Sep 13, 2013

Fact 3: Bab edh-Dhra and Tall el-Hammam are both located in the Great Rift Jordan Valley



Natural formed asphalt/Bitumen collected at the Dead Sea shore.


Fact 3: Both Bab edh-Dhra and Tall el-Hammam are located in the Great Rift Jordan Valley along a fault line which is known to have asphalt /bitumen, sulfur, tar, and natural gas.1 Ben-Avraham and Niemi describe the area as:
The Dead Sea lake (Fig. 5-1) occupies part of a long and narrow continental trough - the Dead Sea basin [Dead Sea-Jordan Transform] - located in the Dead Sea rift. Tectonically, the Dead Sea rift is a transform fault system that separates the Arabian plate on the east from the African plate on the west, connecting the spreading zone of the Red Sea in the south to the Taurus collision zone in the north.2.

     The majority of the asphalt blocks are located along what is called the "tar belt" on the western side of the Dead Sea between Masada and En Gedi.3. This is likely where the famed "bitumen pits" (Gen 14:10) were located on the western side of the Dead Sea that the Elamite solider fell in (See Fact 4 for more details).  It is a misconception to believe that just the southern end of the Dead Sea has asphalt /bitumen, sulfur, tar, and natural gas features. The reason it is so seldom associated with the northern end of the Dead Sea is because it is covered by the salt water of the Dead Sea. Amit and Bein explain:
to date, no exploration well has been drilled in the northern part of the Dead Sea north of the En Gedi-2 well (Fig. 5-2). Most of this area is covered by the hypersaline, approximately 300-m-deep Dead Sea lake, and its hydrocarbon potential is poorly known.4. 
      Josephus used its Greek name, Asphaltites which the Romans called  Asphalt Lake (Palus Asphaltites). 
And when they were come over against Sodom, they pitched their camp at the vale called the Slime Pits, for at that time there were pits in that place; but now, upon the destruction of the city of Sodom, that vale became the Lake Asphaltites, as it is called. (Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 1.9)
     Josephus gives the impression that he is describing the creation of the Dead Sea from the results of the destruction of Sodom but geologist know that the Dead Sea has been around for many years prior to that.5. Josephus is no doubt recounting an ancient tradition and not describing a scientific fact.
      Some look to the southern end of the Dead Sea and see salt pillars that remind them of Lot's wife being turned into a pillar of salt, bits of asphalt lying around, sulfur balls, see what looks like the structures of buildings, and a mountain called "Mount Sodom" and believe that it looks cursed therefore it must be the land of the Sodomites. (i.e., Ron Wyatt, Sodom and Gomorrah: The Cities of the Plain: Ash and Brimstone Remain) This is nothing more than pseudo-archaeology and pure nonsense.  Collins provides a word of caution here:
people who look only at geological features to ascertain the location of a site for an event, and ignore the geographical details in the only ancient document that describes the event, become etiological legend-spinners themselves.6.
Ma'in hot spring -264 metres below sea level.
     On a personal note I am working at Tall el-Hammam (means "Hill of the Hot Baths"7.) next to the thermal springs (aquae calidae).  The word Hammam in Arabic means ‘hot spring/well’ and most commonly refers to ‘hot baths’ similar to the Hebrew hamat which means "hot springs." It is the only site in the region with a name associated with thermal springs. I can smell the pungent sulfur smell of the hot water from where I am excavating. The southern region of the Dead Sea is not the only place in the Dead Sea region that has sulfur, bitumen, and other petroleum products. The Ma'in hot springs are located on the edge of Wadi Mujib close to Tall el-Hammam and feed into the Dead Sea. The Tall el-Meselhleh, hot springs are just on the other side of the wadi from Tall el-Hammam and part of the same hot spring system. The hot springs at Tall el-Hammam are caped and used for irrigation of the local banana fields by the local farmers.

     If an earthquake took out Bab edh-Dhra it would have also taken out Tall el-Hammam. A hypothetical geological description of the destruction of Sodom is no indication to its location.


Tall el-Meselhleh, hot springs
INTERESTING FACT: The Dead Sea Asphalt was used in Egyptian mummification.8.  

Footnotes

1. Ben-Avraham, Zvi, and Tina M. Niemi. “Active Tectonics in the Dead Sea Basin.” In The Dead Sea: The Lake and Its Setting, edited by Zvi Ben-Avraham, Tina M. Niemi, and Joel R. Gat, 73–81. Oxford Monographs on Geology and Geophysics 36. New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, USA, 1997. Amit, O., and A. Bein. “The Genesis of the Asphalt in the Dead Sea Area.” Journal of Geochemical Exploration 11, no. 3 (1979): 211–25.
2. Michael Gardosh et al., “Hydrocarbon Exploration in the Southern Dead Sea Area,” in The Dead Sea: The Lake and Its Setting, ed. Zvi Ben-Avraham, Tina M. Niemi, and Joel R. Gat, Oxford Monographs on Geology and Geophysics 36 (New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, USA, 1997), 58. See also Z. Garfinkel,  “Internal Structure of the Dead Sea Leaky Transform (Rift) in Relation to Plate Kinematics,” Tectonophysics 80 (1981): 81–108;  David Neev, and Kenneth O. Emery. Destruction of Sodom, Gomorrah and Jericho: Geological, Climatological and Archaeological Backgrounds (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 1995).  
3. Gardosh et al., “Hydrocarbon Exploration in the Southern Dead Sea Area,” 58.
4. Ibid 58. See also Amit, O., and A. Bein. “The Evolution of the Dead Sea Floating Asphalt Blocks: Simulations by Pyrolisis.” Journal of Petroleum Geology 2, no. 4 (1980): 429–447. Ben-Avraham, Zvi, Tina M Niemi, and Joel R. Gat, eds. The Dead Sea: The Lake and Its Setting. Oxford Monographs on Geology and Geophysics 36. New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, USA, 1997.
5. Gardosh et al., “Hydrocarbon Exploration in the Southern Dead Sea Area,” 58.
6. Steven Collins and Latayne C. Scott. Discovering the City of Sodom: The Fascinating, True Account of the Discovery of the Old Testament’s Most Infamous City (New York, N.Y.: Simon & Schuster, 2013), 102.
7. Kay Prag  "Preliminary report on the excavations at Tell Iktanu and Tall el-Hammam, Jordan 1990." Levant 23 (1991): 57.
8. Rullk├Âtter, J., and A. Nissenbaum. “Dead Sea Asphalt in Egyptian Mummies: Molecular Evidence,” Naturwissenschaften 75, no. 12 (1988): 618–621. 

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