Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Was Noah's Ark found in Turkey?

An old photo of the Durupınar site, seen in the foreground.
Credit: Wyatt Archaeological Research.  Image source.
When I first saw this story posted on Facebook, my first instinct was to ignore it, thinking that it would not be widely received.  However, I have seen it come up several times in recent weeks, so I thought I should address the recent claims that Noah's Ark has been found in Turkey.

This discovery is not new by any means.  The boat-shaped object was first noticed by locals in eastern Turkey after a series of earthquakes in 1948, then by İlhan Durupınar, a captain of the Turkish Army, in 1959 via aerial imagery.  The area is known as the Durupınar Site after the captain.  Initial surveys and investigations ruled it a natural geologic feature, and so it was forgotten until Ron Wyatt, a nurse from Tennessee, noted its proximity to Mount Ararat and began claiming that it was Noah's Ark in 1977.

Wyatt was not the first or only one to make the Ark connection (He learned of it from Life Magazine in 1960), but he certainly seemed to be the most vocal, becoming the leading proponent for the theory until his death in 1999.  He did not appear to have any archaeological background or training, but he had a knack for making sensational claims.  Throughout his journeys to the Middle East, Wyatt also claimed to have found Sodom and Gomorrah, the Red Sea crossing site (complete with ancient Egyptian chariot wheels), Mount Sinai, and the Ark of the Covenant, which he said was buried under the site of Jesus' crucifixion.  Apart from his own testimony and a few grainy photographs, however, none of his claims have been substantiated.

Answers in Genesis already wrote a piece refuting many of Wyatt's claims about Durupınar back in 1992, so here I will comment on the specific claims made in the new article.

"Why is this not a BIG story?"

The article opens by accusing "organizations responsible to disseminate these facts" of having an agenda "to keep us in the dark."  That is always a red flag for me.  Nobody has anything to gain from keeping this site a secret.  Unless their own reputation or money is at stake, most people are not out to deceive the public for the sake of deception.  Granted, I've been known to be too trusting of people when it comes to truth.

"How it was discovered"

Aside from some spelling mistakes, the article's account of the object's discovery generally seems to match up with other sources.  I'm not sure I can agree that the object "stood out from the rough and rocky terrain," however.
Above is an aerial view of the Durupınar Site, located at the center of the image.  The object seems to blend in with the surrounding terrain just fine, and it is difficult to find if you do not know where to look.  According to AiG, there are even other, smaller boat-shaped structures in the area, but I was unable to find any on Google Earth.

Dr. Arthur Brandenburger, a professor of photogrammetry, studied images of the site and reportedly said, "I have no doubt at all, that this object is a ship."  This seems to be an unusual claim to me, but given that his credentials consist of "discovering the Cuban missile bases during the Kennedy era," I imagine that he has spent much more time looking at artificial structures than at geological features.  He was even involved in the ensuing field investigation that concluded that the object was natural.

"the Visual Evidence"

Nobody can deny that the shape of the object is like the hull of a ship, but there is no indication that Noah's ark was shaped like the hull of a ship, as it did not need to move around much during the Flood.  The Bible gives no real clues as to the shape, only the dimensions.  According to Genesis 6:15, the Ark was 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high.  It is difficult to directly convert cubits into modern measurements, but it can be argued that the Durupınar object is somewhere in the range of 300 cubits long.  However, it is significantly wider than the biblical ark.  The article says that the "average width" is 50 cubits, or about 86 feet (if 515 ft = 300 cubits, as the article says), which is a dubious claim.  A quick Google Earth measurement shows that most of the object is 115 to 150 ft wide, and I find it odd that Noah would make a boat so much wider than the given instructions.

The "ribs" claimed to be found on the edges do not contain any wood, organic or petrified.  Wyatt apparently never performed tests on the ribs, and subsequent studies by others found only mud and boulders.  The four "bulges" mentioned in the article appear to be a typical fracture pattern with rocks possessing regularly-spaced planes of weakness, which is quite common.  The single protruding "rib," while an oddity, is also not uncommon in muddy sediments.  Such structures can be seen in the Badlands of South Dakota, among other places.  The "ribs" shown within the wall are, according to AiG, simply areas of hardened mud between regularly-spaced erosion gullies.  The photograph provided in the article does not reveal enough detail to study it further.

While the object does appear to be in the middle of a mudflow, that does not imply that the object itself was part of the flow.  The article does not specify what "geologists" claim that it was 1000 feet higher on the mountain before the 1948 earthquakes.  More likely, the rocks were already in place, but the mudflow buried all but the tips of the rocks, leaving a boat-shaped outline at the surface.

