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Ronald Eldon Wyatt (2 Jun 1933 – August 4, 1999) was an adventurer and former nurse anesthetist noted for advocating the Durupınar site as the site of Noah's Ark, among other Bible-related pseudoarchaeology. His claims were dismissed by scientists, historians, biblical scholars, and by leaders in his own Seventh-day Adventist Church, but his work continued to have a following among some fundamentalists and evangelical Christians.
Wyatt was working as a nurse-anesthetist in a hospital in Madison, Tennessee, when in 1960, at the age of 27, he saw a picture in Life Magazine of the Durupınar site, a boat-like shape on a mountain near Mount Ararat. The resulting widespread speculation in evangelical Christian circles that this might be Noah's Ark started Wyatt on his career as an amateur archaeologist. From 1977 until his death in 1999 he made over one hundred trips to the Middle East, his interests widening to take in a wide variety of references from the Old and New Testaments.
By the time of his death on August 4, 1999, his claimed discoveries included:
While Wyatt won a devoted following from some fundamentalist Christians, he was not considered credible by professional archaeologists and biblical scholars. The Garden Tomb Association of Jerusalem state in a letter they issue to visitors on request:
The Council of the Garden Tomb Association (London) totally refute the claim of Mr Wyatt to have discovered the original Ark of the Covenant or any other biblical artifacts within the boundaries of the area known as the Garden Tomb Jerusalem. Though Mr Wyatt was allowed to dig within this privately owned garden on a number of occasions (the last occasion being the summer of 1991) staff members of the Association observed his progress and entered his excavated shaft. As far as we are aware nothing was ever discovered to support his claims nor have we seen any evidence of biblical artifacts or temple treasures.
Archaeologist Joe Zias of Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) has stated that "Ron Wyatt is neither an archaeologist nor has he ever carried out a legally licensed excavation in Israel or Jerusalem. In order to excavate one must have at least a BA in archaeology which he does not possess despite his claims to the contrary. ... [His claims] fall into the category of trash which one finds in tabloids such as the National Enquirer, Sun etc."
Wyatt's fellow evangelicals have also been critical: Answers in Genesis called Wyatt's claims "fraudulent," and one Seventh-day Adventist professor of archaeology sums up Wyatt's Noah's Ark and anchor stones claims in these words: "While the Durupinar site is about the right length for Noah's ark, [it is] ... too wide to be Noah's ark. Wyatt has claimed that the "boat-shapedness" of this formation can only be explained by its being Noah's ark, but both Shea and Morris have offered other plausible explanations. Likewise, Wyatt has argued that the standing stones he has found are anchors, while Terian is aware of similar stones outside the Durupinar site area that were pagan cultic stones later converted by Christians for Christian purposes."
Dismissed by the mainstream as a pseudoarchaeologist, Wyatt's official organization Wyatt Archaeological Research (WAR), claims that the IAA have always been aware of the excavations and issued "verbal permits" for most of them and official permits to all WAR excavations since 2002. Nevertheless, the only evidence of WAR involvement in a legitimate excavation sanctioned by the IAA relates to WAR part-funding of a 2005 dig.
Following Wyatt's death, a split developed between the official Wyatt Archaeological Research (WAR) organization which he founded, and the independent ministries and interested individuals which had previously cooperated with WAR. WAR currently claims to be the sole owner of all Wyatt's photographs, newsletters, and other intellectual property. Other individuals who had known and worked with Wyatt established independent ministries and websites with the purpose of promoting Wyatt's discoveries outside the framework set by WAR.