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SEARCHING FOR THE TRUTH--THE BIG PICTURE
The time for lone wolf, half-baked "cowboy archaeology" has come to an end.

Merhaba, Nasilsiniz! (Greetings, how are you!)

INTRODUCTION

For years people have been intrigued by the ancient accounts of a massive flood and the people who survived it. These accounts appear in literature belonging to cultures from around the globe and contain many threads of similarity, so many in fact, that it would be difficult to dismiss them as coincidental. In the western world where Christianity dominates, the account of Noah and the Ark are widely known. In the middle east and Asia, a similar account is found in the Quran, with much earlier allusions to the flood being found in the Epic of Gilgamesh, Atrahasis, and others. Even the Chinese word for "flood", pronounced "hon", if dissected into its constituent characters, means "eight people together in the water".

Ancient writers such as the Chaldean historian Berossus described the Ark of Noah being extant in their time with people regularly making pilgrimages to the site to scrape amulets from its sides. Clearly these pilgrims were visiting something easily accessible to the common man. Later, Nicholas of Damascus (Herod's historian) and the Roman historian Josephus recounted these stories. In addition, Moses of Chronensis and others described the first post-flood habitations: Naxuan (Noah's Zion, or the capitol city of Noah), Seron, and Nasir.

With such a rich body of historical literature supporting the claims found in the holy books of several of the world's major religions, it makes sense that some would attempt to validate these scriptures by finding physical proof of what is described. What if the Ark of Noah could be located, or the ancient city of Naxuan?

Unlike some religious books such as the Book of Mormon which describe cities, places, coins, and rivers which have never been found or produced by archaeologists, the Christian Bible for example, is clearly an historical reference. Most of the cities, places, coins, and rivers mentioned in the Christian Bible are known today, and others previously unknown have been discovered recently. Further, the events described in the Christian Bible are also corroborated in other secular literature. So why should there be no basis for the flood account and the man named Noah?

THE PRESENT STATE OF AFFAIRS

Unfortunately, a lot of the work done to date regarding the search for the Ark of Noah, has been based on unverifiable hearsay, and urban legends. Sightings are often reported, but how many times has the camera with the proof been dropped in a crevasse, or the pictures destroyed in the Russian Revolution, or the discoverer "dead" before his heirs reveal his astonishing story of walking its decks? The legends feed upon each other until it becomes sport for Humanists to concoct clearly ridiculous accounts (e.g., Sun Pictures) upon which the gullible Christians swallow hook-line-and-sinker, only to be made to look like fools when the hoax is finally revealed. Adding fuel to all of this is the group of "Indiana Jones wanna-bees" who claim that they have found the Ark prior to doing sufficient investigation to prove their case. These are followed by those who insist that the Ark must be on Mt. Ararat (a volcano of fairly recent origin) in spite of the fact that the Bible only states that the Ark came to rest "in the mountains (plural) of (the region of Urartu) Ararat". So they go chasing shadows in the ice of Ararat's glacier, armed with little more than a fuzzy photo taken from some distance away. When they are struck by lightning, they interpret this to be a sign from God that they are on the right track, when in fact nothing of substance is ever found.

In spite of all the "bad science" which has gone on, some teams searching the mountain have used logic to survey those parts of the glacier that are not in motion (i.e., over caldera), and though finding nothing, still credibly removed some areas from further consideration. Aerial surveys of the mountain have been done from a helicopter using stereo cameras to gage the depth and breadth of objects on all sides. Few Ark hunters have ever referenced this body of material while others are content to revisit surveyed areas.

Is it any wonder that the scientific community at large dismisses the entire subject? But the body of literature and verifiable circumstantial evidence cries out for an answer. Is it possible to define a research program to scientifically investigate various sites of interest and gather corroborating data that can identify the origin of each site as "naturally occurring", "man made", or "a natural artifact of a man made structure"?

THE GENESIS

To this end, Dr. Salih Bayraktutan of Atatürk University in Erzurum Türkiye and I have discussed ways to conduct "good science" in the region of Agri Dagi (Mt. Ararat, so named in AD 1105). Dr. Bayraktutan is designated as the official over this region for geological and archaeological studies. In 1995, I met with Dr. Bayraktutan and traveled to the region to see the boat-shaped object (known to some as the "Durupinar" site) which has dimensions corresponding the plan form of the Ark as described in the Christian Bible and Babylonian writings (300 Egyptian 20.6" cubits in length, almost 50 cubits average width based on a deck area of 1 IKU). During that visit we discussed how advanced techniques could be used to noninvasively glean more data from the site and the surrounding area.

A WORKSHOP

In the intervening time, we decided that it would be useful to host a workshop to discuss how good science could be done in the region to answer a number of the questions raised by the ancient literature, and by more recent accounts in which claims have been made regarding sightings of the Ark on the slopes of, or in the glacier of Agri Dagi. The workshop was entitled (as translated from Turkish), "The First International Workshop on the Noahic Flood and the First Settlement in the Agri Mount Region".

PLANNING SESSION

A planning session was held on Monday October 5, 1998 to decide what sites should be inspected during the field trip to the Iranian Frontier on the 6th through 8th of October. This field trip was designed to better inform the participants about the region and some of its accessible sites prior to the workshop on Friday October 9.

FIELD TRIP TO THE EDGE OF CIVILIZATION

During the field trip, those participating stayed in Dogubayazit and made daily excursions to the Durupinar site, locations suspected to be the ancient cities of Naxuan and Seron (based on aerial reconnaissance photographs from 1959), and Kazan with its giant anchor (drogue) stones which may have association with the Ark. Also the southern side of the Agri Dagi volcano and its line of cinder cones to the East was visually available for all to inspect, though no approval was granted to venture upon the mountain. Due to terrorist activity in the area, and the fact that we were entering into the military zone right up to the border of Iran, we also at times had a contingent of machine gun-bearing soldiers as accompaniment.

