Ancient Apocalypse: Sodom and Gomorrah | Full History DocumentarySep 10, 2023
apocalypse. When an entire town is destroyed. Or destroy themselves. The end of civilization. For us today, as we go about our daily lives, it is hardly something we consider. We are so sure it couldn't happen to us. But for some civilizations... ...it already has been. The Bible. It is one of the most influential texts ever written. For millennia, it has shaped the lives of billions of people. It contains stories of great civilizations. Miraculous events. The word of God. Many people see them as parables about how to live their lives. But for some, these stories are historical truth.
Of all the events the Bible details, one remains shocking even today: the destruction of Sodom. According to the Bible, Sodom was one of the five cities of the plain. He was notable for his evil. The tradition is that the sin of Sodom was what the Bible describes as sexual perversity. Specifically homosexuality. But is this really true? In the biblical story, God appeared before Abraham and told him of his plan to destroy Sodom and the cities of the plain. For Abraham, it is a shocking revelation. His nephew Lot lived in Sodom. According to the Bible, Lot and his family were different from the other people who lived in Sodom.
They would be considered righteous people. Abraham begged God not to destroy the innocent and the guilty without distinction. God assured Abraham that he would save the city if just 10 decent people were there. And he devised a test of Sodom's hospitality toward strangers. The Bible specifically says that the sin of Sodom was arrogance, gluttony, and apathy. And specifically that they were not kind to the poor and needy. That it was the lack of hospitality, this general cruelty towards other people that made Sodom an evil city. God sends two angels disguised as travelers to meet Lot, who welcomes them and treats them well.
Lot passes the test of God's hospitality. But when news of the strangers' arrival spreads through Sodom, the city descends on Lot's house and demands that he hand them over. Immediately all the neighbors knock on the door saying: "Send these two men so we can meet them." And in biblical terms, that usually means sleeping with them. Lot says, "Of course not, you can stay with my daughters." They are virgins, you can do whatever you want with them. "But you can't have my guests." At that moment, God intervenes and says, "No, the test has failed." He is damning.
The angels allow Lot and his family to leave, but when they leave, God razes the city to the ground with the remaining inhabitants inside. It would have been absolutely terrifying. WOMAN: God destroyed them in a rain of fire and sulfur so terrible that no man could live on this earth. The destruction was so complete that the city was abandoned for 700 years. It is a profound punishment for the city's perceived sins. God sends these two angels to Sodom and the cities of the plain to test his hospitality, to see 'would they be welcome?' and they didn't pass that test.
So it's less a story about sexuality and more a story about hospitality. Hospitality was very important in the
ancientworld. Only after the rise of Christianity in the first centuries AD. changed his interpretation. Early Christian theologians shifted the story's focus from offering hospitality to creating a moral narrative condemning homosexuality. But does the story of destruction have any truth? We ask ourselves: did the city of Sodom really exist and would it be possible to locate its ruins? According to the
ancientwritings of the Bible, the Koran and the Torah, Sodom was supposedly part of what is known as the five cities of the plain.
They were located in southern Canaan, a large region that covered what is now Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Israel. Of the five cities, Sodom was the largest and therefore the epicenter of the plain. For centuries, archaeologists have tried to locate it. I think everyone loves a good lost city story, whether it's Atlantis or Sodom, it has that treasure hunter aspect to it. There is a mythology that confirms, a way of confirming the historicity of oral tradition. But if the story of Sodom is more than a simple myth as some believe, where did it take place? And how could archaeologists locate it?
Renowned biblical archaeologists Dr. Thomas Schaub and Walter Rast conduct studies at Bab edh-Dra. It is an ancient site southeast of the Dead Sea. Thomas Schaub and Walter Rast were actually highly respected archaeologists and scholars in this field. Both had a strong interest in biblical archeology and historical geography. In reality, Schaub was a priest and Walter Rast led many expeditions to the Dead Sea. As the two begin building, they discover four closer sites. Numeira, Safi, Feihfeh and Khanazir. For Schaub and Rast, the number of sites could be a crucial indicator in determining whether Bab edh-Dra is Sodom.
