The Adventist Indiana Jones: Hoax or Hope? Part 1

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The Adventist Indiana Jones: Hoax or Hope? Part 1

In my previous article, I explained how archaeology doesn’t do a very good job of finding specific proofs of the Biblical record. It focuses more on trends and gives windows into what life was like in the ancient world rather than preserving, with a few exceptions, specific events. Thus, instead of using archaeology as an apologetic tool, we should look to archaeology as an interpretive tool to understand the world in which the Bible was written.


Now, what if I told you that someone has actually found all that proof I just said archaeology was lacking? What if I told you Noah’s Ark, Pharaoh’s chariots, the Ark of the Covenant, and even Christ’s blood itself have all been found, along with so much more direct proof of the Biblical record? Almost sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?


One of the most basic rules of life is that if something sounds too good to be true, that means it is, in fact, too good to be true and therefore false. This is, unfortunately, no exception. But that has not stopped a Seventh-day Adventist named Ron Wyatt (1933-1999) and his followers from claiming a rather astounding list of discoveries that prove the Bible to be true.


For some of you, the name Ron Wyatt might be new; for others, you are familiar with his work and either consider him a tremendous fraud or you have drunk the “Kool-aid” and believe his fantastical tales of discovery. If you haven’t already caught on to the tenor of my stance, I consider Mr. Wyatt to be a hoax, rather than offering hope. He has been, along with dinosaurs, the bane of my existence and forced me to answer far more ridiculous questions than I care to count, not to mention more than a few potlucks rudely interrupted.


While I hold no illusions that this article will put to rest the Wyatt lie, what I hope to do is: a) clear up some of the “controversy” surrounding Wyatt for those who are familiar with his work, b) prepare those who haven’t heard of Wyatt to deal with the nonsense, and c) most importantly, give you tools on how to sift through the vast amounts of information, both true and false, that we have available to us to determine what is credible and what is not.


RELATED LINK: On Conspiracy Theories


Just a quick note before continuing: as Ron Wyatt’s work is beyond the fringes of archaeology, my citations are going to seem sketchy to say the least. These are mostly from websites both for and against Wyatt, as well as some Wikipedia references, painful as that is.


Mainstream archaeology does not even acknowledge Wyatt’s existence and so direct refutations are nearly impossible to come by. To be honest, even I am hesitant to write this article because I do not want to give his base a platform. Yet, there is some value in doing this. And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.


Who Ron Wyatt was not is almost as important as what he was. Ron Wyatt was not at any point a trained archaeologist. According to Wikipedia (again, ouch), he was a nurse anesthetist.[1] It should be noted that Wyatt’s own site,, interestingly and purposefully avoids giving any of Wyatt’s credentials, mainly because he lacks any. Instead, the brief “biography” of him focuses on his personality, of which it is quite glowing.[2] While I have no doubt that he was a kind and dedicated Christian, that hardly qualifies one to be an archaeologist.


Credentials and qualifications matter because they are proof of expertise. They are evidence of years of hard work and study to become experts in whatever field they verify, whether that be medicine or economics or plumbing or yes, the Bible. Who would you rather listen to about your health? A doctor who went through years of med school plus residency plus however many years of practice or Frank the actuary from down the street? An intelligent person would listen to the doctor and the consequences of not listening to the experts have been put on full display with the recent measles outbreaks, thanks to the abusive anti-vax parents.


While I will take issue with Mr. Wyatt’s claims, later on, this is perhaps my biggest issue with him: he utterly lacks credentials. More than that, he seems to have made no effort to gain credentials. Despite I am sure ample opportunity, he never pursued a degree in archaeology, anthropology, geology, or even theology. He never, so far as I can find, apprenticed himself to an established archaeologist on field excavations. Instead, he seems to have done his own thing and then expected everyone else to just accept it. That is a major red flag.


