Date sent: Fri, 09 May 1997 10:48:25 -0400 (EDT)
From: Benny J Peiser <B.J.PEISER@livjm.ac.uk>
Subject: SODOM & GOMORRAH STIRS DEBATE IN ISRAEL
2nd SIS CAMBRIDGE CONFERENCE MAKES THE HEADLINES IN ISRAEL
In a recent comment, Christopher Bassford has rightly emphasised the
need for including the pictorial and documentary evidence from
ancient sources as well as archaeological data in order to assess
the nature, extent and multitude of factors which might have caused
(or triggered) Bronze Age collapses. Can I reassure Christopher
Bassford and other members on this network that such an
interdisciplinary approach is exactly the aim of the Cambridge
Conference. After all, the conference is organised by the Society for
Interdisciplinary Studies. Whilst astronomers, archaeologists,
geologists and climatologists will focus on their particular field of
expertise, a number of historians will present and evaluate the
documentary and pictorial data (from ancient Chinese, Greek and
Mesopotamian sources) related to Bronze Age collapse.
Interestingly, most - if not all - of the oldest documents of
mankind (commonly known as myths and legends) document distorted
reports about both Bronze Age destruction by 'divine' intervention
(i.e. natural disasters) a n d human action (i.e. wars, civil
wars and mass migration). Obviously, both factors should therefore
be taken into consideration. Until fairly recently, most Bronze Age
scholars have tended to focus exclusively on human action and
explanations for system collapse. During the last 150 years, they
have largely rejected (or simply ridiculed) all those documents and
reports which point to physical rather than human explanation of
destruction. On the other hand, historians as well as
anthropologists have collected a fast amount of catastrophe myths
and legends from around the world. With few exceptions, these
documents date to the Bronze Age and early Iron Age.
On a purely documentary basis, the historicity of catastrophe
myths (such as the Phaethon impact legend, the cosmic threat and
destruction by n e w s u n s in Chinese, Indian or Mesoamerican
legends, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, etc.) is difficult
to verify. Generally speaking, myths and legends should never be
interpreted literally since they only convey the confused and
modified perception of the ancient mind. In view of new astronomical
evidence and a better understanding of historical impact events,
however, some core information of these traditions might indeed echo
real natural events in prehistoric times.
Yet ever since the emergence of 19th century uniformitarian
gradualism, most scholars have rejected any historical reading of
ancient catastrophe legends. Since then, historians, anthropologists
and archaeologists have tended to view ancient chaos and disaster
traditions as mere reflection of mythical (i.e. supernatural)
One of the most famous catastrophe stories in the Hebrew Bible is
the account of the cosmic destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. No
wonder then that the recent COMET-DESTROYED-SODOM-AND-GOMORRAH-
headlines in the British media have now attracted the attention of
academics and the media in the Near East.
The following article (which unfortunately copies from the
British press some misleading information about Dr Courty's
research) appeared in the current issue of THE JERUSALEM REPORT,
Israel's leading international magazine with a readership in over
This news article documents - once again - the great interest among
many Israelis and Jews around the world in a rational and
scientifically sound explanation for many of the alleged wonders
(and heavenly "punishments") attributed to a vengeful God by the
Bible. If, one day, the giant comet hypothesis of Bronze Age
collapses could be substantiated by conclusive archaeological and
geological data, it might just bring about the intellectual
breakthrough in the scientific understanding and reinterpretation
of the book of books. After all, the great religions of mankind and
most of their irrational beliefs originated during and were inspired
by Bronze Age collapse and apocalyptic fear. To overcome this
residue, the catastrophic origins of religion need to be
better understood in the first place.
Benny J Peiser
from: THE JERUSALEM REPORT, 15 May 1997, p. 12
web site [ http://www.jreport.virtual.co.il ]
DID A SHOWER OF METEORITES DESTROY SODOM AND GOMORRAH?
Sodom and Gomorrah may have been destroyed by a meteorite - and not
by an earthquake, as earlier suggested by some scholars - according
to new research to be presented at a conference on natural
catastrophes at Cambridge University this summer.
One of the most compelling findings: samples of a calcite material
unique to meteorites that were found in three Middle East regions,
including where the two cities mentioned in Genesis would have
stood, by French archaeologist Marie Agnes Courty. That strengthens
the theory that severe meteor showers bombarded parts of the earth
in about 2000 BCE - the possible time of the cities' destruction,
according to scholars who regard the Biblical account as having
historical basis. What's more, Genesis 19:23 states that "the Lord
rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah sulforous fire ... out of the heaven"
- a description fitting a meteor shower.
Israeli scientists are divided over the research. Rafi Shteinitz,
Ben-Gurion University physics professor, says he "doubts" the
theory, pointing to the cities' location on the Syrian-African Rift
and the frequent earthquakes that have occurred along that
fault-line through history.
But Prof. Arnon Dar of the Haifa Technion's astrophysics department
says it's "absolutely reasonable that meteorites could have caused
such destruction." He points to large meteorite-created craters,
such as one in Arizona that is over a kilometer wide.
But, notes Dar, the only conclusive evidence would be if "we were to
find debris made of material not native to the earth, which could be
dated to the estimated time of the event."
Date sent: Fri, 09 May 1997 08:26:28 -0400 (EDT)
From: Benny J Peiser <B.J.PEISER@livjm.ac.uk>
Subject: Re: ARCHAEOSEISMOLOGY
ARCHAEOSEISMOLOGY & POSSIBLE CAUSES FOR BRONZE AGE COLLAPSE
from: Prof Amos Nur <nur@pangea.Stanford.EDU>
Of course earthquakes ALONE are not responisble for the end of the
Bronze Age. The real question is: Did they play a crucial or a
major role in initiating this collapse? The archaeological,
documentary and pictorial evidence--together with GEOPHYSICAL
FACTS-- suggest that earthquakes did.
Amos M. Nur
Professor of Geophysics
Wayne Loel Professor of Earth Sciences
Stanford, CA 94305-2215
CCCMENU CCC for 1997
The content and opinions expressed on this Web page do not necessarily reflect the views of nor are they endorsed by the University of Georgia or the University System of Georgia.