It's apparently quite a popular story to "disprove doubting Atheists" regarding the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea by the Israelites during the Exodus of the Hebrew bible that in the late 1970s, archaeological evidence was found at the bottom of the Red Sea of a "chariot army."

I first saw it mentioned in this documentary trailer, then googled for more specific instances of the claim, and found this one, and a few others:

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Confirmation of the actual Exodus route has come from divers finding coral-encrusted bones and chariot remains in the Gulf of Aqaba


[C]arefully following the Biblical and historical records of the Exodus brings you to Nuweiba, a large beach in the Gulf of Aqaba, as Ron Wyatt discovered in 1978.

Repeated dives in depths ranging from 60 to 200 feet deep (18m to 60m), over a stretch of almost 2.5 km, has shown that the chariot parts are scattered across the sea bed. Artifacts found include wheels, chariot bodies as well as human and horse bones. Divers have located wreckage on the Saudi coastline opposite Nuweiba as well.

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The prose style seems quite typical of pseudo-scientific pro-"Christian" apologetic sites, so I'm naturally quite skeptical. What was actually found at these sites? Is there any (compelling, accepted) evidence that the artifacts are Egyptian in origin, and/or date to the supposed time of the Hebrew Exodus?

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    The Exodus story is almost certainly mythical which would make a "chariot army" — if it existed — supporting evidence for something that didn't happen.
    – msw
    Jul 29 '15 at 5:18
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    What are the elements of the "prose style seems quite typical of pseudo-scientific pro-"Christian" apologetic sites"? I'm confused by this statement. What are you seeing there that I am not?
    – fredsbend
    Jul 29 '15 at 15:35
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    @fredsbend: The particular mixture of specifics (e.g. "2.5km") mixed with absolutely vague claims (e.g. "carefully following Biblical and historical records" [which are widely known to be incomplete, vague, and/or subject to interpretation]), along with an air of authority without any attempt to establish credentials.
    – Flimzy
    Jul 29 '15 at 15:57
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    @msw: That the Exodus story is considered a myth is predicated on the lack of evidence. If this evidence was genuine, the theory would have to be reconsidered. We can't reject evidence on the grounds it doesn't match our theories.
    – Oddthinking
    Jul 30 '15 at 2:02
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    @Oddthinking It is predicated on the specific lack of evidence everywhere which we expect to find it. That puts it in an epistemological category different from "we have lack of evidence" into "phlogiston theory". If you have a theory for which no empirical consequents obtain, each further falsified prediction actually does reduce the validity of the theory. This is elementary confirmation theory, and was the paradox that I noted for its amusement value. I would have expected you to be more familiar with the domain.
    – msw
    Jul 30 '15 at 6:36

Ron Wyatt (1933-1999) was a nurse-anesthetist in a hospital in Madison, Tennessee. His claim of finding 'Wheels from Egyptian Chariots involved in the pursuit of the Israelites from Egypt' has been debunked thoroughly by professional archaeologists and respected biblical scholars. Most professional archaeologists have found so many discrepancies in Wyatt's claims that they do not appear to take him seriously at all.

Several disputes are made against the claim of chariot army at the bottom of the Red sea by Wyatt per 'Holy Relics or Revelation – Recent Astounding Archaeological Claims Evaluated by Standish, Russell R. and Colin D. Standish, 1999'. This book by the Standish Brothers meticulously examines in detail all of Wyatt's claims to serve as a benchmark upon which Ron Wyatt's "discoveries" can be more carefully evaluated.

  1. "First, the site of the Exodus route, as described in Exodus 14:1, is highly disputed. The three specific sites mentioned in Moses’ record “have been lost in the sands of time” (Bruckner, James. 2008. Exodus 129). No one knows the precise place of the crossing. Conservative scholarship strongly argues that Israel crossed the Gulf of Suez (Vow, Howard. 2003. Wycliffe Historical Geography of Bible Lands – Revised), and not the Gulf of Aqaba, as Wyatt contended.'

