Tuesday, October 4, 2016


Pottery Reading (2015) discussing the style of the pot.

I am a Canadian archaeologist with my Ph.D. from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland in New Testament Theology. My dissertation was entitled “The Influence of Ancient Near Eastern Vassal Treaties on the Seven Prophetic Messages in Revelation with Special Reference to the Message to Smyrna.”  It is published by Gorgias Press under the title The Seven Messages of Revelation and Vassal Treaties: Literary Genre, Structure, and Function. Gorgias Dissertations Biblical Studies 41. Piscataway, N.J.: Gorgias Press, 2009).

I have been a field supervisor with the Tall el-Hammam (Sodom?) Excavation Project in Jordan since 2005. In 2005-06 I worked with the ArcImaging team, as the Director of Operations for the Mount Ararat Archaeological Research Expedition conducting Noah's Ark research.

I have been teaching for Liberty University Online, Rawlings School of Divinity since 2009 as an Assistant Professor and Subject Matter Expert (SME in Archaeology). I am also a field supervisor at the Tall el-Hammam (Sodom?) excavations in Jordan and Square Supervisor of the Shiloh excavations in Israel. I am on the board of directors of the Near East Archaeological Society (NEAS). I am also an associate member of the Associates for Biblical Research and publish articles in various archaeology Journals. I have written several books on theology and archaeology available through Amazon.com and published through my company Electronic Christian Media.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Map 18

Bab edh-Dhra and Kirbet Qazone Cemetery
© 2014 Dr. David E. Graves, ECM
Map close-up of the area around Bâb Edh-Dhrâʿ and Khirbet Qazone cemetery.

© 2014 Dr. David E. Graves, Electronic Christian Media

Map 17

Tall el-Hammam and Vicinity
© 2014 Dr. David E. Graves, ECM
Map close-up of the area around Tall el-Ḥammâm. Multi-period site plan showing the excavation fields of the upper and lower tall. The survey plot of Tall el-Ḥammâm was used with permission from Leen Ritmeyer, architect and Qutaiba Dasouqi, Surveyor.

© 2014 Dr. David E. Graves, Electronic Christian Media

Map 16

Region of the Kikkār (Roman Road from Esbus to Livias)
© 2014 Dr. David E. Graves, ECM
The region of the Kikkār (valley) of the Jordan indicating the Roman road from Esbus to Livias. This is the region around Tall el-Hammam that is the proposed site of Sodom (Middle Bronze Age) for the Northern theory. It also triangulates the Roman road measurements from literary sources that identifies Tall el-Hammam as Roman and Byzantine Livias. Tall el-Hammam can be both Sodom, and Livias in different periods of history.

© 2014 Dr. David E. Graves, Electronic Christian Media

Map 15

Sinkhole locations around the Dead Sea.
© 2014 Dr. David E. Graves, ECM
The location of sinkholes from recent surveys overlayed on the map of the Dead Sea as it would have appeared during the time of Chedorlaomer, in the Middle Bronze Age (2000-1550 BC). The slime pits or bitumen pits were probably these sinkholes.

First, we must identify what is meant by bitumen (Gen 14:10; Heb. ḥēmār. See Chapter One: “Biblical References to Sodom: Genesis 14:1-12”).[1]  Nissenbaum and Goldberg defined it as ozocerite (Gr. oze stench + kero wax; an odorous paraffin earthwax) “a natural mixture of predominantly high molecular weight paraffinic hydrocarbons.”[2]  However, it is often identified as asphalt, common in the Dead Sea. Josephus called it Lake Asphaltites (Ant. 1.9) and the Romans called it Asphalt Lake (Lat. Palus Asphaltites). Bitumen was also a major export from the Dead Sea region (Pliny the Elder Nat. Hist. 2.226; 5.72; 7.65; 28.80; 35.178).

