19 May 2024 The Future is the Product of the Past

Radiocarbon dating makes it possible for the first time to check the extent to which archaeological findings match historical events from written sources

Researchers from the Austrian Academy of Sciences have published a new radiocarbon dataset for Tel Gezer, one of the most important Bronze and Iron Age sites in Israel. This makes it possible for the first time to check the extent to which archaeological findings correspond to historical events from written sources.

New dates provide detailed insights into the timing of events in the ancient city of Gezer, according to a new study published November 15, 2023, in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Lyndelle Webster of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and colleagues.

Tel Gezer is an ancient southern Levantine city, well known from Egyptian, Assyrian, and Biblical texts and associated with stories of power struggles and significant historical figures.

Due to its location along ancient trade routes, the city was one of the most important sites of the Bronze and Iron Ages (3rd to 1st millennium BC) and is mentioned in many Egyptian, biblical and Assyrian sources, where it is primarily associated with power struggles and conquests.

Aerial view with remains from different periods marked. Photo: © Lanier Center for Archaeology
Aerial view with remains from different periods marked. Photo: © Lanier Center for Archaeology

Lyndelle Webster, archaeologist at the Austrian Archaeological Institute of the OeAW: “We have taken more than 75 measurements on charred seeds from multiple settlement and destruction layers. The results of the 35 measurements from the Late Bronze Age and Iron Age layers published in our study date to the 13th through 9th centuries BC. The dataset allows us for the first time to set the history of Gezer on a firm timeline.”

With the results of the 14C measurements, a reliable dating of the Late Bronze Age and Iron Age layers is now available for the first time. However, the many written mentions of Gezer also make it possible to check whether the absolute dates can be related to historical events such as destruction, major architectural changes or the construction of fortifications.

Location of Gezer in the southern Levant. Photo: © OeAW-OeAI/ L. Webster
Location of Gezer in the southern Levant. Photo: © OeAW-OeAI/ L. Webster

The radiocarbon dates show that Gezer was heavily destroyed around 1200 BC. The event is possibly linked to a military campaign by the Egyptian king Merneptah, but is certainly connected to the general crisis that can be observed in this region and in the eastern Mediterranean at the end of the Late Bronze Age. The radiocarbon dating of the subsequent settlement layer contributes to a long-standing debate among experts about the dating of the “Philistine” culture. This arose in the nearby coastal plain and its influence reached Gezer around the middle of the 12th century BC, as evidenced by finds of “Philistine” pottery.

A further discussion deals with the transition to monumental public architecture and centralized administration in Gezer. According to the new radiocarbon data, this change can be dated to the first half of the 10th century BC rather than the 9th century BC. The result could mean that emerging political units, probably from the highlands, were associated with this development.

Remains of a monumental gate, casemate wall and large administrative building, now securely dated by radiocarbon to the early 10th century BC. Photo: © Lanier Center for Archaeology
Remains of a monumental gate, casemate wall and large administrative building, now securely dated by radiocarbon to the early 10th century BC. Photo: © Lanier Center for Archaeology

Shortly afterwards, around the middle of the 10th century BC, this first monumental architecture was destroyed. The city was then rebuilt, but suffered another major destruction soon afterwards, which is now clearly dated to around 900 BC. This is in contrast to earlier ideas, which linked it to a campaign by the Aramean king Hazael around 840 BC. The new radiocarbon dates clearly rule out this later scenario. Alternatively, non-military causes or conflicts between Judah, Israel and their neighbors are conceivable.

The data was collected by researchers from the Austrian Archaeological Institute of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (OeAW) in collaboration with the US excavation team.

Austrian Archaeological Institute

https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0293119

Cover Photo: Aerial view of excavations along the southern edge of the mound. © Lanier Center for Archaeology

Related Articles

Archaeologists uncovered a ‘golden tomb’ during excavations in Armenia

26 March 2023

26 March 2023

A team of archaeologists made up of Polish and Armenian scientists has discovered a “golden tomb” containing two skeletons in...

A cave painting found in Egyptian Sahara depicts a nativity scene 3,000 years before Jesus’ Birth

21 December 2023

21 December 2023

5,000-year-old rock art depicting the oldest nativity scene ever found has been found in Egypt’s Sahara Desert: A newborn between...

Archaeologists have discovered sandstone blocks belonging to a pharaoh’s temple covered with hieroglyphs in Sudan

2 March 2023

2 March 2023

Polish archaeologists have discovered sandstone blocks belonging to a pharaoh’s temple covered with hieroglyphs during excavations at Old Dongola in...

Climate and Archaic humans caused the extinction of giant camels that lived in Mongolia 27,000 years ago, a study says

3 April 2022

3 April 2022

Camelus knoblochi, a species of giant two-humped camel, survived in Mongolia alongside modern humans—and perhaps Neanderthals and Denisovans—until about 27,000...

Earliest Modern Human Genome Identified

7 April 2021

7 April 2021

The fossilized skull of a woman in the Czech Republic provided the oldest modern human genome to date, which has...

Ice Age turtle finds near Magdeburg point to canned food from the Stone Age

2 May 2024

2 May 2024

Experts have recovered around 50,000-year-old turtle shell fragments from the Barleben-Adamsee gravel pit near Magdeburg. The turtles could have been...

The ‘extraordinary’ Roman mosaic depicting scenes from Homer’s Iliad unearthed in a Rutland farmer’s field is the first of its kind in England

25 November 2021

25 November 2021

The 1,500-year-old mosaic discovered by a farmer was considered Britain’s “most exciting” Roman find. The artwork was discovered on private...

Archaeologists have found a mysterious prehistoric site, believed to be a 6,500-year-old Stone Age cemetery, near the Arctic Circle

4 December 2023

4 December 2023 4

Archaeologists have found a mysterious prehistoric site believed to be a 6,500-year-old Stone Age cemetery just 50 miles (80 kilometers)...

A protected Punic-Roman tower “Tal-Wilġa” has been turned into a building site

15 August 2021

15 August 2021

The Tal-Wilga tower, one of Malta’s Punic-Roman heritage sites, is in danger from construction work near it. The Superintendent of...

The sword, thought to be a replica, turned out to be an authentic 3000-year-old Bronze Age sword

22 January 2023

22 January 2023

A sword in Chicago’s Field Museum that was previously thought to be a replica has been revealed to be an...

Archaeologists Uncover 8 Graves Dated 6,500 Years Ago in Lausanne, Swiss

30 October 2021

30 October 2021

Archaeologists have unearthed eight prehistoric tombs between 5,500 and 6,500 years old in the Swiss town of Pully. The site...

“Unprecedented” Phoenician necropolis found in southern Spain

28 April 2022

28 April 2022

A 4th or 5th-century B.C Phoenician necropolis has been found at Osuna in Southern Spain. A well-preserved underground limestone vault...

In northern Iran, a hand-dug passageway was discovered used for military purposes during the Qajar era

1 August 2021

1 August 2021

A hand-dug underground passage dating from the Qajar era (1794-1925), once believed to have served military purposes, has been discovered...

Archaeologists have discovered the ruins of what may be one of the four lost Ancient Egyptian “Sun Temples”

31 July 2022

31 July 2022

A Polish and Italian archaeological mission, while conducting an excavation in the Abusir necropolis near Saqqara in Egypt, unearthed the...

The largest embalming cache ever found in Egypt unearthed at Abusir

10 February 2022

10 February 2022

Archaeologists from the Czech Institute for Egyptian Science have discovered a cache of artifacts related to the practice of Egyptian...