THE SEARCH FOR NOAH’S ARK
(Critique of 2008
Video Tape produced by the BASE Institute of Colorado Springs, CO. $14.95.)
A review and critique by
Gordon Franz, Bill Crouse, and Rex Geissler
December 12, 2008
Robert Cornuke has produced a new video which claims that remnants of Noah’s Ark have been found in the Elburz Mountains about 54
miles from Tehran, the capital of Iran.
is founder and CEO of the Bible Archaeology, Search and Exploration (BASE)
Institute of Colorado Springs, Colorado.
In 2005 and 2006, Cornuke and select volunteers, visited Mount Suleiman
in the Elburz Mountains looking for an object they suspected might be the
remains of Noah’s Ark. Prior to his claims about Mount Suleiman
he was convinced that the Ark had landed on Mount Sabalan
(Cornuke and Halbrook 2001). After his
third trip to Iran in 2006 he posted articles on his website detailing the
reasons why he thought Noah’s Ark might have landed on Mount Suleiman,
northwest of Tehran in Iran (http://www.baseinstitute.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=51&Itemid=65 – some have since been taken down). Cornuke’s
claims have been examined and reviews have been posted on the web (http://www.ldolphin.org/arkiniran.html), and by multiple authors (http://noahsarksearch.com/iran.htm). At the end of the reviews Cornuke was
challenged to publish his findings from Mount Suleiman
in a scientific peer-reviewed publication but none have been forthcoming.
while couching his claims in careful language, maintains that he has discovered
the true Mount Sinai, the actual anchors from St. Paul’s
shipwreck, the location of the Ark of the Covenant, and now Noah’s Ark in Iran
(2005). Now this material is available
in a high quality new video, the subject of this review. Since evidence and claims are being made in
this video which we believe do not establish the case that Noah’s Ark has been
found, or that it could have landed in Iran.
However, due to its excellent production quality, we are concerned once
again that its sensational claims will mislead the Christian public.
Genesis 8:4 and the
Mountains of Ararat
video begins by arguing that Genesis 8:4 does not specifically state that the
Ark of Noah landed on modern Mount Ararat in Eastern Turkey. That this Scripture only gives us a general
location of the Ark’s
final berth is one of the few points in the video with which we agree.
Main Premise of the
main premise of the video, as stated on the back cover of the video box, is
that: “Based on the testimony of the Bible, personal investigation, examination
of evidence, and other factors, Cornuke points to Mount
Suleiman in the modern-day country of Iran, as the most probable resting place for
Noah’s Ark.” This premise, however, collapses on Biblical
grounds and other known facts.
Cornuke bases his conclusion on five
veracity of the Ed Davis testimony as to the location of the Ark
region (country) of Ararat (Urartu) extended into the central Elburz mountain
range in Iran
interpretation of Genesis 11:2 would mean that the Ark
landed in Iran, east of Shinar (modern-day, south central Iraq)
ancient sources, for example Josephus, might extend the Land
of Ararat eastward into Iran
rock outcrop they found on Suleiman is the Ed Davis object, is petrified wood,
and by implication, the remains of Noah’s Ark
look briefly at each of these assumptions.
The Ed Davis Testimony
First, the main reason Cornuke began his quest to find Noah’s Ark in Iran,
is based on the testimony of a World War II soldier who claims he was shown the
1943. In fact, we would be so bold as to
say that without this testimony we sincerely doubt that Cornuke would have ever
traveled to Iran. The soldier in question, the late Ed Davis of
New Mexico, claimed that while stationed in Iran with the Army Corps of Engineers he was
shown the sites of the Garden of Eden and Noah’s Ark (Shockey 1986). Ark
researchers, including the authors, have spent many hours analyzing this
testimony (Crouse 1988;
The story Davis tells is
riddled with contradictions and puzzling problems. For example, in his earliest testimony he
indicated he was stationed in Hamadan, Iran, (Persia
at that time) and because of a favor he did for his friends, they took him to
the Garden of Eden and Noah’s Ark. In the very first recording of his testimony
he noted that his native friends were Lurs or Lourds, a predominant ethic group
in western Iran (Luristan)
near the Zagros Mountains. However, zealous Ark
researchers corrected him that they were Kurds since they are the major ethnic
group in the villages at the base of Mount Ararat. Hence from then on Davis calls them Kurds.
