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With new archaeomagnetism techniques, researchers have revealed some questions that surround the mystery of the ancient Babylonian monument

A recent study conducted with the techniques ofarchaeomagnetism has reignited the scientific debate on dating of the three different phases of construction of the Gate of Babylon: Ishtar Gate, identified by previous archaeological excavations.
The monument, whose construction was ordered by King Nebuchadnezzar II (reigned from 605 to 562 BC) in honor of the goddess of love and war Ishtar, is today kept in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin and is famous for its terracotta bricks covered with blue glaze and bas-reliefs.
An international team of researchers fromNational Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV), the Pergamon Museum in Berlin and University of San Diego (USA) e Tel Aviv (ISRAEL) analyzed very small fragments (smaller than 3 millimetres) from five bricks belonging to three different construction phases of the Gate to try to understand whether or not a temporal correlation between the different moments of construction of the Gate and the outcome of the wars conducted by the Babylonian king, who defeated the Egyptians at the Battle of Karkemiš and conquered the city of Jerusalem in 586 BC
“The samples were analyzed with the archaeointensity technique, i.e. the analysis of the strength of the Earth's magnetic field left 'impressed' in the bricks at the time of their manufacture”, explains Anita Di Chiara, researcher at INGV and co-author of the article. “If the bricks had been produced at the same time, they would have registered the same magnetic field intensity. If, on the other hand, the values ​​of the magnetic field strength measured in the laboratory were different, it would mean that they were manufactured at different times".
Archaeomagnetic dating usually presents uncertainties of centuries because the variations in the Earth's magnetic field are very slow. However, in this specific case there is a field anomaly, the so-called "Iron Age anomaly”, which saw the intensity of the Earth's magnetic field vary very rapidly over the course of a few centuries.
“The analyzes we carried out in the Paleomagnetism Laboratory of the University of San Diego revealed that the intensity recorded is statistically indistinguishable and probably subsequent to the conquest of Jerusalem in 586 BC”he concludes Chiara.
Although the study does not provide a conclusive answer regarding the consequentiality of the events, it does prove that even tiny samples of material are sufficient to carry out archaeomagetism studies. This evidence opens up the possibility that in the future studies of this kind could also be extended to the rest of ancient Mesopotamia, a region rich in thousand-year-old constructions that could offer us new points of view for our scientific research.

Link to the study in the journal Plos One

Useful links:
National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV)
Pergamon Museum
University of San Diego
Tel Aviv University
Gate of Babylon