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high, covered with strata of lime-stone and marl, “ which runs along the western border of the sea, terminating near the extremity." This bank of salt, was likewise seen by the servant of Mr. Costigan, the Irish gentleman who circumnavigated the Dead Sea, and soon afterwards fell a victim to his imprudence. Mrs. Haight, also, one of the most intelligent, enterprising and fearless travellers of her sex, bears her testimony to the existence of this saline deposit. It is also mentioned by Maundrell, Shaw, Volney, and others. About ten miles south of the sea, are several saline springs, which overflow and form a marsh at the foot of a line of cliffs. The rocks in this whole region are bituminous, and beds of asphaltum, doubtless, exist in many places beneath the soil, and beneath the bed of the Dead Sea.* Hasselquist states that it is gathered on the shores, every autumn, in considerable quantities, by the Arabs, and carried to Damietta, where it is sold, and employed in dying wool.t Melted asphaltum or bitumen was employed in the construction of Babel, [" they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar,"] in building Babylon, and probably most of the very ancient cities in that region.
Springs of mineral oil, occur in many countries, as India, Calabria, Sicily, England and America, and generally in connection with coal beds, or rocks of the coal formation. Mr. Malcolm, in his travels, states that there are at least 400, wells of it in Burmah,which occupy a space of about 12 square miles. They are from 200 to 300 feet deep, and the oil, when first elevated to the surface, is of the temperature of 89o. It is exported in large quantities for lamps, and torches, for preserving wood, mat partitions, palm-leaf books, &c. from insects, and for paying boats. Each of these wells yields about 150 gallons of oil daily, which sells for about 40 cents per cwt. Petroleum is found in several places in the State of New York, and particularly in the Mississippi
* Voyages and Travels in the Levant,
284. + We may here observe that “slime,” or petroleum, is a tenacious, brown fluid, which, according to the length of its exposure to the air, or to heat, increases in thickness, and in darkness of color, until it acquires nearly the consistency of common tar; while asphaltum is the same substance in its highest degree of induration,
valley. In the valley of the Little Kenawha, it is found oozing up through a bed of gravel on the margin of Hew's River, for a distance of four or five miles, and is often seen floating on the surface of the water. From 50 to 100 barrels are here collected every year, and much more could be gathered, if the demand required. In the adjacent hills is a bed of coal, but Dr. Hildreth supposes that its source lies very deep in the earth. Dr. Mantell observes that " from a careful analysis of petroleum and certain turpentine oils, it is clear that their principal component parts are identical ; and it appears therefore evident that petroleum has originated from the coniferous trees, whose remains have contributed so largely to the formation of coal: and that the mineral oil is nothing more than the turpentine oil of the pines of former ages : not only the wood, but also large accumulations of the needle-like leaves of the pines may also have contributed to this process.
We thus have the satisfaction of obtaining, after the lapse of thousands of years, information as to the more intimate composition of those ancient destroyed forests of the period of the great coal formation, whose comparison with the present vegetation of our globe is the subject of so much interest and investigation. The mineral oil may be ranked with amber, succinite, and other similar bodies which occur in the strata of the earth. The occurrence of
petroJeum in springs does not seem to depend on combustion, as has been supposed, but is simply the result of subterranean heat. According to the information we now possess, it is not necessary that strata should be at very great depth beneath the surface to acquire a heat equal to the boiling point of water, or mineral oil. In such a position the oil must have suffered a slow distillation, and have found its way to the surface; or have so impregnated a portion of the earth, as to enable us to collect it from wells, as in various parts of Persia and India.”
Such is a brief abstract of the facts I have been able to gather, in relation to the geological features of Palestine. I am aware that it is far from being complete or satisfactory; but it must be recollected that most of the travellers through this interesting country were unacquainted with geological science, and the occasional observations they have recorded, have to be received with much caution, and only admitted when supported by the testimony of others. Enough, how.
ever, has been ascertained to establish the fact, that all the formations, primitive, transition, secondary, volcanic, tertiary, diluvial and alluvial, are to be met with in this region, and that a space of a few thousand square miles, contains within its limits, an epitome of the geology of the globe. Here we behold the effects of all those natural agents, which are so constantly and efficiently at work to change the surface of this earth; rain, and floods, and frost, and volcanic fire, have here expended their fury, and striven, with the fiercer passions of man, and the wonderful events of which it has been the theatre, to render this country an astonishment and a marvel! We are now prepared to investigate the nature of the causes employed by the Almighty for the destruction of the cities of the plain.
