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Geomagnetic data has emerged as a promising dating method for ancient battles and other archeological events. This innovative approach was demonstrated in a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), which involved the reconstruction of Earth’s magnetic field changes as recorded in destruction layers across 17 archeological sites throughout Israel.
The study aimed to develop a detailed variation curve of the Earth’s magnetic field intensity over time, which could then be employed as a scientific dating tool. The magnetic field is a vital parameter that has been used in a variety of scientific applications, including archeomagnetism, which is the study of the Earth’s magnetic field in the past based on archeological materials.
Geomagnetic data in archeology is typically derived from artifacts that contain magnetic minerals, like pottery or bricks. When these materials are heated, such as during a fire or in the process of making pottery, they acquire a remanent magnetization parallel to the Earth’s magnetic field at the time of cooling. By measuring this remanent magnetization and comparing it to the reconstructed variation curve, researchers can estimate the age of the sample.
In the case of the PNAS study, the researchers used the magnetic data from 21 destruction layers to create a chronological timeline. These destruction layers were the result of ancient battles, fires, or other calamities, and they provided a unique opportunity to analyze geomagnetic data from discrete time periods. By comparing the recorded magnetic field intensity with the variation curve, the researchers were able to establish approximate dates for the events that led to the formation of these layers.
This approach has several advantages over traditional dating methods, such as radiocarbon dating, which relies on the decay of radioactive isotopes and may be less accurate in some cases. Geomagnetic data can provide a more precise and continuous timeline, making it a valuable tool for archeologists and historians studying ancient events. Additionally, since the geomagnetic method is non-destructive, it allows for the preservation of artifacts for further study.
Researchers have reconstructed magnetic fields documented by numerous archaeological artifacts in the past ten years. Consequently, the researchers participating in the study were able to compare the magnetic fields recorded in the destruction layers with those of artifacts previously dated using historical information from ancient inscriptions and biblical accounts.
Doctoral candidate Yoav Vaknin, a key investigator in the project, explained that by analyzing the similarities or differences in the intensity and direction of the magnetic fields, they could either support or refute theories suggesting that certain sites were destroyed during the same military campaign.
An intriguing discovery made through this novel dating technique pertains to the end of the Kingdom of Judah. An archaeologically backed hypothesis proposed that while the Babylonians obliterated Jerusalem and frontier cities in the Judean foothills, they largely spared towns in the Negev and the southern Judean mountains.
Erez Ben Yosef, a professor at Tel Aviv University and Yoav Vaknin’s supervisor, noted that the final days of the Kingdom of Judah remain a subject of considerable debate. Some scholars, drawing on archaeological evidence, contend that the Babylonians did not entirely devastate Judah.
Recent geomagnetic findings lend some credence to the hypothesis that the Babylonians were not solely accountable for Judah’s ultimate collapse. Instead, the Negev cities were likely destroyed several decades later, possibly by the Edomites.
In conclusion, the use of geomagnetic data as a dating method for ancient battles and other archeological events is a promising and innovative approach. By leveraging the Earth’s magnetic field changes recorded in archeological materials, researchers can construct a detailed variation curve, providing a more accurate and continuous timeline for studying historical events.