Artist’s evidence-based relenten of the blast, which had the power of 1,000 Hiroshimas. Credit: Allen West and Jennifer Rice

An old Disaster

In the middle Bronze age (about 3,600 years ago or roughly 1650 BCE), the city of tall el-Hammam to be ascendant. Located on high ground in the southerly Jordan Valley, northeast that the Dead Sea, the settlement in that is time had come to be the largest continuously inhabited Bronze period city in the southerly Levant, having hosted early civilization for a few thousand years. At the time, it to be 10 times larger than Jerusalem and 5 times larger than Jericho.

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“It’s an extremely culturally necessary area,” stated James Kennett, emeritus professor of earth science in ~ UC Santa Barbara. “Much of whereby the early cultural complexity that humans occurred is in this general area.”

A favorite site for archaeologists and also biblical scholars, the mound hosts proof of society all the way from the Chalcolithic, or Copper Age, all compacted into layers together the highly strategic settlement was built, destroyed, and also rebuilt end millennia.


Researchers stand near the ruins of ancient walls, through the devastation layer around midway under each exposed wall. Credit: Phil Silvia

But over there is a 1.5-meter term in the middle Bronze age II stratum that caught the attention of part researchers for its “highly unusual” materials. In enhancement to the debris one would suppose from damage via warfare and earthquakes, they found pottery shards with outer surfaces melted into glass, “bubbled” mudbrick and partially melted structure material, every indications of an anomalously high-temperature event, lot hotter 보다 anything the modern technology of the time can produce.

“We saw evidence for temperatures better than 2,000 levels Celsius,” claimed Kennett, whose research team at the time taken place to have actually been building the case for an larger cosmic airburst around 12,800 years ago that triggered significant widespread burning, climatic changes and animal extinctions. The charred and melted products at high el-Hammam looked familiar, and also a group of researchers including affect scientist Allen West and Kennett join Trinity Southwest university biblical scholar Philip J. Silvia’s research effort to recognize what taken place at this city 3,650 years ago.

Their outcomes are released in the journal Nature clinical Reports.

Salt and also Bone

“There’s proof of a big cosmic airburst, close to this city dubbed Tall el-Hammam,” Kennett claimed of one explosion comparable to the Tunguska Event, a roughly 12-megaton airburst that developed in 1908, once a 56-60-meter meteor pierced the Earth’s environment over the east Siberian Taiga.

The shock of the explosion over Tall el-Hammam was enough to level the city, flattening the palace and also surrounding walls and also mudbrick structures, follow to the paper. The distribution of bones shown “extreme disarticulation and also skeletal fragmentation in adjacent humans.”

For Kennett, further proof the the airburst was discovered by conducting plenty of different kinds of analyses on soil and also sediments indigenous the an essential layer. Tiny iron- and also silica-rich spherules turned increase in your analysis, together did melted metals.


James P. Kennett, professor emeritus in UCSB’s department of planet Science. Credit:Sonia Fernandez

“I think among the main explorations is shocked quartz. These space sand grains containing cracks that form only under really high pressure,” Kennett claimed of one of many lines of evidence that suggest to a large airburst near Tall el-Hammam. “We have shocked quartz from this layer, and that way there were significant pressures connected to shock the quartz crystals — quartz is one of the hardest minerals; it’s very hard come shock.”

The airburst, follow to the paper, may additionally explain the “anomalously high concentration of salt” uncovered in the devastation layer — an average of 4% in the sediment and as high together 25% in part samples.

“The salt was thrown up because of the high influence pressures,” Kennett said of the meteor the likely fragmentized upon contact with the Earth’s atmosphere. “And it may be the the influence partially hit the Dead Sea, i m sorry is rich in salt.” The regional shores that the Dead Sea are additionally salt-rich, so the impact may have actually redistributed those salt crystals much and wide — not simply at high el-Hammam, however also nearby Tell es-Sultan (proposed as the biblical Jericho, which also underwent violent devastation at the same time) and Tall-Nimrin (also climate destroyed).

The high-salinity soil can have been responsible because that the so-called “Late Bronze period Gap,” the researcher say, in which cities along the reduced Jordan valley were abandoned, dropping the populace from 10s of thousands to maybe a few hundred nomads. Nothing might grow in these formerly fertile grounds, forcing people to leaving the area because that centuries. Evidence for resettlement of tall el-Hammam and nearby communities shows up again in the iron Age, roughly 600 year after the cities’ sudden devastation in the bronze Age.

Fire and Brimstone

Tall el-Hamman has been the emphasis of an continuous debate as to whether it can be the biblical city that Sodom, one of the 2 cities in the Old Testament publication of Genesis that were ruined by God for exactly how wicked they and also their inhabitants had actually become. One denizen, Lot, is conserved by 2 angels that instruct him no to look behind together they flee. Lot’s wife, however, lingers and is turned right into a pillar of salt. Meanwhile, fire and brimstone dropped from the sky; multiple urban were destroyed; thick smoke increased from the fires; city inhabitants were killed and area plants were ruined in what sounds prefer an eyewitness account of a cosmic impact event. It’s a satisfying link to make.

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“All the observations stated in Genesis are regular with a cosmic airburst,” Kennett said, “but there’s no clinical proof the this damaged city is without doubt the Sodom that the Old Testament.” However, the researcher said, the disaster could have generated an oral heritage that may have served together the inspiration for the written account in the book of Genesis, as well as the biblical account that the burning of Jericho in the Old Testament book of Joshua.

Reference: “A Tunguska sized airburst destroyed Tall el-Hammam a center Bronze age city in the Jordan Valley near the Dead Sea” by Ted E. Bunch, Malcolm A. LeCompte, A. Victor Adedeji, James H. Wittke, T. David Burleigh, Robert E. Hermes, Charles Mooney, Dale Batchelor, Wendy S. Wolbach, Joel Kathan, Gunther Kletetschka, mark C. L. Patterson, Edward C. Swindel, Timothy Witwer, George A. Howard, Siddhartha Mitra, Christopher R. Moore, cut Langworthy, James P. Kennett, Allen West and also Phillip J. Silvia, 20 September 2021, Scientific Reports.DOI: 10.1038/s41598-021-97778-3