The explosion was so great it may have also been responsible for leveling the walls of Jericho.
A team of archeologists believe they have uncovered evidence of the traumatic events that led to the destruction of Sodom. The findings, published in Nature Scientific Reports, suggest that the destruction was wrought by a space rock that hurtled through the atmosphere and exploded over the city, creating an airburst.
The research was conducted at Tall el-Hammam, a site believed to be the biblical Sodom, over a 15-year period. Daily Caller reports that the team identified a five-foot layer of charcoal, ash, melted bricks and melted pottery. To melt building materials, the heat must have exceeded 2,000 degrees Celsius. As there were no means to artificially generate such tremendous temperature in that era, experts began to look for natural explanations.
The heat was so intense that it was even able to shock quartz. Shocked quartz is a deformation of the planes inside of the quartz crystal caused by exposure to high pressure. In an interview with Newsweek, James Kennett, professor emeritus of earth science at UC Santa Barbara, said:
“We have shocked quartz from this layer, and that means there were incredible pressures involved to shock the quartz crystals—quartz is one of the hardest minerals; it’s very hard to shock.”
Following the theory of a meteoric airburst, the team used an online impact calculator, which showed that the evidence fits that scenario. According to The Daily Beast, the airburst is being comparable to the one that occurred in Tunguska, Russia, in 1908. The Tunguska airburst leveled 80 million trees over a 830-square-mile area. The event would have also been similar to the impact that did away with the dinosaurs, but on a smaller scale.
The Conversation reports that the detonation would have occurred about 2.5 miles above the ground. Even at that distance, the blast would have created a 740 mph shock wave that would have leveled most of the buildings of Sodom. None of the residents would have survived the initial blast or the rock melting temperatures that followed.
The theory also extends to Jericho, which stands just 14 miles from the site. It is now being argued that this same airburst may have leveled Jericho’s famed walls.
The report could also explain why over 100 other settlements in the region became deserted. The impact could have vaporized a portion of the Dead Sea, which would cast toxic levels of salt over the land. This salt, the concentration of which was found in some samples to be as high as 25%, would have devastated farm lands for generations. The Conversation goes on to note that this theory has yet to be proven.
With little rainfall in the arid desert climate, it would take much longer to wash away the salt. Once agriculture was stymied, society would have ceased to function. It is estimated that the region would be unfit for human settlement for nearly 600 years.
Read the official findings at Nature Scientific Reports.