The Bible says that Sodom was one of the five cities of the plain. And if four other cities were discovered near Bab edh-Dra, the probability that Bab edh-Dra is the city of Sodom increases. The discovery of these five ancient sites very close to each other is key. And through excavations at Bab edh-Dra, archaeologists date the site to around 3300 BC. C. This is significant because some people think that the city of Sodom also existed at that time. And during excavations, the team discovers evidence that Bab edh-Dra was not only the largest of the five sites, but was also the location of a thriving community.
There were fortification walls around the city. Archaeologists were able to identify people's houses. Workshops. It would have been a place of some importance. For Schaub and Rast, it seems increasingly likely that Bab edh-Dra is Sodom. And when archaeologists examine the site more closely, they make a crucial discovery. There is evidence of widespread destruction. Archaeologists discovered piles of collapsed adobe bricks and also large piles of ash and charcoal. And the city walls had been destroyed by fire. At the second site, Numeira, Schaub and Rast reach similar findings. But the most surprising thing is that archaeologists find the skeletons of several people.
The bodies were buried under all this burned rubble. So these were people who had died and been crushed while they were still fresh corpses or while they were still alive. Some experts believe that Schaub and Rast's findings match the biblical description of the destruction of Sodom. Through fire and brimstone. There are those who think that Bab edh-Dra and Numeira are evidence of the destruction caused by an earthquake and catastrophic fires. That we have found our goal. The claim that the southern site of Bab edh-Dra could be the ancient city of Sodom is known as the Southern Theory.
But had biblical Sodom finally been discovered? Over the years, new evidence has emerged that casts doubt on the theory. When excavations were carried out at the other three sites, archaeologists discovered that there were no occupational structures. What they had found was a bunch of cemeteries. This is a place where people buried their dead. And radiocarbon dating of the two largest sites, Bab edh-Dra and Numeira, casts further doubt on the Southern Theory. These two cities were destroyed 2.5 centuries apart. There are 250 years between the destruction of Bab edh-Dra and Numeira. To match the biblical description, all of these sites should have been destroyed at the same time.
They don't fit the timing, so yeah, to me, it's two strikes and you're out. You don't need a third strike. The Southern Theory simply does not hold up. Did Sodom ever exist? If so, was it possible to find it? In 1996, archaeologist Dr. Steven Collins accepts the challenge. Having grown up in a Christian home, he has long been fascinated with the relationship between the Bible and scientific evidence. I had sort of worlds colliding in my head. And it was difficult to justify science, faith and belief together. Joining Dr. Collins in the search for Sodom is Dr. Philip Silvia.
An electrical engineer by profession, in recent years he has focused on the Bible and archaeology. I believe Sodom is the epitome in Scripture of God's judgment against sin in the world. It's the engineer in me. And the theologian in me understands that there must be a detectable trace of physical evidence that shows us what he did and how he did it, and that's what motivates me. The more Dr. Collins studied, the more he became convinced that the Bible could provide clues to the location of Sodom. And so when I look at the historical record, when I look at the biblical record, and it agrees with reality, it's worse with science, with archaeology, and I can't find any way to reverse it, so what's the assumption? do?
For Dr. Collins, the realization that Sodom and the cities of the plain may not be south of the Dead Sea came by chance in 1996. That summer, he leads a tour of sites in the Holy Land. While he plans an expedition to Bab edh-Dra and Numeira, he rereads the
historyof Sodom: something is wrong. In the Bible, before Lot moved to Sodom, he and his uncle Abraham said goodbye. At that time, the Bible places them somewhere between the settlements of Bethel and Ai. Northwest of the Dead Sea. From there you can see the entire Jordan plain. The Bible says, "Lot looked up, saw the water from the well flowing into the Jordan, and he went east and pitched his tent as far as Sodom." According to the Southern Theory, Sodom is southeast of the Dead Sea. 80 km from Bethel and Hai.
But if Abraham and Lot were in the north, in Bethel and Ai, they would not have been able to see so far. I got to the end and thought, "I don't see anything there" that would place Sodom to the south, "but everything would place it "north and east of the Dead Sea." How on earth? Could serious scholars place Sodom toward the southern end of the Dead Sea because if they are reading the same text as me, why aren't we seeing the same things? Collins delves deeper into the ancient text. His focus is on Identifying the Correct Location of the Jordan Plain.
