Reconstructing biblical military campaigns using geomagnetic field data

Yoav Vaknin*, Ron Shaar, Oded Lipschits, Amihai Mazar, Aren M. Maeir, Yosef Garfinkel, Liora Freud, Avraham Faust, Ron E. Tappy, Igor Kreimerman, Saar Ganor, Karen Covello-Paran, Omer Sergi, Zeev Herzog, Rami Arav, Zvi Lederman, Stefan Münger, Alexander Fantalkin, Seymour Gitin, Erez Ben-Yosef

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The Hebrew Bible and other ancient Near Eastern texts describe Egyptian, Aramean, Assyrian, and Babylonian military campaigns to the Southern Levant during the 10th to sixth centuries BCE. Indeed, many destruction layers dated to this period have been unearthed in archaeological excavations. Several of these layers are securely linked to specific campaigns and are widely accepted as chronological anchors. However, the dating of many other destruction layers is often debated, challenging the ability to accurately reconstruct the different military campaigns and raising questions regarding the historicity of the biblical narrative. Here, we present a synchronization of the historically dated chronological anchors and other destruction layers and artifacts using the direction and/ or intensity of the ancient geomagnetic field recorded in mud bricks from 20 burnt destruction layers and in two ceramic assemblages. During the period in question, the geomagnetic field in this region was extremely anomalous with rapid changes and high-intensity values, including spikes of more than twice the intensity of today’s field. The data are useful in the effort to pinpoint these short-term variations on the timescale, and they resolve chronological debates regarding the campaigns against the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, the relationship between the two kingdoms, and their administrations.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere2209117119
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number44
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS. We are grateful to the team members of the archaeological excavations for all their support in the fieldwork and beyond. We thank Phil Livermore for his assistance with the AH-RJMCMC analysis. We thank Yael Ebert, Lilach Gonen, Lior Bar, Erez Hassul, and Yakar Zemach for their assistance in the paleomagnetic laboratory. We further acknowledge Sherry and Vernon Whetstone, Vladik Lipshits, Itamar Weissbein, Yoav Zur, and Miriam Lavi for their help in sampling. We thank Yves Gallet, Jacob Schreibman, Assaf Kleiman, Hoo-Goo Kang, Shifra Weiss, Yosef Stepansky, David Ussishkin, Omri Yagel, and Eli Itkin for their helpful advice. We appreciate the fruitful discussions regarding this research with Nava Panitz-Cohen, Naama Yahalom-Mack, and Yves Gallet. We thank Itamar Ben-Ezra for helping us to prepare the figures (Figs. 1–3). We thank two anonymous reviewers for all their constructive comments that significantly improved the quality of this paper. This project has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (grant agreement no. 804490) to R.S. The study was partly supported by Israel Science Foundation grant 1364/15 to R.S. This publication was also supported by the Chaim Rosenberg School of Jewish Studies-Archaeology, Tel Aviv University.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2022 the Author(s). Published by PNAS.


  • archaeointensity
  • archaeomagnetic dating
  • archaeomagnetic spike
  • archaeomagnetism
  • chronology


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