This article was submitted as an alternative view of an article published in the Fall 2006 issue of Bible and Spade: Wood Remains from the "Landing Site of Noah's Ark" Nearly 6500 Years Old.
Crouse and Franz (2006) interpreted wood reported by Bender (2006) as being from Noah's Ark. I would like to suggest that the data is more consistent with Bender's wood dating from centuries after the Flood.
Because a global Flood is an untenable position to those who believe that the earth is billions of years old, only young-age creationists accept that Noah's Flood was a global event. Before there were any young-age creation geologists with terminal degrees - Steven A. Austin being the first to receive a Ph.D. in geology in 1979 (Numbers 2006) - it was commonly believed that virtually all geologic strata were formed in the Flood. Now, however, most young-age creationists would assign at least all the Quaternary deposits (including all human fossils) to post-Flood times. In fact, virtually all professionally-trained young-age creationist geologists place the Flood/post-Flood boundary substantially lower - at the Cretaceous/Tertiary boundary or below. The reason given by Austin et al. (1994), for example, is that pre-Tertiary sediments are often global - or at least trans-continental - in extent, whereas Cenozoic sedimentation is local or regional in extent.
According to Bender (2006) the wood of interest was found in unlithified, unconsolidated, uppermost Quaternary 'loamy silt'. Although he claimed he could not carry out a careful geological analysis of the site, he did indicate that the Quaternary deposits post-date Pliocene terrestrial and alluvial deposits, substantial Eocene faulting before that, and Jurassic and Cretaceous sediments before that. Virtually all young-age creationists would understand Quaternary deposits as post-Flood, and Bender's wood was found in uppermost Quaternary deposits, suggesting they date from well after the Flood. Those of us who place the Flood/post-Flood boundary at the base of the Tertiary or below would understand this wood post-dating the Flood even more. In fact, if Bender is correct, there is considerable Eocene and Pliocene tectonic and sedimentary activity after what we interpret as Flood deposits and before the burial of the wood. This claim is confirmed by the fact that Bender interprets the Pliocene sediments (beneath the Quaternary and older than the wood) as terrestrial and alluvial in nature. If Bender is correct in that interpretation, then since the Flood would involve marine sedimentation, the Pliocene sediments must post-date the Flood - and the wood is found in even younger sediments.. Even further confirmation comes from the fact that although Flood-generated sediment is almost always well indurated in my experience, Bender reports that the wood was in unlithified and unconsolidated silt. Geologically, there is good reason to date the sediments from which the wood was taken from well after Noah's Flood.
Bender (2006) also dated the wood at 6635 ± 280 radiocarbon years before 1950. This radiocarbon age is much younger than would be expected from Flood sediments or from wood which dates from before the Flood. First of all, a 6700-year radiocarbon age places it in middle to late Neolithic time, much younger than the cave art in Europe, which is much younger in turn than most Neanderthal material, which in turn is much younger than all Homo erectus material. Modern young-age creationists interpret all the Homo erectus and H. sapiens (including Neanderthal) material as human (Lubenow 2004). The fact that all the human fossil material is in Quaternary and post-Quaternary sediments suggest that all human fossils are post-Flood (Wise 2005). The fact that even Homo erectus has a trans-Old World distribution (Africa, China, Java) further indicates that at the very least they died after the Babel dispersion of Genesis 10-11 (Wise 2005). Given that the entire Paleolithic must date from after Babel, Bender's wood, being well into the Neolithic, must substantially post-date not only the Flood, but also Babel.
Confirmation of a post-Flood and even post-Babel interpretation of a 6700-year radiocarbon age comes from the radiocarbon research performed by the Institute for Creation Research in their RATE project (Baumgardner et al 2003). Radiocarbon ages for Pennsylvanian, Cretaceous and Eocene coals were not appreciatively different at between 30,000 and 40,000 years - consistent with the claim that Flood and possibly early post-Flood times were characterized by very low levels of atmospheric C-141. To get a 6635 ± 280 radiocarbon age would require that the tree from which Bender's wood was taken grew centuries after the Flood, when C-14 levels had risen well above Flood and pre-Flood levels.
