Meteor impact near the biblical story of Sodom inspired by the ancient city of the Middle East
- In the biblical story of Sodom, God destroys the city and its inhabitants because of their wickedness.
- A study suggests that the tale was inspired by a meteor that destroyed the ancient city of Tall el-Hammam.
- A 165-foot meteor exploded in the sky 3,600 years ago, incinerating people and homes.
About 3,600 years ago, the inhabitants of the city of Tall el-Hammam began their days like any other. A guard was probably seated on the parapet at the top of the local palace.
Then, to the southwest, an object fell in the sky.
“All of a sudden, this thing explodes in a sudden flash,” researcher Malcolm LeCompte told Insider. “The guard is instantly blinded. He finished.
The heat of the explosion melted the bricks under the guard. A shock wave followed, which sheared the top 40 feet of the palace’s roof and, presumably, liquefied its innards.
That explosion, according to a study co-authored by LeCompte last month, was a 165-foot-wide meteor that exploded before hitting the ground, annihilating the city. The explosion killed at least 8,000 people and animals.
“It was basically a mini-sun,” LeCompte said. “And if the heat didn’t kill you, the shock wave would have been enough to tear you apart and turn you into nothing but a bag of bones or mud.”
He and his colleagues believe that the Tall el-Hammam saga could have inspired the biblical account of Sodom. The catastrophe strangely resembles the account of Moses in the book of Genesis, in which he warns against acts of wickedness by describing a city and its sinful people that God destroyed in a storm of fire.
Archaeologists already knew that Tall el-Hammam, located in a valley in present-day Jordan, was suddenly abandoned millennia ago and remained uninhabited for centuries. Yet the reason for his disappearance remained open to debate – some historians have suggested a natural disaster or a violent war. But the new research, the culmination of 15 years of excavation, reveals that the city and its people were subjected to extreme temperatures and pressures.
LeCompte, who studies meteors and their impacts at Elizabeth City State University, said the only thing that can explain it is an alien impact.
“An earthquake couldn’t do that,” he said.
A layer of molten pottery and glass tells a tale of destruction
Excavations at Tall el-Hammam began in 2005. Archaeologists first discovered pottery, buildings and bodies.
But then they started to find evidence that things had gotten very hot, very fast – like rock that had melted black on all sides, remnants of molten pottery and metal, and glass that had melted away. liquefied and splashed onto fragments of human bones.
Glass melts at 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit. The melting points of iron and pottery are even higher.
“The technology didn’t exist back then, in the Middle Bronze Age, for people to generate fires of this type of temperature,” said Sid Mitra, a geologist from East Carolina University who co- wrote the study, in a press release. Release.
Believing that a space rock might be the explanation, the excavators brought in LeCompte and other members of his international comet research group in 2014.
Over the next seven years, LeCompte visited the site three times to collect samples. Multiple discoveries by his team confirmed that a cosmic explosion had occurred near the city.
In a 3,600-year-old layer of sediment, the group found fractured grains of sand – known as shock quartz – that only form at very high pressures. These pressures had also transformed the city’s wood and plants into microscopic, almost indestructible diamonoids.
Additionally, the group found dust-like particles called spherules made up of vaporized iron and sand. Spherules form at around 2900 degrees Fahrenheit.
The sediment layer also contained platinum, iridium and osmium, some of the rarest elements on Earth, which often originate from meteorites.
The people of the region were blinded, deafened or crushed
Another indication that a meteor was responsible is that the city’s buildings, including the palace, all fell to the northeast.
“It looks like things have been directionally destroyed,” LeCompte said.
This suggests that the space rock exploded southeast of the city and the resulting shock wave traveled north.
Meteors that explode in the atmosphere before hitting the earth’s surface are called bolides. Their cosmic aerial explosions can be more powerful than a nuclear bomb. The explosion over Tall el-Hammam, LeCompte said, had an output of between 5 and 30 megatons – at least 330 times more powerful than the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.
The air temperature reached 3,600 degrees Fahrenheit (2,000 degrees Celsius). Those who watched the incoming meteor lost their sight.
“More than likely anything that was combustible would have caught fire, such as wood and clothing,” LeCompte said. “If you were on the side of a hill and looking out over the valley, the sound of the explosion might have shattered your eardrums.”
Then came the shock wave, which would have looked like an intense wind blowing at 740 miles per hour.
“The shock that would go through your body would make your bowels boil,” LeCompte said.
He added that the wind pressure would have been 100,000 times greater than what we normally feel.
Indeed, in Tall el-Hammam, archaeologists have exhumed bodies with missing legs and skulls. Some victims had been blown against the walls of the rooms and buried under the rubble. Many people probably died without knowing what had happened, LeCompte said, incinerated by the explosion.
The study suggests that the explosion was similar to that of a fireball over Russia more than a century ago. This event resulted in minimal human casualties due to its remote location in Sibera, but destroyed 800 square miles of forest, bringing down 80 million trees.
The impact may have splashed Dead Sea salt into the ground
In the story of Sodom, God leaves nothing alive, even erasing “what grew on the ground.”
The researchers’ findings also offer an explanation for this line: they observed a high concentration of salt in the sediment layer, which would have been toxic to crops.
If the meteor exploded southwest of Tall el-Hammam, it may have vaporized or projected water from the nearby Dead Sea into the surrounding soil.
Historical records show that this region of the Middle East was abandoned for up to 600 years after the disaster – which would have been the only option if the salty soil had made farming impossible.