The Ark of the Covenant is an artifact associated with Jewish, Islamic, and Christian faiths. Depending on the source, the Ark holds the Ten Commandments, a staff that once became a snake, a portion of the Torah, and more.
After the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem in the 6th Century B.C.E., the Ark of the Covenant disappeared from religious records. Where did it go? Here are seven incredible, conspiracy-minded theories.
1. The Tomb of King Tut A 1922 picture of the early excavation of the tomb of Tutankhamun shows an object, the Anubis Shrine, fits the description of the Ark of the Covenant. Shortly after photographs of the excavation spread, a small group of archaeologists to claim the artifact is indeed the Ark.
After inspecting the artifact, however, the dimensions of the Anubis Shrine do not match the purported dimensions of the Ark of the Covenant as described in religious texts.
2. A hidden room at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres in France An extremely well preserved 12th Century cathedral, Chartres Cathedral is best known for the two unusual spires straddle the building and reach a height of over 340 feet.
In the book Mysteries of Chartres Cathedral, Louis Charpentier suggests Templars found the Ark of the Covenant during the Crusades and placed the Ark within the cathedral for safe keeping. The current caretakers of the Chartres Cathedral do not make any claims to possession of the Ark of the Covenant.
3. An unmarked cave in Modern Jordan TIn an account written within the second book of Maccabees, an account of Jewish history during the Babylonian captivity written in Greek during the 2nd Century B.C.E., suggests the Ark narrowly survived the Babylonian siege.
According to 2 Maccabees, the prophet Jeremiah hid the Ark and several other key objects in a cave within a mountain in Jordan prior to the Babylonian siege, hoping to protect the artifacts forever.
4. One of 64 Locations designated in the Dead Sea ScrollsAmongst the Dead Sea Scrolls unearthed in the late 1940s, archaeologists found one scroll featuring writing along a thin piece of copper scroll.
When translated, the scroll cites sixty-four locations containing treasures of gold and silver. One of these locations could lead to the Ark of the Covenant.
5. Held in South Africa by the Lemba Tribe The Lemba reside in South Africa, particularly Zimbabwe, and claim to be the “lost” tribe of Israel. A 1999 DNA survey links the Lemba to priestly families in Israel, lending a small amount of evidence to this claim. The Lemba treat their Ark in accordance to the religious tenets prescribed for the Ark, carrying it on poles and avoiding contact with the chest.
Currently, a replica of the Ark of the Covenant is held at the Museum of Human Science in Zimbabwe, with the Lemba claiming the 700 year-old replica is created from the core of the original Ark of the Covenant.
6. An Ethiopian Orthodox Church The Chapel of the Tablet at the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion in Axum, a city in Northern Ethiopia, claims to have the Ark of the Covenant. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church places copies of the Ark within every affiliate church in Ethiopia.
The tale by which the Ark reached Northern Ethiopia is interesting, as the church believes Menelik, the child of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, absconded the true Ark of the Covenant in the 13th Century B.C.E. and took the Ark to Ethiopia, leaving a clever fake in its place.
7. On the bottom of Lake Tiberias Lake Tiberias, also known as the Sea of Galiliee, is thought by a group of Shia Muslims to be the current resting place of the Ark of the Covenant.
One Shia sect of Islam puts credence in a Hadith (these are most commonly sayings attributed to Mohammed or commentary on something he did) that states the Ark of the Covenant will rise from Lake Tiberias. There is catch, however — the Ark will only be discovered after the rise of Mahdi, who will rule the Earth for a disputed time period prior to the Day of Judgement.
8. A government storage facility This hiding place lacks substantial evidence, but the idea that the Ark of the Covenant is held in a nondescript crate deep in a government warehouse snuck into popular culture thanks to the Indiana Jones series and the nature of shows like Warehouse 13.
Is one of history’s most sacred objects tucked away anonymously in an unknown government location? No evidence supports this resting place, but it makes for a fantastic plot point.