In subsequent debriefings,
Ed noted other details such as the fact that he and his friends went through
the town of Qazvin on their way to the mountain,
and that he could see the lights of Tehran from
site. It was these two facts that led
former detective Cornuke to conclude that Ed must have been somewhere in the
Elburz Mountains north of Tehran. Cornuke and remote-sensing (satellite data)
expert Ed Holroyd then began looking at satellite data of the Elburz Mountains
to find a configuration of canyons that matched Ed’s detailed description. They concluded that just such a formation
existed on Mount Suleiman. In 2005 Cornuke made his way to Mount Suleiman
and found a large black rock extrusion he came to believe was what Davis was shown.
What we find interesting
is that while Cornuke believes he has found the Ed Davis object he does not
tell his viewers the whole story. Davis also declared that the Ark was broken into two pieces and that you
could see compartments inside. Because of the hollow nature of the Ark, he
claimed that his friends had shown him artifacts that fell out of the broken
Ark including lentils, beans, honey, hay, feathers, nuts, dried fish, oil
lamps, tools, clay vats, petrified shepherd staffs and petrified woven twig
doors! Davis and his guides viewed this
“Ark” object from the edge of a cliff and were
planning to use ropes to get down to it the next day. None of this description is shared in the
documentary, nor does it square with the object shown in the video. There is no cliff and no “compartments” and
no artifacts shown at this rock outcropping in the video.
Most Ark researchers, however, do believe Ed
Davis did have some kind of experience; his friends probably did show him
something as he noted in the flyleaf of his Bible. Interestingly enough, according to Lur
tradition (and Ed Davis’ friends were Lourds) both the Garden of Eden and the
final resting place of the Ark
are in the region of Luristan. According
to Major Henry Rawlinson, the Lur tradition puts the Ark’s
final resting place on a mountain called Sar Kashti, a mountain in the Zagros
mountain range of Western Iran about a day’s drive from Hamadan (1839: 100).
The Boundaries of Ararat/Urartu
The second major problem
with the Cornuke thesis is that there is no evidence yet discovered that
indicates the region of Urartu/Ararat ever extended as far north and east into Iran
as he claims. In fact, in the video,
Cornuke’s map doesn’t even cover the ancient capital of Ararat/Urartu on Lake Van! This is
a grievous error. What is at stake here
is the inerrancy of Scripture. As far as
these authors are aware, no Urartian scholar would put the Kingdom of Urartu as
far to the east as Cornuke claims even at the height of its empire in the 8th
and 7th centuries B.C. when Urartu included about 500,000 square
kilometers (193,000 square miles) according to Zimansky. At the most, it extended only a few miles
south and east of Lake Urmia. Most scholars are in agreement that when the
author of Genesis referred to the mountainous region of Ararat in Gen. 8:4, he
was making reference to the region directly north of Mesopotamia, centered
around Lake Van (Zimansky 1998: 2). The tribes and regional kings of Ararat
(Urartu) are first mentioned in Assyrian literature in the 13th
century B.C. meaning it could easily have been in existence and known by Moses
(Zimansky 1998: 6).
Urartu Map based upon Archaeologist Boris Piotrovsky’s Research
The Urartu archaeological map
extended with more labels is from noted Urartian Archaeologist Boris
Piotrovsky, who was Director of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and
directed the Urartian excavations at Karmir-Blour, one of the greatest fortresses
of Urartu (1969: back cover). In order
to accurately demonstrate how different Bob Cornuke’s map of Urartu shown in
the video, the archaeological map of Urartu based upon Piotrovsky
and Zimansky (1998: 2, 230‑231) had to be completely re-drawn below (outlined
in red with Urartian archaeological sites) in order to add entire areas of
landmass to take into account Cornuke’s view of Urartu (outlined in blue and
adapted from the locations shown on the video into a new map).
