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Studies and Research
According to the Hebrew Bible, the Ark of the Covenant is a chest containing the Tablets of Stone on which the Ten Commandments were inscribed.
When the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and plundered the temple (586 BC), the Ark entered the domain of legend. Many historians suppose that the ark was probably taken away by Nebuchadnezzar and destroyed. The absence of the ark from the Second Temple was acknowledged.
In contrast to the general consensus of historians (that supposes that the Ark was taken away and destroyed), variant traditions about the ultimate fate of the Ark include the intentional concealing of the Ark under the Temple Mount, the removal of the Ark from Jerusalem in advance of the Babylonians (this variant usually ends up with the Ark in Ethiopia), the removal of the Ark by the Ethiopian prince Menelik I (purported son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba), removal by Jewish priests during the reign of Manasseh of Judah, possibly taken to a Jewish temple on Elephantine, the largest of the Aswan area islands in Egypt, and the miraculous removal of the Ark by divine intervention (Cf. 2 Chronicles).
Some believe that the Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle of the Lord was hidden. This is referenced by five separate sources:
The Ark is mentioned in one passage in 2 Maccabees 2:4-10, which contains a reference to a document saying that the prophet Jeremiah, "being warned of God," took the Ark, and the tabernacle, and the altar of incense, and buried them in a cave on Mount Nebo, informing those of his followers who wished to find the place that it should remain unknown "until the time that God should gather His people again together, and receive them unto mercy."
The first of the Dead Sea Scrolls was discovered in 1947, and the famed Copper Scroll - made of pure copper - was found at Qumran in 1952. The Copper Scroll is an inventory - written in Hebrew - of treasures, thought by some to be from Solomon's First Temple, hidden before the destruction of that temple by the Babylonians and treasures which have not been seen since. The Copper Scroll states that a silver chest, the vestments of the Cohen Gadol (Hebrew High Priest), gold and silver in great quantities, the Tabernacle (Hebrew Mishkan) of the Lord and many treasures were hidden in a desolate valley - under a hill - on its east side, forty stones deep. The Mishkan was a "portable" Temple for the Ark of the Covenant. The writings in the Copper Scroll were confirmed 40 years later in the 1990s through an ancient text found in the introduction to Emeq HaMelekh (Valley of the Kings) - a book published in 1648 in Amsterdam, Holland, by Rabbi Naftali Hertz Ben Ya’acov Elchanon (Rabbi Hertz).
In 1992 Rabbi Rachnael Steinberg with his student Rabbi Mendel Tropper discovered in Amsterdam, Holland the long lost writings called the Emeq HaMelekh (Mishnayot). Rabbi Naftali Hertz cited as his source the Massakhet Keilim, a Tosefta (addition) to the Talmud, which is not found in any modern Talmud today. According to the discoverer of the Emeq HaMelekh, Rabbi Steinberg, it describes the prophet Jeremiah, realizing that the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple was imminent, organized a heroic rescue operation. He commanded the King of Judah, King Josiah to hide the Ark of the Covenant, the bottle of Anointing Oil, Aaron’s Staff and the ‘Chest’ sent by the Philistines to Israel as “a gift to the God of Israel”.
In 1952 two large marble tablets were found in the basement of a museum in Beirut, and on them, written in bas relief, the entire missing text of Massakhet Keilim cited by Rabbi Hertz in his Emeq HaMelekh.
Work in the 1990s showed that in 1896, almost one hundred years previous, Solomon Schechter at Cambridge University in England had acquired 100,000 pages of ancient Hebrew texts from the Genizah (repository for aged sacred Jewish texts) of the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Cairo, Egypt. A copy of the Tosefta (supplement to the Mishnah) was found in these texts, included among the text on Massakhet Keilim. This Tosefta is the same text as cited by Rabbi Hertz in 1648.
Some have claimed to have discovered or have possession of the Ark.
In 1989, the late Ron Wyatt claimed to have broken into a chamber while digging underground beneath Mount Moriah, also known as The Temple Mount. He claimed to have seen the ark and taken photographs. All photos came out blurry (leading to skepticism of the claim). According to Wyatt the excavations were closed off (because of private property concerns) and, to the extent of knowledge, no one has seen the ark since. Ron Wyatt was widely seen in the Biblical archaeology community as an attention seeker, often announcing he had found Biblically important objects with little or no hard evidence to back up his claims.
Vendyl Jones claimed to have found the entrance to the chamber in the cave of the Column - Qumran. Here, he stated, is where the Ark was hidden prior to the destruction of the First Temple. Arutz Sheva (an israeli right wing religious radio station) quoted Jones stating he would reveal the ark on Tisha B'Av (August 14, 2005), the anniversary of the destruction of both the First and Second Temples. However, this did not occur. On Jones' website he states that he was misquoted and actually said it would be appropriate if he discovered the ark on Tisha B'Av. Jones is waiting for funding to explore the cave. 
Modern excavations near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem have found tunnels, but digging beneath the Temple Mount is somewhat restricted. One of the most important Islamic shrines, the Dome of the Rock, sits in the location where the First Temple of Solomon once stood. Archeologist Michael Rood states that King Solomon married into the Egyptian Royal Family so as to gain the Egyptians famed knowledge of sand hydraulic technology. King Solomon reportedly when building the temple put the Ark of the Covenant on a platform which could be lowered down into a tunnel system if the Temple was ever overrun. in 586 B.C. King Nebuchadnezzar's troops destroyed the temple and carried off the temple treasures but did not find the Ark of the Covenant which had been lowered into the cave system below and secreted away by Levite priests.
Some sources suggest that during the reign of King Manasseh (2 Chron 33) the Ark was smuggled from the temple by way of the Well of Souls (a natural cave located immediately beneath the Sakhrah in the Dome of the Rock) and taken to Egypt, eventually ending up in Ethiopia. There are some carvings on the Cathedral of Chartres (in Paris) that may refer to this. This theory was dramatized by George Lucas, Philip Kaufman and Lawrence Kasdan in their story and screenplay for the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark, which was directed by Steven Spielberg.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Axum, Ethiopia is the only one in the world which still claims to possess the Ark of the Covenant. According to the Kebra Nagast (an account written in Ge'ez of the origins of the Solomonic line of the Emperors of Ethiopia), after Menelik I had come to Jerusalem to visit his father, King Solomon, his father had given him a copy of the Ark, and had commanded the first-born sons of the elders of his kingdom to travel back to Ethiopia to settle there. However, these Israelites did not want to live away from the presence of the Ark, so they switched the copy with the original and smuggled the Ark out of the country; Menelik only learned that the original was with his group during the journey home. Solomon lost not only the Ark to his son by the Queen of Sheba but the divine favor that went with it. Although it was once paraded before the town once each year, the object is now kept under constant guard in a "treasury" near the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion, and only the head priest of the church is allowed to view it. Most Western historians are skeptical of this claim.
Andis Kaulins claims that the hiding place of the ark, said specifically by ancient sources (such as Massakhet Keilim), to be
Today, it is believed by some that this refers to the Tomb of Tutankhamun (east side of the Valley of Kings, ca. forty stones deep). Some believe that what was found there are the described treasures, including the Mishkan and the Ark of the Covenant.