History's Greatest Mysteries (2020) s04e13 Episode Script

The Search For Noah's Ark

Tonight, one of the Bible's
best known stories.
A catastrophic flood wipes out
nearly every living thing
on Earth,
except those saved
by Noah and his fabled ark.
become evil and sinful,
and God decides to sort of
hit the reset button.
Could this tale
be more than mere legend?
And if the answer is yes,
what evidence supports it?
Research has found
that a piece of the ark
may actually have survived.
Now, we explore the theories
behind this biblical mystery.
Sir Walter Raleigh suggested
that we should be looking
for Noah's Ark
in a massive mountain range
in India.
It could be that
the story of Noah's Ark
is actually based
in ancient Greece.
What in the world
is a boat doing
13,000 feet up
on a mountain in Turkey?
Was there really a great flood,
and if so,
what became of the ark?
Uzengili, Turkey, 1959.
Army Captain Ilhan Durupinar
flies an aerial
reconnaissance mission for NATO.
Captain Durupinar's there
to take photographs
from his plane
in order to map a remote area
in the Turkish Highlands.
A few years prior,
there had been
three large earthquakes
that altered the terrain,
so the government
wants updated images.
The flight is routine
until he spots
something strange.
He's flying over basically
the middle of nowhere,
when he sees a startling
and unusual formation
amongst the rocks below,
which of course, he photographs.
When the film is developed,
the captain is surprised to see
what appears to be the remains
of a large ship far inland
and 6,500 feet above sea level.
What in the world would a boat
be doing way up there?
He doesn't know it yet,
but he may just have stumbled
onto the answer
some people think
of a great biblical mystery
that has been out there
for thousands of years.
The mystery of Noah's Ark.
The story of Noah's Ark
is told in the biblical
Book of Genesis.
After God creates the universe
and mankind begins
with Adam and Eve,
they go on
to populate the Earth.
Ten generations later,
Noah's born.
According to Genesis,
during Noah's time,
God loses faith in humanity.
Humankind become evil
and sinful,
and God sees all this and is
very, very displeased by it.
And he essentially decides
to sort of hit the reset button.
He's going to wipe out
all living things
that he has created
and start afresh.
God spares Noah
and his family on one condition.
He must build an ark
and stock it
with pairs
of every animal on Earth.
So, the ark is a giant ship.
It's designed to survive
this cataclysmic flood
that's about to cover the Earth.
God gives Noah
extremely detailed instructions
on how to build this ark
how many floors it should have,
to how many rooms,
what type of wood to use,
and even its exact dimensions,
515 feet long, 86 feet wide,
and 51 feet tall.
According to
the Book of Genesis,
the flood lasted
for 40 days and 40 nights.
Eventually, as the waters
receded back into the Earth,
the ark came to rest
on the mountains of Ararat.
And actually,
there is a mountain today
called Mount Ararat,
it's a huge peak in Turkey.
And Durupinar's aerial photo
is taken just a few miles
south of there.
For centuries,
religious scholars
and historians view the story
of the Great Flood
as a metaphor,
a warning that God punishes sin.
But curiously, the flood
is also mentioned
in both the Torah and the Quran.
Could these photos be proof that
Noah's tale is, in fact, true?
Durupinar's photos create
a real kind of firestorm
of controversy and excitement,
especially when
they're featured in a story
that Life Magazine
puts out in 1960.
People are super excited,
because if these photos
actually show Noah's Ark,
then they can prove
that everything
that's written in the Bible
about this whole event
is actually true, right?
This is a historical event
that actually happened.
Inspired by the article,
a team of Americans
led by Ron Wyatt
begins researching the site
in the 1970s.
One of the first things
the team learns
when they arrive is that
the locals call the mountain
where the Durupinar site
is located Mount Cudi.
Why is this important?
Well, the Quran also tells
the story of Noah's Ark,
and in the Quran's version,
the ark comes to rest
on a mountain called al-Gudi.
So, they think Cudi
is actually al-Gudi.
So, the team now believes that
they're able to connect the site
back to the Quran and the Bible.
Everything seems
to be adding up.
And so, they embark
on this arduous hike
all the way up the mountain
convinced that they're on
the right track.
Near the Durupinar site,
they actually discover
several very large boulders
with holes bored through them.
And the marine archaeologists
who are part of the team
are very excited about this,
because they look at them
and they recognize them,
and they say,
"You know what these are?
These are something called
drogue stones."
Drogue stones
are ancient anchors.
have found evidence
of drogue stones used as anchors
in some of the oldest shipwrecks
in Egypt and the Mediterranean.
So, could these stones
be the anchors
used on Noah's Ark?
Next, the team examines
the strange
boat-shaped formation
with ground-penetrating radar.
While they're performing
the scan,
the team is excited
to note the measurements
of this formation.
In the Bible, the ark
is 300 cubits,
or about 515 feet long.
This structure on the mountain
is 538 feet long.
It's almost an exact match,
and they can't believe
this coincidence.
The scan also reveals
what appears to be
a manmade internal structure.
The team believes this could be
fossilized remains of chambers
inside the ark.
If this is an ancient ark,
it's unlikely that any wood
could survive
all these thousands of years.
So, this might be
an incredible stroke of luck
if some of the remains have been
petrified or fossilized.
The team drills down,
they take some samples.
When the samples are analyzed,
they're found to be nothing
other than soil
and regular sedimental rock.
In other words, it seems
to be just a natural formation.
But that doesn't end the hunt
for the ark in this area.
See, there are two things
researchers can look for.
Now, the boat itself
is one of them.
But another avenue to explore
is looking for evidence
of a giant flood.
Large-scale natural disasters
leave traces behind
that can last
thousands of years.
And interestingly enough,
research has found
that a massive flood
may indeed have taken place,
and it happened right near where
Durupinar's photograph
was taken in Turkey.
In 1997, a team of geologists,
and oceanographers
led by a couple of Americans,
William Ryan and Walter Pitman,
analyze the area
around the Black Sea.
And they find evidence
for what they call
the Black Sea Deluge.
At the bottom
of the saltwater Black Sea,
they find remains
of freshwater animals
dating back to around
5,000 or 6,000 B.C.
And soil samples
and bedrock tests
also prove that this once
was a freshwater lake,
and then it changed
very quickly.
So, the theory runs
that about 8,000 years ago,
there was a huge glacier,
and suddenly,
that glacier collapses.
It causes this massive upsurge
of the Mediterranean Sea
that floods
all the surrounding areas,
including what's now
the Black Sea.
Every day, the equivalent
of 200 Niagara Falls' worth
of water floods in,
and this goes on for
300 days straight madness.
The existing freshwater lake
that will become the Black Sea,
it gets bigger and deeper
at the rate
of one mile a day.
If you lived in this region,
in just a matter of hours,
your home could be
at the bottom of the sea.
In 2000, marine archaeologists
led by former Navy Officer
Robert Ballard
find evidence of a flooded
ancient human settlement
over 300 feet down
on the bottom of the Black Sea.
The flood was actually the size
of Colorado before receding.
It could have affected thousands
upon thousands of people.
to the study's authors,
any survivors could possibly
have passed the flood story
down through the generations.
Now, we may have evidence
of a great flood right here,
and this reignites interest
in the Durupinar site.
The Turkish government sanctions
further ground-penetrating
radar studies in 2014,
in 2019, and again in 2021.
So, as the technology advances,
the scans get better,
and we're finding evidence
for straight lines.
Now, any time you have
a straight line like that,
it could be the result
of human occupation.
Although Turkish authorities
currently restrict access
to the site,
some remain hopeful
that evidence of the ark
may eventually be found.
So, there's pretty good evidence
for a large ancient flood
here in Turkey.
And if it turns out
that this is a boat
that dates to the same time
as the flood,
then pretty good chance
that we found the inspiration
for Noah's Ark.
But this is not
the only candidate
not by a long shot.
