Ron Wyatt: The Saga of the Ark of the Covenant

UPDATE (November 11, 2012): The Standish book (“Holy Relics or Revelation”) is no longer available for preview on Google Books due to ISBN confusion. I have contacted Google regarding this matter. Buy it anyway-a mere $17 will yield you all the Wyatt de-bunkery available on Planet Earth as of 1999. Buy it!!!

My sources are the following: Two Wyattist websites (including this account by Mary Nell Wyatt), the Standish book (start at chapter 8, the part shown in Google Books is fully enough to completely refute the blood claims, switch from .com to if pages iv-55 don’t show in Google Books), this video of Jonathan Gray, this account by Ron’s sons, and the following Israel Antiquities Authority reports describing Ron’s so-called “Ark Chamber” and the finds discovered in it.

Who Was Ron Wyatt?

Ron Wyatt (1933-1999) was a nurse anesthetist who made several so-called “discoveries” of Biblical artifacts, all of them false, beginning with the dogmatic identification of the Durupinar site, a geological formation, with Noah’s Ark, in 1977, an interpretation which had success at being promoted by the Governor of the province of Agri (Standishes, 234) who erected a visitor’s center there. The discoveries related to the Exodus are fully rebutted at AJaL, Sect. 5. The Sodom/Gomorrah discovery is fully proven wrong here. Ron Wyatt was never licensed by the IAA to conduct excavations (Standishes, chs 18+19), contra his claim otherwise. All the living three of the four individuals Wyatt claimed to have signed his license (“Uh, what I was told by the men that I worked with, uh, if you have a photographic memory, uh, you’ll remember their names: Amos Kloner, Joseph Gat, Dan Bahat, General Drorie. These men asked me not to show my permit because the authorizing signature on the permit is, are their names.“) were interviewed by the Standishes. Only one, Dan Bahat, claimed to know Ron Wyatt, contrary to Ron Wyatt’s own claim Bahat said he did not know him (“Now here and if Christina will be so kind as to let this [picture of Wyatt and Bahat together] stay somewhere where you can look at it for a little bit, this was the man that was in charge of antiquities for the Jerusalem area during the time that we carried out our excavation. When called and asked if he knew Ron Wyatt, he said ‘no’.“), The only person of the four who was actually responsible for signing IAA excavation licenses, Amin Drorie, stated he had not granted one to Wyatt. The only reason Ron was not stopped from excavating was because the Garden Tomb is private property, and one only needs permission from the owner to dig there (contrary to the Wyattist statements otherwise). Written permission to dig from Dan Bahat, then Chief Archeologist of Jerusalem, is not an IAA excavation license (Standishes, pg. 95). Neither is verbal permission from the IAA, which was claimed by Bill Shea (Standishes, p. 276). Ron went to Western Michigan University for several years. It is unknown whether he served in Korea (it looks like so from his funeral, and from his VA card, but Crouse said he could find no evidence).

Where Did His Adventures Take Place?

His adventures with the “first” excavation (the one that matters) took place, as is evident in this video, in the place marked in the below image. This is what the excavation area looked like before the excavation. This is what the excavation area looked like in 1979. This (followed by this) is how it looked like c. 1991 or earlier. This is how it looked like in the 1990s. This is what it looks like as of 2008. For the Garden Tour, see here. It should be noted that the Wyatts tunneled under the “first” excavation area by means of the 1979/80 cistern, as seen in this image. They did not, as the Israelis did in 2006, have the ability to comprehensively drill through solid rock throughout an excavation square.

We must now familiarize ourselves with the plans of the “first” Wyatt excavation. Comparing the WAR report (detailed images found by traveling back through time) with the IAA plans, we can conclude the following reconstruction:

The (perfectly) circular cistern is where the eastern Arrow 1 is, and follows the northern edge of L103. The excavation through the cistern wall was done in 2006. According to Ronny Wyatt, the original excavation never reached as far south as L514. The tunnel on the north-west side of the excavation area was where Wyatt and his sons first began to dig through the cliff face. It is likely the marks in the center of L102 are, in fact, the Wyattists’ “crossholes”.

What Happened?

