By John Evans
Head reliquary of St. Jacob of Nisibis, Hildesheim
On July 2, circa 1840, the northern slopes of Greater Ararat in Armenia began to shake. The monastic community of Saint James, located on the snowy heights of the fabled mountain which had stood as a living testament to Armenian Christianity, crumbled into the abyss. From about 340 A.D., the monks of the mountain had preserved mysteries which were long concealed from the teeming masses of a world at continual unrest, including artifacts from the residence and Ark of the Biblical Patriarch, Noah. A catalogue of the relics no longer exists. We possess no photos of the interior of the structure. All we possess are footnotes and vague outlines from pilgrims who climbed the wearied steps up the rugged slopes to kneel in awe before the Tabernacle and those who held the secrets of the mountain. The rest stands unnumbered feet beneath the storied heights of what may be the true cradle of civilization, when the waters of the great deluge had receded circa five thousand years ago from the face of the earth. Yet, that wasn’t the end of the story for Saint James Monastery, the Ark of Noah, or Mount Ararat.
From 1840 to nearly 1946, a little under a hundred eyewitness reports began to surface that a large petrified structure had been disclosed by the eternal ice. Some reports put the nautical-shaped structure near the remains of the old monastery in the enormous crater left from an earthquake, called the Ahora Gorge. Other accounts put the structure somewhere at the end of a cliff or on the edge of a horseshoe-shaped crevice about 14 thousand feet above sea level. At least two of the eyewitnesses, George Hagopian and Ed Davis, were independently interviewed, underwent polygraph tests, and had locations they described from the foothills of Ararat cross-examined by friends and associates of the late Astronaut James Erwin. Their work is documented HERE.
Elfred Lee, a member of many ground expeditions to Mount Ararat, interviewed George Hagopian and Ed Davis independently, was present for the lie detector tests, and personally conducted many searches validating strange and minute details in the Hagopian testimony. Lee confirmed with a climatologist that there was a drought circa 1908 in Armenia when George claims he was compelled to climb Ararat with his uncle to find the provision of grass and fresh water for their animals. This provides the motivation for George’s uncle to have taken him so far from home. Though George was only 10 years of age, just eight during one of the recorded climbs, the need for an elderly shepherd to have a young spry companion to retrieve fresh water and grass for dying livestock would have been immediate, and more than likely, given the agricultural needs of the preindustrial village. Furthermore, as anyone who has visited rural communities in Eastern Europe will know, the maturity of a 10-year-old used to tending sheep is about half a decade greater than those who have had the fortune of growing up more comfortably. As Elfred explains:
His grandfather had also seen it. His family was basically shepherds. The women would milk the goats. He and his uncle would go every summer from Lake Van to Mt. Ararat where they would graze their sheep and goats. When George was eight years old there had been a three– or four-year drought in the region. Animals were dying. The glacial ice had melted way back on the mountain. His uncle suggested they go up toward the top of the mountain for water and grass and see if the Holy Ark was visible. The ice might be melted back enough this year. So George and his uncle went up.
Such collaboration is the subject for another report. However, regarding the strange synchronicity between Davis and Hagopian’s testimony, Elfred had to say:
I will tell you. He came walking in and started talking. As I listened my hair on my neck stood up. He sounded like George Hagopian. He started describing the mountain, his experiences, how long it took to go from point A to point B, the caves, the fog, the rock formations, describing the interior of the caves, and the stone steps and how they’re carved. My goodness, I said, where did this guy hear this information? None of this information is published. I have George Hagopian on tape and in notes, but none of his information had been published yet, so I became very interested.
Such evidence alone should lead someone to conclude that a ship-like structure exists 14 thousand feet above sea level on Greater Ararat. Whether or not this structure is the Ark is a matter for further research. Nevertheless, despite these incredible findings, many prominent Biblical creationists seem to dismiss these eyewitness reports, with Answers In Genesis’ (A.I.G.) founder, Ken Ham, repeatedly pointing to geological and textual evidence rather than a ground search for anything on the slopes of Greater or Lesser Ararat. The reason for this hesitancy is too involved for us to independently explore here. However, as a devout Roman Catholic who has found the search for relics and material remains of the miraculous a lifelong pursuit, I feel that a further examination is warranted, one which should at the very least strengthen interest in revisiting many testimonies which could substantially validate what we know about the antediluvian and cosmogonic days of Genesis.
