An Armenian Perspective on the Search for Noah's Ark

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Excerpt The title of this paper, “An Armenian Perspective on the Search for Noah’s Ark,” was chosen because I believe that the case for Mount Cudi as the landing-place of the Ark is built upon data coming exclusively from a single Syro-Mesopotamian historical stream, and is thus self-authenticating... Continue reading

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This paper was originally presented at the ETS / NEAS meeting on Thursday, November 15, 2007.

Read the PDF of the Complete Paper here: An_Armenian_Perspective.pdf (2.77 mb)


The title of this paper, “An Armenian Perspective on the Search for Noah’s Ark,” was chosen because I believe that the case for Mount Cudi as the landing-place of the Ark is built upon data coming exclusively from a single Syro-Mesopotamian historical stream, and is thus self-authenticating. This is an invalid approach to determining truth. An independent perspective, a fundamentally Armenian one, offers a needed corrective to wrong conclusions that have been drawn from it. This need is brought home by the apparently irreconcilable clash between the eyewitness reports pointing to Mount Ararat on the one hand, and the historical data that points to Mount Cudi on the other.

Attempts to deal with the two approaches have typically taken the form of searching for reasons to disparage one or the other, or finding creative ways to reinterpret otherwise self-explanatory information to force it, however awkwardly, into conformity with a particular model. Efforts were not being made to seek a framework that would allow both approaches to be taken basically at face value. I thought there was a possibility that BOTH approaches might be correct, the difference lying in how the data was being interpreted. I believe I have found a way to reconcile them, and lay out my case in the pages that follow.


I want to begin by emphasizing the seriousness of the collision course these two approaches are on. If you have any familiarity at all with Ark research, you will probably recognize the name of George Hagopian. A native Armenian, he claimed to have twice, as a young boy in the early 1900s, climbed Mount Ararat with his uncle. He claimed to have actually climbed on top of the Ark. His testimony has been closely scrutinized by many researchers, and has stood up remarkably well.

George Hagopian (left) with Elfred Lee.

The first thing I wish to note is that there is absolutely NO doubt that the mountain he claimed to climb was Mount Ararat. Hagopian demonstrated this certainty in many ways, including his use of the native Armenian name for Mount Ararat, Massis, and his intimate knowledge of things in the area of Lake Van. From journalist Rene Noorbergen’s interview with Hagopian, we glean the following:

I first went there when I was about ten years old. It must have been around 1902. My grandfather was the minister of the big Armenian Orthodox Church in Van, and he always told me stories about the holy ship on the holy mountain. And then one day my uncle said, “Georgie, I’m going to take you to the holy mountain,” and he took me with him, packed his supplies on his donkey, and together we started our trek toward Mount Ararat. “Uncle, that’s the holy mountain,” I said, pointing to what seemed to be our destination up ahead of us. “That’s right, Georgie,” he said. “Massis is the holy mountain” (1960: 165).

We can therefore immediately rule out the idea that he placed his Ark discovery on any mountain other than Ararat. I also believe we can trust Noorbergen’s reporting, as he was a professional journalist, foreign correspondent and photographer who handled magazine and newspaper assignments in more than 80 countries over a period of at least 22 years (1960: dust jacket back flap).

Second, by claiming he actually climbed onto the Ark, his story leaves no room for a misidentification of the Ark itself. This might be claimed against sightings from the air, where rocks and shadows could play tricks on the eyes, but is not a factor here.

Third, Hagopian’s story was consistent; he did not vary his story in retelling it. This greatly impressed Bill Crouse, who observed,

Hagopian’s story is difficult to falsify. As he told and retold his story he never deviated from his original account (1993).

Fourth, he was credible. In an interview about his experiences working with Hagopian and tape-recording his testimony, Elfred Lee noted:

He was not one who would fabricate or lie. We checked him out as well. He had a very good reputation in town. We verified his bank accounts and income to make sure he was not making anything off of his statement. We also went to Lake Van in Turkey and specific sites he discussed to verify his authenticity (Corbin 1999: 69).

Lee added,

As to his integrity, he [Hagopian] had a PSE test, the lie detector test...and he passed the test. Also, his personal life, his reputation, his friends, and business acquaintances bore witness that he was an honest man who would not lie or fabricate. And he was not looking for any personal gain from it (Corbin 1999: 79).

Taking all of the above into account, one gets the impression that here we have someone worth listening to regarding Noah’s Ark. Bill Crouse admitted:

His knowledge of the Ararat area as he describes it is accurate and detailed. Other aspects of his story given to researchers seem to substantiate his credibility (1993).

