Argen Duncan El Defensor Chieftain Reporter
Forwarded by Scott Z>
Gen 24 Then the LORD rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah
-from the LORD out of the heavens.
A New Mexico archeologist told an audience at First Baptist Church on Sunday night that he believes he has found the biblical city of Sodom. According to the Book of Genesis in the Bible, God destroyed the city with fire and brimstone because of the inhabitants' evil behavior.
Steven Collins, dean of the College of Archaeology and Biblical History at Albuquerque's Trinity Southwest University, and his group spent several weeks last winter excavating Tall el-Hammam, a site in Jordan he believes fits the profile of Sodom. He has committed to working there for seven seasons.
Collins said most historians and archaeologists believe the stories of the early followers of Judaism, including the tale of Sodom's destruction, are myths.
"If that's true, they're basically saying our Bible is wrong," he said.
Operating on the belief that the Bible is true, he searched the Book of Genesis for clues to the city's location.
Genesis Chapter 13 says Abraham, the father of the nation of Israel, and his nephew, Lot, were in the area of the cities of Bethel and Ai, 10 miles north of Jerusalem, when Lot moved east on the Plain of the Jordan and pitched his tent as far as Sodom.
In 2001, Collins visited a library in Jordan and learned of at least 14 major archaeological sites in the vicinity. Collins was looking for a city destroyed in the Middle Bronze Age, about 2,000 years B.C. It would have existed earlier, probably in the Early Bronze Age, about 3,000 years B.C.
Also, the ruins Collins wanted would show evidence of no occupation for several centuries after its destruction, he said.
The Bible tells of Moses, who led Israel centuries after Abraham, bringing the nation to the area after they left enslavement in Egypt. It describes the place as a wasteland and records no encounters with other people.
He said research, now a few weeks old, indicates that Sodom would be the southernmost city in a group of two cities and at least three villages because of the order the Bible lists them. Collins said it would also be the largest city because the Bible sometimes mentions it without naming other towns at the same time.
Collins visited sites and used potsherds to date them. Five ruins on the plain's east side match the locations, artifacts and time of occupation for Sodom and towns the Bible mentions in relation to it.
"It is so good archaeologically and geographically, it's almost unbelievable," he said of the match.
Also, Sodom was fortified, since Genesis Chapter 19 mentions Lot sitting in the city gate. Collins and his excavation crew found a mound of packed earth typical of Bronze Age city walls. An Iron Age wall was built around or through the older structure, indicating no one lived in the city for at least five centuries after its Bronze Age destruction.
While excavating around the wall, Collins and his group discovered a huge mud-brick structure. He doesn't know what it is, but suspects they found the city gate all or mostly intact.
If so, it will be the first time in archaeology someone has found and excavated intact a specific structure mentioned in the Old Testament.
In a probe plot 3 meters deep, Collins found a piece of a clay storage jar with a glaze-like substance. However, Middle Eastern potters couldn't fire their work at high enough temperatures for glazing until ninth or 10th century, he said.
He said a flash event heated the pottery so much, so fast after it broke that the surface turned to glass and began flowing over the edge of the break.
Prolonged exposure to such heat causes the whole clay piece to lose its shape, but only the surface of this potsherd changed. Collins believes this indicates a flash event.
He is having a number of people, including New Mexico Tech scientists, examine the potsherd to determine what the glaze is. Material engineers at the site said it looks like Trinitite, the substance materials such as sand turn into when subjected to a nuclear blast.
However, Collins said he isn't suggesting a nuclear blast hit the site. He doesn't know the cause, but suspects a comet strike or electrical event.
Mud bricks and other potsherds his crew discovered also show burn marks, but not the glaze. He expects to find more melted surfaces in the next excavation season and gain a better picture of what happened.
"So right now, it's just extremely interesting," he said of the partially melted potsherd. "Scientifically, you can't say much about it."
Collins sees his field of biblical archaeology as a means to prove the Bible is real. Finding Sodom would provide an opportunity to demonstrate the historical authenticity of the most doubted part of the Bible, he said.
He hopes to help keep the United States from becoming "post-Christian" as Europe has. He is looking for financial support to pay experts and other expenses, and for volunteer excavators.