A study indicates that an asteroid impacted devastating what is identified as Sodom: the debate is fueling whether there were witnesses to what would remain as a biblical event
Technological advance allows new research techniques to appear and existing ones to improve, and the situation arises that the newest contributes to knowing the oldest. We saw it recently with the discoveries at Teotihuacán and we see it again in the possible resolution of the mystery with the destruction of what was once Tall el-Hammam, the current archaeological area located in Jordan and which was described as the biblical Sodom.
It was known that something devastated it, since by the traces that have been seen there were indications that some event such as a great storm had reduced the area (already inhabited) to rubble, but ruling out causes such as a volcano or an earthquake. But now, a team of researchers believes they have hit the key: a large space rock destroyed Tall el-Hammam, and considering the biblical story of Sodom, this gives some play.
A “small” asteroid that melted materials at more than 2,000ºC
As the group of researchers explains in their work, published in Nature, that the research project in Tall el-Hammam began in 2005, with which they have worked with a lot of information collected from that point. Experts from many areas have participated, from geologists and archaeologists to paleobotanists, physicians, and sedimentologists.
The clues that cemented the idea of a great disaster, including fire, were remnants such as molten pottery and other items in a thick layer of ash and charcoal. Due to the type of molten materials, events such as earthquakes, volcanoes or wars could be ruled out, since according to what they indicate there were no indications and in those cases the smelting of fired clay, ceramics or metals is not seen.
By analyzing the composition of the soil and impact models, among many other techniques, they came to the conclusion that an asteroid impacted in the area, being much smaller than what was calculated for the dinosaur meteorite. By pulling impact models, resorting to the impact calculator at Imperial College London and calculating melting temperatures, it was finally this hypothesis that most suited them.
They explain that the arrival of the icy rock from space occurred about 3,600 years ago, more or less at about 61,000 kilometers / hour, as calculated. Once it entered the Earth’s atmosphere, the space object crashed to the surface creating a ball of fire about 4 kilometers high.
Researchers speak of an explosion 1,000 times more powerful than that caused by the Hiroshima atomic bomb and that the air temperature rose to more than 2,000ºC, with which many objects were burned and / or melted immediately. This is reached by the findings of elements such as molten iridium and platinum, which have melting points of 2,466 and 1,540ºC respectively.
Findings like this and others like diamonds and grains of sand fragmented into tiny pieces they have been seen in other strong impacts, such as the one we mentioned from the dinosaurs. Which also fitted in with the results they were getting from the simulations.
In the reconstruction of that enormous disaster, the researchers explain that the winds moved to unos 1.200 km/h, with which the buildings would have been razed and also affecting Jericho (in Palestine, on the other side of the Dead Sea). It is estimated that the city would have housed about 8,000 inhabitants and that none of these (nor the animals) managed to survive, being destroyed to the bone.
Knowing that the city was razed, for years there are experts who identify Tall el-Hammam as Sodom (As we said in the introduction), a biblical city that according to the writings of various religions received the wrath of an angry deity in the form of a “rain of fire and brimstone”. The Bible, for example, places Sodom (and Gomorrah, fellow destiny) on a plain facing the Jordan Valley and close to the Dead Sea, which fits with Tall el-Hammam.
Leaving aside the religious and non-demonstrable part, the fact that the story could have been the result of a witness to the impact would fit, with what It cannot be ruled out that this strong clash had been witnessed (and somehow reflected in said myth). In any case, the researchers are quite sure that it was indeed an impact of a space object, and that the biblical account may have been partly supported by the oral tradition of having spoken of this impact.
Fortunately, we can speak of relatively few massive events of destruction of entire cities due to this cause (taking into account the millennia of humanity) and we have already seen that it is considered unlikely that a large asteroid will impact the Earth. In addition, the space agencies are already in charge of evaluating the risk in each case of possible impact, and in the end many times “that dangerous asteroid that is going to pass near the Earth” is not as dangerous as they say.