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Tall el-Hammam

14 March 2015

The Tall el-Hammam excavation has ended for another year. It is an excavation heavily orientated towards the Bible and from that position, the director, Steven Collins, has had a look at other references that may refer to Tall el-Hammam (or its vicinity). For instance, Abel Shittim, the place opposite Jericho where Moses camped before Joshua led them across the Jordan.

In Numbers 33:49 it says, they camped by the Jordan, from Beth Jeshimoth to Abel Shittim in the Plain of Moab. The word yeshimoth = desolation, according to Collins (slightly different from Jeshimoth). Both Abel and Yeshimoth have the meaning of mourning according to Collins – a place of mourning (as a result of desolation caused by cosmic fire). It's a novel idea – but is it true? According to Collins it is a reference to the Kikkar Plain as a devastated area – burnt to a frizzle by the angel of the Lord. Sodom was therefore a place within a region of desolation.


Phil Silvia is writing a dissertation on the MB destruction in the Kikkar which includes soil recovery data. Collins says that mudbrick walls of the MB palace were heated to a near-ceramic state and turned orange-red in colour. Even the bricks inside the palace were reddened. The upper storeys of the palace are missing. Not fallen down or eroded but literally missing.

During the Late Bronze period it would have been a large reddish ruin sitting high above the surrounding plain – hence it became known as the place of desolation. Nice interpretation as the site straddles two important trade routes. Unfortunately, none of this proves Tall el-Hammam = Sodom.

After relaying Collins thoughts to archaeologist Bob Porter he remained sceptical – as the idea of Sodom being destroyed towards the end of the MB age did not fit with the New Chronology (of David Rohl) but that could well be a position that assumes Biblical chronology is reliable prior to the reign of David. We don't know. Collins of course, assumes the Biblical chronology is also reliable – but without the problem of revising, or lowering, orthodox chronology. It's an interesting impasse –

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