The third and fourth century saw the Christian Faith’s emergence from the catacombs. The Edict of Milan in the West as well as the rise of Constantine the Great would allow for the bones of St. Peter and St. Paul to be removed from hiding and placed in reliquaries for public veneration. St. Helena, mother of the emperor Constantine, would excavate the hill of Calvary, return fragments of the True Cross to Europe, and begin to trace the route of the Via Dolorosa. The graves of the martyrs and their clothing had been venerated from at least the time of Polycarp of Smyrna toward the close of the first century A.D., and the early second century when Apostolic memory was commonplace. This is because Christianity, unlike the Greek-Roman pantheon, is not merely content with reducing faith to a platonic allegory or a series of hypothetical rules for life. Via the Incarnation, the Logos became flesh, God has intervened personally in human history. God has shed blood and left footprints. Every minute of the racing clock is His story and imprinted with His love for woman and man. Therefore, preserving material remnants of His intervention in time and affirming the innate goodness and sacrality of matter, The Church has always sought to conserve these monuments of the past.
The third and fourth century was such a time, and the Ark of Noah was no different. One of the earliest searches for the Ark can be found in the hagiographies of St. Jacob of Nisibis, a bishop in the Eastern portion of the empire and famed member of the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, circa 325 A.D. The details of St. Jacob’s Ascent of the mountain and founding of Saint James Monastery, discussed above, are enshrouded in no little mystery, but the basic facts can be gleaned from writings written within a century of his passing. The fifth-century author, Faustus of Byzantium, records this expedition to the landing place of the Ark. The following is adapted from a French edition of Victor Lanolin, provided by a rather skeptical blogger named Jason Colavito. You can find his translations HERE. We read:
By this time, the great bishop of Mitspin (Nisibis), this admirable old man, tireless in performing works of truth, chosen by God, Jacob by name and Persian in origin, left his city heading toward the mountains of Armenia, which is to say toward the mountain of Sararad, in the territory of the principality of Ayrarat, in the district of Korduk‘. He was a man filled with the graces of Christ and who had the power to do miracles and wonders. Arriving (at this place), he addressed God with the keenest desire to receive the opportunity to see the ark of deliverance built by Noah, which came to rest on this mountain during the flood. Jacob obtained from God all that he asked. As he climbed the stony sides of the inaccessible and arid mountain of Sararad, he and those with him felt thirsty as a result of fatigue. Then the great Jacob bent his knees and prayed before the Lord, and in the place where he laid his head, a spring burst forth in which he and those with him quenched their thirst. To this very day it is still called the “Spring of Jacob.” However it did not reduce his zeal to see the object of his desire, and he never ceased praying to the Lord God.
When he had neared the top of the mountain, exhausted and tired as he was, he fell asleep. Then the angel of God came and said to him: “Jacob! Jacob!” And he responded: “Here I am, Lord.” And the angel said: “The Lord grants your prayer and fulfills your request; that which you find beneath where you lie is the wood of the ark. I brought it for you from there. Now cease your desire to see the ark, for this is the will of the Lord.” Jacob awoke with great joy, worshiping the Lord and thanking him; he saw the board that appeared to have been split by an ax from a larger piece of wood. Having taken it, he turned back with that which had been granted, followed by his companions. […]
While the man of God brought the wood of deliverance, the symbol of the ark built by our father Noah, that eternal symbol of the great punishment inflicted by God on rational beings and those deprived of reason, the inhabitants of the city and the surrounding area came to meet him (Jacob) with joy and boundless elation. When they saw the holy man, they swarmed him as an Apostle of Christ and an angel from heaven; they regarded him as a brave shepherd and as a prophet who had seen God; they kissed the footprints of his tired feet. They eagerly accepted this wood, this graceful gift, which is preserved to this day among them as the visible sign of the ark of the patriarch Noah.”
