Well, these are certainly exciting times for Biblical archaeology! I have already written about my experiences on the archaeological did at Shiloh and the famous/infamous ‘curse tablet’. In addition to this I just read an article on Archaeon Magnetics. A basic physics lesson – Prevailing theory is that the earth’s magnetic field is generated by heat churning in the planet’s core and radiating outward. This process arranges electrons in a pattern of matching orientations (attractive not repellent) so that the attraction between them creates the magnetic field. There are new tweaks to this old theory that are very interesting but I will not go into that here. When a material substance becomes magnetic it means that groups of electrons within the substance have shifted into alignment with the earth’s magnetic field. This requires a certain ‘free range’ capability of electrons in a substance. The more ‘fixed’ the electron positioning and orientation within a given substance, the less potential for magnetism. You can do a little bit with your hair and a balloon but only metals have significant magnetic potential and among metals, iron is the king of magnetism as it has lots of free range electrons capable of moving into alignment with the magnetic field and ‘attractive’ rather than ‘repellent’ orientation with each other. Heat and/or electrical current are the drivers of this magnetic alignment. So, for instance, some metals can become magnetic at elevated temperatures. But only four metals are magnetic at room temperature. Again – iron is king. The other three are nickel, cobalt and gadolinium. And, because there is always a weirdo – dysprosium becomes magnetic at LOW temperatures! AND – because nothing is ever as simple as we want it to be, metals like gold, which are not magnetic in the normal sense, apparently ARE magnetic at the nano-level which opens up all kinds of opportunities for nano-machinery functioning via magnetism inside a larger but totally non-magnetic component! Go figure. So, iron is a unique metal in that it will conduct heat, electricity AND magnetism and remain magnetic at room temperature. One other interesting note already known to every blacksmith– heat iron to a high enough temperature (the Curie Point) and the electrons scatter so that the iron loses its magnetism until it cools!
‘So what?!’ I hear you say -even though you pronounced it poorly through your yawn. Well, here’s one ‘so what’: most clay contains iron particles. Further, archaeological destruction layers (like the one I sifted through at Shiloh) are identified by two characteristics – smashing and ashes. The ashes are there because everything got set on fire. Does the picture begin to emerge? The iron particles, under heat, will have aligned with the magnetic field of the time (Did I mention that the magnetic field shifts over time). Comparing the alignment of iron molecules in clay (you have no idea how much pottery is in almost any archaeological context) scientists can identify sites that were destroyed at the same time (a military campaign). And, establishing a ‘magnetic field curve’ by examining iron alignment from samples of known dates, the various destruction layers can be accurately dated. This is especially helpful in the known ‘holes’ in carbon dating and may well refine – or even replace – carbon dating in the field of archaeology. And in the early going of this exciting new development, examination of 21 different destruction layers at 17 different archaeological sites have verified Old Testament accounts and dates of Egyptian, Aramean, Assyrian and Babylonian military campaigns from the 10th to the 6th centuries BC.
Pretty good for a book so many skeptics think to be ‘made up’ huh?
Pastor and Author Terry Bailey, Senior Minister of Indian Run Christian Church