An explosion more powerful than Tunguska may have devastated the ancient city
The explosion would have been larger than the Tunguska event, on the order of a thousand times more powerful than Hiroshima. It may also explain this strange gap in the history of the Near East, called the Late Bronze Age Gap. The study’s authors also believe that this is physical evidence of a cataclysm that became the source of the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah.
For perhaps thousands of years there had been a city named Tall el-Hamaam, on the plains just northeast of the Dead Sea. âTallâ is an Arabic word for âhillâ, meaning âa city on a hillâ. It was more than just a city; it was the fortified urban core of a city-state that came into being nearly seven thousand years ago and has thrived uninterruptedly for three millennia in a row. It was bigger than Jerusalem or Jericho, and it was a metropolis in the classic sense. There was a four-story palace, a temple, a ring road (we call these ring roads when we build them now) and thirty-meter-thick walls with defensive towers. Outside the city fortifications, there was an urban sprawl. But everyone left the area all at once after the destruction of Tall el-Hamaam in ~ 1650 BCE. The mass abandonment included Jericho, which was destroyed and set on fire around the same time. Normally, people rebuilt after their cities were razed to the ground, but this time they packed their bags and left for good.
The destruction at Tall el-Hamaam (TeH on the map above) was complete and terrible. The buildings were sheared at ground level, their mud bricks turned into gravel or melted into bubbling moss. Bubbles of molten salted salt melted on the surface of the paving stones. Molten titanium and iridium splashed onto the pottery and tiles, the outer surfaces of which bubbled like boiling caramel, then vitrified into greenish soda-lime glass. Do you know how hot it must be to make clay foam and bubbles like overflowing spaghetti? Hotter than it takes to bake the clay. Hotter than necessary to destroy stoneware by cooking it in melted slag. The material has to be almost a free flowing liquid to create bubble structures like these.
No stone was left standing on top of another, except for a few masonry courses in the shadow of the impact, northeast of the homonymous central hill of Tall el-Hamaam. Most of the debris, in fact, lies along the same axis, pointing southwest to northeast. Even the pottery shards are blown in lines that all point in the same direction. It took fifteen years of excavation and detailed work down to electron microscope level, but ultimately the authors conclude that it was caused by an aerial explosion, caused by an impactor that shattered at an altitude only a few kilometers above the plains of Jordan, southwest of Tall el-Hamaam. To create the melting conditions observed at the site, the authors argue, it would have taken an apocalyptic thermal explosion that lasted nearly thirty seconds, followed by a pressure wave sufficient to produce the shock quartz encrusted in the tiny droplets of glass permeating the debris. The wood and vegetation were first charred and then dynamited into diamond fragments. The splashes and balls of molten metal closely match the makeup of a chondritic meteorite, or perhaps a comet. Taken together, they suggest the impactor was an aggregate of metal-rich ice and rock, perhaps sixty meters long.
When we found the remains of reindeer and shepherds killed by the Tunguska event, they were horribly burned, but not literally reduced to centimeter-sized pieces. This is why the authors specifically believe that this explosion was larger than Tunguska. The human toll was unimaginable. It is estimated that 90 percent of the victims here were simply destroyed beyond recognition. There were bare, charred bones splashed with molten tin, silver, and glass. There are pulverized bone fragments, too numerous to count and too small to identify, buried among the broken bricks and charcoal debris. Further on, skeletons were buried in various states of disarticulation and dismemberment. A skeleton was found buried in a squatting position with the hands on its face, like some skeletons in Pompeii.
These scholars position the destruction of TeH as a source of the biblical story of Sodom because the story is terribly specific. The Bible paints a grim picture of annihilation by fire and brimstone, a burning stone thrown from heaven by an angry god who turned all life into salt and ruin, sparing not even a single blade of grass .
The specific call of salt, in conjunction with a terrible burning boulder thrown from the sky into a city that no longer existed when the Bible was written, is the unifying element here. There are discarded molten salt balls and a thick layer of salt-laden ash sometimes more than half the salt by weight covering the TeH ruins, but the soil above and below contains less than 1% salt. An explosion of the Order of Tunguska would have literally salted the land with hypersaline water and caustic sediment dredged out of the Dead Sea.
This is also consistent with where Genesis mentions the destroyed vegetation. An explosion of this magnitude would have completely charred all plant matter. Additionally, salting the earth to the levels found in the Tall el-Hamaam blast site would have prevented any freshwater plants from germinating there for centuries, until the salinity was finally washed away. According to archaeological records, humans did not return to this region for 300 to 700 years.
Archaeologists are always very careful when relating real-world places they discover to any form of spiritual or cultural knowledge that has been passed down to us over thousands of years. That said, we also know that the stories passed down through oral traditions prior to the written word can maintain narrative integrity for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Tall el-Hamaam’s geological and archaeological records tell a story of cataclysmic devastation that may have shaped Middle Eastern history for centuries. He left a scar in human history and literally rubbed the wound with salt.
Note: This study presented an absolute barrage of data. It’s like a hell of a game but with sixty pages of high density archeology. If you are interested in the smallest details, of which there are many, see the free and open access article published in Nature Scientific Reports.