Cornuke literally leaves
out 36,500 square miles of the accepted archaeologists’ view of Urartu. In addition, it should be noted that Cornuke
adds about 28,000 square miles of geographical area to his map of Urartu with
no archaeological support whatsoever, allowing his map to include some of the
northern and central Elburz Mountains close to Mount Suleiman.
Archaeological Urartu (Red) with Urartian
Archaeological Sites (Orange)
Compared with Cornuke’s Urartu (Blue)
presumed Ed Davis landing site on Mount Suleiman, northwest of Tehran, is far
outside the land of Ararat/Urartu (at least 250 miles as the dove flies from
Urartu to Mount Suleiman), and deep inside the Land of Madaia of the
Medes! This is a very crucial point to
Cornuke’s claims. Is Mount Suleiman,
northwest of Tehran, in the Biblical land of Ararat/Urartu or not? The BASE Institutes case stands or falls on
this question. Cornuke gives a vague,
non-factual answer to this question when he states:
When people talk about the boundaries of Urartu
-- which is the Assyrian designation, Armenia, [the] more modern
designation -- They can’t be precise.
There is not a boundary that you can draw a line around. It expanded and contracted up to a thousand
[1,000] miles based on war, or famine, or some kind of drought, very mercurial
in the boundaries. So we can say it’s
just right in that area of Turkey,
the area of Iran, the area
maybe of Azerbaijan. It’s just right in that area of the world; we
just can’t be precise where in the area when we are talking about Iran. It’s right where the Bible indicates it
should be [12 min.:30 sec.-13 min.:08
sec. into the video].
in the video, a speculative map of Ararat/Urartu graphic is shown that includes
and comes close to Mount
Suleiman. Cornuke knows he must have the Land of Ararat/Urartu extend all the way over to
the Elburz mountain range in order to give his discovery any kind of
credibility. It is our judgment that
this graphic is very inaccurate and, in our opinion, deceptive. As noted earlier, Cornuke’s Urartu map does
not even include the known historical capital and cultural center of
Ararat/Urartu at Lake Van and its associated archaeological sites, the large
Urartian site of Çavuştepe toward Hakkari, numerous Urartian archeological
sites between Lake Urmia and Lake Van, none of the traditional Hurrian
highlands extending west to Erzincan and Elizağ, nor does it include the Gordyene
Mountains south of Van. However, Cornuke’s
Urartu does conveniently extend southeast to the central Elburz Mountains and
the edge of Mount Suleiman where not one piece of evidence for Urartian
presence has ever been found.
is a brief summary of the region of Ararat/Urartu by noted expert Paul E.
Zimansky and notice that none of the landmarks he mentions are deep within
Iran. He states:
Urartian kings would have ruled all of
the agricultural lands around Lake Van and Lake
Sevan, and the southwestern shore of Lake Urumiyeh. The upper Aras, particularly the Armavir and
Erevan areas, was firmly in their hands, and conquest took them as far north as
Along the Murat, evidence for royal control is surprisingly meager, but
sufficient to put the Euphrates at Izoli
within the conquered zone and the Elazig area in the narrower sphere. Campaign inscriptions are found well to the
east of Tabriz,
but the nearest evidence for firm state control in that direction comes from
Bastam, thirty-eight kilometers north of Khvoy.
Missing from this picture are the large and fertile plains of Erzurum and Erzincan on the Karasu, the northwest shore of
the plain of Marand, and the middle Aras from Jolfa to the slopes of Mount Ararat. All
of these are generally assumed to be part of Urartu in some sense, and it is
worth examining other forms of evidence to see if there might be some grounds
for including them within the perimeter of state control (1985: 10).
Zimansky does not include the Elburz
Mountains in the area of Urartu. Thus,
it is NOT, as Mr. Cornuke claims, right
where the Bible indicates it should be!
