RETURN TO SODOM AND GOMORRAH by Charles Pellegrino

RETURN TO SODOM AND GOMORRAH

Bible Stories from Archaeologists

KIRKUS REVIEW

 In the latest leg of an idiosyncratic intellectual journey, Pellegrino looks at the stories of the Old Testament through the lenses of genetics, paleontology, and archaeology. Pellegrino (Unearthing Atlantis, 1990, etc.) has an autodidact's omnivorous curiosity to match his high-flying imagination. In this new hodgepodge, he expands on the speculations he put forward in his previous expedition into antiquity, in which he hypothesized that the volcano-buried Minoan city of Thera was the inspiration for the legendary Atlantis. Here he conjectures that when an eruption in the second millennium b.c. obliterated the Minoan civilization, its long-distance effects may have been responsible for the plagues of Egypt and the Aegean diaspora that brought the Philistines to Canaan. He also annexes other theories having to do with the contentious ``Mitochondrial Eve'' hypothesis (based on mitochondrial DNA research, it theorizes that genetic the mother of us all lived between 250,000 and 140,000 b.c.) and the Ark of the Covenant's wanderings. Using diverse scientific sources and historical perspectives--Sumerian clay tablets, Egyptian steles, the writings of Herodotus, and, naturally, the Bible--he ``telescopes'' anthropological and archaeological theories to fit Biblical myths like those of Noah and Nimrod, compressing patterns of history into oral tradition's legends. With a natural sense of storytelling, he blends theories of antiquity with the adventures of field work: He is best describing the modern difficulties of conducting digs in Gaza, Jericho, and Iraq (where he radically situates the Biblical Cities of the Plain destroyed by God's wrath). There is, however, a good deal of padding by this accidental archaeologist: reconstructed dialogue, digression, repetition, and flights of fancy that leave solid ground far below. For all its interdisciplinary breadth and originality, this reads like a beery breeze-shooting session with a college prof. (16 pages of b&w drawings, maps, not seen) (Author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-679-40006-0
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1994




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