The Biblical city of Sodom (Second part): has it been found?

Until recently, the biblical city of Sodom and Gomorrah were identified with Bab edh-Dhra and Numeira. It was just a guess, by the way not entirely likely because of their age too old. Moreover the localization of Bab edh-Dhra and Numeira does not coincide with what the Bible story said (Gen 13-19). In fact, Sodom and Gomorrah are the so-called “city of the plain.”

Some scholars, instead, believe  that the biblical account would justify a location within the so-called “Jordan’s circle”, that is the area in the shape of a circle with a diameter of 25 kilometers, just north of the Dead Sea. The eastern part of this “circle” embraces at least fourteen archaeological sites, many of which were inhabited in the Middle Bronze Age (first half of the second millennium). The site more extensive is Tall el-Hammam.

The archaeological digs revealed that the town was a thriving city, a crossroads of several trade routes between east and west. Indeed, the city clothed probably a dominant role over any other. The researchers found that the city had defensive walls 10 meters high and five wide, with towers and gates.

The archaeological site is located about 14 km northeast of the Dead Sea. Archaeologists are interested in Tall el-Hammam because it is placed in the area that matches with the biblical “cities of the plan”, thus providing a possible historical background of the story of the flight of the nephew of Abraham (Lot) from Sodom. In fact, the biblical account, according to scholars, would relate to a historical period framed around the first half of the second millennium. A date that coincides with one of the greatest periods of occupation of the site of Tall el-Hammam.

Prof. Steven Collins of Trinity Southwest University – New Mexico, says that some decorative elements brought to light reveal that the city had more architectural features more linked to the Minoan and Mycenaean society than to Canaanite environment. This means that Tell el-Hammam entertained relations with those populations, where homosexual activity was normal. Just as the book of Genesis says in relation to Sodom! Moreover Tell el-Hammam is located near the Dead Sea, and so the high salinity may provide the environmental elements to the legendary tale of Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26).

But the most surprising thing is that during the Middle Bronze Age there has been a sudden depopulation of the city of “Jordan’s circle”, including the town of Tall el-Hammam. The demise of these places lasted several centuries! According to archaeologists this could be due to a “catastrophe” that befell abruptly on Tall el-Hammam, and that would have involved the other “cities of the plan.” In fact, the team of prof. Collins has found a thick layer of ashes and the remains of a building destroyed by fire. In addition, some findings of pottery reveal exposure to extremely high temperatures. If it were a military attack, it would follow a new phase of site’s occupation, while it was totally abandoned. Such devastation could have been caused by a sort of “explosion” in the air, incinerating things and people.

In short, all signs point to a likelihood of identification not only of Tall el-Hammam with the biblical Sodom, but also of the biblical story narrated in chapters 13-19 of Genesis.

Simone Venturini


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