Jun 20, 2022

Sodom Sulfur Ball Video

Recently a video by Joel P. Kramer about "Sulfur Balls of Sodom and Gomorrah" was posted at Epic Archaeology (Facebook) by Ted Wright who subsequently removed my posts challenging his claim that Bab edh-Dhra was Sodom. So I thought it appropriate to provide context for readers and those interested in Sodom research. NOTE: that I deal with all this in detail with academic references in my book The Location of Sodom . I will repeat some of this research here.

My Interest in Sodom

For those who may not know there are two views among conservative Christians for the Location of Sodom. The Southern Sodom Theory (SST) promoted by Dr. Bryant Wood, retired director of ABR, and the Northern Sodom Theory (NST) promoted by Dr. Steven Collins, Trinity Southwest University and Veritas International University. In the larger debate over minimalist VS maximalist, they are both maximalist and friends, but differ over their archaeological conclusions. I was mentored by Dr. Bryant Wood in the late 1970's when studying Archaeology at Tyndale University in Ontario Canada when Dr. Wood was studying archaeology at the University of Toronto. At the time, I wrote a paper on Sodom and Gomorrah for my course and Dr Wood was most helpful and gracious in sharing his articles in Bible and Spade magazine (Associated for Biblical Research) about his belief that Bab eh-Dhra (BeD) was Sodom. I got an A- on my paper thanks to his mentor-ship. 

Then the year I was to excavate with Dr. Wood at Khirbet el-Maqatir (2005), the excavation was canceled due to conflicts in the region, and discovered that some of my friends were excavating at Tall el-Hammam in Jordan instead, so I signed up, not knowing at the time that it was a candidate for Sodom. Following 10 of the 15 seasons excavating at Hammam I changed my mind on the location of Sodom based on the overwhelming archaeological evidence, that Tall el-Hammam is Sodom and that the Cities of the Plain are indeed on the North End of the Dead Sea based on the biblical text. The key factor is the date of the destruction and date of the Patriarchs that I did not fully understand as a undergraduate, having just begin my archaeology career. So hearing both sides of the debate, I began on a quest to research the actual data published on all the sites and not just accept the claims of Dr. Wood and Dr. Collins, whom I deeply respect. I was also teaching a course at Liberty University on Biblical Archaeology and required students to write a paper comparing the arguments for both sites, and began seeing students embrace arguments not supported by the evidence (common when people do their research on the internet). As a result I wrote my book on the Location of Sodom to present the facts as they are published and known. I also wrote several peer reviewed articles on Tall el-Hammam.

My Critique of the Kramer "Sulfur Balls" video

Things in common with Kramer

First, there a many things that Joel P. Kramer and I share in common.

  1. We are both Christian archaeologists.
  2. We both believe the biblical account is historically true (maximalists). 
  3. We have both worked at Khirbet el-Maqatir.
  4. We are both on the staff of ABR with many common friends on staff.
  5. We both know Dr. Bryant Wood.
  6. We have both published in Bible and Spade magazine.
  7. We have both worked in archaeology in Jordan.
  8. We both know Dr. Shimon Gibson. 
  9. We both have taken Christians on tours of Jordan and Israel. 
  10. We share a passion for good graphics.

So, I am here on my blog not to "bash" Joel Kramer, but to honestly, objectively, and scientifically examine his claims and conclusions without malice in the spirit of good scholarship (not something to easily reflect on FB or Twitter).

False or Misleading Conclusions made in the Video

Now let us examine the claims that Mr. Kramer make in his well photographed video. And I honestly mean this, the video is well done cinematography. This is his specialty and gives a good visual of the sites of Bab edh-Dhra and Numeira. However, a good video does not mean that the conclusions are good. The video is filled with inaccurate information and misleading conclusions. Let me explain.

Claims Patriarchs lived in the EBA.

This is perhaps the most important claim that destroys the claim of BeD being Sodom. Kramer claims that Abraham and Lot lived in the "Early Bronze Age" (EBA 3300-2100 BC). However, he does not provide any dates or justification to verify his claim (he make a case for the problems with the carbon dating in his interview). According to the published material made by Rast and Schaub, who excavated Bâb edh-Dhrâ, the destruction date of Bab edh-Dhra is ca. 2350 BC [1]  and Numeria is 2000 BC and that is based on the pottery and carbon 14 dating of organic material. So there is no argument that BeD was destroyed in the EBA (2350 BC in his interview he cherry picks the earlier dates of Albright and Pratt but Albright did not excavate the site and Pratt was the preliminary work done there before Rast and Schaub), however, the question is when did Abraham and Lot (Patriarchs) live?

