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Journal ArticleDOI

Absolute Chronology of Megiddo, Israel, in the Late Bronze and Iron Ages: High-Resolution Radiocarbon Dating

01 Jan 2014-Radiocarbon (Cambridge University Press)-Vol. 56, Iss: 1, pp 221-244

AbstractMegiddo (Israel) is a key site for the study of the stratigraphy, chronology, and history of the Bronze and Iron Ages in the Levant. The article presents a Bayesian chronological model for seven ceramic typology phases and 10 stratigraphic horizons at this site, covering the Late Bronze and much of the Iron Age. The model is based on 78 samples, which provided 190 determinations—the most thorough set of radiocarbon determinations known so far in a single site in the Levant. This set of data provides a reliable skeleton for the discussion of cultural processes and historical events in the region and beyond, including the periods of the Egyptian empire in Canaan and the Northern Kingdom of Israel. DOI:  10.2458/56.16899

Topics: Iron Age (58%), Bronze (55%), Chronology (54%), Radiocarbon dating (52%)

Summary (2 min read)

INTRODUCTION

  • The relative chronology of the Levant in the Late Bronze and Iron ages is well studied.
  • This is so because of the lack of well-dated finds, such as monuments and royal-name items of Egyptian monarchs, in Levantine strata representing much of this sequence.

Sampling Strategy

  • The strategy employed in sampling materials for dating follows the guidelines given in recent studies on the absolute chronology of the Iron Age in the eastern Mediterranean and southern Levant (Sharon 2001; Sharon et al. 2007; Boaretto 2009; van der Plicht et al. 2009).
  • Two important concepts are added to this set of recommendations.
  • Only F loci were chosen for 14C dating and thus for the Bayesian models presented here (they make 20–25% of the loci per excavation season).
  • Destruction layers are especially important, as complete ceramic vessels and clusters of charred olive pits or seeds are found buried under thick collapse debris that represents a short event at the very end of a given level.

Bayesian Modeling

  • 14C dates were analyzed with Bayesian statistics using OxCal v 4.1.7 (Bronk Ramsey 2009) in order to build an absolute chronological sequence.
  • Modeling was first done for each excavation area separately following the same methodology with adaptations to the area’s stratigraphy, relation between the loci, relation between samples, and absence of data for certain levels.
  • Dates from the same level were grouped as contiguous phases organized in a sequence, according to the stratigraphic information.
  • If a level had not provided material for 14C dating, gaps in the main sequence were added to indicate this lack of data.
  • All calibrated ranges within probability distributions are given with ±1σ ranges (i.e. 68.2% probability), unless otherwise specified.

RESULTS

  • 14C measurements with related calibrated ranges and context information are presented in Table 3.
  • Thus far, unpublished, new measurements (marked with bold text) were grouped with dates from previous studies (Boaretto et al.
  • All the combined dates passed the χ2 test.
  • This distinction defines also the nature of the outlier (stratigraphic vs. typological).

Model H: Area H

  • Model H shows the absolute dates for Area H.
  • The dates are grouped in a sequence of contiguous phases (i.e. one starts as the previous one ends) except for Level H-7, which is surrounded by “gaps” left for levels H-8 and H-6, for which no 14C determinations are available.
  • The agreement of the two samples from Level H-13 with Model H should be considered cautiously since they are not limited by dates from an earlier level.
  • Considering the end boundary for Level H-9, the transition Iron I/II could fall anywhere between 985 and 935 BCE.

Model K: Area K

  • The absolute sequence for Area K is shown in Model K .
  • For levels K-6 and K-4, the samples are further subdivided between those representing the history of occupation and those standing for the end event, that is, the destruction.
  • Sample RTK-6398 comprised a few charred olive pits found in the same location but not in a cluster; hence, measurements were not averaged.
  • Three samples show low agreement with the model: RTK-6749 and RTK-6400 from Level K-10 and RTT-4499 from Level K-6 are somewhat younger compared to other dates from these levels.