Genesis 13: 10 says that Lot saw the plain of Jordan and that it was well watered like the garden of the Lord. So if you can find the plain of Jordan, you can find Sodom. After careful study, Collins finds a clue to the location of the plain of the Jordan. In the Hebrew language, the word for "plain" is "kikkar," which means "round." In the case of land, it would be a round, flat area of arable land. That is where we should look for Sodom and the cities of the plain Some archaeologists believe that the only area in Jordan that has a flat, circular, well-irrigated plain is north of the Dead Sea.
If you look at a very good topographic map, you will see a circular area, a kikkar, north of the Dead Sea. But for some, the use of the Bible as a geographical source should be approached with caution. We must be careful how we use biblical texts. We have to keep in mind that if this event occurred, another thousand years passed before it was written down. And then since it was written, it went through five, six, seven different languages before reaching us. So giving too much importance to one word is a bit dangerous. If we treat Sodom and the cities of the plain as a crime scene, then the Bible is a source.
We also have archaeological evidence, we have ancient maps, so we have to look at the whole thing like a puzzle. And you have to put each piece together to really capture what happened there. Proponents of this new northern theory are convinced that somewhere on this circular plain could be the biblical city of Sodom. Further evidence may be found in the oldest surviving map of biblical sites, the Madaba map. It dates back to the 6th century AD. and is located in the Byzantine Church of Saint George and Madaba, Jordan. We have to understand that the Byzantine period was the largest Holy Land tourism industry in
historyand that is why this map was on the floor of this church for the sole purpose of showing people where to go.
The map is incomplete but, most importantly, features a codename, Zoar. Along with Sodom, the Bible lists it as one of the five cities of the plain. Zoar is important because it was the only city on the plain that was not destroyed and was not destroyed according to the Bible because it was the city where Lot and his family escaped. The map does not show Sodom, but it does show somewhat further north of the Dead Sea. Partially intact representations of two cities. For Dr. Collins, they are key geographic markers. I have a suspicion that those two depictions of cities at the northern end of the Dead Sea are Sodom and Gomorrah.
But if the missing piece of the map is Sodom, where is it exactly? In 2005, Collins and his colleagues head to Jordan in search of hard evidence. And that scared me a little at first because I couldn't find any maps of archaeological sites made by anyone in America, Europe or Israel and it really bothered me. I said, "What might I find when I get there?" But then, at the American Center for Oriental Research, a breakthrough occurred. As the team studies maps and surveys, they stumble upon a book, "The Antiquities of the Jordan Rift Valley." On it is a map showing ancient sites in the region ofKikaar in Jordan, northeast of the Dead Sea.
The team put boots on the ground and began a process of elimination, hoping to identify the most likely site for Sodom. And what do we find? 14 important archaeological sites. Well, here was the problem. I was only looking for four or five places. Now I was 14. Some seem too small, too insignificant, or in the wrong period. Then we delete them. After a week of polls, only one candidate remained. Alto el-Hammam. It is located 13 kilometers northeast of the Dead Sea. The Bible had told me that Sodom should be the largest Bronze Age city on the northeast side of the Dead Sea.
Guess what? It was absolutely huge. How come people haven't put this on their radar? Why wasn't it on any map? After nearly a decade of investigation, Tall el-Hammam is Collins' prime suspect in Sodom. I was walking along the top of Tall el-Hammam and I grabbed a handful of sand and let it run through my fingers. And I said, "Someday you're going to tell me what you know." But to reveal the truth behind this ancient site, you need to start digging. On December 27, 2005, the team began excavation. Initial findings reveal a colossal site spanning an area of approximately 150 acres.
It is much larger than any other Bronze Age site in the region. I was surprised, I think especially by the size of the site. For me it was just an 'oh wow' moment. Since the site is larger than anyone had anticipated, Collins hires Dr. Leen Ritmeyer, a world-renowned archaeological architect, to map the site. I got a phone call from Dr. Steve Collins and he said, “Would you like to come to Jordan” and see my new dig site? "I think I found Sodom." I said, "Sodom? You must be stupid. It's quite impossible." He said, "Come and take a look." I said, "Okay, I'll go." This is the place and the architecture impressed me a lot.
