The high-salinity soil is believed to have triggered the “Late Bronze Age Gap” in which local cities were abandoned. Populations dropped from tens of thousands to maybe a few hundred nomads. Nothing could grow in these formerly fertile grounds, forcing people to leave the area for hundreds of years. Evidence for resettlement of Tall el-Hammam and nearby communities appears again in the Iron Age, roughly 600 years after the cities’ sudden devastation.
“All the observations stated in Genesis are consistent with a cosmic fireball. But there is no scientific proof this destroyed city is indeed the Sodom of the Old Testament,” says Kennett. The space rock hurtled through the atmosphere and exploded over the ancient city, he explained.
The researchers believe the disaster generated an oral tradition that inspired the written account in the Book of Genesis. It may also have led to the story of the burning of Jericho in the Old Testament’s Book of Joshua. “It is an incredibly culturally important area. It is where much early cultural complexity of humans developed,” adds Kennett.
The findings are published in the journal Scientific Reports.