DISCUSSION

  • Scholars debated the circumstances and date of the transition from the Middle Bronze to the Late Bronze in Canaan: according to some it occurred at the very beginning of the 18th Dynasty in Egypt, ~1530 BCE, as a result of Egyptian punitive campaigns after the expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt, causing severe destructions throughout the southern Levant.
  • The LB IIB/III transition falls during the 12th century BCE, which accords well with the historical changeover in Egypt from the 19th to the 20th dynasties.
  • A transition in the first quarter of the 12th century BCE is well established by the rich, well-datable ceramic assemblages (Aegean, Cypriot, Egyptian, and Levantine type pottery) from Megiddo (Martin 2013) and nearby Beth-Shean (Martin 2011:140–2).
  • The early/late Iron I transition provides slightly different results in the two Megiddo excavation areas.

CONCLUSIONS

  • The detailed 14C data for the Late Bronze and Iron ages at Megiddo—unparalleled in any other site in the Levant—shed light on the cultural processes that took place at Megiddo and beyond in the critical centuries between roughly 1600/1500 and 800 BCE.
  • They provide the first detailed, 14C-based chronological system for the Late Bronze Age in the Levant.
  • The Megiddo model shows the advantage of working in a site of continuous habitation with good control over the pottery assemblages.
  • It also shows the benefit of a site with more than one area of excavation, which enables rechecking delicate chronological issues and engaging in intrasite analysis.

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Radiocarbon, Vol 56, Nr 1, 2014, p 221–244 DOI: 10.2458/56.16899
© 2014 by the Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of the University of Arizona
ABSOLUTE CHRONOLOGY OF MEGIDDO, ISRAEL, IN THE LATE BRONZE AND
IRON AGES: HIGH-RESOLUTION RADIOCARBON DATING
Michael B Toffolo
1,2,3
• Eran Arie
4
• Mario A S Martin
2
• Elisabetta Boaretto
1
• Israel Finkelstein
2,5
ABSTRACT. Megiddo (Israel) is a key site for the study of the stratigraphy, chronology, and history of the Bronze and
Iron ages in the Levant. The article presents a Bayesian chronological model for seven ceramic typology phases and 10
stratigraphic horizons at this site, covering the Late Bronze and much of the Iron Age. The model is based on 78 samples,
which provided 190 determinations —the most thorough set of radiocarbon determinations known so far in a single site in the
Levant. This set of data provides a reliable skeleton for the discussion of cultural processes and historical events in the region
and beyond, including the periods of the Egyptian Empire in Canaan and the Northern Kingdom of Israel.
INTRODUCTION
The relative chronology of the Levant in the Late Bronze and Iron ages is well studied. It has been
established by investigating typological differences in large pottery assemblages. Thus, scholars
can now accurately identify ve Late Bronze Age horizons (hereafter LB IA, IB, IIA, IIB, and
III; e.g. Panitz-Cohen 2006; Mullins 2007; Gadot 2009; Martin 2013; Arie 2013b) and six Iron
Age horizons (early and late Iron I, early and late IIA, IIB, and IIC—e.g. Zimhoni 2004; Herzog
and Singer-Avitz 2004, 2006; Arie 2006, 2013c) for this timespan, which covers approximately a
millennium. Yet, the absolute chronology of these horizons is debated, for instance, regarding the
beginning of the LB (see below), the LB I-II, the details of the LB III/Iron I transition,
6
and the Iron
I/II transition (e.g. Sharon et al. 2007; Mazar and Bronk Ramsey 2008; Finkelstein and Piasetzky
2010b). This is so because of the lack of well-dated nds, such as monuments and royal-name items
of Egyptian monarchs, in Levantine strata representing much of this sequence. And this, in turn,
hinders a proper reconstruction of the history of the Levant, for example, regarding the exact time of
the transformation of the region into an Egyptian New Kingdom province; the process of collapse of
the Egypto-Canaanite system at the end of the Late Bronze Age; and the rise of territorial kingdoms
such as Israel, Judah, and Damascus in the Iron Age.
Rigorous programs of dating the Iron Age phases have been underway in the last decade (e.g.
Boaretto et al. 2005; Sharon et al. 2007; Mazar and Bronk Ramsey 2008; Finkelstein and Piasetzky
2010a). Dates for Late Bronze strata have also been published (e.g. Carmi and Ussishkin 2004 for
Lachish; Mazar et al. 2005 for Rehov; Mazar 2007, 2009 for Beth-Shean; Boaretto et al. 2009 for
Aphek; Figure 1), but no comprehensive project for dating the entire Late Bronze sequence has thus
far been attempted.
Models that use dates for samples that were retrieved in a large number of sites, such as those
suggested for the Iron Age, have clear advantages, e.g. in their geographical scope, but face meth-
odological problems such as different sample-retrieval procedures and inclusion of sites with less-
1. Weizmann Institute-Max Planck Center for Integrative Archaeology, D-REAMS Radiocarbon Laboratory, Weizmann
Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel.
2. Sonia and Marco Nadler Institute of Archaeology, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel.
3. Corresponding author. Email: michael.toffolo@weizmann.ac.il.
4. Samuel and Saidye Bronfman Archaeology Wing, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel.
5. Michael B Toffolo is a PhD candidate at Tel Aviv University, working on the theme of Levantine and Aegean chronology
in the Iron Age under the supervision of Israel Finkelstein and Elisabetta Boaretto; Mario A S Martin and Eran Arie are senior
staff members of the Megiddo Expedition, the supervisors of Areas K and H and experts of Late Bronze and Iron Age pottery;
Elisabetta Boaretto is the Director of the D-REAMS Radiocarbon Laboratory at the Weizmann Institute of Science and track
leader of the European Research Council project (below); Israel Finkelstein is the Director of the Megiddo Expedition and
P.I. of the European Research Council under the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013)/
ERC project, grant agreement n°229418.
6. With LB III we refer to the period of the 20th Dynasty in Egypt. Others, e.g. Mazar, label this phase Iron IA.