When evidence
of a massive ancient flood
is discovered near the Black Sea
in 1997,
many believe it may be proof
the story of Noah's Ark is real.
This story is famous in three
of the world's major
Western religions.
It's in the Jewish
and Christian scriptures,
and it's also in the Quran.
But each of these books
only give archaic
or vague locations
for precisely where
this might have taken place
names of mountains and regions
that have been lost to time.
But one additional
ancient text may hold clues.
There's an early
Roman historian named Josephus
who was writing around
the same time
that some of the Bible
was written
in the first century A.D.
Flavius Josephus
is the most important
source of information about
Judaism outside of the Bible
that we have.
Josephus is actually Jewish,
but he's raised
and educated in Rome.
And one of the things
he seeks to do in his writings
is to kind of explain
the Jewish people
for a Roman audience.
The particular book that
Josephus writes still exists.
It's known as
"The Antiquities of the Jews."
In researching it, he talks
to other Jewish historians
and combs through
all these ancient documents,
as many as he can find.
Based on his research,
Josephus believes
he's found a new location
for the story of Noah,
the ark, and the Great Flood.
He believes it all took place
in the Kingdom of Armenia.
While researching his book,
Josephus comes across
the writings of
a Babylonian historian
whose name is Berossus.
Now, Berossus is writing
between 300 and 200 B.C.
According to Berossus,
the remains of Noah's Ark
are still around in 200 B.C.
Berossus writes, quote,
"The ark, grounded in Armenia,
some part still remains
in the mountains of Armenia."
Armenia is very mountainous,
and where would you start
to look?
As amazing as this little
kind of piece
of historical lore goes,
it's still really very vague
and unspecified.
Instead, Josephus
tries to track the ark's pieces.
Josephus cites Berossus
as saying people
are going up into these
mountains in Armenia
to grab chunks of the ship,
taking them as keepsakes
and amulets.
according to Josephus,
most of the ark
ends up in a city
in the Kingdom of Armenia
called Carrhae.
During Josephus' time,
he says they're still showing
pieces of the ark to visitors,
and if true,
this could be a tremendous lead.
Who knows, maybe today
some traces of the ark
could still be found there.
But there's one problem.
In 1260, the Mongols invade
and burn down Carrhae.
Luckily, the trail
doesn't end there.
According to the Armenian
Apostolic Church,
a piece of the ark
may actually have survived.
The Armenian Apostolics believe
that in the fourth century A.D.
a holy man by the name
of Jacob of Nisibis
climbed a sacred holy mountain
in Armenia,
and there,
he found a piece of Noah's Ark.
Now, once again, we don't know
precisely where
this mountain is.
But we do know what happens
to the piece.
Jacob brings it to
the Cathedral of Etchmiadzin
in the Armenian Mountains.
The Cathedral of Etchmiadzin
still exists today in Armenia.
It dates back
to the year 301 A.D.,
and it is believed by many
to be the oldest Christian
cathedral in the world.
And the cathedral
claims to still possess
Jacob's piece of Noah's Ark.
There was an ornate reliquary
built in the Cathedral
of Etchmiadzin in 1698
that supposedly housed
this piece of wood.
No one's ever tested it
and we don't know how old it is.
We're not even sure what kind
of tree it comes from.
It is unlikely
that it will ever be allowed
to leave the cathedral,
since it is a precious
religious relic.
But maybe someday,
science can definitively link it
to the Great Flood.
Even if you accurately
date this piece of wood,
that doesn't necessarily mean
it's part of the story
from the Bible.
But there's possible evidence
that Noah's Ark
is based on a real story,
and it's not because
of an object.
It's because
of the story itself.
Sure enough, there is
another ancient flood story.
This one is older
than Christianity,
it's older than Islam,
and it comes
out of ancient Greece.
The ancient Greek flood story
is surprisingly similar
to the biblical account.
So, once again,
in this you have a man,
a flood, and a boat.
The protagonist
of this peculiar story
is called Deucalion,
and Deucalion lives in a very
mountainous region of Greece
called the Peloponnese.