So I was really interested in the site from an archaeological point of view. During the first seasons of excavations, the team unearthed 5 m thick fortified walls. And up to 12m high. They also found a palace, a temple and at least two squares and dozens of houses and streets. It all dates back to the middle period of the Bronze Age, when Sodom is believed to have existed. The fortifications from the Middle Bronze Age impressed me. We estimate that between 40 and 60 million adobe bricks were needed to manufacture the wall system. Obviously it was a highly centralized government that could develop such a project and complete it.
I have worked on many archaeological excavations. Never having seen a site as large as Tall el-Hammam... Approximately six times larger than the old city of Jerusalem. Crucially, the team discovers layers of ash everywhere. From half a meter to 2m thick. Evidence that Tall el-Hammam was destroyed. And they are convinced that it was destroyed in the middle of the Bronze Age. Mixed with that ash are pieces of ceramic that we can identify with that date from the Middle Bronze Age. Evidence indicates that the site was burned in 1700 BC. And as Dr. Silvia examines the layer of ash, the image of a great destructive event emerges.
Among the ruins, they found a large 180kg saddle mill that workers used to grind grain. It's called a saddle mill because you would basically straddle it as if you were riding a horse and then pass your mill back and forth like this to grind the grain. But for Dr. Silvia the position of the grinder does not make any sense. It literally flew off its earthen pedestal and fell sideways to the ground in a northeasterly direction. The team is intrigued by how such a large and heavy object could have been brought down. And it is not the only object.
On the other side of the site they discover artifacts and structures that landed in the same direction, apparently pushed by some catastrophic force. You find bits and pieces of pottery. Everything you can imagine is spread six, seven, eight meters wide on the ground to the northeast. So everything has this directionality. Everything inside is jumbled and
fullof ashes, pottery and broken mud bricks. And everything about it is catastrophic. The team has discovered evidence of a major destructive event that affected Tall el-Hammam. Dr. Collins calls it the Middle Bronze Destruction Event. What could have caused it? In 2011, the team makes a chilling discovery.
We began to find human bones, pieces of pelvis, pieces of knee. Piece of femur. One of them only existed from the middle of the femur down. Everything else is missing. And the place where the separation occurred is severely burned, it's almost as if they were burned. It appears that they were hit against one of the very thick walls and then fell to the ground, where they were covered in ash and material. These were not lovingly placed burials. They were people who ended up in these positions due to some type of violent event. In another section they find more evidence that the inhabitants were killed by intense force.
In the Middle Bronze Palace area, two skulls emerged. We have no lower jaw bones in either. One of us has the entire skull and it is destroyed. One has a piece of pelvis right here next to the skull fragments. They are literally torn to pieces. For Collins, the location of the skulls is key. We are 8 meters deep and one meter deep in the destruction matrix. There is no doubt, no doubt that these two individuals, these two skull fragments belong to the Middle Bronze Destruction Event itself. The body is just not designed to withstand that kind of force and it's both shocking and traumatic but on the other hand, as an engineer, as a scientist, it's absolutely fascinating.
The team believes they are getting closer to finding out what destroyed this city. But so far there is nothing conclusive to indicate that this could be the biblical Sodom. But the more they excavate, the clearer it becomes that this is a monumental site. Along the outside of the city, they discover the foundations of a much larger structure. A 3 m thick wall. We asked them to dig a little further to the east and I found the beginning of another wall coming out, the same type of brick. And since the other one was 3 m wide, I walked it.
But then I realized, we have here a huge tower extending from the city wall. Dr. Ritmeyer and the team have just found the ruins of a colossal gateway complex. 21 m wide and 14 m high with towers on each side and up to six chambers. The Tall el-Hammam team is slowly unearthing the secrets of a vast metropolis spanning an area of approximately 150 acres and an estimated population of up to 65,000. It had all the characteristics of a large urban center. With its palaces, its temples, its residential areas, its streets, its enormous fortifications, its satellite cities, its enormous agricultural areas that could be used.
He had everything to make it great. And this is what the Bible describes and this is what archeology confirms. If it fits the geographical clues in terms of location, it fits the time frame in terms of its occupation history. For me, I don't see what other conclusion can be reached. But if they want to convince the wider community that Tall el-Hammam is the biblical Sodom, then their work is far from over. I must say that the site is really interesting. It is the interpretation of the site that I find problematic. Much more work needs to be done before we can understand the site.
