Archaeologists conducting excavations at a location called Tall el-Hammam in the southern Jordan Valley region since 2005 claim they have discovered ruins of a “monstrous” Bronze Age city-state that was possibly the site of the biblical city of Sodom, supposedly destroyed by God for the sins of its inhabitants.
The team of archaeologists led by Steven Collins of Trinity Southwest University in Albuquerque, New Mexico, said they believe that the ruins of a major Bronze Age city-state discovered at the site could be those of the biblical city of Sodom because the estimated dates of occupation, impressive structures, size, and location of the city in the southern Jordan Valley match the description of Sodom in the Old Testament texts.
The account in the Book of Genesis locates the city of Sodom in the fertile Jordan River plane, on the banks of the river, north of the Dead Sea. The frequent references to the city in the Book of Genesis and silence about other cities in the region during the Bronze Age suggests that Sodom and its sister city Gomorrah were the largest and most politically influential in the area at the time.
As the largest city of the region in the Bronze Age era, located to the east of the River Jordan, Tall el-Hamman — according to archaeologists — is the best candidate for the biblical city of Sodom reportedly destroyed by divine “fire and brimstone” judgment on account of the “sinfulness” of its inhabitants.
The Old Testament Book of Genesis, as well the Koran, say that before God sent angels to destroy the “wicked people” of Sodom (and Gomorrah), he allowed the only “righteous man” in the city, Abraham’s nephew Lot, to escape with his family.
The name of the city has become a metaphor for sin and vice.
Collins and his team told Popular Archaeology that they have unearthed impressive architectural structures, such as thick ancient walls up to 10 meters in height, and artifacts that testify to the existence of a powerful and strategically located Bronze Age city-state that must have been the hub of civilization in the southern Jordan Valley region in the Early and Middle Bronze Ages (3500 -1540 B.C.).
The city was situated strategically on a regional trade route and was heavily fortified for defense with strong towers and high, thick walls.
“It [had] an impressive and formidable defensive system protecting the residences of the wealthier citizens, including the king’s palace, temples and administrative buildings.”
“Tall el-Hammam seemed to match every Sodom criterion demanded by the text,” Collins said. “Theorizing, on the basis of the Sodom texts, that Sodom was the largest of the Kikkar cities east of the Jordan, I concluded that if one wanted to find Sodom, then one should look for the largest city on the eastern Kikkar that existed during the Middle Bronze Age, the time of Abraham and Lot.”
“When we explored the area, the choice of Tall el-Hammam as the site of Sodom was virtually a no-brainer since it was at least five to ten times larger than all the other Bronze Age sites in the entire region, even beyond the Kikkar of the Jordan,” he added.
And in consonance with the biblical story of the cataclysmic destruction of the ancient city of Sodom, Tall el-Hamman was abandoned suddenly. The site remained desolate for about 700 years before it was rebuilt and repopulated between 1,000 and 332 B.C. by an Iron Age culture, as evidenced by a massive iron gate put in place.
Further evidence that the city was rebuilt and repopulated after 700 years comes from the plethora of everyday cultural artifacts, such as pottery fragments, pestles, and mortars.
According to Collins, until his team began excavating the Jordan River Valley region, very little was known about the Bronze Age era of the region. Archaeologists were thus surprised to find evidence of thriving and culturally advanced technological societies. Sodom, in particular, was a large city with elaborate defenses consisting of thick walls, watchtowers, a wall 10 meters high, 5.2 meters thick, and massive gates.
“Very, very little was known about the Bronze Age in [the region] before we began our excavations in 2005.What we’ve got on our hands is a major city-state that was… unknown to scholars.”
By the middle of the Bronze Age, the wall surrounding the city was restructured into a massive flat-topped rampart that formed a ring road around the city. According to archaeologists, one of the facts that enhances the claim that Tall el-Hammam was the biblical city of Sodom is that the city appears to have been abandoned suddenly before the Late Bronze Age period.
Why the city was abandoned at the end of the Middle Bronze Age remains a matter of conjecture, but borrowing inspiration from the biblical account of destruction of the city, some experts say it could have been destroyed by an earthquake, while others suggest that the city was destroyed by an asteroid.
Regardless, evidence that the city was abandoned comes from a conspicuous absence of artifacts from the Late Bronze age.
“It became an uninhabited wasteland for over 700 years but then, after those seven centuries, it started to flourish again – as indicated by the huge iron gate that leads into the city.”
The obvious significance of the location due to its size and architectural grandeur makes it an important discovery regardless of whether it was actually the city of Sodom.
[Images: Facebook/Tall el-Hammam]