Zeus, god of lightning,
the leader of the Greek gods,
becomes enraged because mankind
is corrupt and evil.
And according to the story,
Zeus unleashes a massive deluge,
with the rivers and the sea
flooding everywhere.
Deucalion builds
what is described
in the flood story
as a giant chest,
and he and his wife
climb into this chest,
and they float around
through this deluge
for nine days and nights.
Finally, it touches down
on solid land
on a mountainside,
and just like Noah,
Deucalion and his wife Pyrrha
are the only human survivors
of this great flood.
Deucalion's flood
is one of the key stories
in Greek mythology,
and it's pretty interesting
that this same tale pops up
in more than one place.
But again, makes you wanna ask,
is this just a myth?
Then, in the early 1600s,
a key new piece
of evidence emerges.
There's a man
called Thomas Howard.
He's a British nobleman,
and he is like many
of the elite men of his day,
very interested in going on what
was called "the grand tour."
That is, he would travel
to all the archaic regions
Italy, Greece,
what's now Turkey,
and he would, on this tour,
bring back as many antiquities
as he could possibly
carry back with him.
In 1627, he buys
two small pieces of marble
with ancient Greek writing
on them.
They've given
to a respected English scholar
named John Selden,
who begins working
on a translation of the writing.
As Selden starts this process
of translating these texts,
he realizes
that he has in his hands
something really interesting
and really important.
What he's got is a listing
of historical events
since ancient antiquity.
Since these marble pieces
on the island of Paros,
he calls this
the Parian Chronicle.
And right there
on the Parian Chronicle
amongst all the other
historical events
is an entry
for Deucalion's flood.
There it is, just carved
in stone with a date
that may just prove this version
of Noah's Ark is actually real.
When the Parian Chronicle
is discovered in ancient Greece
in the early 17th century,
some scholars believe
it could hold the answer
to the mystery of Noah's Ark.
The biblical story could in fact
be inspired by the story
of Deucalion, or it's possible
that they both related
to the same historical event.
Either way, according to
the Parian Chronicle,
Deucalion's flood
was an actual historical event,
and it took place
in 1581 B.C.
When historians
get a look at that date,
they get pretty excited,
because there's a real-life
that fits that timeline,
which could well have inspired
this widespread flood myth.
There's a huge natural disaster
that is so catastrophic,
observers as far away as Egypt,
and even China
record its impact.
It's called the Minoan eruption,
on the Greek island of Thera.
Thera is an active
volcanic island
in the Aegean Sea.
And right there, at some point
in the late 1500 B.C.,
this volcano suddenly erupts.
What's even deadlier
than this eruption
is actually the tsunami
that it creates.
It has an estimated
wave height of 400 feet
radiating out
from the eruption site.
This floods and destroys
for hundreds of miles
in every direction,
and many believe the destruction
of the island of Thera
inspired Deucalion's flood.
If this is Deucalion's flood,
what became of his version
of the ark?
Depending on which
ancient author you believe,
there are four possible
locations for the mountainside
where this chest of Deucalion
comes to rest.
Of the four, there's only one
that shows evidence
that dates back to around
the second millennium B.C.,
Mount Parnassus.
Mount Parnassus
features an ancient settlement
called Delphi, most known today
for its famed oracle.
If there were
any survivors of the flood,
this is one of the best
for where they might
have set up a new town.
But so far, no ark, no boat,
no giant chest
has been found in Delphi.
But could there be
an entirely different location
where Noah's Ark came to rest?
According to famed
17th century explorer,
Sir Walter Raleigh,
the answer is in the Bible.
Late in life,
Raleigh sets on writing
a very ambitious project
called "The History
of the World, in Five Books."
Sir Walter Raleigh
is a Christian,
and he really kind of goes back
to what he sees
as the most important
historical text,
and that's the Old Testament,
starting with
the Book of Genesis.
And he takes a close look
at the story of Noah's Ark.
Sir Walter Raleigh's time,
people believed that the ark
landed in the mountains
of Ararat in Turkey.
