Exploring geomagnetic variations in ancient Mesopotamia: Archaeomagnetic study of inscribed bricks from the 3rd-1st millennia BCE

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Issue Date
2023-12
Authors
Howland, Matthew D.
Tauxe, Lisa
Gordin, Shai
Altaweel, Mark
Cych, Brendan
Ben-Yosef, Erez
Advisor
Citation

Howland, M.D., Tauxe, L., Gordin, S., Altaweel, M., Cych, B., & Ben-Yosef, E. (2023). Exploring geomagnetic variations in ancient Mesopotamia: Archaeomagnetic study of inscribed bricks from the 3rd-1st millennia BCE. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 120(52). https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2313361120

Abstract

This study presents 32 high-resolution geomagnetic intensity data points from Mesopotamia, spanning the 3rd to the 1st millennia BCE. These data contribute to rectifying geographic disparities in the resolution of the global archaeointensity curve that have hampered our understanding of geomagnetic field dynamics and the viability of applying archaeomagnetism as a method of absolute dating of archaeological objects. A lack of precise and well-dated intensity data in the region has also limited our ability to identify short-term fluctuations in the geomagnetic field, such as the Levantine Iron Age geomagnetic Anomaly (LIAA), a period of high field intensity from ca. 1050 to 550 BCE. This phenomenon has hitherto not been well-demonstrated in Mesopotamia, contrary to predictions from regional geomagnetic models. To address these issues, this study presents precise archaeomagnetic results from 32 inscribed baked bricks, tightly dated to the reigns of 12 Mesopotamian kings through interpretation of their inscriptions. Results confirm the presence of the high field values of the LIAA in Mesopotamia during the first millennium BCE and drastically increase the resolution of the archaeointensity curve for the 3rd-1st millennia BCE. This research establishes a baseline for the use of archaeomagnetic analysis as an absolute dating technique for archaeological materials from Mesopotamia.

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