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ARKEOLOGY
The story of the Flood and Noah’s Ark is one of the greatest sea mysteries. Mountaineers, archaeologists, explorers, pilots, and even astronauts have been involved in “arkeology” the search for the remains of the original ark. In 1971, as he stood on the surface of the moon looking back on the greenish blur orb of the earth through the vastness of space, astronaut James Irwin’s thought turned to the Old Testament. Like Noah in his ark, Irwin and his fellow travelers had made landfall after a perilous journey. There and then, Irwin vowed that when his NASA days were over, he would set out to find the remains of the original ark om Mount Ararat in Turkey. If such a vow coming from a man of Irwin’s scientific background seems eccentric, his obsession was not unique. Many respectable modern archaeologists believe that something more that myth lies behind the detailed account in Genesis of Noah’s divine mission to build an ark and save selected creatures from the Flood. THE FLOOD LEGEND Classical sources too support the story. In Greek mythology, Prometheus annoys Zeus, who decides to drown humankind in a flood. But Prometheus warns his son Deucalion, who weathers the storm in an ark (or chest) with his wife, eventually coming to rest on Mount Parnassus. In the fourth century B.C. Plato added the tale of Atlantis, the drowned continent, while the writer Lucius of the second century A.D. told of a Syrian version of the Deucalion saga. Taken together, these impressive ancient accounts of floods seem to verify each other. Early 18th-century thinkers took the Genesis version of the story at face value, the only argument being over dates. Dr. James Ussher, an early-18th-century archbishop of Armagh in Ireland, used Old Testament dates and genealogies to arrive at a date of 2349 B.C. for the Flood, compared with 4004 B.C. for the Creation. Toward the end of the 18th century, however, advances in geology began to suggest that the world was older than with of these dates. The publication of Charles Darwin’s revolutionary ideas in The Origin of Species in 1859 had a further impact on scientific opinion. Darwin’s theories appeared to discredit Genesis as a historical document. He asserted that the species of animals currently existing on earth had been produced not by the Creation but by evolution.

But the flood story would not go away. As anthropologists studied far-flung cultures in the wake of Darwinism, they found close variants of the Noah story all over the world. India, China, Burma, Malaya, Hawaii, all had their versions of the flood, as did the Aborigines of Australia, the Maoris of New Zealand, and many North and South American Indian tribes, including the Eskimos. CARVED IN CLAY Then, in the 1870’s, came the sensational discovery fo the clay tablet library of the 7th-century B.C. king Ashurbanipal at Nineveh on the Tigris, in what is now Iraq. Among 20,000 inscribed tablets, 12 told the story of the Babylonian hero Gilgamesh and dated from the Sumerian civilization of about 4000 B.C. - very much earlier than either Genesis or the early Greeks. And the 11th of these tablets includes a conversation between Gilgamesh and a man named Utnapishtim, who, like Noah, had built a boat to escape a flood sent by the gods. Meteorologists were fascinated by Utnapishtim’s account of the onset of the deluge, which precisely described what would happen if a cyclone drove the waters of the Persian Gulf over the low lands of Mesopotamia. Particularly moving was the scene of desolation he described after the flood: “I looked at the face of the world and there was silence, all mankind was turned to clay.” So the reality of the flood legends was once more the center of dispute, but with a new twist. Was Noah only a garbled version of earlier tales, or had both he and Utnapishtim been involved in deluges? Had another flood also engulfed the Eskimos, Aztecs, and Aborigines in a single global catastrophe, or had there been a period od deluges all over the world? It was not until 1930 that the British archaeologist Sir Leonard Woolley settled the Mesopotamian flood dispute. Woolley had been excavating the Royal Cemetery at Ur in Iraq, digging straight down and uncovering layer upon layer of artifacts that had been deposited over the centuries. Below these was a thick layer of mud, which had been obviously deposited by water. Far too high to be river mud, it baffled Woolley, who ordered the dig to continue. After about nine feet, the mud petered out, to be replaced by rubble in which were deposited were flint tools and fragments of crudely made pots - an unmistakeable Stone Age settlement. Woolley consulted with his colleagues, but there was only one conclusion to be reached. He telegraphed the British Museum: “We have found the Flood!” Over the next few years similar shafts were sunk over a wide area of the region. By plotting the thickness of the mud layer, Woolley decided that water had spread inland about 400 miles from the Persian Gulf to a breadth of about 100 miles. “It was a vast flood in the valley of the Tigris

and the Euphrates which drowned the whole of the inhabitable land,” concluded Woolley; “For the people who lived there, that was all he world.” Could Noah have built a vessel to escape such a catastrophe? According to shipbuilders, archaeologists, and geologists, the answer was yes, Neolithic people had the tools, materials, and skills, and the ark described in Genesis would have been perfectly seaworthy. So the hunt for the ark itself began again in earnest, centering on the volcanic mountain mass of Ararat, a 16,000-foot-high range about 25 miles long and 12 miles wide stretching between the Caspian and Black Seas, on the border between the Soviet Union, Turkey, and Iran. There were several intriguing though undocumented reports to encourage the new “arkeologists,” as those involved in the quest for the ark were called. Much of Ararat was actively volcanic, and in 1840, after an eruption, Turkish workmen reported seeing the prow of a large ship jutting from a glacier on the mountain slopes. Geologists made the difficult climb, confirmed the find, and were said to have entered three chambers of the ship. In 1893 Dr. Nouri, archdeacon of Jerusalem, rediscovered the site and stated that he had found the prow and stern of the ship, which was made of thick wood of a dark red colour. Deep snow had unfortunately obscured the interior. In 1914, a Russian fighter pilot named Roskowski reported that he had flown over the remains of the vessel on the southern flank of Ararat. Despite the war, Czar Nicholas II sent a military expedition of 150 men, which found the ship and took photographs and measurements. Sadly their report vanished three years later during the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. ANCIENT HAND-HEWN TIMBER More recently, an expedition led by the French explorer Fernand Navarra reported finding what looked like a vessel about 13,800 feet up and sunk in a glacier. The ship was about 450 feet long (roughly the length of the ark described in Genesis) and had sloping sides. Navarra made three expeditions between 1952 and 1955, bringing back pieces of apparently hand-hewn timber of great age, although Carbon-14 dating tests proved inconclusive. In 1965, the Daily Telegraph of London, England, published an aerial photograph of the outline of a boat about 400 feet long. Despite protests from orthodox geologists that the shape was probably a freak glacial formation, several more expeditions, mainly Turkish-American, made the icy climb to find what may or may not be Noah’s Ark. The expedition of August 1984 included as one of its members astronaut James Irwin fulfilling the vow he made on the moon.

The leader of the expedition, Marvin Steffins, a director of U.S. International Expeditions, brought back fossil samples. He admitted that the real evidence would need long excavations to dig out, but added, “we believe this to be the site.” For The ‘X’ Zone Radio/TV Show (www.xzoneradiotv.com) and The ‘X’ Chronicles Newspaper (www.xchronicles-newspaper.com), I am, Rob McConnell. Like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/thexzoneradiotvshow.