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University team travel to ‘Armageddon’

09 Jul 2010

A University of Manchester team ventured to ‘Armageddon’ to take part in an archaeological workshop using their pioneering techniques.

The academics at the ancient and historic site
The academics at the ancient and historic site

The academics visited the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Megiddo, Israel – the site referred to in the bible as where the epic battle of Armageddon would take place.

Dr Moira Wilson and Dr Margaret Carter from the School of Mechanical Aerospace and Civil Engineering, together with Professor Christopher Hall from The University of Edinburgh, were invited to the site to participate in the archaeological dating workshop ‘Synchronizing Clocks at Armageddon.’

Megiddo, or Armageddon, is derived from the Hebrew Har Megedo, and is referred to in the Book of Revelations as the place where the final battle between good and evil will take place at the end of the world.

The site has been occupied since the 3rd millennium BC, was repeatedly destroyed and re-built and finally abandoned in about 450 BC.  Recent excavations have revealed at least 20 successive settlements and a wealth of archaeological finds.

The academics were invited to take part by professors Israel Finkelstein and Eli Piazetsky of the University of Tel Aviv.

The team were invited because they have recently developed a new and revolutionary technique for the dating of fired clay ceramics based on the kinetics of long-term chemical recombination of moisture with these materials (rehydroxylation). 

This method, first published in Proceedings of the Royal Society last year, is called rehydroxylation (RHX) dating and is generating overwhelming interest in the international archaeological community.

The RHX team believe the method has the potential to become as important for ceramics as radiocarbon dating is for organic materials. 

The purpose of the workshop was to bring together, in a field setting, leading experts in existing and new science-based dating methods with a view to future integration and collaboration.

For the purpose of progressing the RHX dating technique, first-hand experience at this particular site of freshly-excavated material was invaluable as it was possible to carry out some in-situ selection of the types of ceramic that would be most amenable to RHX.

The team at The University of Manchester are currently attempting to date 5,000 year old pottery fragments from the earliest occupation levels at Megiddo. This represents a significant extension of the method beyond the 2,000 year old Roman samples already successfully dated.

The RHX team are also involved with a number of other World Heritage sites: the archaeological areas of Pompeii and Herculaneum in collaboration with the University of Cincinnati; the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor of China (the Terracotta Warriors) in collaboration with the University of Mainz and the Xi’an Institute in China; Angkor Wat in Cambodia, perhaps the most important archaeological site in southeast Asia; and also the Gorgan Wall in Iran, to be granted World Heritage status in the future, which predates the Great Wall of China by 100 years and is the longest defensive wall ever built in the ancient world.

The visit to Megiddo offered a unique opportunity for the team to experience at first hand the discovery of artifacts on this site of international significance, that could potentially be the first such site to utilise the new RHX dating technique for major chronological analysis.

Notes for editors

More pictures of the trip are available on request.

For media enquiries please contact:

Dan Cochlin
Media Relations
The University of Manchester
Tel: 0161 275 8387