This needs to be expanded for the layman. All Christian scholar, including Dr. Wood (whom Kramer is supporting and I respect), believe that the patriarchs lived in the Middle Bronze Age 2166–1991 BC (MB I or called Intermediate Bronze, Wood's dates). Wood claims that the date for the destruction of Sodom is ca. 2070 BC based on a 1446 BC date for the Exodus which places it in the Middle Bronze age not the Early Bronze Age.[2]  Note that this is a 220 year difference from the date of the Patriarchs and destruction of BeD which Dr. Wood acknowledges, while Kramer does not.

Note that Christian scholars debate the date of the Patriarchs, but very few serious scholars argue that they lived in the EBA (3300-2100 BC). For details see my previous post on the Date of the Patriarchs. where I lay out the charts of each scholar and their dates. This does not mean that the biblical account is not true, but that the evidence is blurry this early in human history and cannot be claimed as a fact but debated, which is OK in the quest for the truth. The fact that each conservative scholar have their own dates for these early periods proves that this is not a settled fact. The Bible does not give exact dates and must be calculated from clues in the text, thus the various dates.

Point is that most Christian archaeologists (including Dr. Wood) believe that the Patriarchs lived in the Middle Bronze age (2166-1991 BC) not the Early Bronze Age (3300-2100 BC). Note: that each scholar has a slightly different date by 50-100 years because of the uncertainty of the dates that are not absolute, but relatively subjective. So lets agree that the Patriarchs lived in the Middle Bronze age based on the cultural indicators in the biblical text compared with cultural indicators in ancient texts (Ebla, Mari, etc).

Claims that Rast and Schaub believed it was Sodom

Kramer reads from Rast and Schaub giving the impression that they believed that Bâb edh-Dhrâʿ is Sodom. However, Lapp, Schaub, and Rast have never affirmed that Bâb edh-Dhrâʿ is biblical Sodom in the same historical sense as Wood or other Christians (including Kramer or I) believe. They believed that the destruction of these southern cities laid the foundation for the stories found in the Bible.They would say the same thing about Tall el-Hammam bring Sodom.

The Location of Sodom : FACT 6: RAST AND SCHAUB DID NOT BELIEVE THAT BED WAS SODOM Rast, who excavated BeD, in fact believed that:

Sodom was a fictional place name to begin with, that a city by this name never existed, and that the name came into being as an element in a local story or tale stressing a destruction severe enough to account for the startling physiography of the Dead Sea region.[3]

I am standing at the other end of this charnel
house (grave house) at Bab edh-Dhra.

Burn layer over graves in a cemetery

No doubt that there is a large cemetery at Bab edh-Dhra, and that some of it was burned. My issue is how he treats the evidence or does not mention the facts.

First, there are different periods to the cemetery and different types of graves. There are shaft tombs that date to an earlier period (EB IA)[7] and charnel "mudbrick" houses (see the photo where I am standing at one end) that date to the same destruction as the city complex (EB III). Charnel houses looks like a house/residence (explains why they were possibly burned by an enemy, with burning arrows landing on the roof) where they placed many bodies once they had decomposed. There have been many scientific reports done on the cemetery at Bab edh-Dhra (all referenced in my book). Also, note that the large number of bodies (half million) in the cemetery does not support the size of the city and so the theory has been published that the Bedouin brought their dead there to bury their relatives. If this was Sodom the bodies would have been in the debris of the city structures and not the cemetery. Note: charred human remains at BeD were only found in the cemetery and not the city. [8] No human remains were reported in the archaeological reports for the residence of Bab edh-Dhra.

Kramer posits the question "why would armies burn the cemetery". The answer is quite simple, because they looked like residential houses. The assyrians had come through the region and attacked the cities in around the Dead Sea (Chedorlaomer or Kedorlaomer, king of Elam Gen 14:10).

Bones in the surface finds 

Now there is no doubt that Kramer picked up bones from the ground at BeD, but the question is where were they actually excavated. Rast and Schaub document that it was only in the cemetery. Finding bones on the surface of the ground walking around does not mean anythings. Local dog (lots of them around when I was there) could have dug them up and brought them to the surface and moved them around the site. As an archaeologist, Kramer should know that these finds need to be documented in-situ (he even used this term in his video so he is familiar with the concept). So lets look at the actual published excavation reports. Rast and Schaub certainly documented human remains in the cemetery, but none in the city EB destruction layer. It is certainly consistent to find bones in a cemetery.

