Phil Silvia

Phil Silvia

Tall el-Hammam Excavation Project

Project Lead and Field Archaeologist

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Published on Mar 17, 2017

More Thoughts on 17 March Reply to Peter Silvia

A surprising "discovery" from exploring the major wadis of the valley is the amount of alluvial deposition that has accumulated over the millennia. If the vertical wall in the sand and gravel quarr...

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Published on Mar 16, 2017

Follow-up with Geologists

Following the tour of Tall el-Hammam with the group of geologists, I had some conversations with Dr. Abdalla Abu Hamed from the University of Jordan about coring studies in the Jordan Valley. This ...

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Published on Mar 09, 2017

An Unexpected Opportunity

I had an unexpected opportunity to deliver a lecture on Monday evening to a tour group of 25 geologists in Madaba who were from 10 different countries. Two days later, I led them on a visit to Tall...

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Published on Mar 05, 2017

Preliminary Report on #SkyFire

In my doctoral dissertation, I hypothesized that a meteoritic airburst is the most probable cause of the civilization-ending destruction of the Middle Ghor (the Kikkar, the flat, circular plain of ...

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Published on Feb 01, 2017

Shifting Gears

My wife Yvonne and I met our goal of exploring all of the major wadis between Tall el-Hammam and the Dead Sea. We have yet to explore the two wadi segments that pass by the site on the north and so...

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Published on Jan 06, 2017

Pottery!

We went back to last week's location of the carbon/ash stratum in Wadi Kefrein, took a measurement from the top to the stratum (3 m down), and then continued the wadi survey toward the east. Found ...

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Published on Dec 31, 2016

Undated Ash Layer

In the bottom picture I am pointing to an undated ash layer deep in the strata of the high south wall of the Wadi Kefrein. A close-up of the ash layer in the block in front of me is in the upper p...

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Published on Dec 10, 2016

Field Survey 2016-12-10

Checked out 7 locations today on the south side of the Amman-Dead Sea highway. The first 3 were wadis  that are carved 3-4 meters deep into even more meters of alluvial fill. We saw...

