First we had pop singer Katy Perry and movie starlet Megan Fox going bonkers for Giorgio Tsoukalos and Ancient Aliens. Now we can move a bit down market and witness the bizarre effort of former Baywatch star Donna D’Errico to raise $10,000 via Kickstarter to finance a documentary chronicling her upcoming expedition to Mount Ararat in Turkey to search for the physical remains of Noah’s Ark.
Yes, Noah’s Ark. Again. Worse: Like every alternative and fringe writer, she calls her quest “a modern-day, real-life Indiana Jones adventure.” Paging David Childress and Scott Wolter…
D’Errico believes that she almost found the Ark on her first trip to Ararat last year, but narrowly missed the massive boat because she slipped and injured herself on some rocks. She claimed in 2012 that she had to cut the expedition short to avoid kidnappers who were on her tail. Somehow the kidnappers are not expected to care about her expedition this year.
D’Errico wants the money to film a documentary in which she will complete her quest, set to be filmed sometime in August or September. What amazes me is that a former TV star who apparently still receives Baywatch royalties can’t afford $10,000 for a cameraman, “computer-generated imagery and archival footage, post-production.”
According to the actress, she expects to find the actual cages used to hold the animals.
Keep in mind that the Bible did not say two of every species, but rather two of every kind. That means that one feline kind, rather than every species of feline, would have been taken aboard the Ark. Smaller animals would have been kept in cages that could stack on top of each other. As few as 2,000 animal kinds could have been taken aboard the Ark, which would have resulted in all of the species we have today.
I suppose it’s interesting that she takes literally animals that enter the Ark but apparently ignores Genesis 8:4 where the text clearly states that “on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat,” that is, a general region, not a specific peak, least of all the actual peak today named Ararat. Nicholas of Damascus, for example, identified the mountain as the rather unclear Baris, somewhere in Armenia, and claims that the Ark was still visible there in his day (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 1.3). Julius Africanus placed Ararat “in Parthia” (Armenia) or elsewhere: “And when the water abated, the ark settled on the mountains of Ararat, which we know to be in Parthia; but some say that they are at Celænæ of Phrygia, and I have seen both places” (Syncellus, p. 21), and the Qur’an agrees: “and the ark rested on the mountain Al Judi” (11:44), or seems to; the phrase could also mean simply “rested on a high mountain” rather than a specific peak.
Berossus, reporting the more ancient Babylonian flood myth, also claimed that the ark of Xisithrus, a near-exact counterpart of Noah, set down in “Armenia” (now northern Iraq and southern Turkey), in the Gordyaean Mountains (Eusebius, Praep. Evan. 9), in substantial agreement with the even more ancient Epic of Gilgamesh, which had the ark of Utnapishtim set down on Mt. Nisir, today identified with Pir Magrun, in the north of Iraq. The Greek Gordyaei, incidentally is thought to derive from the name Gardu (or Kurdu—i.e. “of the Kurds”), which was corrupted into Jordi and then the Arabic Judi—yes, it’s all thought to be the same mountain from Gilgamesh. (The etymology is somewhat uncertain, and some scholars deny that the various words are related.) If that doesn’t give good evidence for the persistence of tradition, I don’t know what does.
So far as I know, no one has gone in search of the Ark there in modern times (though Ron Wyatt looked close by), but it was a popular Ark-hunting spot in ancient times. Berossus said that a popular activity for the visiting tourist was to visit the Ark’s remains and “carry off pieces of the bitumen, which they take away, and use chiefly as amulets for the averting of mischiefs” (Josephus, Antiquities, 1.3). Epiphanius (Panarion 1.18) reported the Ark’s remains were a tourist attraction at Gordyaei, and the thirteenth-century Arab Christian writer George Elmacin (Girgis Al-Makin) reported (Historia Saracenica 1.1) that the Emperor Heraclius visited “the place of the Ark” atop this same mountain:
Heraclius then came to the village of Thamanin (where Noah, of pious memory, built his Ark and afterward came out from it), and in order for him to see the place of the Ark, he ascended the mountain of Al-Judi, which rises above all these lands, for it is very high. (my trans.)
In this, he was merely repeating what Theophilus of Edessa had reported centuries earlier, as preserved by Agapius:
Then Heraclius retraced his steps and camped at a village which was called Thamanin. This is the village where the ark stopped at the time of the flood, in the time of Noah. He climbed the mountain which is called al-Djoudi, examined the place of the ark, looked at the world, while turning to the four cardinal points, and went then over to Amid where he remained for all the winter.
But I think you’re getting the point. For most of recorded history, there was a different candidate for the Ark’s resting place, and people actually saw (well, assumed they saw) the remains of the Ark there, just as people do today on Mt. Ararat. Does the ship simply hop from peak to peak when we aren’t looking? Perhaps that’s why the CIA didn’t find the Ark and has no record of it.
Although Turks still pointed out the alleged wreckage of the Ark on Al-Judi down to the modern era, by the eighteenth century a new candidate had come to the fore, and George Sale, in a note to his translation of the Qur’an, captures the gradual change, which was complete in the West for several centuries but was still undergoing change in Eastern Orthodoxy:
… it seems the credit of this tradition hath declined, and given place to another, which obtains at present, and according to which the ark rested on mount Masis, in Armenia, called by the Turks, Aghir dagh, or the heavy or great mountain, and situate about twelve leagues south-cast of Erivan.
Masis is one of the two peaks of the mountain today called Mt. Ararat.
The long and short of it is that people tend to see what they want to see when they go Ark hunting.
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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