St. Jacob of Nisibis in this account is hardly treated as a legendary construct. His life and episcopate are well documented. He travels to a geographical region that is minutely specified and identifiable on Google Maps today in Faustus’ report. He brings back material evidence that is preserved so as to conserve a historical memory of the post-Deluge era and the reliability of Genesis. Jacob does not merely return with another eyewitness account; he returns with tangible data. Surely, an honest researcher would want to examine said data, even if one were predisposed to believe that the Flood narrative lacked support from archeology? The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Troy was considered a mythological construct until the mid-19th century when an eccentric German businessman decided to apply the geographical clues in Homer to what existed in Greece and Asia Minor. Now, the existence of a city named Troy would never be contested in secular literature, even if the exact details of the Trojan War as related in Homer are. The gap between Homer’s authorship and the events he describes is a matter of centuries via oral transmission and embellishment. But the ruined walls, ramparts, and human remains of the Trojan battlefield exist in terms which eerily match Homer’s fictionalized epic. If that is the case, why shouldn’t the archeological community peer deeper into the question of whether St. Jacob of Nisibis found an artifact in the fourth century associated with the biblical patriarch, Noah? Is it perhaps because such a finding would radically reshape culture and the new dogmas that conform it—or is it merely a matter of plausibility?
The following article attempts to answer the question of plausibility, eyewitness testimony, and empirical evidence. If eyewitness testimony is enough to convict in legal matters revolving around unrepeatable events lacking material data, then we should be able to provide comparable methods to inquire into the pages of history, especially when material evidence is not lacking.
Material evidence does exist in Etchmiadzin. The Cathedral in Armenia houses extraordinary relics purported to hail from the first century A.D., including a rumored lance used at the crucifixion. However, among these countless relics stands conspicuously a wood fragment claimed to be one of the very timbers brought down by St. Jacob of Nisibis from the snowy heights of Mount Ararat.
Now to the best of my knowledge such a wood sample has not yet been carbon-dated or tested by independent research. Should information about such testing come to light, please contact us at bookandspade.com, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, as this would prove important in either validating or critically evaluating the Nisibis testimony. The fact that such evidence exists and has not yet seen the light of day leads me to wonder whether the Nisibis testimony has been forgotten or else dismissed in favor of more recent Ark sightings. There is also a fear among some evangelical circles that authentic biblical artifacts might become idols, like the brazen serpent recorded in Numbers, and lead believers astray. From a Roman Catholic perspective, which defines a distinction between veneration and adoration quite clearly, I would hope that irrespective of one’s theological persuasions, further digging should be carried out in this line of investigation.
Anyone who has studied shipwrecks, ancient and modern, will be aware that there is almost always a debris-field. The fact that such a debris-field may be on Ararat is unsurprising, even if the structure which exists in the aforementioned location is not genuinely the Ark. Wood samples were retrieved from the mountain in the 1950s by a team which included Lee. Later these were dismissed because of carbon dating which placed them in the 1300s A.D., or in the early Patristic period. However, if these wood samples were to match those found preserved from Jacob’s climb, it might call into question the carbon dating method’s finality on the case, or perhaps even suggest that they are derived from the monastic community of Saint James, near the landing place of the Ark.
Regarding this debris-field Elfred states:
Elfred: Navarra found other wood. He saw wood in three different locations on the mountain. Hagopian confirmed to me that the Ark landed above the Parrot Glacier. It is possible that wood from the Ark drifted down into the Ahora Gorge to the north, and also towards the Parrot Glacier to the west.
Rosie: Did Navarra actually see wood from the Ark in 1952? Did he excavate?
Elfred: He saw a shadow in the ice in 1952. In 1955, he was actually able to reach the site and dig with his son Rafael. They made a black and white movie, then had to hide for 13 hours in a cave during a snowstorm, where they nearly froze to death.”
Should remnants of the Ark exist in Armenia and should they be validated by comparable research, though the secular world would surely find ways of escaping the inevitable conclusion, many would be compelled to recognize that trust in Sacred Scripture and Tradition regarding the Deluge is reasonable. Nevertheless, data from further accounts of Bishop Jacob’s expedition do align with Hagopian and Davis’ account of the Ark.
