Noah's Ark, the Ark of the Covenant, and Ron Wyatt
by Linda Gunderson
Have the “Arks” been found by a modern day Indiana Jones… along with every other archaeological site of interest to Christians? Or are the assertions untrue?
This article addresses a myriad of claimed archaeological discoveries by one Ron Wyatt. (Even though he is now deceased, his museum director and a few others continue to promote Wyatt's allegations, therefore they merit investigation.) The museum displays, books, videos, and presentations are extremely convincing. It would seem that every assertion made by his organization is backed up by rock-solid, indisputable evidence. His videos show well known people supporting his views. He seemed to be one of the most humble, loving, honest and sincerely Christian men you could meet. He had an appealing personality and demeanor that others found very believable.
However, be aware that those outside of the Wyatt camp have not been able to verify his data. Whenever trained archaeologists, scientists or other experts asked to examine the evidence, there were always reasons why he couldn't produce it. This is not simply a matter of disagreement with his views. Nor is it an attempt to falsely discredit an honest researcher. Many of these experts are people of integrity and genuine Christian faith who did not set out to try to discredit anyone. Some are well known and respected in their fields. Much of Wyatt's research has been shown to be based only on circumstantial evidence at the best, to being outright fraudulent at the worst. If they can't see the evidence, perhaps we need to take a closer look. If Wyatt has defrauded or misled people in any way, then his claims – and those who still promote them – should be exposed. It is a discredit to the name of Christ if those who call themselves Christians continue to promote fraud (even if they have been doing it unknowingly). A clear understanding of all of the facts is essential.
Because I teach on the subject of Noah's Ark, I became aware of Wyatt's claim to have found the true ark a few years ago. In the foothills of the Tenderek Mountains, about 15 miles from the twin peaks of Mount Ararat in Eastern Turkey, lies a “boat-shaped” formation. It has a teardrop or almond-like shape and is called the Durupinar site, after the man who discovered it in 1959.
But the alleged Noah's Ark discovery is only the tip of the iceberg.
Not only did Mr. Wyatt assert that he had found it AND the Ark of the Covenant, he boldly proclaimed (on tape) that he had found every archaeological site of interest to Christians. And on a Nashville television program, he even stated that he had held the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments, and that they were fastened together with golden hinges! Some would ask – is Ron Wyatt the greatest archaeologist that has ever lived? As one of his promoters writes:
“Except God be with him, how can one man working part time on his vacations discover so many amazing items, when large well funded organizations, comparatively, find so little?”
But this statement alone should raise some red flags. One man – working part time – on his vacations?? Who is he? Examine the evidence here and on the linked pages, and see where the conclusion leads.
First, a partial list of Ron Wyatt's claimed discoveries and accomplishments:
Wow! One man – working part time – on his vacations!! How is this possible?
Let's go on an excavation of our own and see what we can uncover. Our journey starts with a chapter from In Search of Temple Treasures, subtitled The Lost Ark and the Last Days1, by a leading authority on the topic, Dr. Randall Price2. Reprinted with author's permission. (The footnotes below are from the original, and are reprinted at the end of the chapter.)
The “Discovery” at Mount Calvary
American Ron Wyatt, in his self-published book Discovered-Noah's Ark, claims that on January 6, 1982, at 2:00 P.M. he discovered the Ark of the Covenant under the escarpment of Mount Calvary, which he believes to be what is known as “Jeremiah's Grotto.” He states:
I broke into a chamber beneath the Calvary escarpment, north of the city wall of Jerusalem. In that chamber is the Ark of the Covenant, the Table of Showbread—that I didn't see—they were covered with animal skins, with boards, and then stone.19
This most novel of sites has been proposed as the hiding place because Wyatt believes it fits the concept of Jesus as the High Priest offering the final blood atonement. To accomplish this, Watt figured, would require the Ark. So Wyatt speculated that when Jesus was crucified on the top of this hill, His blood must have run through a socket hole in which the cross was set, dripped down through a crack in the mountain (caused by the earthquake recorded in Matthew 27:51), and finally landed on the mercy seat of the Ark, which was positioned in a subterranean chamber some 60 feet beneath the mountain.
