A new scientific discovery in modern-day Tall el-Hammam is being touted as potential evidence of God’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah as described in the Bible.

In a research paper published in Nature magazine this week, titled, “A Tunguska sized airburst destroyed Tall el-Hammam a Middle Bronze Age city in the Jordan Valley near the Dead Sea,” scientists concluded after 15 years of intensive study that a gigantic asteroid destroyed an ancient Middle Eastern city roughly 3,600 years ago.

That ancient Middle Eastern city is widely considered to be Sodom, one half of an infamous pair of cities mentioned in the Bible’s opening book, Genesis, that earned judgment from God for their exorbitant sinfulness.

Here’s how researchers described the cataclysmic event in a much more accessible summary article published by the Conversation:

Flashing through the atmosphere, the rock exploded in a massive fireball about 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) above the ground. The blast was around 1,000 times more powerful than the Hiroshima atomic bomb. The shocked city dwellers who stared at it were blinded instantly. Air temperatures rapidly rose above 3,600 degrees Fahrenheit (2,000 degrees Celsius). Clothing and wood immediately burst into flames. Swords, spears, mudbricks and pottery began to melt. Almost immediately, the entire city was on fire.

Some seconds later, a massive shockwave smashed into the city. Moving at about 740 mph (1,200 kph), it was more powerful than the worst tornado ever recorded. The deadly winds ripped through the city, demolishing every building. They sheared off the top 40 feet (12 m) of the 4-story palace and blew the jumbled debris into the next valley. None of the 8,000 people or any animals within the city survived – their bodies were torn apart and their bones blasted into small fragments.The findings are reportedly based on more than a decade of painstaking research conducted by a vast group of capable scientists — including “archaeologists, geologists, geochemists, geomorphologists, mineralogists, paleobotanists, sedimentologists, cosmic-impact experts, and medical doctors.”

Some intriguing details from the report: 

There is an ongoing debate as to whether Tall el-Hammam could be the biblical city of Sodom (Silvia and references therein), but this issue is beyond the scope of this investigation. Questions about the potential existence, age, and location of Sodom are not directly related to the fundamental question addressed in this investigation as to what processes produced high-temperature materials at Tall el-Hammam during the MBA. Nevertheless, we consider whether oral traditions about the destruction of this urban city by a cosmic object might be the source of the written version of Sodom in Genesis. We also consider whether the details recounted in Genesis are a reasonable match for the known details of a cosmic impact event.

Remember Lot’s wife turning into a pillar of salt? This detail in the report makes it seem scientifically plausible:

We present evidence that in ~ 1650 BCE (~ 3600 years ago), a cosmic airburst destroyed Tall el-Hammam, a Middle-Bronze-Age city in the southern Jordan Valley northeast of the Dead Sea. The proposed airburst was larger than the 1908 explosion over Tunguska, Russia, where a ~ 50-m-wide bolide detonated with ~ 1000× more energy than the Hiroshima atomic bomb…An airburst-related influx of salt (~ 4 wt.%) produced hypersalinity, inhibited agriculture, and caused a ~ 300–600-year-long abandonment of ~ 120 regional settlements within a > 25-km radius. Tall el-Hammam may be the second oldest city/town destroyed by a cosmic airburst/impact, after Abu Hureyra, Syria, and possibly the earliest site with an oral tradition that was written down (Genesis).

Image: “The Burning of Sodom” by Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot / Metropolitan Museum of Art / Wikimedia Commons. This file is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication