Much like great sleuths, great archaeologists are capable of taking miniscule clues and using them to paint vivid pictures of what happened in the past. In a new study published in the journal
Four of the paper’s authors outlined their findings in an article recently posted on the nonprofit news site,
The search for evidence of a space-rock impact began when archaeologists saw a dark, five-foot-thick layer of charcoal, ash, and melted pottery at the Tall el-Hamman excavation site. The archaeologists immediately knew some kind of firestorm must’ve caused the toasty geological layer. And they knew the culprit couldn’t have been something like warfare, an earthquake, or even a volcano; events like those simply wouldn’t have been hot enough to do that kind of damage.
Speaking of damage, the scientists speculate that an icy space rock—most likely an asteroid similar to the one that hit Tunguska, Russia, in 1908—exploded in a massive fireball about 2.5 miles in the air above Tall El-Hamman. The scientists estimate the explosion was 1,000 times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb. And that it sent ambient temperatures on the ground soaring to 3,600°F; causing wood, clothing, and probably even people to instantly burst into flames. The heat was so intense it melted swords, spears, and pottery. Minutes after blast, the entire city would’ve been in flaming ruins. All 8,000 of its residents dead.
In their post on