Sir John Mandeville offers an alternative version of events from the sixteenth chapter of his travels. Colavito emphasizes in his blog that there abides a gap of centuries between Faustus’ account and Mandeville’s testimonies. However, notice if any of the details in this account match up with what we know from the eyewitness testimony of George Hagopian and Ed Davis from 20th-century searches for the Ark of Noah on Mount Ararat. Mandeville’s account is provided in Colavito’s translation as follows:
From that city of Erzurum go men to a mountain called Sabissa. And there beside it is another mountain that men call Ararat, but the Jews call it Taneez [or Thano], where Noah’s ship rested, and yet remains upon that mountain. And men may see it from afar in clear weather. And that mountain is fully seven mile high. And some men say that they have seen and touched the ship, and put their fingers in the parts where the Devil went out when Noah said “Benedicite” [i.e., “Bless you.”]. But they that say such words say them ignorantly, for a man may not go up the mountain due to the great deal of snow that is always on that mountain both in summer and winter. Thus no man may go up there, and indeed no man ever did, since the time of Noah, save a monk that, by the grace of God, brought one of the planks down, that yet is in the monastery at the foot of the mountain. […] But to go up upon that mountain, this monk had a great desire. And so one day, he went up. And when he was a third of the way up the mountain he was so weary that he could go no further, and so he rested and fell asleep. And when he awoke he found himself lying at the foot of the mountain. And then he prayed devoutly to God that he would allow him to go up. And an angel came to him, and said that he should go up. And so he did. And since that time no other ever has, which is why men should not believe such words.
First, Mandeville provides a throwaway detail that appears to validate his account. He states that James or Jacob traveled a third of the way up the mountain. Unlike Faustus’ account which puts Jacob near the summit, here Jacob is situated nearer the 14-thousand foot level where most Ark sightings have occurred, including those of Davis and Hagopian near or about the present location of the Haora Gorge. Secondly, the angelic visitation does not conclude the account of Jacob’s ascent of the mountain. On the contrary, all we know is that he went “up” whereas others, who lacked such knowledge, could not ascend because of the “great deal of snow.”
Notice what is strategically absent from this account: first Faustus’ explicit report that Jacob never saw the Ark, and second, the recovery of the relic. Instead, what is emphasized is the location. The Ark is situated high in the snow-laden region of the fabled mountain and that Jacob was nearly a third up the mountain when he was thrust back down. This is once more roughly where Saint James monastery used to be.
There is a discrepancy between Mandeville’s account placing the quest resuming at about a third of the way up the mountain and Faustus’ account which places the discovery of the Ark landing place or angel encounter near the summit. Both could be harmonized of course. The Ararat anomalies witnessed by a U-2 Spy aircraft in the mid-1950s were located roughly near the summit. Hagopian’s eyewitness account located it about a third of the way up the rocky slopes of the mountain above or near the gorge where Saint James stood. Perhaps the good bishop encountered both structures or walked over them in addition to receiving the angelic visitation.
The fact that Saint James’ monks had access to the Ark as a result of his climb is strongly suggested by Elfred Lee. He says as much in an extensive quotation which we will provide below. I offer it in its full length only to indicate how profoundly Elfred emphasized this point. Lee was not merely wondering if Saint James’ monks had accessed the Ark. He was nearly certain that they had and were responsible for making conservation efforts well beyond the call of duty. As we read:
Elfred: He could remember that the Ark was of wood and he could see the grain, color, fitted joints and wooden dowels. It had something like shellac covering the wood. It appeared to have been covered with some kind of paint that was peeling. There was a green moss growing on it, and at the far end was a set of stairs coming down to within about ten feet of the ground. It looked like someone else had attached the stairs. He said Noah didn’t put them there and they were not part of the original construction. Incidentally, Rene Noorbergen found a report in the Jerusalem library that told of early Christians going on pilgrimages up there and doing repairs on the ark. There was a monastery called St. Jacob’s near the base of the mountain, which housed relics from the ark.
John: Was this the monastery that was destroyed by the earthquake?
Elfred: Yes. It was destroyed by an eruption in 1840. It was common for pilgrims to go up there when the weather permitted, and they would stop at the monastery and then go up the mountain. The report said that they did some repairs, so they probably took pieces of wood up with them, or pieces that were lying around that had come off the ark, and made a stairway so they could walk up on it.”
The statement, “they probably took wood with them,” may explain the wood discovered by Navarra and may account for the debris-field. The fact that Rene Noorbergen, known for being a journalist of some integrity, claims to have found independent attestation also should give us pause in asking how much St. Jacob or his students may have found. At least one of St. Jacob’s students is rather well known among Patristic sources.