Frumkin and Elitzur point out that:
Although most ancient and modern versions and commentaries translate h\eµmar as bitumen or asphalt,[3]  we believe, based on field evidence as well as etymological considerations, that the preferable translation might be “slime,” which is more commonly found in the Dead Sea pits.[4] 
The etymology of the term justifies using the term “slime pits,” and is likely identified with the sink holes that form around the shores of the Dead Sea in dry periods. For this discussion, the term bitumen will be broadened to include all forms of petroleum products, including asphalt, oil, tar, and natural gas.[5]

There is no question that the Dead Sea is full of bitumen that floats to the surface (Josephus J.W. 4.479-80; Strabo Geogr. 16.2.42; Diodorus Siculus Hist. Lib. 19:98.84-88;[6]  Tacitus Hist. 5.7),[7]  being pushed up through the fault lines to the surface by earthquakes or movements of the plates.[8] 
Bitumen and asphalt are also found in the region around the Dead Sea.[9]  Geikie testified that:
the whole region is full of the materials for such a catastrophe as overtook them [Cities of the Plain]. Wells of liquid bitumen, or, as we may call it, petroleum, abounded in the neighbourhood, and vast quantities of it ooze through the chalky rocks, while the bottom of the lake is bedded with it, vast masses rising to the surface after any convulsion, as in the case of the great earthquake of 1837. Indeed, huge cakes float up, at times, even when there is no seismal disturbance, and are seized by the Bedouins, who carry what they can gather to Jerusalem for sale. Sulfur abounds, in layers and fragments, over the plains and along the shores of the lake.[10]
 See See FACT 57: "Bitumen is Found all Around the Dead Sea" for the various locations of Bitumen around the Dead Sea as illustrated in the map. David E. Graves, The Location of Sodom: Key Facts for Navigating the Maze of Arguments for the Location of the Cities of the Plain (Toronto, Ont.: Electronic Christian Media, 2016), 147-51.

[1] BDB states that bitumen was “used for cement in building Babel (Gen 11:3)”... and “used in coating Moses’ ‘ark’ of bulrushes (Exod 2:3).”  Charles A. Briggs, Samuel R. Driver, and Francis Brown, eds., A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament with an Appendix Containing the Biblical Aramaic. Based on the Lexicon of William Gessenius as Translated by Edward Robinson (Boston, Mass.: Houghton Milfflin, 1907), 330.
[2] Arie Nissenbaum and M. Goldberg, “Asphalts, Heavy Oils, Ozocerite and Gases in the Dead Sea Basin,” Organic Geochemistry 2, no. 3 (1975): 172
[3] In their research, Nissenbaum and Goldberg, decided that “The Dead Sea material has been so often referred to as asphalts, that for historical reasons it was decided to retain this term.” Ibid., 167.
[4] Amos Frumkin and Yoel Elitzur, “The Rise and Fall of the Dead Sea,” BAR 27, no. 6 (2001): 42 n.1.
[5] Michael Gardosh et al., “Hydrocarbon Exploration in the Southern Dead Sea Area,” in The Dead Sea: The Lake and Its Setting, ed. Zvi Ben-Avraham, Tina M. Niemi, and Joel R. Gat, Oxford Monographs on Geology and Geophysics 36 (New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, USA, 1997), 69; Nissenbaum and Goldberg, “Asphalts, Heavy Oils, Ozocerite and Gases in the Dead Sea Basin,” 175.
[6] Diodorus Siculus, Library of History: Books 19.66-20, trans. Russel M. Geer, vol. 10, 12 vols., LCL 390 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1954).
[7] Arie Nissenbaum, “Dead Sea asphalts—Historical Aspects,” Bulletin of the Association of Petrolum Geologists 62, no. 5 (1978): 840–45; Nissenbaum and Goldberg, “Asphalts, Heavy Oils, Ozocerite and Gases in the Dead Sea Basin,” 167.
[8] Frederick G. Clapp, “Geology and Bitumens of the Dead Sea Area, Palestine and TransJordan,” Bulletin of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists 20, no. 7 (1936): 901–3; Nissenbaum, “Dead Sea asphalts—Historical Aspects,” 843.
[9] Nissenbaum, “Dead Sea asphalts—Historical Aspects,” 837–44.
[10] J. Cunningham Geikie, The Holy Land and the Bible: A Book of Scripture Illustrations Gathered in Palestine (London, U.K.: Cassell & Company, 1887), 119; Hours with the Bible or The Scriptures in the Light of Modern Discovery and Knowledge: From Creation to the Patriarchs with Illustrations, vol. 1 (New York, N.Y.: Pott, 1882), 1:392.

