by Gordon Franz
How many Mount Suleiman’s are their in the Middle East and are they named after King Solomon?
Arch Bonnema, an “Ark in Iran” advocate and part of the team Bob Cornuke took to Iran to climb Mount Suleiman, northwest of Tehran, in June of 2006 opined where he thought Noah’s Ark landed. He commented in an interview: “And that mountain is Mt. Suleiman (Solomon), the only mountain in the entire Middle East with a Hebrew name” (Church 2010:6). This was information that he apparently got from Cornuke but did not bother checking out Cornuke’s facts.
The Wrong Mount Suleiman
In an article entitled “Noah’s Ark Discovered in Iran?” by Kate Ravilious on National Geographic News for July 5, 2006, it was reported that the BASE researchers used the Book of Genesis and other literary sources, when they journeyed to Iran in July 2005 in order to climb Mount Suliman for the first time. Ravilious explains: “They chose Mount Suleiman after reading the notes of the 19th-century British Explorer A. H. McMahan [sic]. In 1894, after climbing Mount Suleiman [sic], McMahan [sic] wrote in his journal [sic], ‘According to some, Noah’s ark alighted here after the deluge.’ McMahan [sic] also spoke of wood fragments from a shrine at the top of the mountain where unknown people had made pilgrimages to the site. ‘We found a shrine and wood fragments at 15,000 feet [4,570 meters] elevation, as described by McMahan [sic],’ Cornuke said.”
Apparently the BASE researchers had the 1894 “journal” accounts by British explorer McMahon a year before their second trip to Mount Suleiman in the beginning of June, 2006 on which Arch Bonnema was a participate. Did they carefully read the “journal” account and was it a reliable guide for their trip?
The BASE website claimed that a “British explorer in 1894 … confirm[s] local Iranians believe the Ark landed on Takht-i-Suleiman (east of Lake Urmiah); the British explorer claimed to see a wooden shrine.” [The section about Captain McMahon has since been removed from the BASE website].
The British explorer was identified on the website and the National Geographic article as “A. H. McMahan [sic].” In fact, the individual being referred to is Captain A. H. McMahon, British Joint Commissioner of the Afghan-Baluchistan Boundary Commission [not McMahan, note the misspelling of his name and omission of his military rank and official government position]. The website goes on to state that Captain McMahon “noted in his journal in 1894 that he was the first European who had successfully climbed Takht-i-Suleiman.” In fact, Captain McMahon did not note this in his “journal” or diary, but rather, reported it in a published letter to The Geographical Journal, vol. 4, no. 5 (Nov. 1894), pp. 465-466. The article was entitled “Ascent of the Takht-i-Suliman.” [Note again the misspelling of this particular Mt. Suliman, the BASE website spelled it Suleiman and the Geographical Journal article spelled it Suliman]. The McMahon article was apparently posted on a Pakistani website in 2005 but has since been removed.
Captain McMahon climbed Takht-i-Suliman in Baluchistan (modern Pakistan), not Iran, between June 28 – 30, 1891, with Major MacIvor and local guides (1894: 465). Takht-i-Suliman means “Solomon’s throne,” after a tradition that King Solomon married a woman from Hindustan named Balkia and upon their return to Israel on their flying throne, they stopped on this mountain so Balkia could get one last look at her native land. There is another mountain in Iran with the same name and a similar tradition, but a different wife.
Upon closer investigation, there are some very clear discrepancies between Captain McMahon’s actual report and what the BASE Institute claimed on their website.
First of all, the locations are different. Captain McMahon gives a detailed account of his ascent of Takht-i-Suliman as well as where he was when he corresponded with The Geographical Journal. [Note again, the website says “geographical journal”- small letters, not capital letters at the beginning of each word, and no italics to indicate it is a publication]. Captain McMahon wrote the letter to The Geographical Journal from his expedition camp and sent it via Fort Sandeman in Zhob, Baluchistan on August 8, 1894. Zhob, Baluchistan, is in present day Pakistan, nowhere near north-central Iran and BASE’s Mt Suleiman.
