Scientists Are Using the Earth’s Magnetic Field to Understand Biblical History

Roughly between the years 800 and 400 BCE—that is, just in the middle of the span of time the Hebrew Bible describes—radiocarbon dating, often used to determine the approximate age of ancient objects, is woefully inaccurate. But recently archaeologists have been experimenting with a new method, based on the electromagnetism. Amanda Borschel-Dan explains:

The magnetic field is a constantly shifting invisible shield stemming from magnetic ore in the earth’s core, which scientists believe may hold a key for the creation and continuation of life as we know it. Archaeological findings such as pottery sherds, bricks, roof tiles, and furnaces record the earth’s magnetic field as they are burned at high temperatures, causing their magnetic minerals to be re-magnetized to the direction and magnitude of the field when they were heated. These data are similar to fingerprints and are unique to the date they were recorded. The destruction layers of biblical military conquests provide copious materials from the slash-and-burn campaigns.

The more the technique is performed on archaeological sites that can serve as “anchor dates”—dates that have a high certainty of historicity, such as the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BCE—the more the researchers can compare results and build more complete dating tables, as well as computer models of one of the most enigmatic subjects in physics, the magnetic field.

At [one] site, Tel Beth She’an, a decades-long argument over when the destruction occurred was put to rest through the new dating tool. . . . Finding that Beth She’an was probably destroyed 70-100 years earlier than previously thought places the city’s downfall at the time of the military campaign of the Egyptian Pharaoh Shoshenq [the biblical Shishak], the researchers believe. According to a Tel Aviv University press release, this Holy Land campaign is described in the Bible and in an inscription on a wall of the Temple of Amun in Karnak, Egypt, which mentions Beth She’an as one of his conquests.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Hebrew Bible, Science

Iran’s Calculations and America’s Mistake

There is little doubt that if Hizballah had participated more intensively in Saturday’s attack, Israeli air defenses would have been pushed past their limits, and far more damage would have been done. Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack, trying to look at things from Tehran’s perspective, see this as an important sign of caution—but caution that shouldn’t be exaggerated:

Iran is well aware of the extent and capability of Israel’s air defenses. The scale of the strike was almost certainly designed to enable at least some of the attacking munitions to penetrate those defenses and cause some degree of damage. Their inability to do so was doubtless a disappointment to Tehran, but the Iranians can probably still console themselves that the attack was frightening for the Israeli people and alarming to their government. Iran probably hopes that it was unpleasant enough to give Israeli leaders pause the next time they consider an operation like the embassy strike.

Hizballah is Iran’s ace in the hole. With more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, the Lebanese militant group could overwhelm Israeli air defenses. . . . All of this reinforces the strategic assessment that Iran is not looking to escalate with Israel and is, in fact, working very hard to avoid escalation. . . . Still, Iran has crossed a Rubicon, although it may not recognize it. Iran had never struck Israel directly from its own territory before Saturday.

Byman and Pollack see here an important lesson for America:

What Saturday’s fireworks hopefully also illustrated is the danger of U.S. disengagement from the Middle East. . . . The latest round of violence shows why it is important for the United States to take the lead on pushing back on Iran and its proxies and bolstering U.S. allies.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy