The Ark of the Covenant is probably buried somewhere deep in the hidden catacombs under Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, says a leading Israeli archeologist.

The biblical ark was a wooden box containing the two tablets of the Ten Commandments given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai.

“If somebody will ever find the Ark of the Covenant, it will be me,” Dan Bahat told about 50 people yesterday at Sackville’s Faith Baptist Church.

Bahat blames Steven Spielberg’s 1981 Indiana Jones adventure, Raiders of the Lost Ark, for making people curious about the relic’s whereabouts.

“As a matter of fact, the whole story of the Ark of the Covenant started after the film Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark; before, you didn’t hear so much about it,” said the Bar Ilan University professor who is on a tour of Canada sponsored by the Israeli government.

Bahat, a father of four, said his search for the ark has been nothing like that of the movie archeologist Indiana Jones.

“Harrison Ford did it beautifully,” he said. “But I must tell you one thing. I never jumped out of running cars, I never went into a dungeon full of poisonous snakes, and I never fought Nazi Germans.”

Three major world religions — Muslims, Jews and Christians — revere Temple Mount, which is thought to be where Abraham offered to sacrifice his son to God. Later, Solomon built a temple over the same spot, to house the sacred Ark of the Covenant and the stone tablets setting out the Ten Commandments, the very ones Moses had brought down from Mount Sinai.

Bahat suspects the relic may still be hidden “in an enormous subterranean structure” inside Temple Mount.

“If there is a place where you could hide the Ark of the Covenant, it is this cave,” said Bahat, who has been excavating tunnels along the Western or Wailing Wall, a massive remainder of the wall around the last Jewish temple.

Ethiopian Christians, however, believe the ark resides in their country.

The Bible says the Queen of Sheba visited King Solomon. Most scholars say she came from present-day Yemen. But Ethiopian legend maintains she was from that country and gave birth to Solomon’s son, Menelik. This tradition says that when Menelik visited Solomon, his aides stole the ark and brought it home. It is said to be held under strictest secrecy in the town of Axum.

Bahat discounts that version of events. “It is nonsense,” he said. “There is no reason whatsoever why it would be in Ethiopia.”

clambie@hfxnews.ca