The site in context and its importance. But also what destroyed it. Whether Tall el-Hammam is Sodom or not remains to be seen, but what is clear from the team's findings is that a large and prosperous civilization once existed in this area. In Tall el-Hammam we obtained a very defined layout of the city. Then you have the lower city and the upper city. The lower city was where the common people were, and the upper city had its own separate defense system. It was a completely secluded area used by the King to have his palace and his royal officials.
The artifacts found at Tall el-Hammam have helped the team decipher how people lived during this era. Most of the houses are made of adobe. And the houses themselves are often multi-generational homes. You have quite a few rooms built around a central patio. They had an awning over them and there they made bread, where they roasted chickens or whatever they ate, and the women ground the flour. All of this happened in the patio. That was life in the house. We have a city that lasts 3000 years without any setback. Things pretty much run like a well-oiled machine. But then, according to the evidence, around 1700 BC.
C., during the Middle Bronze Age, the city of Tall el-Hammam was violently destroyed. What was behind his catastrophic disappearance? Could the answer provide a clue as to whether this is the original sin city? At the site, archaeologists have found evidence of burned walls and floors buried under piles of ash. Fragments of burnt pottery, as well as charred human remains that they believe were carried away by some concussive force. For them, the evidence coincides with the biblical account of the fire and brimstone that destroyed Sodom. But what could cause this? If you look at the evidence from Tall el-Hammam, it is reasonable to wonder if this is a consequence of a large volcanic event.
Was Tall el-Hammam destroyed by a volcano? In recent decades, experts have found evidence of an ancient volcanic lava flow in the hills northeast of the Dead Sea. While one-sixth of Jordan is covered in hardened lava, known as basalt. MAN: There is a lot of basaltic rock in that part of the Dead Sea. That is because that area is very geologically active. It has had volcanism for much of its history. But there is a problem with the theory. There is no volcano near the site of Tall el-Hammam. To generate volcanic activity, it is not necessary to have a triangular volcanic mountain that spits out a lot of lava or even a dormant volcano, what is needed is a heat source below the surface with molten rock and paths to the surface through which the heat is carried. it can come out, and that is what we call a volcanic system.
So you can have volcanic systems that are not invisible but are quite difficult to detect. Despite evidence of ancient lava flows in this region, many reject the idea that this is responsible for the site's destruction. There's just not enough material, you know? It would take a really significant amount of ash to actually cause a city to be abandoned. And from what we can see, there doesn't seem to be enough. But there is another natural phenomenon that could be to blame. Now, if someone had said to me, "Okay, I have the ruins of the city" and they have collapsed, "obviously the buildings have collapsed" and there is a lot of evidence that a fire has broken out. "I probably would have gone," That sounds to me like it's probably an earthquake." So what happens to the tectonic plates during an earthquake is that you have these two plates and they're moving, but at the boundary between the two, they're trapped, they're hooked, there's Friction and stress builds up.
It builds up and builds up until at some point, you can't take it anymore, and you just move, shift. And that generates a lot of energy, a lot of energy. friction or heat and noise. Those are the seismic waves that grow and that essentially is the earthquake. Could an earthquake have caused the ground to shift drastically and caused the collapse of Tall el-Hammam? So, when the fault line moves, it can move vertically or it can move horizontally, or it can move a combination of the two, and in the Dead Sea rift zone, it tends to be a combination of the two.
That's what shook the buildings, made them collapse, and maybe set off a chain reaction of fire, maybe there was a furnace going, the rest of the roofs in the city burned, and that's what happened. But for the Tall el-Hammam team, the evidence they found at the site suggests that an earthquake cannot be blamed. When there is an earthquake, the ground moves back and forth. We are in a north/south slip zone in the region around Tall el-Hammam, so when there are earthquakes there, things tend to move north and south. And so the walls tend to fall in both directions but all the material evidence that we're finding is pushed toward the northeast.