© 2014 Dr. David E. Graves, Electronic Christian Media

Map 14

Boundaries of Palestine and Arabia (mid 4th cent. AD)
© 2014 Dr. David E. Graves, ECM
Historical boundaries of Roman / Byzantine / Islamic Palestine (sourced from Irfan Shahîd, Byzantium and the Arabs in the Sixth Century, 683, Bernard Lewis, Islam in History: Ideas, People, and Events in the Middle East, 155 and the borders of Mandate Palestine from multiple sources).

See Eusebius (ca. AD 260/265-339/340) and Severus, Bishop of Sodom ( AD 325) in  David E. Graves, The Location of Sodom: Key Facts for Navigating the Maze of Arguments for the Location of the Cities of the Plain (Toronto, Ont.: Electronic Christian Media, 2016), 41-42.

© 2014 Dr. David E. Graves, Electronic Christian Media

Map 13

Map of the borders of the Promised Land that God
showed to Moses on Mt. Nebo, described in Deut. 34:1-3
© 2014 Dr. David E. Graves, ECM
Map representing the outside borders of the Promised Land that God showed to Moses on Mount Nebo, described in Deuteronomy 34:1-3. It is unlikely that es-Safi (Byzantine Zoar) is the location of the eastern boundary of the Promised Land, as it would lay in Moabite territory, south of the Arnon River. It is more likely that Serâbît el-Mushaqqar, located on the ascent to Mount Nebo, or another site nearby, was the OT Zoar and represents the eastern boundary of the Promised Land.

Moses’ panorama of the wasteland of the kikkār (Num 21:20, 22:1) and the Promised Land begins at Mt. Pisgah, near Mt. Nebo in Moab, east of Jericho.[1]  Then, facing the Mediterranean Sea, Moses begins on his right with (1) Gilead (east of the Jordan. See the numbers on the Map above) traveling north as far as (2) the city of Dan (N boundary, not to be confused with the tribe of Dan), where the Transjordan ends, then traveling from north to south along the Mediterranean Sea (W boundary)  ((3) Naphtali, (4) Manasseh,  (5) Ephraim, and  (6) Judah). Then in the south, the border is mentioned at  (7) the Negev (S boundary), followed by  (8) the kikkār, which he identified as the Valley of Jericho. This places the kikkār in the disk, north of the Dead Sea, connected with Jericho. Then having mentioned the northern ( (2) Dan), western ( (3) (4) (5) (6) Mediterranean), and southern ((7) Negev) borders, he identifies (9) Zoar as the Eastern boundary. Moses would have passed by the site of Serâbît el-Mushaqqar (OT Zoar?) on his climb up Mt. Nebo to view the Promised Land.

Power concludes that:
It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that Ṣo’ar is at the foot of Mount Nebo, where the vision began, and at the eastern limit of the Round of the valley of Jericho, where it ended.[2]
Howard argues the same:
Since this scene begins with the most remote part of the kikkār it must end at the nearest, which places Zoar near the foot of Mount Nebo.[3]  Furthermore, the point is often made that the Byzantine-Arabic site of Zoar and the southern end of the Dead Sea are not visible from the Mount Nebo vicinity, the view being obstructed by the mountains of Moab.[4]
Driver point out that “v. 3 implies naturally that Zoar was at some distance off, not a place at the foot of Nebo.”[5]  Although if Zoar is at es-Safi, as the SST advocates propose,[6]  then the eastern border of the Promised Land is located in Moabite territory, south of the Arnon River, which never happened, as Reuben was north of the Arnon River. The Negev has already been identified as the southern boundary, so Zoar is not likely the southern boundary, but the eastern boundary. This passage would seem to favour the NST and place Zoar someplace near Mt. Nebo (See Fact 33).[7]

