Friedrich Bender1

(Reprinted by permission from UMSCHAU-Kurzberichte aus Wissenschaft und Technik, vol.72, no. 1.Translated from the original German by W. Pasedag, ABR.)

Tectonic Lifting of the Taurus Mountains of Turkey

Wood remains from Cudidag, a mountain range at the northern rim of Mesopotamia, were dated with the 14C method; they are 6500 years old, i.e. pre-Sumerian. According to archaeological findings, parts of Mesopotamia were flooded at that time. Compelling geologic and morphologic reasons limit this flooding to this region,2 and exclude the high peaks of Ararat, located about 300 km [186 mi] further north, the landing site of the ark according to Biblical tradition. The wood remains were found in a location called the “landing site of the ship” according to the Gilgamesh Epic and the Koran. If the find is considered to be the remains of a ship, it is difficult to explain the altitude of its location, about 750 m [2460 ft] above the rubble terraces of the plain. There are some observations, however, which point to a geologically very young tectonic lift in the region of the southern rim of the Taurus Mountains and southeastern Turkey.

According to the Gilgamesh Epic, the “landing place of the ship,” and hence the northernmost range of the Flood, is to be found between the rivers Tigris and Zab (at the mountain of Ni-sir). The Old Testament locates it on the “mountains of Ararat.” The Koran (XI. Sura, 44) mentions the mountain Cudi (Cudidag, Al-Jûdî) as the landing place of the Ark of Noah. The Cudidagis a massif of the southernmost Taurus ranges in Eastern Turkey, between the Tigris and Zab, which is covered by the region mentioned in the Gilgamesh Epic. From geologic and geomor-phologic considerations, the northern limit of the proven (Wooley 1955) pre-Sumerian flood covering Mesopotamia is more likely to be found at the first mountain range on the northern rim of the plain, rather than Ararat (5165 m [16945 ft]), 300 km [186 mi] further north.

In the spring of 1953, I was able to climb Cudidag, despite the difficulties in reaching this location in eastern Turkey in those days, and to recover a sample of asphalt-bound wood remains (Bender 1956). The primary motivation for this endeavor was reports of Kurdish Muslims that the Cudidag was a pilgrim destination where “pieces of wood from Noah’s Ark,” relics of great value, could be dug up. My guides’ constraints during this climb did not permit me to obtain detailed records of the geologic-Quaternary stratigraphy. The Cudidag is a southern-oriented anticlinal (geologic saddle with a steep southern flank) of Jurassic and Cretaceous limestone with a west-southwest to east-southeast oriented axis. The spine of the mountain reaches about 1800 m [5905 ft] above sea level. Two parallel fault lines, with heavily faulted and displaced middle-Eocene limes between them, accompany the steep southern flank. Further south, Neogene (young Tertiary), presumably Pliocene, land and river sediments are covered by large terraces of rubble (L. Benda, U. Staesche, verbal communication). They cover the substrate in obliquely oriented layers (i.e. diagonal to the substrate orientation), and are tectonically displaced themselves. At least three (at the Tigris five?) distinct terrace levels are discernable, declining towards the south from the edge of the mountains (1000 m [3280 ft]) to 500 m [1640 ft] above sea level. Their relative ages are unclear. West of Cizre, similar rubble lies between quaternary basalt (Altinli 1963). The wood remains were found in an open syncline (basin) at the upper southern slope of the Cudidag, about 3000 m [9843 ft] northeast of the Kurdish village of Kericulya, at about 1700 m [5577 ft] above sea level (exact altitude uncertain), which is about 750 m [2460 ft] above the highest of the rubble terraces. The shallow basin, open towards the south, is surrounded by the thickly banked, massive limestones and dolomites of the “Cudi Group” (Altinli 1963). On the 6th of April, 1953, it was largely snow covered. Underneath the snow cover was a loamy silt sediment, which turned to a dark brown to black color at 0.80 to 1.00 m [2.6 to 3.3 ft] depth, and contained crumbly, up to pea-sized decayed wood remains. Many of the small wood fragments were bound together by an asphalt- or tar-like substance. My Kurdish guides did not permit any further digging or detailed examination. They considered the location a holy place.

Following a thorough dissolution of the asphalt with carbon tetrachloride, the wood fragments were radiocarbon dated by the Bureau for Earth Sciences of Lower Saxony in Hannover. A theoretical age of 6635 +/- 280 years BP (before 1950) was determined. A second measurement, which consumed all of the remaining material, confirmed the result. The only conceivable source of error is a potentially incomplete removal of the asphalt binder, whose age surely exceeded 50, 000 years.3 In this case, assuming that the carbon contamination was up to 5% (which is considered unlikely), the maximum increase in the apparent age would be 400 years.

BSpade 19:4 (Fall 2006) p. 113

Mrs. Friedrich Bender

Dr. Friedrich Bender investigating the “landing place of the ship” on Mt. Cudi in southeastern Turkey in 1953.

If the analyzed wood was in fact carried to the location where it was found by a Mesopotamian flood, it is difficult to explain the altitude of the locus, at approximately 750 m [2461 ft] above the rubble terraces. Several observations, however, let us conclude that there was a significant uplift of the southern rim of the Taurus and eastern Turkey in geologically recent times. The local Neogene, for example, in the vicinity of the Taurus Mountains, is in a nearly vertical position. In an epirogenic rise (large area-wide uplift), even younger strata were included, e.g. in the foreland of the Cudidag, where Pleistocene sediments dive under younger alluvia (U. Staesche, verbal communication). The observations of Bobek (1941) also indicate a substantial uplift of the Taurus in this region. He suggests values up to 1500 m [4920 ft] for the lift in the region of the Bitlis Cay since the older Pliocene. Geologically young uplifts could have occurred at the main fault lines on the southern Cudidag.

Thanks to Dr. M.A. Geyh for the 14C analysis and supplemental annotations, and to Dr. L. Benda for important textual advice. Both are at the Bureau of Earth Sciences of Lower Saxony, Hannover.


The age of wooden residues found on the Cudidag in the southernmost Taurus Ranges is about 6500 years according to radiocarbon dating. Remains of a ship may be discerned here. Their location could be explained by a strong uplifting of this mountain area.


Altinli, I.E.
1963 Türkiye Jeolojie Haritasi, Explanatory Text of the Geological Map of Turkey 1:500,000, p. Cizre. Ankara: MTA-Institut.

Altinli, I.E et al.
1961 Geologische Karte der Türkey 1:100,000, p. Cizre. Ankara: MTA-Institut.

Becker-Platen, J.D.
1970 Beih. Geol. Jb. 97.

Bender, F.
1956 Kosmos 52.4: 149–55.

Bering, D.
1971 Newsl. Stratigr. 1.3: 27–32.

Bobek, H.
1941 Zeitschr. Gletcherkunde 27: 50–87.

Schott, A.
1966 Das Gilgamesch-Epos. Stuttgart: Ph. Reclam Jr.

Wooley, C.L.
1955 The Ziggurat and its Surroundings. Ur Excavations V (1939). Quoted in Keller, W., Und die Bibel hat doch Recht, pp. 44-49. Düsseldorf: Econ.