The story of Noah’s ark and the Great Flood is one of the most famous stories in the Bible. God was displeased with the sinfulness and wickedness of mankind, so He decided to send a great flood to wipe out humanity and start over. But God showed mercy to one righteous man, Noah, commanding him to build a massive ark to save himself, his family, and two of every kind of animal from the destructive flood waters. After 40 days and nights of rain, the flood waters gradually receded and the ark came to rest on solid ground. But where exactly did Noah’s ark come to rest after the Great Flood?
The Book of Genesis simply states that the ark came to rest on the “mountains of Ararat” after 150 days of floating on the flood waters (Genesis 8:4). Ancient tradition has long held that the “mountains of Ararat” specifically refer to Mount Ararat located in modern-day Turkey. At 16,854 feet high, Mount Ararat is the highest peak in Turkey and is part of the Armenian Highlands region close to Armenia’s border with Iran and Azerbaijan. Because of the biblical connection, Mount Ararat has held deep spiritual significance for Armenians and various Christian groups through the centuries.
Several ark search expeditions set out to explore Mount Ararat beginning in the 1800s. Numerous expeditions claimed to have found evidence of the ark’s remains on the mountain, including wood remnants and rock structures thought to be petrified wood from the vessel. While many of these claims have been contested or remain unverified, the association of Mount Ararat with Noah’s landing site persists.
According to ancient Babylonian flood accounts and the Quran, Noah’s ark came to rest not on Mount Ararat but on Mount Judi in southeastern Turkey near the Iraqi and Syrian borders. At 7,329 feet elevation, Mount Judi is considerably lower than Mount Ararat, rising up from the plains between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in the Mesopotamia region.
The Quranic account of the flood landing describes the ark coming to rest on “Al-Judi” (Sura 11:44). Some Islamic scholars equate Al-Judi with Mount Judi in modern Turkey. Additionally, pre-biblical Babylonian texts like the Epic of Gilgamesh describe the ark landing on Mount Nisir, which some historians believe also refers to Mount Judi or a mountain in the same area.
While the biblical Book of Genesis does not specifically name Mount Judi as the landing site, some scholars suggest “Mountains of Ararat” could refer generally to the Armenian/Mesopotamia region rather than exclusively to the specific peak known as Mount Ararat. Mount Judi is approximately 200 miles south of Mount Ararat, but still within the broad “mountains of Ararat” range.
Explanations for the Two Sites
Why do two very different traditions exist about where Noah’s ark came to rest? Here are some possible explanations:
- The Genesis account is purposefully vague, only mentioning the “mountains of Ararat.” The specific peak is not identified.
- The names “Ararat” and “Judi” referred to broader regional areas or ranges, not necessarily specific peaks.
- Over time, the landing site was attributed to Mount Ararat because of its prominence in the region.
- Mount Judi was the original landing site in early Babylonian and Islamic traditions, with Mount Ararat claimed later.
- The mention of two mountains reflects two different landing sites – Mount Judi where the ark first grounded and Mount Ararat where it ultimately settled.
- The ark possibly broke apart upon impact, with remnants settling in different locations.
Some propose that the two accounts stem from the same historical event but developed varied traditions over time. Others argue the stories actually refer to two separate flood narratives or landing sites. There is also a theory that Ararat and Judi were once names for the same mountain before tectonic shifts altered the landscape.
Physical Evidence Claimed
Have explorers actually discovered tangible proof of Noah’s ark on either Mount Ararat or Judi? Here are some of the notable physical evidence claims over the years:
Mount Ararat Evidence Claims
- 1829 – Dr. Friedrich Parrot, German-Russian explorer, reported finding a small, partially preserved wooden structure high on Mount Ararat.
- 1876 – James Bryce, British historian, climbed Mount Ararat and described seeing a large wooden slab wedged in a vertical crevice partway up.
- 1916 – Russian army captain Nikolai Yakovlevich Araratov saw a half-exposed ship on the northwest slope during a Russian-Turkish border mapping expedition.
- 1948 – French industrialist Fernand Navarra spotted a five-foot beam on Mount Ararat while climbing with his son. He returned another year and retrieved several timber and plank specimens.
- 1959 – Turkish army captain Ilhan Durupinar came across a boat-shaped formation near the Iranian border of Mount Ararat, which became known as Durupinar site.
- 2006 – Honolulu-based businessman Daniel McGivern claimed to have documented a large, compartmentalized ark structure interred in the ice on Mount Ararat using satellite imaging.
Mount Judi Evidence Claims
- 1887 – Assyrian Presbyterian missionary William H. Nelson claimed to have found ark remains resembling ancient ship construction on Mount Judi.
- 1957 – El-Makhrum Ark Search Expedition from the Iraqi Department of Antiquities excavated boat-like remains on Mount Judi near the village of Hazar Parez.
- 1960 – Violet M. Cummings, British archaeologist, uncovered remnants of aged, pitted wood, cobblestones, and fossilized mangrove roots at the Hazar Parez site.
- 1985 – Ron Wyatt, American amateur archaeologist, declared he found definite ark structure remnants protruding from the ground on Mount Judi’s western slope.
These are some of the most notable claims of physical evidence of Noah’s ark surviving on the mountains. They range from eyewitness sightings, recovery of timber fragments, documentation of anomalous formations, and full excavations of supposed ark structure remains. However, the veracity of many claims is heavily disputed, with artifacts and sites difficult to scientifically authenticate or conclusively date to Noah’s time.
From a scientific viewpoint, there are numerous challenges with the physical plausibility of the biblical flood account and the authenticity of alleged ark remnants, including:
- Wooden structures cannot realistically survive intact for thousands of years exposed to the elements.
- No geological evidence exists of a global, catastrophic flood dating tobiblical timeframes.
- Mount Ararat and Judi lack typical flood sediment layers and evidence consistent with a large vessel landing and settling.
- A wooden vessel the size described in Genesis could not have practically housed representatives of all land animals, plants, provisions, and freshwater needs.
- The highest elevations of Mount Ararat and Judi would have been under massive glaciers during the last Ice Age when the flood supposedly occurred.
From a scientific perspective, many aspects of the Noah’s ark story appear mythical or allegorical rather than literal history. While excavations may have uncovered old wooden structures on the mountains, conclusively linking them to Noah’s vessel from Bible times is extremely difficult, if not impossible.
Significance for Faith
The lack of scientific confirmation of Noah’s ark has little impact on the significance of the narrative for faith traditions. Possible lessons and implications include:
- God judges sin but also shows mercy and provides redemption.
- God cares about righteousness and justice.
- God punishes evildoing but also preserves life during times of judgment.
- God makes covenants with mankind.
- Faith requires trusting in God more than physical sight.
- God calls people to obedience and righteous living.
For religious believers, the spiritual importance and allegorical truth conveyed through the ark account matters more than establishing literal, scientific accuracy. The symbolic value and revelation of God’s nature and dealings with humanity remain central, regardless of unresolved questions about the vessel’s historicity or final resting place.
The enduring biblical story of Noah’s ark has sparked curiosity and controversy regarding where the vessel came to rest after the receding floodwaters. Ancient tradition places the ark on Mount Ararat. But other early accounts suggest Mount Judi as an alternative landing site. Despite various alleged sightings and recovery of wood fragments, the existence and location of Noah’s ark remains scientifically unsubstantiated. Yet the powerful narrative continues to resonate with faith traditions for its symbolic messages rather than as a matter of archeological proof.