Wyatt sells a videotape of his various adventures. One segment shows him standing within a cavern inside Gordon's Calvary at a box-shaped rock within which he claims he discovered the Ark! On this video, narrated by Wyatt's wife, Mary, the claim is made:
In January of 1982, after steadily digging in a cave system since 1979, he busted through the rock into a chamber which contained a gold table and several other artifacts which Ron believed to be from the First Temple. Then, further back, he saw the top of a stone case which appeared to be the correct size to contain the Ark of the Covenant. Overwhelmed with emotion and double pneumonia, Ron passed out in that chamber for 45 minutes. He knew what was in that case, but now what? He attempted to photograph it with a Polaroid camera, a 35mm camera, and video. In every case, the photos were a white-out. He returned home to recover and work until he could afford to return. In May, he borrowed a colonoscope and went back. Drilling a small hole through the case, he was able to see enough to positively identify the contents of the stone case—it was the Ark!20
In his July 1993 newsletter, Wyatt published drawings of an unconventional-looking Ark, based on his supposed personal examination of the Ark using a colonscope.21
Because Wyatt has gone public with his “discovery” in churches and seminars throughout the United States and abroad, his claim must be subjected to scrutiny.
Evaluating the Claim
I wrote to Wyatt with the hope of obtaining a statement that I could include in this report of his work, but Wyatt never answered my letter. As a result, my evaluation of his claim does not have the benefit of interaction and discussion. His claim alone, however, provides much to doubt.
My main objection is this: Why would such a holy object as the Ark be purposely put under such a place of defilement as an execution site? It might be argued that this location was not an execution site at the end of the monarchial period when the Ark was hidden. But ultimately we are forced to admit that God would allow such an act of desecration since He, in His omniscience, knew that it would become such a place. Theology aside, we have to remember that the Garden Tomb (which is a part of Mount Calvary) dates to the First Temple era, so the site itself was already a burial grounds before the Ark would have been put into hiding. Because the Ark was hidden specifically to preserve it from defilement, the Garden Tomb would have been disqualified as a potential hiding place.
Bill Crouse, founder of Christian Information Ministries International, has carefully researched Wyatt's credentials and claims. Perhaps his evaluation best summarizes the controversy surrounding Wyatt:
Evidence generally stands or falls on its own merits. Rarely is there a need to delve into the nature and character of the one making a claim. A careful evaluation of the facts is usually sufficient. Unless, of course, the one making the claim calls attention to himself in such a way that makes us openly skeptical. Would you…not question someone who not only claims to have found Noah's Ark, but also every archaeological site of interest to Christians?22
Some of the sites Wyatt claims to have discovered are the true Mount Sinai, the spot where the ground swallowed up Korah and his followers, the exact location where the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, the site of the crucifixion, and the tomb of Christ. His claims to archaeological discoveries include Noah's Ark, the chariots of Pharaoh under the Red Sea, the 12 altars built by Moses, and Abraham's family tomb in Hebron (not under the 2,000-year-old shrine!). In addition, he claims to have solved the mystery behind the construction of the Egyptian pyramids, cracked the code of the Copper Scroll, and discovered how the Shroud of Turin was forged. In light of these fantastic assertions, Crouse concludes, “Is Ron Wyatt the greatest archaeologist who ever lived? Or is there another explanation?”23
Part of the answer may be found in Wyatt's dubious credentials. His professional training is as a nurse anesthetist, not as an archaeologist. While this does not disqualify him from finding an archaeological sit or artifact, it does raise questions as to how he could have solved historical and scientific problems and made discoveries that have baffled the greatest professional archaeologists of all time!
But there is another more disconcerting report that casts suspicion on Wyatt's credibility. Wyatt hired Jeff Roberts and Associates, a public relations firm in Hendersonville, Tennessee, to arrange his speaking engagements. This firm produced for Wyatt a packet of materials that stated he was a Korean War veteran, that he had graduated from the University of Michigan with honors in pre-med, and that he had completed all the requirements for both M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in antiquities. When others investigated these credentials, they found none of these statements to be accurate. There is no record that Wyatt served in Korea and no evidence that he worked toward any degree at the time these materials were printed, although he did attend Western Michigan University for several years.
A Damaging Report
Further doubt as to Wyatt's credibility was supplied by Dr. Jim Fleming, founder and former director of the Jerusalem Center for Biblical Studies (located at Tantur) and an editorial advisor to Biblical Archaeology Review. He told me in the summer of 1993 that he had originally been asked by Wyatt to be his archaeological advisor during his excavations at Mount Calvary. Because Dr. Dan Bahat, a Jerusalem archaeologist and lecturer at Hebrew University, had agreed to sponsor the dig, Fleming tentatively agreed. After spending time with Wyatt at the site, however, Fleming became alarmed at both his claims and techniques. In one instance, Fleming saw Wyatt drop a hammer down into a large crack in the mountain. Later, Wyatt offered as proof that he had discovered the Ark a metal-detector reading that indicated a metal object within the rock. Fleming says he left after this incident. Others have given similar disturbing reports concerning Wyatt's conduct at the site. One such observer, the Reverend John Woods, noted, “I saw him explaining to a group that a piece of metal embedded in the face of the Garden Tomb was part of the seal Pilate had placed upon the tomb. In fact it was a piece of shrapnel from the war [in 1967].”24
Wyatt does tell amazing stories and apparently receives generous support from uninformed churches where he speaks. What he and other explorers like him have not done is discover the Ark!
