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Monday, September 27, 2021

CONTEXT: Did an Asteroid Impact Destroy the Biblical City of Sodom?

Yes, I am well aware of Betteridge's Law.

A recent paper published in Nature, “A Tunguska sized airburst destroyed Tall el-Hammam a Middle Bronze Age city in the Jordan Valley near the Dead Sea” (full text [PDF]), argues (from the abstract) “… in ~ 1650 BCE (~ 3600 years ago), a cosmic airburst destroyed Tall el-Hammam, a Middle-Bronze-Age city in the southern Jordan Valley northeast of the Dead Sea. The proposed airburst was larger than the 1908 explosion over Tunguska, Russia, where a ~ 50-m-wide bolide detonated with ~ 1000× more energy than the Hiroshima atomic bomb. … Tall el-Hammam may be the second oldest city/town destroyed by a cosmic airburst/impact, after Abu Hureyra, Syria, and possibly the earliest site with an oral tradition that was written down (Genesis).”

How plausible is this? Well, we know that the Tunguska event occurred, and its interpretation as having been caused by a cosmic impactor that disintegrated in the atmosphere is consistent with analysis of smaller, more recent, and better documented impacts such as the 2013 Chelyabinsk meteor. The analysis in the Nature paper covers a wide spectrum of scientific disciplines including geology, archaeology, bioarchaeology and analysis of human skeletal remains, mineralogy and shock formation, agronomy, and small body planetary science. But in this age of widespread and deep corruption in academic and institutional science (as the replication crisis spreads from the squishy into the harder sciences), publication in a prestigious venue does not ensure the reliability of the work, and specialists in the relevant fields have been quick to respond, “Not so fast.”

For example, Mark Boslough, four of whose papers on the Tunguska event were cited as references, responded on Twitter as follows:

beginning a long thread which you can read by clicking the message above.

Scott Manley surveys the claims in the paper and other objections raised to it in this video and suggests that readers “Take these claims with a pillar of salt.”

Posted at September 27, 2021 12:21