Albemarle Life Editor, Daily Advance, Elizabeth City, North Carolina
Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Researchers from this area have searched an archaeological dig in the Middle East for evidence that fire fell from the sky to destroy the ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah as described in the Bible.
Retired astrophysicist Malcolm LeCompte of Camden said he found signs that an "aerial burst of cosmic material" hot enough to melt iron had occurred at the excavation site in Jordan about 3,700 years ago.
He will be presenting his findings at Port Discover Thursday with Clay Swindell, archaeologist and collections specialist at Museum of the Albemarle, and retired physician Tim Witwer of Elizabeth City, members of a North Carolina-based meteor impact research team.
The local researchers joined a contingent of scientists at the Tall el-Hammam Excavation Project led by chief archaeologist Steve Collins. Using Abraham's description in the Bible, Collins began the project in the Jordan River valley in 2005, testing other nearby sites before zeroing on Tall el-Hammam as the location of the ancient cities.
The North Carolina group will be speaking about their work for Port Discover's Science Cafe at 7 p.m. at the upstairs lab on Main Street downtown. The event is open to the public, but reservations are requested. For information, call Port Discover at 338-6117.
LeCompte said the ancient catastrophe in the Middle East appears similar to what happened at Stony Tunguska River in the Russian empire in June 1908. The explosion over the sparsely populated area was generally thought to have been caused by a meteor strike. On further study, scientists concluded that the meteor burst in mid-air rather than hitting the earth's surface.
LeCompte said he has been examining soil particles under an electron microscope and melted pottery from the Jordanian site that indicate the presence of intense heat, at thousands of degrees Celsius.
Droplets of melted iron appear to have fallen from the sky and cooled so quickly that they hardened into crystalline form, he said.
Melted pottery at the site resembles "trinitite," a glassy rock formed during testing of the first Atomic Bomb in the New Mexico desert, he said.
LeCompte began testing samples from the area about two years ago after primary researchers from Trinity Southwest University in New Mexico and Jordan sought his opinion. The task involved work familiar to LeCompte, a retired associate professor from Elizabeth City State University who for 10 years researched meteor impact sites and their effect on climate change. ECSU professor Victor Adedeji was also part of the research team who did not go to Jordan.
Other researchers have uncovered "bronze-age signatures" that place the catastrophic event at the time period when biblical patriarch Abraham lived.
Based on the book of Genesis, Abraham was witness to how fire and brimstone rained down upon the cities after God proclaimed judgment against them. Only Abraham's nephew Lot and daughters were spared from the cities' destruction after being warned by angels to leave, according to the biblical account. Collins used descriptions from the text to help pinpoint the location of the ancient cities.
Port Discover director Robin Kelly-Goss said the Science Cafe is one of eight adult science-related programs the nonprofit offers each year. Participants may order food ahead from Sydney's Cafe and Bistro downtown, which will be delivering to the lab, or may buy snacks at Port Discover before the event begins, she said.