Kolbe Report 2/25/23

Dear Friends of the Kolbe Center,

Pax Christi!

In this newsletter, I would like to introduce you to the work of an archaeologist who appears to have located the site of Sodom and Gomorrah and to share with you some sobering discoveries he shared with me.

Tell el-Hamman: The Likely Site of Sodom and Gomorrah

A few years ago, when we were invited to give a Kolbe seminar in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I was privileged to meet with Dr. Steven Collins, the Dean at the College of Archaeology at Trinity Southwest University, Albuquerque, New Mexico, who has been excavating an archaeological site called Tall el-Hamman (“TeH” for short) for many years. In the words of author and researcher Jonathan Sassen:

Dr. Collins collaborated with a wide range of scientific experts from diverse fields and employing the most advanced techniques to develop a comprehensive picture of the fate of TeH. His results were recently published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature.

The 64-page paper makes a highly credible and most astounding claim. TeH is located in the Jordan Valley near the Dead Sea and the site dates back to the Middle Bronze Age. This is precisely the time and place where one would expect to find the ruins of biblical Sodom. Incredibly, the city unearthed at TeH was destroyed in a unique event that seems to match the biblical account Sodom’s ruination.

The Biblical account describes Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding area as being overturned at the same time by an act of God – a catastrophic rainstorm of fire and brimstone. Only Lot and his two daughters escaped.

In Genesis, Chapter 13 we learn that Abraham and his nephew Lot had pitched their tents between Beit El and Ai, which is north of Jerusalem. Their shepherds were not getting along with each other, so Abraham suggested to Lot that they part ways, and Lot should find somewhere else to live. At that point the Torah says:

“And Lot raised his eyes, and he saw the entire plain of the Jordan, that it was entirely watered; before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, as you come to Zoar.” (Genesis 13:10)

This is how Dr. Collins describes the plain north of the Dead Sea that the Jordon River flows through:

Located in a generally arid region, the Jordan Valley is one of the best-watered areas in all the southern Levant (Jordan, Israel, and Palestine). In addition to numerous springs created by a disgorging Transjordanian aquifer, the area had hydrological conditions for human habitation somewhat analogous to the Nile Delta region, which is also bordered by arid terrain. During the Middle Bronze Age (MBA) peak occupation, at least an estimated 50,000 people occupied three major cities, plus satellite towns, villages, and hamlets spread across~400 km2 of the eastern Kikkar. TeH was the largest city located on a hill with a commanding view of the entire plain… At that time, it was 10 times larger than Jerusalem and five times larger than Jericho.

Dr. Collins’s excavations of the MBA city found evidence for high temperature burning of the city. Diamond-like carbon, melted construction materials, melted pottery, melted mudbricks, high-pressure shocked quartz, high-temperature melted minerals, melted nuggets of iridium, and many other metals in melt glass were found. All these show evidence of reaching temperatures greater than 1300 °C, with brief exposure to temperatures as high as 2500 °C, the melting point of Iridium.

These temperatures are way beyond what was possible from any man-made fire at that time, and there are no volcanoes in the area. In fact, the melted glass looks just like that made by an atomic blast over sand. Another major clue was that the TeH iron-dominant splatter closely matches some types of meteorites. There is though no sign of a meteor crater in the Jordon plain, so what happened?

Dr. Steven Collins

By careful investigation of the city foundations, Dr. Collins was able to build up the following description of the city. TeH had a lower city surrounded by a defensive wall and within it a hill that was 33 meters high. On this hill was the upper city containing houses and the palace. The hill had formidable defenses that protected the palace: a rampart, a wall, and a monumental gateway. The rampart was constructed from millions of mudbricks and was as much as 30 meters thick at the base and 7–8 meters thick at the top, wide enough for military patrols. A 4-meter thick mudbrick defensive wall on stone foundations with towers lined the outer edge at the top of the rampart. The massive palace complex once had walls ranging from 1.0 to 2.2 meters thick and likely rising to 11–15 m in height, and a 2.2-meter-thick wall separated the raised palace platform from the rest of the upper city. The 4–5-story-tall palace complex (~ 52 m × ~ 27 m), with massive superstructures made of sun-dried mudbricks extended 11–15 meters above the top of the enclosing rampart. It’s no wonder that Lot’s married children in the city laughed at him when he told them it was going to be destroyed!

