QUEST FOR THE LOST ARK
120 mins - Channel Four / History
September Films - 2008
Two thousand years ago the Ark of the Covenant, once the most holy object on Earth, disappeared without trace. It’s loss has inspired a thousand quests - all have failed. In this feature length HD documentary we travel with the man who thinks he has found it - scholar Professor Tudor Parfitt.
His controversial theory of what the Ark really was and what happened to it takes us on an epic journey through the Middle East, Arabia and Africa. The discovery we make in a Harare Museum, in the middle of Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, could rewrite the history books.
Tudor firmly believes that the Ark was not a box-like container as depicted in Raiders of the Lost Ark but that it was in fact a tribal drum. He also believes that that drum was smuggled out of Jerusalem at the time of the Babylonian invasion and that over the centuries it was transported through Arabia down to Africa by a wandering Jewish tribe.
At first his theory sounds fantastical - except for two intriguing facts which we reveal in the documentary. Tudor has helped prove that the male members of a black african tribe, the Lemba, carry the DNA fingerprint of the Jewish priestly class. Furthermore that tribe once worshipped a sacred drum, the Ngoma, which bore remarkable similarities to stories of the Ark. The Ngoma was lost many generations ago but we track it down to the museum in Harare.
Working in Zimbabwe and the “bandit regions” of the Yemen as well as South Africa, Israel, Jordan and Egypt was extremely challenging on a six week schedule but I think we brought back a visually stunning and intellectually stimulating film. It certainly upset a few traditional biblical scholars, but what was really exciting was to be able to reunite the Lemba with their Ngoma. Whether it really is the Ark of the Covenant, and whether it can be kept out of the hands of Mugabe, remains to be seen.