Sunday, August 3, 2008
Noah's Ark was, according to Abrahamic religions, a large vessel built at God's command to save Noah, his family, and a core stock of the world's animals from the Great Flood. The story is told in chapters 6-9 of the book of Genesis, with later variations in the Qur'an and a number of other sources.
According to Genesis 6-9 God decided to destroy the world due to the wickedness of mankind in it, selecting Noah, a man "righteous in his generation", instructing him to build an ark and take on board his family and representatives of animals and birds. God's flood then destroys all life on earth, but at the height of the deluge "God remembered Noah", and the waters abate and the dry land reappears. The story ends with God entering into a covenant with Noah and his descendants.
The story has been subject to extensive elaborations in the various Abrahamic traditions, theoretical solutions to practical problems (e.g. how Noah might have disposed of animal waste) with allegorical interpretations (e.g. the Ark as the precursor of the Church, offering salvation to mankind). From the 1st century AD to the 19th century various details of the Ark and the Flood narrative were examined, questioned, and even doubted by both Jewish and Christian commentators and scholars. By the 19th century, the growth of geology and biogeography as sciences meant that few natural historians or Christian commentators felt able to justify a literal, global interpretation of the Ark story, and biblical critics were turning their attention to its secular origins and purposes, while many Christians proposed that it only covered parts of Mesopotamia. Nevertheless, some biblical literalists today continue to take the Ark as test-case for their understanding of the Bible, and to explore the region of the mountains of Ararat in northeast Turkey where Genesis says Noah's Ark came to rest.
The search for Noah's Ark
Main article: Searches for Noah's Ark
For centuries, Mount Ararat (pictured here) has been searched for remains of Noah's ark. Recently Mount Sabalan in Iran, over 300 km (200 miles) away, has been under investigation.Biblical literalists feel that finding the Ark would validate their views on a whole range of matters, from geology to evolution. "If the flood of Noah indeed wiped out the entire human race and its civilization, as the Bible teaches, then the Ark constitutes the one remaining major link to the pre-flood World. No significant artifact could ever be of greater antiquity or importance.... [with] tremendous potential impact on the creation-evolution (including theistic evolution) controversy". Non-Fundamentalist Christians typically believe the discovery of the Ark is unimportant to the historicity of the Genesis flood narrative, and that the Ark cannot be found as it would have long since been destroyed by weather or recycled for other projects.
Searches have concentrated on Mount Ararat in Turkey itself, although Genesis actually refers only to the mountains of Ararat.The Durupinar site, near but not on Ararat, and much more accessible, attracted attention in the 1980s and 1990s; in early 2004, a Honolulu businessman travelled to Washington, D.C. to “announce with great fanfare” a planned expedition to investigate a site he called the Ararat anomaly but National Geographic later concluded it may have been an ineffective stunt to “persuade the Turkish government into granting him a permit” that “few expeditions have actually obtained.”; and in 2006 there was brief flurry of interest when an expedition reported a potential site in Iran.
In 2007, a joint Turkish-Hong Kong expedition team found what is thought to be fossilized wood in a cave on Mount Ararat in Turkey. A sample of the "wood" was analyzed by the Department of Earth Sciences of the University of Hong Kong but the results were inconclusive. The origin of the out-crop remains unknown, but the group suggests that it is part of Noah's Ark. Photographs of geologic thin-sections of the "wood" have been examined by several creationist geologists who concur that this is likely volcanic tuff. It has been suggested that the finding is a ploy to increase tourism in the area.