Researchers have confirmed biblical conflicts using Earth's magnetic field

Epic battles recorded in the Bible are accurately dated using geomagnetic data.
Ayesha Gulzar

In a new study, researchers confirmed the biblical accounts of the Egyptian, Aramean, Assyrian, and Babylonian military campaigns against the kingdoms of Israel and Judah using Earth's magnetic field data.

The study was conducted by Tel Aviv University (TAU) and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU), involving 20 international scientists and researchers.

The study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) reconstructed changes in the magnetic field of the Earth as recorded in 21 destruction layers in 17 archeological sites throughout Israel, constructing a variation curve of field intensity over time that can be used as a scientific dating tool.

The study's findings indicate, for example, that the army of Hazael, King of Aram-Damascus, first mentioned in the Book of Kings, was responsible for the destruction of several cities, including Tel Rehov, Tel Zayit, and Horvat Tevet, in addition to Gath of the Philistines, whose destruction is noted in the Hebrew Bible.

At the same time, the study refutes the prevailing theory that Hazael was the conqueror who destroyed Tel Beth-Shean.

Tools for archaeological dating

To understand the mechanism of Earth's magnetic field, geophysicists track changes in the field that occurred throughout history. They analyze archaeological findings such as pottery sherds, bricks, roof tiles, and furnaces.

These archeological materials contain tiny ferromagnetic particles that behave like tiny compass needles when heated to high temperatures, such as in a pottery kiln or a destructive fire. They align with the Earth's magnetic field and become magnetized based on the direction and intensity of the field at the time. This data is similar to a fingerprint and is unique to the date it was recorded.

Over the past decade, researchers have reconstructed magnetic fields recorded by hundreds of archeological items. Thus, the researchers involved in the study could cross-check the magnetic field recorded by these destruction layers with the magnetic fields of archeological items that had been dated alongside historical information from ancient inscriptions and biblical accounts.

"Based on the similarity or difference in intensity and direction of the magnetic field, we can either corroborate or disprove hypotheses claiming that specific sites were burned during the same military campaign," explained doctoral student Yoav Vaknin, one of the lead researchers in the project.

Another interesting finding revealed by the new dating method is the end of the kingdom of Judah. An archeologically supported hypothesis suggested that the Babylonians had wiped out Jerusalem and frontier cities in the Judean foothills but left towns in the Negev and the southern Judean mountains almost untouched.

"The last days of the Kingdom of Judah are widely debated. Some researchers, relying on archaeological evidence, argue that Judah was not completely destroyed by the Babylonians," said Erez Ben Yosef, Professor at Tel Aviv University and supervisor to Yoav Vaknin.

Recent geomagnetic findings confirm the hypothesis that "Babylonians were not solely responsible for Judah's ultimate demise" and that the cities in the Negev were destroyed several decades later, probably by the Edomites.

A unique dating tool

Beyond confirming biblical history, this new form of geomagnetic testing can be used by scientists to date the age of ancient sites.

It could also be used to predict how the magnetic field will change and behave in the future. This is extremely important as small changes in the Earth's magnetic field can have far-reaching repercussions for the planet's surface.

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