The Archaeology of Sodom, Part 2
II. The Three Locations
A. The Dead Sea
This was Dr. Albright’s location as he studied the area quite thoroughly (Wood, 1974), this conclusion was supported by a further excavation in 1960. This investigation discovered trees under the Dead Sea at about the 23-foot level. This discovery led to the conclusion that the Dead Sea was not as full in earlier years as it is now (Wood, 1974).
It also lent some credibility to Dr. Albright’s conclusion about where Sodom was located. This location was further supported by the efforts of Michael Sanders, who took a submersible to the bottom of the Dead Sea to explore anomalies found in satellite photos taken by one of the Space Shuttles. Mr. Sanders did find what may have been man made formations but with their location under the Dead Sea and covered in salt no final determination could be made (Sanders).
What was missing from Dr. Albrights location was and is occupational remains and artifacts (Wood, 1974). He concluded that Bab edh-Drah was merely a high place for religious ceremony due to the lack of homesteads (Hattam BA Vol 44).
What also reinforces the identification of this area as Sodom is the discovery of a well-traveled east-west trade route. This road also lends credence to the idea that Sodom is found in the southern location (Harland, BA vol. 5). The Bible does not confirm this though.
One fact that cannot be determined is the size of the Dead or the Valley of the Jordan River. The evidence of the discovered trees mentioned above leads one to conclude that the size of the Dead Sea was not static and has expanded over time.
It must be noted that burying an area like the Vale of Siddim can be counted as part of God’s destruction on the area. While all the cities may not be buried under the water maybe one or two could be.
Another reason for Dr. Albright’s inability to discover homesites is erosion. This natural enemy of archaeology has destroyed numerous remains over the decades (Kitchen, 2004).
B. Bab edh-Drah & Numeria
These remains of cities are what is normally called the southern location for Sodom. Extensive work has been carried out on these two cities over the decades and much evidence has been uncovered (Wood, 1974 & BAR 1980).
The evidence for these two cities as Sodom or Gomorrah keeps piling up as research has found that the area was once fertile and supported agricultural farming (Wood, 2008). This paper is not going to worry about the dates of when these remains were occupied as one of the weaknesses of archaeology is precision dating. Even though archaeologists do come with in centuries of their professional colleagues, dating remains very subjective and cannot be relied upon as evidence for the location of Sodom and Gomorrah (Tee, 2011).
Dr. Bryant Wood has shown that two destructions took place at Numeria and Bab edh-Drah and that the second destructive evidence shows that fire went from the top down. The fact that the area has not been inhabited for thousands of years also provides clear indication that this area meets the biblical description for its destruction.
Dr. Albright also found that this area was well watered, when he uncovered 5 wadis that went through the region in early times. Some researchers have used the biblical verses describing the misfortune of the Kings of Sodom and Gomorrah, they fell into the pits, as evidence that those kings did not know the area (Hattam, BA Vol. 44).
Yet this conclusion does not have any real merit to it. Even the most experienced hikers travelling through areas they are well acquainted with have accidents. Some even life threatening. These accidents for the majority of times when the person is in a hurry or being careless. Such as the two kings would have been when they were defeated and seeking not to be captured by their enemy.
The location of Bab edh-Drah as Sodom is not disqualified with this information. Also, the fact that the cemetery lying nearby was destroyed points to the fact that this area was not destroyed by human hands. According to Dr. Wood, this would be unprecedented and not normal conquest behavior (Wood, 2008).
C. Tall el-Hamman
In many articles written by Dr. S. Collins the evidence for locating Sodom at Tall el-Hamman has been outlined (Collins, 2008, 2013). He makes the case that this northern location meets all the criteria laid out by archaeology and the Bible to identify this site as Sodom or Gomorrah.
In those articles it is pointed out that Tall el-Hamman had a fiery destruction, had satellite towns and was well fortified as well as being one of the larger cities in the region (Collins, 2013). Dr. Collins also uses the work kikkar to limit the Jordan Valley to his accepted geographical region (Collins, 2008, 2013).
He is not lone in that translation as over 100 years earlier Mr. Tristam used the same arguments for his theory that Sodom was located at the north end of the Dead Sea (McClintock & Strong, 2000). This is done in face of the fact that many scholars, both early and modern, have decided that the Valley of the Jordan River included the whole of the Dead Sea region 9Harland, BA Vol.5).
Another argument Dr. Collins uses to support his identification comes with the different scriptural passages that he says direct the search for Sodom to the northern region of the Dead Sea. Specifically, Genesis 13: 1 to 12 (Collins, 2008). He also uses the modern status of the Tall el-Hamman as a well-watered area to extrapolate backwards in time the condition of the region at the time of the destruction.
Then the visibility factor is used to help Dr. Collins identify Tall el-Hamman as Sodom. The reasoning goes that Abraham’s and Lot’s view was very restricted and the pair could only see the northern region (Collins, 2008, Olson, 2014). It is hard to say how much the two saw and what factors determined their conclusion that the whole valley was well watered. There seems to be enough evidence to make Tall el-Hamman a serious candidate
© 2018 David Thiessen