Noah’s Ark is among the best known and most captivating of all Old Testament stories: After creating humans, God became so displeased with them that he struck Earth with an all-encompassing flood to wipe them out—with one noteworthy (and seaworthy) exception: the biblical patriarch and his family, accompanied by pairs of each of the planet’s animals, who rode out the deluge in an enormous wooden vessel.
For people who accept the religious text as a historically accurate account of actual events, the hunt for archaeological evidence of the Ark is equally captivating, inspiring some intrepid faithful to comb the slopes of Armenia’s Mt. Ararat and beyond for traces of the wooden vessel.
In 1876, for example, British attorney and politician James Bryce climbed Mount Ararat, where Biblical accounts say the Ark came to rest, and claimed a piece of wood that “suits all the requirements of the case” was in fact a piece of the vessel. More modern Ark “discoveries” take place on a regular basis, from an optometrist’s report he’d seen it in a rock formation above the mountain in the 1940s to a claim Evangelical pastors had found petrified wood on the peak in the early 2000s.