Now to his claims. They are far too numerous to go through all of them[3] so here I will simply summarize the biggest ones: Noah’s Ark, the Red Sea Crossing with Pharaoh’s chariots and Sinai, and the Ark of the Covenant with other First Temple accouterments and Jesus’s blood. Even these summaries will be abbreviated for space, although further reading will be given in the end.

Noah’s Ark

Noah’s Ark is what got this whole thing started in 1960 when an aerial photo over eastern Turkey, in the Mount Ararat region, revealed a large, boat-shaped object. The site, named for Captain Ilhan Durupinar who discovered it, became a sensation, published in “Life” magazine in 1960. It has since been explored dozens of times and the consensus is that while an unusual geological formation, it is nonetheless a naturally occurring formation, not Noah’s Ark.[4]


It should be noted that Wyatt’s first expedition to Durupinar was not until 17 years after its first publication, by which point it had already been largely discounted. In fact, the first team to analyze Durupinar was led by SDA evangelist George Vandeman, accompanied by renowned SDA archaeologist Siegfried Horn. They, and their team, concluded that it was an odd geological formation but nothing more.[5]


Wyatt makes his case on the following “evidence”: the size of the site matches Noah’s ark; metal detection, ground penetrating radar (GPR), and “molecular frequency generators” show clear lines and hotspots, marking where iron fittings were used, as well as the gunwales and bulkheads of a ship; petrified wood, including a piece of “laminated deck” that was dug up in front of the region’s governor; iron fittings; the beams of the boat are visible; and the Turkish government has made the site a national heritage point, declaring it to be Noah’s Ark.[6] Further evidence is the remains of Noah’s house and fields, Noah and his wife’s graves, and anchor stones.[7]


It sounds quite convincing, especially when watching the so-called documentary. But once you start looking a little deeper into the “evidence,” the house of cards falls apart. For starters, the size only half works. Assuming an Egyptian cubit, reasonable with Mosaic authorship, the length does roughly match. But the width of the Durupinar site almost doubles the ark’s width.[8]


The scans do not match up either. For one, no one has been able to reproduce the “lines” Wyatt claims. Instead, the metal detection and GPR show random basalt boulders underneath the surface or reflections of a large, flat surface, i.e. bedrock. It should be noted that Wyatt himself is not a trained geologist and did not know how to operate the GPR he was using.


The “molecular frequency generator” is not even a legitimate geological survey device and has been compared to a witching stick for water.[9] A particularly disturbing part of Wyatt’s claim is that he used Tom Fenner of Geophysical Survey Systems Inc. to validate his claims, saying Fenner’s own readings corroborated his own. Fenner emphatically stated his own readings are very different than Wyatt, adding,


I was never convinced the site was the remains of Noah’s Ark. In fact the more time I spent on the site, the more skeptical I became.[10]


The petrified wood is even less legitimate. There were two small pieces of petrified wood found by a Turkish geologist, who stated they came from elsewhere. As for the “laminated deck beam,” it is not petrified wood; more likely it is a basalt rock. For starters, it has no growth rings, so not wood, unless it was a papaya tree, which according to Wyatt, it is not.


The lab that Wyatt sent a sample to only tested for three elements: carbon (one of the most common elements on earth), iron, and calcium, which is not nearly enough to establish it as petrified wood. The metal chunks and so-called slag have also been proven to be a natural phenomenon, likely from lava flows that have frequented the volcanic region.


The so-called anchor stones, which are not part of the Biblical record, also have been demonstrated to be much later, Christian era markers. Lastly, after some initial excitement, the Turkish government has essentially abandoned the site, no longer claiming it to be Noah’s Ark.[11]


In any endeavor, how one gets to one’s conclusions matters; i.e. methodology matters. It isn’t enough to simply read someone’s conclusions; you must look at how they got there. Even if a conclusion is correct, if the methodology is faulty, one must question the person’s argument.