At the final destruction of Numeira Coogan reports that: “No human skeletal remains were found in the ashy debris of the final destruction in the center of town.”[5] Human remains were reported in the city tower at Numeira but remember this was a different time than BeD's destruction.

Assumes that Bab edh-Dhra and Numeira were destroyed at the same time

False: Kramer does not mention the dates for the destruction of BeD or Numeira, but just assumes that the two sites were destroyed at the same time, but they were not. Bab edh-Dhra and Numeira were destroyed 250 years apart according to the men who excavated both sites.

The Location of Sodom : FACT 39: BED AND NUMEIRA WERE DESTROYED AT DIFFERENT TIMES Here you will find all the details and footnotes to verify this statement.

If one is Sodom the other certainly cannot be Gomorrah unless we have more than one accounts in scripture.

Shadows and Mirrors: Numeira was never resettled

True: Kramer claims that Numeira was never lived in again. What he does NOT tell you is that Bab edh-Dhra was destroyed in the EB III and then reoccupied in EB IV. See the Location of Sodom : FACT 38: BED WAS DESTROYED IN THE EB III BUT WAS REOCCUPIED IN EB IV

 Claims Sulfur ball sank in the Dead Sea

"Sinking down in the Dead Sea and preserved" Makes no sense. Also he claims in his interview with McDowell that they are "unique to the Dead Sea". This is just wrong.

Sulfur balls are created by the combination of salt water and Gypsum (and other minerals) from the Dead Sea but many other places on earth. 

Besides those geological settings, native sulfur balls have also been discovered in a unique occurrence of supraglacial sulfur springs in the eastern Krieger Mountains, on Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canadian High Arctica. Native sulfur balls appears as rounded concretions in many areas, for example Mt. Ruapehu in New Zealand (Giggenbach, 1974); Kusatsu-Shirane Volcano in Yugama crater lake, Japan (Takano and Watanuki, 1990); Poa´s Volcano in central Costa Rica (Rowe et al., 1992a); Keli Mutu crater lakes in Flores, Indonesia (Pasternack and Varekamp, 1994); and Massada near the Dead Sea (Torfstein et al., 2008). The native sulfur ball is formed during the mixing of acidic hydrothermal fluid (which includes H2S and SO2 gases) and seawater. [10]

Pointing to sulfur balls in the walls around the Dead Sea that is not dated is just poor science. You need to date it with pottery or some other means (i.e. C14).  The existence of sulfur ball which occur around the world proves nothing. It is commonly used by the Pseudo-archaeologist Ron Wyatt, and am sure you do not want to be counted in his camp, who used sulfur ball to argue it is around Mt. Sidom/Masada on the other side of the Dead Sea in Israel.

Claims the Bible say "sulfur rained"

The Bible describes it as:  "Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone (Heb gā-p̄ə-rît ) and fire from the Lord out of heaven, and He overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.." Gen 19:24-25 NASB

The text in Hebrew uses the word gā-p̄ə-rît (NAS, KJV, INT) and fire. Strong's Concordance translates it as brimstone. Brown-Driver-Briggs (BDB) describes it as Pitch and then other combustibles, especially sulphur (from Bactrian vohukereti). 
To find sulfur balls around the Dead Sea is common due to the production of the balls from the geology of the regions (salt water and other minerals).

No scientific or archaeological research is mentioned other than Rast and Schaub who did not believe it was historical Sodom

Alternative explanation that fits the archaeology and geology

What is noteworthy is that the entire Jordan Valley including Tall el-Hammam was destroyed by an air burst in the middle bronze age (BeD had already been destroyed) according to secular archaeological scholars (who have no horse in the race for Sodom) and called the absence of occupation in the Jordan Valley as "the Late Bronze gap".[6]  An air burst that has been scientifically proven to be the destruction of the Jordan Valley in the Middle Bronze Age (secular archaeologist call it the late bronze gap). [7] NOTE: I do not see this as an explaining away the biblical account as naturally occurring, but that God uses his creation (means) to bring about his purposes.

 An air burst would have also sprayed salt (documented from sample taken after the MB destruction at TeH had toxic levels of salt)[11] and even perhaps sulfur balls around the Dead Sea region.

