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Researcher Yoav Vaknin works at an archaeological site. Burned bricks and pottery help scientists date ancient battles. (Shai Halevi, Israel Antiquities Authority.)

Researcher Yoav Vaknin works at an archaeological site. Burned bricks and pottery help scientists date ancient battles. (Shai Halevi, Israel Antiquities Authority.)

Burnt mud stones found at the site of a destroyed ancient city in Israel (Tel Aviv University)

Burnt mud stones found at the site of a destroyed ancient city in Israel (Tel Aviv University)

This burnt mud brick wall is from Tel Batash. The Bible refers to that city as Timnah. (Yoav Vaknin/Tel Aviv University)

This burnt mud brick wall is from Tel Batash. The Bible refers to that city as Timnah. (Yoav Vaknin/Tel Aviv University)

Researchers studied destruction layers. They found sites of military campaigns mentioned in the Bible. (Itamar Ben-Ezra/Tel Aviv University)

Researchers studied destruction layers. They found sites of military campaigns mentioned in the Bible. (Itamar Ben-Ezra/Tel Aviv University)

Metals inside the Earth spin. They create a magnetic field around Earth and into space. Bricks and pottery record what the magnetic field was like at the time they burned. (NASA)

Metals inside the Earth spin. They create a magnetic field around Earth and into space. Bricks and pottery record what the magnetic field was like at the time they burned. (NASA)

Dates from Bricks

Posted: January 1, 2023

Scientists have a new way to find dates from history. They look at burned bricks and pottery! How is that possible?

Swirling liquid metals inside the Earth create a magnetic field. (Read more about the magnetic field in The Ocean Compass.) Have you used a compass? Its arrow points to the magnetic field’s North Pole. Earth’s magnetic field changes over time.

Bricks and pottery contain magnetic materials. When burned, they record the magnetic field at the time of the fire.

Scientists “can come along thousands of years later.” They can figure out what the magnetic field was like at the time of the fire, says researcher Yoav Vaknin. Sites that show signs of battle or fire are called destruction layers. The dating method uses information from layers that scientists have already studied. They have set dates on those layers. Scientists compare the magnetic fields of different destruction layers. If they match, they are probably from the same time!

Here’s one example of the researchers’ findings. Hazael appears in 2 Kings 8-13. He was king of Aram-Damascus. Historians know that Hazael fought Israel and Judah. He conquered Gath. That city belonged to the Philistines. It was close to the border with Judah. The study showed that Hazael also destroyed several other cities around the same time. Those include Tel Rehov, Tel Zayit, and Horvat Tevet. But he didn’t destroy Tel Beth-Shean as some people thought.

Researchers looked at artifacts from 17 sites. They showed that certain battles took place in the timeline that the Bible mentions. That’s no surprise. Psalm 19:7 tells us that “the testimony of the Lord is sure.”

Why? God’s word is not only a history book. But it does include history, and so does the rest of His creation! The Bible’s accuracy shouldn’t surprise Christians. “The sum of your word is truth,” says Psalm 119:160.