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The late Ron Wyatt, a self-styled amateur archaeologist, claimed to have found Noah's Ark, the Ark of the Covenant, and the original stones of the Ten Commandments. Indiana Jones should have been so lucky. However, none of Wyatt's discoveries were ever independently verified.

A number of explorers have laid claim to discovering Noah's Ark, usually on or near Mount Ararat in Turkey. But each always finds something different. Obviously, logic dictates that they can't all be right—and most must be wrong. Churches and Christian conferences have hosted speakers who tell fantastic tales—in fact, too fantastic. Time after time we have realized that their discoveries have as much historical value as The Da Vinci Code. As much as we would like to believe them, their claims remain speculative and unproven.

Meanwhile, trained archaeologists who haven't harnessed themselves to a publicity machine get ignored because real archaeology can be tedious. Like real life. Yet more importantly, the work these archaeologists do helps us better understand the Bible and the biblical world.

Archaeology in search of a headline, or even archaeology that's too eager to "prove the Bible," is prone to sensationalism and error. It's too much like the treasure hunting that characterized 19th-century explorers who lacked the tools of modern science and relied on observation and supposition.

Since then we've benefited from over a century's worth of scientific innovation in archaeology. The most important development was a chronology keyed to the changing styles of pottery production. Later came tools such as stratigraphic analysis, radiocarbon dating, and ground-penetrating radar.

Better tools have led to more accurate archaeology, but also to the realization ...

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In the Magazine

May 2008

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