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Evidence for Noah’s Flood

Over the years I have been involved in many debates about Noah’s flood and I have been challenged numerous times to provide evidence for it.  One militant atheist even said to ‘go get a shovel and start digging.’

But where does one begin to search to find evidence? After all, the flood took place approx. 5,000 years ago, give or take a century or two. Since Noah’s flood occurred many other events have transpired that would erase any evidence for a global flood. Plus the fact that since there has been only 1 such catastrophe, what would the evidence look like? How would it differ from a large local flood?

Geologically, I would conclude that the global flood would not look any different than a large local one. Since no one is alive now to compare the pre-flood geography with the post flood one, and since no one is alive who actually saw both sets of geography, we really do not have a clue as to what most of the evidence would look like.

Keep in mind that over those 5 millennia there has been countless amounts of construction, farming, wars, earthquakes, landslides, storms, (thunder, typhoons, tornados, etc.) and so much more that to even think we could find a worldwide uniform stratigraphical layer for the flood is just ridiculous. If it was even laid down uniformly, and the following will show that it wasn’t, where would we begin to dig and how deep should we go?

Also, even if we found the actual ark, how could we prove it was Noah’s? Plus the skeptic would always find some excuse to dismiss the discovery (as they do the following evidence) simply because they really do not want to believe. Thus the evidence placed here is for the believer; to strengthen their faith and to remove doubt about the Genesis flood account.

We have clues found in scripture but most of the unbelieving world does not accept scripture verses as evidence, even though they are, but the believer does and with the scriptures to guide us we can look around today at what is discovered, put the pieces together and conclude that evidence for a global flood does exist.

One big clue are the massive amounts of flood myths that exist in every culture today and those will be mentioned briefly later plus a link to them all will be provided for further study. It does not matter if they are close to the biblical account or not, they do not have to be, the fact that they exist shows that Noah’s flood took place. (It would be a very high coincidence for 148+/- civilizations to all have one flood in their history which they created a myth for, dating far back into time. Since they do, these flood myths also provide evidence for the scattering from Babel).

What follows are just snippets of information as whole books and articles cannot be reproduced here. Bibliography data and links are provided so the reader can do more research on their own. The numbers beside some of the paragraphs correspond to the numbers beside the links they are quoted from. A couple of links without numbers are provided just for research purposes and were not quoted. The best evidence comes from the 3 books below the quotes from the links.

1. Evidence of the Great Flood

In 1929, while excavating in the city of Ur, Woolley observed a thick layer of sediment that was covering the whole valley. Woolley believed that the layer was evidence that the Biblical story of the Great Flood was correct. He argued that flood was not universal—that it did not literally cover the whole world—but only the valley of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers:

This deluge was not universal, but a local disaster confined to the lower valley of the Tigris and Euphrates, affecting an area perhaps 400 miles long and 100 miles wide; but for the occupants of the valley that was the whole world (Ur of the Chaldees: A Record of Seven Years of Excavation: 31).

In addition, added Woolley, according to Sumerian records in the Gilgamesh epic, some of the cities of the valley survived the flood. Woolley’s discovery was soon connected to other similar discoveries, especially the remains of the city of Kish. Theologians and people of faith used this as the evidence to support the flood account in the Bible. Further research, however, has provided limited evidence to this theory, claiming that sediments found by Woolley were extremely local, not even covering the whole of the city of Ur. Evidence for the Great Flood thus remains controversial.

2. The Sumerian King List

The Sumerian King’s list also contains a reference to the Flood (Mallowan, 1964, pp. 67-69; Kramer, 1967, pp. 12-13). The King List is a complex document, existing in a number of different editions. Probably first composed about 2100 BCE and extant in an edition from about 1900 BCE, the King List purports to record the kings and dynasties of Mesopotamia from the time when first "kingship descended from heaven" until the time of composition. The list has many weaknesses. Early kings are credited with reigns of such fabulous length that Methuselah's span seems reduced to insignificance, and a number of early dynasties that were in fact contemporary are listed as if they were sequential. Despite these defects, the Sumerian King List appears to preserve the names and sequences of many early real rulers, a number of whom are independently attested elsewhere. The King List claims that, after a number of antediluvian rulers, the Flood swept over everything, after which kingship once again "descended from heaven" and the list of dynasties and rulers resumes. Gilgamesh, hero of the epic, is listed long after the Flood. Thus, the evidence of both the King List and the Gilgamesh Epic, which has Gilgamesh listening to an account of the Flood, agree that he lived well after the Flood..

