Archaeologists Create Better Clock for Biblical Times – 12/22/2022 – Science

When it comes to assigning dates to military campaigns described in the Bible, the parameters of the discussion assume almost biblical proportions. When did the Amalekites war against the Hebrews in the desert? Joshua fought at the Battle of Jericho in 1500 BC, in 1400 BC or ever?

This uncertainty exists, in part, because the radiocarbon analysis that scientists have used so far to date organic remains is less accurate for certain times. And, in part, because archaeologists often disagree about what the timelines of different narratives should be. But a new technique, which uses consistently reliable geomagnetic data, allows scientists to more confidently study the history of the Levant.

Many materials, including rocks and soils, record the reversals and changes over time in the Earth’s invisible geomagnetic field🇧🇷 When ancient ceramics or clay bricks containing ferromagnetic minerals, or certain minerals containing iron, are heated to high enough temperatures, the magnetic moments of the minerals behave like a compass needle, reflecting the orientation and strength of the field at the time of firing. . The new methodology may provide a kind of geobiblical clock.

“Based on the similarity or difference in the recorded magnetic signals, we can corroborate or refute hypotheses” about when certain sediment layers would have been destroyed during biblical battles, said Yoav Vaknin, a doctoral student at Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which pioneered this technology. “Everything fits perfectly, better than I ever imagined.”

Vaknin’s research, published this year in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, uses information from 20 international scholars to map a geomagnetic dataset of 21 layers of historic destruction at 17 sites in the Holy Land.

The project is an attempt to verify the historical authenticity of the Old Testament accounts about the Egyptian, Aramaic, Assyrian, and Babylonian offensives against the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, and the conflicts between these two kingdoms. For curious readers, the main ones included Shoshenq I (1 Kings 14:25-26), Hazael (2 Kings 12:18), Jehoash (2 Kings 14:11-15), Tiglath-Pileser III (2 Kings 15:29 ), Sennacherib (2 Kings 18-19) and Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 25:1-21).

“With this new dataset, we can narrow things down to a decade level,” said Thomas Levy, an archaeologist at the University of California San Diego who was not involved in the study. “This is super important when trying to connect ancient historical events to the archaeological record.”

The real importance of the research lies in the interdisciplinary connections, said Oded Lipschits, an archaeologist and one of the study’s co-authors: specialists in the new technique, known as archeomagnetism, gain “chronological anchors” with the work of archaeologists —firm foundations in the historical timeline. “And in return, archeology gets a new dating tool whose main application is in the first millennium BC, when radiocarbon is less effective and unreliable.”

The study stands out not only for its content, but also for its researchers. All but one of the authors of the work are archaeologists — many with contradictory views on biblical history and the chronology of the period.

Rather than providing absolute dates, Vaknin’s database compares magnetic readings from materials burned at various locations. Where historical evidence has already established precise timelines, nearby locations can also be dated.

To understand the mysterious mechanism of Earth’s magnetic field, geophysicists trace its changes through history using archaeological relics — ovens, pottery shards and roof tiles — that contain ferromagnetic minerals.

In a 2020 paper, Vaknin and his colleagues used floor fragments and broken pottery from a building excavated in a parking lot in Jerusalem to recreate the Earth’s magnetic field as it was in the ninth Hebrew month of Av, 586 BC, which is recognized as the date when Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian army annihilated the First Temple and the city of Jerusalem.

The most recent study reconstructed the magnetic field recorded in burnt remains at biblical sites in present-day Israel that were destroyed by fire. Using archeomagnetic readings that have been preserved for millennia in mud bricks, a bee hive and two collections of pottery objects, and historical information from ancient inscriptions, the team analyzed layers of ruins left behind by military conflicts.

The findings help resolve a longstanding debate over how the Kingdom of Judah fell and refute claims that the ancient settlement of Tel Beit She’an, a magnet for epic conflagrations and sieges, was razed to the ground in the 9th century.o BC by the Aramean armies of Hazael of Damascus🇧🇷 Magnetic dating indicates instead that Beit She’an was burned to the ground some 70 to 100 years earlier; this links the destruction to the Egyptian pharaoh Shoshenq, whose campaign was described in the Hebrew Bible and in an inscription on the wall of the Temple of Amun at Karnak in the Egyptwhich mentions Beit She’an as one of the king’s conquests.

Interestingly, other data indicate that, about a century later, Hazael’s soldiers burned several settlements: Tel Rehov, Tel Zayit and Horvat Tevet, as well as Gath, one of the five royal cities of the Philistines (and home of Goliath), whose destruction is quoted in 2 Kings 12:17. The study, which examined geomagnetic records at all four sites at the time of the demolition, strongly suggests they were burned during the same military offensive, according to the researchers.

Vaknin spent four years pioneering the application of paleomagnetic research to biblical archeology, assisted by his doctoral advisors Lipschits, Erez Ben-Yosef of Tel Aviv University and Ron Shaar of the Institute of Earth Sciences at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. .

Ben-Yosef said he hoped the new dating method would finally resolve questions about the fall of the Kingdom of Judah. While it is widely accepted that the Babylonians destroyed the political structure of Judea in 586 BC, some researchers, based on historical and archaeological evidence, argue that the invaders were not solely responsible. The magnetic field strength recorded in the layer of destruction at the site of Malhata —a city on the southern outskirts of Judah— is different and significantly lower than that recorded in the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem, the capital of the kingdom. “This means that the two destructions cannot be related to the same event,” said Ben-Yosef.

Archaeomagnetic data provided clear evidence that Malhata was destroyed decades later, which fits with the idea that the Edomites, Judah’s southern neighbors, took advantage of the Judeans’ weakness after the Babylonian onslaught and invaded their territory.

“These events are reflected in the Hebrew Bible,” said Ben-Yosef. “They explain the animosity against the Edomites by various prophets, chiefly Obadiah.”

Scholars who partially absolved the Babylonians should feel vindicated, he added. “Now, the magnetic results support their hypothesis. The big problem with this research is that after decades of work to establish a reference database, we finally reaped the fruits of our labor, and what we saw became a powerful dating tool in biblical archeology that will no doubt become part of the toolkit of archaeologists working in the Holy Land.”

Translated by Luiz Roberto M. Gonçalves

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