- Tudor Parfitt, from Porth in South Wales, thought he had solved the mystery that had eluded all others.
In his new book, The Lost Ark of the Covenant, the 63-year-old reveals the moment he tracked down what he thought was the ark.
His search had taken him from Wales to London, the Middle East, Africa and Papua New Guinea.
Finally, he was faced with a collection of dusty artefacts in a store room in Victoria Museum, Harare, Zimbabwe.
A hunch about an ngoma (a wooden drum used to hold holy objects) discovered by Swedish missionary Harold Von Sicard had led him there. The ngoma had been photographed in the Museum of Southern Rhodesia in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, 60 years ago, only to vanish some time after 1949.
But there it was.
He said: "I felt a shiver down my spine. Without a shadow of a doubt this was the Von Sicard ngoma. Everything in the room suddenly took on a hard-edged radiance.
"A strange sanctity seemed to shine from it. The ngoma was not covered in sheets of fine gold. There were shattered remnants of rings on each corner, through which carrying poles would have been thrust.
"There is no better description of the object that stood before me than in the Biblical passage from the Book of Exodus."