When Robert Cargill got word this week that a group of Chinese evangelicals had uncovered Noah's Ark atop a Turkish mountain, the archaeologist's reaction was a familiar one.
"I thought, here we go again -- another fake 'ark-eologist,' " says Cargill, an adjunct assistant professor of Near Eastern languages and cultures at UCLA.
His skepticism may prove well founded: A former member of the joint team from Noah's Ark Ministries International and Media Evangelism Ltd. that announced the find has circulated an e-mail suggesting that the discovery might have been staged. And if that's the case, it would be just the latest in a series of hoaxes surrounding the much-searched-for vessel.
Indeed, it was word of two previous ark expeditions that helped prompt the American Schools of Oriental Research, the leading professional organization of American Middle Eastern archaeologists, to take action.
Fed up with the exposure these types of stories were getting in the media, the group last year launched a committee tasked with taking aim at archaeological frauds.
"We really just decided that it was time to take back our field," says Eric Cline, a George Washington University archaeologist. He and Cargill co-chair the committee, whose membership also includes the Archaeological Institute of America and the Society of Biblical Literature.