But Sir Walter Raleigh came up
with a shocking proposal.
According to his research,
the story of Noah
and the Great Flood occurred
some 2,000 miles away
from Turkey in India.
Raleigh finds several key clues
that suggest India.
The Bible talks about
the descendants of the Flood
traveling to a place
called Shinar
it's a name for Mesopotamia
from the East Mekedem.
Now, Walter Raleigh
asked the question,
why would the descendants
of the Flood
be traveling to Shinar
from the east if Mount Ararat
is to the northwest?
So, he suggested that we should
be looking for Noah's Ark
in a massive mountain range
to the east of Mesopotamia.
And that would be
the Himalayas in India.
The other thing
he's looking for is vineyards,
because in the Bible, it says
that one of the first things
Noah does when he lands
is plant a vineyard of grapes.
Raleigh points
to another written account
to support his claim.
Raleigh reads a history
of Alexander the Great's
conquests in India.
Now, it says that after
a successful campaign in India,
quote, "did Alexander
feast himself and his army
ten days together finding
therein the most delicate wine."
This pretty much seals the deal
for Raleigh.
Of course, today we'd say
his argument is a little thin.
But there may be
more substantial evidence
to prove his theory.
Raleigh doesn't seem
to be aware of this,
but there's a well-known story
of a massive flood
in Indian folklore.
The Indian flood legend
appears in a sacred text
known as the Matsya Purana.
In this story, Vaivasvata Manu
is warned by Vishnu,
one of the chief Indian deities,
of a great flood.
Manu survives the flood
by crafting a giant boat,
and saves humanity.
Yet again,
the similarities to Noah
are uncanny, and so
we find ourselves wondering,
was Raleigh actually right?
Did the Great Flood
take place in India?
In 2017,
Indian archaeologist B.B. Lal
believes he's uncovered
the answer.
B.B. Lal is the former
director general
of the archaeological survey
for the state of India,
and he was doing research
in the Indus Valley
looking at the civilizations
from 4000 to 1000 B.C.E.
Now, he's actually trying
to solve a different mystery.
This ancient culture
describes a great holy river
in northwestern India
called the Saraswati,
but it's not there anymore.
It's said to have just
Now, he discovers that there
was a massive tectonic shift
around 2000 B.C.
that suddenly obstructed
the Saraswati River's path
into a nearby valley,
flooding it in a massive deluge.
Lal believe that this explains
both the fate
of the Saraswati River
and Manu's flood.
He believes he's proven
that Manu's flood is real.
If correct,
could this be the origin story
of Noah's infamous flood?
B.B. Lal passes away,
in September of 2022,
before he's able
to further develop
his Indian flood theory.
But it is kind of interesting
to see
how this well-known
English researcher
and this great
Indian archaeologist
both point to the same
conclusion 400 years apart
using very different methods.
The Indus Valley
remains a hotbed
of archaeological exploration.
So, who knows what
they might turn up?
Maybe one day we'll find out
that both Raleigh
and Lal were right,
and this is the location
of the Great Flood.
In 1985, the long hunt
for Noah's Ark
takes a sudden turn when
a 4,000-year-old clay tablet
is discovered in the attic
of a British Air Force veteran.
It takes many years
to translate,
but some believe it could
finally solve the mystery
of where the Bible's
Great Flood took place
and where the ark itself landed.
In the 1980s in England,
a man by the name
of Leonard Simmons passes away.
Simmons had led a really
interesting life.
So, he had been
a Royal Air Force officer,
and as such, he traveled a lot
around the world,
around the Mediterranean Basin,
and he had collected
on his travels
a lot of different artifacts
which he brought back
to England with him.
Simmons' son
Douglas would like to know
what some of these things are,
so every so often,
he'll take one and bring it
to the British Museum.
One day in 1985, he arrives
with a tiny clay tablet,
maybe four inches high,
not very big.
It's covered front and back
in cuneiform script,
the writing
of ancient Mesopotamia.
Simmons meets
with Dr. Irving Finkel,
who is chief curator
for Near Eastern artifacts
at the British Museum.
