Is lost Ark buried in terrorist camp?
by Jon Ungoed-Thomas
EVEN Indiana Jones could be forgiven for getting the jitters over
this one. A biblical scholar has uncovered new evidence in the quest
for the lost Ark of the Covenant which suggests its secret burial
site could be at a terrorist stronghold on the West Bank.
Michael Sanders, a British-born publisher of classical university
texts, believes the sacred golden Ark was buried after a raid on
Solomon's Temple in the 10th century BC by one of the Egyptian
kings. By studying new satellite images, together with documents in
the British Museum and other accounts, he claims to have identified
its final resting place in the Judaean hills.
The location has, however, been renowned for years as a training
ground for Hamas terrorists. "It is in very dangerous territory, but
it must be worth the risk," said Sanders, who has spent more than 25
years researching biblical history and is now planning an expedition
to the site. "We believe we may have found the configuration of an
Egyptian temple and it is under there that we will dig for the Ark.
There will be archeologists with us, but the search for the Ark is
bound to be more of a treasure hunt than a classical archeological
The whereabouts of the Ark is one of the world's most enduring and
fascinating mysteries. According to the Old Testament, the Ark was
built at the foot of Mount Sinai around 1250BC at the command of
Moses to hold the two stone tablets inscribed with the Ten
For 200 years it was used, according to biblical records, to bring
victory on the battlefield against the enemies of Israel, but it
disappeared between the 10th and 6th centuries BC after being placed
in Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem.
The Old Testament does not record the circumstances of the Ark's
removal, but in modern times adventurers and archeologists have
criss-crossed the world in the hunt for the sacred relic, even
though its existence has never been conclusively proved. One legend
suggested the Ark was taken to Ethiopia by the Queen of Sheba, while
others believe it is hidden in caves in Qumran overlooking the Dead
Sea. In the film Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones fights the
Nazis for the long-lost treasure.
Sanders contends that the Ark was looted by Shishak, the King of
Egypt, when Solomon's Temple was plundered in about 925BC in the
first of a series of raids on Jerusalem. He claims a document in the
British Museum identifies the Egyptian temple where the Ark may have
been buried in a post-battle ritual.
"I don't think the Ark is a fantasy and it is a very reasonable
suggestion that it was taken by Shishak because that was the first
time it could have been removed," said Jonathan Tubb, an expert in
Syrian and Palestinian archeology at the British Museum. "If an
Egyptian temple can be identified, it would be a great place to dig.
It could solve all sorts of mysteries."
Sanders, 58, who was born in Leeds but is now based in Irvine,
California, says the Harris Papyrus in the British Museum identifies
the Judaean hills as the site of an Egyptian temple to which looted
treasures were taken by the Egyptians.
He believes the tablets of stone could be discovered there because
pharaohs often buried plundered artifacts beneath their temples.
"This temple is referred to in the papyrus as a 'mysterious house
in the land of Zahi' which was dedicated to the god Amun Ra," said
Sanders. "In 1830, the American explorer Dr Edward Robinson walked
the route taken by the invading Egyptians in Palestine and found old
ruins at a village called Djahiriya. The village is still there and
is the most likely resting place of the tablets of stone. If the
Egyptians had just seized the most sacred religious codes from the
people they had invaded, they would have laid them in the
foundations of their new temple."
Sanders has studied satellite images of the area and identified a
ruin to the south of the settlement which he thinks may be the
remains of the temple. He has, however, not yet received permission
to start an excavation. "This has long been a Hamas training center
and a local sheikh controls the area," said Sanders.
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