researchers show evidence that cosmic impact destroyed the biblical city of the Jordan Valley | UCSB
Tall el-Hammam excavation site. (Courtesy photo)
In the Middle Bronze Age (around 3,600 years ago or around 1650 BCE), the city of Tall el-Hammam was ascending. Located on the heights of the southern Jordan Valley, northeast of the Dead Sea, the colony in its time became the largest permanently occupied Bronze Age city in the southern Levant, having housed the primitive civilization for a few thousand years.
At that time, it was 10 times the size of Jerusalem and five times the size of Jericho.
“This is an incredibly culturally important field,” said James Kennett, professor emeritus of earth sciences at UC Santa Barbara. “Much of where the early cultural complexity of humans developed is in this general realm.”
A favorite site for archaeologists and Bible scholars, the mound houses evidence of culture from the Chalcolithic, or the Copper Age, all compacted in layers as the highly strategic settlement was built, destroyed and rebuilt over the years. millennia.
But there is a 1.5 meter gap in the Middle Bronze Age II stratum that has sparked the interest of some researchers for its “very unusual” materials.
In addition to the debris that one might expect from destruction by war and earthquakes, they found shards of pottery with exterior surfaces melted into glass, “bubbled” mud brick and stoneware. partially melted construction, all indications of an unusually high temperature event, much hotter than any technology of the time could produce.
“We have seen evidence of temperatures above 2,000 degrees Celsius,” said Kennett, whose research group at the time argued for an ancient cosmic explosion about 12,800 years ago that set off widespread fires, climate change and animal extinctions.
The charred and molten material at Tall el-Hammam looked familiar, and a group of researchers including impact scientist Allen West and Kennett joined the research effort of biblical scholar Philip J. Silvia of Trinity Southwest University to determine what happened in this city 3,650 years ago.
Their results are published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.
Salt and bone
“There is evidence of a large cosmic explosion near this town called Tall el-Hammam,” Kennett said of an explosion similar to the Tunguska event, an aerial explosion of about 12 megatons that occurred in 1908, when a 56-60 meter meteor pierced the Earth’s atmosphere above the taiga in eastern Siberia.
The shock of the explosion on Tall el-Hammam was enough to raze the city, flattening the palace, surrounding walls and mud brick structures, according to the newspaper. The bone distribution indicated “extreme disarticulation and skeletal fragmentation in nearby humans.”
For Kennett, 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. These are grains of sand containing cracks that only form under very high pressure, ”said Kennett of one of the many pieces of evidence pointing to a large aerial explosion near Tall el-Hammam.
“We shocked the quartz in this layer, and that meant there were incredible pressures involved in shocking the quartz crystals – quartz is one of the hardest minerals; it is very difficult to shock, ”he said.
The air blast, according to the document, may also explain the “abnormally high salt concentrations” found in the destruction layer – an average of 4% in sediment and up to 25% in some samples.
“The salt was thrown out due to the high impact pressures,” Kennett said of the meteor, which likely fragmented upon contact with Earth’s atmosphere. “And the impact may have partially affected the Dead Sea, which is high in salt.”
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 the so-called “Late Bronze Age breach,” researchers said, in which towns in the lower Jordan Valley were abandoned, pushing the population into tens of thousands. thousands to maybe 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.
Fire and brimstone
Tall el-Hamman 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 between them and their inhabitants. . 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 burst,” Kennett said. “But there is no scientific proof that this destroyed city was indeed Old Testament Sodom.
However, the researchers said, the disaster could have generated an oral tradition that 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 de l ‘Old Testament.