Published: 27 December 2021

Is Tall el-Hammam Sodom?

Tall el-Hammam
Tall el-Hammam (Sodom)

In the previous blog post and accompanying video, we compared the area of Tall el-Hammam with the Bible’s description of the location of Sodom. As a candidate for the ruins of Sodom, Tall el-Hammam definitely meets the Bible’s geographical criteria. If Tall el-Hammam is Sodom, the artifacts from the excavations should also be consistent with the Bible’s description. What have archeologists discovered at Tall el-Hammam?

Size and architecture

The Bible describes Sodom as a fortified city based on the fact that it had a gate. 

The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed himself with his face to the earth (Gen. 19:1 ESV)

Dr. Steven Collins has unearthed a large gate complex set in the Middle Bronze age walls at Tall el-Hammam. According to Dr. Collins, the gate at Tall el-Hammam is unique in that it is the only pillared gate ever found in either Israel or Jordan.[1]Collins, Steven. “Discovering Sodom Brings Historical Credibility to Bible.” May 7, 2015, YouTube video, 48:57, https://youtu.be/svG2-uZEZjk?t=864. Concerning this gate, Dr. Leen Ritmeyer, who is an archeological architect, has created this drawing showing what the Sodom gate complex may have looked like.

“During the excavations of Tall el-Hammam in 2013, a large gatehouse with pillars was found behind the main entrance to the Middle Bronze Age city. This reconstruction drawing shows what the main gate of Tall el-Hammam would have looked like. As the excavator of this archaeological site has identified Tall el-Hammam with Sodom, it appears that this was the gate mentioned in Genesis 19.1, where we read the Lot sat in the Gate of Sodom. The drawing shows a right angled pathway through the gatehouse with a space at the side where the elders and judges of the city congregated.”[2]https://www.ritmeyer.com/product/image-library/buildings/gates/sodom-gate-tall-el-hammam/

At the time of Abraham, the portion of the city enclosed by walls was an area of 85 acres. In comparison, during the same time period, Jerusalem was only 12 acres in size.[3]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tall_el-Hammam#Middle_Bronze_Age_city When the Bible mentions Sodom in a list with its neighbor cities, Sodom is always mentioned first. This suggests it was the largest and principal city of the region. Tall el-Hammam is the largest archeological site in the plain of the Jordan Valley. It dwarfs the next largest ruin in the area (Tall Kafrein – Gomorrah). This is consistent with other city lists in the Bible; the larger is usually named first. For example, Bethel and Ai; Bethel was the larger of the two cities.[4]https://www.ritmeyer.com/2015/05/12/sodom-and-gomorrah/

Occupation gap

The archeological team excavating at Tall el-Hammam has found a 500-700 year gap in human occupation at the site. What this means is that following some cataclysmic event in the Middle Bronze age, the site was not occupied by humans for another 500-700 years.[5]Collins, Steven. “The Search for Sodom & Gomorrah.” July 31, 2009, YouTube video, 9:50, https://youtu.be/R4Ui_MbDzMQ?t=406. The same has been observed at nearby Tall Kafrein (Gomorrah), Tall Nimrin (Admah), and other middle bronze age settlements in the vicinity.  

In fact, evidence from all of the excavated sites in the area tells the same story. The cities were all occupied continuously for 3000 years prior to their destruction.[6]Bunch, Ted E., Malcolm A. LeCompte, A. Victor Adedeji, James H. Wittke, T. David Burleigh, Robert E. Hermes, Charles Mooney, et al. A Tunguska Sized Airburst Destroyed Tall El-Hammam a Middle Bronze … Continue reading They were all destroyed abruptly – at the same time – and not occupied again for centuries. Research has shown that the “extended occupational hiatus was caused by top-soil depletion and sub-soil contamination with Dead Sea salts. The return of civilization to the area had to wait 6-7 centuries, until the soil recovered sufficiently to again support agriculture.”[7]Silvia, P. J. “The Civilization-Ending 3.7KYrBP Event: Archaeological Data, Sample Analysis, and Biblical Implications.” 80th Annual Meeting of the Meteoritical Society, (July 1, 2017): 4. This sudden destruction occurred in the Middle Bronze age; the time period in which Abraham lived.

Devastating destruction

The Bible says that Sodom and the other cities of the plain were destroyed from above.

24 Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the LORD out of heaven. 25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. (Gen. 19:24–25 ESV)

Analysis of the findings at Tall el-Hammam shows that the city was not destroyed by warfare. The evidence shows that all of the cities of the plain were destroyed by a meteorite airburst. This is a meteor burning up in the atmosphere which explodes incinerating everything beneath it. In such an event, the meteor itself disintegrates and may not leave a crater. 

“[T]he excavations of the final phase of the MB II 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. Sherds from thousands of different pottery vessels were randomly intermixed and distributed throughout the depth of the matrix along with mudbrick fragments, objects of daily life, carbonized pieces of wooden beams, charred grain, bones, and limestone cobbles burned to a chalk-like consistency. At the very least, the nature of the MB II destruction matrix is highly unusual and atypical of archaeological strata throughout the ancient Near East.”[8]Bunch, Ted E., Malcolm A. LeCompte, A. Victor Adedeji, James H. Wittke, T. David Burleigh, Robert E. Hermes, Charles Mooney, et al. A Tunguska Sized Airburst Destroyed Tall El-Hammam a Middle Bronze … Continue reading

Big shooting stars

These airbursts happen daily; we call them “shooting stars.” Of course, shooting stars are too small to be of concern. Only the larger meteors have the potential to cause damage. In 2013, a meteor exploded over Chelyabinsk in Russia resulting in injuries and property damage. In the affected areas in Russia, the shock wave blew out windows, knocked down walls, and witnesses reported a blinding light and some even felt intense heat from the explosion.[9]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chelyabinsk_meteor Here is a link to an ABC news report showing video of the event. 

The airburst which destroyed Tall el-Hammam and the other cities of the plain was much larger and much lower to the ground.[10]Bunch, Ted E., Malcolm A. LeCompte, A. Victor Adedeji, James H. Wittke, T. David Burleigh, Robert E. Hermes, Charles Mooney, et al. ‘A Tunguska Sized Airburst Destroyed Tall El-Hammam a Middle … Continue reading The explosion destroyed the cities and their inhabitants in a horrific way. Dr. Collins has discovered human bone fragments at Tall el-Hammam which were blown to bits and scattered all over the city.

“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.”[11]Collins, Steven. “Where Is Sodom?” Biblical Archaeology Review 39, no. 2 (2013) 33–38, 40–41, 70.

Human bones in the destruction layer. (a) Photo of a disarticulated skull found near the palace on the ring road around the upper tall. The right eye socket has been crushed (orange arrow). Skull is embedded in pulverized mudbrick containing numerous charcoal fragments (yellow circles) and is stained with ash commonly found in the destruction layer (blue arrow). The orange tint of the skull suggests it was exposed to temperatures > 200 °C. (b) Rear view of the same skull in panel ‘a’ (blue arrow) near the second skull (purple arrow) and numerous disarticulated, fragmented human bones (orange arrows). Charcoal fragments at yellow circles. (c) Lower torso from the ring road of lower tall (orange arrows), and other disarticulated bones. Bones show evidence of being burned (red arrows); the rest of the skeleton is dismembered and disarticulated. Hyper-flexed toes (purple arrow) are consistent with either perimortem or postmortem exposure to high temperatures.[12]Bunch, Ted E., Malcolm A. LeCompte, A. Victor Adedeji, James H. Wittke, T. David Burleigh, Robert E. Hermes, Charles Mooney, et al. “A Tunguska Sized Airburst Destroyed Tall El-Hammam a Middle … Continue reading

The evidence suggests that the atmospheric shockwave caused by the explosion also pushed a wall of salt water from the Dead Sea ahead of it. This explains the high salt content found in soil samples which prevented agriculture in the area for hundreds of years.

Is Tall el-Hammam Sodom?

Let’s review the facts. Tall el-Hammam is in the right place to be Sodom. The Bible implies that Sodom was the largest city in the area and as it turns out, Tall el-Hammam is the largest ruin in the area. Fire from the sky destroyed Tall el-Hammam and all of the cities of the plain just as fire from heaven (Gen 19:24) destroyed Sodom and its sister cities. 

Conclusion

If one believes in the accuracy and Divine inspiration of the Bible, locating Sodom at the southern end of the Dead Sea is not an option. The Bible clearly locates Sodom at the northern end of the Dead Sea. Is it just coincidence that the destruction of the cities north of the Dead Sea happened just as the Bible describes the fiery destruction of the cities of the plain? Tall el-Hammam is in the right place to be Sodom. It contains the right stuff to be Sodom. Its destruction happened at roughly the right time to be Sodom. Just coincidences? 

References

References
1 Collins, Steven. “Discovering Sodom Brings Historical Credibility to Bible.” May 7, 2015, YouTube video, 48:57, https://youtu.be/svG2-uZEZjk?t=864.
2 https://www.ritmeyer.com/product/image-library/buildings/gates/sodom-gate-tall-el-hammam/
3 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tall_el-Hammam#Middle_Bronze_Age_city
4 https://www.ritmeyer.com/2015/05/12/sodom-and-gomorrah/
5 Collins, Steven. “The Search for Sodom & Gomorrah.” July 31, 2009, YouTube video, 9:50, https://youtu.be/R4Ui_MbDzMQ?t=406.
6 Bunch, Ted E., Malcolm A. LeCompte, A. Victor Adedeji, James H. Wittke, T. David Burleigh, Robert E. Hermes, Charles Mooney, et al. A Tunguska Sized Airburst Destroyed Tall El-Hammam a Middle Bronze Age City in the Jordan Valley near the Dead Sea. Scientific Reports 11, no. 1 (September 20, 2021): 18632.
7 Silvia, P. J. “The Civilization-Ending 3.7KYrBP Event: Archaeological Data, Sample Analysis, and Biblical Implications.” 80th Annual Meeting of the Meteoritical Society, (July 1, 2017): 4.
8 Bunch, Ted E., Malcolm A. LeCompte, A. Victor Adedeji, James H. Wittke, T. David Burleigh, Robert E. Hermes, Charles Mooney, et al. A Tunguska Sized Airburst Destroyed Tall El-Hammam a Middle Bronze Age City in the Jordan Valley near the Dead Sea. Scientific Reports 11, no. 1 (September 20, 2021) 18632.
9 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chelyabinsk_meteor
10 Bunch, Ted E., Malcolm A. LeCompte, A. Victor Adedeji, James H. Wittke, T. David Burleigh, Robert E. Hermes, Charles Mooney, et al. ‘A Tunguska Sized Airburst Destroyed Tall El-Hammam a Middle Bronze Age City in the Jordan Valley near the Dead Sea.’ Scientific Reports 11, no. 1 (September 20, 2021): 18632.
11 Collins, Steven. “Where Is Sodom?” Biblical Archaeology Review 39, no. 2 (2013) 33–38, 40–41, 70.
12 Bunch, Ted E., Malcolm A. LeCompte, A. Victor Adedeji, James H. Wittke, T. David Burleigh, Robert E. Hermes, Charles Mooney, et al. “A Tunguska Sized Airburst Destroyed Tall El-Hammam a Middle Bronze Age City in the Jordan Valley near the Dead Sea.” Scientific Reports 11, no. 1 (September 20, 2021): 18632.