Ephraim the Syrian was a well-known student of Jacob of Nisibis. Ephraim, arguably much better known than Jacob, is known for his vast musical career as a founder of religious communities and as one of the earliest Doctors of the Church to declare belief in the Immaculate Conception. This fourth-century Father of the Church, however, is also remembered for a little-known and rare chronicle claiming to record all of human history from the time of the fall of Satan, through the foundation of The Law. This text is called “The Book of the Cave of Treasures,” because according to the account when Adam was banished with his wife from Paradise, he spent some time in a cave where he held liturgical worship of The Lord. There he was given gold and frankincense, instructed that God the son would one day take on human flesh, and told to observe an early form of Torah. All of these details appear in another second-century text, “The Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan,” which some would even date to the Second Temple Period, contemporary with the early first century A.D. when a young Saul would have been studying under Gamaliel. It is striking to see that elements of “The Book of the Cave of Treasures” offer elaborate geography, a series of place names, genealogies, and ancient Pre-Flood customs which are in keeping with first-century second Temple traditions. To offer only one example from the narrative regarding the entrance of Noah’s family into the Ark:
The entrance of Noah into the Ark took place on the day of the eve of the Sabbath (Friday), on the seventeenth day of the blessed month of Ayer (May). On the Friday, in the morning (i.e. the third hour) the beasts and the cattle went into the lowermost story; and at midday all the feathered fowl and all the reptiles went into the middle story; and at sunset Noah and his sons went into the Ark, on the east side of [the third story], and his wife and the wives of his sons went to the west side. And the body of Adam was deposited in the middle of the Ark, wherein also all the mysteries of the Church were deposited. Thus women in church shall be on the west [side] [Fol. 17a, col. 2], and men on the east [side], so that the men may not see the faces of the women, and the women may not see the faces of the men. Thus also was it in the Ark; the women were on the west [side], and the men on the east [side], and the body of our father p. 112 Adam was placed between [them] like a raised stand (or throne). And as quietness reigned in the Church between men and women, so also peace reigned in the Ark between the wild beasts, and the feathered fowl, and the creeping things (or reptiles). And as kings, and judges, and rich men, and poor men, and governors, and sick men, and beggars, live in concord, that is to say, in a general bond of peace, so also was it in the Ark. For lions, and panthers, and savage beasts of prey lived in peace and harmony with the cattle; and the beasts that were fierce and strong lived in peace with those that were timid and weak; and the lion with the ox, and the wolf with the lamb, and the lion’s whelp [Fol. 17b, col. 1] with the calf, and the serpent with the dove, and the hawk with the sparrow.
Either the author or redactor of this text was Tolkien about two millennia before the invention of the genre of realistic fiction, or we must assume that we are confronted with a memory, no matter how faint, of chronicled history. The real question is, where did the redactor receive his sources? Assuming traditional authorship of “The Book of the Cave of Treasures” becomes far less difficult when we remember that Jacob, the earliest Ark hunter of the Christian era, was Ephraim the Syrian’s mentor and spiritual father. We have already discussed how Jacob had access to places where the Ark was rumored to have landed and returned with a supposed relic of the vessel, still existent to our present age. We have also demonstrated that a student of his composed a purported history of the lives of the earliest Patriarchs of Genesis with exact geographical and architectural details in keeping with Flood narratives dating back to the Second Temple period. We have also demonstrated that not all of the accounts of Jacob’s journey include his lack of access to the Ark but are strangely ambiguous about the Saint’s exact sojourning on the upper slopes of Ararat, and we have noted that according to Hagopian’s testimony, conservation work was carried out on the structure he claims to be the Ark. Is it then plausible for us to ask whether Jacob discovered more than a piece of timber on the upper third of Greater Ararat, or whether his encounter with the relics there, and their angelic guardian, may have been preserved in some form by his students, such as Ephraim? It is conspicuous that the monastery of Saint James on the slopes of Greater Ararat supposedly contained “relics” in the plural from the Ark of Noah and that the ladder and altar Hagopian describes would have taken more than a single man to construct. We note that in Faustus of Byzantium’s account, the Ark is somewhere under the place where Jacob is situated near the summit. We further note that the monastery of Saint James was located where the Ahora Gorge is now situated, the gorge where the vast majority of sightings have occurred. As Elfred Lee notes about Davis’ reported route to the Ark:
He described it, saying there’s a tree there, it was at the foot of the Black Glacier, near the Ahora Gorge. He described the rock formations and everything. The village was between Aralik and Ahora [this is named Tarlabas’ village in Ahmet Arslan’s 1986 map in The Lost Ship of Noah] and they went up by Jacob’s well, Jacob’s tomb, and graveyard, below the Cehennem Dere and up towards Doomsday Rock. He described all this to me.