  2. "Second, Wyatt claimed that he was using simple recreational scuba equipment when he discovered these wheels, etc., at a depth of some 200 feet in the Gulf. However, ordinary scuba apparatus is designed to accommodate only a depth of approximately 125-130 feet. Beyond this, more sophisticated equipment is required."

  3. "Third, Pharaoh’s army was said to have been destroyed “in the middle of the sea” (Exodus 14:23) which, according to measurements of the British Admiralty, is almost 2,800 feet deep in the midst of Aqaba. This hardly harmonizes with Wyatt’s 200 feet “discoveries”!"

  4. "Then there is the issue of the “bones” — of both horses and men — that Wyatt reputedly found. Recall that the destruction of Pharaoh’s army took place about 3,500 years ago. Compare this with the following facts. The Titanic went down in 1912 and 1,553 people were lost in the wreckage. In 1985, 73 years following that Atlantic catastrophe, the submerged vessel was discovered and explored. Specially designed underwater TV and video equipment was employed; in addition, more than 53,000 photos were taken. The remains of not a solitary person — neither skin nor bone — was found. Everything had been completely consumed by fish, crustaceans, and the destructive effect of salt water."

There is no undersea footage of the “gilded wheel” in the film but merely a digital “reconstruction” of a photograph taken by Wyatt in the 1970s. Neither does Wyatt's original photo provide clear evidence as to whether the small piece of coral seen on the wheel simply was placed there or not and no independent peer-reviewed examination by archaeologists and other specialists (to see if they were merely coral formations) was ever conducted and published for the claim of chariot army found at the bottom of the Red sea. "But aside from that, there are the obvious logic problems: If it was a chariot wheel, how would one know it was Egyptian? If Egyptian, how would one know it was related to the Exodus event? And if it was from that event, didn’t anyone notice the incongruity of the sea floor not being littered with these wheels?"

Further detailed claims of Wyatt are critically examined here, here and here and his profile can be found here.

On August 8, 1996, Joe Zias, Curator of Anthropology/Archaeology with the Israel Antiquities Authority (Jerusalem), issued the following statement:

Mr. Ron Wyatt is neither an archaeologist nor has he ever carried out a legally licensed excavation in Israel or Jerusalem. In order to excavate one must have at least a BA in archaeology which he does not possess despite his claims to the contrary. We are aware of his claims which border on the absurd as they have no scientific basis whatsoever nor have they ever been published in a professional journal. They fall into the category of trash which one finds in tabloids such as the National Enquirer, Sun, etc. It’s amazing that anyone would believe them…

  • 3
    Only point four really actually makes a point against the claim. I think a bigger point not mentioned is why did he leave it all there and not grab a single specimen?
    – fredsbend
    Jul 29 '15 at 15:40
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    The majority of this answer appears to be an ad hominem attack against the "researcher". Discrediting his credentials is likely valuable, but addressing the alleged "evidence" directly would make for a better answer.
    – Flimzy
    Jul 30 '15 at 14:48
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    @Flimzy how is it an ad hominem attack? In particular, each of the four points presented dispute Wyatt's claims without attacking him.
    – Rob Watts
    Jul 31 '15 at 2:43
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    @RobWatts: Perhaps I should not have said "majority." But a good portion--the entire first and final paragraphs. But much of the rest is pretty shaky, too (not to defend Wyatt's "work"). Point #2 casts a small amount of doubt on the claim, but hardly disproves it, since we don't the full circumstances. And #1 and #3 are arguments based on Biblical interpretation, not scientific fact. I must agree with fredsbend that #4 is the only one that really addresses the claim directly.
    – Flimzy
    Jul 31 '15 at 3:41
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    That no bones were found at the site of the Titanic, does not mean they cannot be found on other underwater sites. The preservation of objects under water has much to do with the temperature of the water and the geology of the site. The Tudor ship the Marie Rose, for instance, was quickly covered in very fine silt and consequently human bones, leather shoes, textiles and even food were recovered from the wreck. May 7 '16 at 15:54

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