Perhaps the search for the remnants of Noah’s Ark has yielded no results because scientists are looking on Ararat, but in the Bible it says – “in the mountains of Ararat.” Is there a difference, and where did Noah’s Ark actually stop?
For a thousand and a half years, the answer to this question seemed obvious: because Ararat is the highest mountain in the region. Until the mid-19th century, Jews, Christians, and Muslims had no doubt about the truth of Noah’s story as outlined in the Torah, Bible, and Quran. But in the mid-19th century, developing science, which had already significantly changed its view of the world, called this religious dogma into question. Sharp disputes were held between scientists – believers and atheists, questions were raised to which the Bible had no answer: how could animals from other continents, for example, kangaroos from Australia, jaguars from America and thousands of other species swim across the oceans to find salvation in Noah’s Ark? Of course, they couldn’t, and since then people of religious worldview have had to say that one should just believe, not seek evidence. In response to this, skeptics claimed that all biblical stories are just fairy tales.
However, many thoughtful people then, as now, did not want to fall into extremes of denial and tried to have faith that did not contradict their reason, and to develop knowledge without denying spirituality. The heyday of “historical materialism,” as Ilf and Petrov would have put it, was short-lived.
In 1872, George Smith, an Assyriologist at the British Museum, deciphered the text of cuneiform tablets found in the ruins of the library of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal (7th century BC) in Nineveh. They contained the ancient Sumerian “Epic of Gilgamesh,” which turned out to be the source of the biblical story of Noah. This was a sensation.
Smith gained worldwide fame for his translation of the Chaldean text about the Great Flood, which he read to the Society of Biblical Archaeology on December 3, 1872. Interestingly, among the listeners was British Prime Minister William Gladstone, the only Prime Minister to attend scientific seminars on Babylonian literature. Gladstone called the Armenians one of the “…oldest peoples of Christian civilization and the most peaceful, entrepreneurial and prudent peoples in the world”, and the only solution to the Armenian Question he considered “the expulsion of the Turks from Armenia”, accusing the governments of European powers of indifference.
He is also credited with the expression: “To serve Armenia means to serve civilization.”
The evidence of the truth of the Noah’s story was not only literary. After the translations of the tablets in Iraq, archaeological expeditions found traces of a great flood dating back at least 5000 years. The flood is also described in an earlier Akkadian tale of Atrahasis (17th century BC). In both texts, the hero builds a vessel and escapes the flood. Moreover, the vessel on which Atrahasis was saved was round and made of reeds, but nothing is reported about its size.
In 1927-1928, English archaeologists Charles Leonard and Catherine Woolley discovered layers of river sediments during excavations near the Euphrates, which proved that around 3000 BC, a major flood indeed occurred in Sumer – at least of a local nature.
Near the walls of the capital of the Sumerians, archaeologists dug a shaft and at a depth of 14 meters they discovered the tombs of the Sumerian kings of the early third millennium BC. Continuing to dig, they came out below to a layer of clay three meters thick, and under the layer of clay appeared traces of older settlements. Thus, this was quite serious evidence that in these places in ancient times there was, if not a worldwide, but quite a catastrophic local flood, and it was about 5000 years ago.
Indeed, according to the Jewish text, the World Flood began in 1656 from the creation of the world, which corresponds to the year 3853 BC. But here the difference of a thousand years is not so important as the fact that the excavations confirmed the reality of the event itself, which became the basis of the Sumerian, and then the biblical legend.
By then it was clear that it could not have been a usual overflow of the Euphrates, as the discovered layer of river silt lay above the river level. So what could have raised the water to a height of tens of meters? It was suggested that at that time a certain catastrophe erupted to the northwest of the Persian Gulf, as a result of which an area of 500×150 km was flooded in Mesopotamia.
The layer of silt was also found during the excavations of the city of Shuruppak, which is mentioned in Sumerian literature as the birthplace of the righteous and wise Ziusudra (translated as “Life of Long Days”), Babylonian Atrahasis, Akkadian-Assyrian Utnapishtim and the real prototype of biblical Noah, who was the ruler of Shuruppak. All this confirmed the veracity of the flood story.
English archaeologist S. Langdon, while excavating the city of Kish, located 250 km northwest of the Sumerian city of Ur (from which the biblical patriarch Abraham originated), also discovered a layer of “biblical flood”, similar to that found by L. Woolley near Ur.
However, further research in Mesopotamia showed that the layers of clay lying under the ancient cities of Ur, Kish, Uruk and Shuruppak have different antiquity. That is, they reflect the fact that there was not one flood, not one “deluge”, but several. And they occurred at different times. Some researchers believed that L. Woolley found traces of the most grandiose of them, but it was caused not by an “ordinary catastrophic” overflow of the Euphrates, but by a flood of two rivers – the Tigris and Euphrates, which in turn was caused by an unknown natural disaster that occurred in the area of the Persian Gulf. Later, in the second half of the 20th century, it was suggested that the catastrophe occurred much further south, in the western part of the Indian Ocean. So what was this catastrophe?
This question was discussed in the mid-20th century by various specialists, for example, the famous American science fiction writer, professor and popularizer of science Isaac Asimov, Russian historian-orientalist Anatoly Novoseltsev, and many others.
Isaac Asimov was the first to attribute the cause of the flood to a tsunami. In his book “Guide to the Bible,” he wrote that the very movement of the ark to the north to Mount Ararat, that is, from the shore upwards into the mountains, speaks in favor of the tsunami version.