3. The Flood Fact Or Fiction

In 1929 Sir Leonard Woolley, the famous excavator of Abraham’s city of Ur, claimed to have found evidence of Noah’s flood at Ur. In two different shafts he was able to show that civilization existed above a layer of sterile clay eight feet deep, with evidence of earlier civilization below the clay level. However, the clay was found in only two of the five shafts sunk, and Woolley himself did not find any similar evidence at Tell Obeid, only four miles away.

Soon after Woolley’s discovery similar levels were found at other sites in ancient Mesopotamia, notably at Tell Fara which is half-way between Ur and Babylon, and at Kish, as well as at Nineveh to the north. The dates were different from Woolley’s find at Ur, and so they could not be from the same inundation. More recently Professor M. E. L. Mallowan has suggested that the inundation at Tell Fara might be the Biblical flood, and that the findings at Kish could relate to the same disaster. However, the evidence is inconclusive

4. The Mediterranean Flood

It is not the purpose of this paper to attempt a thorough review of previous flood theories. Others have written excellent reviews of the struggle between science and Scripture over the past few centuries and the reader can consult them.2 The important and obvious fact is that modern geology has totally rejected the concept of the global flood and this rejection has important consequences for the authority of Scripture. It is difficult, at least for me, to conceive of a divinely inspired Genesis being historically accurate in chapters 1-3 and historically false in chapters 6-9. It follows from the claim of divine inspiration that both sections are true or both are false.

5. Flood Stories from Around the World

The stories below are flood stories from the world's folklore. I have included stories here if (1) they are stories; (2) they are folklore, not historical accounts or fiction by a known author; and (3) they involve a flood. In most borderline cases, I included the story here anyway. For example, one story (Hopi) tells of a flood which was avoided and never occurred.
 

Excerpts from 3 Books

1. The Flood by Dr. Rehwinkel pgs. 178ff:

Human reason was made the measure of all things. Whatever could not be harmonized with reason was rejected. Even the Bible was subjected to this treatment. This meant the removal, as acceptable truth, of everything which partook of the miraculous or of any direct interference with the affairs of men or the universe on the part of a personal, omnipotent God

In biology, Rationalism led to the revival of the ancient Greek theory of evolution as an explanation of the origin of the life that is found in the universe. The Biblical flood story could, of course, not be made to fit into such a mechanistic scheme any more than the story of Creation as related in Genesis...the modern theory of geology, which is evolutionistic in its basic principle, took their place. And yet even modern geology and other sciences have unwittingly contributed much to confirm the Biblical account of the Flood...

...The evidence of such fissures have been found in so many places of the earth, some of them measuring from 140 to 300 feet in depth. They were filled with debris which drifted into them soon after they opened...Such fissures have been found in England, France, southern Spain, Germany, Russia and elsewhere. The interesting feature of these fissures is the debris found in them, for they are filled with the remains of animals, among them those of the elephant, the rhinoceros, the hippopotamus, the reindeer, the horse, the hog, and the ox.. The bones found in them cannot be animals which fell in alive or were buried there, for no skeleton is complete. They cannot have been brought there by streams, for those who examined them found no signs on them of having been rolled. Neither could the bones have been exposed to the weather for a long time, for none of them show marks of weathering...

Again, it has been observed by such a competent geologist as Prestwich that these ossiferous fissures are usually found upon isolated hills of considerable height, places on which we might expect animals to gather in seeking safety from an approaching flood...

2. Path of the Poles by Dr. Charles Hapgood pages 280ff:

The evidence from South America will be found as strong or even stronger. In this chapter we shall present a number of aspects of this evidence. They include evidence of a geological revolution having to do not so much with ice caps and ice ages as with the upheaval of half a continent in which the deaths of millions of animals resulted from extensive volcanic eruptions and vast floods.