222
M B Toffolo et al.
than-ideal ceramic control and different methods of excavation. Thus, voices have been raised re-
garding the need to establish a full absolute sequence in a single site (Levy et al. 2010:844). This
should ideally be done with the involvement of the radiocarbon laboratory experts in the eld. The
advantage of such an endeavor is in the unied methods of decisions regarding context, retrieval of
samples, and recording.
This article presents a full
14
C Bayesian model of the Late Bronze and Iron Age phases at Tel Megid-
do, Israel (Figure 1). This is the most complete dating program applied to a single multilayered
site and the rst full
14
C-based model for the Late Bronze Age. Megiddo has long been considered
a key site for the archaeology of the Levant (e.g. Davies 1986; Kempinski 1989), including the
chronologies of both the Late Bronze and the Iron Age. The presented model covers 10 stratigraphic
phases (Table 1) and is based on 190 determinations from 78 samples, retrieved from four different
excavation areas. This is the most comprehensive dating project thus far undertaken in any single
site in the Levant. It sheds light on a large number of archaeological and historical issues, especially
those related to the Egyptian rule in Canaan in the Late Bronze Age and the struggle between the
territorial kingdoms of the Iron Age as recorded in written sources, including the Hebrew Bible.
Figure 1 Map of southern Levant showing the Iron Age
sites mentioned in the article.

223
Absolute Chronology of Megiddo in the Late Bronze & Early Iron
Table 1 The Megiddo levels discussed in this article, by area.
Level Relative chronology Nature of stratum
Ref. to stratigraphy
and architecture Ref. to pottery
Area K
K-4 Late Iron I Large, rectangular
courtyard house,
massive destruc-
tion
Gadot et al. 2006a Arie 2006
K-5 Early Iron I Fragmentary remains
of a domestic
building
Gadot et al. 2006a Arie 2006
K-6 LB III Courtyard building
with olive-oil
installation
Arie and Nativ 2013 Arie 2013a
K-7 LB IIB Domestic buildings,
slight changes in
the plan of Level
K-8
Martin et al. 2013 Martin 2013
K-8 LB IIB Domestic buildings Martin et al. 2013 Martin 2013
K-9 LB IIA Domestic building;
evidence for long-
term occupation
Not published yet Not published yet
K-10 Late MB–LB I Domestic architecture
and intramural
burials
Not published yet Not published yet
Area H
H-5 Late Iron IIA Plastered piazza Arie 2013a Arie 2013c
H-7 Early Iron IIA Domestic occupation;
thick accumulation
of oors
Arie 2013a Arie 2013c
H-9 Late Iron I Patrician house Arie 2013a Arie 2013b
H-10 Early Iron I Pillared building Not published yet Not published yet
H-11 Early Iron I Fragments of building
surrounded by
courtyards; jewelry
hoard
Not published yet Not published yet
H-12 LB III and early
Iron I
Large courtyards with
very thick accumu-
lation of oors
Not published yet Not published yet
H-13 LB IIB Elaborate building Not published yet Not published yet
Area M
M-4 Late Iron I Public building
(shrine?) and relat-
ed remains
Franklin 2013;
Pechuro 2013;
Finkelstein 2013
Arie 2013b
M-6 LB III End phase of a large
public building
(the Nordburg)
Franklin 2013;
Pechuro 2013;
Finkelstein 2013
Arie 2013b
Area F
F-10 LB I Domestic buildings Franklin 2006 Gadot et al. 2006b

