Ark of the Covenant depicted in ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ (Paramount Pictures)

For centuries, many have wondered whatever happened to the Ark of the Covenant, the box the Bible says contained the Ten Commandments of God.

Now, a new quest is under way for the legendary chest featured in the film “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” trying to prove the claim the Ark is buried below the purported site where Jesus Christ was crucified.

An international team has just completed what it calls its first stage of exploration, spending two weeks beneath Mount Moriah outside the walls of ancient Jerusalem.

Some 30 explorers from the U.S., Australia, Norway and Estonia have been in a cave system north of the city’s Damascus Gate to try to determine if the Ark is indeed located there.

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The group is trying to verify the claim made by relic hunter Ron Wyatt who said he actually saw the Ark there two decades ago after tunneling through a small passageway.

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Wyatt died of cancer in 1999 after years of searching for biblical antiquities, claiming to have found Noah’s Ark near Mount Ararat in Turkey, the remains of Pharaoh’s chariots that chased Moses through the Red Sea, and the “true” location of Mount Sinai in Arabia.

“I just want to know the truth, whatever it is,” says Richard Rives, president of Wyatt Archaeological Research in Cornersville, Tenn., which is spearheading the latest effort.

While members of his group are not archaeologists by trade – they’re doctors, nurses, structural and construction engineers, and businessmen – they are teaming with professional archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority, which has sanctioned the dig.

In 1982, Wyatt entered the caves from a location since sealed, but believed there was an alternate passageway used by the prophet Jeremiah to protect the Ark from invading Babylonians some 600 years before the birth of Christ.

Explorers dig in cave system for Ark of the Covenant (

Ironically, during his Ark quest 21 years ago, Wyatt and his crew decided to take a break and go to the movies. Unaware of what was playing, they were surprised to see “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” which had just been released.

This summer’s research team used ground-penetrating radar to peer below the surface, trying to pinpoint the alleged tunnel of Jeremiah.

Rives believes they met great success while taking samples behind a man-made wall.

David and Richard Rives at man-made wall that could conceal passageway to Ark (

“We found a void where Ron said there would be a passageway,” Rives said.

It’s at the end of that passageway where Wyatt believed the sacred container rests.

But once the diggers started excavating beneath the wall, they encountered a problem forcing a halt to the hunt.

“We lost our ceiling to prevent collapse,” Rives said. “The people in the antiquities department insisted we stop and do more architectural engineering to determine what it would take to continue safely.”

The group is now studying the situation with experts and hopes to be back in business within the next six months.

This latest search effort reignites debate over whether or not the Ark is even located there, since many theories have sprouted concerning the container’s whereabouts.

Some claim it’s currently in Ethiopia, having been brought there after a visit to Solomon’s Temple by the ancient Queen of Sheba. Others have suggested the box is hidden in Spain, Canada, Elephantine Island in Egypt, the Baltic Sea island of Bornholm and even somewhere in America near Utah.

The Bible’s final mention of the Ark recounts King Josiah’s order to return the chest to the temple:

  • Put the Holy Ark in the house which Solomon the son of David king of Israel did build; it shall not be a burden upon your shoulders. (2 Chronicles 35:3)

Spiros Zodhiates, editor of the Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible, expounds on the Ark’s possible fate subsequent to that verse.

“It may have been carried away by [Babylonian King] Nebuchadnezzar along with the other saved articles, when he plundered the temple,” Zodhiates writes.

“Since no reference is made to the Ark by Ezra, Nehemiah or even [Roman historian] Josephus after the capitivity, it is believed that there was no Ark in the second temple and that the Holy of Holies [where the Ark was situated in the temple] stood empty.”

Biblical scholar and modern-day relic hunter Mike Sanders, who has gained notoriety with his Biblical Mysteries programs, believes the original Ark was destroyed by a different pagan king, and a replica was constructed to replace it.

“The Ark was certainly taken by the Egyptian King Shishak,” Sanders told WorldNetDaily. “There were obviously subsequent copies made as there were of all the other temple accoutrements which were also looted many times over the centuries. This has enabled the myth makers to come up with many wild and wonderful scenarios.”

Sanders believes the Ark’s contents – the stone tablets etched by God with the Ten Commandments – are located in the foundation deposit of an Egyptian temple he discovered in the Judean hills.

“Hopefully we will extract the contents live on the Internet and on television sometime early next year when the situation in Israel is somewhat safer,” he says.

Sanders is among those critical of Wyatt’s assertions about the Ark.

“When he was alive, I spent some time asking him questions and asking for evidence [regarding] his claims. None was ever forthcoming to me or anyone else,” Sanders said. “In those areas where I have done some investigations, he has proven to be a charlatan.”

Just days before his death, Wyatt granted an interview to WorldNetDaily, and addressed such criticism from his detractors.

“There’s nothing [that] can be done to prevent ridicule that I’m aware of,” Wyatt said. “I don’t think it would be appropriate to deny people the opportunity of using ridicule because I think that’s part of showing their true character.”

During the interview, Wyatt explained he found an earthquake crack directly below the place where the wood on which Jesus was crucified would have been. The cleft extends down through the rock to the resting place of the Mercy Seat representing God’s throne atop the Ark of the Covenant. The blood of Christ would have flowed through that crevice after his death and after his side had been pierced by a soldier’s spear.

Sketch of Ark of the Covenant based on Wyatt’s description (

The Bible teaches the concept of sacrifice of animals, symbolic of the actual blood sacrifice Christ would make. The act of Christ, regarded by some as the great High Priest, permitting himself to be sacrificed and placing his own blood upon the Mercy Seat was the great and final act in the process of blood sacrifice, according to Wyatt’s writings.

And while Wyatt believed the Ark itself would never be moved from its current location, he thought the laws of God inside it would eventually be removed and put on display as a testimony to the world.

“This last revelation is for the inhabitants of the Earth who don’t have a clue, as well as for those of us who do have a clue and have been commissioned by Christ to reach out to help bring these people who don’t have a clue into the fold,” Wyatt told WorldNetDaily.

“So these are tools that God has given the believers to strengthen their faith and to reach out with. They are tools that will be extremely effective in these the last pouring out to the entire population, all inhabitants of the Earth.”

Rives says from a biblical standpoint, it makes perfect sense the Ark would be located where Wyatt claimed and be covered with Christ’s own blood.

“What’s important about the Ark is what’s inside of it – the Ten Commandments, the Covenant,” said Rives.

While many people talk about sin in the modern world, Rives points out the Bible defines sin as breaking the law recorded on the tablets inside the Ark.

“For sin is the transgression of the law.” (1 John 3:4)

“The first four Commandments teach us who our Creator is and how he wants us to worship Him,” said Rives. “There’s an adversary, Satan. He wants to be God if he can get us to break those first four Commandments. Many aspects of religion today are in violation of the first four Commandments.”

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