In describing his ascent, McMahon states that Takht-i-Suliman has a sister peak called Kaisaghar (elevation 11,300 feet above sea level) and it is located in “the Suliman range of the north-west frontier of India” in the territory of Sheranis (1894: 465). The identification of this location should have raised red flags for any ark researcher: Baluchistan is not in, or near, Iran.
Contrary to Bonnema’s assertion, there are at least four Mt. Suliman’s (spelled various ways) in the Middle East. There are three in Iran, one specifically called Takht-i-Suliman located about 80 miles southeast of Lake Urmiah, but not climbed by the BASE team. Another, called Mt. Suleiman (36 24’N 50 59’E) located about 300 miles east of Lake Urmiah, situated in the Elborz range, 55 miles northwest of Tehran, which the BASE team climbed and allegedly found Noah’s Ark. The third is located southwest of Hamadan in the region of Luristan. The fourth, the one that Captain McMahon climbed and described, is in present day Pakistan, about 40 miles east of Quetta (Pakistan), and about 1,360 miles / 2,200 kilometers eastward from Lake Urmiah.
Second, the elevations are different. The top of Takht-i-Suliman in Baluchistan, now Pakistan, is about 11,100 feet above sea level and the shrine was lower down the slope. The BASE Institute reports that they spotted the Ark at 13,120 feet above sea level (although Ark Fever states the object of interest is at 12,500 feet, page 238, 244) and he found the shrine and wood fragments at the 15,000 feet elevation. There is about a 4,000 feet discrepancy between the shrines that needs to be explained! How is it possible to have spotted the ark and shrine both at altitudes several thousand feet higher than the mountain itself?
It is safe to conclude from these discrepancies that the BASE team did not climb the same mountain as Captain McMahon, nor see the shrine the captain and major viewed. Captain McMahon’s article was not a reliable guide for the BASE trip because the reference to the landing site for Noah’s Ark was on a different Mount Suliman in an entirely different country (Pakistan), not the one climbed by the BASE team in Iran.
Concluding Questions for Mr. Cornuke
After the tentative announcement of the “discovery” of the “ark” in June 2006, I found the Geographical Journal article on the Internet and then Xeroxed a hard copy at the Columbia University library and sent it to Mr. Cornuke on June 23, 2006. Unbeknownst to me, the BASE researchers already had this article and used it more than a year before in order to determine Mount Suliman, northwest of Tehran, in Iran as their target. Perhaps Mr. Cornuke could explain to Ark researchers why the name of Captain McMahon was consistently misspelled. He had the proper spelling available in the copy of McMahon’s article. Why is Captain McMahon identified as an “explorer” and not a Captain in the British Army who was the official British Joint Commissioner of the Afghan-Baluchistan Boundary Commission? Why does Cornuke call it “notes” “in his journal” instead of a published letter in The Geographical Journal by Captain McMahon? I had given Mr. Cornuke the proper citation in my cover letter. Why did he not follow it?
Church, J. R., editor
2010 Has Noah’s Ark Been Found at Last? The Evidence is Overwhelming! Prophecy in the News 30/6 (June): 3-7, 38.
McMahon, Captain A. H.
1894 “Ascent of the Takht-i-Suliman.” The Geographical Journal 4/5: 465-466.
About the author
Gordon Franz is a Bible teacher who holds an MA in Biblical Studies from Columbia Biblical Seminary, SC. Since 1978, he has engaged in extensive research in Biblical archaeology and has participated in a number of excavations in and around Jerusalem, including Ketef Hinnom and Ramat Rachel as well as the excavations at Lachish, Jezreel, Hazor, and Tel Zayit. He has taught the geography of the Bible and led field trips in Israel for the Jerusalem Center for Biblical Studies, the Institute of Holy Land Studies, and the IBEX program of The Master’s College. He also co-teaches the Talbot School of Theology’s Bible Lands Program. Gordon is on the staff of the Associates for Biblical Research.