[1] Joel F. Drinkard Jr., “ʿAL PÉNÊ as ‘East of,’” Journal of Biblical Literature 98 (1978): 285–86
[2] E. Power, “The Site of the Pentapolis: Part 1,” Biblica 11 (1930): 42..
[3] Jan Jozef Simons, The Geographical and Topographical Texts of the Old Testament: A Concise Commentary in Xxxii Chapters (Leiden: Brill, 1959), 406.
[4] David M. Howard, Jr., “Sodom and Gomorrah Revisited,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 27, no. 4 (1984), 390. Driver observes that there are many other locations mentioned here that were not visible from Mt. Nebo, including: Northern Gilead, Dan and, the Mediterranean Sea. Samuel R. Driver, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Deuteronomy, ICC 5 (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1978), 419–21; Samuel R. Driver, “Zoar,” in A Dictionary of the Bible: Dealing with Its Language, Literature and Contents Including the Biblical Theology. 5 vols. ed. James Hastings and John A. Selbie, vol. 4 (New York, N.Y.: Scribner’s Sons, 1909), 4:986.
[5] Ibid, 4:986.
[6] Konstantinos D. Politis, “Death at the Dead Sea,” Biblical Archaeology Review 38, no. 2 (2013): 42
[7] Howard argues for a southern location from this passage, based on a chiastic reading of the text but this chiastic layout seems unnatural and forced on the text which is otherwise a natural reading of a geographic map. Howard, Jr., “Sodom and Gomorrah Revisited,” 391-92.

© 2014 Dr. David E. Graves, Electronic Christian Media

Map 12

Map of the fault lines and the level of the Dead Sea in the Middle Bronze Age.
Also depicting the war of Chedorlaomer in Gen 14:1-12.
© 2014 Dr. David E. Graves, ECM
Map representing the fault lines and the level of the Dead Sea in the Middle Bronze Age (about 2000 BC). [1] This map also depicts the southern campaign (1) – (8) of Chedorlaomer, the king of Elam described in Genesis 14:1-12. Following his attack on Ḥaṣaṣon-Tamar (En-Gedi) (6) he encountered the confederation of the kings of the Cities of the Plain. Unfortunately the location of the Valley of Siddim is uncertain and bitumen deposits can be found in several locations (See Map 15 for the location of Sink holes). Chedorlaomer would have needed to have backtracked to encounter the Cities of the Plain in the south (7). Whereas traveling north (7) he would be traveling in the direction of Dan (8) where he was pursued by Abraham.[2]

[1] A. D. Riddle, and David Parker, “Interactive Dead Sea Map,” The Dead Sea: A History of Change, December 2013. http://www.riddlemaps.com/deadSea/map.swf.
[2] For more details on the location of Sodom and the narrative in Genesis 14:1-12 see David E. Graves, The Location of Sodom: Key Facts for Navigating the Maze of Arguments for the Location of the Cities of the Plain (Toronto, Ont.: Electronic Christian Media, 2016), 27-29.

© 2014 Dr. David E. Graves, Electronic Christian Media

Map 11

Proposed southern locations for the Cities of the Plain.
© 2014 Dr. David E. Graves, ECM
Proposed southern locations for the Cities of the Plain according to Dr. Bryant Wood.[1] The southern basin of the Dead Sea was once covered by water, but is now an artificial industrial pond filled with water from the northern basin and used to extract salts and minerals.

