Dogubayazit (Turkey�s Iran-Armenian Border) � For the first time in the seven decade-long history of the search for the legendary Noah�s Ark, a Turkish-Hong Kong exploration team on Tuesday came out with �material evidence�, to prove that the Ark was nestled on Mount Ararat, Turkey�s highest mountain peak bordering Iran and Armenia.
A panel of experts, comprising Turkish authorities, veteran mountaineers, archaeologists, geologists and members of Hong Kong-based Noah�s Ark Ministries International, also displayed an almost one-metre-long peice of petrified wood before the media and specially invited international experts.
The experts claimed it to be a part of a long structure they had unearthed during their February-August 2007 exploration. �It is for the first time in the history of the Ark search that an exploration team is getting a material evidence and graphic documentation. This makes it not only a the significant breakthrough in the Ark-search, but one that is supported with the most substantial evidence in recent history,� the panel said.
The revelation is expected to open up a fresh chapter in the ongoing debates in the scientific community on the search for Noah�s Ark.
Narrating the genesis of their exploration on Mount Ararat, the mount which has a direct reference in Holy Quran (Mount Judi) and Bible, the panel said the search team had made several foiled attempts before unearthing the evidence at an altitude of 4,500-metres of the estimated 5,165 metre volcanic mountain.
�The structure was discovered in the interiors of an unusual cave. The 11.5m wide and 2.6m high white wooden texture was revealed after removing thick layers of volcanic ash on the cave wall,� panel members said at a press conference.
One of the underlying issues in the search for the Ark is the proper identification of its wood fragments. A petrographic examination carried out by the Applied Geoscience Centre of the Department of Earth Sciences, University of Hong Kong, identified the object as a petrified wooden structure, the panel said.
�Some of the big holes found on the structure indicate the locations where branches used to grow on tree. In places, original holes are partly or completely replaced by individual minerals and crystalline materials that can be found in rock materials,� said Dr Ahmet Ozbek, a panel member, who is also a faculty of Geology Engineering Kahramanmara Suctcu Imam University.
Dismissing the possibilities of the structure being wood that could appear naturally around the discovery site, Professor Oktay Belli, director, Eurasian Archaeology Institute, University of Istanbul, said researches have proved that there was no vegetation on Mount Ararat ever since 2000BC, because of the asperities of Ararat�s climate.
Talking to The Peninsula, Cemalettin Demircioglu, Dogubayazit City Governor, under whose jurisdiction the mount is located, said the civic body will invite more international experts to conduct further scientific studies on Mount Ararat.
�History has more than one times corroborated the legendary evidence that the ark was nestled on Mount Ararat. We will introduce the latest findings to the world and continue the scientific study. All interested scientists and NGOs can join our missions� he said. However, he said, those who are involved in the project must ensure the findings are not used politically, religiously, or for any vested interest.
Located in the Far Eastern Turkey, Ararat is great prize for mountain collectors. Ark sighting has often been reported from this mountain. The observation of Vessel-shaped features in aerial photograph of Ararat had caused a stir in the late 1950�s. However, this is the first time an exploration team is coming out with �material evidence�.