The Pseudoarchaeology of Noah’s Ark

Mr. Ararat from Armenia. Photo by MrAndrew47.

Noah’s ark gets discovered several times a year (maybe more than Atlantis). A recent set of press releases would have us believe it’s a fact hidden by the Armenians or the Russians… or some conspiracy or another.

The Seven Warning Signs of Pseudoarchaeology includes discoveries pitched directly to the media. The pseudoarchaeologist knows his or her claim will not stand up to scrutiny by actual archaeologists so it gets pitched directly to the media. This isn’t always a hard and fast rule: some genuine archaeological work has skipped scrutiny by peers. But in general, this is a red flag.

Joel Klenck fits that mold. I regularly read news items that include the word “archaeologist” through Google Alerts and early in December I happened across an alert to a story that included “Noah’s ark” in the title. I won’t mention the online news service since it was probably just an automated aggregator picking up a Releasewire press release.

First, it’s worth noting that anyone can draft and create a press release. Services like Releasewire will send your release to a couple dozen news outlets for about $50.

Second, it’s also interesting that the source of the press release is an actual archaeologist. Educated at Harvard no less. It says so in the release.

I looked at his Twitter profile and he archived a bunch of old press releases about Noah’s ark to his Academia page.

So what’s going on? Has Noah’s ark been found?

Probably not. I actually had a short post about this “discovery” back in March 2010, Noah’s Ark Found… again. In that short post, I mentioned an outfit called Noah’s Ark Ministries International (NAMI) and I predicted:

  • The site site will always remain “a closely guarded secret”
  • No scientific publication of the find(s) will see the light of peer-reviewed literature, and
  • Any additional information will be in the form of press release.

Those predictions held up. It turns out that Joel Klenck is was once associated with NAMI. And what began as a curiosity ended up being quite the rabbit hole for me as I sought more information as to why a Harvard educated archaeologist would get behind such a ludicrous claim.

Noah’s Ark Ministries International

This was a Hong Kong-based Christian church or evangelical organization dedicated to locating the Noah’s ark. They worked with a Kurdish guide, Ahmet Parasut, from Turkey. Together they announced that “discovery” of Noah’s ark I mentioned back in 2010 after a trip or trips they took up Mount Ararat.

The Chinese team, along with Parasut’s team had grand claims of chambers, rooms, artifacts, pieces of wood that were carbon dated to 4800 years ago, etc. An interview with Randall Price gives some fascinating insight into this group, which no longer appears to exist (or maybe they changed their name), and Para?ut. It seems likely from what I read and the interviews I listened to by Price and Patton that NAMI were victims of deception at the hands of Para?ut.

The NAMI team from Hong Kong and the skeptical Americans in the middle, Don Patton, Davide McQueen, and Randall Price. Clara Wei is apparently not of NAMI. Photo -image capture from Don Patton interview.

Price and Don Patton were to be part of a geological team from the United States, since only the Chinese could get the necessary permits from the Turkish government. It turns out that NAMI was really just interested in their financial and credential contributions more than their actual expertise. Once Price and Patton began asking some uncomfortable questions, like “can we see the site” Para?ut and NAMI became increasing guarded.

Para?ut demanded up-front payment of $100,000 in order to visit the site, but ultimately kept the site, its location, and visitation very guarded. In fact, Parasut and NAMI showed Price and Randall photos that couldn’t even be the site based on vegetation and insects in the photos. Oh, and one of the photos was of a known tomb just a few miles from Para?ut’s restaurant!

  • NAMI ultimately only did press releases. As I predicted in 2010.
  • Para?ut refused access to the site and showed fake photos. As I predicted in 2010.

The Harvard Archaeologist

So why is this “Harvard educated archaeologist,” Joel Klenck, now publishing press releases?

I honestly don’t know. I’d assume one of these things:

  1. He’s a genuine believer that Para?ut and NAMI found the ark.
  2. He’s looking for some sort of monetary gain.
  3. He’s looking for notoriety and status.
  4. Some combination of 1-3 above.

But Klenck has been in this game a while. It turns out that, in 2011, he took a tour from Mountain Ararat Trek where he strayed from the main tour group, possibly in search of Parasut’s alleged site. Though he claims he was in search of a site to use the toilet. He was gone for four hours and his entire tour group was ordered to return.

It was in 2011 through 2013 that most of his press releases were written and uploaded to press release sites like Releasewire. But the latest two have shown up in December of 2020.

On December 7, 2020, he released “Archaeologist: Noah’s Ark a Fact and Matches Three Non-Biblical Accounts.”

