The Ark of the Covenant Discovery

In 1978, Ron Wyatt and his sons, Danny and Ronny, made two trips to Israel in order to drive to the western shore of the Gulf of Aqaba to go scuba diving in search of chariot parts in the Red Sea. This was during the time that Israel was occupying the Sinai Peninsula and therefore the place Ron believed to be the crossing site could only be reached by traveling from Israel instead of Egypt. During his second dive trip, he learned a very painful lesson. He swam for hours, searching the sea floor, at a depth of about thirty feet, believing that the water would filter out the suns harmful rays. However, this wasn’t the case and as a result, his legs and feet became painfully swollen to such an extent that he couldn’t get his fins on. Unable to dive, and with no motel in the area, he and the boys had no choice but to return to Jerusalem to wait until their flight from Tel Aviv left for the US.

One day, after the swelling in Ron’s legs and feet went down a bit, he decided to go sightseeing in the immediate area around his hotel near the Damascus Gate. Walking along an ancient stone quarry, known to some as “the Calvary Escarpment,” 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.” Even though these words had come from his own mouth and his own hand had pointed, he had not consciously done or said these things. In fact, it was the first time he had ever thought about excavating for the Ark. The man with him, quite out of character, also reacted strangely. He said, “That’s wonderful! We want you to excavate, and we’ll furnish your permits, put you up in a place to stay and even furnish your meals!”

Ron didn’t know what to think – he knew it was a “supernatural” experience, but was it of God, or was it of “someone else”? By this time, Ron had made major discoveries in Turkey, and had found numerous chariot parts in the Red Sea. But not once had he ever had an experience such as this. It was like a thunderbolt out of the blue on a perfectly sunny day. He had to decline the man’s offer, at least until he could figure out if there was any reason to believe the Ark could be in that location. So, he and the boys came on home as planned. But once at home, Ron began some serious research and study.

It was January, 1979 when Ron and the boys returned. Snow was on the ground. He now had to decide how and where to begin. The site he had pointed to was being used as a trash dump and appeared to hold very little promise to the human eye. It was located along this escarpment where the ground met the cliff-face. He had investigated the area adjacent to the escarpment and realized that the ground was raised to a much higher level today, which meant that the rock floor was many, many feet below the present ground level.

In the past, Jerusalem has been destroyed many, many times. And the customary method of rebuilding these ancient cities was to simply build on top of the destruction level. Today, the debris is removed before rebuilding, but not so back then. This is why archaeologists are able to find evidences of many cities which have existed on the same site – they simply excavate through each successive level down to the next until they reach bedrock – which indicates that they have reached the first city to be established on that particular site.

The site Ron was to excavate had a ground level many feet higher than the quarry floor to the south before the city wall. So, he and the boys could do nothing but begin to dig straight down.

The original location that he had pointed to in 1978 contained an extremely large boulder just barely exposed above the surface, and Ron decided to begin digging several yards to the right. It was to be a job of mammoth proportions – these three, Ron, Danny and Ronny, would eventually remove many tons of rock and debris, having to sift through all of it for any artifacts. This was a requirement of the Department of Antiquities which they would always comply with.

Their First “Discovery”

They dug straight down along the cliff face, forming a steep wall with the earth they removed. Almost immediately, Ron noticed a “shelf-like” niche cut into the face of the cliff. Digging down further, he discovered there were three of these “niches” cut into the face of the cliff with a smaller one on the right side.

He was convinced that these were cut into the cliff-face to hold “signs” or notices. And because of the location- in the vicinity of the “skull-face”, and because there were three of these, he believed they were where the notices stating the crime of the crucifixion victim in three languages were placed. For more on this see “Roman Crucifixions” in The Evidence sections

As they continued to dig straight down, the cliff face was on one side, forming a solid wall. But on the other side, the earth wall began to exhibit signs of instability and Ron feared that it would soon collapse, perhaps burying them in the hole. He decided that they should move back along the cliff-face to the original site that he had pointed to. He dreaded it because of the huge boulder he had found just under the surface – but he felt he had no choice.

Ron had felt justified in beginning the excavation several yards from the original site, because it was in the same general area. And with the discovery of the niches, he was satisfied that it hadn’t been a completely wasted effort – but still he had another purpose for this excavation.

As they began to dig around the huge boulder extending out from the original site, he discovered that there was enough room behind it (between it and the cliff-face) to begin their dig. As they began to dig downward, they very soon came upon another item of interest. Carved out of the cliff-face was a hole which extended through a section of protruding rock allowing a rope or similar object to be threaded through it. The great care obviously devoted to chiseling out this object indicated that it had an important use, but they would learn that later.

They reached bedrock 38 feet below the present ground surface. Carefully removing debris, they found themselves in an approximately 15 foot diameter round chamber carved out of the rock with steps chiseled into the shaft descending from the top in a spiral to the bottom.

At some point in time it had been modified and plastered, reused as a cistern. Either of these explanations would explain the presence of the “rope hole” chiseled in the cliff-face — it was for the rope that held the bucket or jug which was lowered down into the shaft to retrieve grain or water. Ron chiseled through the plaster and found a large amount of pottery among the dirt and debris used as fill to form the cistern.

When he turned these pottery pieces in to Antiquities and they examined them, they informed Ron that some of them date back to the Jebusite time (before David took the city). The latest dated specimens were from the Roman period, which tells us that the grain bin was plastered during Roman times.

As exciting as these discoveries were, again they weren’t what Ron was looking for.

Ron thought this rock was much too symmetrical to be a natural-shaped rock, so he decided to pick it up and examine it more closely. When he lifted it, he discovered that it was covering a squarish hole chiseled into the bedrock.

The Hole that Held the Cross?

As should be expected, there was a great deal of dirt and debris everywhere. As he examined this hole and cleared away the dirt around it, he discovered that it had a large crack extending out from it. As they removed more dirt and debris, he discovered a platform-like shelf of bedrock which extended out about 8 feet from the face of the cliff, and this squarish hole was chiseled in this “shelf.”

There were no more holes in the platform-like shelf, so he began digging into the packed earth in front of and level with the “platform”. It was about four feet before he came to the lower level of bedrock, and here he uncovered three more squarish holes chiseled in the rock in front of this “platform.” His measurements showed that the elevated “platform” with the squarish hole and crack were located fourteen feet directly below the three cut-out niches in the face of the cliff, now above ground level. His earlier conclusion that the cut-out niches were for the signs stating the crucifixion victim’s crime in the three languages of Jerusalem was now supported by the fact that he had found more square holes, all about twelve to thirteen inches square, cut into the bedrock — holes he firmly believed once held crosses. The one elevated above the rest (on the shelf-like platform of bedrock), he believed, held Christ’s!

The building structure that remained intact showed that a building covered the entire site. He concluded, based on the evidence they’d found, that a Christian church had been built over the place of the crucifixion of Christ – the stone wall extended along the cliff-face directly behind the cross-hole that was on the “platform-like” shelf of bedrock. It appeared that this was the place where the “featured” criminal-victim was crucified, being elevated several feet above those crucified around him. The “altar stone” was set in the stone wall, extending out horizontally almost directly above the elevated cross-hole with the crack.

The “Crack” in the Cross-Hole

The crack extending out from the cross-hole on the elevated “platform” appeared to Ron to have been caused by an earthquake – it displayed no evidence of being chiseled.

As he removed debris from the cross-hole, he finally reached the bottom and measured it – it extended 23.5 inches into the solid bedrock, while the crack appeared to extend much deeper. But at this time, he didn’t attempt to clear it out nor did he measure it. It would be over a year later before he would learn that the crack extended about twenty feet into the bedrock.

“Dating” the Remains of the Building

During the course of the excavation Ron found coins which helped to narrow the date of the building. He found a Roman coin with Emperor Tiberius who was Emperor from 14 to 37 AD, which was the earliest dated coin they found. The latest coins were from about 135 AD, but no later. This is consistent with the known history of Jerusalem and placed the date of the building between the time of the crucifixion and 135 AD. But further information indicates that it was most likely built after 70 AD. Prior to 70 AD, (when the city and the temple were completely destroyed by the Roman general, Titus), Jerusalem was still under Roman rule and the crucifixion grounds would have remained in use. Josephus tells how Titus, during his siege of Jerusalem, had as many as 500 people a day crucified (Wars of the Jews, Book V, Chapter XI, para. 1).

After 70 AD- No More Mass Crucifixions

But after the destruction in 70 AD, with most of the Jewish inhabitants having been killed or sold as slaves, the city was reduced to a Roman camp. Vespasian offered the landed property of Jerusalem for sale to foreigners, although we have no records of who purchased any land there. The garrison of eight hundred Romans in the camp was stationed there to insure that the city was not rebuilt. The hatred of the Romans was for the Jews. Therefore, during the time after 70 AD, when Jerusalem was only a Roman camp with the occasional foreigner (non-Jew) living in the area, the use of crucifixion would be virtually eliminated.

The Christians were apparently tolerated by the Romans, as is supported by the fact that in 130 AD, when the Emperor Hadrian came to Jerusalem to rebuild it as a Roman city named Aelia Capitolina, he showed favor to the Christians while forbidding any Jew to ever set foot in the city again. This and other things contributed to a revolt among the Jews in Judea in 132 AD which finally resulted in the death of at least half a million Jewish men, and from this time on, Judea was no longer called by that name, but referred to by the old name of Palestine.

The new Roman city of Aelia Capitolina remained a city, but did not prosper. The fact that the coins Ron found in the ancient building cease at about 135 AD indicates that whoever built and used this ancient structure apparently abandoned it at that time and left the region. The fact that the foundations are still intact indicates that it didn’t suffer destruction at the hands of an invader, but most likely fell into disuse and decay. Eventually, over time, it was covered in dirt and debris. Whatever was the case, the evidence shows that the structures were not disturbed since the Roman time.


As they continued to clear the area outward from the cliff-face, the layout of the building was found to be very simple. One wall ran parallel to the cliff-face, along the top of the elevated “platform” section of bedrock. Two exterior walls extended out at 90 degree angles from each end of this first wall. They began to dig, searching for the last wall when they came to another hand-hewn rock. It was a little less than two feet thick, and the portion that was extending out of the dirt and debris looked as if it were curved, somewhat like a large, thick rounded table-top.

Clearing more from around it, Ron saw that it was of immense size and they decided not to continue digging. He theorized that perhaps this was the seal-stone from the tomb of Joseph of Arimathaea in which Christ was buried. If he was correct in his conjecture that this was an early Christian church building, perhaps they had incorporated this seal-stone into the actual building. It certainly appeared to be larger than any seal stone he had ever seen or read about. The largest that had ever been found, to his knowledge, was 5.5 feet in diameter. THIS stone would far exceed that. However, it would be several years later before he would learn its true dimension — a little over thirteen feet in diameter – when he used sub-surface interface radar from above the ground.

“And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled A GREAT STONE to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.”MAT 27:60

Almost 2 Years of Excavating

By this time, Ron and the boys had been working here for almost two years. They had begun in January of 1979 and it was now late 1980. Of course, they weren’t working constantly – Ron was an anesthetist with obligations to the hospitals he worked with. Due to the nature of his work, he was able to arrange to come over numerous times a year, but they could only stay for a few weeks at a time. And Ron was getting anxious. They had made some wonderful discoveries, and provided details to the authorities of their finds along with any artifacts they found. Some, they were allowed to keep because they were deemed of no significant worth.

But they had explored the entire underground cliff-face, looking for an entrance into a cave or tunnel. If the Ark was in that location, it certainly would be hidden in a cave, he reasoned. Finally, as they continued to search, Ron made the comment to the boys that he was “impressed” that they should just break through the rock of the cliff-face. Ronny said he thought that was a good idea, but Ron resisted. That rock is extremely hard and he knew what difficult work it would be. Finally, when Danny told his father that he, too, believed they ought to do go ahead and break through the cliff face, Ron relented and agreed. It was the only option left.