Today, almost no mudbricks remain on the stone foundations. All the walls are seemingly sheared off nearly level with the tops of the upper-city wall foundations. There is no evidence of collapsed walls across the entire city. There are almost no whole mudbricks visible anywhere, and instead, small fragments of bricks are randomly strewn around as infill within the churned-up, 1.5 m thick destruction matrix. It appears that most bricks were pulverized and blown off the site to the northeast. Millions of mudbricks are missing.

Most of the bones found had been shattered into small pieces and mixed into a matrix of pulverized mudbricks. The individuals represented by the bones were violently torn apart by a powerful explosion, leaving only a few hand and foot bones still articulated and unbroken. The circumstances and condition of the human bones and fragments suggest that at the moment of death, these individuals were going about normal activities when they were struck.

The three largest urban cities in the southern Jordan Valley, TeH, Jericho and Tall Nimrin were burned and destroyed simultaneously.

The destruction layer is marked by anomalously high concentrations of salt. Archaeologists excavating nearby sites noted what they termed the “Late Bronze Age Gap”, during which about 16 cities and towns, including TeH, and more than 100 smaller villages were abandoned across the 30-km-wide lower Jordan Valley. This abandonment continued for the entire Late Bronze Age and most of the early Iron Age. Population levels are estimated to have plummeted from 45,000–60,000 people to only a few hundred nomadic tribespeople inhabiting the area following this destruction event. For TeH, the occupation gap is more than 600 years. In the Jericho area in the southwestern Jordan Valley, the archaeological record indicates a gap of approximately 300 years. It appears to have been a regional civilization-ending catastrophe that depopulated more than 500 km2 of the southern Jordan Valley for between 3 and 7 centuries.

The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah

The words of the Torah echo these findings:

And the Lord caused to rain down upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire, from the Lord, from heaven. And He turned over these cities and the entire plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and the vegetation of the ground (Genesis 19:24-25).

Sulfur and salt have burned up its entire land! It cannot be sown, nor can it grow [anything], not [even] any grass will sprout upon it. It is like the overturning of Sodom, Gemorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, which the Lord overturned in His fury and in His rage (Deuteronomy 29:22).

All this can be explained by one event – a cosmic airburst.

There are two types of objects that occasionally hit our planet. The most common are stony or metallic meteors. The vast majority of these are small and so burn up in the atmosphere. Occasionally one is large enough to make landfall, and every few thousand years on average one is so large it can make a lot of destruction and leave a crater. Very rarely Earth gets hit by a comet. These are best described as loosely held together dirty snowballs. They are mostly ice with lots of stones mixed in. Typically, objects hit our planet travelling at incredible speeds - tens of thousands of miles per hour. The intense heat and turbulence generated by friction with the atmosphere at these speeds will rapidly break up the comet and vaporize the ice to a gas. When a solid very rapidly turns into a gas, that is called an explosion. When a comet explodes in the atmosphere, it is called a cosmic airburst.

All the data suggests a cosmic airburst occurred a few kilometers southwest of Tall el-Hammam causing, in rapid succession, a high temperature thermal pulse from the fireball that melted all exposed materials. This was followed by a high-temperature, hypervelocity blast wave that demolished and pulverized everything across the city, leveling the city.

Dr. Collins speculates that at the same time the airburst above the Dead Sea (with ~ 34 wt.% salt content) may have thrown into the atmosphere large quantities of hypersaline water that fell across the lower Jordan Valley. After 300-600 years, the high salt concentrations were sufficiently leached out of the salt-contaminated soil to allow the return of agriculture.

The human mortality rate at TeH was 100%, the bodies of the people and animals were torn apart, and their bones blasted into small fragments.

The archaeological findings plus modelling of the airburst give us a good description of what possibly happened on that day. Christopher R. Moore, an archaeologist and Special Projects Director at the Savannah River Archaeological Research Program and South Carolina Institute for Archaeology and Anthropology, University of South Carolina, described it like this in his article:

A giant space rock demolished an ancient Middle Eastern city and everyone in it – possibly inspiring the Biblical story of Sodom. A 75-meter diameter rock exploded in a massive fireball about 2.5 miles above the ground, causing a blast around 1,000 times more powerful than the Hiroshima atomic bomb. Air temperatures rose above 3,600 degrees Fahrenheit (2,000 degrees Celsius). Everything either burst into flames or melted.

