• Name: Paul McLerran
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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Excavating Tall el Hammam

Approximately 14 kilometers northeast of the Dead Sea, in the southern Jordan River Valley, lies a very large, imposing tall (mound). Surveys and recent excavations have revealed that the tall consists of a long history of human occupation dating back from Islamic through to the Neolithic period. Sometimes referred to as the "Queen of the Southern Jordan Valley", it is the largest of a group of ancient sites that collectively dot this fertile, agriculturally developed valley. Located astride ancient trade routes and water sources, along with a commanding view of the area identified by a number of scholars as the Jordan Plain, it is no wonder that the site evidences remains of a major ancient city. Archaeological investigations have shown that the site is outlined by a 4-meter thick wall dating originally to the Early Bronze Age, with mudbrick and packed-earth ramparts, including, on the top of the tall, monumental ruins of the Iron Age II and III periods that are also surrounded by 3-meter-thick city walls.

An intriguing possibility highlights the fascination surrounding the excavations of this site: One may recall the Old Testament story that comes to mind about Lot and the infamous cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Their actual locations on the archaeological landscape have long been the subject of scholarly debate. Some scholars are suggesting that the textual and archaeological evidence may indeed support the hypothesis that the remains of Tall el Hammam represent the remnants of the ancient city of Sodom. Time and further research and excavation may shed more light. Whether the emerging evidence points for or against, however, is an aside to the valuable information that will be collected from this site about the role and influence of this major ancient city on the surrounding socio-economic and cultural environment, and the lifeways of the people who inhabited this location for thousands of years.

The fifth season of excavations will run from December 10, 2010 through January 20, 2011. The Tall el Hammam Excavation Project is inviting volunteers to join the team this winter to uncover more of the mysteries that lie beneath. Besides the excavation itself, this dig promises daytime temperatures ranging from 50 to 75 degrees, making the air clearer and cleaner than at any other time of the year (not to mention great working temperature), along with accommodations at a fabulous resort and spa near the shores of the Dead Sea. These excavators are pampered for their hard work! You can read more about this fascinating project and how to join by going to the website