Outstanding among the unsolved problems of the recent geological history of South America are those connected with the part of Cordellera where Bolivia and Peru meet. There, in the heart of the Andes at an average of 12,300 ft. , extends the highest lacustrine basin in the world, the Meseta or Altiplano, on the floor of which occurs a succession of remarkable lakes. The largest of these, Lake Titicaca, is navigable, being some 110 miles long, 35 miles wide and 890 feet deep at its maximum. Its waters are only slightly brackish and support the only species of seahorse (Hippocampus) known to live in a land locked body of water. Hippocampo is a typically marine creature and with Allorchestes and a few other oceanic forms inhabiting this lake, strongly suggests that the present fauna of Lake Titicaca has survived from a time when the lake communicated directly with the ocean.

The discoveries of vast quantities of animal remains in almost every part of South America have invariably been made in recent formations...Burmeister says, "the diluvial deposits containing bones of animals of this age extends over the whole Brazilian plain, from the flanks of the Cordilleras to the borders of the Atlantic." They have also been found abundantly in Bolivia on the great plateau; and also west of the mountains both in Peru and Chili...A contemporary, Augistin de Zarate, probably referred to the same discovery when he mentioned that Juan de Holmos, a native of Truxillo, excavating near that place, exhumed enormous teeth, a huge rib, and other bones, all of which were, of course, assigned to the legendary giants.

The block contained a human skull, teeth and other bones, together with fragments of shells, some of which still retained traces of their original colors. Remains of several hundred other human skeletons were dug out of similar clacareous tufa at the same place where the presence of serpulae in the rock suggested that all the remains were deposited through marine action, for as Lyell observed the shell would not have been brought so far inland by natives for food

In a limestone cavern on the borders of the Lagoa do Sumidouro, some three leagues from Santa Lucia, Dr. P.W.Lund excavated the bones of more than thirty individuals (human) of both sexes and various ages. The skeletons lay buried in hard clay and were found mixed together in such great confusion- not only with one another but with the remains of the Meatherium and other Pleistocene mammals- as to preclude the idea that they had been entombed by the hand of man. All the bones, whether human or animal, showed evidence of having been contemporary with one another.. In other caves investigated by Lund, bones of ancient man were found alongside those of the formidable Smilodon, a giantfeline which became extinct during the last Pleistocene times. Referring to the evidence from these and other Brazilian fossiliferous caves, the marquis de Nadaillac wrote: "...doubtless these men and animals lived together and perished together, common victims of catastrophes, the time and cause of which are alike unknown."

Two further cases are of particular interest. The first of these concerns the discovery, by Savage-Landor, of the remains of primitive humanoid mammals, associated with the bones of creatures regarded by him as gigantic saurians, in volcanic ash and lava deposits encountered in Matto Grosso State. The second case relates to the occurrence of the remains of mastodons, camels and an extinct species of horse in beds of volcanic ash high in the Andes near Punin in Ecuador. Associated with those mammalian bones was the fossilized skull of a woman of Australoid type...The presence of an Australoid type in Ecuadorian South America during geological recent times poses questions about prehistoric human populations in the continent...

There is more but the evolutionist must read it for themselves. I submit that the continual discoveries of supposed new species by evolutionists are merely a desperation move to distract the world from the real evidence that has been discovered over the centuries.

3. Noah’s Flood by Ryan & Pitman, pgs. 65, 81, 99-100, 190, 191, 197-8,

The Turkish chief hydrographer began to tell the Americans that as far back as the Persian invasions of Byzantium in the early seventh century, there had been knowledge of another current  flowing in the opposite direction to the surface current and lying below it…But now Ryan was confused. He had expected Cita and Hsu to concur that the rock fragments and shells had been swept to the floor of the deep sea in watery avalanches. Instead it seemed that they thought these rocks had formed and the dwarfed creatures had lived right where they had been cored. Shallow lagoons on the floor of the Mediterranean Sea…
 
...And what became of those [animals] in the way of the flood, asked Dewey. Ryan thought for a minute. He then responded, ‘Charles Lyell reported a whole bunch of mammals suddenly appearing out of nowhere on the Mediterranean islands, such as Sicily, Sardina, and Malta. Maria Cita mentioned this to me on the Glomar Challenger. There elephants and hippos in Cyprus and Crete. In scrambling to high ground in response to the flood they arrived in places they had never been before…
 