Ron’s “discovery” of the Ark of the Covenant was his third “discovery”, and was made soon after his “chariot wheel” discovery (or, depending on your level of cynicism, hoax), in 1978. According to the WAR website, “While waiting for his return flight to the United States, Ron was walking along an ancient stone quarry, known to some as “the Calvary Escarpment.”  As he was walking, he began conversing with a local authority about Roman antiquities. At one point, they stopped walking, and Ron’s left hand pointed to a site being used as a trash dump and he stated, “That’s Jeremiah’s Grotto and the Ark of the Covenant is in there.”” A somewhat unrealistic scenario follows. While there is no reason reason to not suppose Ron Wyatt first thought of this location as a likely location for the Ark while wandering about 40 meters to the west of the skull-like formation of Gordon’s Calvary, Dan Bahat, the man who suggested to the Warden of the Garden Tomb Association that Ron Wyatt clean out the rubbish heap, denies he remembers any arm-pointing incident or miraculous response (Standishes, pg. 270). According to WAR, Ron and his sons began excavation in the area excavated by WAR and the Israelis in 2006 in January, 1979. Since the Garden Tomb is under full control of the Garden Tomb Association, no IAA excavation license is necessary to dig there.

While digging down straight into the cliff face, some book-case like niches were discovered. However, Ron then decided to dig in the original location he thought of (the rubbish heap), since the earth was becoming somewhat unstable at the “first” location (the one with the niches). According to Wyatt’s sons, after digging through the trash, pottery and Roman glass were found. At the original location (see excavation in progress here), a cistern, 15 feet in diameter, was discovered. This was NOT the cistern which would be discovered in the 2005/6 Israeli/WAR excavation. Ron then began tunneling through the cistern wall to the “first” location. According to Mary Nell’s account, 3 feet along the way, the rock floor ended, and dirt appeared again and Ron then dug 3 feet down to find a large amount of stones and some finger bones. The Wyattists conclude this is a stoning ground, although further examination is warranted. Ron then finished tunneling to the “first” location, staying entirely underground along the way.

A 17 inch long block of stone protruding from the cliff face and resting on a shelf of bedrock also protruding from the cliff face was then found (the “altar stone”. Also in 1979, the so-called crosshole of Jesus (“squarish hole”) was found on a ledge of bedrock 4 inch higher than the surrounding bedrock, extending from the cliff face, 14 feet below the niches, covered by a 16 inch (diagonal) squarish rock having a coin of Tiberius under it. In 1980, many structures were revealed, as seen in Jonathan Gray’s longer video, at about the 50 minute mark. Three more postholes were discovered in front of the ledge, each being twelve to thirteen inches square (i.e. about 3.5 inches long and wide). A structure, 22 ft x 40 ft , having coins from the reign of Tiberius to the reign of Hadrian, was found, along with a 13ft, 2 in diameter stone, thought by Wyatt to be the stone blocking the Tomb of Jesus, which he thought to be the Garden Tomb. This, considering the similar masonry in this and in this photograph, may be the Islamic building mentioned in the 2008 IAA report. However, the Wyattists’ “metal pin“, used to determine how large the stone blocking the Garden Tomb theoretically should be, is actually a piece of shrapnel, and is not found in any record before 1967 (Standishes, pg. 99). Three postholes, 4 ft below the primary one with the crack along with a so-called “altar stone” were also found. Toward the end of 1980, Wyatt and his sons began digging through the rock escarpment to reach Wyatt’s long-desired “Ark Chamber”. According to the Wyattists’ accounts, certainly greatly embellished or partially made up (see below), a young Arab lad by the name of Rafette, hired by Wyatt in 1981 to replace his sons, which were sick with pneumonia (Jonathan Gray 1 hr. 15 min mark; nicknamed “James” in most written accounts), on January 1, 1982, due to sheer fright at seemingly nothing when poking his head into what Wyatt later identified as the “Ark chamber”, quit his work at being Wyatt’s assistant.  By January 6, 1982, Ron had tunneled into the so-called “Ark Chamber”, having a height of only a cubit or so. He claimed to have found much furniture from the first Temple, including the Ark of the Covenant, shown in replica on the 1 hr. 20 min mark of the Jonathan Gray video. He also claimed to have found oil lamps from c. 586 BC, though the one displayed on the web clearly dates to the Middle Roman era. The Standishes have criticized the Wyatt replica of the ark (chapter 21) since it seemingly contradicts Exodus 25:18, 37:8, and have only one wing on one side covering the mercy seat, contradicting Exodus 25:20, 37:9, and 1 Kings 8:7. According to the WAR website, Wyatt also found a natural tunnel leading to the surface, which was, albeit, badly blocked up, and took a sample of a dark substance from the crack in the stone case holding the Ark and from the crack in the ceiling, which he assumed to be the same as the crack found near the main crosshole in 1979. A sketch diagram may be seen at the 1 hr 55 min mark of the Jonathan Gray video. also claims Wyatt discovered the Ivory Pomegranate, a clear case of post-hoc storytelling, which is a 3rd level scientific sin. According to Ron Wyatt, the seemingly dead blood was placed in a growth medium for three days in a Jerusalem laboratory under his request and became alive, a chromosome count being performed on the live blood, with the discovery of only twenty-three chromosomes being made, surprising the scientists greatly. Jonathan Gray reports otherwise, placing the testing in Tennessee. Ron Wyatt has denied the blood has ever been in America (see the Standish book). In any case, Wyatt then, in 1991, after several more visits, and a 1986 warning by Dan Bahat to cease tunneling (Standishes, 279), and, instead, dig a series of five-square meter squares into the cliff face, sealed the chamber. He then made up a hypothesis involving Jeremiah taking the Ark to the so-called “Ark chamber” through the Zedekiah’s Cave system. The existence of such a passageway was not confirmed. The 2005-6 excavations, conducted by Wyattist funding and support, did find Wyatt’s Ark Chamber, but they did not find a single Biblical artifact in it (see below). In February 2007, WAR admitted this simple fact, its Ark of the Covenant page explicitly stating:

