ABR ELECTRONIC NEWSLETTER
Vol. 2, Issue 2 Circulation: 2675
February 15, 2002
Ron Wyatt's Sodom
Rev. Gary Byers
Geologist Steve Austin of the Institute for Creation Research recently examined evidence from a site on the west side of the Dead Sea (at the foot of Masada), suggested by Ron Wyatt as the location of the destroyed Biblical city of Sodom. Austin is one of the few geologists to have critically examined evidence from this region in light of Wyatt's claims. The site was recently visited, and the geological features were photographed by Robert Brecka of Baltimore, MD. Austin examined Brecka’s photos and also tested and evaluated samples from the area.
Having studied the geology of the local Lisan Marl in both Israel and Jordan, Austin noted the samples were typical of lake environments. Although not having specifically studied Wyatt's site, Austin has observed similar landforms and erosion features in the marl strata northeast of Masada. Referring to the Dead Sea basin as one of the world's best pull-apart basins, he pointed out its similarity to the Imperial Valley and Salton Sea of California in both tectonic structure and desert landforms.
After examining Brecka's photographs of the Lisan Marl on the west side of the Dead Sea, Austin noted the region's world-class examples of desert landforms. He described the Lisan Marl as ancient lake sediment from a former Dead Sea, which occupied the basin at a higher level just thousands of years ago at the time of the "Ice Age." The marl is very poorly consolidated and is composed of microscopic crystals of calcite (calcium carbonate) and gypsum (calcium sulfate with water). Austin identified piping tubes created by vertical fracturing, which then created sinkholes and cave-like structures. Although some have the appearance of human excavations, they are entirely of natural origin. Bridging, arches, rills, sapping structures and gully erosion were prominent in the region. Natural marl joints broke off in linear rectangular features that created narrow mesas (buttes) and pediments (gravel-covered mesas). Circular marl structures ("pinnacles" and "hodos") were also identified. Numerous erosional forms containing resistant strata (known as "elephant knees") were also observed in the marl formation.
Sulfur nodules, common throughout the site, were also examined and Austin suggested their presence was from the chemical alteration of gypsum within the strata. Earthquake-produced fluidization structures of beautiful swirls along with lamination forms and the phenomenon of desert varnish were also observed in the Lisan formations.
With all these features being common natural phenomenon and typical of dried up lake environments, Austin believed many were relic desert forms. He suggested they were created a couple of thousand years ago. Based on Brecka's photographs, Austin saw no reason to believe there was anything that was not a natural geological feature. While not totally ruling it out, he did not observe anything suggesting modification by human activity.
The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) also does not believe there is any evidence for ancient artifacts or structures at the site. Yet, they were favorable to Brecka's interest and encouraged him to apply for an excavation permit. (Photographs and a fuller report of the geological features at this site, believed by Ron Wyatt to be the destroyed city of Sodom, will appear in a coming issue of ABR's quarterly magazine Bible and Spade.)
Since the magazine "Dew from Mount Hermon" published the article "A Great Christian Scam", Joel Davenport, the manager of WAR's Internet site, has published an article located at their website accusing Gary Amirault of not telling the truth. In the article, Amirault did not disclose the names of his sources since the article only went to a few hundred subscribers who trusted his reporting. On his website at Tentmaker.org, Amirault presents more complete information with the view of debunking the claims of Ron Wyatt.