Mount Ararat and Noah’s Ark, the archaeologist notes, “The second question, is more expansive: Did Noah’s Ark actually occur—with the worldwide flood covering the highest mountains, doves and a raven, pairs of every animal, and only Noah and his family surviving a global deluge?”
“Render to science what is science’s and to G-d what is G-d’s. The archaeological artifacts and features from the prehistoric sites on Ararat should be conserved and analyzed according to the best scientific methodologies because of their preservation, antiquity, and importance to understanding the Epipaleolithic / Neolithic transition—or change from the Stone Age to the advent of farming. Conversely, religious communities should be apprised of the scientific analyses from the sites because these prehistoric sites on Mount Ararat are important to the beliefs of many peoples. The scientific community should be careful to analyze the remains on Mount Ararat as free from prejudice as possible.”
The archaeologist concludes, “The prehistoric sites on Mount Ararat fulfill a dual role: they comprise a search for scientific knowledge and a foundation for religious beliefs. The two communities—of science and faith—should work together to maximize the understanding of these wonderful archaeological sites.”
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