Numeira and Bâb edh-Dhrâʿ were destroyed at different times, 250 years apart. FACT 39:  BAB EDH-DHRA AND NUMEIRA WERE DESTROYED AT DIFFERENT TIMES.[2] While the early conclusions of Rast and Schaub, that BeD and Numeira were both destroyed at approximately the same time (i.e., 2350–2067 BC), are often reported, it is now known that their individual destruction was separated by approximately two and a half centuries (250 years), with the destruction of BeD at ca. 2350 BC and Numeira at ca. 2600 BC. [3] If Bab edh-Dhrâ is Sodom then Numeira cannot be Gomorrah or one of the cities of the plain.

Feifa and Khirbet Khanazir, proposed for the other Cities of the Plain, do not have Early Bronze 3 domestic occupation, as they were both only cemeteries in the EBA. At Khanazir, walls observed by Rast and Schaub in 1973 [4] were in reality rectangular structures marking Early Bronze IV shaft tombs. [5] See FACT 43: “Bab edh-Dhra and Numeira are the only inhabited towns in the southern Dead Sea Region in the EBA.” [6]

FACT 33: “There are Several Possible Locations for Zoar.” [7] No one knows for sure where biblical Zoar is located (see Map 10).  The beautiful Madaba mosaic map in the church in Madaba, Jordan, depicts the region of the Holy Land during the 6th cent. BC and has Byzantine Zoar marked on the Wadi Hesa near modern es-Safi (see map above), at the southern end of the Dead Sea.  However, no archaeological evidence has been uncovered to indicate that es-Safi is biblical Zoar. In fact there are no remains earlier than the Hellenistic Period.[8] Schuab, who excavated Bab edh-Dhra, states that the sixth century Zoar on the map is not the same as the Middle Bronze age Zoar as listed in Genesis.[9] Es Safi (Madaba map Zoar) is the Byzantine traditional site for Zoar with no archaeological evidence linking it with the Patriarchs.

It is believed that Tall el-Hammam is also identified on the Madaba map but the tesserae names are missing. [10]

FACT 34: LOT’S CAVE IS LOCATED ON THE MADABA MAP. [11] In 1983, Lot’s cave at Deir ‘Ain ‘Abata, near eṣ-Ṣafi, Jordan, was discovered by H. Donner and E. A. Knauf. Between 1988 and 1996, Greek archaeologist Konstantinos Politis and staff from the British Museum excavated the proposed venerated site of Lot’s cave. The site is identified on the Madaba Map above Zoora (Zoar). During the Byzantine period a Church was built over the cave and a monastery was established to venerate the location of Lot’s cave. [12]
The display text in the Museum of the Lowest Point on Earth at eṣ-Ṣafi, under the direction of Politis, states:
Three architectural fragments with Greek inscriptions alluding to Lot were also found on the site [of the church]. Literary and archaeological evidence suggests that it was a pilgrimage site, based around a natural cave that was believed to have been where Lot took refuge with his daughters after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19). The excavations revealed an Early Byzantine monastery complex, with a church built over the cave. The church was adorned with six mosaic pavements, dated by inscriptions to 572-3, 605-7 and 692 respectively - the latest dating from after the Islamic conquest of the area.
The 7th cent. Byzantine church built in front of the cave had a mosaic with a dedication to “St Lot”. Politis also reports that:
Roman-period finds suggest an earlier veneration of the site. The additional discovery of substantial Early and Middle Bronze Age remains indicates that the cave was occupied during the period when, it is thought, the Genesis story occurred.[13]
While the cave did have Early Bronze [14] and Middle Bronze [15] pottery along with Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Umayyad, and ‘Abbasid,[16] there was no archaeological evidence which directly linked the cave to Lot. As there are many caves in the side of the mountains all along the Dead Sea (i.e., Qumran), and many people lived in the area during the EB and MB periods (i.e., the large cemeteries at BeD, Numeira, eṣ-Ṣafi, Feifeh, and Khanazir. See Fact 43), there was nothing special about this cave which connected it to Lot, other than Roman/Byzantine tradition that people used it during antiquity. The early Byzantine Christians often venerated sites to draw pilgrims  to their sites and thus the inscriptions placed on the floor of the church were commemorating this as a holy site in typical Byzantine tradition.