Interview by Kramer on Bab edh-Dhra as Sodom

His interview with Sean McDowell is filled with facts but also fiction. He just regergitates the material that Dr. Bryant Wood proposed in the late 1970's. I know because Dr. Wood was my mentor for my paper on Sodom and Gomorah, in 1979. Note that there is no mention that Tall el-Hammam, Jordan (North End of Dead Sea) was excavated in the last 15 years which has also been argued strongly as Sodom (See The Handbook of the Holy Land). One does not need to agree that TeH is Sodom but at least mention it as a candidate by other Christian archaeologists.

Site plan for the EBI and IAII remains at Feifa (or Fifa).
Used with permission of Hugh Barnes, The Follow the Pots Project

Excavation of Feifa

Kramer's claims that Feifa, discovered in 1973, has never been excavated, which is wrong. So what do we know?

Feifa (also Fifa, Feifeh, or Fifah) was excavated by Walter E. Rast and R. Thomas Schaub in Dec 1989- Jan 1990.[9]

Excavated again in 2001 by Dr. Mohammed Najjar, department of Antiquities, Jordan in the second salvage season. Najjar spent 2 weeks and excavated about 50 tombs.

The profile of the site is Neolithic,  EB IA cemetery,[12]  IAII fortress built over the EB cemetery.  Town site initially identified as EB but is actually IAII,[13] Nabatean, Roman, Byzantine,  & Mamluk. Van Hattem’s indication of EB III is mistaken.[14]

It was found that there were no EB III/IV (3000–2350 BC) residential structures at Feifa, but only IA1 (1200–1000 BC much later) structures. If Feifa is one of the cities of the plain it must have been destroyed at the same time as Bab edh-Dhra around 2350 BC (EB III). So Kramer is claiming that one of the cities of the plain which was merely a cemetery with no occupation, is one of the cities of the plain. The Bible describes destruction that would place bodies from that time period in the destruction layer (published archaeology and not surface finds), not in cemeteries, and certainly not in a city that did not exist at this time period.

Khirbet al-Kanazar 

Khirbet al-Kanazar was discovered in 1973 by MacDonald and identified as site 141 in the survey of the southern Ghor. Burton MacDonald and Nancy Lapp. It was excavated in Dec 1989- Jan 1990 by Walter E. Rast and R. Thomas Schaub. Then again by Meredith S.Chesson,  The profile of Khirbet al-Kanazar is EB I cemetery,[15]  EB IV cemetery with no domestic occupation.  IA , IA II , Rom.  Van Hattem’s claimed that there was EB III remains but this was mistaken. The walls which Rast and Schaub identified in 1973[16] were in reality charnel houses marking EB IV shaft tombs. [17]

Initially Dr. Bryant Wood claimed that Kanazar was Sodom.[20] In his later article Dr. Bryant Wood, whom Kramer is following, acknowledges that the evidence at Khanazir and Feifa (excavated between 16 December 1989 and 13 January 1990) revealed no identifiable settlements, with ONLY the cemetery evident. Wood states “At Khanazir, walls observed by Rast and Schaub in 1973 were in reality rectangular structures marking Early Bronze IV shaft tombs.”[21]  Wood changed his opinion on Khanazir to connect it with either Zeboiim or Admah, and identified Bâb edh-Dhrâʿ and Numeira as Sodom and Gomorrah. However, the evidence does not follow as the site is merely a cemetery as he acknowldges in his report.

BeD was resettled after its destruction in EB IV.

Kramer claims that Sodom was never resettled based on (Jeremiah 50:39–40). Assuming that this is true, which one does not need to hold from the reading of the text (other cities were cursed and then resettled in the future), then BeD cannot be Sodom, because it was resettled in the EBIV period after its destruction in 2350 BC (EBIII).

Initially, in 1981, Rast and Schaub thought that “the EB IV peoples chose areas away from the town for settlement” [22]  following the destruction of BeD at the end of the EBIII period.  But new evidence, reported in their 1981 excavation reports, overturned this belief:

A number of pits cut in the area also belonged to the EBIV settlement. This is the first clear evidence within the city of an EBIV usage following the destruction in EBIII necessitating a change in the previous view.  Several excellent groups of EBIV pottery came from these loci. [26]

This is no small point based on Kramers argument that Sodom must be destroyed never to be occupied and BeD does not meet his own criteria. So if he must hold to  his argument that it must never have been reoccuped then this clearly rules out BeD.

