/* */ Rosa Rubicondior: A Meteor Strike in Bronze Age Jordan Destroyed a Large City - And Any Claim That The Bible is Literal History.

Wednesday, 29 September 2021

A Meteor Strike in Bronze Age Jordan Destroyed a Large City - And Any Claim That The Bible is Literal History.

Location of Tall el-Hammam. (a) Photo of the southern Levant, looking north, showing the Dead Sea, the site location (TeH), and nearby countries. The Dead Sea Rift, the fault line marking a major tectonic plate boundary, runs through the area. Source of base image: NASA, Space Shuttle. “The Sinai Peninsula and the Dead Sea Rift”. Photo: sts109-708-024, taken 12/16/2009. From the NASA Langley Research Center Atmospheric Science Data Center (nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/astronauts_eyes/sts109-708-024.html). Modified by the authors using Adobe Photoshop CC2014 (adobe.com/products/photoshop.html). (b) West-southwest-facing view of the upper tall showing locations of the palace and temple behind the curve of the upper tall. The Dead Sea is in the background to the left.
An Ancient Disaster | The UCSB Current

From the Middle East, archaeologists bring us evidence that, although a couple of Bible tales may have their origins in a real event which could have lingered in the folk memories of the ancient Canaanites, the truth was very different to the highly embroidered stories these memories were subsequently woven into.

The evidence is that the large Late Bronze age city, now known as Tall el-Hammam, in the Jordan Valley, north of the Dead Sea, was suddenly destroyed by the air-burst of a meteorite larger than that responsible for the Tanguska incident in Siberia in 1908, which was estimated to have been the equivalent of an explosion and heat-wave about 1000 times more powerful than the atom bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.

This explosion occurred in about 1650 BCE and, according to the authors of a paper published, open access, in Scientific Reports, could have been the origin of both the myths of Sodom and Gomorrah and the destruction of Jericho (identified as Tell es-Sultan, near to Tall el-Hammam) by an Israelite army led by Joshua.

For Bible literalists wishing to use this as evidence that the Bible is real history, these two mythological events allegedly occurred many years apart and not contemporaneously. The tale in Genesis of the destruction of the 'cities of the plain' and the survival of Lot and his daughters with whom he fathered two sons is, according to Israeli archaeologists, Finkelstein and Silberman, in The Bible Unearthed, probably a propaganda story written to discredit two rival Canaanite tribes to Israel, in Moab and Ammon, as the descendants of the children of drunken debauchery and incest. The story of the breaching of the (non-existent) walls of Jericho and its sack by Joshua's mob came much later, in Joshua, at the end of the supposed exodus from Egypt and the mythical entry into the 'Promised Land' by the Israelites.

I think one of the main discoveries is shocked quartz. These are sand grains containing cracks that form only under very high pressure. We have shocked quartz from this layer, and that means there were incredible pressures involved to shock the quartz crystals — quartz is one of the hardest minerals; it’s very hard to shock.

Professor emeritus James Kennet, co-author
Department of Earth Science and Marine Science Institute
University of California, Santa Barbara, CA, USA
The tells of the Middle East are mounds formed by the normal process of human occupation of a site over thousands of years, comprised of layers of debris formed by the waste and refuse of city life, where all the materials for human and livestock food, goods and building materials brought into the town from the surrounding countryside, but never taken out again, accumulate over time to form layers rich in archaeological evidence of the history and lives of the people who lived there, including destruction by natural disasters, wars, conquests, etc.

The archaeologist, led by Professor emeritus James Kennet of UC Santa Barbara, focussed on a "highly unusual" 1.5 meter layer at Tall el-Hammam which contained evidence of very high temperatures greater than 2000 degrees Celsius, with pottery shards with their outer surface melted into glass, "bubbled" mud bricks and partially-melted building materials, all indicating temperatures much hotter than the technology of the time could have produced. The human remains show evidence of extreme disarticulation and skeletal fragmentation, consistent with massive violent destruction.

The airburst could also be responsible for the high salt-content of the destruction layer, as it would have impacted on the near-by Dead Sea with its high salt-content and large salt deposits on its shores, throwing up this salt and redistributing it over the area. This could also account for the evidence that for a period of some 300-600 years, the area had a low population of a few hundred nomads compared to a pre-destruction population in the tens of thousands, since crops could not grow in the salted soils of a once-fertile valley. The area was not resettled again until the Early Iron age.