* Notes on Chapter 9—The Great Treasure Hunt Inside Israel
19. Video report of Wyatt Archaeological Research Organization, privately circulated.
21. “Discovered,” newsletter of Wyatt Archaeological Research Organization, July 1993, p. 2.
22. Bill Crouse, “Ron Wyatt: Are His Claims Bonafide?” Ararat Report 17 (May-June 1988): 8.
24. Letter to Gordon Franz from Reverend John Woods, Executive Director, The Gospel Mission of Washington, D.C., February 4, 1994.
A new book out sheds some more light. In World of the Bible Book Reviews, Randall Price reviews Holy Relics or Revelation: Recent Astounding Archaeological Claims Evaluated3.
“One of the questions frequently asked our ministry concerns the archaeological allegations of the late Ron Wyatt, now perpetuated by the Wyatt Archaeological Foundation, the Prophecy Club, and messianic speaker Michael Rood. At last there is a book written by two researchers in critique of all of Wyatt's alleged discoveries including for example Noah's Ark, the Ark of the Covenant, Egyptian chariot wheels in the Red Sea, Sodom & Gomorrah, the Pillars of Solomon, and Abraham's tomb.
The authors, like Wyatt, are Seventh-Day Adventists. Their criticisms therefore, are not as much with his theology but with Wyatt's supposed archaeological research. Of particular interest is their exposure of inconsistencies in the varied accounts given by Wyatt concerning his discoveries and a collection of excuses by Wyatt for such inconsistencies and for his promised evidence not being forthcoming. This book is recommended to any who have wanted a thorough evaluation of Wyatt and his claims3.”
Further digging reveals some surprising findings. There is an incredible amount of scientific data and archaeological evidence which contradicts these amazing discoveries. Explore the websites listed below for factual information about the claims and Mr. Wyatt himself.
Amazing Ark Expose: Could This be Noah's Ark? Excellent well-researched article.
Also see “Comments Concerning Alleged Rebuttal” to this article at the same address.
Wyatt Archaeological Research Fraud Documentation. The intro page and “A Great Christian Scam” are well worth reading.
Links to other enlightening articles are at the bottom of that page. Also a book review of Holy Relics3.
Has the Ark of the Covenant Been Found?
Excellent research by David Merling, archaeologist, Andrews University
RON WYATT: ARE HIS CLAIMS BONAFIDE? by Bill Crouse
Describes the site, lists pros and cons, has photos and links
Is Mt. Sinai in Saudi Arabia? Bible and Spade, Associates for Biblical Research
1Randall Price, In Search of Temple Treasures, The Lost Ark and the Last Days, Chapter 9 – The Great Treasure Hunt Inside Israel, pages 152-156; and Notes page 367. Harvest House Publishers, copyright 1994. Out of print. Used with author's permission.
2 Dr. Randall Price is president of World of the Bible Ministries, Inc., a nonprofit educational equipping organization providing a clearer understanding of the Bible and biblical issues through information on the ancient and modern Middle East; Bible prophecy; and historical, cultural, and archaeological studies. He holds a master's degree in Old Testament and Semitic Languages from Dallas Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. in Hebrew Literature and Middle Eastern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures from the University of Texas at Austin, where he also taught courses in biblical archaeology and the history and culture of modern Israel. He has done graduate studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, has conducted archaeological excavations in Jerusalem and the region of Galilee, and is a certified tour guide to the State of Israel. He has authored several books and has appeared nationwide on the CBS television specials Ancient Secrets of the Bible, and was the focus of a series about the Temple and its treasures on the nationally acclaimed Christian program The John Ankerberg Show.
3 Russell R. Standish & Colin D. Standish, Holy Relics or Revelation: Recent Astounding Archaeological Claims Evaluated (Rapidan, Virginia: Hartland Publications, 1999). Order from: Hartland Publications, Box 1, Rapidan, VA 22733 (800) 774-3566.