Adventures on Ararat
The recent death of Dr. John Morris of ICR brings to mind the occasion when he collaborated with Rev. Edward Crawford of Edmonton to travel to Mount Ararat.
On a stormy night at the end of February, 1976 Edward Crawford and more than three thousand other Edmontonians crowded into Jubilee Auditorium to hear John Morris, Field Director of the Institute for Creation Research in San Diego. Morris’ update on the status of expeditions to Mount Ararat included a number of slides. Mr. Crawford however saw something that others missed. He saw an inscription on a boulder on Mount Ararat. He recognized some of the characters as ancient proto-Sumerian. What was the story behind these writings? He wondered how messages came to be in such an inhospitable part of the world.
Improbable as it may seem, six years later, Mr. Crawford, an amateur linguist, set off for Turkey with Dr. Morris to seek more ancient inscriptions on Mount Ararat. It was the spring of 1982. Their proposal to the Ministry of Information for Foreign Affairs was that they be allowed to make rubber molds and photographs of inscriptions in caves on Mount Ararat. Permission was not forthcoming that year.
Again in March of 1983 Messrs. Crawford and Morris went to Ankara. Told that the approval of the top Turkish expert on ancient languages would help their cause, Mr. Crawford sought him out. Minus an introduction, his chances of ever seeing the expert were poor. He did get to meet him however and the linguist enthusiastically added his support to the research proposal. Turkish officials assured the Americans that the necessary permits would shortly be issued.
In August of 1983 a party of four Americans met in Washington to collect research permits from the Turkish Consulate. Besides Morris and Crawford the party included Brian Bartlett, mountaineer and Don Barber, survival specialist in charge of logistics. After a week’s delay, full archaeological permits were issued. This was the first time that such comprehensive permits were issued to a foreign team. With high spirits the four set off for Turkey. Shortly thereafter they arrived at the tiny village of Aralet, 600 miles (1000 km) east of Ankara. This was to be their ‘jumping off’ point to Mount Ararat.
The local gendarme however refused to recognize their documents. He sent them to Kars, the provincial capital. A head-on crash with a truck on a hair-pin turn almost landed Mr. Crawford in jail. Police blamed the one with international driver’s license from Edmonton, but a signed statement from seven soldiers, witness to the mishap, resulted in an out-of-court settlement in Mr. Crawford’s favour. Nevertheless, they wasted three days in Kars after which they were sent to the city of Dogubeyazit and Agri – both well out of their way.
None of the documents issued in Washington by the Turkish Consulate was ever completely honoured. Eventually other documents were signed and they got to the mountain almost two weeks late. They were not permitted however to carry out much of the work that had been promised. Time was running out. It was the end of August. In desperation they elected to walk 65 miles. Each carried a 70 lb. pack as they circled the mountain and climbed to 13,000 ft (3500 m). Thousands of dollars worth of research equipment had to be left behind as they could not carry it.
Guides unaccustomed to that part of the mountain and to research work, plus the hazards of the mountain nearly finished the team off. The extreme incline and unstable condition of the scree and talus were dangerous in themselves. The roaring of the glaciers was so loud that speaking was almost impossible. Fierce bears which are known for killing people, had to be given wide berths. Sudden extremes of temperature and sudden storms also can be fatal to those on the mountain. Braving all this, the American party managed two and one half days at their target destination in and above the Ahorra Gorge. They had planned for two and one half weeks.
Despite the problems, the expedition was not without some successes. Several caves were located, one of which contained inscriptions. One was in the Ahorra Gorge. Some exposed boulders bearing inscriptions were also located. It is the ancient character of the script which has excited Mr. Crawford and his fellow explorers.
Among the oldest known written records are cuneiform inscriptions on clay tablets. Early forms of this writing are dated by scholars to be older than 3000 B.C. Common to the early scripts (proto-Sumerian) and the later ones (Sumerian) is a complex system of mathematical calculations based on the number 60 (compared to our decimal system with base 10). No primitive people these, they could easily extract square roots and cube roots. We still use some elements of the Sumerian system: the 12-month year, the 24-hour day, the 60-minute hour and the 360-degree circle.
No one knows where these ancient literate people originated. The rocks on Mount Ararat may provide some evidence. A seemingly early form of proto-Sumerian script has been located on rock used as a building block in the ancient city of Ebla. Located in modern Syria, not far south of the Turkish border, Ebla was an important city about the time of Abraham (about 2200 B.C.) The rock with the proto-Sumerian inscription was apparently very old, having previously had another use. Some of the inscriptions found on Mount Ararat, including the Ahorra Gorge, are similar to the building block in Ebla. The script is in pictograph and is non-stratified, one of the earliest kinds of script.
Another team has found the remains of an ancient Sumerian town in southeastern Turkey which may coincide with the Sumerians on Mount Ararat. It is an interesting fact that in Sumerian the words for ‘country’ and for ‘mountain’ are identical. Scholars are certain that the Sumerians built the original artificial mountains known as ziggurats. The tower of Babel was a ziggurat. Remains of this latter tower were still extant round 600 B.C. at the height of Babylon’s glory.
Studies on the proto-Sumerian script are still in their infancy and progress in translation will certainly be interesting. Nevertheless these indications of Sumerian origins on Ararat, Mr. Crawford believes, go a long way to establishing the historicity of Noah. In testimony to Mount Ararat’s past, the very stones cry out!
Friberg, Joran. 1984. Numbers and measures in the earliest written records. Scientific American 250 (2): 110-118.
Pfeiffer, Charles F. (Ed.) 1966. The Biblical World. A Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology. Baker Book House. Grand Rapids. MI
Voss, Howard F. 1977. Archaeology in Bible Lands. Moody Press, Chicago
Reprinted from Dialogue volume 11 #2 May 1984
[The Rev. Edward Crawford, pastor of Edmonton’s Bible Presbyterian Church, came to Alberta from the United States (after completing theological training in Northern Ireland). His American contacts were helpful in his interesting John Morris in going to Turkey once again, this time to research ancient script markings on the mountain. Archbishop Ussher and others have placed the birth of Noah at about 2900 B.C., so the dating of this script would locate it as close to the time of Noah. The information in this article was communicated by the Rev. Crawford to Margaret Helder. We also heard his exciting presentation on the 1983 adventures which he gave in his church one evening in early 1984.
The occasion when Ed Crawford heard John Morris in Edmonton in 1976, was sponsored by Creation Science Association of Alberta and took place in the Jubilee Auditorium on the campus of University of Alberta].
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