Sep 12, 2013

Fact 2: The Dead Sea is at its lowest point in history and there are no exposed ruins.

Map of the Dead Sea levels. Link to interactive site.
Fact 2: The Dead Sea is at its lowest point in history and there are no exposed ruins. I still hear people claiming the old view of William F. Albright who claimed that Sodom was buried under the Dead Sea. In 1924 Albright led an archaeological expedition to locate the Cities of the Plain but after an investigation of the area could not locate any suitable sites, it was suggested that they were swallowed up by the Dead Sea and undiscoverable.1. 

     This theory was further substantiated by Ralph Baney’s discovery in 1960 of small trees in the upright growth position beneath the southern basin of the Dead Sea but did not find any ancient structures.2.  Albright did, however, find the ruins of a fortified site, named Bab edh-Dhrâ, overlooking the deep ravine of Wadi Kerak.3. Taking into consideration the lack of occupational debris and seven fallen limestone monoliths found a short distance east of Bab edh-Dhrâ, Albright concluded that this was a place of pilgrimage where annual feasts were celebrated.

     More recently in 2011 a Russian exploration group used submarines to explore and photograph the bottom of the Dead Sea. Needless to say nothing was found.4.

     The Dead Sea is one of the most interesting bodies of water particularly as it is the lowest point on earth along the Great Rift Valley in Jordan (both Tall el-Hammam and Bab edh-Dhra are situated the Great Rift Valley). According to the Israel Marine Data Center (ISRAMAR) "Monitoring of the Dead Sea" along with geological and archaeological evidence, today the Dead Sea is -423 meters (1,388 ft) below sea level.5.
     Extensive geological and archaeological research has been carried out by Frumkin and Elitzur who summarize their research:
There are three historically documented phases of the Dead Sea in the Biblical record: low lake levels ca. 2000–1500 B.C.E. (before common era [MB]); high lake levels ca. 1500–1200 B.C.E.[LB]; and low lake levels between ca. 1000 and 700 B.C.E. [IA]. The Biblical evidence indicates that during the dry periods the southern basin of the Dead Sea was completely dry, a fact that was not clear from the geological and archaeological data alone.6.
     The only period of time when the Dead Sea was lower than today was during the Byzantine period (500 AD) at about 440 m below sea level and visible on the Madaba map where there is only water evident in the northern basin. The research all translates into the following measurements and periods compiled by Frumkin, Kadan, Yehouda, and Eyal:

Dead Sea Level*     Period 14C BP     Calibrated age range    Archaeology Period
–340?                             9200–7000               8300–6000 BC        Pre-Pottery Neolithic
–385                               3100–2600               1400–800 BC                 EB, LB, IA**
–390                               2100–1700                 332–63 BC                  Hellenistic
–392                                   60–0                    1890–1950 AD            British Mandate 7.

* Approximate maximum level of meters below sea level. Remember measurements are in negative value because they are below sea level.
** EB = Early Bronze Age; LB = Late Bronze Age; IA = Iron Age

     The result is that the Dead Sea is at its lowest it has ever been, except for the Byzantine period, and no archaeological ruins or sites are visible anywhere on the shores of the Dead Sea today. Bab edh-Dhra is situated at an elevation approximately -240 m. below sea level well above the Dead Sea level in any period and was never under the Dead Sea.8.

1. William F. Albright, “The Jordan Valley in the Bronze Age,” Annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research 6 (1925 1924): 13–74; The Archaeology of Palestine (London, U.K.: Penquin, 1956), 135–36; Paul W. Lapp, “Bâb edh-Dhrâʿ, Perizzites and Emim,” in Jerusalem Through the Ages: The Twenty-fifth Archaeological Convention (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1968), 25; Joseph Free and Howard F. Vos, Archaeology and Bible History (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1992), 57; David Neev and Kenneth O. Emery, Destruction of Sodom, Gomorrah and Jericho: Geological, Climatological and Archaeological Backgrounds (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 1995), 30.
2. Ralph E. Baney, Search for Sodom and Gomorrah, 2nd ed. (Kansas City, Mont.: CAM Press, 1962), 178.
3. William F. Albright, J. L. Kelso, and J. P. Thorley, “Early Bronze Age Pottery from Bab-ed-Dra in Moab,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 95 (1944): 1–13.
4. David Lev  "Russia Decides to Search for Sodom and Gomorrah - in Jordan." Arutz 7 Israel National News Dec 14, 2010. Collins and Scott, Discovering the City of Sodom, 101.
5. Gertman, H. Hecht. “The Dead Sea Hydrography from 1992 to 2000.” Journal of Marine Systems 35 (2002): 169–81. 
6. Frumkin, Amos, and Yoel Elitzur. “Historic Dead Sea Level Fluctuations Calibrated with Geological and Archaeological Evidence.” Quatenary Research 57 (2002): 334–42. 
7. Frumkin, Amos, Galit Kadan, Enzel Yehouda, and Yehuda Eyal. “Radiocarbon Chronology of the Holocene Dead Sea: Attempting A Regional Correlation.” Radiocarbon 43, no. 3 (2001): 1187. 

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