The Saint James religious community lay directly toward the supposed Davis and Hagopian landing place. Can this be mere coincidence, or were the monks aware of the location? Furthermore, perhaps even if all of the Ark were not visible in the late fourth century, there were times when it was more accessible. Could Ephraim have returned to continue his search where his old master Jacob left off and did he bring brother monks with him to preserve and conserve the holy site? If so, were there other archives they found to supplement their own, archives which may have been discovered by other pilgrims buried on Ararat? Could those texts have circulated among the early Patristics and ended up in Ephraim’s composite account? One thing is certain despite these conjectures: more investigation is required. If so, time is of the essence. When Jacob ascended Greater Ararat, there were those who mocked Genesis as ahistorical. But overall, culture bore the growing influence of The Church. Now that the influence of the Church has receded from society, it is more essential than ever to provide, like Jacob, tangible data which will validate, in the eyes of modern sceptics, the integrity of Scripture.
There is one significant link between “The Book of the Cave of Treasures” and a supposed archeological site now extant about 18 miles away from Greater Ararat. “The Nook of the Cave of Treasures” records a village of eight, built presumably a distance from the Ark’s landing place. Note that the following text does not place the village on the mountain but some distance from it. The book also describes the descent of the Ark and the foundation of the village as the occasion on which the “bow covenant” is formed, when God shall no more flood the earth. Both will have bearing on our expedition. “The Book of the Cave of Treasures” reads as follows:
And when they had gone forth Noah began work on the ground [Fol. 18b, col. 2], and they built a city and called the name thereof “Them anon” (i.e. “Eight”), after the name of the eight souls who had gone forth from the Ark. And Noah built an altar, and offered up upon it an offering of beasts that were clean and feathered p. 117 fowl. And God was appeased by the offering of Noah, and he established with him an everlasting covenant, and swore an oath, saying, “I will never again make a Flood.” He took away the arrow of wrath from the bow which is in the clouds, and he stripped from it the string of anger, and spread it out (i.e. unbent it) in the clouds. For formerly, when the bow was bent in the firmament against that generation of the children of Cain, the murderer, they used to see the arrow of wrath placed in position on the string of anger, but after the Flood they did not see the arrow on the string.
A largely contested and discredited Ark location called Durupinar stands about 18 miles away from Greater Ararat. Numerous artifacts have been located in and around Durupinar, a mudflow resembling a sunken ship, which indicate pilgrimage to the region. Among the finds are strange anchor stones, called the Arzap drogue stones by some, resembling rocks used for sea voyages in the Aegean and Mediterranean.
The only problem is that these stones are far too big for a small seagoing vessel and are miles away from the ocean. Attempts have been made to correlate these with “holy stones” used by ancient Pagans in the region converted for Christian use. As Kevin Mark, contributor to the Kolbe Center, notes regarding the problematic nature of these finds, “I am not convinced that these stones with holes so close to the periphery are anchor stones. It would seem to be very poor design to place the hole so close to the outside where the rock could so easily break, especially in the currents and winds that the Ark must have endured.” However, eight particular stones were found in Arzap in a region which locals interpreted to mean “village of eight.”
Here the tomb of Noah was supposed to be laid.
Here is an image of the stones directly near the supposed tombs of Noah and his family.
Here is an interpretation of an inscription found on one of the supposed headstones.
This stone has a large cross in the middle representing Noah, a second smaller in the lower left representing Mrs. Noah, three smaller crosses representing the three sons, and the three smallest crosses representing the wives of the sons.
Above: Armenian writing states:
“The cross was placed. Saint intercessor Hoosig. Armenian. 29 : 731 or 531” (year AD)
Hoosig was martyred in 347 AD.