Bab edh-Dhra is not the established site for Sodom

Wrong. Only Dr. Bryant Wood and a few folk at ABR (where I am also on staff) claim that BeD is Sodom (see Eric Cline quote at the bottom of this post). Albright who discovered the site of Bab edh-Dhra did not believe it was Sodom because it dated to the EB period (knew this even before it was confirmed by excavations from surface finds) and he knew that the Patriarchs lived in the Middle Bronze period. It was the best candidate for Sodom prior to the excavation of TeH which is a much stronger condidate becasue it was destroyed in the MB period when the patriarchs lived.

The view that Bab edh-Dhra is Sodom was put forth by Dr. Bryant Woods in the 1970's and I was mentored by him at the time in Toronto while writing my paper on Sodom and Gomorah in my undergrad archaeology course and believed at the time that it was Sodom for many of the same reason that Kramer uses. Upon further investigation and the excavations at Tall el-Hammam I have changed my mind based on the strong evidence.

Es-Safi (his Zoar) is right in the middle of the other cities

That the cemetery at es-Safi (his Zoar) after its destruction continues to be used while the other cemteries are not is not true from the archaeological evidence.

Furthermore the location of Zoar has been debated and none have been confirmed as Zoar from the archaeological remains.

These sites for Citise of the Plain are not debated by scholars: wrong

Just plain wrong and this post and many many other scholars claim that Tall el-Hammam is a candidate (at least) for Sodom. So to say that there is not debate by scholars is not only wrong but flat out a lie that misleads the public and especially Christians. And I know that Kramer knows about Tall el-Hammam because we have published in the same magazine and belong to the same organization, ABR.

BeD is the largest site in the southern Dead Sea

Yes, but not in the Jordan valley. Even in the EB period Tall el-Hammam is 62 Acres, while BeD is only 10. In the MB period TeH is still 62 acres but BeD is non-existent.The TeH is destroyed along with all the cities in the Jordan Valley. Secular archaologists call it the "Late Bronze Gap." The air burst event has been scientifaclly documented as the cause of the destruction of the cities in the Jordan Valley, and may also explain the destruction of the cemeteries from containing EB bodies in the southern region of the Dead Sea (BeD, Feifa, Kanazar and even Ex-Safi).

Tall el-Hammam (candidate for Sodm) from Mt Nebo.

Zoar on the Madaba map 

First,  the Madaba map dates to the 6th cent. AD (AD 542 - 570) which is Byzantine tradition and Egeria (Spanish Pilgrim AD 381–84) who predates the Madaba map by almost 200 years traveled through the region and spoke to the Bishop of Sodom to then climb Mt Nebo where she describes seeing "The Land of the Sodomites" from that location.  Egeria, The Pilgrimage of Etheria, 20, 23–24.

What is indisputable is that the southern end of the Dead Sea is not visible from Mt. Nebo. One can only see the top end of the Dead Sea and Tall el-Hammam from this location.

I have published that Tall el-Hammam is represented on the Madaba Map and while in the Byzantine period it would have been identified as Livias, however, the name that was eroded on the map may well have read Sodom as it was a map of holy sites and Livias was not a holy site, and Egeria acknowleged a Bishop of Sodom.

Critique of Tall el-Hammam

He does not mention this site in his video but in the interview he does mention it. His concerns are:

 He said the they would have gone into these sites and excavated them if they were believed to be Sodom, Well Tall el-Hammam was mined and Kay Prag could only do a small square there until it was demined and Dr. Steven Collins could safely excavate it from 2005 until today 2022.

Then he claims that Tall el-Hammam cannot be Sodom because Sodom is south of Jerusalem (a prophetic text that is not narrative to give georgraphy and ignores the key passage that say it was east of Bethel and Ai and on the Kikkar (Heb Jordan Valley), which it is impossible to see the southern end of the Dead Sea from between Bethel and Ai.

He also claims that Tall el-Hammam cannot be Sodom and Abel-Shittim. Why not they are in different periods and in the time of Moses (LBA) it was a wasteland when Moses came through because it had been destroyed in the MBA.

"disqualified from the Bible" Well if you read the test of Gen 10:19; 13:3, 10-12; 14:1-12; Deut 29:22-24;  34:1-3 they all indicate that Sodom was on the north end (Heb Kikkar Jordan valley) of the Dead Sea which many Christian archaeologists and scholars believed before Albright (who did not believe Bab edh-drah was Sodom). 