We conclude that the story is quite believable in every way—EXCEPT for the subject matter! It seems to cry out for SOME reason to fault it. Bill Crouse gave it his best shot:

The fact that he [Hagopian] is no longer with us makes it difficult to render any kind of judgement...The story itself is interesting, but it still provides no empirical evidence, and even if credible, is not helpful in the critical subject of location. Some things that trouble me are the fact that the testimony itself is secondhand...The George Hagopian story remains an interesting, but unverifiable story (1993).


Crouse’s comments merit discussion, because they go to a core issue: how we evaluate the trustworthiness of historical sources and eyewitness testimony. Why should Hagopian’s death make rendering a judgment about his testimony more difficult than when we evaluate historical documents? Since audio recordings of interviews with Hagopian exist, we are much closer to having firsthand testimony here than with virtually anything we have from ancient historians. The transcribed interviews of Noorbergen and Lee confirm and validate each other. These sources are independent witnesses to Hagopian’s story, and Deuteronomy 19:15 lays down the principle, reaffirmed by Christ in Matthew 18:16, that “on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed” (NASB). Thus, I am convinced that the real issue is not so much about VERIFYING the Hagopian story, as it is about BELIEVING it.

We face this predicament—being able to only incompletely verify a story, and having to exercise a certain measure of faith that it is true—when we consider the writings of every dead historian of the ages. Yet, we don’t let the fact they are long dead stop us from using their data; we just try to make sound judgments about the sources, based largely on three factors: (1) their “reputation”; (2) their internal consistency; and (3) their external coherence with other known facts. The only essential difference between historical documents and eyewitness reports is the patina of antiquity possessed by the former. But that should have no bearing whatsoever on the trustworthiness of a source.

If the historical accounts pointing to Mount Cudi are OBJECTIVELY TRUE, one inescapable fact follows: HAGOPIAN WAS A LIAR. There is no wiggle room here. Since no intimations exist that his sanity was ever questioned, if the Ark was on Mount Cudi or any other peak, there is only one conclusion we can draw: George Hagopian was a masterful liar. But given what was reported about the character of Hagopian, such a conclusion does not fit him very well. So I decided to ask a question that no one else seems to have raised: are the Mount Cudi reports objectively true?

Read the PDF of the Complete Paper here: An_Armenian_Perspective.pdf (2.77 mb)

Recommended Resources for Further Study


The Genesis Record

The Bible and Spade
Explorers of Ararat 

Comments Comment RSS

8/15/2008 1:42 PM #

According to research by Violet Cummings in the 60s, and myself in the 80s, Mt. Cudi, Mt. Judi, and Mt. Kudi are interchangeable terms and are meant to be a lower part of a higher mountain. I believe I pointed this out in "The Ark A Reality?" which I published in '89, and in "Quest for Discovery" in 2000. Violet wrote it in "Has Anybody really Seen Noah's Ark? published in 1982. This is all to say that the Ark may have landed not on the highest elevation of Ararat, but on a "peak" a little lower down from the summit. I don't have the books with me now as I am traveling, so I don't have page numbers for you. if you have any one of the books, look for the reports of the Turkish soldiers from WWI, and as I recall the story teller Sakir, and the scribe Aryanci. As I recall, I also interviewed a moslem "holy man" in the mid 80s who indicated much the same, and that there were many el Judi's.

Richard Bright - 8/15/2008 1:42:12 PM

8/19/2008 6:06 AM #

Hi, Dick! I'm glad to see you popped in to visit the ABR website and read my paper.

I am aware of Cummings' and your connecting the name Cudi/Judi/Kudi with a lower peak on Mount Ararat. Since the tying of this name to Mount Ararat is a distinctly Moslem one, and the spread of Islam did not get underway until the 7th century AD, it did not enter into the scope of my research in the "Armenian Perspective" paper. I was concerned there with understanding the earliest roots of the Gordyean Mountains tradition for the site of the Ark, some nine centuries before Mohammed came on the scene - on the mountain near Sirnak known also as Cudi.

Your book which I have, Quest for Discovery, covers the story of Sakir and Duran Ayranci, the scribe, on pp. 46-49. Since the Cudi name shows up in two different places, there must be some connection between them, but without having really studied it I am not certain what it is. My suspicion is that when Mohammed wrote the Koran, his al-Cudi was the one north of Mesopotamia in the Gordyean Mountains, which had come down to him through the Syro-Mesopotamian stream of tradition that began with Berossus centuries earlier. Later, after Islam spread to the Kurdish people around Mount Ararat, they needed to reconcile the local tradition (if not actual true knowledge) of the Ark being on Masis/Ararat with their holy book. They may have done so by understanding al-Cudi as you and Violet Cummings documented - by identifying it with a lower peak that was still part of the Ararat massif.

