On the seventeenth day of the seventh month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. ~~Genesis 8:4
Mount Ararat, in the Eastern Anatolian Region of Turkey, is revered by Armenians the world over as sacred and as the site of their creation. This might seem odd considering that Mount Ararat is not within the borders of Armenia, but at one time, it was considered the homeland of the Armenian people. It was the geographical center as well as the spiritual center of Armenia. The Armenian genocide drove the Armenians out of the area known as the Armenian Highlands and The Treaty of Kars after World War I gave the territory to Turkey. Some people even refer to Armenians as the “people of Ararat.” Even now, the snow-capped extinct volcanic cone figures prominently in the landscape as seen from Yerevan and it is depicted on all sorts of everyday items such as water bottles all over Armenia. As soon as we crossed the border into Armenia from Georgia, I saw a branch of Ararat Bank. The image is on the coat of arms of the country, and in the past, it was featured on the one hundred and five hundred dram banknote.
But the mountain has also captured the imagination of many Christians who are not Armenian because there are those who believe that Noah’s Ark came to rest atop Mount Ararat when the floodwaters receded. Obviously, the verse from Genesis is the catalyst for what appears to most people to be the byproduct of wild imaginations and strong desires to make it so. There is an international organization claiming to have discovered the remains of the ark underneath all the volcanic debris and snow. Other than this group, there are probably not a lot of people who actually believe that the ark is atop the mountain and there are many reasons to be skeptical. Most scientists think that this group plays fast and loose with documented historical, geological, and archeological data. One archaeologist points out that there has never been an expedition searching for the ark that didn’t find it, so I guess it’s true that if you want something badly enough, you can have it.
Before getting too deep in the weeds, it’s probably a good idea to stop here and think about whether the Bible story of the ark is based on actual events or if the tale was told as an allegory, acknowledging that this is a personal decision and we will not all agree. Some Biblical scholars believe that the author of the story was attempting to show that God expects us to behave in an acceptable manner and not be wicked or else mankind would face harsh punishment. They believe that the story was told to illustrate the wrath of an unhappy God. Also, geologists maintain that there is no evidence from a geological standpoint of a massive flood in Turkey around 4,000 years ago. Those who believe the story is not allegorical but historical will find lots of fellow travelers, but they will not find lots of evidence to support the claim that the remnants of the ark are on top of Mount Ararat.
The explorers who believe that they have found what is left of the ark tell of a partitioned wooden structure which they entered. This strikes many as “pseudoarcheology” and most archeologists dismiss such explorers as Indiana Jones wannabes. They say that legit archeologists don’t go out on treasure hunts in search of specific items but let the scientific archeological process guide them to discoveries. Even a casual observer has to be skeptical that any wooden structure could possibly remain intact after so much time, even frozen and buried in snow. Others point out that, even if Noah and his ark came to rest at that location, he would have had to use the wood to construct a home for his family and the boat would have been destroyed to build shelter against the harsh weather conditions on top of the mountain. Still, it’s hard to imagine that anyone could have survived very long at all up there, and if they succumbed there, would there not also be human and animal skeletons (two of everything) buried and preserved in the snow? Armenian historians believed that Noah actually settled in Armenia after the ark came to rest on the mountain and later he and his family moved to Babylon, so this is based on assumptions that he came down from the mountaintop with his family. How about all the animals? Did they come down, too? Obviously, I have more questions than answers.
We also need to look at the location. The story in the Bible doesn’t specifically say upon what mountain peak the ark came to rest, but that it landed somewhere in the mountains. Specifically, the Bible says that the ark ended up somewhere in an ancient kingdom called Urartu in what is now eastern Turkey. It was much later that people identified Mount Ararat as being in Urartu. In fact, it is often assumed that Urartu actually means Ararat, but many think it means “mountains of Armenia.” Over the centuries, the meaning of the word Ararat has changed, at least in my opinion. It’s all quite muddy to me.
Seems to me that, if any incontrovertible evidence could be presented one way or the other on where Noah’s Ark landed, it would be out there by now and the information would be easily accessible. Seeing none on the internet, I think we can only assume that no one can prove that the ark landed atop Mount Ararat and no one can disprove it. It would be quite the tourist destination, but on the other hand, it would be overrun with tourists and totally ruin the Armenian peoples’ cherished mountain. That would be unfortunate for them. I wish we could have seen the mountain on a really clear day, but it was impressive even on a hazy, overcast day. One reason it is impressive is that it looms large on the horizon at over 16,000 feet. Below is my best two pictures from Monday and then a picture of little Ararat.