THE INTERNATIONAL WORKSHOP:
Search for Early Post Diluvial Anatolian Culture (SEPDAC)

Members present at the workshop represented the countries of Türkiye, the United States, Azerbaijan, and Uzbekistan. At the Friday workshop, presentations on each of the interest areas were restated including the Durupinar site, Naxuan/Seron, and locations on and around Agri Dagi including the ruins of Korhan, Eli, the Caves on Ararat, and the Stones at Kazan.

Those present decided to name the project SEPDAC: Search for Early Post Diluvial Anatolian Culture. We also defined tasks, personnel categories, numbers of personnel, science equipment, logistics, initial project duration (Phase I), and a budget.

FIELD TRIP REVELATIONS

At the workshop, Dr. Bayraktutan revealed his discovery of a grave with old datable dirt inside and human remains (also datable) in a Turkish patrol road cut along the Iranian border in "Naxuan". Samples of bone and pottery were taken back to Atatürk University for analysis. Dr. Bayraktutan indicated that he would immediately apply for an archeological permit to excavate at the "Naxuan" grave sites prior to the snow (i.e., before November 1998). In addition on the first day at "Naxuan", I found a grave site which appeared to be an ossuarial burial. This was later uncovered to reveal the lid of the ossuary which was lined with cut lime stone blocks. The lid was approximately one meter by 2 meters. Other graves were found and documented photographically without disturbing them. GPS fixes were taken at various prominent locations visible in the 1959 aerial reconnaissance photographs, as well as several of the grave sites. In addition, a number of rectangular building foundations were identified and documented photographically. Later it was revealed that Dr. Shea had discovered a cultural artifact with an etching of a man releasing two birds. This was found at the Durupinar site.

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

During the Friday meeting, methods of inspecting objects beneath the ice on the Argi Dagi glaciers were discussed. Some of these can be deployed remotely from an autonomous DGPS-registered unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and monitored by telemetry without risking anyone on the mountain. This UAV has been the subject of design studies by students at the Georgia Institute of Technology for the past four years, and a camera-bearing prototype air vehicle (scaled version) has already been constructed. This would be especially useful were permissions to climb the mountain not forthcoming any time soon. Other aerial techniques discussed were TV, IR, and high resolution still photography.

Further, we discussed methods of using satellite uplinks to get new information onto the internet for researchers around the world to analyze in near real time. This is an exciting new way to get more researchers involved without incurring the expense to bring them on site. For example, newly discovered inscriptions can be photographed with high resolution digital cameras and uploaded to the world wide web in minutes. Experts in ancient languages could then attempt to decipher the inscriptions and provide rapid and valuable feedback to the on site team (via the internet).

Ground penetration radar surveys are also planned, though these are not practical from an aerial platform. Ground surveys would be conducted at various sites (Agri Dagi, Korhan, Eli, Naxuan, Seron, Durupinar) to help define the history of the region in order to better interpret archeological findings.

Ground surveys would include:

volcanism/geothermal
tectonism (paleoseismicity)/dating
sedimentation analyses
geochronology
remote sensing

Geophyisics surveys include:

Ground Penetration Radar (GPR)
gravitometry
ground resistance
acoustic seismology
satellite photo analyses

Anthropological interests include:

  1. Linguistic Translators

      (from Istanbul Museum, the University of Pennsylvania and elsewhere),

  2. Anthropologist

      (perhaps someone from Ankara who is versed in "neolithic through early bronze age")

  3. Metallurgist

      (to analyze any metal artifacts located at any of the sites)

  4. Historian

      (to understand and correlate the early writings describing any particular site of interest. Some of our present members are already versed in this area)

  5. Other skills/services that will be required include:
    Excavational archeologists
    Cartographers
    Data Acquisition experts
    Documentation specialists
    Logistics managers (various)
    Security (military)
    Archeological preservation experts

TIME TABLE AND PLANNING

We plan to have a draft project outline and budget for submission to the university before the end of the year. We are also going to recommend the establishment of an agreement of collaboration between Atatürk University and Georgia Institute of Technology. The meeting was very beneficial and a lot was accomplished.

Regarding approvals to climb Agri Dagi, Dr. Bayraktutan pointed out that when the mountain opened up last time, a number of people went up and were killed. This prompted the military to close the mountain again. The lesson is: Even if the mountain is declared to be open, you may forfeit your life in proving that the Turkish military analysts over-estimated their control of the region.

CONCLUSION

All involved should recognize the unique opportunity afforded each invited workshop participant– specifically to be able to go into the Iranian Frontier under government sanctioned military and secret police surveillance and at times with an armed security force. This is as good as it gets. In the future, people operating outside of this overarching research alliance (SEPDAC) will be on their own with respect to security and will likely find permissions difficult to obtain. Undoubtedly there will still be "cowboys" who want to do it the hard way, but I think that we stand at the verge of a new era of Diluvial research. The next round of serious research will employ new sophisticated tools and coordinated scientific methods.

Cok tesekkür ederim! (Thank you very much)

Saygilar, selamlar! (With all respect and peace!)


Robert C. Michelson
Principal Research Engineer
Georgia Tech Research Institute,
Georgia Institute of Technology,
Atlanta, Georgia



Noah's Ark Search
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Presentation | Urartu | Mt. Ararat | Mt. Cudi | Durupinar | Iran | Bible Archaeology | Ark Game