And only to the northeast. It is very unidirectional. Crucially, the team makes another discovery that suggests the site remained unoccupied for approximately 700 years during the Late Bronze Age period. In that region, one of our main means of telling time is through ceramic evidence. We simply do not have pottery in the region that covers the entire Late Bronze period. There are practically none. And the second thing you would look for is, is there any architecture? There was a brief building that we believe was a toll house or way station during that period that lasted perhaps a decade or two.
So, among the ceramics, among the architecture, there was no one at home. They simply emigrated. The team has discovered evidence of a prosperous city from the Middle Bronze Age,destroyed by a violent event, followed by a 700-year period in which the site remained largely abandoned. To them, the location of Tall el-Hammam and its scale indicate that it could be Sodom. But they are no closer to explaining the cause of their catastrophic disappearance. Then, in 2011, while excavating a section of the upper city, Dr. Collins' team made an extraordinary discovery. When the excavators in that plaza called me they told me: "You have to come see this." They found a piece of pottery in the middle layer of the Bronze Age.
Thousands of them are scattered throughout the site. But this piece is different. On the one hand, the fragment looks like normal Bronze Age pottery, but on the other, the surface is green and glass-like. It looks like one side is superficially melted, it's just slightly overlapping the edge. To Dr. Collins, it looks like a piece of glazed Islamic pottery. But this form of pottery was not produced until thousands of years after the destruction of Tall el-Hammam. Collins is intrigued by the find. The fragment appears to have traveled back in time from a later era. What makes a piece of glazed pottery here so deep?
Could you offer any clues as to the cause of the destruction of Tall el-Hammam? Collins takes the strange-looking piece of pottery for analysis at the U.S. Geological Survey Laboratory in New Mexico. When the results come in, they are literally out of this world. We now know from evidence that everything about this melted pottery shard surface is physically identical to trinitite. The word "trinitite" comes from the code name "Trinity" when the first detonation of a nuclear bomb occurred. The test took place on July 16, 1945 in the Jornada del Muerto Desert, New Mexico. When the Trinity bomb was detonated, it released the equivalent of 21,000 tons of TNT.
Actually, that's a little more than the nuclear bomb they dropped on Hiroshima in World War II. After the explosion, scientists noticed a strange substance all over the desert surface. When the bomb exploded, it sent out a huge fireball and that created a huge mushroom cloud, a huge avalanche and it took a huge load of sand in there and that basically melted because of the immense heat, and then it started raining again. towards the desert that cooled very quickly and then formed this glassy trinite. The molten glass-like surface of the sand is similar to that found on the Tall el-Hammam pottery fragment.
When analyzed further, experts discover something else. Zircon. Zircon is a natural mineral that can be found in rocks practically all over the world. When you look at zircon under a microscope, what you will see is a very regular, crystal-like structure with very sharp, serrated edges, basically. But the zircon inside this ceramic piece is different. This zircon was actually much softer, more tear-like. Experts conclude that the zircon in this fragment must have gone through an extreme process to create such a strange shape. It suggests that this zircon had been heated to a really high temperature, so that it even melted and then cooled very quickly, because otherwise you get the more regular looking zircon that usually takes thousands of years to cool.
The fragment must have been subjected to extreme heat for it to melt in this way. A normal fire will burn at a temperature of between 602,000 °C. However, for zircon to melt, we are talking about at least 4000°C. That's more than double that of the hottest fires. Now, the surface of the sun is about 4000°. So you're talking about temperatures equal to the surface of the sun. And as the excavation continues, the team unearths more and more ceramic pieces subjected to extreme heat. At every location we have excavated at the site, we have found indicators of these high heat events.
In each place we find fragments. What kind of thing could do that? From the evidence at this ancient site, we know there must have been incredible temperatures, much higher than a normal fire. And it created a substance very similar to trinite, but of course there were no nuclear bombs back then, so what could have caused this? Well, one possible option is a meteorite. Now, at our site, there is no crater in the ground that we can point to, look at, and say. "Ah-ha!" Here is the conclusive evidence that we had "some kind of astral body coming in and hitting us." We don't have that.