[1] Bryant G. Wood, “The Discovery of the Sin Cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.” Bible and Spade 12, no. 3 (1999): 67–80.
[2] David E. Graves, The Location of Sodom: Key Facts for Navigating the Maze of Arguments for the Location of the Cities of the Plain (Toronto, Ont.: Electronic Christian Media, 2016), 113-115.
[3] See Jack Donahue, “Geologic Reconstruction of Numeira,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 255 (Summer 1984): 87; Michael David Coogan, “Numeira 1981,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 255 (Summer 1984): 81; 1. Meredith S. Chesson and R. Thomas Schaub, “Life in the Earliest Walled Towns on the Dead Sea Plain: Numayra and Bab Edh-Dhraʿ,” in Crossing Jordan: North American Contributions to the Archaeology of Jordan, ed. Thomas Evan Levy et al. (London, U.K.: Equinox, 2007), 247.
[4] Walter E.Rast, and R. Thomas Schaub. “Survey of the Southeastern Plain of the Dead Sea, 1973.” Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 19 (1974): 12–14.
[5] Walter E. Rast, “Bab Edh-Dhraʿ (ABD),” ed. David Noel Freedman et al., Anchor Bible Dictionary (New York, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1996), 560; R. Thomas Schaub, “Southeast Dead Sea Plain,” in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East, ed. Eric M. Meyers, vol. 5 (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 1997), 62.
[6] Graves, The Location of Sodom, 121-24.
[7] ibid, 100-104.
[8] Steven Collins, “Rethinking the Location of Zoar: An Exercise in Biblical Geography,” Biblical Research Bulletin 4, no. 1 (2006): 1–5.
[9] Schaub, R. Thomas. “Southeast Dead Sea Plain.” In The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East, edited by Eric M. Meyers, 5:62–64. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 1997.
[10] See David E. Graves and Scott Stripling, “Identification of Tall el-Hammam on the Madaba Map,” Bible and Spade 20, no. 2 (2007): 35–45.
[11] Graves, The Location of Sodom, 104-106.
[12] Konstantinos D. Politis, “Where Lot’s Daughters Seduced Their Father Excavations Reveal Commemorative Monastery,” Biblical Archaeology Review 30, no. 1 (2004): 20–31, 64; “The Monastery of Aghios Lot at Deir ‘Ain ‘Abata in Jordan”; Sanctuary of Lot at Deir ‘Ain ‘Abata in Jordan Excavations 1988–2003 (Amman: Jordan Distribution Agency, 2012.
[13]  Konstantinos D. Politis, “The Lost Cities of Sodom and Gomorrah,” in The Seventy Great Mysteries of the Ancient World: Unlocking the Secrets of Past Civilizations, ed. Brian M Fagan (New York: Thames & Hudson, 2001), 37.
[14] Politis, "Sanctuary of Lot at Deir ‘Ain ‘Abata in Jordan Excavations 1988–2003," 31–36.
[15] Ibid., 57–78; Michele Piccirillo, ed., “Ricerca Storico-Archeologica In Giordania 16  - 1996,” Liber annuus Studii biblici franciscani 46 (1996): 413–14.
[16] Politis, “Sanctuary of Lot at Deir ‘Ain ‘Abata in Jordan Excavations 1988–2003,” 108–114, 179–366.

 © 2014 Dr. David E. Graves, Electronic Christian Media.

Map 10

The proposed northern locations for the Cities of the Plain in the kikkār.
© 2014 Dr. David E. Graves, ECM.
The proposed northern locations for the Cities of the Plain. The kikkār is indicated by the circle in the centre. The altitude in the Jordan Valley is given in negative numbers. In the upper left hand corner, the several options for Bethel and Ai are indicated; though these do not affect the general location from where Lot looked East across the kikkār to see the city of Sodom. © 2014 Dr. David E. Graves, Electronic Christian Media