224
M B Toffolo et al.
Megiddo
Megiddo is the ultimate site for a full chronological model for the Late Bronze and Iron ages. This
is so for the following reasons:
The site was inhabited continuously, with no major occupational gaps (differing from Hazor,
for instance, which was deserted in the LB III and in part of the Iron I, and Lachish, which was
abandoned in the Iron I).
The Late Bronze-Iron Age layers were uncovered in two sectional trenches located on the edge of
the tell in different sectors of the site: Area K, characterized by domestic habitations, and Area H,
close to the gate and the palace (Figure 2). The two trenches are large enough (15 × 25 and 10 ×
20 m, respectively) to enable establishing a solid stratigraphic sequence (Figures 3–4). Additional
data come from Area M, located in the center of the site, and Area F on its lower terrace. In addition
to the construction of a full chronological model, this opens the way for intrasite observations.
The site is being carefully excavated. The ratio of experienced archaeologists to student volun-
teers in each area is 1-to-4 or -5. The pace of excavation is slow: in Area K, for instance, the oors
of Level K-10 (end of the Middle Bronze and beginning of the Late Bronze), located ~5 m below
the current surface of the mound, were reached after ~55 weeks of excavations in nine seasons.
The Late Bronze-Iron Age sequence at Megiddo features an unparalleled series of four destruc-
tion layers (Figure 5). Because they feature large assemblages of nds, they can serve as reliable
pegs that enable secure control over phases of ceramic typology (relative chronology) and pro-
vide an especially large number of samples for
14
C dating.
Because of the importance of the site, its ceramic assemblages include Egyptian and Aegean
forms, which can help establishing chronological links with neighboring lands.
Figure 2 Aerial view of Tel Megiddo, indicating the location of the excavation areas that pro vided
the samples for
14
C dating.

225
Absolute Chronology of Megiddo in the Late Bronze & Early Iron
Last but not least, Megiddo is mentioned in a plethora of written sources (it is the only site in
the Levant that is mentioned in all great archives/writings of the ancient Near East–Egyptian,
Assyrian, the Hebrew Bible, and a single Hittite document), in connection to major events in the
Late Bronze-Iron Age sequence. They facilitate links between the archaeological and historical
records.
No other site in the Levant features this set of factors.
Tables 1–2 summarize the nature of the levels discussed in this paper, their relative chronology and
stratigraphic relationship.
Figure 3 General view of Area K pointing to some of the levels mentioned in the text
Figure 4 General view of Area H showing the location of some of the archaeological levels
mentioned in the text.

Citations
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Abstract: Explanations for the Late Bronze Age crisis and collapse in the eastern Mediterranean are legion: migrations, predations by external forces, political struggles within dominant polities or system collapse among them, inequalities between centers and peripheries, climatic change and natural disasters, disease/plague. There has never been any overarching explanation to account for all the changes within and beyond the eastern Mediterranean, some of which occurred at different times from the mid to late 13th throughout the 12th centuries B.C.E. The ambiguity of the evidence—material, textual, climatic, chronological—and the differing contexts involved across the central-eastern Mediterranean make it difficult to disentangle background noise from boundary conditions and to distinguish cause from effect. Can we identify the protagonists of the crisis and related events? How useful are recent explanations that focus on climate and/or chronology in providing a better understanding of the crisis? This article reviews the current state of the archaeological and historical evidence and considers the coherence of climatic explanations and overprecise chronologies in attempting to place the “crisis” in context. There is no final solution: the human-induced Late Bronze Age “collapse” presents multiple material, social, and cultural realities that demand continuing, and collaborative, archaeological, historical, and scientific attention and interpretation. This article is available as open access on (AJA Online).