The excavations of 2005 and 2006 at the
Garden Tomb, in Jerusalem,  did not completely confirm the findings as stated by the late Ronald E. Wyatt during his periods of excavation during the years 1979 to 1989. We no longer have the personal account of Ronald Wyatt to help guide us. For these reasons, until further research, the Ark of the Covenant materials presented by Wyatt Archaeological Research prior to 2005 have been removed from circulation.
…Dr. Jerome Niswonger and Eric Lembcke

As per the unanimous decision of the Board of Directors,
Wyatt Archaeological Research
Mary Nell Wyatt Lee
Eric Lembcke
Jerome Niswonger
Richard Rives

Apparently, the Wyattists removed this page in late 2009 so that they could re-open the case by excavating Zedekiah’s Cave (again) in 2011. Here‘s how that panned out.


Ron Wyatt then began eagerly spreading news of his discoveries in America. However, there appeared visible great cracks in his general scheme of warnings and excuses.

Firstly was the fact that, if the Israeli Government gave a **** about Wyatt and his “discoveries”, they would have long censored the production of all documentaries relating to Wyatt’s “Ark discovery”, due to the fact those “Jewish extremists” could, if convinced of this “discovery”, try to blow up both the Dome of the Rock and the Gordon’s Calvary Escarpment. Indeed, both Dan Bahat and Amin Drorie explicitly stated to the Standishes that they don’t care about whether Ron Wyatt releases the blood reports (Standishes, Ch. 18).

Secondly was the fact that not a single one of the gruesome tales the Wyattists tell have been verified, and some, like Jonathan Gray’s tale at the 1 hr. 25 min mark, totally disproved (Standishes, pgs. 135, 271). Bahat did not suffer any back collapse, neither has a single person died within the precinct of the Garden Tomb throughout the period of Wyatt’s excavations, as attested by Peter Wells, General Secretary of the Garden Tomb Association.

Thirdly, the name of the laboratory in which the blood has been tested has never been released, and no good rationale has been offered. This is probably because such a laboratory never existed. Also, the contradiction between Wyatt and Gray needs to be explained. For the three years of his life the Zias letter has been up, Ron Wyatt has never even admitted its existence.

Fourthly, Ron Wyatt, while “not the sort of guy that would tell stories” according to his sons, was hypothesized by a volunteer in his excavations to have some sort of psychological disorder. According to Wyatt’s sons, Ron’s main goal in his excavations was to refute the accommodationists and uphold true biblical fundamentalism. He was also held by his followers and by himself to have been influenced by God, a dangerous delusion.

