From his office at the University of Richmond in Virginia, [Professor Porcher Taylor] has utilised a series of innovations in high-resolution commercial satellite imagery first developed for US spy agencies to try to work out whether an unusually-shaped “anomaly” on the ice-capped upper glacier of Mt Ararat in eastern Turkey is actually the remains of Noah’s Ark.
Prof Taylor, a national security analyst, describes his investigation as “satellite archaeology” and refers to GeoEye, the commercial satellite operator that has served as a “space-based Indiana Jones” for him since its 1999 launch. He has conducted his cyber-sleuthing by remote from a distance of nearly 6,000 miles. “I’ve never even been to Turkey but this technology is giving us the ability almost to conduct an archaeological dig from outer space. I can almost walk around the mountain and analyse the terrain in cyberspace.”
And as Ararat is a restricted military zone where civilian and foreign climbs are rarely allowed, that will remain the only option for such research for the foreseeable future. “Every time there is a quantum leap in the technology, we get better focus and clarity of the ‘Ararat anomaly’,” he said.
In recent years, ever-clearer satellite images have revealed an apparently nautical-shaped oddity almost submerged in a glacier 15,300 ft up the extinct volcano. Prof Taylor hopes that a satellite using radar beams rather than optical technology will picture the area for the first time in April, providing images that will remove the visually confusing effects of shadows and cloud. Also in April, a new satellite with a 16 inch resolution – the most detailed so far – will offer a fresh view of the ‘Ararat anomaly’.
Prof Taylor acknowledges that it would be surprising for a wooden craft to have survived several millennia, even protected by ice; that even a flood of epic proportions would have been unlikely to leave a vessel three miles up a mountainside; and that the anomaly’s dimensions – at 1,015 feet from “bow” to “stern”, it is larger than the Titanic – are extremely implausible for an ancient boat.
Most biblical scholars estimate the Ark to have been about 450 feet long based on measurements in cubits in the Old Testament. But more promisingly, the 6:1 ratio from the Bible for the craft’s length-to-width is reflected in the anomaly shape on Ararat.
Rod McCourt, a former RAF intelligence officer and satellite imagery analyst, has just scrutinised the pictures. “The Anomaly possesses a definite symmetrical shape which is extremely rare in natural features. There is certainly an effect causing the Anomaly to appear like the hull of a very large ship hull but the imagery evidence is inconclusive as to whether or not the “Ararat Anomaly” is a ship or a natural ice formation. Until we are able to see what exactly is under the ice, I cannot eliminate the fact that the Anomaly could be manmade,” Mr McCourt, founder of Global Intel Solutions, which specialises in the burgeoning field of so-called imagery intelligence.
Even sceptics of the Noah’s Ark theory acknowledge that whether the images show an unusual rock formation or even, as some have speculated, another man-made structure such as an old fortified settlement, the rapid progress in satellite technology has made his investigations possible and illuminating.
Is “satellite archaeology” archaeology? If archaeology is a study of remains of the past, satellite archaeology could be classified as a branch of archaeology, even though many archaeologists may disagree.
Archaeologists have been using high-resolution satellite imagery for some years now and it has been very helpful in the study of archaeological sites. In this use of satellite imagery to search for Noah’s Ark the question is: will they find anything on Mount Ararat? My answer remains the same: probably not. However, I will not complain if Professor Taylor can prove me wrong on this issue.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
Tags: Archaeology, Noah’s Ark, Satellite Archaeology