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Pete: One aspect of my destruction theory is that "ground zero" of the airburst event was the north end of the Dead Sea; hence, #1 is near the NE corner. #3 is in the agricultural footprint of Tall el-Hammam, which was the dominant urban center of the Bronze Age culture on this side of the Jordan River. #2 is simply half-way between #1 & #3. #4 is down-blast from Tuelilat Ghassul, a Chalcolithic Period site where we had previously found possible airburst proxies and in-line with Tall el-Hammam from ground zero. The objective of the coring, if we do it, will be to find the event horizon within the alluvial strata that has accumulated since the event occurred about 3,700 years ago.
Mar 17, 2017
Was the Middle Bronze Age Civilization North of the Dead Sea Destroyed by Fire from the Sky?
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The preliminary assessment (subject to change) of the pottery is that it is Byzantine (ca. 6th C. AD) and is, therefore, unrelated to the MB2 destruction event (ca. 1700 BC). There is no ash layer associated with this batch of pottery. Similarly, there is no pottery associated with the ash layer we found last weekend (see previous Lab Note), so it remains undated. We will have to rely upon 14C dating for the ash. The strongest rationale we have thus far for the 700 year occupation gap was discussed in my dissertation wherein I argued that soil contamination with Dead Sea salts prevented agricultural use of the soil during that period.
Jan 06, 2017
Was the Middle Bronze Age Civilization North of the Dead Sea Destroyed by Fire from the Sky?
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Curtis, I will discuss with the team about what tests should be run. So far, we have only discussed C14.
Dec 31, 2016
Was the Middle Bronze Age Civilization North of the Dead Sea Destroyed by Fire from the Sky?
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Meeting with friend & driver Sultan Madi tomorrow (Friday, 9 Mar) to discuss field excursion strategy. Will also head down into the Jordan Valley to do an initial survey of wadi entry points. A second outing is planned for Saturday.
Dec 08, 2016
Was the Middle Bronze Age Civilization North of the Dead Sea Destroyed by Fire from the Sky?
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Arrived safely in Jordan on Friday evening, 2 Dec, with my wife (aka research assistant) and spent Saturday (today) settling in at the Olive Tree in west Amman for the duration. Tommow we meet with friend and local contact Sultan Madi to discuss the logistics of going out into the field each week.
Dec 03, 2016
Was the Middle Bronze Age Civilization North of the Dead Sea Destroyed by Fire from the Sky?
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Michael: In addition to posting here, I will also be posting on Facebook.com/DigSodom and on Twitter (@TeHEP-TSU). You may also sign up for email updates on the Tall el-Hammam web page DigSodom.com (click on the "Contact Us" link and fill out the form under "Get in Touch")
Nov 27, 2016
Was the Middle Bronze Age Civilization North of the Dead Sea Destroyed by Fire from the Sky?
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I have no plans at this time to gather samples from the Cisjordan side of the Kikkar, but I do not rule that out as a future possibility. For now, I am focusing my investigation on the Transjordan side. Thanks for asking.
Jul 28, 2016
Was the Middle Bronze Age Civilization North of the Dead Sea Destroyed by Fire from the Sky?
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Azeimeh was abandoned at the end of EB1, so it was not contemporary with MB2 Sodom (time of Abraham/Lot). Azeimeh is now a vast limestone quarry. The formerly occupied area no longer exists. It is highly unlikely that we will learn anything from it. I do not trust the identification by Glueck of Beth-Jeshimoth. He (along with Albright and Malon) was totally wrong with his assessment that the initial occupants of the transjordan Kikkar were Iron Age (time of Solomon). Collins makes a strong argument for identifying Beth-Jeshimoth with Tall el-Hammam, the "devastation from God" being a reference to the ruins of Sodom/Tall el-Hammam. Iktanu was also abandoned at the end of EB1 and remained abandoned during EB2 & EB3. The lower portion of Iktanu was reoccupied during the IBA (old EB4-MB1; Prag) with a possibly limited occupation of the upper portion during MB1 (old MB2a). It appears that Iktanu was totally abandoned again early in MB2 (old MB2b/c), before the destruction of Sodom toward the end of MB2, ca. 1700 BC. My current research is focused on the southern portion of the transjordan Kikkar, which includes Azeimeh and Iktanu, but I will concentrate my search on the valley floor between the north end of the Dead Sea and a north-south line drawn between Tall el-Hammam and Iktanu to help he triangulate "ground-zero."
Jun 16, 2016
Was the Middle Bronze Age Civilization North of the Dead Sea Destroyed by Fire from the Sky?
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James: I will answer your questions in reverse order. (2) Short answer: No. There have been a total of four excavation projects, including TeHEP, of Bronze Age sites; the other three are inactive. Only TeHEP has been conducted with a specific concern for discovering evidence the destruction mechanism. My review of the excavation reports from all four sites has provided significant insights into the occupational history of the area, including the occupational hiatus during the entire Late Bronze Age. (1) Short answer: Yes. Five factors play into my conclusion that "ground zero" of the airburst event was located SW of TeH, possibly over the north end of the Dead Sea: (a) observable destruction damage at TeH is greater (total) on the lower tall (west end) than on the upper tall (east end); (b) damage to the south-facing side of the upper tall rampart wall is greater than on the north-facing side; (c) the few sections of wall that we have found fallen relatively intact are all north & east of their foundations; (d) the 682 gram melt rock was found at Tall Mweis, which is SW of TeH, and required a higher thermal profile and turbulence to be formed; (5) the subsoil of the MBA destruction layer (there is no remaining topsoil) is highly contaminated with salts and sulphates from the Dead Sea.
Jun 09, 2016
Was the Middle Bronze Age Civilization North of the Dead Sea Destroyed by Fire from the Sky?
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Six more backers have answered the pledge-match challenge and contributed $500 each. Getting close to the goal now, thanks to them and several others this week who pledged what they could even if it didn't qualify for matching. I am amazed at people's generosity when they are asked to support something they believe in.
May 18, 2016
Was the Middle Bronze Age Civilization North of the Dead Sea Destroyed by Fire from the Sky?
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Under "Lab Notes" I wrote a "Back Story" describing how I discovered a love for archaeology and a specific interest in investigating the civilization-ending destruction of the Middle Ghor, the geological name of the circular plain immediately north of the Dead Sea. To go along with the anonymous donor's matching pledge offer, I will send a copy of my book "The Destruction of Sodom: What We Have Learned from Tall el-Hammam and Its Neighbors" upon request to anyone who pledges $500 or more. This book will not be available in retail outlets until after my research collaborators and I publish our findings in an academic journal. My offer is retroactive to all backers of $500 or more even if they gave prior to the initiation of the matching pledge. To request you copy, send your snail mail address to me at PJSilvia49@msn.com
May 17, 2016
Was the Middle Bronze Age Civilization North of the Dead Sea Destroyed by Fire from the Sky?
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One backer took advantage of the $500+ matching offer and increased his pledge by $750 yesterday. "Thank you!"
May 17, 2016
Was the Middle Bronze Age Civilization North of the Dead Sea Destroyed by Fire from the Sky?
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