A meteorite wiped out Sodom

An ancient civilisation, wiped out by a meteor 3500 years ago near the Dead Sea has been identified with Sodom an ancient city mentioned in the Bible. “A cosmic airburst destroyed Tall el-Hammam, a Middle-Bronze-Age city in the southern Jordan Valley northeast of the Dead Sea” according to a study by US archeologists working with the Department of Antiquities of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in Nature’s Scientific Reports. “Regarding this proposed airburst, an eyewitness description of this 3600-year-old catastrophic event may have been passed down as an oral tradition that eventually became the written biblical account about the destruction of Sodom. There are no known ancient writings or books of the Bible, other than Genesis, that describe what could be construed as the destruction of a city by an airburst/impact event.”

This excavation, which started in 2006, produced unusual finds. “In addition to the usual debris patterns typical of ancient cities destroyed by warfare and earthquakes, the excavations of the final phase of the MB II [Middle Bronze Age] stratum revealed highly unusual materials: pottery sherds with outer surfaces melted into glass, some bubbled as if ‘boiled’; melted and ‘bubbled’ mudbrick fragments; partially-melted roofing clay (with wattle impressions); and melted building plaster. These suggest that the city’s destruction was associated with some unknown high-temperature event.

“The ~ 1.5-m-thick MB II destruction matrix also exhibited rare properties not found in the strata above or below it.”

They also describe “A city-wide ~ 1.5-m-thick carbon-and-ash-rich destruction layer … Heating experiments indicate temperatures exceeded 2000 °C. Amid city-side devastation, the airburst demolished 12+ m of the 4-to-5-story palace complex and the massive 4m-thick mudbrick rampart… An airburst-related influx of salt … caused a ~ 300–600-year-long abandonment of  120 regional settlements.”

The scientists point to the 1908  blast near Siberia’s Stony Tunguska River that flattened some 2,000 square kilometers of uninhabited taiga forestry, as an example of what happened near the Dead Sea. There was no crater in Siberia and a meteor explosion some 5-10 km above land. The Nature report details how the archeologists compared the excavated material with the effects of Tunguska explosion and other air blasts including the Trinity nuclear test in New Mexico in 1945.

In Genesis 13:12 we are told Abraham’s nephew Lot settled in the “cities of the plain” near the Dead Sea, one of which was Sodom. In the middle bronze age, “there were roughly 50,000 people living in the area of the Jordan Valley in three cities: Tell el-Hammam, Jericho, and Tell Nimrin, with Tell el-Hammam the biggest of the three, implying that until its destruction, it would have been the political center of the area,” according to a report in The Jerusalem Post 

Lot’s family flees Sodom which is destroyed by God. “Then the Lord rained down fire and burning sulfur from the sky” (Genesis 19:24 NLT). Several reasons are given for this destruction, most famously in Ezekiel and Jude.:

  • “‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.  They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen. (Ezekiel 16:49-50 NIV).
  • “In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.” (Jude 1: 7)

The dating of the destruction at Tall el-Hammam – 3500 years ago – matches the scholarly consensus about the Biblical patriarchs who also are held to have lived in the early Middle Bronze Age.