Tunguska-sized impact destroyed Jordan Valley town 3,670 years ago
Archaeologists have found evidence that in 1650 BCE (Middle Bronze Age) a cosmic explosion destroyed Tall el-Hammam, an ancient walled city in the Jordan Valley near the northern end of the Dead Sea. An eyewitness description of this catastrophic event – which was more significant than the 1908 explosion over Tunguska in Siberia – may have been passed down as an oral tradition that ultimately became the written biblical account of the destruction of Sodom.
The ruins of Tall el-Hammam (a mound of ancient ruins is called ‘tel’ in Hebrew and ‘tell’ or ‘tall’ in Arabic) are located in a part of the Great Rift Valley known as Middle Ghor, defined as the southern end of the valley between Lake Galilee, Israel, and the Dead Sea.
The site contains the layered remains of a fortified urban center, now known as the largest permanently occupied Bronze Age city in the southern Levant.
More than just a city, Tall el-Hammam comprised the urban core of a city-state that thrived continuously for 3,000 years during the Chalcolithic Period and the Bronze Age from 4700 BCE. until its destruction in 1650 BC.
Tall el-Hammam has been the subject of an ongoing debate over whether this could be the biblical city of Sodom, one of the two Old Testament Book of Genesis cities that were destroyed. by God because of the wickedness that they and their inhabitants had become. .
An inhabitant, Lot, is saved by two angels who ask him not to look back when they run away. Lot’s wife, however, lingers and is transformed into a pillar of salt.
Meanwhile, fire and brimstone fell from the sky; several towns were destroyed; thick smoke rose from the fires; the townspeople have been killed and the region’s cultures have been destroyed in what looks like eyewitness testimony to a cosmic impact event. It’s a good connection to make.
“All of the observations set out in Genesis are consistent with a cosmic aerial explosion, but there is no scientific evidence that this destroyed city is indeed Old Testament Sodom,” said Professor James Kennett, researcher in the Department. of Earth Sciences and the Institute of Ocean Sciences. at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
“However, the catastrophe could have generated an oral tradition which could have served as inspiration for the written account of the book of Genesis, as well as the biblical account of the burning of Jericho in the book of Joshua of the Old Testament. “
The extensive and ongoing excavations at Tall el-Hammam have continued for fifteen consecutive seasons since 2006, involving principal researchers assisted by graduate and doctoral students and a large number of volunteers from North and South America, Europe. , Africa, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. , and the Middle East.
Excavations of the final phase of the Middle Bronze Age II strata have revealed some very unusual materials.
In addition to the usual debris patterns typical of ancient cities destroyed by war and earthquakes, archaeologists have found pottery shards with outer surfaces melted into glass, some bubbling as if they were “boiled”; fragments of raw bricks melted and “bubbled”; partially melted roof clay (with acacia impressions); and melted construction plaster.
These suggest that the destruction of Tall el-Hammam was associated with an unknown high temperature event.
“There is evidence of a large cosmic explosion near this town called Tall el-Hammam, an explosion similar to the Tunguska event, an aerial explosion of about 12 megatons that occurred in 1908, when a 56-60 m meteor pierced the Earth’s atmosphere over the eastern Siberian taiga, ”Professor Kennett said.
The shock of the explosion above Tall el-Hammam was enough to level the city, flattening the palace, surrounding walls and mud brick structures, and the distribution of bones indicated “extreme disarticulation and fragmentation. of the skeleton in nearby humans “.
“We have seen evidence of temperatures above 2,000 degrees Celsius (3,632 degrees Fahrenheit),” Professor Kennett said.
For the researchers, further evidence of the explosion was found by performing many types of analyzes on soil and critical layer sediments.
Tiny spherules rich in iron and silica appeared in their analysis, as did molten metals.
“I think one of the main discoveries is shocked quartz,” explained Professor Kennett.
“These are grains of sand containing cracks that only form under very high pressure.”
The aerial explosion may also explain the abnormally high concentrations of salt found in the destruction layer – an average of 4% in sediment and up to 25% in some samples.
“The salt was sprayed due to the high impact pressures. And the impact may have partially affected the Dead Sea, which is high in salt, ”Professor Kennett said.
The local shores of the Dead Sea are also rich in salt, so the impact may have redistributed these salt crystals far and wide – not just in Tall el-Hammam, but also near Tell es-Sultan (proposed as the Biblical Jericho, which also suffered violent destruction at the same time) and Tall-Nimrin (also subsequently destroyed).
The high salinity soil could have been responsible for what is known as the Late Bronze Age gap, in which the towns of the lower Jordan Valley were abandoned, increasing the population from tens of thousands to perhaps be a few hundred nomads.
Nothing could grow in this once fertile land, forcing people to leave the area for centuries.
Evidence of the resettlement of Tall el-Hammam and neighboring communities reappears in the Iron Age, some 600 years after the sudden devastation of cities in the Bronze Age.
“The gale / impact hypothesis would make Tall el-Hammam the second oldest known city to be destroyed by an explosion / impact that claimed many human lives, after Abu Hureyra in Syria, he said. 12,800 years ago, ”the scientists said.
“Equally small but devastating cosmic events are expected to recur every few thousand years, and although the risk is low, the potential damage is extremely high, putting Earth’s cities at risk and encouraging mitigation strategies. . “
An article on the results has been published in the journal Scientific reports.
TE Group et al. 2021. A Tunguska-sized aerial explosion destroyed Tall el-Hammam, a Middle Bronze Age town in the Jordan Valley near the Dead Sea. Scientific representative 11, 18632; doi: 10.1038 / s41598-021-97778-3