My Google Alert to Jerusalem Archaeology brought it all back: “The lost Ark: are the Germans on its trail?” Of course, the content of the article which reported that a researcher from the University of Hamburg claimed to have found the remains of the palace of the Queen of Sheba in Axum, Ethiopia and an altar that may have held the Ark, made me file it away in my file called “Weird.” Here, I tuck away some of the more outrageous snippets on Biblical Archaeology that come my way, together with some of the wackier emails I receive. The Ark of the Covenant is overwhelmingly the subject of most of these enquiries. Since my first involvement in the Temple Mount Excavations in 1973, not a week has gone by without some enquiry into its location. Invariably the writer has an idea of his/her own – one of the wackiest suggestions was that the Ark was hidden inside the Black Stone of Mecca!
As readers of this blog will know, my research into the Temple Mount over the years has led to the finding of the location of where the Ark stood in Solomon’s Temple. I believe that this is as close as we may ever come to the finding of the lost Ark. Now, with the latest Indiana Jones movie due out next week, after a gap of 19 years, people’s minds go back to the original Raiders of the Lost Ark movie made in 1981. This, together with the latest claim in a long line of claims of finding the Ark, reminds me of the links (many inadvertently!) we have had to this search.
Thought that readers might find some of these links interesting or at at least a bit of light relief!
My wife, Kathleen was brought up from age 1 to 8 near the Hill of Tara, in County Meath, Ireland where certain believe the Ark to have been buried by the prophet Jeremiah after the fall of Jerusalem. Here is a picture of her, taken on a visit in 1997, on the hill of Tara next to the illegal excavations carried out by a group searching for the Ark of the Covenant:
• We lived for 4 years in the Ethiopian Quarter in Jerusalem where the devout Ethiopian Orthodox residents took it for a fact that the artefact so carefully guarded by the monks at Axum was indeed the Ark of the Covenant. “Did we not know that a group of Israeli soldiers had twice tried to wrest it from the Ethiopians and recover it to Israel?”
• During the eighties, we worked on a design project with Vendyl Jones, the Texan self-styled archaeologist who claimed to be the inspiration for Indiana Jones. His claim has been debunked, with the honour going to the dog of George Lucas (co-producer of the film), who was with him when he wrote the story.
• The original opportunity for me to measure and draw up Warren’s Gate in 1981, came from a group of rabbis’ illegal excavation of this gate for the purpose of finding the Ark deep beneath the Temple Mount.
(Now they get a bit more ridiculous!)
• When we were recently leaving Australia for the UK, I tried to leave behind my battered fedora, veteran of many Israeli digs and Aussie bush expeditions, but my son Joel would not let me, even though I had a new Akubra!
• Finally, I can’t stop some wags from playing the theme tune from “Raiders of the Lost Ark” when I walk in to give a lecture!
BTW, for an overview of the story of the journeyings of the Ark see our book: “From Sinai to Jerusalem”.