Although Mount Ararat has a number of parasite cones on its lower slopes below 14,000 feet, I am not aware that any of these is known as Cudi locally. My own opinion is that the place where alleged eyewitness George Hagopian said he both saw and climbed onto a basically intact Ark (before it fell into the adjacent canyon and broke into two or three large sections, as seen by Ed Davis) is an elevated ridge of rock, often snow-free, which I believe is the true "Camelback" as used by the native Kurds (not the area that Turkish explorer Ahmet Arslan identified as such near the Cehennem Dere). This ridge is perhaps the al-Cudi of Ararat.

Incidentally, on page 46 of Quest for Discovery, you noted that the letter from Sakir states, "We saw Noah's ark leaning against the mountain." The Turkish soldiers thus claimed it was right up against a significant rock wall. Similarly, Roy Tibbetts, recounting the Aussie Taylor picture in Explorers of Ararat on page 390, observed that "the object leaned against a dike, or hogback, or ridge...Was the ship quite close to the hogback? Yes, replied Tibbetts, right at the base of it. Pointing to the sketch, Nice added, it was lying right in there, and apparently right against it." And in Explorers of Ararat on page 375, that version of Sakir's story includes the detail that "the body [of the Ark] is on the west side of the hill" [which he called "cudi"].

Rick Lanser

hsmith - 8/19/2008 6:06:49 AM

8/11/2009 5:02 PM #

Dear Dick,
according to the Curan the Ark landed on Mount Jiudi (or Jabal Jiudi according to Curan scolars).
Also according to Curan scolars Mt. Judi is located near Cizre in south-east Turkey, where they also built a mosque to commemorate Noah's Ark landing.
All the best.

Karim Presti

Karim Presti - 8/11/2009 5:02:30 PM

6/5/2010 3:49 PM #

I think there is another option.

What if the wooden structure Hagopian saw on mt. Ararat was a replica of the ark, placed by Armenian christians in the early Middle Ages, in honour of Noah?

Do not forget that in 300 AD Armenia became a Christian nation. The Ark-tradition could well have sprung in that time. So it is possible christians or catholics build a monument to commemorate Noah.

It is possible the ark landed on Cudi, and Hagopian still being no liar!

Greetings from Holland,


Tjarko Evenboer - 6/5/2010 3:49:49 PM

8/22/2010 5:29 AM #

Thank you for your comment, but before making any assumption into a subject we need to make sure that we do so according with all data available and with logic.
This is why, with all respect your assumption is not based on data and logic:

275 BC Berossus reports that pilgrims climb up the high mountain of Armenia to carve amulets form the petrified pitch that covers the Ark.
(Bear in mind that Jesus was not even born at that time, so Armenia was NOT a Christian nation) there are other ancient reports that mention the ark on Ararat or Armenia but it think it's clear enough

The Hagopian report clearly says that the ark was at the end of the eternal snow (glacier): Now on Mt. Ararat that place is around 3900-4200 meter above sea level. I now it for sure because I climbed Ararat a couple of time, and last time was in 2009. Now from everybody that now something about mountain climbing will certainly agree that build a wooden structure three story high, more than 130 meter long, and more than 25 meter large, it's more than an impossible task, especially in the 300 CE (or AD if you prefer)

Now, or mr. Hagopian was a liar (and I don’t personally think so) or the Real Noah’s Ark is Mt. Ararat.

All the best

Karim Presti

Karim Presti - 8/22/2010 5:29:14 AM

8/24/2010 7:17 AM #

Dear Karim,

I agree with you on the difficulties of placing an ark replica on a high mountain.

However, in the time Berosus wrote his histories, Armenia was the name of a great empire - far greater than it was in the Christian era. So it could be every mountain in the area, even Mount Judi.

Click here to see a map of ancient Armenia:!Maps_of_the_Armenian_Empire_of_Tigranes.gif

My study on the historical references to Noahs ark convinced me that before the Christian era, no one ever mentioned the Masis mountain as Noahs ark landing place. The Jewish and pagan histories always mentioned a mountain more south. For example, Flavius Josephus also said it was a mountain in Armenia, but more south - in the area of Gordyan / Adiabene. Take a look at some ancient maps (for example, the one above) and you'll see that this doesn't match with the Masis mountain. It does match with Judi.