...Curiously, all the Vinca settlements are located well back from the sea. Only in the European interior, on the Hungarian plain, within the protective ring of the surrounding mountains, did they live on landscape below an elevation of three hundred feet. Could it be that they had experienced the catastrophe of the flood and feared the sea?...Like the Vinca, the Linearbandkeramik, never put down permanent roots near a sea coast. They never colonized fertile land in in the coastal regions of northern Europe. Neither did they settle along the post flood coast of the Black Sea, stretching from Turkey through Bulgaria, Romania, Moldavia, Ukraine, and Russia…&…
 
...People called Hamangians also seemed to emerge out of nowhere to settle in the region of coastal Bulgaria…In recent years archaeologists have reported the sudden appearance of advanced farmers along the Rioni River in Transcaucasia, midway between the Black and Caspian seas. With no precedent, no roots, and seemingly without forebears, they built a town of mud brick buildings… The Sumerian view of their own alien past is expressed in their ‘Poem of the Supersage’. In which the Great Flood marked the end of mythological time and the inauguration of historical time…
 
Links: You may have to copy and paste these ones.
 

1. http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Leonard_Woolley

 

2. http://ncse.com/cej/8/2/flood-mesopotamian-archaeological-evidence

 

3. http://www.the-highway.com/flood_Wilson.html

 

4. http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/1997/PSCF12-97Morton.html

 

5. http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/flood-myths.html

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

Facts about Noah and the flood

Over the years I have had many discussions about Noah and the flood and invariably they get some of the details of the events wrong. It doesn’t matter if the facts come from the beginning of the story, the middle or the end of it invariably the unbeliever doesn’t get it right. This paper is designed to help the believer to easily find the details of the flood and use them in their own discussions to counter the unbeliever’s misconceptions and arguments.

Facts                                               verse(s)

Genesis

1. Noah had 3 sons- Shem, Ham & Japheth               5:32

2. Noah found favor with God                           6:8

3. Noah was a righteous, blameless & walked with God     6:9

4. Told to make ark of gopher wood with rooms           6:14

5. Dimensions of ark: 300 x 50 x 30 cubits               6:15

6. 1 window, 1 door, 3 decks                             6:16

7. 8 people & 2 of every KIND (not species) of animal     6:18-19

8. Took some of all edible food for all to eat             6:21

9. Took 7ea. of clean animals & 2 ea. of the unclean      7:2

10 Noah was 600 years old when he entered the ark      7:11

11 water came from fountains of the deep               7:11

12 water came from the floodgates of the sky           7:11

13 rain fell for 40 days & nights                        7:12

14 It was a global flood                                7:19

15 waters rose 15 cubits above the mountain tops        7:20

16 No survivors except those INSIDE the ark           7:21

17 The water remained on the earth 150 days            7:24

18 The ark landed in the mtns. of Ararat                8:4

19 Noah sent 1 raven once and a dove thrice             8:6-12

20 1st day of 1st month the earth was dry                8:13

21 27th day of the 2nd month they left the ark           8:14-19

22 Animals given fear of man                           9:2

23 Permission to eat meat                              9:3

24 Restriction concerning blood                         9:4-6

25 God’s promise about water                           9:11-13

26 The symbol of the rainbow                           9:14

27 Noah farmed & planted a vineyard                    9:20

28 Canaan (not Ham) cursed                             9:25-27

Ezekiel

29 Noah’s righteousness would only save himself          14:12-20

Hebrews

30 Had great faith                                      11:7

2 Peter

31 A preacher of righteousness—no converts               2:5

These are the facts found in the scriptures concerning Noah. If I missed any please feel free to post in the discussion forum the references I missed and I will add to the list. Keeping the facts straight is important to a Christian because we cannot let mistakes weave their way into the message of God and ruin an opportunity for Christ.

The atheist and other unbelievers know the Bible very well and they will use it against the believer every chance they get. They love to see the Christian error as it gives them another excuse to not believe. Their problem is that their minds are clouded and they do not have the Holy Spirit helping them understand what God has written thus they think the message of the Bible is foolishness.

The believer needs to learn how to deal with such attitudes and skepticism, choosing their words wisely under the guidance of the Holy Spirit if they want to succeed for God. Success is NOT measured only in souls saved, but in obedience also.
 

The Perils for Evidence from Noah’s Flood

 

The critics of the Biblical account of Noah’s flood constantly point to the supposed lack of evidence for its occurrence. These people point to ‘scientific’ facts, for example, the supposed lack of water, as evidence against it being a real flood.

