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Did an Asteroid Shape This Famous Biblical Story?

www.sapiens.org
6 min read
fairly easy
Analysis of debris at the site of an ancient city demolished by a cosmic impact has led an archaeologist and his colleagues to theorize the same event destroyed Sodom.
This article was originally published at The Conversation and has been republished under Creative Commons.

As the inhabitants of an ancient Middle Eastern city now called Tall el-Hammam went about their daily business one day about 3,600 years ago, they had no idea an unseen icy space rock was speeding toward them at about 38,000 mph.

Flashing through the atmosphere, the rock exploded in a massive fireball about 2.5 miles above the ground. The blast was around 1,000 times more powerful than the Hiroshima atomic bomb. The shocked city dwellers who stared at it were blinded instantly. Air temperatures rapidly rose above 3,600 degrees Fahrenheit. Clothing and wood immediately burst into flames. Swords, spears, mudbricks, and pottery began to melt. Almost immediately, the entire city was on fire.

Some seconds later, a massive shockwave smashed into the city. Moving at about 740 mph, it was more powerful than the worst tornado ever recorded. The deadly winds ripped through the city, demolishing every building. They sheared off the top 40 feet of the four-story palace and blew the jumbled debris into the next valley. None of the 8,000 people or any animals within the city survived—their bodies were torn apart, and their bones were blasted into small fragments.

About a minute later, 14 miles to the west of Tall el-Hammam, winds from the blast hit the biblical city of Jericho. Jericho's walls came tumbling down, and the city burned to the ground.

Now called Tall el-Hammam, the city is located about 7 miles northeast of the Dead Sea in present-day Jordan. NASA

It all sounds like the climax of an edge-of-your-seat Hollywood disaster movie. How do we know that all of this actually happened near the Dead Sea in Jordan millennia ago?

Getting answers required nearly 15 years of painstaking excavations by hundreds of people. It also involved detailed analyses of excavated material by more than two dozen scientists in Canada, the Czech Republic, and 10 states in the U.S.…
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