With hammers and chisels, they began their work. It wasn’t long before they broke through the rock into an open space. Enlarging the hole, they saw behind it a cave which was about 15 feet in height and of about the same width. Crawling through, they finally were inside the actual mountain called “Moriah.”

Inside the Cave System

For almost two years, they had been tunneling underground, finding artifacts and uncovering exciting structures almost daily. But now, they were in a barren cavern that they would soon learn was only a very small part of a very extensive honeycomb of natural caves and tunnels within the mountain.

For almost a year, they explored this area, finding no evidence of any human presence. These natural tunnels were not all connected to each other, and they spent many hours chiseling through cave walls, searching for adjacent tunnels which they eventually found. But they found nothing else.

As 1981 came to an end, Ron and the boys took their winter holidays to come to Jerusalem and work. Even though it is cold there in the winter, the cave system was always a very comfortable and constant temperature, both in summer as well as winter. But the work was beginning to take a toll on all three of them. They all began to develop a fever and slight chills. The dust they had inhaled over the years in those confined tunnels perhaps contributed to their pneumonia-like symptoms. Finally, on Christmas eve, Ron had to send Ronny back to the US because he was so ill. Danny had to follow on New Year’s eve. Ron, too was sick but this was a very special trip.

The “Promise”

Ron had never heard God speak audibly – he just prayed about what he should do and then sometimes receives an “impression”. By now, he had been excavating for such a long time, he was beginning to wonder if he was wasting his time and had misinterpreted what he was supposed to do. He, as usual, prayed and asked to know what to do before he scheduled this December 1981 trip. This time, although he still heard no audible voice, in his mind came the promise that he would find the Ark of the Covenant on that trip. And he believed with all his heart that it was a true promise from the One Who could make such a promise and keep it. But things couldn’t have looked worse – Danny and Ronny were both very sick, and Ron was probably equally as sick but far more persistent (or stubborn) – he stayed to keep working. And alone without the boys, he needed some help.

When excavating over the years, he had hired locals to help, mostly with the above ground work, such as hauling off debris. Each time they opened their excavation and worked, they had to completely restore the above ground area before they left- this was a condition of their being allowed to continue. And they had moved tons of earth and debris over the years which required local assistance in hauling it off above ground.

He had met one young local whom he had discovered was very honest and trustworthy, and he began to use him in the actual excavation when Ronny and Danny weren’t available. Those of you who have read our account of the “Cave of Machpelah” excavation have already been introduced to this young Arab man, whom we called “James” to protect his and his family’s identity. His family owns the land which contains the burial cave in Hebron we believe to be the true Cave of Machpelah. In addition to earning Ron’s trust, “James” was small and slender – perfect for squeezing through the tight tunnels of the excavation. And it was “James” that Ron hired to assist him when Danny and Ronny left.

Exploring Every “Nook and Cranny”

Ron and the boys had explored most of the tunnels over the last year, but there were always more. Ron’s plan this trip was to leave no possibility unexplored. He and “James” crawled through the vast system of tunnels, now much larger and extensive because of the passages they had opened up and the walls they had chiseled through. Ron would decide where to go next and he and James would follow that tunnel. If and when they found a small opening, Ron would enlarge it enough for “James” to crawl through, and he would carefully check it out and report to Ron everything that he saw.

They followed one particularly difficult passageway which took them through a “chimney” which extended straight up and a tight tunnel which was so small that Ron had to exhale in order to squiggle through. He had to stop to take a breath and when he inhaled, the tunnel was so tight be couldn’t fill his lungs completely. When they got through, Ron saw a very small opening in the wall of the tunnel they were now in.

Directly in front of it was a stalactite about 16 inches long which almost appeared to be “guarding” the tiny hole. He knocked the stalactite off (and ended up bringing it home where we still have it today). Peering through the tiny hole, he could see nothing. So, he enlarged it enough to peer in. All he could see with the aid of his flashlight shining through the hole, was a chamber completely full of rocks (all larger than “fist” size) with about 18 inches of clearance between the rocks and the ceiling. It didn’t look promising at all, but he was leaving nothing unexplored. So he enlarged it enough for “James” to crawl through.

“What”s in There? What’s in There?”