“The tradition that the ark stopped on Ararat — somewhere 600 miles northwest of Sumer, — again testifies in favor of the ‘tidal’ flood hypothesis. A normal river flood would have carried floating objects downstream — to the southeast, to the Persian Gulf. But a huge tidal wave must have swept them upwards — to the northwest, to Ararat…
It should be noted that the mountain peak is not specifically named.
It does not mention the “mountain of Ararat”. Instead, the Bible clearly states: “on the mountains of Ararat”, implying that Ararat is an area or country where there is a chain of mountains on which the ark stopped.”
Asimov rightly explained everything. If you move from the plains of Mesopotamia to the north, the Armenian highlands rise in the way as a gigantic natural wall or fortress. Now you can see it with the help of Google maps. The Bible says that the water rose 15 cubits (that is, 7.5 meters) above the mountains. This is a very destructive and deadly wave for the inhabitants of the lowlands. But of course, this is not enough to reach Mount Ararat (peak 5165 m), or even the plains of the Armenian Highlands, which are located at an altitude above 1 thousand meters, and the highlands themselves with their plateaus – up to 2 thousand meters, with passes reaching up to 3 thousand meters. If a large-scale tsunami from the sea rises to the north and reaches the borders of the Armenian Highlands, it can move further only along the gorges of rivers, but only in the southern part of the highlands, not in the northeast, where Mount Ararat is located. And all ships, boats and rafts carried by the wave can be swept into the mountains.
But in ordinary tsunamis caused by earthquakes on the ocean floor, even in the strongest cataclysms, water flooded the coastal zone at a maximum of thirty – fifty meters. There were only about a dozen cases in history when waves went inland up to half a kilometer. However, all these tsunamis are local and affected small areas of coastlines. None of them spread hundreds and thousands of km and did not cross into the territories of neighboring countries.
At the beginning of the 21st century, scientists put forward a version according to which the Great Flood was the result of a gigantic tsunami caused by the fall of a comet into the Indian Ocean. And this happened only five thousand years ago. But such cataclysms could have occurred both before and after this, that is, repeatedly.
And indeed, traces of huge tsunamis remain on the earth in the western part of the Indian Ocean. These are so-called chevron dunes. They are located on the island of Madagascar and are far beyond the usual coastal dunes. Their name was given by analogy with chevrons on epaulettes in the form of a Roman numeral V turned away from the ocean. In satellite images of the island of Madagascar, multi-kilometer chevron dunes are clearly visible, stretching deep into the land. Soon, one and a half thousand kilometers southeast of Madagascar, at a depth of 4500 meters, a crater from an impact in the form of a circular structure with a diameter of 29 kilometers was found on the ocean floor.
In such a large-scale disaster, gigantic tsunamis will rise to the north, stop and turn back the flow of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, flood all the plains of Mesopotamia and reach the borders of the Armenian Highlands. They can move further, but only along the gorges of rivers in the southern part of the highlands, bordering Mesopotamia.
The well-known Soviet Orientalist Anatoly Novoseltsev suggested that since in Armenia itself Mount Ararat is also called Masis, the real Ararat should be another, not so high mountain, which is located at the other end of the Armenian Highlands in its southwestern part in Turkey. The identification of them, according to Novoseltsev, was formed later in church circles outside of Armenia, from where it got into this country itself. In the Quran, this mountain is called “Judi-dag”, which translates as the mountain of Judgment Day.
Judy, also known as Judy-Dagi (Turkish: Cudi Dağı), Jabal al-Judy (Arabic: جبل الجودي) is a mountain range in the region of Bohtan (modern Southeastern Turkey, south of Lake Van, in Armenian – Korduk) and its highest point. In Islamic tradition, it is the summit of Judy, not Mount Ararat, that is identified with the mountain where Prophet Noah’s Ark landed after the flood. Disputes about where exactly that place, which is generally referred to in the Bible as the Mountains of Ararat, continues to this day.
Thus, it turns out that 5,000 years ago, a catastrophic tsunami wave, caused by the fall of a comet into the Indian Ocean, rushing along the riverbeds from Mesopotamia up to the Armenian Highlands, could well have carried with it and brought to the mountains of Armenia one or several large boats, rafts, or ships, on which were people, as well as a little livestock: rams or goats. This gave rise to legends about Atrahasis, Utnapishtim, Xisuthrus, and then Noah and his miraculous rescue, along with all specimens of Earth’s fauna, for which a ship the size of the Titanic was almost built, and so on. However it may be, it is clear that a tsunami from the Indian Ocean during floods could have washed the boats of the Sumerians onto the Armenian Highlands. But only into its southern regions, bordering Mesopotamia.
So, according to all the logic of these conclusions, there is no ark on Mount Ararat or Masis and there never was? It seems that this is the case. This can explain the countless fruitless attempts to find the Ark or its remains there. And the statements that it should be sought in another place. But no matter how logical and justified all this may seem, in 2009, participants of a Chinese expedition to Ararat made a sensational statement that they had finally found the real Noah’s Ark, and it was in the form of a large wooden vessel. To prove it, the Chinese even filmed all their findings and put them on the Internet for everyone to see. But this is worth telling in more detail another time.
by Armen Petrosyan
Translated by Vigen Avetisyan