Scientific studies commenced more than a decade ago show that Lot’s wife could easily have been turned into a pillar of salt – quite literally. Consider a meteorite exploding above ground, vapourising salty waters and leaving a devastated area worse than Nagasaki. Sound far-fetched? Perfectly reasonable, thus doubt it no more when you read their research. This one will blow you away!
I’ve put the original report up here, but here’s the juicy parts of their conclusions for the record:
An unusual 3600-year-old charcoal-rich destruction layer at Tall el-Hammam marks the sudden abandonment of a Middle-Bronze-Age urban center in the Jordan Valley close to the north end of the Dead Sea. Across the 30-km-wide lower Jordan Valley, 15 other cities and > 100 smaller villages were simultaneously abandoned at the end of the Middle Bronze Age to remain largely uninhabited for~300–600 years. The remains of this ancient city and adjacent areas appear to be unique compared with those of other times, pointing to the occurrence of some highly unusual catastrophic event. The primary purpose of our research here has been to attempt to resolve this mystery.
Sodom & Gomorrah? Here we have people though, trying to prove AND trying to disprove various theories. I like that approach!
An early crucial clue in this investigation was the discovery of highly vesicular potsherds in the debris matrix that appeared to have melted at high temperatures but with no clear evidence for a formation mechanism. This first discovery led to some general observations about the uniqueness of destruction layer debris, e.g., its unusual, high-temperature characteristics and its consistent SW-to-NE orientation. The site excavators speculated that the cause of the destruction may have been a cosmic airburst/impact, but they could not eliminate other potential mechanisms, including those related to warfare, volcanism, and tectonism. These early observations stimulated our extensive investigation of the characteristics of the city’s MB II destruction layer. We conducted many comprehensive, advanced, and quantitative investigations and analyses in attempting to distinguish among several potential formation mechanisms. Any plausible solution needed to be consistent with collectively explaining the extensive lines of evidence that suggested anomalously high-velocity winds, high temperatures, and high pressures associated with this destruction.
We investigated 14 major lines of evidence to investigate this unusual event: (i) shocked quartz grains that formed at pressures of~5–10 GPa; (ii) vesicular pottery that melted at>1500 °C; (iii) mudbricks and roofng clay that melted at>1400 °C; (iv) high salt concentrations in sediment, including melted KCl and NaCl incorporated into melted mudbricks; (v) diamond-like carbon (diamonoids) that formed at high pressure and temperature; (vi) soot, charcoal and ash, indicating high-temperature fires; (vii) Fe- and Si-rich spherules, some of which melted at>1590 °C; (viii) platinum, melted at~1768 °C; (ix) iridium at~2466 °C; (x) zircon at>1687 °C; (xi) chromite at>1590 °C; (xii) titanomagnetite at>1550 °C; (xiii) quartz at 1713 °C; and (xiv) low remanent magnetism, a counter-indicator of lightning strikes.
That last one I found interesting – that the presence of magnetism shows lightning as a cause. I didn’t know that! No magnetism here means no simple lightning strike. Makes sense to me!
We considered and dismissed 8 of 10 potential processes (Table 3), including volcanism, warfare, and tectonism, that can account for at least some but not all of the evidence. We conclude that the only plausible formation mechanism that can account for the entire range of evidence in Table 3 is a crater-forming impact or a cosmic airburst, most likely somewhat larger than the 22-megaton airburst at Tunguska, Siberia in 1908. The data also suggest an airburst occurred a few kilometers SW of Tall el-Hammam causing, in rapid succession, a high temperature thermal pulse from the fireball that melted exposed materials, including roofing clay, mudbricks, and pottery.
Woah! That’s a BIG event – bigger than an atomic bomb that came from the sky/space. I guess when your number is up, it’s up eh?
This was followed by a high-temperature, hypervelocity blast wave that demolished and pulverized mudbrick walls across the city, leveling the city, and causing extensive human mortality. An important observation is that although local sediment can melt at~1300 °C, that is a minimum temperature but not a maximum one, a conclusion that is supported by the presence of embedded minerals that melted at temperatures of up to~2500 °C. In addition, anomalously high salt content in the debris matrix is consistent with an aerial detonation above high-salinity sediments near the Jordan River or above the hypersaline Dead Sea. This event, in turn, distributed salt across the region, severely limiting regional agricultural development for up to~600 years.
Kaboom! Heat to ~2500 °C , high winds that leveled a city, and salt across the region for hundreds of years? Sounds like the biblical event to me!
Regarding this proposed airburst, an eyewitness description of this 3600-year-old catastrophic event may have been passed down as an oral tradition that eventually became the written biblical account about the destruction of Sodom. There are no known ancient writings or books of the Bible, other than Genesis, that describe what could be construed as the destruction of a city by an airburst/impact event. This airburst/impact hypothesis would make Tall el-Hammam the second oldest known city/town to have been destroyed by an airburst/impact event that produced extensive human casualties, after Abu Hureyra, Syria at~12,800 cal BP.