Genesis 11:1, 2, From
is a third reason why we believe that Cornuke is wrong. The Genesis 11:1 and 2 passage is too weak an argument to use as a place reference. The passage states: “And the whole earth was of one language, and
of one speech. And it came to pass, as
they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar;
and they dwelt there” (KJV). The argument goes like this: If you translate the Hebrew miqqedem mdqm as: from the east,
as the KJV does, it would clearly seem to indicate that the Ark must have
landed somewhere to the east of
historic Shinar (Mesopotamia), in modern-day Iran since it is that country that
is directly east of Shinar. However, if
you translate the miqqedem as eastward, as the NIV does, then you have the migration coming from the west
toward Shinar. Elsewhere the miqqedem is translated in the
that is: men moved in the east, then, the
directional point is much more indefinite.
Given that this migration occurred several hundred years after the
disembarking from the Ark
from the previous context of chapter 10, it seems best not to push this passage
too much. Wenham favors in the east when the miqqedem is used adverbially as in 2:8;
12:8; and Isa. 9:12 (1991: 238). In addition, Mathews believes miqqedem marks events of separation, so
it can also have a metaphorical sense (1996:1:478). If you do select the more specific,
directional interpretation as Cornuke does (as in the KJV), and you believe the
Ark landed in northern Iran, or northeast Turkey, it would have certainly been
more accurate for the writer to say they
migrated from the north.
Neither the Elburz Mountains, nor Mount Ararat is directly east of Shinar. The Biblical mountains of Ararat (Urartu) are directly north of the plain of Shinar.
The apparent conflict between 8:4 and 11:2 is more easily resolved
with a more indefinite interpretation in our opinion. It should also be pointed out that that there
is least a 100-300 year period between the landing of the Ark after the Flood
(Gen. 8), and the Tower
of Babel event (Gen.
11). The peoples could have easily moved
from where the Ark landed to other locations
east or west of Shinar [Babylonia] before the Tower of Babel story
Fourth, one of Cornuke’s experts in the video, Frank Turek,
briefly discusses the ancient sources.
Unfortunately the editing in the video is bad at this point. Only the last part of a longer statement about
Josephus and Nicolas of Damascus is given that seems to suggest that
Ararat/Urartu extended further east than previously thought.
examine one passage in Josephus. In Antiquities of the Jews 20:24, 25 (LCL 10:15), Josephus recounts the story
of Monobazus, the king of Adiabene and the husband of Queen Helena, who wanted
to see his son Izates before he died.
The capital of Adiabene was Arbela in northern Mesopotamia (present day Iraq). When Monobazus saw his son, he gave Izates
the district of Carron. The land of
Carron is described as a place with “excellent soil for the production of
amomum in the greatest abundance; it also possesses the remains of the ark in
which report has it that Noah was saved from the flood, remains which to this
day are shown to those who are curious to see them.” The land of Carron must be in the mountains just to the north of Mesopotamia. These
mountains would be in present day southeastern Turkey,
but they were never considered to be part of what is now present day Iran!
fifth line of argument may be the weakest of all. In the video there are claims that the rock
that was brought back from Mount
Suleiman was petrified
wood and that it contained animal hairs of various kinds, bird follicles,
savannah grass, seeds, insects, and other such things. This material should have been published
first in a scientific peer-reviewed publication, either archaeological or
geological, so that the scholarly community could see the documented evidence
and analyze it. The reviewers seriously
doubt that this rock outcrop is anything but a solidified volcanic lava
extrusion. This can look exactly like
petrified wood in the way it fractures and can even have cellular structures
when seen under a microscope. The viewer
should be very careful about taking this evidence at face value until further
documentation is available. For a
discussion of the geology of Mount
Suleiman, see: Gansser
and Huber 1962: 583-630.
the sleeve of the video case it states that this video is a Dove Family Approved documentary. It is our opinion that this should not have
been approved because the video, in our opinion, does not accurately present
the facts as recognized by experts in the field, i.e., the map with the
supposed boundaries of Urartu. In
addition, it is factually inaccurate and based on a questionable eye-witness.
