Laing Art Gallery/© Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums/The Bridgeman Art Library

“THE MEN OF SODOM WERE WICKED” (Genesis 13:13). For its many sins, God destroyed Sodom and all the inhabitants of the “cities of the plain” in a fiery conflagration, but not before allowing Lot and his family to flee to safety, as depicted in this evocative 19th-century painting by British artist John Martin.

The tale of Sodom’s destruction, whether historical or not, was clearly understood to have occurred near the Dead Sea, among the so-called “cities of the plain.” But where exactly was this plain, and was a particular site associated with Sodom? Archaeologist Steven Collins, using geographical clues from the Bible together with archaeological evidence from a site he is excavating, believes Biblical tradition located Sodom in a fertile plain just north of the Dead Sea whose cities witnessed an ancient catastrophic destruction.