Noah's Ark Location in Turkey a Secret
The team claims to have found in 2007 and 2008 seven large wooden compartments buried at 13,000 feet (4,000 meters) above sea level, near the peak of Mount Ararat. They returned to the site with a film crew in October 2009.
Many Christians believe the mountain in Turkey is the final resting place of Noah's ark, which the Bible says protected Noah, his family, and pairs of every animal species on Earth during a divine deluge that wiped out most of humanity.
"The structure is partitioned into different spaces," said Noah's Ark Ministries International team member Man-fai Yuen in a statement. "We believe that the wooden structure we entered is the same structure recorded in historical accounts. ... "
The team says radiocarbon-dated wood taken from the discovery site—whose location they're keeping secret for now—shows the purported ark is about 4,800 years old, which coincides roughly with the time of Noah's flood implied by the Bible.
"Noah's Ark" Wood "Way, Way, Way Too Young"
Skepticism of the new Noah's ark claim extends to at least one scholar who interprets the Bible literally.
Biologist Todd Wood is director of the Center for Origins Research at Bryan College in Tennessee, which pursues biology in a creationist framework.
As a creationist, Wood believes God created Earth and its various life-forms out of nothing roughly 6,000 years ago.
"If you accept a young chronology for the Earth ... then radiocarbon dating has to be reinterpreted," because the method often yields dates much older than 6,000 years, Wood said.
Radiocarbon dating estimates the ages of organic objects by measuring the radioisotope carbon 14, which is known to decay at a set rate over time. The method is generally thought to reach its limit with objects about 60,000 years old. Earth is generally thought to be about four and a half billion years old.
Across the board, radiocarbon dates need to be recalibrated, Wood believes, to reflect shorter time frames.
Given this perceived overestimation in radiocarbon dating, the wood the Noah's Ark Ministries International team found should have a "traditional" radiocarbon date of several tens of thousands of years if the wood is truly 4,800 years old, Wood said.
"I'm really, really skeptical that this could possibly be Noah's Ark," he added. The wood date is "way, way, way too young."
Wood thinks Noah's ark will never be found, because "it would have been prime timber after the flood," he said.
"If you just got off the ark, and there's no trees, what are you going to build your house out of? You've got a huge boat made of wood, so let's use that," he said. "So I think it got torn apart and scavenged for building material basically."
(Related: National Geographic's search for Noah's flood.)