Also, in the credits at the end of the video one of the authors of this
article (Bill Crouse) is listed as an advisor.
This was not authorized and he in no way wishes it to be seen as an
endorsement of the material.
have also noted how carefully at times statements are worded in the video. On the cover of the video box and the
beginning of the video, they build up the fact that they are looking for Noah’s
Ark. By the end of the video, they don’t claim
they found Noah’s Ark, but rather the Ed
Davis object. One wonders if this is
a very clever change in case somebody challenges the content of the video. Our opinion is that they have found neither.
would caution those who read this: If
you are considering forwarding this review to another Christian who is enthused
about this so-called discovery, as well as others from the BASE Institute, we
pray that you do it with a sensitive and kind spirit. It might be good to preface the review with a
question: Have you considered, or would
you be interested in reading a different perspective about these discoveries?
this review we want it to be perfectly clear that in no way is this review intended
as a personal affront, either about Bob Cornuke, or anyone who appears in the
video. Our sole concern, at this point,
is to review the information and make informed comments. If it was the motive of the producers to
instill confidence among believers that the Bible is true this in our opinion sets
a poor precedent, and could have the opposite result. Even worse, it may be a poor testimony to
Corbin, B. J.
1999 The Explorers of Ararat: And the Search for
Noah’s Ark. 2nd ed. Highland Ranch, CO: Great Commission
2005 Ark Fever.
The True Story of One Man’s Search for Noah’s Ark. Wheaton, IL:
Cornuke, Robert; and Halbrook, David
2001 In Search of the Lost Mountains of
Noah. The Discovery of the REAL Mountains
of Ararat. Nashville, TN:
Broadman and Holman.
the Ark in
the Ahora Gorge? Ararat Report #14 (Jan.-Feb.).
Ed Davis Testimony: An Addendum. Ararat Report #20 (Jan.-Feb.).
Eyewitnesses: Are They Reliable? Ararat Report #32 (May).
Crouse, Bill; and Franz, Gordon
2006 Mount Cudi –
True mountain of Noah’s
and Spade 19/4: 99-113. http://www.biblearchaeology.org/publications/BAS19_4.pdf
Gansser, Augusto; and
1962 Geological Observations in the Central Elburz, Iran. Schweizerische
Mineralogische und Petrographische Mitteilungen 42: 583-630.
Geissler, Rex; Basaran, Cevat; and
2006 Mount Ararat Archaeological Survey. Bible
and Spade 21/3: 70-96.
1965 Antiquities of the Jews. Book 20.
Vol. 10. Trans. by L. H.
University. Loeb Classical Library 456. Reprinted 1981.
Vol. 1. Nashville, TN:
Broadman and Holman.
Piotrovsky, Boris B.
1969 The Ancient Civilization of Urartu: An
Archaeological Adventure. Trans. by
James Hogarth, from Russian. New York: Cowles Book.
Rawlinson, Major Henry
on a March from Zohab, at the Foot of Zagros, along the Mountains to Khuzistan
(Susiana), and from Thence Through the Province of Luristan
to Kirmanshah, in the Year 1836. Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of
1986 The Painful Mountain. Fresno,
1991 Word Biblical Commentary. Genesis 1-15. Vol. 1.
Milton Keynes, England:
1985 Ecology and Empire: The Structure of Urartian State,
Chicago: University of Chicago.
1998 Ancient Ararat: A Handbook of Urartian
Studies. Delmar, NY:
About the authors:
Franz is Bible teacher, and an archaeologist on the staff of the Associates for
Biblical Research http://www.biblearchaeology.org
Crouse is a researcher and president of Christian Information Ministries http://www.rapidresponsereport.com
Geissler is a computer specialist, publisher, Ark researcher, and the president
of Archaeological Imaging Research Consortium (ArcImaging) http://www.arcimaging.org