And when Finkel starts working
with this text,
he is apparently really amazed.
Finkel knows
that every single scratch
on this tablet is gold.
His eyes scan the first line,
and he's almost drowning
in excitement at this point,
because here in this tiny tablet
is an account
of a devastating flood.
Finkel asks Simmons
if he can keep the tablet
to fully translate it,
but Simmons declines.
Finkel really wants
a crack at this tablet,
because he's devoted his life
to the study of these
cuneiform writings,
and he knows that
this is something special.
Finkel's department
at the British Museum
includes over 130,000
of these clay cuneiform tablets,
most of which were unearthed
in 1852 in Iraq.
Ancient Mesopotamians
used cuneiform
essentially to kind of
keep track of things
like provisioning
how many ducks
were needed for a feast,
things like that.
But they also
wrote down at least one
exciting historical tale
one of my favorites,
the Epic of Gilgamesh.
The poem recounts
the exploits of King Gilgamesh,
who ruled in ancient
an area near modern-day Iraq.
The story begins
with a great flood
that is sent by the gods that
basically wipes out everything.
Most scholars believe
that the Epic of Gilgamesh
was written between
3,000 and 4,000 years ago,
and it plays out
almost identically
to the story of Noah's Ark.
But it's important to remember
that this story
was written 1,000,
if not more, years before
the story of Noah's Ark.
So, the big question
that we have is,
was there one original event,
or were there lots
of different floods
or different flood stories?
In the Epic of Gilgamesh,
an immortal man by the name
of Utnapishtim
rounds up various animals
and brings them with him
into an ark.
Together, they survive
this catastrophic flood.
Utnapishtim's boat comes to rest
on a mountain called
Mount Nimush.
And this story is so similar
to the story of Noah's Ark,
that many scholars believe
that the story of Noah's Ark
is a direct descendant
of the story of Utnapishtim
and the Epic of Gilgamesh.
That means Noah's Great Flood
actually takes place
in Mesopotamia
in modern-day Iraq.
When Dr. Finkel
first examines
Douglas Simmons' clay tablet,
he hopes it holds answers
that Gilgamesh doesn't.
The tablet at the British Museum
that Gilgamesh is written on
is missing some
pretty critical lines.
It says "The ark that
you are to build,"
blank, "be equal," blank.
It's like going through a tunnel
with your cell phone,
you miss certain parts.
The tablet is broken,
the story is incomplete.
Finkel is hoping that this
new find from Simmons' attic
can fill in the blanks.
Finkel finally convinces
Douglas Simmons
to let him translate
the tablet in 2009.
And as expected,
it's a retelling
of the Mesopotamian flood story.
Dr. Finkel
spends the next four years
decoding the writing.
The tablet is so old
that he's having
a hard time reading it.
So, he has to have it 3D-scanned
in order to complete
the translation.
In 2013, he's finally ready
to publish his findings.
Finkel believes
that this was worth
the nearly 30-year wait,
because what he's got in there
is explicit instructions
for how to build the ark.
I mean, this is incredible!
A British tourist
buys a souvenir in 1948,
puts it in his attic,
where it sits for decades
until his death,
and the whole time,
he had the ark's
instruction manual.
The tablet describes
in great detail
the measurements, materials,
and construction process.
It reads more clearly
than most build-it-yourself
furniture instructions
these days.
It describes how to make
the ropes to bind it together,
how to space out and connect
30 ribs and 3,600 stanchions,
and how to waterproof it
with bitumen.
The boat built
as described is enormous.
It's 4,300 square yards,
about the size
of a modern football field,
and its walls are about
20 feet tall.
The length of rope
that's needed on this boat
would stretch from New York
all the way to Pittsburgh.
And the weird thing
about this boat
is that it's not rectangular,
it's actually circular.
This is much different
from the vague metaphor
of the biblical story of Noah.
It also rings much truer.
It's more convincing.
The level of detail
of these instructions,
it seems like they're meant
to be followed.
It seems like
this is a literal boat
that is supposed
to be actually built.