I believe it is now generally admitted that there are suffi. cient indications to render it highly probable, if not to warrant the belief, that the Jordan once flowed uninterruptedly, through Wady el Arabah, to the Gulf of Akabah. During this period, I suppose, no one can doubt that the present Dead Sea did not exist, for it is impossible that an inland lake should possess the properties of the waters of this sea, while it communicates with the ocean, by a river flowing through it. It is important then to ascertain, at what period the Jordan ceased to empty into the Red Sea, and we shall determine this point, if we can find when the Dead Sea was formed. We read, Gen. xiv., that the kings of Shinar, Elassar, Elam, &c. " were joined together in the vale of Siddim, which is the Salt Sea,” i. e., they were congregated in that part of the valley of the Jordan, which is now (at this time of writing) covered by the waters of the Salt Sea. Consequently it may safely be inferred, that, at that time, no such sea was in existence. In confirmation, it may be stated that this sea is not mentioned in any other place, till after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and then we frequently find references to it. We are likewise told, that “the vale of Siddim was full of slime pits,” (asphaltum,) and that “the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled and fell there.” (Gen. 14: 10.) Prof. Robinson states that "every circumstance goes to show that a lake must have existed in this place, into which the Jordan poured its waters, before the destruction of Sodom.” But what these “circumstances" are, he does not mention, and it is difficult to conceive ; moreover, M. Von Buch evidently does not coincide in this opinion, for in his letter to Prof. R. he says, “ if a mass of basalt could be discovered in the southern part, or towards the southern extremity of the Dead Sea, we might suppose that a basaltic dyke had made its appearance at the celebrated catastrophe, as occurred in 1820 near the island of Banda, and also at the foot of the volcano of Ternati. The movements attending the eruption of such a dyke, would be well calculated to produce all the phenomena which have changed the face of this interesting country, without exercising a very marked influence on the figure and conformation of the surrounding mountains.". The hypothesis of this distinguished geologist appears to be, that the cities were overwhelmed by the ejection of a basaltic mass, and that the plain where they stood, is now occupied by the Dead Sea, formed by the Jordan, which previously flowed south to the Red Sea. And this further appears from his remark that “fossil salt is a product of volcanic, or plutonic action, along an opening (or * fissure”) of this description,” viz. such as exists from the Dead Sea, to the Gulf of Akabah. The saline properties of this body of water, are now ascertained to be owing to the hill of fossil salt, described by Prof. R., Mr. Stephens and others, which is found near its south-western border; accordingly, if this was thrown up according to M. Buch's hypothesis, by volcanic action, at the time of the “ catastrophe," there could have been no salt sea there previously. 1 feel confident, therefore, that Prof. R. will find occasion, on further reflection, to abandon the opinion that “the Jordan could never have flowed into the Red Sea, or within the times to which history reaches back," and that "the Dead Sea existed before the destruction of Sodom." It is not said in the passage quoted by Prof. R. (Gen. 14: 3.) that " the vale of Siddim was near the Salt Sea, and contained Sodoin and Gomorrah,” but that the kings were collected or "joined in the vale of Siddim, which is the Salt Sea.” It appears
from various passages in Scripture, that four, if not five, populous cities were situated in this plain, for we read in Jeremiah, (29:23,)“ like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Adinah and Zeboim, which the Lord overthrew in his anger," and (Jer. 49: 18,) " as in the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the neighbor cities thereof;" and a similar expression occurs in the 40th verse of the 50th chapter of the same prophet. Ecclesiasticus also speaks of five cities which were destroyed ; Strabo, of thirteen, and Stephen of Byzantium, of eight. In Genesis, (19:25,) we are expressly told, that “the Lord overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah and all the plain ; .consequently the cities on it. Now on Prof. R.'s hypothesis, as the Dead Sea already occupied the greater portion of the plain, it is difficult to conceive how sufficient space could have been left for the building of these cities, if the southern portion of the Dead Sea only occupies their places,” especially as we find that the mountains now come nearly, if not quite close to the lake, on every side. *
Again, on this hypothesis, we have no way of explaining the existence of the bank of fossil salt, for the conflagration of asphaltum pits, by lightning, could have no tendency to produce such a result ; and if the salt existed previous to the catastrophe, it is difficult to account for the extraordinary fertility of the plain, as represented in Scripture : “ And Lot lifted up his eyes and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar :" Gen. 13: 10. It appears then highly probable, to say the least, that the Dead Sea was formed subsequent to the catastrophe, which swallowed up the cities of the plain, and that this was the result of causes which changed the face of the country to such a degree as to arrest the Jordan in its course to the Red Sea, and which, at the same time, produced those saline deposits, which have ever since rendered the neighborhood of this doomed region, the emblem of desolation and sterility. The only hypothesis, which, as it appears to me, can be reconciled with the known facts and appearances, is, that a volcanic eruption took place, an intimation, or forewarning of which, was given to Lot for the safety of himself and family, attended probably by an earthquake of great violence. The immediate theatre of the eruption was the plain of Siddim, on which the guilty cities were located, and over which were scattered petroleum ( slime”) pits, and asphaltum beds, indicating the
* Prof. R. states, we found the sea here occupying the whole breadth of the great valley." Bib. Rep. p. 27.
SECOND SERIES, VOL. III. NO. II.