Top Three Reports in Biblical Archaeology – August 2020

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In the news this month were two studies and a discovery each related to Israel.  Here were the top three reports in biblical archaeology in August 2020.

3. Strontium Isotope Map of Israel Will Track Ancient Migration Patterns

Philestine Cemetery Ashkelon
A skeleton from the Philistine cemetery at Ashkelon (illustrative). Photo: Tsafrir Abayov / The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

A new research project, called the Isotopic Reconstruction of Human Migration, from Australia National University, has mapped strontium isotopes taken from 60 soil samples and 48 rock samples around Israel.  Strontium isotopes are found in most soil, and eventually enter human and animal bones and teeth.  Thus, one can trace where an ancient person or animal has been by comparing the strontium isotopes in their remains with the strontium signatures from sites around Israel.  The database will allow archaeologists and scholars to track the migration patterns of ancient humans and animals.


2. Babylonian Destruction In Jerusalem Used To Measure Earth’s Magnetic Field in the Iron Age

Floor Tiles Babylonian Destruction
Remains of the floor tiles in a house destroyed by the Babylonians. Photo: Ariel David

Researchers from Tel Aviv University, the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Israel Antiquities Authority recently calculated the intensity of the magnetic field in Iron Age using fragments of floor tiles that were unearthed in an ancient building near the City of David which had been destroyed by the Babylonians.  Their study, which was published in the journal, PLOS ONE, used archaeomagnetism, a process through which data on the magnetic field is recovered from artifacts that are thousands of years old.  Many of these artifacts contain trace amounts of ferromagnetic materials, like iron oxides.  After they are heated to extreme temperatures, such as when they are in a building destroyed by fire, they acquire the properties of the magnetic field of that particular time and place as they cool.   The data shows that the intensity of the magnetic field in the capital of the kingdom of Judah when it fell to the Babylonians was more than double what it is today.

NOTE: The date of the fall of Jerusalem is a matter of debate, with many holding to 586 BC as the date of the destruction of the city.  However, biblical chronologist, Roger Young, has presented evidence suggesting that Jerusalem actually fell during the summer of 587 BC (see link below).



1.  Canaanite Fortress Discovered in Southern Israel

Aerial photo of the Canaanite fortress.
An aerial photo of the recently unearthed Canaanite fortress. Photo: Emil Aladjem, Israel Antiquities Authority

A Canaanite fortress built in the Egyptian-style that was recently excavated close to Kibbutz Galon near Kirvat Gat is now open to the public.  The fortress is almost 60 feet squared and at one time had watch towers built into the four corners. A 3-ton threshold stone was at the entrance of the building, and the courtyard was paved with stone slabs and had columns in the middle.  Numerous pottery vessels were found in the rooms around the courtyard.  Its strategic location allowed the Canaanites to watch the main road that was along the Gurvin river, connecting the coastal plain to the Judean plains.  The fortress dates to the middle of the 12th century, reflecting the geopolitical reality of the period of the Judges, when the Canaanites, Philistines and Israelites were all fighting against each other.



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