In it, he claims that the ark is a vessel on Mt. Ararat that measures “nearly 150 meters long” and in an area “exactly two stadia wide and five stadia in length.” Apparently the Bablylonian writer, Berossus, of the 3rd century BCE wrote that boat piloted by Xisouthros was 5 stadia long and 2 stadia wide.

One of the photos of “cross beams” he claims are in “locus 7, area
A” of the remains of the ark. Klenck provides no evidence that
he’s even been to the alleged site let alone that the site is real.
This photo he credits as belonging to PRC, Inc, but it was
apparently one of the photos that was shown by
Parasut to the Chinese team (NAMI) and Price and Patton. Note
the bright section chipped away and the cobwebs. This is clearly
a recent structure and, thus, a fraud.

Klenck goes on and notes how the ark’s remains are in a seasonal lake due to glacial melt and cross beams, and so on.

For this he provides a “related images” section that shows some wood beams. Some of which have cobwebs. Cobwebs. At high altitude on Mt. Ararat.

Even if we assume the alleged site is within the habitation zone of spiders and the insects they eat, the photos are spurious. There are no scales. There are no overview photographs. There is no site sketch. There is no site record or actual detailed article that outlines the methods and results used in recording and documenting the site.

There probably isn’t a site.

The second press release by Klenck the very next day was full of claims about the ark’s location being suppressed by Ottoman Turks, Armenians, a Soviet cabal and the Marxist-Leninist establishment. And it rings all the bells of having been invented of whole cloth.

Conclusion

Whether or not the ark belonging to Noah really exists or even did exist as told in Genesis isn’t even a question. It makes for a fun story in a book written by people who long ago adopted the stories of the region: the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Atra-Hasis, and the like. People live around water. They always have. And flooding is catastrophic to this day. But there is not, nor was there ever, enough water in the world sufficient enough to submerge entire continents 4,800 years ago.

The flood myth of the bible simply didn’t happen.

The timbers in the lower right are really just light-weight 1×6 planks a little more sturdy than balsa wood that were charred on the outside and rubbed with ash. Patton comes back to this crevasse with a guide that helped “build the set” months before. The moving glacier had already broken up the fake wall built into the side of the ice. Photo-screen capture from Don Patton Interview.

Klenck’s and NAMI’s contention that there exists the remains of a boat–large enough to house two of every animal on the planet—shipwrecked on Mount Ararat requires that this be true. It requires that the laws of physics, all the geologic evidence, biological evidence, paleontological evidence, and so on, be discarded.

Joel Klenck is an apparent Harvard trained archaeologist that owns a company that calls itself “Paleontological Research Corporation.” You might think this would make me curious about his actual motivations. Are they one or more of those listed above? The truth is, I don’t care.

Klenck is meeting multiple Warning Signs and Hallmarks of Pseudoarchaeology:

1. The Discoverer pitches the claim directly to the media. Where’s the site report? The detailed photographs? The measurements? The hard data? The article in Nature, Current Anthropology, or Archaeological Science?

2. Evidence for a discovery is anecdotal. True, he’s provided some photos. But these photos are useless. They could literally have been taken anywhere but Mt. Ararat and no one could be he wiser. There are no testable data.

3. Appeals to myths. The alleged remains of this ark fit the words of both the bible and non-biblical accounts!

4. A casual approach to evidence. Again, the evidence is anecdotal. There’s this “take my word for it in this press release” mentality that both the now-nonexistent NAMI and Klenck took. This is to such a degree that Christian organizations that you might think would be on-board are calling B.S. Randall Price is a noted Biblical archaeologist. He say’s it’s a fraud. The Ark Museum people in Kentucky say it’s nonsense. I think this is probably because organizations like NAMI, though they were probably victims of deception by Parasut, were looking for money and they want to dissuade churches from wasting money on a scam.

Click some of the links. Have a look and maybe a laugh or two. My predictions back in 2010 for this ‘discovery” held.

Download and watch the interview by Geologist Don Patton, PhD who trekked up the mountain in 2010 and visited the site where the fraud was “built” –a structure constructed like a “movie set” that was destroyed by the moving glacier which he estimates to be moving at about 1 foot per day.

About Carl Feagans 370 Articles
Professional archaeologist that currently works for the United States Forest Service at the Land Between the Lakes Recreation Area in Kentucky and Tennessee. I'm also a 12-year veteran of the U.S. Army and spent another 10 years doing adventure programming with at-risk teens before earning my master's degree at the University of Texas at Arlington.

1 Comment

  1. A better question might be, “How was the location of Noah’s ark lost?” . Considering the location was supposedly know by 6tg thru 1st century BC Jews, by other Jews in Josephus’ lifetime, by Christians such Epiphanius in the 3rd century, by John Chrysotom in the 4th century and by Marco Polo in the 13tyh century – how come its lost now?

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