Abstract

This paper examines the geotechnical background to the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah as described in the Book of Genesis. The paper inter-relates structural geology, geotechnical properties of near-surface sediments and seismicity with aspects of bitumen production and water supply. Conclusions suggest that the legendary Vale of Siddim was located to the northeast of the Lisan Peninsula at the southern extremity of the present-day North Basin of the Dead Sea. The destruction of the cities was the consequence of a seismic event leading to liquefaction of the alluvial plain constituting the Vale of Siddim. The event thus represents the first liquefaction event in recorded Judaeo-Christian history. The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were lost beneath the waters of the North Basin as a consequence.

The paper illustrates the contribution of geology and engineering to a study of historical interest.

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