The Dead Sea (in ancient times called “Lake Asphaltites”), on the border between Palestine and Transjordan, lies in a topographic depression of which the water level is 1,292 feet below the Mediterranean Sea and the altitude of the surrounding land averages between 1,500 and 3,500 feet. The depression, including the Valley of the Jordan and the southern “Ghor,” forms a “ramp” type of graben between more or less complex bounding faults.

From a geologic standpoint the most abnormal feature of this graben is Jebel Usdum—a salt dome of which the crest lies 742 feet above Dead Sea level and thereby attains a position 550 feet below the Mediterranean. El Lisen Peninsula is another land mass, standing only a few score feet above the water, but dividing the “lake” into a deep northern and shallow southern area. Sub-sea depths in the northern portion descend nearly 2,900 feet below ocean level. It is beneath the southern bay that the sites of the legendary settlements of Sodom and Gomorrah are supposed to lie. Oil and bitumen exudations, authentically reported throughout the Dead Sea area and best observed in a ravine behind Jebel Usdum, may or may not indicate the presence of important oil deposits, but some indications of suitable structure exist. At any rate, archaeology and geology unite with seepages to confirm the Biblical account of Sodom’s destruction.

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