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news stories about archaeology from around the world together on one site.
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Researchers: Asteroid Destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah
BNy Lewis Smith
University of Bristol: An Assyrian planisphere, or star chart, from about 700 B.C. which may depict events recounted by Sumerians from around 3123 B.C.
A clay tablet that has baffled scientists for 150 years has been identified as a witness's account of the asteroid suspected of being behind the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Researchers who cracked the cuneiform symbols on the Planisphere tablet believe that it recorded an asteroid thought to have been more than half a mile across.
The tablet, found by Henry Layard in the remains of the library in the royal place at Nineveh in the mid-19th century, is thought to be a 700 B.C. copy of notes made by a Sumerian astronomer watching the night sky.
He referred to the asteroid as a "white stone bowl approaching" and recorded it as it "vigorously swept along."
Using computers to recreate the night sky thousands of years ago, scientists have pinpointed his sighting to shortly before dawn on June 29 in the year 3123 B.C.
About half the symbols on the tablet have survived and half of those refer to the asteroid. The other symbols record the positions of clouds and constellations. In the past 150 years scientists have made five unsuccessful attempts to translate the tablet.