Saturday, April 07, 2012

"Sodom" Archeologist Speaks to TSP!

Just yesterday The Sacred Page had the great honor of a comment by the leader of the excavation at Tall-el-Hammam ("Sodom and Gomorrah") concerning a post I made several months ago about the remarkable presentation given by his team at the November SBL in San Francisco.  Since the post was old and most readers would miss it, I have decided to post it in full below.  On behalf of The Sacred Page, I offer my sincere thanks to Dr. Steven Collins for taking the time to update us on the progress of his exciting work:

Hello, Sacred Pagers:
My name is Steven Collins, co-Director and Chief Archaeologist of the Tall el-Hammam Excavation Project in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (a joint scientific project of Trinity Southwest University and Jordan Department of Antiquities). Someone gave me this link and said that the discussion was (at least)
fair, and that some of the posters had, in fact, seen our TeHEP presentation at the SBL annual meeting last November in San Francisco. I and members of our excavation team were invited by the SBL to provide that long session since Tall el-Hammam is providing a perfect “test-case” in examining the relationship between archaeology and the Bible. We were glad to do it. We’d also done basically the same presentation at the SBL international meeting in London the previous summer (although our staff senior anthropologist was unable to present in San Francisco). While I have been both applauded and crucified in various sectors of the blogosphere for my theories regarding the identification of Tall el-Hammam as biblical Sodom, one thing I’ve always been careful about is not to be sensationalistic about any of it. The fact of the matter is that there’s a lot of wacky pseudo-archaeology going around, and that kind of (often sanctimonious) gobbledygook ought to be separated out from strands of legitimate scholarly discussion and debate on such subjects as the location of the Cities of the Kikkar of the Jordan. What must be discussed is the body of factual data deriving from text and ground (and myriad lines of evidence from ancillary disciplines). Surely, there isn’t anything wrong with speculation enlightened by the thoughtful analysis of rigorous research and excavation, but it has to be done with care. That’s why, at our SBL presentation last November, I didn’t want to field questions about the possible nature of the terminal MB2 destruction of Tall el-Hammam in any official manner. What I can say is that our data collection in this regard is ongoing, and some hard analysis has already been performed in an objective laboratory setting. (In this regard, I insist that all of our analytical processes be performed in a multiple-blind format---even textual analysis; for example, every one of our thousands of diagnostic pottery sherds from excavated contexts go through a triple-blind reading process under three separate sets of expert eyes in three different locations, two in Jordan and one in the States, and then some pieces go through a fourth stage of further cross-comparison with regional ceramics when disparate reads remain unresolved by the third pass. Everything has to be done with this level of care, or I’m uncomfortable with it.)
On our terminal MB2 event, what I can say is that multiple lines of evidence continue to confirm that not only massive Tall el-Hammam, but also its many satellite towns and villages on the eastern Kikkar, suffered some sort of fiery, civilization-ending cataclysm toward the end of the Middle Bronze Age, with the selfsame, well-watered-in-abundance area remaining devoid of settlements for the next 600 years or so (amazing when one considers that the Bronze Age Kikkar cities and towns thrived right through the end of the EB3 and IBA when the vast majority of sites in the Levant met their end due to catastrophic climate change!) when cities and towns in areas surrounding the Kikkar of the Jordan waltzed right into and through the Late Bronze Age. The entirety of Tall el-Hammam’s MB2 footprint is covered in heavy ash (from .5m-1m thick), ash filled destruction debris, and other conflagratory indicators that will be published in appropriate venues. Sometimes it takes decades to finalize full publications of excavation data. We have three journal articles coming out in ADAJ 55 this spring (the previous was ADAJ 53). Some high-profile publications are also in the plans for this year. While I can’t control the wild speculations and nonsense that, like so much vomit, get spewed across the Internet by people who have no real idea what they’re talking about, I do have appreciation for more serious-minded blogs, like this one seems to be, that are willing to wait for the real scientific data and analysis to appear. Is Tall el-Hammam biblical Sodom? Well, if it isn’t (and I say this with complete confidence in what I know to be the facts of the case), there are going to be a lot of people with a lot of ‘splainin’ to do, Lucy! In the meantime, I welcome rational discourse pro and con (emphasis on rational!).
Steven Collins

1 comment:

Missy said...

Thank you for the follow up Dr. Collins. And thanks to Dr. Bergsma for posting.