Curiously, the article also claims that Noah's Ark had six levels, but Genesis 6:16 only mentions three levels: the lower, middle, and upper decks.  The extra three decks and the stepped shape assumed in the article have no basis in the biblical narrative.

"Ground Penetrating Radar"

The article claims that ground-penetrating radar was used to map out the underground structure of the object.  Answers in Genesis, however, claims that only the southernmost portion of the object was mapped, and that the rest of the work was hindered by local police and military.  Additionally, ground-penetrating radar is subject to quite a bit of interpretation with present technology, let alone in the 1970s and 80s.  While the article cites Ron Wyatt as claiming that the results show a man-made object (no suprise there), AiG quotes Tom Fenner, a geophysicist who later studied the site, as saying, "After numerous attempts over a period of one and a half days we were unable to duplicate [Wyatt's] radar records in any way. … I was never convinced the site was the remains of Noah's Ark."  It should also be noted that Wyatt and his team only mapped out points of strong reflection, not lines.  Connecting the dots would require further interpretation.  Fenner's survey, on the other hand, indicated a flat layer of bedrock just below the mudflow.

"Artifacts retrieved from the Ark"

At some point, Wyatt drilled a hole in the mud in the object and retrieved three objects which the article identifies as petrified animal dung, a petrified antler, and a piece of cat hair.  These objects are hardly unusual, and they could probably be found in drill holes anywhere in the region.  Additionally, AiG claims that these remains were not all found in one hole, but in several locations around the site, all within the mud in the walls at or near the surface.

The specimen of "laminated petrified wood" found by Ron Wyatt is claimed to have over 0.7% organic carbon and to be held together by "organic glue."  Wyatt's website is inconsistent with the total amount of carbon in the sample, saying that the object had 1.88% carbon on the outside and 4.95% carbon on the inside, yet only 0.71% total carbon when testing for organic and inorganic carbon.  According to AiG, all geologists that studied the sample determined it to be basalt common to the area, and that the "organic glue" was simply veins of calcite, which naturally contains high amounts of carbon.  Unfortunately, as with the rest of the claims, documentation and details are scarce, so it is difficult to determine the validity of Wyatt's tests and what significance the claimed "organic carbon" and "iron nails" might have.

The article then discusses a round metallic object which Wyatt called a "rivet."  The source of this object is not revealed, but AiG claims that it was actually found 50 meters away from the "boat" in 1991.   Admittedly, the object does look artificial, but disc-shaped objects can be and are formed naturally, so the appearance itself is not sufficient grounds to call it a "rivet."  The article then points out that tests found iron, aluminum, and titanium in the object, claiming that this is evidence for exotic metallurgy.  However, these three elements only compose 18.32% of the sample; the rest of the elements were apparently not tested for.  Furthermore, all three of these elements are found naturally in the surrounding basalt.  The article's claim that aluminum "does not exist in metallic form in nature" is misleading.  The lab report does not specify that the aluminum was in metallic form, and aluminum is found abundantly in natural minerals.

Wyatt also claimed that large stones found nearby with holes drilled in them were tied to the Ark by ropes and used to stabilize the ship.  The biggest problem with this claim, however, is that the holes are far too close to the edge of the rocks.  The thin arch of rock surrounding the hole would not be strong enough to support the weight of the stone; it would simply break off.  AiG also claims that there is no evidence of wear around the holes from the ropes that supposedly held them to the Ark.  The article correctly notes that pilgrims carved crosses into these rocks, but there is no indication of association with Noah and his family, as the number of crosses varies widely.

"After Noah's Ark landed"

The article claims that ruins around the area are evidence of Noah's first city.  While there may indeed be ruins of ancient cities, there is no indication that they were built by Noah and his immediate descendants.  An "alter" is also claimed to have been found, on which Noah made the first sacrifices after the Flood.  I have no idea why this object is attested to be Noah's alter.  The photograph of the object looks exactly like the granite boulders found in the Black Hills of South Dakota and gives no indication of artificial working.  Very little detail and no evidence is presented in the article, though.

The article ends with an odd note of extraterrestrial beings, implying that the Hebrew word for God, "Elohim," may refer to a race of aliens that provided ancient man with advanced technology.  Perhaps I am reading too much into it.

All in all, I am not at all convinced that this site is the resting place of Noah's Ark.  If the Ark managed to survive the last 4400 or so years, I feel that it would better stand up to scientific scrutiny than the Durupınar object.  However, there is no reason to believe that the Ark must still be around.

What are your thoughts?  Leave any comments and/or questions in the comment section, or email admin@honestcreationist.com!

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