When it comes to Wyatt and Noah’s ark, there are a LOT of questions regarding methodology. As you may have noticed, Wyatt had a penchant for being rather selective with his data and read his predetermined conclusions into the data, instead of letting the data inform his conclusions. He sees a boat-shaped object somewhere near Mt. Arara, with one dimension that fits Noah’s ark, and concludes it is Noah’s ark.


He ignores the fact that no other dimension of the object fits the ark. He finds hard objects and tests them for carbon, which is one of the most common elements in the universe. While a key component in living beings, carbon also makes up coal, diamonds, and the graphite in your pencil. When he finds carbon, he leaps to declare it petrified wood, despite not looking for any specific organic markers. He claims individuals support his conclusions when they do not, such as initial Turkish support that never materialized.


He sees a homestead with fences and immediately declares it to be Noah’s home after the ark, despite not providing any corroborating evidence such as carbon dating, pottery, inscriptions, anything to prove that this random stone fence was built by Noah and not, say, some random shepherd a couple hundred years ago.


Furthermore, he holds up geological “readings” that he and his team did, despite the fact that no one else can reproduce them, proving the Durupinar site to be just a cool geological phenomenon. All of these methodological fallacies completely undercut Wyatt’s conclusions.


In the next article, we will take a look at Wyatt’s other “discoveries” including the Red Sea crossing and the Ark of the Covenant.


Further Reading:

  • Noah’s Ark-the Early Years. 2011.
  • Ark of the Covenant. 2019.
  • Aaron A. Burke, “Walled up to Heaven”: The Evolution of Middle Bronze Age Fortification Strategies in the Levant (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, Studies in the Archaeology and History of the Levant, 2008).
  • Contributors, Wikipedia. “Ron WyattWikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia; last modified February 9, 2019; accessed February 10, 2019.
  • James Karl Hoffmeier, Israel in Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus
  • Tradition (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997).
  • David Merling, Has Noah’s Ark Been Found? (1993).
  • Richard Rives, “My Friend Ron Wyatt,” Wyatt Museum; accessed February 10, 2019.
  • Noah’s Ark- Ron Wyatt’s Story, Youtube, 2015.
  • Ron Wyatt—the Ark of the Covenant, Youtube, 2015.
  • Andrew Snelling, Special Report: Amazing ‘Ark’ Exposé.
  • Russell R. and Colin D. Standish, Holy Relics or Revelation (Rapidan, VA: Hartland Publications, 1999).
  • Yehiel Zelinger, Jerusalem, the Garden Tomb: The Final Report (Israel Antiquities Authority, 2006).

Click here to read the rest of Jonathan’s series on Biblical Archaeology



[1] Contributors, Wikipedia. “Ron WyattWikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia; last modified February 9, 2019; accessed February 10, 2019.

[2] Richard Rives, “My Friend Ron Wyatt,” Wyatt Museum; accessed February 10, 2019.

[3] According to Russell R. Standish and Colin D. Standish, Holy Relics or Revelation (Rapidan, VA: Hartland Publications, 1999), p. 7-10.

[4] David Merling, Has Noah’s Ark Been Found? (1993).

[5] Russell R. Standish and Colin D. Standish, Holy Relics or Revelation (1999), p. 235-237.

[6] Noah’s Ark- Ron Wyatt’s Story (Youtube, 2015).

[7] Noah’s Ark-the Early Years (2011).

[8] David Merling, Has Noah’s Ark Been Found? (1993)

[9] Andrew Snelling, Special Report: Amazing ‘Ark’ Exposé.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

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About the author

Jonathan Gardner

Jonathan Gardner is a PhD student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School studying archaeology and ancient Near Eastern backgrounds to the Old Testament. Writing is one of his big two passions, along with travel, so he happily contributes to Compass while maintaining his own blog on theology, Have a question about the historical backgrounds of the Bible or Biblical archaeology? Email Jonathan at [email protected] and he would be happy to answer your questions.