Further confirmation of a post-Flood date of the wood comes from the asphalt by which Bender (2006) claims the wood was 'bound'. Bender indicates that the asphalt had a radiocarbon age of ≥ 50,000 radiocarbon years2. As argued above, this is the age of Flood or pre-Flood organics. Since the surrounding asphalt is more likely to have been contaminated with C-14 from the atmosphere (and thus given an artificially young age), the young radiocarbon age of the wood is very unlikely to be artifactual. The huge discrepancy between the radiocarbon ages of the asphalt and the wood suggests that although the wood was derived from a tree which grew after the Flood, the asphalt was in fact generated from organisms which lived before the Flood.
One last note regards Bender's interpretation of the tectonic history of Mount Cudi. Bender suggests that the Jurassic and Cretaceous sediments of Mount Cudi were deformed and uplifted by post-Eocene faulting, including up to 1500 meters of post-Pliocene uplift. If Bender is correct, then I would interpret this to mean that the sediments of Mount Cudi were deposited in a planar manner during the Flood and deformed after the Flood to actually generate the topographic feature known today as Mount Cudi. I would deduce from this that it is possible that Mount Cudi did not exist as a mountain during the Flood. If not, then Mount Cudi is not a good candidate for the mountain upon which Noah's ark landed.
In conclusion, I would suggest that the best interpretation of the evidence is that Bender's wood came from a tree which grew centuries after Noah's Flood. The associated asphalt was generated from pre-Flood organisms, but came to be associated with the wood well after the Flood. If the wood was fashioned by humans and the asphalt applied to it by humans, this human activity post-dated the dispersion of people from Babel. If it was human-generated, then it may have been fashioned by pilgrims visiting the site as a memorial to the ark landing which had occurred somewhere in the area centuries before.
About the Author
Kurt P. Wise holds a B.A., Geology, University of Chicago; M.A., Ph.D., Paleontology, Harvard University. He taught science at Bryan College in Dayton, Tennessee for 17 years before becoming professor of science and theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) in Louisville, Kentucky in 2006. Mr. Wise is an active researcher in young-age creation biology, geology, and paleontology, is currently setting up a Center for Science and Theology at SBTS.
Austin, Steven A., John R. Baumgardner, D. Russell Humphreys, Andrew A. Snelling, Larry Vardiman, and Kurt P. Wise. 1994 Catastrophic plate tectonics: A global flood model of earth history, pp. 609-621 in Walsh, Robert E., editor, Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Creationism, Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, PA.
Baumgardner, John R., Andrew A. Snelling, D. Russell Humphreys, and Steven A. Austin. 2003 Measurable 14C in fossilized organic materials: Confirming the young earth creation-Flood model, pp. 127-142 in Ivey, Robert L., Jr., editor, Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Creationism, Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, PA.
Bender, Friedrich. UMSCHAU-Kurzberichte aus Wissenschaft und Technik 72(1) [non vide] [translated from German to English by W. Pasedag and published as Bender, Friedrich, 2006, Wood remains from the ‘Landing Site of Noah’s Ark’ nearly 6500 years old, Bible and Spade 19(4):112-113].
Crouse, Bill, and Gordon Franz. 2006 Mount Cudi – True mountain of Noah’s Ark, Bible and Spade 19(4):99-111.
Lubenow, Marvin L. 2004 Bones of Contention: A Creationist Assessment of Human Fossils. Second Edition, Baker, Grand Rapids, MI.
Numbers, Ronald L. 2006 The Creationists: From Scientific Creationism to Intelligent Design, Second Edition, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.
Wise, Kurt P. 2005 The Flores skeleton and human baraminology, Occasional Papers of the BSG 6:1-13.
1. Bristlecone pine data would suggest that all radiocarbon ages older than about 3500 years need to be telescoped downward to correspond to actual solar years. The amount of telescoping depends upon the C-14/C-12 ratio in the atmosphere at the time the dated carbon was in the living organism, but in general this telescoping increases with greater radiocarbon age.
2. The Bible and Spade translation does not indicate the original publication date of Bender's article, but Crouse and Franz (2006:99) indicate the wood was discovered in 1953. At that time radioisotope dating was in its infancy and ≥ 50,000 years probably means no C-14 was detected in the sample. It cannot be known whether more accurate modern techniques would better resolve the age, so I cannot know for sure if this age substantially differs from the data of the RATE project.