Sodom and Gomorrah excavated. Guess how they were wiped out.

A reading from the Book of Genesis:

Gen 19: 24 Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomor’rah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; 25 and he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. 26 But Lot’s wife behind him looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. 27 And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the LORD; 28 and he looked down toward Sodom and Gomor’rah and toward all the land of the valley, and beheld, and lo, the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace.

A Roman friend and I always chortle over the arrogance of modern scholars who claim that event x or y didn’t occur as reported by ancient historians especially when some story pops up in the mainstream press that evidence confirming x or y has been – shock! – unearthed.

Here is something for your Just Too Cool file from The Sacred Page:

Sodom and Gomorrah Excavated

By far the most interesting session at the recent Society of Biblical Literature Congress in San Francisco was one I wandered into by chance. I am always curious about what is going on in biblical archeology, so one afternoon I decided to skip the dozen or so sessions dedicated to Bakhtinian Decontextualization of Identity Construction in Persian Yehud (I had to tear myself away) and go hear about the excavations at a certain site called “Tall-el-Hammam.” I had no idea what I was in for. After about five minutes into the session, I realized that the archeological team assigned to this dig was convinced that they had found the biblical Sodom and Gomorrah. After another half-hour, it seemed they had most of the participants convinced as well. The sites fit the geographical and temporal context into which Sodom and Gomorrah are placed in the biblical texts. The cities at the site were suddenly and completely wiped out in the Late Bronze Age, which makes a reasonably good fit with the biblical accounts of Abraham and Lot. The entire presentation was very convincing, but never once did they deal with the “elephant in the room”: what caused the sites to be suddenly abandoned? As soon as the session was over, I was the first to raise my hand. “Did you find any arrow heads? Signs of invasion? What happened to them?” The lead archeologist paused for a moment. “I didn’t want to go there,” he said. Another pause. “I’m preparing material for publication.” Pause. “All I want to say ‘on camera’ is, they appear to have been wiped out in a ‘heat event’.”

A “heat event”!? What?!

“If you want to know more, I’ll talk after the session off the record.”

I wish I could divulge what he said to a small group of us clustered around the podium after the session was over, but it would break confidence. We’ll have to wait for the official peer-reviewed publications.

Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Just Too Cool and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    Awaiting the peer reviewed publication.

  2. Sorta like that History Channel show, claiming proof of one of a giant meteorite breaking apart and bombarding the Dead Sea area? (It wasn’t as obviously a crock as some of those shows, because obviously Bad Things did happen with giant meteorites in antiquity.)

    Of course, I’m totally okay with a seismic/volcanic event, too.

  3. Unless these archeologists change their conclusions, they’re out of a job.

  4. ContraMundum says:

    Archaeology may be able to show it was destroyed by fire, but not that the fire descended from the skies (unless some sort of deposit shows it to have been a meteor strike or volcano, neither of which I would expect to be likely). Cities in those days tended to be quite small (to get behind a wall), and of course they had no running water, destructive fires from either war or accident could quickly envelop a whole city.

  5. jhayes says:

    Here’s an article from 1999 which claimed that Sodom & Gomorrah had been located in excavations at Bab edh-Dhra and Numeria, based mainly on the evidence of destruction by fire and the fact that these sites are more or less at the locations where Sodom & Gomorrah are shown on a mosaic map in a church in Jordan. The article doesn’t mention that the map is dated to the 6th century AD, which is one or two thousand years after the time they propose that Lot lived.

    That’s a long distance from the Tall el-Hammam excavations, the location claimed by the above post as the site of S & G. Here’s the website for those excavations:

    “Biblical” archaeology was a 19th century idea which is not well-regarded by scientific archaeologists, who see it as too inclined to start with an answer (S & G) and then look for “evidence” to support the hoped-for answer.

  6. jhayes says:

    Sorry, the link at the end of my post should have been after the first paragraph.

    ContraMundum, here’s the explanation of the fire from the 1999 article:

    “Concerning the proposed cause of the destruction of the plain where Sodom and Gormooah were, they are proposing that it was the result of an earthquake that forced combustible material to the surface and into the atmosphere. Surveys have located bitumen, petroleum, natural gas and sulfur in the area. And to the east of the Dead Sea is a major fault line and these cities are located exactly on this fault line. See Fig 4 below.”

    It’s a stretch to get from there to saying that God caused that earthquake to punish the cities and therefore these are the sites of S & G.

  7. jhayes says:

    Gormooah = Gomorrah

  8. kat says:

    It is important to remember that God normally will use His own scientific laws and laws of nature that He created, to perform His acts. What we have to believe is the Word of God, which says that the two cities were destroyed on account of sin, and that they were destroyed by fire. How that fire came about is interesting, but doesn’t take away from the Truth.

  9. totustuusmaria says:

    The article quoted above is from Dr. John Bergsma, who is an amazing guy and quite trustworthy. I was skeptical of the report until I saw the source.

  10. jesusthroughmary says:

    It will be interesting to see if this holds up to peer review.

  11. mrose says:

    The more I see these sorts of stories that suggest authentic science actually proves what the Church believes, the more incredulous I am toward the people who attempt their gymnastics and outright denial of facts. We truly live in a perverse age. How much more proof is necessary to show that agendas other than submission to the One True God as a starting point and point of departure in all things fail to hold up?

  12. Philangelus says:

    Further down in the comments of that article you linked, Father Z, someone cited scorched skeletons in situ and a layer of compacted ash. Yikes!

    The academic response to that may well be “Two cities were destroyed by fire, and this was the theological explanation concocted by the Biblical writers.”

    Personally, I’ve always been amused by experts denying eyewitness accounts. Survivors of the Titanic reported that the ship broken into two pieces before going down. Experts said that was impossible. When Ballard located the wreckage of the Titanic, guess what? Two pieces, broken exactly where people said they were. Wow, the inexpert eyewitnesses actually processed their visual information correctly! No one could have predicted that.

  13. Sid says:

    Someone help me who knows the geography better than I do: Is this site near Mount Nebo/Pisgah?

  14. Kerry says:

    God is Mercy. God is Love. God is a ‘Heat Event’. Heh.

  15. Pingback: SATURDAY EDITION |

  16. TomD says:

    “. . . at the recent Society of Biblical Literature Congress in San Francisco . . .”

    Hmmmm . . . in San Francisco. The Lord does indeed work in mysterious ways.

  17. TomD says:

    Sid, from the map provided above, I would say “YES,” near Mt. Nebo at the northeast corner of the Dead Sea . . . seemingly at the opposite corner from the “traditional” location of Sodom and Gomorrah, which was thought to have been in the region generally southwest of the Dead Sea, I think.

  18. Supertradmum says:

    We shall all understand what a “heat event” is when we see it happening again and again in dozens of such cities around the world. “Woe to thee, Corozain, woe to thee, Bethsaida. For if in Tyre and Sidon had been wrought the mighty works that have been wrought in you, they would have done penance long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.” And, I think we just had those readings at the end of the recently past liturgical year of Luke. Personally, looking at evidence and Scripture, it seems more like some natural nuclear event which God unleased. Readers who are scientists might want to comment on the possibility of element uranium being involved.

  19. Rick DeLano says:


    Next thing you know they’ll start finding dinosaur bones with blood cells, collagen, and soft tissue……….


Comments are closed.