Space rock explosion 3,200 devastated Middle East city

For several years, archaeologists have been working on excavations at the archaeological site of what is now known as Telel Haman, in the Middle East. They found there a layer of approximately 1.5 m, formed by coal, ash, melted bricks and pottery, which indicated that a strong firestorm had destroyed the place and generated this layer. No one was quite sure what actually happened, but a team of archaeologists found evidence showing that the devastating event was caused by a space rock, which hit the city 3.600 years and caused an explosion about 1. times more powerful than Hiroshima’s atomic bomb.

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  • Researchers estimate that the rock in question averaged about 26 blew me up 4 km above the ground, releasing enough energy to raise the air temperature to more than 2.000 °C. In addition, the impact emitted a massive shock wave that traveled at the speed of 1.50 km/h, more powerful than the worst tornado on record and therefore more than enough to crush the city. These details are the result of almost 000 years of excavation and material analysis from the ruins of the city.

    The city of Telel Haman, just over 15 km from the Dead Sea (Image: Reproduction/NASA)

    While working on the site, archaeologists noticed the dark layer approximately 1.5 m thick. This band, called the “destruction layer”, also had small diamonds, which, as the name implies, are as hard as diamonds. These structures appear to have been formed from the wood and plants of the region, immediately transformed into a diamond-like material due to the high pressures and temperatures of the impact — laboratory experiments showed that the ceramic and molten bricks underwent liquefaction at temperatures above 1.590 ºC.

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    In addition, the layer of destruction also has beads, pellets smaller than dust particles formed by vaporized iron and sand, which melted above 1.466 °C. To complete, the surface layer of ceramics and molten glass has small metallic grains with very high boiling points, such as iridium, which melts at 2.200 °C. This evidence indicates that temperatures in the city were above those reached by volcanoes and common fires; therefore, the only event left to explain what happened is a cosmic impact.

    Beads made of molten sand, palatial plaster and molten metal (Image: Reproduction/Malcolm LeCompte)

    With models, the researchers created some scenarios that could match the evidence, and concluded that the “culprit” for all this was an asteroid similar to the one that devastated millions of trees in the city of Tunguska, Russia, in 1908. Still, evidence like this has already been found in other places hit by space rocks, such as Tunguska and the Chicxulub crater, formed by the asteroid that annihilated the dinosaurs. It is possible that an oral description of what happened was passed down from generation to generation until it was reported in the Bible, with a story that describes the devastation of an urban center near the Dead Sea.

    Now, they try to find out why the city and other surrounding settlements were abandoned for a few centuries after the event. One possibility suggests that the explosion vaporized or spread toxic levels of Dead Sea water across the valley, which prevented people from growing crops there. In any case, this was hardly the last time an inhabited city experienced such devastation: today, we’ve discovered more than 15.000 near-Earth asteroids, and there are millions more unknown. Therefore, unless these objects are detected, other cities may experience in the future what happened to the peoples of Telel Haman.

    The article with the results of the study was published in the journal Scientific Reports .

    Source: The Conversation

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