From the UC Santa Barbara news release by Sonia Fernandez:
Fire and Brimstone

Tall el-Hammam has been the focus of an ongoing debate as to whether it could be the biblical city of Sodom, one of the two cities in the Old Testament Book of Genesis that were destroyed by God for how wicked they and their inhabitants had become. One denizen, Lot, is saved by two angels who instruct him not to look behind as they flee. Lot’s wife, however, lingers and is turned into a pillar of salt. Meanwhile, fire and brimstone fell from the sky; multiple cities were destroyed; thick smoke rose from the fires; city inhabitants were killed and area crops were destroyed in what sounds like an eyewitness account of a cosmic impact event. It’s a satisfying connection to make. “All the observations stated in Genesis are consistent with a cosmic airburst,” Kennett said, “but there’s no scientific proof that this destroyed city is indeed the Sodom of the Old Testament.” However, the researchers said, the disaster could have generated an oral tradition that may have served as the inspiration for the written account in the book of Genesis, as well as the biblical account of the burning of Jericho in the Old Testament Book of Joshua.
The team's findings are published, open access in Scientific Reports:

We present evidence that in ~ 1650 BCE (~ 3600 years ago), a cosmic airburst destroyed Tall el-Hammam, a Middle-Bronze-Age city in the southern Jordan Valley northeast of the Dead Sea. The proposed airburst was larger than the 1908 explosion over Tunguska, Russia, where a ~ 50-m-wide bolide detonated with ~ 1000× more energy than the Hiroshima atomic bomb. A city-wide ~ 1.5-m-thick carbon-and-ash-rich destruction layer contains peak concentrations of shocked quartz (~ 5–10 GPa); melted pottery and mudbricks; diamond-like carbon; soot; Fe- and Si-rich spherules; CaCO3 spherules from melted plaster; and melted platinum, iridium, nickel, gold, silver, zircon, chromite, and quartz. Heating experiments indicate temperatures exceeded 2000 °C. Amid city-side devastation, the airburst demolished 12+ m of the 4-to-5-story palace complex and the massive 4-m-thick mudbrick rampart, while causing extreme disarticulation and skeletal fragmentation in nearby humans. An airburst-related influx of salt (~ 4 wt.%) produced hypersalinity, inhibited agriculture, and caused a ~ 300–600-year-long abandonment of ~ 120 regional settlements within a >25-km radius. Tall el-Hammam may be the second oldest city/town destroyed by a cosmic airburst/impact, after Abu Hureyra, Syria, and possibly the earliest site with an oral tradition that was written down (Genesis). Tunguska-scale airbursts can devastate entire cities/regions and thus, pose a severe modern-day hazard.

The problem for Bible literalists who want to present the Bible as the literal, inerrant word of a god and thus an authentic record of real history, this is the last sort of evidence they want. What it is though is evidence that the tales in the Bible are pseudo-historical narratives designed to show the Israelites in a favourable light and to excuse the inexcusable. Even when the events described have a grain of truth or are based on folk memories of real events, the descriptions in the Bible are highly embroidered and distorted, almost to the point of being unrecognisable. Just as you would expect of written accounts of oral traditions handed down through the generations, then embellished and refashioned by political propagandists, to show the Israelites as somehow justified in their ethnic cleansing, genocides and land theft in Late Bronze and Early Iron Age Canaan in the Southern Levant.

Not a metaphor, allegory, parable or morality tale, or whatever else apologists call the stories when science shows they have no basis in reality, but deliberate distortions of the truth for political ends and to excuse the inexcusable.

And, if the events in the Bible were not based on folk memories of this catastrophe, then the writers failed to mention one of the most significant disasters to befall the area, either because they didn't understand it's impact on the area and its history, or because they were completely unaware of it. Certainly there is nothing resembling the sudden, violent destruction of a major city and thousands of inhabitants coming without warning, followed by the ruination of a once fertile valley and its subsequent depopulation, unless it is faintly echoed in the tales of Sodom and Gomorrah and the conquest and sack of Jericho.

So much for an accurate and complete history!

Thank you for sharing!

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