Besides this, the historians agree more or less that pilgrims took pieces of the ark with them for centuries. This raises a historical problem with the recent find of a whole ark on Ararat in good condition. Contrary, about 800 AD it was documented that Moslems used the latest remnants of the Ark to build a mosk.

I do not claim that Masis isn't the mountain of the Ark. I'm just careful, because before ca. 400 AD every historian pointed to a location more to the south.


Tjarko - 8/24/2010 7:17:43 AM

8/24/2010 10:38 AM #

As I documented in my "Armenian Perspective" paper, the best explanation for the silence about Masis (Mt. Ararat) appears to be due to a combination of the dependence of the early Armenian Christians on Syrian missionaries from Edessa (whose understanding of the Ark's landing-place, in turn, was influenced by Berossus, with his myth-derived siting of the Ark in the Gordyian mountains that included Mt. Judi), plus the efforts of Gregory the Illuminator that resulted in the purging of most traces of the old pre-Christian paganism from the Armenian literature.

Most, but not all. In his German book Ararat und Masis, Studien zur armenischen Altertumskunde und Litteratur (Heidelberg, 1900), Friedrich Murad documented that there was an ancient tradition that associated Masis with Noah. I went into detail about Murad's work in my paper. Google has a scan of the book at

The book can be purchased in paperback (still in German only) at

The review by Frederic Coneybeare, which I also cited, can be obtained at

In another paper presented at the Near East Archaeological Society annual meeting in 2009, Rex Geissler, webmaster of the website, presented evidence from Dr. Paul Zimansky, the primary authority on the extent of ancient Urartu, that actual archaeological sites tracing back to the Armenians do not extend to include the area around Mt. Judi. This raises strong doubts that the Armenian empire at any time extended far enough to the west to include Mt. Judi. See Geissler says, "Especially note where the Urartian Archaeological Sites in orange are located, which shows that there are no known Urartian Archaeological Sites southwest or south of Lake Van near Mount Cudi. For more details, see the Urartu/Ararat Boundaries paper."

Rick Lanser
ABR Staff

ABR - 8/24/2010 10:38:29 AM

8/24/2010 1:21 PM #

Dear Tjarko,
I believe that Rick Lanser made a good point about Mt. Judi not being under the Urartu Empire, and I thank him for that.

This is the answer to the second statement that you made. (in your second comment)

But I would like to stick to the first one, where you stated:

Quote “Do not forget that in 300 AD Armenia became a Christian nation. The Ark-tradition could well have sprung in that time. So it is possible christians or catholics BUILD a monument to commemorate Noah.” End quote. (capital letters are mine)

My answer was made in disagreement that an ark replica has been built on Mt. Ararat for the mentioned reasons (ie 1)Berossus, etc. and 2) impossibility to build up in the mountain)

I hope that we agreed that no ark replica exist or have existed (there are no evidence, record and logic and common sense do the rest)

Now we go to the second point Berossus and how big Armenia was to include or not Mt. Judi. I am inclined to support what Rick mentioned, but let say that you are right, that Armenia territories extended to Mt. Judi. Is Mt. Judi a high mountain? (2089 above see level, compared to Ararat 5165 above sea level) The answer is no.
But let’s agree that in the ancient time you could consider it a high Mountain.

This is still not conclusive. I guess to close the point we need to move our research to another time. More specifically to 1298 CE (or AD).

I hope you’ll agree that Armenia in the 1298 C.E. was not a great nation, but more a province, and for sure did not included in his territories Mt. Judi. (But Mt. Ararat was part of it)

The merchant explorer Marco Polo in his book “Il Milione” (written by Rustichello da Pisa when he was in prison in Genova with Marco Polo) on Chapter 21, when he describe his trip through Armenia mentioned: I also tell you that in the “Grande Arminia” (modern Armenia) the Ark of Noah is up on a high mountain… on the north there is Giorgens (the actual Georgia) and on the south east the kingdom of Mosul (the modern Iraq). Marco Polo was talking about Mt. Ararat.
Not my guess but scholars agree that, without any doubt, he was referring to Mt. Ararat.

Since we have established that no replica has been built on Mt. Ararat, and Marco Polo reported that the Ark was on Mt. Ararat, the Mt. Judi guess is out of the picture.

That said, we still need to go to the main point: what did Hagopian saw and touched?
(As well as Ed Davis, George Green, the Russian, the Turkish commission etc.)

Well I guess you know the answer…

All the best.
Karim Presti

Karim Presti - 8/24/2010 1:21:50 PM

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