So, the natural next step
if you've got these instructions
is to build it.
In 2014, a 4,000-year-old tablet
translated by Dr. Irving Finkel
reveals instructions
to build a massive boat.
Many people believe
that this tablet is proof
that Noah's Ark was real,
and that it was used
to survive the Great Flood
that was in Mesopotamia,
which is now modern-day Iraq.
To test that theory,
a team of Indian archaeologists
attempts to build a version
of the ark.
They don't have the money
or the time to build
the full-size version.
So, they decide they're going
to make the replica
at one-fifth the size
of the original version.
Even scaled down,
the finished product
weighs 35 tons
and is made of wood,
rope, and bitumen,
which is a form of natural tar
that will waterproof the boat.
So, this team sets up shop.
They gather all the necessary
tools that they would need,
and they're really kind of
keeping it to the sorts of tools
and materials that would have
been available
in ancient Mesopotamia.
No metal, no adhesive,
no power tools.
The wood acts as like
a sort of skeleton
that they wrap
over a mile of rope around,
kind of like a giant basket.
It's like
they're weaving it, almost.
Then, they add the bitumen last,
which waterproofs the hull.
after four months of building,
they construct a platform
with rollers
to launch their creation
into the Indian Ocean.
It's the moment of truth.
Dr. Finkel himself
comes to India to observe.
The team is holding
their breath.
Will this bizarre-looking ship
actually float?
They manage to get it
into the water, and
the ark floats!
I mean,
this is pretty incredible.
We're talking about
a set of instructions
that are thousands of years old,
and they work.
Dr. Finkel is ecstatic.
In press interviews,
he says a boat like this
could potentially have floated
all the way to New York.
So now,
there's even more evidence
to tie the story of Noah's Ark
to Mesopotamia.
We have a legendary great flood
and instructions
for a seaworthy ark.
But where could
that ark have ended up?
One man thinks he knows
the answer.
Bob Cornuke
is an amateur archaeologist
who specializes
in biblical geography.
He spends over a decade
searching for Noah's Ark.
Cornuke is a biblical apologist.
He wants to prove the Bible
to be true, so he starts out
looking for Noah's Ark
on Mount Ararat,
and of course,
he's unsuccessful.
Then he meets a man
named Ed Davis.
In 1943, Ed Davis was working
for the Army Corps of Engineers
in the Hamadan province in Iran.
According to Davis,
the locals take him
up to the top of a mountain
13,000 feet up,
and they show him
what they believe
to be the remains of Noah's Ark.
This sounds like a tall tale,
but Davis takes
a lie detector test
and passes it.
And the more research
Cornuke does,
the more convinced he becomes.
To try and locate
the mountain for himself,
Cornuke examines
a 1,000-year-old map.
The Hereford Mappa Mundi
is a massive medieval map
of the ancient world.
I mean, it's huge, it's like
four feet by five feet.
And right there in the middle
of this medieval map,
in the center of it
is Noah's Ark in Hamadan,
which is right next to where
Ed Davis is stationed.
Cornuke is able to locate
a holy mountain in this area
known as Mount Suleiman,
which is also known
as the Throne of Solomon.
Cornuke flies to Iran in 2005
intent on climbing
Mount Suleiman.
He climbs the mountain,
and at 13,000 feet up,
at the same elevation where
Ed Davis described the ark,
Cornuke finds several rocks
that are, quote,
"uncannily beam-like
in appearance," end quote.
He believes these
are petrified wood.
He also finds a worship shrine
littered with wood fragments.
So, Cornuke takes these rocks
to be analyzed,
and sure enough,
it's petrified wood.
He also claims to find
fossilized clams,
and to Cornuke, this is evidence
of a great flood from
a couple thousand years ago.
But not all
of Cornuke's evidence
can be proven.
Cornuke has
the wood fragments dated,
and they turn out to be
only 500 years old,
so they can't possibly be
from Noah's Ark.
Cornuke argues
that these wood fragments
most likely were just part
of a shrine that was built
and rebuilt basically
commemorating this area
of where the ark rested.
