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The Cities of the Plains.

One of the major archaeological mysteries still puzzling Biblical scholars and archaeologists is the location of the five cities of the plains, SODOM, GOMORRAH, ADMAH, ZEBOIM and BELA also known as ZOAR.


Map of 5 Sites close-up
Map of 5 Sites
Madaba Mosaic Map in Church
Madaba Mosaic Map of the Dead Sea

Madaba Mosaic Map of Jericho

Madaba Mosaic Map

The were situated in the Vale of Siddim which the Biblical account states became the Dead Sea.

[Gen 14:3] And all these joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea).

Between 1973 and 1979 two archaeologists, Walter E Rast of Valparaiso University, Indiana and R. Thomas Schaub of Indiana University of Pennsylvania surveyed an area around the South East of the Dead Sea and located the remains of five sites each at the head of a small wadi. From North to South the sites are

Bab Edh-Dhra (first discovered in 1924)

Numeira (found by Rast and Schaub in 1973)


Feifa and


What is of particular interest is that Safi one of the sites discovered is identified on the famous Madaba Mosaic Map located only an hours drive away. The map found on the floor of a 6th century AD Byzantium Church categorically identifies Safi with Zoar, one of the Cities of the Plain.

Could the other four sites also be the lost cities?

The principal site of Bab edh Dhra, lying right at the edge of the Lisan, which is the peninsular jutting into the Dead Sea, consists of a town and a cemetery which contains an estimated 500,000 people.

(Yes, that is half a million it is not a typo. That is the only estimate ever made by the now deceased archaeologist Lapp who originally worked on the survey of the archaeological dig. I have been asking Rast and Shaub frequently for the past few years to give me an up-to-date figure. They have not yet been able to produce one although they tend to suggest that the 500,000 figures was an over-estimation.)

All five sites date from the same archaeological period, the Early Bronze Age conventionally dated 3150-2350 BC. The site of Numeira was consumed by fire around 2350 BC using the same convention. This was the end of the Early Bronze Age.

The author of an article in Biblical Archaeological Review (Vol. 6 no.5 pp 27ff) entitled "Have Sodom and Gomorrah been Found" states:-

" Less than a half mile south wets of the town site of Bab edh-Dhra is the mammoth cemetery. The earliest burials occurred around 3200 BC (conventional dating) EVEN BEFORE THE TOWN WAS BUILT. (my emphasis). The cemetery was used as a burial ground for over 1,000 years. It must have been used not only for the people of the nearby town, but also for the large nomadic population which brought their dead to be reburied……… there were three kinds of graves in the extensive cemetery, the OLDEST and more numerous were the so-called shaft tombs……….. After the town was settled the population began to use the charnel houses (bone houses) to rebury their dead………….One charnel house containing the bones of over 300 people, another over 200."

The first settlement at Bab edh-Dhra was established about 3200 BC (conventional dating) in what archaeologists call the EBIB period.

The archaeologists Rast and Schaub suggest that these five cities could be the cities of the plain, but this theory evokes more questions and answers. It must be noted for example that the majority of the dead found at the site are dated 1,800 years BEFORE the sites were finally destroyed according to the conventional chronology. Who then were the dead and are there any other sites world-wide with such vast charnel houses containing so many remains?

Next week we will answer these questions and show how the Biblical account could NOT have been made up by scribes after the Babylonian Exile. We will prove categorically that the work of Rast and Schaub absolutely confirms the Biblical account and that account must at least have been contemporaneous. How else could the "writer" know that an area which is the most barren on the face of the earth could in ancient times have supported an enormous population when today nobody lives anywhere near there because there is no possibility of agriculture supporting anything.

Any questions?

Michael S. Sanders

Irvine California MAY 1998

Biblical Mysteries
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  1. The Anchor Bible Dictionary Volume 6 (ISBN: 038526190X)


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