‘Temps as Hot as the Surface of the Sun’: Did Scientists Find Evidence of the Destruction of Biblical Sodom?

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Archaeologists believe they have found evidence of an explosion resulting from a low-altitude meteor strike that may have been responsible for destroying cities, villages, and farmland 3,700 years ago in an area located north of the Dead Sea. 

Science News reports archaeological evidence uncovered by a scientific team indicates a massive explosion took place over the region that was similar to one that struck a remote part of Russia more than a century ago.

A gigantic explosion occurred near Siberia’s Stony Tunguska River knocking over trees like matchsticks in the surrounding forest, covering a total area of 770 square miles (2,000 kilometers). Over the years, researchers have attributed the explosion to the air burst of a meteor three to six miles above the earth since no impact crater has ever been found.  The Tunguska event is the largest impact event on Earth in recorded history, according to Wikipedia. 

Although as not as big as the Tunguska event, the resulting explosion from the airburst in the Dead Sea region destroyed civilization in a 15.5-mile radius in an area known as Middle Ghor, according to Science News.  Archaeologist and director of scientific analysis at Jordan’s Tall el-Hammam Excavation Project Phillip J. Silvia told the magazine 40,000 to 65,000 people were killed instantly when the airburst of the meteor occurred. 

As an example of the extreme heat generated by the explosion, the glaze on recovered potsherds at the Bronze Age city of Tall el-Hammam show the region experienced high enough temperatures to convert them into glass.  The temperatures were “perhaps as hot as the surface of the sun,” Silva told the magazine.  Silva has been excavating Tall el-Hammam since 2005. 

It took 600 years after the event “to recover sufficiently from the soil destruction and contamination before civilization could again become established in the eastern Middle Ghor,” Silva and his team wrote in a paper they recently presented at a meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research in Denver, Colorado. 

But could this be the site of the biblical story of Sodom?  The Times of Israel reports a 2013 Biblical Archaeology Review article by TeHEP co-director Dr. Steven Collins, suggests the Tall el-Hammam site is a strong candidate for the biblical city of Sodom due to a multitude of factors. The location of the city, he believes corresponds to the biblical references of “ha-kikkar” or “the plain.”

In his article, Collins quotes Genesis 19:24–25:

“Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah — from the Lord out of the heavens. Thus He overthrew those cities and the entire plain, including all those living in the cities — and also the vegetation in the land.”

Collins writes he could see the massive destruction in the archaeological evidence recovered at the site.  

“The violent conflagration that ended occupation at Tall el-Hammam produced melted pottery, scorched foundation stones and several feet of ash and destruction debris churned into a dark gray matrix as if in a Cuisinart,” he noted.

In another co-authored paper, Silva and Collins wrote “The physical evidence from Tall el-Hammam and neighboring sites exhibit signs of a highly destructive concussive and thermal event that one might expect from what is described in Genesis 19.”

“The destruction not only of Tall el-Hammam (Sodom), but also its neighbors (Gomorrah and the other cities of the plain) was most likely caused by a meteoritic airburst event,” the authors conclude.

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