 

When it is pointed out that approx. 3500 years between the event and modern times does take its toll on what evidence would have remained immediately after the flood, they wave off such truth with a quick dismissal.  The critics like to hide behind the limitations of science to shield their unbelief from reality and close their minds to the truth that physical evidence is not indestructible.

 

This article is a brief look at the enemies of physical evidence to provide the believer with a defense for their belief that Noah’s flood was real and did take place. The order these perils are addressed is random and not in order of importance.

 

#1. Time—Kenneth Kitchen*, as well as many others, has documented the fact that physical evidence doesn’t always stand up to elements. Erosion, winds, water all take their toll on the material objects the ancient people used in their daily life.

 

One good example of this is Noah’s Ark itself. For centuries now, people have searched for it, some claiming they actually walked on it or went inside, yet not one account has actually been shown to be true. With all the money invested in the multiple searches not one splinter of the ark has actually been recovered.

 

It doesn’t matter if the elements eroded it bit by bit year after year or if Noah’s family took it apart and used it for shelter and other uses, it didn’t survive and is gone for good (at least that is what it looks like).

 

This natural act is not limited to the ark as Mr. Kitchen has pointed out how levels of cities have fallen to the passing of time, gone forever carrying with it all the information about their existence. Papyrus is not exempt either as are many other types of materials used to manufacture material products.

 

#2. Verification—There will be times when someone comes across an artifact or series of artifacts that point to the validity of the scriptural account. Dr. William Shea* has written about his experience in searching for Noah’s tomb.

 

He not only came across that burial place but also the burial places of Shem and Japheth, plus many ancient inscriptions carved upon rocks. The problem is how does he verify his discovery?  He could take samples of whatever remains are found in the tombs themselves but with what would he compare them with? Modern scientific methods were not practiced in the pre-flood era nor in the immediate post-flood times. So that avenue would be out.

 

He cannot point to any ancient literature describing the burials and monuments to Noah and his sons because there aren’t any ancient records surviving from the time of their deaths recording their burial or how it was done.

 

Nor can he point to the many rock carvings, for there is nothing to date them to the time of Noah or to his immediate descendants. It is possible that those rock carvings were done to commemorate the event long later the fact or placed their by believers with good intentions hoping they had found the correct site.

 

Then to take the ark as an example once again, even if it did survive erosion and weathering, how would the discoverers prove it was Noah’s actual ark? All we know about it are the dimensions God gave to Noah to use to build it and the material he was supposed to use. On top of that, researchers have no idea what gopher wood really is thus comparing it to today’s timber wouldn’t help because we do not know if it were a distinct species of tree or just a different name for a species we know well today under another name.

 

#3 Wars—When conflict comes, so does destruction of material things. Whether they be treasured knick knacks or well constructed buildings, invading armies and defenders destroy their surroundings and it doesn’t matter if those artifacts are modern or ancient.

 

Take a lot at the Levant for a prime example. Not only did the Romans come in and destroy Jerusalem, eventually building an entire new city upon its spot, after tearing down the old one, in the 2nd century AD but the Babylonians, the Assyrians, the Medes/Persians, the Greeks and others, all invaded and conquered the land; razing and burning buildings, knocking over houses and walls among other destructive acts.

 

Then extrapolate that to the whole world as men are not that different throughout the nations as exampled by the Spaniards, who destroyed much of what they found as they conquered the new world. Any physical evidence left over from the flood would easily be trampled under the feet of the hundreds of thousands of foot soldiers, cavalry or wheels from the chariots (not to mention the modern machinery and bombs from the wars of the 17th to 20th centuries).

 

These men who came to conquer, did not have preservation on their minds. They had destruction by force in mind if it came to that and it always did.

 

#4 Nature—One of the most destructive forces on earth today for it has multiple tools at its disposal other than the erosion and weathering mentioned in #1. In the tropical rain forests, we have examples of lost cities, abandoned for centuries which were ‘buried’ by the growth of the vegetation because there was no occupation to keep their progress at bay. This is not only evidenced by the remains found in Mexico, Peru and other new World nations but also in the Maldives* in the Indian Ocean.

 

Even at the end of the flood, when the waters were receding, the vegetation was growing, covering up much of what was destroyed by the rising waters. The Bible makes that clear by its description of the releasing of the birds from the ark. Vegetation was allowed to re-start its life so that there would be food on the earth for the surviving animals and humans.

