Sodom Is In the News
The long-lost city of Sodom is a hot topic right now. Last week alone there were dozens of news reports with headlines like:
- “Biblical city of Sodom ‘found in Jordan” (The Independent)
- “City of Sodom Discovered: Archeological find gives insight into story of destruction” (Fox News)
- “Incredible: Researchers Just Revealed They May Have FINALLY Found This ‘Monstrous’ Biblical City” (Western Journalism)
But Where’s the Evidence?
Some news sites are presenting the evidence better than others. Yet some, like the Washington Post, seem to avoid listing any evidence at all, offering a hasty conclusion instead: “Of course, while the reality of this city is not in doubt, there is little evidence that it’s actually biblical Sodom.” Sifting through the articles, it can be difficult to understand just what the actual evidence is. So here I do my best to summarize all of the top evidence for Tall el-Hammam being the long-lost biblical city of Sodom.
Top 12 Reasons Sodom is Tall el-Hammam
In 2013 I was fortunate to enroll in a graduate level class from the lead archaeologist running the excavation, Dr. Steve Collins. Here is his top evidence Sodom is Tall el-Hammam compiled from my notes. All of this info can be found on Dr. Collins’ website, particularly here and here, or in his book Discovering the City of Sodom.
#1. There’s evidence the men at the site practiced the kidnapping and raping of young boys.
The biblical text says:
“Now before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.” (Gen. 19:4-5)
Dr. Collins has found Minoan pottery at his site indicating a possible Sodom/Minoan connection. While the research is ongoing, this may provide startling insight into what was going on. The historian Strabo said the Minoan culture had a custom where older men would abduct young boys and rape them as a type of right-of-passage (Strabo’s Geography, 10.4.21). In Dr. Collins’ own words:
“Each boy, at age 12, was taken as an eromenos (“beloved”) by a 22-year-old erastes (“lover”) to be raised for 8 years in a male-male sexual bond. It was usually initiated with a ceremonial kidnapping performed by a gang of ritual abductors sent by the older male. The practice was formalized and ubiquitous across Minoan culture. Boys couldn’t be considered properly-trained male citizens unless they submitted to this process.” (April 22, 2013 TEH Update Newsletter, emphasis added)
#2. A meteor air burst explosion completely decimated the city that’s buried there.
Above: Actual video still of much smaller air burst event over Russia in 2013.
There is convincing evidence that a significant air burst event destroyed the city. Trinitite was discovered on the back of a pottery shard. A zircon bubble which can only form under extreme temperature was also found. There’s typically nothing to burn at a gate area, yet its gate area is covered with half meter of thick black, dark ash. Scattered human bones throughout the site suggest people were literally blown apart from the event.
This event was similar to the one which occurred in Russia recently in February, 2013. If the meteor over Russia has been just ten percent larger and in a straighter trajectory it would have probably killed a million people or more, producing an air burst more in line with the Siberian Tunguska airburst in 1908 which produced an explosion 1,000 times stronger than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
#3. This air burst could have created a vortex similar to what’s described in the Bible.
A meteor causing a significant air burst can be traveling so fast and pierce the atmosphere at such great speed that it can actually create a vortex—a vacuum like effect where surface matter is sucked up into the atmosphere and then “rained” back down below. Such a huge column of debris ash, dirt and smoke would be able to be seen for miles.
This is consistent with the account in Genesis where it says,
“Then the Lord rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the Lord out of the heavens… And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord. Then he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain; and he saw, and behold, the smoke of the land which went up like the smoke of a furnace.” (Gen. 19:24, 27-28)
#4. It could also explain the strange “pillar of salt” verse.
An air burst event might also explain the turning of Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt. The Bible says Lot’s wife “looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.” (Gen. 19:26)
As they made their escape they would have been walking along shore of Dead Sea which is one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world. The “look back” was probably more than just a quick glance but a deep longing to return. It’s quite possible she stopped while the others continued; perhaps she began walking back alone. Either way, when the air burst event happened, it brought 6-8000 degrees kelvin. If it splashed water it would cover the entire landscape with an encrustation of salt. Because of the extremely high temperature anybody along the shore, including Lot’s wife, would be dead in an instant, completely encased in salt.
#5. Sodom must have been the largest city in the area and Dr. Collins’ site is by far the largest.
Two reasons can be given why Sodom must have been the largest of the “cities of the plain” from the biblical text: it is the only city mentioned by itself and the king of Sodom seemed to be the spokesperson for all the others (Gen. 14:17-24).