Dr. Michelson has produced several videos on the ark site and can be seen here:
The article explaining these finds and their accompanying translations can be found here:
The aforementioned Armenian inscription placing veneration of the sight to at least the 700s A.D., and the fact that eight individual crosses are carved into the rock demonstrates that the sight was believed to be important enough to preserve in late antiquity. If so, this would validate the possibility that this might be the very village in which the patriarch Noah rested.
Ron Wyatt, an amateur adventurer is often associated with the site. Many of his locations have been patently rejected by mainstream archeologists. David Fasold was once one of the advocates of the sight. At first, he appears to have claimed that these were stones carried aboard the Ark as described in the Epic of Gilgamesh. However, upon discovering that these stones come from Arzap and not from Mesopotamia, he later recanted his testimony. Nevertheless, I have long begun to wonder whether these stones are more or less memorials placed to mark the village of Noah rather than actual relics from the Ark. If so, then placing these some miles away from the original landing place and offering sacrifice on a nearby alter would be plausible and in keeping with “The Book of the Cave of Treasures.”
In addition, the Durupinar boat-shaped object is, according to John Morris, geologically unusual even if he dismisses it as manmade on the A.I.G. homepage. Is it possible that the location of the village, and its stones, are an authentic memorial sight, and the Durupinar Ark a misidentification? This would validate both Durupinar evidence suggesting early Christian pilgrimage and early habitation, as well as confirm the Hagopian testimony that the Ark is located on Greater Ararat, and not on some other surrounding mountain.
The reality stands, the strength for the Durupinar site is that it possesses numerous documented artifacts demonstrating veneration at least to the end of the Patristic period. The weakness of the site rests in the fact that the supposed mudflow believed to be the Ark nearby, is most likely a misidentification. The strength of Mount Ararat as the landing place of the Ark rests just shy of a hundred eyewitness testimonies. These testimonies place a petrified vessel about 14-thousand feet above sea level near an ancient pilgrimage route, not far from where Jacob of Nisibis once climbed. The weakness in the evidence for this site lies in the fact that ground expeditions in the past 40 years have not turned up corroboration. However, the Durupinar site could very well be the village of the first descent from the mountain after the Flood, thus explaining the comingling of authentic and inauthentic artifacts in the surrounding region. The reason for the failure of recent ground expeditions in and around Greater Ararat could easily be due to the fact that Davis describes the vessel having been broken in two and Hagopian claims that it was nearly buried on his second journey up the mountain. Also, as Rick Lancer has explained in his work on Associates for Biblical Research’s homage, many Ark sightings have occurred in the late afternoon when visibility is best, chiefly in those crevices where the Ark may be hiding. Most expeditions now leave the mountain around midday in order to make it down the slopes by nightfall. There is no evidence that the vessel hasn’t been buried under rock and ice since the mid-20th century. This would mean that John Morris and Lee could have been walking over the Ark site on their latest trips up the mountain.
In conclusion, I believe it sound to speculate that Jacob of Nisibis did climb Mount Ararat in the fourth century and that he built a monastic community which had access to an ancient artifact long believed to be the Ark. Furthermore, I believe it also safe to speculate that whatever knowledge the community of Saint James possessed was unique regarding material concerning the cosmogonic days of Genesis. Whether or not James or his students walked on the Ark or made efforts to conserve it seems a matter for further ground investigations, although Elfred Lee appears somewhat convinced by this data. As to the uncanny parallels between the work attributed to Ephraim and findings by Fasold and Wyatt in Arzap, not far from Greater Ararat, I would strongly conclude that these point to an awareness in the Ararat region of the post-Flood world and its remains—an awareness which Jacob of Nisibis had access to in either oral or written form on his expedition. The hypothesis that these traditions would have been codified in his student’s work is highly plausible. Nevertheless, I would hasten to add that everything in this bundle of notes is hardly written in stone and is subject to revision. We as Christians must be concerned with the truth. For we serve a God who is “the way, the truth, and the life.” Therefore, it is imperative that we critically examine the data that have been embraced and dismissed, and rightly ask every philosopher’s inaugural question: “Why?”
John Evans is the founder of Bookandspade.com, a contributor to EWTN, and student of Medieval studies. He received a Master’s Degree from Fordham University.