Adventurers have been climbing mountains in the Middle East looking for Noah’s Ark ever since Jacob of Nisibis decided to climb Mt. Judi in order to reach it in the fourth century CE (Faustus of Byzantium, History of the Armenians 3.10). The Ark’s alleged remains had been a tourist attraction for centuries before, going back even before there were people to believe in Noah, back to the time when the Babylonians imagined that their Flood hero’s ark stood on the same mountain (Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 1.93; Eusebius, Chronicle 37; Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelica 9.12; George Syncellus, Chronicle 32; texts here). But whether the adventurers looked on Mt. Judi, the traditional location, or the mountain now called Mt. Ararat in Turkey (formerly Mt. Masis), which superseded Mt. Judi in the medieval period, one thing remains true: No one has actually found the imaginary vessel atop either peak.
That’s why Noah’s Ark seeker B. J. Corbin, founder of NoahsArkSearch.com, has a new eBook out claiming that Noah’s Ark is actually in modern Iran. His claim in Seven Mountains to Aratta is a bit complex but rests, ultimately, on a linguistic claim, as outlined in an excerpt he recently published on Ancient Origins.
Corbin argues that the “Mountains of Ararat” described n Genesis should be compared to the mythic land of Aratta in Sumerian mythology based on the similarity of names. There have been some scholars who have previously made the claim, but there are many versions of the name Ararat, and it isn’t at all clear which is the oldest or original. Other versions include the Assyrian Urartu and the Babylonian Urashtu. Robert M. Brest, a euhemerist, wrote a book in 1999 called Noah’s Ark and the Ziusudra Epic in which he claimed that Noah was really Ziusudra and the “mountain” of Ararat was in fact the ziggurat at Eridu where Noah made sacrifices. He claimed that the Jews misunderstood and mistranslated Babylonian and Sumerian words in adapting the Ziusudra story (which, in turn, had mistranslated the ziggurat hill as a mountain), and they confused Aratta for Ararat. Beyond that, he said that the original story was about a river barge carrying animals that overturned during a storm in 2900 BCE. This is a heavily rationalized argument, claiming as it does a real event as its source, or that such an event is recoverable by selectively identifying specific details of the Atrahasis epic as “true” and others as “false.”
The Sumerian Aratta differs from all references to any version of Ararat in that it describes a mythical land of wealth, metalworkers, and stoneworkers somewhere beyond a mountainous land. There is no evidence that Aratta ever existed outside the imagination of Mesopotamian storytellers, but speculation has placed the kingdom anywhere from eastern Iran to the Himalayas.
Based on this, Corbin chooses to place Aratta in western Iran, and he notes that two holy mountains are present in old Persia, Damavand and Alvand. The former mountain is interesting in this context only because the Greeks called it Mt. Jasonion (Latin: Jasonium Mons) and associated it with Jason, of Argo fame, whom Jacob Bryant (wrongly) argued was a corruption of Noah on the basis of Argo = Ark. Well, sort of: Strabo (Geography 11.13) makes it Darmavand, but the location suggested by Ammianus Marcellinus (Roman History 23.6.28, 39) actually makes the mountain Alvand, in the Jason Range. Certainly it is odd that the master of the Argo should be associated with Iranian mountains, but this wasn’t really anything to do with boat or arks. It’s because the Greeks misunderstood the Persian ayazana (= Median *yazona) fire altars as monuments to Jason, mishearing the word as Iasonion, or temple of Jason.
Alvand has long been a sacred mountain, going back to Zoroastrianism and paganism before it. In more recent times, Islam has left its imprint on local traditions, such that locals identified the mountain as the resting place of Noah’s Ark and a cave on the mountain as the tomb of Shem, one of Noah’s sons, at least according to Corbin. I haven’t been able to confirm that there is a tradition of the cave being identified with Shem. That’s not to say it can’t be true; the town of Hamadan (ancient Ecbatana), at the foot of Alvand, was alleged to take its modern name from its mythic founder, supposed to be Shem’s grandson. All the same, I can’t find a reference to Noah or Shem and the mountain itself except in creationist texts looking for Noah’s Ark—Hamadan is where Ed Davis claimed to have glimpsed Noah’s Ark on a nearby mountain he claimed was Ararat. While this can’t be Masis in Turkey, it was likely Alvand.
It would be tempting to think that the Classical association of Alvand with the great sailor Jason led to Noah replacing him in local lore, but as far as I know there is no evidence for this. However, Corbin’s search for the Ark in Iran suggests that there is increasingly little money left to be made from hunting for a big boat atop Mt. Ararat or Mt. Judi after more than 2,500 years of searching failed to find it.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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