At a whopping 100 acres, Tall el-Hammam is the largest ancient city in the area. For comparison Jericho is 10 acres. Jerusalem during the Bronze Age was 10 acres. In fact, Tall el-Hammam held the title as the largest city for 2,200 years. It’s amazing that it had gone unnoticed until recently.
#6. Genesis implies that Sodom had a wall for protection and this site has an impressive one.
Genesis 19:1 says “Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom.” The mention of a gate means it had a wall system. It’s wall would be consistent with being the largest city in the region (see previous point). The excavation at Tall el-Hammam shows that the city had an impressive fortified, sophisticated wall system. The upper rampart was made entirely of mud bricks up to 8 meters thick at top and up to 35 or 40 meters thick at bottom. It took 60-90 million mud bricks to build. What’s even more extraordinary is that every other rampart system in Levant is made up of packed dirt.
#7. The city is located in what looks like the “disc” of the Jordan.
Genesis 13:10-12 says:
“And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain [kikkar] of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere (before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar. Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east. And they separated from each other. Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom.”
In Hebrew, there are four words for “plain” and this is not one of them. The word used is kikkar and literally means “disc” or “circle.” Over 50 times it refers to talent of metal, a circular, ring-like disc. Or it refers to a circular, flat loaf of bread like a pita. The area where Dr. Collins’ site is located actually looks like a disc.
In addition, the biblical text implies that Lot was able to lift his eyes and view the entire disc of the Jordan all at once (Gen. 13:10). If a person is standing on the west looking eastward towards Tall el-Hammam towards the east, they can see the entire disc shaped area of the kikkar just as Lot did, with Sodom on the other end.
#8. Sodom & Gomorrah needs to be found in good agricultural land.
The biblical text says that when lot chose his land, he “lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere (before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar.” (Gen. 13:10) Wherever Sodom was located, it needs to be in an area that was well watered. Dr. Collins site is actually in the very best agricultural land in the region.
#9. Sodom & Gomorrah need to be east of Bethel & Ai and Tall el-Hammam is.
Genesis 13 says Abraham and Lot were staying in the area of Bethel and Ai when they decided to part ways. Bethel and Ai are about 12 miles north of Jerusalem. From this area, it says, “And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain [kikkar, disc] of Jordan.” (Gen 13:10). Lot chose the land of the Jordan his eyes could see. From Bethel/Ai he “journeyed east” (v. 11) “even as far as Sodom” (v. 12). This precisely describes how to arrive at Tall el-Hammam today: start at Bethel/Ai and travel east to eastern end of the kikkar disc.
#10. Sodom & Gomorrah cannot be on the south end of the Dead Sea.
As the previous point says, Genesis 13:10-12 repeatedly mentions the kikkar of the Jordan. Well there is no Jordan south of the Dead Sea. So we can rule out all of those sites in the south.
#11. Other surrounding cities can be located.
The Bible seems to describe the cities Sodom / Gomorrah and Admah / Zeboiim in pairs or “doublets.” (Gen 10:19; Gen 14:8; Deut. 29:23) These Transjordan cities always seem to be listed from south to north. This is because coming from Egypt would be coming up from the south heading north on the east side of the Dead Sea. They would then enter the kikkar and hit Sodom first. Dr. Collins says from south to north the order fits perfectly:
“Sodom (largest city), short distance to Gomorrah (satellite of Sodom), longer distance to Admah (second largest city), short distance to Zeboiim (two towns in close proximity). This reflects the logic that Sodom and Gomorrah would be very close together, as would Admah and Zeboiim. But because they’re coupled into two “doublets,” it follows that there was a larger distance between the doublets than between the main cities and their satellites.” (Source)
As for the names of these surrounding excavations, they are:
“Tall el-Hammam (biggest city, fortified), short distance north to Tall Kefrein (small town), longer distance NNE to Tall Nimrin (big city, fortified), short distance ENE to Tall Mustah and Tall Bleibel (two small towns in extremely close proximity—split only by the Wadi Nimrin).” (Source)
#12. People seemed to be very spooked by what happened.
This city was very large and in an ideal location. Yet the city remained abandoned for 700 years following its destruction. People thought the area was cursed. As a case in point, there’s no mention of any people living in this area at the time of the Exodus which is surprising for what was once the largest city in an ideal, lush location. No doubt they would have been spooked from the air burst event.