Seconds later, a massive shockwave smashed into the city, demolishing every building. Moving at about 740 mph (1,200 kph), it was more powerful than the worst tornado ever recorded. They sheared off the top 40 feet (12 m) of the 4-story palace and blew the jumbled debris into the next valley. The ground-hugging blast wave from an airburst/impact would be laden with high-velocity missiles, including sand, gravel, pulverized mudbrick, plaster fragments, potsherds, broken branches, and shattered timbers. These hot missiles would incinerate and strip all flesh and crush all bones. The human mortality rate at TeH was 100%, the bodies of the people and animals were torn apart, and their bones blasted into small fragments.

It isn’t surprising that Lot’s daughters hiding in a cave thought the world was now uninhabited. The smoke could even be seen 40 miles away near Hebron:

And Abraham arose early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord. And he looked over the face of Sodom and Gomorrah and over the entire face of the land of the plain, and he saw, and behold, the smoke of the earth had risen like the smoke of a furnace (Genesis 19:27-28).

Dr. Collins kindly agreed to meet with me while I was in Albuquerque for our seminar, and we discussed the evidence for his hypothesis that TeH was the site of Sodom and Gomorrah.  In the course of our conversation, he also shared with me that he and his colleagues had collected a lot of archaeological evidence showing that prior to the destruction of the city a culture of pedophilia had grown up which normalized perverse relationships between men and boys.  It is sobering to reflect on developments in the western world during the few years since I met with Dr. Collins which have gone a long way to foster just such a perverse culture in our own society.  In the last few years, government schools, the entertainment industry, public libraries, and the mass media have all conspired to sexualize young children and to desensitize the public to the horror of unnatural vice and to the seduction of children into sexual perversion.

St. Paul

It would be good for all Catholics to meditate on Moses’ description of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah to be strengthened in our resolve to fight these abominations.  In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul reminds us that it is not just those who practice perversions who court destruction, but also those who “consent to them that do them.”

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and injustice of those men that detain the truth of God in injustice: Because that which is known of God is manifest in them. For God hath manifested it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made. His eternal power also and divinity: so that they are inexcusable. Because that, when they knew God, they have not glorified him as God or given thanks: but became vain in their thoughts. And their foolish heart was darkened. For, professing themselves to be wise, they became fools. And they changed the glory of the incorruptible God into the likeness of the image of a corruptible man and of birds, and of fourfooted beasts and of creeping things.

Wherefore, God gave them up to the desires of their heart, unto uncleanness: to dishonour their own bodies among themselves. Who changed the truth of God into a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

For this cause, God delivered them up to shameful affections. For their women have changed the natural use into that use which is against nature. And, in like manner, the men also, leaving the natural use of the women, have burned in their lusts, one towards another: men with men, working that which is filthy and receiving in themselves the recompense which was due to their error.

And as they liked not to have God in their knowledge, God delivered them up to a reprobate sense, to do those things which are not convenient. Being filled with all iniquity, malice, fornication, avarice, wickedness: full of envy, murder, contention, deceit, malignity: whisperers, Detractors, hateful to God, contumelious, proud, haughty, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Foolish, dissolute: without affection, without fidelity, without mercy. Who, having known the justice of God, did not understand that they who do such things are worthy of death: and not only they that do them, but they also that consent to them that do them (Romans 1:19-32).

Through the prayers of the Mother of God, may the Holy Ghost grant us the grace to remain pure and to protect the purity of all children!

In Domino,

Hugh Owen

P.S. Dr. Collins’ identification of Sodom and Gomorrah as Tall el-Hamman has its critics.  You can get an overview of the criticisms that have been made and his response to those criticisms at this link. You will have to scroll down for a while to get to Dr. Collins’ responses to his critics.

P.P.S. It has been brought to my attention that the Ordinaries in charge of the dioceses where Sister Mary Ephrem (“Sister Millie”) received her private revelations from Our Lady under the title “Our Lady of America” ordered an investigation to determine if the apparitions reported by Sister Millie were supernatural.  Their conclusion was that there is not enough evidence (at this time) to find definitively for supernaturality, but the possibility remains that it may be supernatural.  As the article at this link explains:

It is of great significance that the Decree and Statement held open the possibility that the origin could be supernatural.  They also placed Sr. Mary Ephrem, Rome City, Indiana (site of the alleged first apparition) and the fruits of the devotion in a favorable light.   These are extremely positive findings and provide a solid foundation for moving forward in faith. Before this decree there was only one Bishop, Archbishop Paul F. Leibold (of happy memory) of Cincinnati that had approved the private devotion.  Today there are 7!   This includes all the current ordinaries of those places where apparitions had allegedly occurred.

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