Reconstruction based on the archaeology.
 "They have excavated a Late Bronze building." and "Iron Age Palace" There was a very small Late Bronze building on the acropolis (perhaps a watch tower) but no residential structures when Moses was there with the people of Israel. There was an Iron Age City from the time of Solomon, correct. But what he fails to mention or misrepresent is that we have excavated a very large Middle Bronze age Palace and city gate that was destroyed and evidenct throughout the city in every square at this time period (MBA the time of the Patriarchs). The research is published in many places.

I and Dr. Scott Stripling personally excavated the Roman bath complex at Tall el-Hammam and his statement is accurate that there is a huge Roman city called Livias. But then draws the conclusion that "You cannot have a Roman city when Jesus is saying your going to become like Sodom and Gomorah." Well what is significant is that Jesus is on the Jordan side (Perea) near Tall el-Hammam when he made the statement and they would have understood the significance of that statement. It was no longer Sodom but Livias had been built on the ruins and that is what made the statement so powerful for those listening. Publication

"In the past they would have taken you to these sites" (South end of the Dead Sea). False.These archaeologist would place it on the North end and some even at Tall elHammam. Charles William Wilson (1869);  Edward Henry Palmer (1871); Henry Baker Tristram (1873); Selah Merrill (1876, 1881); William F. Birch (1879); Claude Reignier Conder (1879–1883); William M. Thomson (1882–85); George Grove (1884); John Cunningham Geikie (1887); Père Alexis Mallon (1929–1934); and E. Power (1930). They are all quoted and referenced in The Location of Sodom.


Kramer claims that Albright dates BeD to 2067 BC for the destruction of BeD, The problem is that Albright does not believe that this site is Sodom because it is to early for the time of the Patriarchs. Then Kramer claims that Lapp dated the destruction of BeD to 2100 BC. Then Kramer claims that because Carbon dating is not accurate that the dates of Rast and Schaub (does not say but it is 2350 BC) are not valid. He just picks the dates that suits his narrative. Now all must agree that carbon dating must be calibrated and that it can be off but not 350 years. I have personally seen the pottery at the Bab edh-Dhra cemetery as well as the pottery in the British museum from the site and there is no doubt that it is EBA (ca. 3100–2350 BC) and confirmed by the carbon dating.

Wood claims that the date for the destruction of Sodom (BeD) is ca. 2070 BC based on a 1446 BC date for the Exodus.[27] The date of the destruction of Bab edh-Dhra according to Rast and Schaub is 2350 BC based on the pottery and the carbon 14 dating.

 “toward the end of the Early Bronze Age–Bâb edh-Dhrâʿ in 2350 BC. But Numeira was simply abandoned about 2600 BC.” So even if one is Sodom the other cannot be Gomorrah.

Rast points out that:

Although it is difficult to determine the exact time span of Early Bronze III Bab edh-Dhra, the fact that it had five major building phases would suggest that it lasted over a period of between 300 and 400 years, from ca. 2750 to 2350 B.C. Rast, “Bronze Age Cities along the Dead Sea,” 47.

Albright stated that Bâb edh-Dhrâʿ may be one of the “clues or links” which could help to identify the Cities of the Plain, but did not believe that it was Sodom. In Albright’s own words he stated: “It therefore seems highly probable that Bâb edh-Dhrâʿ is a link to the biblical Sodom and Gomorrah. . . . ” (Running and Freedman, William Foxwell Albright: A Twentieth-Century Genius: A Biography of the Acknowledged Dean of Biblical Archaeologists, 119.) but this is not saying that BeD is Sodom. Albright believed that Sodom was in the southern region but now buried under the Dead Sea. Albright stated:

one result of our expedition has been to demonstrate that the site of the Old Testament Zoar was submerged by the rise of the Sea, . . . There is, accordingly, little likelihood that the exact sites of the original Zoar, of Sodom, or of Gomorrah will ever be recovered, but we can probably locate these towns approximately. . . . Since Zoar controlled the Seil el-Qrahi, Sodom, which biblical tradition places next to Zoar, presumably lay on the Seil en-Nmeirah, while Gomorrah may have been in the oasis of the Seil ‘Esal. There is no room here for Admah and Zeboim, which, though allied with Sodom and Gomorrah, were probably situated in the southern part of the Jordan Valley, east of the river, where an Adamah (so, with the same consonants), now Tell ed-Damieh. (Albright, “The Archæological Results of an Expedition to Moab and the Dead Sea,” 8).