But meteorites don't need to impact to unleash their destructive power on Earth. Incredible concussive force and a burst of high-intensity heat can result from a rare cosmic phenomenon known as a meteor explosion. A midair explosion can occur when a meteor in Earth's atmosphere explodes in midair before hitting the ground. The ground damage caused by the explosion can be devastating. First of all, you have this really hot rock, the meteorite, in the air, which radiates heat that can set things on fire. Now when it explodes, you have the big shock wave, and that can also affect the temperature, so you can feel a surge of heat.
The amount of devastation you'll see really depends on the size of the rock. A bigger meteorite, more destruction. Airborne meteorite explosions are rare, but have occurred in recent history. In 1908, in a remote, uninhabited region of Siberia, a mid-air explosion is believed to have leveled an area larger than Los Angeles. One witness described the sky appearing to split and become covered in fire. It destroyed about 80 million trees. In the nearest town, about 60 kilometers away, residents could feel the heat of the explosion, windows shattered and buildings and some people even fell to the ground due to the force of the aerial blast.
It would have felt like the end of days. More recently, in 2013, cameras captured the moment an explosion exploded in mid-air over the southern Russian city of Chelyabinsk. 1,500 people were injured and thousands of buildings were damaged. The Tall el-Hammam team believes the evidence they found points to a mid-air explosion that left a trail of destruction in its wake. What we are seeing is a very large site where buildings were literally blown from their foundations. The artifacts, the pottery, the tools they used shatter and this basically vaporizes and incinerates everything in its path. And what we see is that all that ash and all that material is dragged in a northeast direction.
The only known source of the type of shock profile that we see in the evidence of the type of thermal profile that we are seeing is an airborne meteorite explosion. As for the 700-year gap in the occupation of Tall el-Hammam, Dr. Silvia claims that it is the direct result of the midair explosion exploding over the Dead Sea, just 13 km away. If an explosion occurs in the air over water, it will actually produce a tsunami effect in which a wave will be pushed across the landscape. There is a very high volume of now superheated brine Dead Sea water traveling with the explosion front;
Well, I think that 700 year gap is best explained by the poisoning of the soil with Dead Sea water that left a very high amount of salt concentration. The high salt content of the Dead Sea water may have left the land infertile for several centuries. It was impossible to grow grain, and if you can't grow grain, you can't support livestock, you can't support people, you just can't support a civilization coming back into the area. The science is clear, the analysis is clear. And the evidence is growing. I'm not saying we have it absolutely clear yet, but we know that all the indicators we have are consistent and explode.
For archaeologists, the destruction of Tall el-Hammam by a meteorite explosion offers a striking coincidence with the biblical destruction of Sodom. Fire and brimstone rained down from above, destroying the city and its people, leaving the surrounding region uninhabitable. But not everyone is convinced. A meteorite event is very rare. They happen but they are very rare. I think before we jump to conclusions and people can start to suggest that, more evidence is needed and I think that, in fact, an event like that would have a much broader signature and in the environmental record, so we need to look there.
Since 2005, Dr. Collins and his team have excavated at Tall el-Hammam. They have made a truly surprising find: the remains of a vast, prosperous metropolis northeast of the Dead Sea, which they believe matches the biblical description of Sodom. Crucially, for Collins, the discovery and analysis of the destruction of Tall el-Hammam provides a close match with the biblical account of the destruction of Sodom. People often ask me how sure I am that Tall el-Hamman is Sodom. For me it is very certain that there is no other possibility. You are in the right place, at exactly the right time, you have the right material, you have the right destruction event.
When Steve Collins first asked me to go to the dig and he told me that he thought this could be Sodom, I was very skeptical. I believe in the Bible, I think that's serious. But I don't dig with the Bible in hand, so to speak. The size, the location, the way Sodom was destroyed, and my own reading of the original text have now convinced me that Tall el-Hammam is Sodom. But the team still faces scrutiny from the broader archaeological community. We know that meteorites hit the Earth. Is this possible? Sure. Is this also a rather speculative search for a possible explanation that matches the Bible story to explain the destruction of what you want Sodom to be?
Yes, it looks like that too. Cynics want to suggest that the aerial explosion theory for the destruction of Tall el-Hammam is too spectacular, too space-age. But just because it's a one in a million chance doesn't mean it didn't happen. The team continues to search for evidence. To answer the question beyond a doubt, whether Tall el-Hammam is really the city of Sodom.
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