Fifthly, no independent confirmation has been made of Wyatt’s claims. According to Dan Bahat, nothing was shown to him at the “ark site” (Standishes, pg. 95). The Standishes, Chapter 23, tell the story of Herold Follet, attorney for 3 Angels Broadcasting Network, who, in 1989, after convincing Danny Shelton, CEO of the network, to exchange $10,000 provided by a Tennessee donor to Ron Wyatt for an opportunity to film the first footage of the Ark. Ron gave news that the tunnel leading to the Ark was blocked up. Mr. Follet then, with Wyatt’s protest, went into the room, which measured approximately 5 ft by 5 ft. No evidence of a cave-in or rubble was found. Looking at the above-linked to IAA report, Follet came into either the chamber labeled L101, which contained no artifacts, or into Chamber L102, an ancient circular building used used for quarrying and agricultural purposes, inside containing a fill with pottery from various periods, the latest dating to the Byzantine Period (the Ummayad pottery was probably from the Islamic building). The building in L102, therefore, is a Late Roman-Byzantine period building built underground for agricultural use, as is stated in the second IAA report. A good parallel is the Hellenistic caves at Mareshah.

Even the Wyatt excavations did, even before 1986, discover pottery from the Hellenistic as far as the Medieval era, a surprise to Dan Bahat (Standishes, 279). It seems that, by the time Follet visited what was probably L101, the entrance to L102 had been blocked. The earlier pottery and glass seals mentioned in the first IAA report seems to have come from an Iron IIB-IIC cemetery (used c. 722-c. 586 BC) around the French monastery of St. Stephen some 200 yards to the north, which likely extended to the Garden Tomb area, some 85 yards to the NW of the excavation area being discussed. Chamber L102  may be related to the Iron IIB-IIC(?)/Herodian Zedekiah’s Cave and Jeremiah’s Grotto quarry system. The Western Chamber has yet to be revealed. The 12×22 chamber mentioned by Jonathan Gray around the 1 hr. 55 minute mark was probably a combination of Chambers L103 and L102, the supposed location of the Ark being on the north side of Chamber L102. The Gray sketch’s “discovery entrance” is likely the corridor leading from chamber 101. The “12 ft” measurement may stem from Wyatt measuring to the western blockage in the corridor. In any case, Ron Wyatt’s Ark chamber has been found and excavated. The Ark of the Covenant (or any Biblical artifacts, for that matter) has not been found or revealed. I have written a post about the blood claims.


Author: pithom

An atheist with an interest in the history of the ancient Near East. Author of the Against Jebel al-Lawz Wordpress blog.

24 thoughts on “Ron Wyatt: The Saga of the Ark of the Covenant”

  1. It is odd that for Ron Wyatt over a span of several years, involving over a hundred trips at his own expense and time that were bringing back valid answers – which showed more conclusively much of Bible history – is being called a fake…
    The truth is always attacked and rejected – before most people come to understand the whole picture or story!

    1. Nice Galileo Gambit and Labor Theory of Value advocacy. Too bad they’re long-debunked and obvious fallacies, right? Kermit, do you want to be banned here? If so, just continue what you’re doing now.

      1. LOL, having an opinion you don’t agree with is enough to be banned from this site? How open-minded and “scientific” of you. Seems you and Wyatt BOTH have agendas….

    2. He had extensive funding from ‘suckers’ back in the States, who were under the misconception that he was ‘on to something’. What he was actually ‘on to’ was a brilliant way of extracting cash from gullible christians. Some of his sponsors accompanied ‘Hillbilly’ Wyatt to ‘the holy land’ but were left furious and frustrated because he showed them absolutely NOTHING of any worth or interest at all, NOT A THING! For you to say that he made those trips at his own expense is, at best, ignorant on your part and, at worst, disingenuous deceit.

  2. Hi. You are claiming Ron Wyatt’s sons speak on a different location then where they actually speak. I should know, it’s my video filmed with my video camera and I know the area well. They are not standing where you claim but at the first excavation site.

      1. It was temporarily set up to protect the area. They are sitting close by the entrance to the little chapel by the excavation site. I have the full-length videos to prove what I say is right. I’ve been there with Ron tons of times so I should know my way around there pretty well.

        1. Thanks. Can you please upload an accurate map of the area with labels where they should be? Including where the park benches Wyatt’s sons are standing behind are, etc.?

