A number of scholars in the past have placed Sodom at various places at or near the southern end of the Dead Sea. William F. Albright proposed that Sodom and Gomorrah might be underwater south of the Dead Sea’s Lisan peninsula.1 Bryant G. Wood suggests that Bab edh-Dhra and Numeira might be Sodom and Gomorrah,2 while R. Thomas Schaub and Walter E. Rast, the excavators of those sites, believe that they may be the visible ruins from which the etiological legend arose.a3 Still others, like Burton MacDonald, suggest that there were two separate etiological traditions—one favoring the north end of the Dead Sea (Admah/Zeboiim) and one favoring a southern location (Sodom/Gomorrah)—that arose in Israel and Judah, respectively.4

In the 19th century, however, most explorer-scholars—including Charles W. Wilson, H.H. Kitchener, Claude R. Conder, Selah Merrill, Henry B. Tristram, William M. Thomson, George Grove and Henry S. Osborn—located the cities of the kikkar (the “cities of the plain”) north of the Dead Sea.5 Archaeology, then still in its infancy, was of no help to them, but their analyses of the Hebrew text and understanding of the local geography and geology led them in the right direction.

While the dispute will no doubt continue, I believe that Tall el-Hammam is by far the best candidate for Biblical Sodom.

The main reason for rejecting the southern sites is, of course, the Bible. Nothing in the Bible leads to these southern sites, and everything leads to the area north of the Dead Sea opposite Bethel and Ai. There is a remarkable correspondence here between text and ground.

One other Biblical point: Genesis 19:1 says that the angels first came to Lot while he was sitting in the “gate of Sodom.” We have been excavating the major gate complex that led into the city of Tall el-Hammam. Nothing remotely similar has been found in the south.

It is interesting that not a single advocate of the southern sites has ever provided a detailed analysis of Genesis 13:1–12 in support of that position. Never. The reason? Simple: Genesis 13:1–12 is the plague that drains the life from the southern view. It always has been. It always will be.

It is true that there is some evidence of a fiery destruction in the southern area, but this is also true of Tall el-Hammam and the area north of the Dead Sea. Bitumen chunks have been mined all around the Dead Sea,b including at Tall el-Hammam.

Moreover the evidence of life in the southern area is meager at best. Bab edh-Dhra is about 12 acres, while the occupational footprint at Tall el-Hammam in the north is about 100 acres with numerous towns and villages surrounding it in close proximity.6

What would Lot—literary or literal—have gained by passing up Tall el-Hammam and the well-watered eastern kikkar in order to settle in the area of Bab edh-Dhra? That Lot (whether in reality or merely in the mind of the writer) would pass up the area northeast of the Dead Sea in favor of the God-forsaken region around the Dead Sea’s Lisan Peninsula is beyond comprehension.