Albright believed that Bâb edh-Dhrâʿ could not be Sodom because it was destroyed in the EBA.
Albright, “The Jordan Valley in the Bronze Age,” 59.


As an archaeologist Kramer has demonstrated very sloppy, if not misleading claims in his video and would encourage him to sharpen his academic skills and research. In an attempt to defend the historical accuracy of the biblical text (which I appreciate) it deserves more accuracy and a fair treatment of the evidence ( even if one does not agree that TeH is Sodom it should at least be mentioned as a serious candidate proposed by other Christian archaeologists). I appreciate his passion and goals, because I share them, but it needs to be based on accurate research and not just a conservative ideological observation of surface finds.

In my excavations and research, Tall el-Hammam is in the right place (Kikkar, or Jordan Valley), with the right stuff (archaeology destruction in MB), at right time (middle Bronze Age destruction), and with the right event (air burst in MB period).  

If Kramer had consulted the academic material in my book The Location of Sodomh or even the published dig reports material and represented them accuartely he would have seen that most of his claims that Bab edh-Dhra is Sodom were not supported by the evidence. He can disagree with Tall el-Hammam being Sodom which is fine, but he cannot claim that Bab edh-Dhra is Sodom based on the archaeological evidence, it just does not support his claim even with the manipulation of the evidence.

Let me conclude with this quote from Eric Cline who is currently the Chair of the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and Director of the Capitol Archaeological Institute at The George Washington University. As Eric Cline recently admitted in his chapter on “Sodom and Gomorrah”, after assessing the current state of the “southern” evidence:

[There] is no longer any particular reason to insist that Bâb edh-Dhrâʿ and Numeira are definitely Sodom and Gomorrah, especially if we wish to have Abraham both as an eyewitness and living in the Middle Bronze Age.. . . . Perhaps it would be wise to untether Sodom and Gomorrah from Bâb edh-Dhrâʿ and Numeira and search elsewhere for them. But where? [Now there is 15 seasons of excavation at Tall el-Hammam and three other cities around TeH that fit the criteria of the right place, right time, right stuff and right event]. Eric H. Cline, From Eden to Exile: Unraveling Mysteries of the Bible (Tampa, Fla.: National Geographic, 2007), 59–60.



1. Schaub, “Bab Edh-Dhraʿ (OEANE),” 1: 249; “Bab Edh-Dhraʿ (The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land),” 1:135–36; Rast, “Bronze Age Cities along the Dead Sea,” 48; “Patterns of Settlement at Bab Edh-Dhraʿ,” 17, 31–34; Chesson, “Libraries of the Dead,” 143 n.1; Rast, “Bronze Age Cities along the Dead Sea,” 47; “Bab Edh-Dhraʿ (Anchor Bible Dictionary),” 1:560; “Bab Edh-Dhraʿ and the Origin of the Sodom Saga,” 194; Chesson and Schaub, “Life in the Earliest Walled Towns,” 247.

2. Wood, “Discovery of the Sin Cities,” 78; “Locating Sodom: A Critique of the Northern Proposal,” 81. Some SST supporters (Freedman and van Hattem) maintain an early date of 2650–2300 BC for the existence of the Patriarchs (including Abraham and Lot) which corresponds with the EB III destruction of Bâb edh-Dhrâʿ (see Fact 37, 38 and Chart 4). However, Wood, who holds to BeD as Sodom, that saw its major destruction in 2350 BC, argues that the Patriarchs lived around 2166–1991 BC (MB I or Intermediate Bronze). For those like Albright, Kitchen, and Collins who take a later Middle Bronze (MB 1950–1550 BC) Age date for the Patriarchs (see Fact 38 and Chart 4), BeD does not exist when Abraham and Lot lived.

3.  Rast, “Bab Edh-Dhraʿ (Anchor Bible Dictionary),” 1:561.

5. Michael David Coogan. “Numeira 1981.” BASOR 255 (Summer 1984): 81.

6. James W. Flanagan, David W. McCreery, and Khair N. Yassine, “Tell Nimrin: Preliminary Report on the 1993 Season,” ADAJ 38 (1994): 207.

7. The 20,000 shaft tombs were estimated to account for over half a million bodies. Paul W. Lapp, “Bab Edh-Dhraʿ.” Revue Biblique 73 (1966): 556–61; aul W.  Lapp, “Bab Edh-Dhraʿ Tomb A 76 and Early Bronze I in Palestine.” BASOR 189 (1968): 12–41; Paul W.  Lapp, “Bab Edh-Dhraʿ.” Revue Biblique 73 (1966): 556–61.

