The ancient Biblical city of Sodom was not only a real place, but it truly was destroyed by fire from the sky, as the Bible claims. However, that fire came in the form of a "massive asteroid explosion" in the air above the region, say archaeologists, in a controversial new set of findings announced this week.
As Newsweek reports, some historians have long believed that there may be something to the Old Testament story of Sodom and Gomorrah. For those not familiar, Genesis 18-19 describes how God, angry with the wickedness of the men of the two cities, destroyed them both with fire. And while few serious scientists believed that the cities were destroyed by the wrath of a vengeful god, some considered the possibility that the cities may have been done in by a meteor strike.
Now, new evidence seems to support that theory.
Phillip Silvia, of Trinity Southwest University in Albuquerque, and his team published their findings this week at the annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research in Denver, Colorado.
Silvia's team believes that the possible site of the city known as "Sodom" was actually a Dead Sea-area, Bronze Age settlement known as Tall el-Hammam, which is believed to have been destroyed approximately 3,700 years ago.
Using radiocarbon dating, Silvia's team dated the abandonment of the settlement to the approximate time of the purported Biblical event. A "heat event," perhaps caused by the friction or explosion of a meteor as it streaked across the atmosphere above the region, heated up the structures on the ground to the point that the bricks were reduced to ash, according to the Times of Israel. Some materials instantly crystallized, and the exterior portions of some pottery shards were melted into glass, also suggesting an extreme uptick in temperatures.
The event, says Silvia's team, also heated up the soil to the point that it was stripped of its nutrients - which would explain why a once-thriving series of settlements would suddenly be abandoned, only to be returned to centuries later.
"That the most productive agricultural land in the region, which had supported flourishing civilizations continuously for at least 3,000 years, should suddenly relinquish, then resist, human habitation for such a long period of time has begged investigation."Meteors don't have to actually strike the ground to cause unimaginable devastation. One of the biggest meteorological events to have taken place in recorded history involved a meteor (or perhaps a comet) that exploded in mid-air, rather than hitting the ground. The 1908 Tunguska event, for example, is believed to have been caused by a space rock that exploded at some altitude over the ground, leveling tens of thousands of square miles of forest in the process. Fortunately, it happened in a remote area and is, as of this writing, not believed to have attributed to any human deaths.