Dr. Steven Collins, a professor at Trinity Southwest University in Albuquerque, believes that he has found archaeological evidence for the remains of the city of Sodom, a city which according to Genesis 19:1-38 was destroyed by fire from heaven.
Collins and his team have been excavating the site at Tall el-Hammam since 2005. He believes that the site at Tall el-Hammam is the location of biblical Sodom.
According to an article written for ASSIST News Service, Collins said that the traditional site of Sodom does not correspond to the geographical location of the place described in the book of Genesis.
Collins said about the proposed location of Sodom: “To start with, the Tall el-Hammam site has twenty-five geographical indicators that align with the description in Genesis. Compare this with something well known—like Jerusalem—that has only sixteen. Other sites have only five or six. So this site has a greater number of indicators than any other Old Testament site. That is truly amazing.”
Collins also gave several other reasons he believes Tall el-Hammam is the site of Sodom: “Second, our findings—pottery, architecture, and destruction layers—fit the timeframe profile. Meaning we should expect to find items like what we are finding from the Middle Bronze Age. This is exactly what we are uncovering.”
Collins and his team also found skeletal remains that show signs of a quick, violent death. According to Collins, two osteologists who were part of the team, looked at the bones found at the site. He said: “The area they concentrated on was the bottom half of the body, including the pelvis region, legs, and feet—the upper portions on two of them were missing. The initial results were amazing and quite exciting archaeologically—but sad in how the people died. They found the bodies splayed out, face down, joints twisted, toes hyper-extended, with many signs of violent burial within collapsing debris. In short, the bodies were extremely traumatized in their death.”
Collins concluded by saying that they “found ash, pottery, mud bricks, and objects, all pointing to a Middle Bronze Age time frame—the time of Abram and Lot.”
According to Collins, one of the leading archeologists in Jordan called Tall el-Hammam “perhaps the most important archaeological discovery of the modern era.”
Todd Bolen at BiblePlaces is skeptical of Collins’ claims. He wrote: “Collins’ discoveries sound intriguing, but I still contend that every bit of evidence he uncovers for a destruction towards the end of the Middle Bronze Age (circa 1600-1500 BC) makes it all the more unlikely that he is excavating Sodom. The chronology simply will not work, unless you imagine that Abraham died when he was about 30, his son Isaac died when he was about 30, his grandson Jacob died when he was about 30, Joseph died when he was about 30, the Israelite sojourn in Egypt lasted about 40 years, and the wilderness wanderings lasted about 40 years. In short you have to massively compress all of the numbers in the biblical narrative to make everything ‘fit.’ (By ‘compress’ I mean to deny and invent your own to suit your theory.)”
According to Todd, “Collins appears to be a professor of archaeology who has never earned a degree from a school with an archaeology program.” He concludes: “My concern is that believers of the Bible who are less knowledgeable about biblical chronology and archaeology will be convinced by Collins’ exuberance and not realize that most evangelical scholars find his claims incompatible with Scripture.”
I encourage you to read Todd’s post on his evaluation of this tentative archaeological evidence for the discovery of Sodom.
Several blogs have been praising this discovery as another evidence of the veracity of the Bible. Personally, I would call for caution when declaring that the site of Sodom has been discovered. This kind of sensational claim can do more harm than good.
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
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