136 citations


Cites background from "Absolute Chronology of Megiddo, Isr..."

  • ...For Megiddo, note again that the latest analysis places the end of level VIIB after 1200 B.C.E., in the mid to even later 12th century B.C.E. (Toffolo et al. 2014, 241, fig....

    [...]

  • ...112 E.g., Manning et al. 2001, 2009, 2013; Toffolo et al. 2014....

    [...]

  • ...Level VIIA at Megiddo refers to the Chicago excavation system and equates approximately with LB III and levels K-7/6 and H-13/12 in more recent work (Toffolo et al. 2014)....

    [...]

  • ...Based on the most recent evidence, this LB III phase at Megiddo only starts during the 12th century B.C.E., while the end of the period is later again, around or after ca. 1100 B.C.E. (Toffolo et al. 2014, 241, fig....

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Abstract: Cooking installations are among the most abundant features in Bronze and Iron Age archaeological sites in the southern Levant, yet until now their study has been mostly descriptive. We present a study of 11 purported archaeological cooking installations from three different Bronze and Iron Age sites in Israel in which we deployed a variety of microarchaeological techniques. We provide direct physical evidence, based on Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy demonstrating that the archaeological installations were operated with temperatures as high as 900 °C. Using this technique we also demonstrate that all the mud-constructed installations studied by us were internally-fueled and therefore should be identified as Tannurs rather than the externally- fueled Tabuns. We studied in detail the quantities of ash-related microscopic remains, including opaline phytoliths, calcitic wood ash pseudomorphs and dung spherulites. We show that phytolith morphotype analysis cannot distinguish between wood-dominated and dung-dominated fuel materials, while a newly developed method that calculates the ratio of ash pseudomorphs to dung spherulites (PSR method) makes such a distinction possible. Moreover, we experimented with the effect of partial dissolution on fuel ash PSR values and utilize the results to explain taphonomy and diagenesis associated with two types of archaeological cooking installations – pebble hearths and baking ovens. In addition, we identified micromorphological criteria that can be used to assess whether ash deposits in or above a cooking installations are in situ and/or disturbed. Taken together, all lines of evidence used in this study indicate that wood was the major fuel material across time and space in the studied archaeological contexts, while dung was a secondary source of fuel. This observation also cross-cuts different culture-historical entities (Philistines, Canaanites, Israelites and Egyptians). In addition, wood was preferred as fuel irrespective of environmental differences among the studied sites. This study is yet another demonstration of the value of integrating microarchaeological techniques and approaches to traditional macroscopic archaeology.

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Abstract: This article presents the role of climate fluctuations in shaping southern Levantine human history from 3600 to 600 BCE (the Bronze and Iron Ages) as evidenced in palynological studies. This time interval is critical in the history of the region; it includes two phases of rise and decline of urban life, organization of the first territorial kingdoms, and domination of the area by great Ancient Near Eastern empires. The study is based on a comparison of several fossil pollen records that span a north-south transect of 220 km along the southern Levant: Birkat Ram in the northern Golan Heights, Sea of Galilee, and Ein Feshkha and Ze’elim Gully both on the western shore of the Dead Sea. The vegetation history and its climatic implications are as follows: during the Early Bronze Age I (~3600–3000 BCE) climate conditions were wet; a minor reduction in humidity was documented during the Early Bronze Age II–III (~3000–2500 BCE). The Intermediate Bronze Age (~2500–1950 BCE) was characterized by moderate climate conditions, however, since ~2000 BCE and during the Middle Bronze Age I (~1950–1750 BCE) drier climate conditions were prevalent, while the Middle Bronze Age II–III (~1750–1550 BCE) was comparably wet. Humid conditions continued in the early phases of the Late Bronze Age, while towards the end of the period and down to ~1100 BCE the area features the driest climate conditions in the timespan reported here; this observation is based on the dramatic decrease in arboreal vegetation. During the period of ~1100–750 BCE, which covers most of the Iron Age I (~1150–950 BCE) and the Iron Age IIA (~950–780 BCE), an increase in Mediterranean trees was documented, representing wetter climate conditions, which followed the severe dry phase of the end of the Late Bronze Age. The decrease in arboreal percentages, which characterize the Iron Age IIB (~780–680 BCE) and Iron Age IIC (~680–586 BCE), could have been caused by anthropogenic activity and/or might have derived from slightly drier climate conditions. Variations in the distribution of cultivated olive trees along the different periods resulted from human preference and/or changes in the available moisture. DOI: 10.2458/azu_rc.57.18555