          1. Dear pithom, I was a friend of Ron Wyatt, and his sons, Danny and Ronnie, and I am a friend of many of his friends, family, and fellow diggers. As Ronnie said in the video, they found 3 cross holes (BEFORE they started the dig), which they later covered with their fill dirt. They started digging at the cliff face (where they are sitting in the video), first heading toward the west, then after they encountered the 13 foot Rolling Stone at the corner, they turned around and dug west toward the 3 cross holes previously found (along the way they found the 3 Roman Cutouts in the cliff face). Below the Roman Cutouts, in 1983, they found the 4th portable cross hole (this is where the famous plugstone and Tiberius Coin came from). Richard Rives’ steel framed excavation dug beneath the Roman Cutouts, and the 4th portable cross hole (with a green stain from the Roman Coin) was inadvertently removed. The 3 cross holes were not found by Richard, because as Ronnie said they were on the other side of Richard’s dig (further east). Danny said the 3 cross holes were in a triangular configuration, and that they left all 3 plugstones in place (I have reason to believe the middle plugstone was replaced by the Romans, after it was promptly transferred to the 4th portable cross hole by disciples, essentially a makeshift housing for it). The middle/higher cross hole of the 3 had a crack running through it, so the Ark of the Covenant is below this particular cross hole, which again is east of Richard’s dig. Danny and Ronnie are seated immediately to the west of the steel framing, which is labeled in your map as “Wyatt’s 1st Excavation” (next to the 10 steps). The Roman Cuts (where Herod’s accusations written in 3 languages could have been placed) look to me like the brow of a skull (as in the real “Place of the Skull”).

  3. Is the Man named Pithom expressing that Mr. Wyatt at the Iaa’s behest did not bring out half a dozen Levitican Gentlemen’s bodies who had entered Zedekiah’s Cave equipped with 2 way radios with plans to locate the “Covenant” chamber room?Is he saying this story is completely fabricated?Yikes!Is he saying that the man who announced he was going to meet with Media the next day and reveal Ron’s work concerning the supposed “Covenant” room was not found murdered?These are two stories that either litmus truth or don’t and if either are false it constitutes individuals senseless juxtaposing of life’s value and its reported occurances and shameful sensationalizing.I presume the Levitican gentleman who are reported being found as mutually suffering simul strokes is true.These matters should be resolved for their truth or not.Ron’s story is beyond fascinating and involves faith itself and the human spirit be it a new version of the “eternal spirit” or the spirit manifested itself.Great wishes discerning the truth and reconnecting with Ron’s original chamber room find.Potentially Israel Finkelstein and Christophe Nicole and Thomas Romer can be advised of these matters and reconnect with Ron’s original Golgotha escarpment work.Take care and God bless the blessed!Absolutely no twisted parallels!
    Absolutely straight forward!Gary V. Giardina!This sent before 9:31 P.M. March 3rd. 2017.

  4. Regarding the disproval of the ark, you have to exert great imagination to dispute he facts:exact matching length, all the nails discovered, etc. the story of the great flood is the most devestating blow to those who disbelieve the Bible or avid.

    1. I’m gonna approve this comment bc I’m lax, but don’t expect such idiocy as yours to be tolerated in the future. Make your case so that I know what you’re talking about. With links, please.

  5. It is just incredible how credulous the religiotarded can be. I am thinking of starting my own ministry as I want to own a mansion and a jet but cannot be bothered earning the money to buy them but the religiously damaged will fund me because I will speak of great ‘TRUTHS’ to them, lol.

  6. The Standishes have criticized the Wyatt replica of the ark (chapter 21) since it seemingly contradicts Exodus 25:18, 37:8, and have only one wing on one side covering the mercy seat, contradicting Exodus 25:20, 37:9, and 1 Kings 8:7.

    This statement depends on the bible that you are referring. There are 187 versions of bible and getting revised further releasing newer versions for better understanding. However, if you refer the original Pseetho Syriac Bible (aramaic , Hebrew etc), it has a different picture altogether. Some translations where deliberately made, where as some got lost in translation.

    I will try my best to translate these sections for you.

    1 Kings 8:7 – Cherubs (Keroob) spread their wing (singular) above the place where arc stood in such a way that both the arc and the poles were covered.

    Exodus 25:20 – Cherubs has to (referring both Keroob) spread their wing (singular) upwards, with wings (plural) covering the mercy seat and should face each other. The face of the Cherubs (referring to both Keroob) should be towards the mercy seat.

    Similar is the translation of Exodus 37:9 as Exodus 25:20.

    Another example of lost translation is Ephesians 1 : 21, where there is mention of names of certain angels, where as when i got translated to English by people who did not know what it is, simply mentioned as above all names. So it is very important that you refer the right bible.

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