A new, major scientific study shows evidence a cosmic airburst destroyed a middle-Bronze-Age city around 1650 BC that may have inspired or could be evidence for the biblical tale of God’s destruction of Sodom.
A new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature presented evidence of a cosmic airburst in the Dead Sea area, one that could have inspired or may be evidence for the biblical tale of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
The years-long study was undertaken by a multi-disciplinary team of scientists at Jordan’s Tall el-Hammam Excavation Project, the Times of Israel reports.
The study found evidence that an ancient civilization in Tall el-Hammam, a city in the southern Jordan Valley northeast of the Dead Sea, was completely destroyed by a cosmic airburst. This settlement in the southern Levant was roughly 10 times larger than Jerusalem and 5 times larger than Jericho at the time, Sci-Tech Daily reports.
According to the researchers, the proposed airburst was larger than the one that occurred over Tunguska, Russia, in 1908. That explosion is said to have released 1,000 times more energy than the Hiroshima atomic bomb.
Temperatures in the Dead Sea area airburst exceeded 2000 degrees Celsius (3632 Fahrenheit). The energy pulverized bricks, leaving almost no whole mud bricks visible anywhere while demolishing over twelve meters of the 4-to-5 five-story Palace complex with its massive four-meter-thick, mud-brick rampart.
The researchers found pottery and bricks that melted at extremely high temperatures, as well as diamond-like carbon and quartz which can only be formed at both high temperatures and high pressure. Additionally, there was evidence of minerals that melted at temperatures exceeding 2500 degrees Celsius (4500 degrees Fahrenheit).
Evidence of melted metals was also found, such as tiny iron- and silica-rich spherules through soil and sediments from the critical layer.
Like the biblical story, the airburst created an influx of salt, which in turn inhibited agriculture and caused approximately a 300-600 year abandonment of over 120 regional settlements within a 25-kilometer radius.
Human bones and fragments tend to suggest that people were going about their daily business and were caught completely by surprise when the event occurred.
In ruling out other factors, the researchers looked at other possible causes for the devastation of the area including war, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes. However, in the final conclusion, only a meteor airburst could conclusively account for all of the finds in the area.
In the Bible, in the book of Genesis, the Scriptures say the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were so sinful that God decided to destroy them (Genesis 18:20-32, 19:1-29) by stones raining down from the skies, i.e. fire and brimstone. There is also a similar account in the Qurʾān (11:74–83 and 29:28–35), although the cities are not mentioned by name, according to Britannica.
As Lot and his family are fleeing the city, his wife is told not to look back, she does and is turned into a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:12-29).
In other parts of the Bible (besides Genesis), the sin of Sodom is linked with oppression, murder, theft, adultery, idolatry, power abuses, oppression of the poor, pride, and mocking behavior (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Zephaniah). Some also argue that Sodom’s sin wasn’t as much homosexuality as it was gang rape, but not all hold that view. The act of sodomy is named after this city.
There are two main arguments against this find at the city of Tall el-Hammam actually being the city of Sodom, which critics say both the location and dating of the event are problematic in trying to fit this into the biblical narrative.
The researchers of the published study said whether or not this is the biblical city of Sodom was beyond the scope of their investigation
However, some archaeologists believe the Tall el-Hammam site is a strong candidate for the biblical city of Sodom due to a multitude of factors, citing the discovered disaster itself and its precise location.