 

But it is not over-growth that threatened the evidence for Noah’s flood. The active volcanoes and their lava and the earthquakes also contributed to covering up the pre-flood world.  But on top of those two natural destructive forces we need to add, tornados, hurricanes (or typhoons), avalanches, landslides, thunderstorms, and much more. All of these normal everyday dangers contributed to burying, moving or altering the evidence left behind by the flood waters.

 

Remember that Sir Woolery had to dig down approx. 60-100 to get to virgin ground and though his critics dismissed his claim that he found evidence for Noah’s flood because the sample wasn’t uniform throughout the region, it would be unrealistic to think that such deposits would be uniform considering the catastrophe that took place and the destruction done to the geography of the time.

 

Nature has a way of destroying material objects as exampled by the multiple tornados remains in America each year. Tornados, earthquakes, hurricanes, etc. are not a recent invention of nature but have existed for thousands of years and they wrecked havoc unfettered throughout all that time.

 

#5 Construction—Believe it or not, construction is not always a positive activity. It destroys as it is erected. For tall skyscrapers to stand for decades, the builders must dig deep into the ground, destroying whatever lay beneath the surface in the construction zone. Dirt is hauled off, carrying with it any information and evidence of the past with it.

 

Older houses are torn down simply to be replaced by larger more modern ones, and L.A. is a good example of that. Plus, older materials are sometimes saved and reused. In Egypt, the Pyramids lost almost al of their beautiful facing stones as local residents pilfered the blocks from the nearby pyramids to use for their personal abodes.

 

The expansion of popular cities, like Moscow or London, show how evidence from the flood would be trapped under layers of concrete and asphalt, never to see the light of day again for private ownership stops archaeologists from tearing down modern buildings or uprooting streets just to possibly find some sort of physical evidence for a global flood.

 

These are just 5 examples of the perils that the evidence for Noah’s flood has to face and endure.  Other problems come in the forms of questions: A. Where do we dig? In the valleys or on the mountain tops, for the water would lay the evidence every where; B. How deep do we dig? We have no idea how much dirt was deposited upon the pre-flood soil; C. What would constitute evidence for a global flood? Since we have no idea of what the material culture of the pre-flood world looked like, how will we know if we found it?

 

These are unsolvable problems because our information concerning that time period is minimal at best. Then finally, D. how can we distinguish between local flood evidence and global flood remains? Since Noah’s flood, there have been countless local floods covering different parts of the world. In the case of Egypt, the Nile flooded once a year, so how will we be able to determine which artifact came from the 26th dynasty from those that came from the pre-flood world?

 

Too many critics, in their haste to protect their unbelief, would quickly categorize the discovered remains as products of a local flood, putting aside their prized goal of objectivity to put the matter to rest with as little investigation and inquiry as possible. The critics do not want to find evidence for a global flood, for then they will have to deal with the fact that they are wrong and would need to re-evaluate their lives and positions.

 

It is much easier to be closed-minded about it and dismiss what is found to support the biblical record with unrealistic and impossible demands.  The Bible tells us in John chapter 3 that the world loves darkness rather than light and this is not more evident than in the field of archaeology as physical evidence supporting the Biblical accounts are tossed aside, dismissed, or ignored in favor of secular ideas and theories about the past.

 

Secular man just doesn’t want to believe and they are more resistant when the issue boils down to the fact that ‘faith’ has to be part of the equation. God left it no other way, as we see by the perils listed above. Faith will always be part of all historical work for even the physical evidence cannot ultimately prove all of the biblical record as much of it has already been destroyed and has been so for thousands of years.

 

For further Reading:

 

The Bible In Its world by Kenneth Kitchen

 

Searching for the Tombs of Noah’s Family by Dr. William Shea (http://www.dakotascba.com/Guest-Authors.php)

 

The Mystery of the Maldives by Thor Heyerdahl
 
 

Searching for the tombs of Noah’s family by Dr. William Shea

In the summer of 2003 I participated in a series of Bible conferences for Adventist ministers in Armenia, Georgia, and Southern Russia. While driving north from Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, to Tiblisi, the capital of Georgia, we stopped along the highway to take photographs of Mount Aragatz, the highest mountain in Armenia at 13,419 feet (4.400 meters). This mountain rises about 30 miles (48 km.) north of the traditional location of Mount Ararat, located on the other side of the border with Turkey (see Figure 1, with map of the region).