64 citations


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  • ...…from the last decade (Regev et al. 2012 for the Early Bronze Age and the transition to the Intermediate Bronze Age; Finkelstein and Piasetzky 2010; Toffolo et al. 2014 for the Iron Age); the transition from Middle to Late Bronze Age, currently broadly fixed in the mid-16th century BCE, is yet to…...

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Abstract: A detailed pollen record for the time interval of ∼2500–500 BCE, which covers the time period of the Intermediate Bronze Age (Early Bronze Age IV) into the Iron Ages in the Levant, is presented. The study was conducted in the Ze’elim Gully, which drains the southern Judean Highlands into the Dead Sea. During the Bronze and Iron Ages, the Judean Highlands exhibited dramatic settlement fluctuations. To better understand these oscillations, high-resolution fossil pollen data were combined with a recent pollen data set, lithological features, radiocarbon dating and palaeohydrological information derived from the Dead Sea levels. Due to the occurrence of hiatuses in this fluvial environment, we used a composite profile which was based on two palynological-sedimentological profiles. This integrated information enabled us to reconstruct in great detail for the first time the environmental conditions in relation to the picture derived from archaeological field-work in the Judean Highlands. Evidence for drier clim...

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  • ...…2012 for the Intermediate Bronze Age; Bietak 2002 for the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age; the transition from the Middle to the Late Bronze Age, now broadly fixed in the mid-sixteenth century BCE, is yet to be resolved; Finkelstein and Piasetzky 2010 and Toffolo et al. 2014 for the Iron Age)....

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Abstract: Geomagnetic field measurements from the past few centuries show heightened secular variation activity in the southern hemisphere associated with the south Atlantic anomaly (SAA). It is uncertain whether geomagnetic anomalies at a similar scale have existed in the past owing to limited coverage and uncertainties in the paleomagnetic database. Here we provide new evidence from archaeological sources in the Levant suggesting a large positive northern hemisphere anomaly, similar in magnitude to the SAA during the 9th–8th centuries BCE, called “Levantine Iron Age anomaly”. We also report an additional geomagnetic spike in the 8th century. The new dataset comprises 73 high precision paleointensity estimates from ca. 3000 BCE to 732 BCE, and five directional measurements between the 14th and the 9th centuries BCE. Well-dated pottery and cooking ovens were collected from twenty archaeological strata in two large contemporaneous stratigraphical mounds (tells) in Israel: Tel Megiddo and Tel Hazor. The new data are combined with previously published data and interpreted automatically using the PmagPy Thellier GUI program. The Tel Megiddo and Tel Hazor data sets demonstrate excellent internal consistency and remarkable agreement with published data from Mesopotamia (Syria). The data illustrate the evolution of an extreme geomagnetic high that culminated in at least two spikes between the 11th and the 8th centuries BCE (Iron Age in the Levant). The paleomagnetic directional data of the 9th century BCE show positive inclination anomalies, and deviations of up to 22° from the averaged geocentric axial dipole (GAD) direction. From comparison of the Levantine archaeomagnetic data with IGRF model for 2015 we infer the “Levantine Iron Age anomaly” between the 10th and the 8th centuries BCE is a local positive anomaly. The eastward extent of the anomaly is currently unknown.

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  • ...(For interpretation of the references to color in this figure legend, the reader is referred to the web version of this article.) records (Finkelstein and Piasetzky, 2010; Regev et al., 2014; Toffolo et al., 2014)....

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