8. Donald J Ortner, “A Preliminary Report on the Human Remains from the Bab Edh-Dhra’ Cemetery,” in The Southeastern Dead Sea Plain Expedition: An Interim Report of the 1977 Season, ed. R. Thomas Schaub and Walter E. Rast, AASOR 46 (Boston, MA: American Schools of Oriental Research, 1979), 119–32; Rast, “The Southeastern Dead Sea Valley Expedition, 1979.” Biblical Archaeologist 43, no. 1 (1980): 60–61.

9. Bab Edh-Dhraʿ: Excavations at the Town Site (1975-1981), 15.

10. A. Torfsteinab; I. Gavrielib; A. Katza; Y. Kolodnya; M. Steinb. "Gypsum as a monitor of the paleo-limnological–hydrological conditions in Lake Lisan and the Dead Sea" Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta Volume 72, Issue 10, 15 May 2008, Pages 2491-2509; Torfstein, Adi, Ittai Gavrieli, and Mordechai Stein. “The Sources and Evolution of Sulfur in the Hypersaline Lake Lisan (paleo-Dead Sea).” Earth and Planetary Science Letters 236 (2005): 61–77.

11.  David E. Graves, ‘Sodom And Salt in Their Ancient Near Eastern Cultural Context’, Near East Archaeological Society Bulletin 61, no. 1 (2): 18–36.

12.  Rast and Schaub, “Survey of the Southeastern Plain of the Dead Sea, 1973,” 11–12, 17; “The 1975-1981 Excavations at Bab Edh-Dhraʿ,” 1; MacDonald, “Southern Ghors and Northeast ’Arabah (The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East),” 65.

13. Schaub, “Southeast Dead Sea Plain,” 63; Rast and Schaub, “Survey of the Southeastern Plain of the Dead Sea, 1973,” 11.

14. Hattem, “Once Again,” 88.

15.  Rast, “The 1975-1981 Excavations at Bab Edh-Dhraʿ,” 1.

17.  Rast and Schaub, “Survey of the Southeastern Plain of the Dead Sea, 1973,” 12–14.

18. de Vries, “Archaeology in Jordan, 1991,” 262; Rast, “Bab Edh-Dhraʿ (Anchor Bible Dictionary),” 560; MacDonald et al., “Southern Ghors and Northeast `Arabah Archaeological Survey 1986,” 406; Schaub, “Southeast Dead Sea Plain,” 62.

20. Wood, “Discovery of the Sin Cities,” 69.

21. Wood, “Discovery of the Sin Cities,” 69.

22. Walter E. Rast and R. Thomas Schaub, “A Preliminary Report of Excavations at Bab Edh-Dhraʿ, 1975,” in Preliminary Excavation Reports: Bab Edh-Dhrac, Sardis, Meiron, Tell El-Hesi, Carthage (Punic), ed. David Noel Freedman, AASOR 43 (Chicago, Ill.: American Schools of Oriental Research, 1978), 14.

26.  Walter E. Rast, “Patterns of Settlement at Bab Edh-Dhraʿ.” In The Southeastern Dead Sea Plain Expedition: An Interim Report of the 1977 Season, edited by R. Thomas Schaub and Walter E. Rast, 7–34. AASOR 46. Boston: American Schools of Oriental Research, 1979. 17.

27. Wood, “Discovery of the Sin Cities,” 78; “Locating Sodom: A Critique of the Northern Proposal,” 81.  

For a survey of the literature on the Cities in the Southern Dead Seas area see LINK

The full research and footnotes can be found in The Location of Sodom .


Further Research

David E. Graves, “Sodom And Salt in Their Ancient Near Eastern Cultural Context,” Near East Archaeological Society Bulletin 61 (2016): 18–36.

For the historic publication of the Scientific Reports in a peer reviewed publication see my PostBunch, T. E., LeCompte, M.A., Adedeji, A.V. et al. "A Tunguska sized airburst destroyed Tall el-Hammam a Middle Bronze Age city in the Jordan Valley near the Dead Sea." Scientific Reports 11, no 1 18632 (2021), 1-64.  Online article link

For my response to Gordon Govier's article in Christianity Today see my blog post.

Sodom Research Blog to related articles and links



For Journal articles and papers see  Follow me on Academia.edu or Selected Works

For Books see Amazon or Amazon

Modified June 20, 2022

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