Bible readers, of course, are acquainted with Mount Ararat in connection with Noah and the Flood, for it was “on the mountains of Ararat” that the ark came to rest as the waters receded (Genesis 8:4, NIV). A few days after the ark rested, “Noah came out [of the ark], together with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives,” offered a sacrifice of gratitude to God, and settled in the region (vs.18 and ff.). “The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth; and from them came the people who were scattered over the earth” (Genesis 9:18, 19).

After I returned home, I checked on the internet for many close-up views of various locations on Mount Aragatz.1 From a study of these photographs, I was convinced that there were some rock-cut carvings on the southern slope of this mountain just above Lake Qare (about 9,000 ft., 2.700 m.). I wanted to examine these carvings, so I went back to Armenia in June of 2004, accompanied by a professional photographer friend.2

Findings at Lake Qare

On June 28, we set out for Lake Qare on Mount Aragatz, accompanied by a guide and our host, the president of the Adventist Mission in Armenia. A decent road runs up to that lake, as the Armenian Institute of Physics studying cosmic rays is located there. After a series of delays, we arrived at Lake Qare and discovered that there was much more snow, ice, and mud than I had anticipated (Figure 2).

Upon arriving at the parking lot at one end of the lake, our guide asked me where I wanted to go. I pointed to the slope of the mountain nearest the parking lot, where I felt we might find some carvings. Instead of following a trail that appeared to be the most direct route to that slope, our companions suggested that we take the other way around the lake. As we reached the far point, I saw a large rock, about 4 x 6 feet (1.2 x 1.8 m.) in size. Approaching it, I noticed the figure of a large snake cut into its upper edge. From this I knew we had made a find, because in the earliest alphabet the snake stands for the letter N (from Semitic nahash = snake). This is also the first letter in the name of the biblical Noah. The rest of the relief and carved inscription can be deciphered as “the dove took wing from the ark here.”

Identification of this first carved stone led to a search for others in the same area. A total of seven carved stones were found within an area of about 25 feet (8 m.) from the first stone. Four of these depict outlines of the heads of various members of Noah’s family—Shem, Ham, Japheth. The men are named in the inscriptions (which must be read right to left) but the women are simply labeled as “wife (ashat) of….”

One of these carved stones is important for determining the nature of the large mound on the other side of the lake. This stone was scored horizontally about two-thirds of the way up, to demarcate the peak. The figure of a man is shown on the right side of this peak. There is a two-word inscription written beside this figure: Noach = Noah and qeber = tomb, grave.

Reading the inscriptions

I first noted the script used here on the other side of the border while visiting the Durupinar formation near Dougbayazit, Turkey, in the summer of 1998. It came as a complete surprise to find a couple of brief alphabetic inscriptions there, since I had previously assumed that any writing found in this area near the landing of Noah’s Ark would be cuneiform. But here it was in an alphabetic script related to Proto-Sinaitic, the earliest written alphabet of mankind, known originally from turquoise mines in Sinai from the mid-second millennium B.C. and more recently from the early second millennium B.C. found in Egypt. Here was an earlier form of that Semitic alphabet found first in Eastern Turkey and now in Armenia.

This stone, with the two-word inscription (Noach qeber = Noah’s tomb), seems to be a model or a marker of the burial mound of Noah that is found across the lake, in plain view of the carved stone. Unfortunately, this interpretation did not occur to me until a couple of months after I returned home.

A larger carved stone located nearest to the edge of the lake shows a more extensive scene that can be deciphered (Figure 3). In the right lower corner is Noah with his hand lifted up as he is shown releasing one of his birds. The dove (yonah) shown above him on the right, while the raven (oreb) is shown in the other upper corner. In the left lower corner opposite Noah, the ark is shown sitting on Ararat. There are faint inscriptions for each one of these features. This scene implies that the mountain upon which the ark landed was this one and not the other one 30 miles to the south

The tomb of Shem

Much to my dismay, we were not able to get back up Mount Aragatz for further explorations. However, another horizon of research opened up for us. After a couple of days of sightseeing in the Yerevan area, we left for the town of Sisian, a three-hour drive south of Yerevan. On a Friday morning we drove just 3 kilometers south of Sisian to Zorats Qarer, which is a large field of megaliths that some call the Armenian Stonehenge. While the standing stones at Zorats Qarer are not as tall as those in Stonehenge in England, there are many more of them and they are spread out over a much larger area (Figure 4). Some Armenian anthropologist or archaeologist has numbered most of them with white paint. The highest number that I saw was 180 and there may well be more than that. They are spread out close to over a quarter of a mile, in distinctive rows (Figure 5).

