I had to laugh when I read the latest press release from Joel Klenck, a biblical archaeologist who has made a specialty of promoting the literal truth of the book of Genesis. According to Klenck, religious fundamentalists and secular archaeologists are both biased against him and doing everything in their combined power to discredit his alleged discovery of Noah's Ark on Turkey's Mt. Ararat. According to the press release:
“Several groups of ark enthusiasts are also trying to disparage the sites,” Klenck states, “because they assumed that Noah’s ark would have dinosaur bones, Early Stone Age tools, Neanderthals, be completely fossilized or had other expectations. That the large wood structure on Mount Ararat exhibits an assemblage that appears mostly from the Late Epipaleolithic Period (13,100-9,600 B.C.) is troubling to some since the data contradicts their views and beliefs.”
Further, he states some professional archaeologists have followed the critiques of ark enthusiasts and have ignored the Ararat discoveries. Klenck notes, “Professional archaeologists do not realize that the biggest critics of the Ararat sites either object to the scientific discipline of archaeology, acquire monies from meritless ark expeditions, or both.”
I suppose we can give Klenck credit for expanding the Biblical timeline back beyond the Paleolithic instead of the standard 6,000 years; however, even Klenck must see that there is no evidence whatsoever of a flood capable of raising enough water to deposit a ship high up on a mountain. Where, pray tell, did all that water go?
But more to the point is the fact that Noah's Ark is not an original story; it has been well-known since the nineteenth century that the tale, composed probably in the first millennium BCE, depends directly on the earlier Mesopotamian flood myths, dating back to the Sumerian flood tale of the earliest Gilgamesh stories, two or three thousand years earlier. A quick read of tablet XI of the standard Gilgamesh epic shows clearly the relationship between the earlier Mesopotamian text, with its Flood hero Utnapishtim, and the later Hebrew version.
So, even if Klenck found something on Ararat, it should by rights be Utnapishtim's boat, not Noah's. But that ark landed on Mt. Nishir (today's Pir Magrun in Iraq), not Ararat. (Funny, isn't it, that no one goes looking for Utnapishtim's ark?) Ah, well... when conducting pseudoscience logic doesn't really matter.
[Note: This post was edited to clarify that Klenck's timeline extends beyond the Paleolthic.]
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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