Almost as soon as “James” crawled through the tiny opening, he frantically came tumbling back out, shaking and shouting “What’s in there? What’s in there? I’m not going back in there!!” Ron saw in his eyes sheer, complete and utter terror – yet, James said he had seen nothing! But whatever he experienced was real, for he left not only that chamber, but the entire cave system, never to return.

It was “James'” reaction which sparked the hesitant excitement in Ron – he would have never given that chamber another look if not for “James'” terror. Now alone in this vast cave system, he took his hammer and chisel and enlarged the hole, crawling through. With only about 18 inches clearance, he had to lie on his stomach with nothing but his flashlight in his hand for light. Expectant after what happened to “James”, he looked at his watch – it was 2:00 pm, Wednesday, January 6, 1982.

Shining his flashlight down through the massive pile of large rocks, his eye caught a glimpse of something shiny. He began slowly removing the rocks one at a time and discovered some dry-rotted wooden timbers just beneath the rocks, and then some also dry-rotted remains of animals skins that turned to powder when he moved them. The animals skins were covering a gold veneered table with a raised moulding around the side which consisted of an alternating pattern of a bell and a pomegranate. It only took him a moment to realize that at the least this WAS an object from the first temple! But he was in such a confined space, he couldn’t uncover the entire table. He later concluded, after closer examination, that this was the Table of Shewbread.

The Discovery of the Earthquake Crack in the Ceiling

With adrenaline flowing through his veins and great anticipation, he looked around to see what else he could see, which wasn’t much. He shined his flashlight around the open area and then up to the ceiling. There, he saw something that caught his eye – it was a crack in the ceiling with a black substance within the crack. Crawling slowly and painfully over the rocks to the rear of the chamber, he saw a stone case extending through the rocks. It had a flat stone top which was cracked completely in two and the smaller section was moved aside, creating an opening into the stone case. But the top was too near the ceiling for him to look inside. Yet he knew what was inside- the crack in the ceiling was directly above the cracked part of the lid, where it was open, and the black substance had fallen from the crack into the case because some of it had splashed onto the lid. It was at this time, as Ron recalls, as the instant realization of what had happened here dawned on him, that he passed out. When he realized that the crack in the ceiling was the end of the crack he had found in the elevated cross-hole many feet above him, and the black substance was blood which had fallen through the crack and into the stone case, he KNEW the Ark was in the stone case. But the most overwhelming realization was that Christ’s Blood had actually fallen onto the Mercy Seat.

When he came to, it was 2:45 pm. A mere 45 minutes had passed since he entered the chamber, yet in that short time, he became the first witness to the literal fulfillment of the “type” represented by all the sacrifices made by God’s people since Adam and Eve, and later specifically directed by God, Himself, in the laws of the sacrificial system. Now he knew why he and the boys had to do the last three years of excavation that he had sometimes felt was useless. If they had not found first, the cut-out niches, and then the elevated cross-hole with the earthquake crack, he would not have recognized what had happened here. And the promise Ron believed he had received HAD been fulfilled – he DID find the Ark of the Covenant on that trip. But he didn’t even lay eyes on it. And in his frustration and complaining, he received another VERY strong impression – “I only promised that you would FIND it. It will come out when the time is right.”

The condition of the chamber, completely full within 18 inches of the ceiling, made it impossible for Ron to do anything else. He could not foresee any possible way of bringing anything out unless the entrance to the chamber through which the objects were originally taken in was found. He climbed out the small hole, back through the tortuous series of tunnels and sealed the passageway with a stone. To anyone looking through the tunnel, it would appear that it came to an abrupt end. However, the rock could and would be easily removed by Ron when he returned.

Ron didn’t report his experience to anyone at that time. He needed time to think and it would be a long time before his mind quit whirring with everything he had experienced. He had expected to find the Ark and bring it out, but that now seemed impossible. He made several more trips into the chamber, and eventually reported to the authorities as to what he had found. Perhaps not able to believe what he had told them he had found, or perhaps recognizing the problems that this could cause if made known, his superiors told him not to tell anyone about his discovery. However, it was too late for that because Ron had already told a few people and he confessed this fact to them. Realizing that “what is done is done”, they then ordered him not to reveal any MORE details than he already had revealed. Therefore, from this point on, we cannot be as specific as we have to this point.

