Noah’s Ark PaleoBabble Update

This is a sad post for me.  Read on and you’ll know why.

Fox News reported today about a joint Turkish-Chinese expedition that claims to have found Naoh’s ark on Mount Ararat.  Part of their proof is the picture below, which purports to have been taken inside the ark. Allegedly, the wooden beams carbon-date to 4,800 years old. Would that be cool or what?

Now the sad part. I also got an email today from one of Randall Price’s students. The email contains a message from Dr. Price about this expedition. (Dr. Price, as some of you may recall, has been doing a lot of searching for the ark lately.) Here is an excerpt from his message:

I was the archaeologist with the Chinese expedition in the summer of 2008 and was given photos of what they now are reporting to be the inside of the Ark. I and my partners invested $100,000 in this expedition (described below) which they have retained, despite their promise and our requests to return it, since it was not used for the expedition. The information given below is my opinion based on what I have seen and heard (from others who claim to have been eyewitnesses or know the exact details).

To make a long story short: this is all reported to be a fake. The photos were reputed to have been taken off site near the Black Sea, but the film footage the Chinese now have was shot on location on Mt. Ararat. In the late summer of 2008 ten Kurdish workers hired by Parasut, the guide used by the Chinese, are said to have planted large wood beams taken from an old structure in the Black Sea area (where the photos were originally taken) at the Mt. Ararat site. In the winter of 2008 a Chinese climber taken by Parasut’s men to the site saw the wood, but couldn’t get inside because of the severe weather conditions. During the summer of 2009 more wood was planted inside a cave at the site. The Chinese team went in the late summer of 2009 (I was there at the time and knew about the hoax) and was shown the cave with the wood and made their film. As I said, I have the photos of the inside of the so-called Ark (that show cobwebs in the corners of rafters – something just not possible in these conditions) and our Kurdish partner in Dogubabyazit (the village at the foot of Mt. Ararat) has all of the facts about the location, the men who planted the wood, and even the truck that transported it.

In short, Randall was duped. I feel bad about it because I know him. He’s a good guy with real degrees (so please don’t equate him with charlatans like Ron Wyatt). Yeah, he should have known better. But at least he’s being honest here.

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Desert Kites “Mystery”?

No, we’re not talking about ancient astronauts (kites from outer space!).

I’m not sure why this was even in the news. Maybe a slow day for archaeo-journalism.  I remember reading about the desert kites and their explanation (hunting/herding) in the 1990s while I was at Penn in grad school. Not sure what the mystery is/was.

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Tut DNA Update

The examination of the DNA of Tut’s family is becoming a clinic in how mainstream “archeo-journalism” commits paleobabble. The discussion among people who care and know whereof they speak continues (and this blog will continue to make sure you know about it). But journalists?  They’ve moved on after (what else is new) dismissing the need to temper their headlines or re-examine conclusions.

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New Archaeo-Journalist PaleoBabble on the Mosaic Law

I think I’ll go out on a limb and label this journalistic paleobabble.  The press release breathlessly proclaims:

Archaeologists working in Turkey have unearthed an Assyrian tablet dating to around 670 BCE that “could have served as a model for the biblical description of God’s covenant with the Israelites.” What this fascinating discovery suggests, of course, is that the Bible tale of a divine pact does not represent “history” or a “factual” event, but is instead a fictional rewrite, borrowing or plagiarism of this older Assyrian treaty.

Wow.  An Assyrian tablet from the 7th century BC that could have served as a structural model for the biblical law covenant? Really?  Ooh, I’m getting goosebumps.

Folks, there’s already been a pile of comparative literary-critical work done in this area with many other ancient Near Eastern covenants recovered from cuneiform tablets (Akkadian, Hittite).  Here’s a sample.  There are whole books written on this subject.

The fact is that biblical covenants follow known covenant patterns precisely because the biblical writers weren’t morons. Think of this sort of genre criticism/comparison this way.  If you hired a lawyer who wrote up a legal brief, presented it to the court, and then the judge said, after reading it, “Is your lawyer a doofus? Doesn’t he know how these things are written?” you’d probably better fire him/her.  In other words, there was a *proper* way in literary terms to write a covenant.  Trained scribes know that sort of thing. And that doesn’t speak to time of origin, either. It is well known that earlier documents of the Hebrew Bible were edited and put into final form during the Babylonian exile.  That means that trained scribes fashioned the final form with literary skill. Larry, Moe, and Curly weren’t the ones doing it. They weren’t numbskulls who asked “hey, now that we decided to write a covenant, what should we put in it? I sure wish we had an Assyrian tablet to copy from.”  They were trained in proper form, knew what they wanted to write about their covenant with their god, and did so.

It wasn’t rocket science, and this discovery covers old ground. Just more sensationalistic paleobabble from where I sit.

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Hidden Chambers Under the Sphinx?

Well, I guess if you define “chamber” as “a cavity” the answer is yes.  But that’s pretty vague.

Here’s an update regarding Zahi Hawass’ investigation of what might be under the Sphinx. No, I don’t think anyone’s going to find a “Hall of Records,” but I do have to admit I don’t completely trust Zahi’s announcements on anything. If there were anything interesting, he’d find a strategy for self-promotion in it before he went public.  Just my opinion.

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New Carbon Dating Method and the Shroud of Turin

It would be wonderful if this new method is eventually applied to the shroud.  I have my doubts that it will be, though.  But if it is, let me offer a prediction: “mixed results.”  If it’s the case that the shroud actually contains mixed material from different eras (such as repairs), then we should be ready for this.  Hopefully results will be clear if it happens.

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