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Ancient Inscribed Bricks Contain Evidence of Mysterious Magnetic 'Anomaly.'

maximus otter

Recovering policeman
Aug 9, 2001
New research on ancient Mesopotamia has uncovered evidence of an ancient magnetic phenomena, providing a way to delve deeper into one of the most fascinating periods in human history.

Scientists have analyzed ancient bricks from Mesopotamia and revealed just how dramatic an ancient spike in Earth’s magnetic field, some 3,000 years ago, truly was.



Items like bricks or pottery were often made with grains of magnetic rock that, when heated and then cooled, keep a signature of the geomagnetic conditions of the time.

“At very high temperatures, the objects are memoryless. But as the temperature drops it picks up a memory of the Earth’s magnetic field that it was sitting in at the time,” Philip McCausland of Canada’s Western University said.

Researchers used ancient bricks from Mesopotamia (which overlaps modern-day Iraq) containing iron oxide to investigate field strength. By systematically removing the ancient magnetic signature from small fragments of the bricks through heating and cooling, then reheating the bricks and replacing the magnetic field with one produced in the lab, they could get a ratio between the object's magnetic charge in the past and under laboratory conditions.

This told researchers that these bricks were fired at a time when the Earth’s magnetic field was more than one and a half times what it is today, during a period known as the Levantine Iron Age geomagnetic anomaly.


maximus otter

Ancient bricks baked when Nebuchadnezzar II was king absorbed a power surge in Earth’s magnetic field

Thousands of years ago, Earth’s magnetic field underwent a significant power surge over a part of the planet that included the ancient kingdom of Mesopotamia. People at the time probably never even noticed the fluctuation, but signs of the anomaly, including previously unknown details, were preserved in the mud bricks that they baked, new research has found.

When scientists recently examined bricks dating from the third to the first millennia BC in Mesopotamia — which encompassed present-day Iraq and parts of what is now Syria, Iran and Turkey — they detected magnetic signatures in those from the first millennium, indicating that the bricks were fired at a time when Earth’s magnetic field was unusually strong. Stamps on the bricks naming Mesopotamian kings enabled researchers to confirm the time range for the magnetic spike.

Their findings corresponded with a known magnetic surge called the “Levantine Iron Age geomagnetic Anomaly,” which took place between 1050 and 550 BC. It had previously been documented in artifacts from the Azores, Bulgaria and China using archaeomagnetic analysis — examining grains in pottery and ceramic archaeological objects for clues about Earth’s magnetic activity, scientists reported December 18 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Of the 32 stones that the researchers sampled, five bore stamps linking them to the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II, between 604 and 562 BC. Measurements of magnetism in the stones showed that the magnetic field strengthened quickly and intensely when the bricks were made. The stamps on the bricks therefore created a snapshot of a magnetic power surge that spanned just a few decades.