The time came when Ron provided something to the authorities from the excavation which DID convince them that he HAD at the least discovered SOME items from the first temple. Then a plan was devised by authorities to “test” the water so to speak- they wanted to carefully determine the public reaction should the announcement be made that the Ark of the Covenant HAD been discovered. The officials that Ron dealt with were serious government servants, concerned with the welfare of the people, and they realized that such an announcement would most likely set off a bloody clash between those who would want to immediately destroy the mosque on the temple mount to rebuild the temple, and the Arabs. While they did not necessarily have the religious belief that any temple would ever be rebuilt, they were well acquainted with the passion and fanaticism of those who did. Their efforts to test public reaction to the rebuilding of a new temple resulted in much bloodshed, and many deaths. Until this day, it is an extremely critical issue and the Israelis will, with great care, handle the situation the way they handle everything else – by a no-nonsense approach with the best interests of the people’s safety foremost. What that approach will be, we don’t know and perhaps even they won’t know until the time arrives.

Verifying that the Ark was in the Stone Case

Ron returned to the chamber on several occasions – one time he took a “Trinkle Drill” used by Orthopedic surgeons and a colonoscope used to look into the human body. He wanted to be sure the Ark was in that stone case. He tried to drill a small hole with the “Trinkle Drill” but it wouldn’t penetrate the stone. So he took his star-tipped stone chisel and hammer to accomplish the job. He would hammer the tip a little, then turn the bit, hammer then turn, over and over until he had an approximately 5/8″ hole into the stone case. The colonoscope is an optical device with a powerful light source which allows doctors to peer into the human body, and Ron had borrowed one from one of the doctors at the hospital he worked at. Inserting the colonoscope through the tiny hole, he guided it downward, rotating the lens until he saw what he recognized as the bottom of the crown-molding around the top of the Mercy Seat and then he saw the flat golden side. Since the colonoscope doesn’t allow viewing of a large area, and since he had little means to guide it other than a small latitude of rotation, he couldn’t see a great deal. But he saw enough to KNOW it was the Ark.

Measuring the Depth of the Earthquake Crack

On one trip, he had one of his helpers sit by the elevated cross-hole with the earthquake crack while he ran a metal tape measure through the crack in the ceiling of the chamber. It extended through to the cross-hole and when his helper grabbed it to show that it had come through, Ron noted that the crack extended through twenty feet of solid rock.

The Contents of the Chamber

During his several visits to the chamber, he tried to thoroughly explore the contents. He measured the chamber and found it to be 22 feet long by 12 feet on 2 sides, while the other 2 sides followed the line of the cliff-face, forming a chamber that narrowed down in one corner. The objects he saw in that chamber that he feels confident in identifying are: the Ark of the Covenant in the Stone case; the Table of Shewbread; the Golden Altar of Incense that was in front of the veil; the Golden Censer; the seven-branched Candlestick holder, (which didn’t have candles but had tiny, bowl-like golden oil lamps which are built into the tips of the candlestick); a very large sword; an Ephod; a Miter with an ivory pomegranate on the tip; a brass shekel weight; numerous oil lamps; and a brass ring which appeared to be for hanging a curtain or something similar.

There are more objects, but these are all Ron could positively identify. All of these objects were covered by the dry-rotted dark-colored animal skins, then dry-rotten wooden timbers on top of the skins, and finally the large rocks piled over everything.

Ron has explained basically how the Ark looked, which we won’t repeat here since we covered that in newsletter #4, which is also contained in our “Discoveries Volume”. The Tables of Stone are still within the Ark, under the Mercy Seat. On the back of the Ark is a small open cubicle which still contains the “Book of the Law” and is presumably the one Moses, himself, wrote. To the best of his knowledge, the Book of Genesis is not there- only Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy. The thing that amazed Ron was that these Scrolls, written on animal skins, are in perfect condition today.

1 thought on “The Ark of the Covenant Discovery”

Leave a Comment