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From The Sunday Telegraph, 26 March 2000

By Jonathan Petre

A Bible scholar believes that he has found the ruins of Sodom and 
Gomorrah, the evil cities destroyed by God with fire and brimstone, 
after leading the first expedition to explore the bottom of the Dead 

Michael Sanders [a long-time CCNet-subscriber] and an international 
team of researchers discovered what appear to be the salt-encrusted 
remains of ancient settlements on the seabed after several fraught 
weeks diving in a mini submarine. Mr Sanders, a Briton who is now based 
in the United States, said yesterday that he was "immensely excited" 
about the find, and he is already planning a follow-up expedition.

He said: "The evidence cannot be ignored. I predicted there must be  
something extraordinary there and, lo and behold, there was. What we 
found matches exactly what the remains of an ancient city might look 

Dr John Whitaker, a geologist from Leicester University and the former 
editor of Geology Today, said yesterday that the new development - 
which will be unveiled in a television documentary tomorrow - appeared 
"very significant". He said: "There is a good chance that these mounds 
are covering up brick structures and are one of the lost cities of the 
plains, possibly even Sodom or Gomorrah, though I would have to examine 
the evidence. These Bible stories were handed down by word of mouth 
from generation to generation before they were written down, and there 
seems to be a great deal in this one." 

God's destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah to punish the sexual immorality 
of their inhabitants is one of the most graphic episodes in the Old 
Testament. Genesis says that "the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon 
Gomorrah brimstone and fire out of heaven. And he overthrew those 
cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and 
that which grew upon the ground".

Many archaeologists and scholars have concluded that the story was 
symbolic, a warning to erring humans of the divine punishment they 
faced for wickedness. But there has been speculation for centuries that 
the cities existed in the region of the Dead Sea. A growing number of 
experts, including Mr Sanders, are now convinced that "the cities of 
the plain" were destroyed by an earthquake, which threw up flaming 
pitch, about 5,000 years ago.

Since the 1960s, archaeologists have discovered mass graves on a 
peninsula jutting into the Dead Sea which contain human bones dating 
from the Old Testament period. And sulphur, or brimstone, have been 
found in nearby cliffs, adding to the mystery.

More recently, Mr Sanders unearthed a map dating from 1650 which 
reinforced to his belief that the sites of the two cities could be 
under the north basin, rather than on the southern edge of the Dead 
Sea. He recruited Richard Slater, an American geologist and expert in 
deep sea diving, to take him to the depths of the Dead Sea in the 
two-man Delta mini-submarine that was involved in the discovery of the 
sunken liner, the Lusitani.

Also part of the expedition, which took place in November, was Zvi 
Ben-Avraham, the director of the Dead Sea Research Centre, who has 
studied the region for decades. Their explorations in November, which 
were filmed for a Channel 4 documentary to be broadcast at 8pm tomorrow 
night, were fraught with difficulties. The 10ft submarine, which was 
flown in from California, had to be weighted down with lead to 
counteract the buoyancy of the salty water. Because of constraints of 
time and money, only four dives were undertaken.

To complicate matters further, the Dead Sea is a military zone with the 
border between Israel and Jordan running down the middle of it. 
Attempts by researchers to explore the most important site nearly 
sparked an international incident because it was partly in Jordanian 
waters, and military authorities ordered the submarine out.

Mr Sanders is in little doubt that the salt-covered mounds, found over 
an area 800 yards square, are man-made structures. He said: "I have 
spoken to geologists and nobody has come up with the suggestion that 
they are natural phenomena. We don't know what else they could be if 
they are not ruins. But we need more conclusive evidence by chipping 
off the salt. That's why we need to go back." 

Copyright 2000, The Sunday Telegraph


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