He believes that people
have been worshipping here
ever since the Mesopotamian ark
came here to rest
after the great flood.
Further research
is still ongoing at this site,
and Cornuke hopes to one day
be able to go back to Iran
and pursue more evidence
on his theory of Noah's Ark.
The search
for evidence of Noah's Ark
has crossed many countries
in Europe, Asia,
and the Middle East.
But according to some theorists,
that search may be fruitless.
There are some compelling
for giant floods
in several different regions,
and in several different
But there are some academics
who are not swayed
by this evidence,
because according
to their own findings,
the story of Noah
and the Great Flood
never happened.
When William Ryan
and Walter Pitman
publish the Black Sea
deluge theory back in 1997,
which suggests Noah's Ark
is based on a real-life flood
in ancient Turkey and Armenia,
critics come forward
to suggest that maybe that flood
isn't all
it was cracked up to be.
Most people would agree
that something did happen.
You can see geological evidence
for it.
But probably it wasn't
It could very well have been
a change that took place
over a much longer
period of time.
And if it really happened
in around 8000 B.C.
in the close of the ice age,
it was really before
any significant
human activity in the area.
Regardless of when it occurred,
some experts believe
it was more of an inconvenience
than a disaster.
People could have just packed up
and moved up the hill
a little bit,
and they'd have been fine.
Some feel the same way
about the ancient Greek flood.
The volcanic eruption on Thera
most definitely
destroyed that island
and took a lot of people
with it.
But the after effects
have been hotly debated.
There may be evidence
of a destructive tsunami
hitting nearby Crete,
but others believe
that destruction was due
to an earthquake, not a flood.
As for Mesopotamia, there was
flooding there all the time.
Flooding was a very
necessary part
of Mesopotamian cultures.
The word Mesopotamia means
"between the two rivers."
It's actually this area
that lies
between the Tigris
and the Euphrates Rivers.
And the point of being
on that floodplain
is that twice a year,
these two rivers
would overflow their banks.
It was a necessary thing,
because it would make
the soil really fertile.
So, flooding in
a controlled manner
was a regular part
of the agricultural cycle.
But when the floods
get out of control,
when the levee breaks
and destroys a city,
to the people who are devastated
by these floods,
they see these as apocalyptic
world-ending events.
That can be true
without the story
of Noah's Ark being true.
Other parts of the story
have been questioned as well.
So then, there's the thing
about the animals,
you know, two by two.
This doesn't show up in every
single flood myth, by the way,
but as we know in the Bible,
Noah saves two of every animal.
And of course,
this didn't happen.
We have traced
the genetic origins
of, I don't know,
thousands of species,
and they simply didn't just all
come from one place.
If you put every species
of animal on the ark,
the ark as described
in the Bible
is nowhere large enough
to hold all of these animals.
And forget about
the animals' excrement
and the food for the animals.
You need a lot of food
every day.
And so, this becomes the problem
of a literal reading
of the story of Noah's Ark.
It just doesn't make any sense.
But there is at least
one part of Noah's story
that rings true to most.
Ultimately, we have to think,
what is the point of this story?
Why do so many
different cultures
tell different variants
of this kind of flood story?
Because it makes the same point,
all of them.
It tells us that,
again, as a species,
what we do best is survive.
I'm pretty sure
that at many points in history,
a group of human beings
put their heads together
and figured out a way to endure
a massive flood.
It happened in 2004
in Indonesia.
It happened in 2005 after
Hurricane Katrina
in New Orleans,
and it certainly happened
5,000 years ago,
inspiring a story
that we still tell to this day.
One thing is for certain.
The hunt for Noah's Ark
Perhaps Turkish authorities
will find evidence
on Mount Ararat.
Perhaps Bob Cornuke will be able
to make a return visit to Iran.
And perhaps one day,
science will find
definitive proof
of the Bible's Great Flood
and of the ark itself.
I'm Laurence Fishburne.
Thank you for watching
"History's Greatest Mysteries."
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