An archaeomagnetic intensity-based search for order in the chaos of the destruction of Hama (Syria) dated to 720 BCE

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Destruction layers of ancient settlements are extremely valuable for archaeomagnetic studies as they provide a particular archaeological context allowing for the analysis of ceramic fragments strongly linked to the date of destruction. However, when examining pottery for archaeomagnetic intensity, instead of considering a snapshot in time in the geomagnetic field record, we must also consider the various dates of their initial production, which can span several decades. This introduces an unknown time interval, which is typically shorter than the temporal resolution offered by pottery typology. In this study, we obtained new archaeomagnetic intensity data using the Triaxe protocol from 16 fragments (77 specimens) of different ceramics recovered from the destruction layer of Hama (Syria) dated to 720 BCE, caused by the troops of the Assyrian King Sargon II. The selected pottery consists of serving vessels, which are generally thought to have a short lifespan, all of which were found in royal or other important buildings. Our results reveal a significant scatter, ranging from ∼65 µT to ∼81 µT (average 74.2 ± 4.2 µT). We attribute this dispersion mainly to the time interval for the production of the pottery during the 8th century BCE, a period marked by rapid intensity fluctuations according to the currently available reference geomagnetic field intensity variation curve for the Near East. Using this curve, we show that the ceramics studied had been in use for at least 30 years at the time of the city’s destruction, a surprisingly long use-life for ceramics intended for everyday use. While we acknowledge a 30-years use-life as possible, we suggest that this minimum time interval could be a result of inaccuracies in the reference intensity variation curve during the 8th century BCE. Nevertheless, our study illustrates and confirms the ability of pottery from a destruction layer to trace rapid variations in geomagnetic field intensity. Furthermore, it establishes a chronological order of production date in ceramic assemblages found in an otherwise chaotic context.
TidsskriftJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
Antal sider13
StatusUdgivet - 2023