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Discovering the City of Sodom

Start with the text. He opened his Bible to Genesis 10–19 as if it were a letter describing an event he’d missed and would want to know about.

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But what he was reading now in Genesis, alone in his hotel room, was shocking to him. He felt dread, the dread of learning you’ve been wrong about something.

The Bible described a Sodom located in a place completely unlike the two windswept ruins near the southern shore of a salt-laden and sterile body of water that some archaeologists had been calling Sodom and its satellite-town, Gomorrah.

That Dr. C had been calling Sodom and Gomorrah.


Coming to Tall el-Hammam

The wonder of Tall el-Hammam, the site of the mighty ancient city of Sodom, isn’t that it exists, for it has stood for thousands of years, hulking and dominant just eight miles from the Dead Sea in what is now known as the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

The wonder is that it has escaped the notice of most Bible-focused archaeologists, all but virginally untouched for most of the one-hundred plus years that modern archaeology has existed.

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It is certainly not invisible, no Shangri-la perceived only by enlightened eyes. A traveler would observe that from its foothills it is actually one of many; yet first among peers, a giant among the mounds or “talls” along the western edge of the foothills of the Transjordan Highlands.

It has been hiding in plain sight of those who, for no good scientific reason, didn’t just summarily cross it off a list of candidates for Sodom.

In fact, in the last century, practically no one had put it on the list in the first place.

As one travels up through the mountains and crags that huddle around Tall el-Hammam, it’s at first indistinguishable, at least in hue, from the dun-colored Kafrayn Dam across the road and the sagging slopes of runoff-sliced hills all around. From that vantage point, everything from here to the east is beige and taupe and light brown and tan and off-white.

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