Deborah Hurn | Patterns of Evidence
Summary: Numerous media reports have recently claimed the biblical city of Sodom was located north of the Dead Sea and destroyed by a ‘cosmic airburst’ from a meteor. Part 1 of this 2-part update examines these proposals more closely.
New Evidence for the Destruction of Sodom?
On September 20, 2021, the open access journal Scientific Reports published a paper by a team of twenty-one scientists led by Ted Bunch of Northern Arizona University. The paper is entitled “A Tunguska Sized Airburst Destroyed Tall el‑Hammam a Middle Bronze Age city in the Jordan Valley near the Dead Sea”. Tunguska in Siberia is where, in 1908, a massive blast flattened some 2000 square kilometers of uninhabited forest. No crater was discovered, so scientists explain the strange phenomenon as the result of a meteor explosion some 5-10 km above land.
Tall al-Hammam, the subject of the above paper, is a large city-mound on the eastern side of the southern Jordan Valley in the modern state of Jordan. Bunch and his coauthors make the case that the ancient town was destroyed in a cosmic airburst above the northern basin of the Dead Sea.
Intriguingly, the paper cites the Bible as possibly containing a written record of the destruction: “We consider whether oral traditions about the destruction of this urban city by a cosmic object might be the source of the written version of Sodom in Genesis.” This sensational proposal tying cosmic science to biblical history led to the paper being widely featured and discussed across many media outlets.
Since 2005, archeologist Steven Collins at Trinity Southwest University has been director of excavations at Tall al-Hammam. Within a few years, Collins was confidently identifying the tell as the biblical city of Sodom, and, by 2014, proposing its destruction by meteor.
According to the biblical narrative of Abraham’s life-story, God destroyed Sodom and three neighboring towns in a fiery cataclysm because of their godless lifestyle (Gen. 18:20-21; 19:24-25).