Mount Ararat (see below details on names) is a snow-capped, dormant volcanic cone in Kurdistan. It has two peaks: Greater Ararat (the tallest peak in Kurdistan, and the entire Armenian plateau with an elevation of 5,137 m/16,854 ft) and Lesser Ararat (with an elevation of 3,896 m/12,782 ft).
Mount Ararat in Judeo-Christian tradition is associated with the “Mountains of Ararat” where according to the book of Genesis, Noah’s ark came to rest. It also plays a significant role in Armenian nationalism and irredentism.
Kurds call it the Ciyaye Agiri (Mountain of Fire), a reference to its volcanic activity.
Ararat is a stratovolcano, formed of lava flows and pyroclastic ejecta, with no volcanic crater. Above the height of 4,100 m (13,451 ft), the mountain mostly consists of igneous rocks covered by an ice cap. A smaller 3,896 m (12,782 ft) cone, Little Ararat, rises from the same base, southeast of the main peak. The lava plateau stretches out between the two pinnacles. The bases of these two mountains is approximately 1,000 km2 (386 sq mi). The formation of Ararat is hard to retrieve geologically, but the type of vulcanism and the position of the volcano raise the idea that subduction relation vulcanism occurred when the Tethys Ocean closed during the Neogene.
It is not known when the last eruption of Ararat occurred; there are no historic or recent observations of large-scale activity recorded. It seems that Ararat was active in the 3rd millennium BC; under the pyroclastic flows, artifacts from the early Bronze Age and remains of human bodies have been found.
However, it is known that Ararat was shaken by a large earthquake in July 1840, the effects of which were largest in the neighborhood of the Ahora Gorge (a northeast trending chasm that drops 1,825 metres (5,988 ft) from the top of the mountain). An unstable part of the northern slope collapsed and a chapel, a monastery, and a village were covered by rubble. According to some sources, Ararat erupted then as well, albeit under the ground water level.
Mount Ararat has been the subject of search attempts to recover Noah’s Ark. In the 1950s, the Frenchman De Navarre claimed to have found a piece of wood from the ark, but subsequent scientific dating showed it to be too recent. Another famous searcher for the ark on Mount Ararat was astronaut James Irwin, who walked on the moon in 1971. The story of Noah’s Ark on Mount Ararat is an important feature of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
The name “Ararat” for the peak derives from the tradition linking it with the Biblical Mountains of Ararat where Noah’s Ark came to rest after the great flood (Genesis 8:4).
The identification of Mount Ararat with these biblical mountains is ancient, entering Western Christianity with in the 4th century with Jerome’s reading of Josephus. The Vulgata renders the Hebrew hārəy Ǎrārāṭ as montes Armeniae.
In eastern tradition (Syriac and Quranic), the biblical mountains are associated with Mount Judi in what is now northwestern Iran. But by the medieval period, the western tradition appears to have eclipsed the earlier association with Mount Judi even in Eastern Christianity, and the Mount Judi tradition is now mostly confined to the Islamic view of Noah.