Dr. Collins began his research into Sodom and Tall el-Hammam in 2001, and has been working on this subject and related issues just about every day since. It is probably not a stretch to say that he knows more about the ancient city of Sodom than anyone alive today - maybe more than anyone alive since Abraham, himself! Of course, out of this research came the Tall el-Hammam Excavation Project (TeHEP), a joint excavation between Trinity Southwest University (TSU) and the Department of Antiquities (DoA) of Jordan, now in its 6th season of excavation.
When Dr. Collins and the first part of our team arrived in Jordan in early December, they heard from the D0A about a coming joint Russian-Jordanian research project planned for underwater research in the north end of the Dead Sea. The Russians said they had some specialized equipment and new information about the location of Sodom under the sea there. So, on Wednesday this week there was a joint press conference at the Dead Sea to announce the project.
Unfortunately the Jordanian side, represented by the DoA, was not at all prepared for what the Russians announced. To their astonishment, the Russians said we have found Sodom under the waters of the Dead Sea! The DoA was blindsided by such a statement because it was untrue – the Russians have done nothing in the water yet – and because the belief in the DoA is that the location of Sodom should be found north of the Dead Sea, not under the water. I don’t know how much of this information is out there in the media, but we got an inside scoop because a member of our dig staff was representing the DoA at that press conference .
So that afternoon, Dr. Ziad (????), the new Director General of the Department of Antiquities, called Dr. Collins and discussed the historical data related to the subject issues prior to a live evening broadcast on Jordanian television. I think the department felt they needed to say something about the events surrounding the press conference. That night he spoke about the Russian project and said we always welcome new research but the DoA believes the historical data available places the ancient city of Sodom north of the Dead Sea and then he spoke about the joint TSU-DoA Tall el-Hammam Excavation Project.
Then, on Thursday Dr. Collins and Hussein Al Jara??? (the DoA’s Co-Director of TeHEP) had a meeting with the DoA in Amman. As they were leaving the building they ran into Dr. Ziad. Even though he had a scheduled meeting with them on Monday to finalize our new 10-year joint TeHEP dig agreement, he asked them to stop and he called an impromptu meeting in his office – while other scheduled appointments had to wait outside!
At this meeting, Dr. Siad said that our joint TeHEP research is a DoA priority. Calling it “the most important archaeological discovery in history,” he noted that it is one subject that Christians, Moslems and Jews all believe. We already have key DoA personnel on our dig staff, but he committed himself and the department to keeping TeHEP a priority.
Then, after the meeting was over, Dr Siad called Dr. Collins on the phone and said that Jordanian television will be at the site next week to film what we are doing. While previously scheduled, Dr Siad is also making his first official visit to Tall el-Hammam this coming week. This is a pretty incredible place to be right now – Merry Christmas to me!
TeHEP probably owes a debt of gratitude to the Russians. I think it is fair to say that making the kind of announcement they did, blindsiding the DoA, really got Dr. Siad and the whole department focused on the Sodom issue. And having Dr. Collins and our team assembled in the field really made communications and planning much simpler. Still just months into his new position, Dr Siad is setting a course for the DoA for years to come.
But I must remind you that the DoA does not have the resources to pump funds into TeHEP, in fact they rely on us to do that. So, your support is as important as ever. But it is pretty cool to realize that you are contributing to something that is so important to the cause of Biblical truth and has the full support of the Jordanian Department of Antiquities! And if you hurry, you can still get a tax deduction for 2010!
Christmas in the Holy Land is, of course, a special time – but this year we have received a really unexpected gift. And we want to do the things that honor Him who is the reason for this season and the One who has made such a difference in our lives.
I just have to say it is a privilege to be here and participating in this very special project (with my wife!). I also want to thank you for your ongoing prayers and financial support.
So, Merry Christmas from the Holy Land. God is good, all the time!