We spent more than two hours photographing about 60 of these standing stones. Many of them have short inscriptional labels or reliefs, in varying degrees of illegibility because of weathering and overgrowth of lichens. The inscriptions, when legible, utilized the same early alphabet that we had seen on Mount Aragatz

For lack of any better explanation, the common Armenian interpretation of this field is that it may represent ancient astronomical markers, similar to Stonehenge. But Zorats Qarer is quite different from Stonehenge—especially in that at its center there is a tomb. The important question then is, who is buried in the tomb? The weathered inscriptions provide the answer to this question. A number of them refer to the tomb of Shem and his wife. One of the clearer inscriptions can be read on one of the markers (Figure 6). The word qeber is written down the left side of the stela. Then the name of Shem with its three short and simple letters is written down the right side of the stela and again, in smaller letters, down the lower part of the center. Other names of the men in Noah’s family are found here too, but none of them have the word for “grave” associated with them. Thus the important grave at the center of this complex should be that of Shem and his wife. (Or his wife may be buried in the secondary tomb just to the south of the central grave.) This site is located approximately four hours south of, I believe, what is the burial mound of Noah and his wife on Mount Aragatz.

The tomb of Japheth

With our spirits buoyed considerably by the discoveries at Zorats Qarer, we took another excursion to a large valley three hours’ drive south of Sisian. The valley was deep, and a switchback road wound down to the bottom where we took a pleasant swim in a geothermal spring. Then we followed the winding road up the other side of the valley to the Tatev Monastery.

I was surprised to find more Noachic type of inscriptions on three very large blocks of stone in the courtyard of the monastery. The monks who built the monastery about A.D. 1000 were careful to preserve the back sides of these three stones when they carved their own inscriptions on their front sides. On the back sides of those three stones the name of Shem can be read in the middle stone, Ham is found on the right, and Japheth on the left. Where the monks obtained these old blocks of stone is unknown to us, but it presaged of an even more important discovery as we retraced our route back down into the valley and up on the other side

As we came up out of the valley on its north side, our host and driver said, “Oh, I forgot to take you to this observation point.” As we walked out onto the observation point on a promontory (Figure 7), I noticed two strata of rocks, the modern rocks on the top to provide the viewpoint and the older rocks underneath. These older rocks were carved with badly weathered inscriptions and reliefs similar to those we had seen on Mount Aragatz and in the

field of megaliths at Zorats Qarer. This time the carvings revealed a connection between the word for “grave, tomb” (qeber) and the name of Japheth, another one of the sons of Noah.

This collection of inscriptions indicates that this promontory was not paved just for the use of modern tourists, but in ancient times it served as the site of the burial of Japheth and his wife. To emphasize the connections of this site with the family of Noah, there are carvings of his three sons on top of the columnar rocks just across the road from this lookout. In that location, Shem and his wife were carved on the right, Ham and his wife in the middle, and Japheth and his wife on the left.

Summary

To summarize the results of our explorations in Armenia, it can be said that very good candidates for the locations of the burials of three men (plus their wives) have been identified in Armenia: (1) Noah and his wife in the burial mound on the inside of Lake Qare at the 9,000-foot level of Mount Aragatz, one hour’s drive north of Yerevan; (2) Shem and his wife in the grave at the center of the megalithic field of Zorats Qarer, three hour’s drive south of Yerevan; and (3) Japheth and his wife on the promontory overlooking the valley where the Tatev Monastery is located, six hours drive south of Yerevan.

Other visits to the area are expected to expand and refine the results of this research.

William H. Shea (MD, Loma Linda University; Ph.D., University of Michigan) served as medical missionary, seminary professor, and associate director of the Biblical Research Institute of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Although retired, he continues to lecture, travel, and write as a specialist in ancient languages. His email address: Shea56080@aol.com.

{To view the pictures you can go to this link:  http://dialogue.adventist.org/articles/17_3_shea_e.htm }