Traces of Possible Neolithic Tsunami Found in Israel
Prehistoric tsunami disasters had a significant impact on coastal societies,” said lead author Dr Gilad Shtienberg from the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, San Diego, and colleagues at the Scripps Center for Marine Archaeology.”
“6,000 years of historical records and geological data show that tsunamis are a common phenomenon affecting the eastern Mediterranean coastline, occurring at a rate of around 8 events per century in the Aegean region over the past 2,000 years and approximately 10 per century over the past 3,000 years in the Levant basin.”
“Most of these events are small and have only local impacts.”
In the study, the researchers found a large paleo-tsunami deposit (between 9,910 to 9,290 years ago) at the archaeological site of Tel Dor in northwest Israel.
“Tel Dor, located along the Carmel coast of northwest Israel, is a maritime city-mound that has been occupied from the Middle Bronze II period (2000 to 1550 BCE) throughout the Roman period (3rd century CE) while Byzantine and Crusader remains are also found on the tel,” they said.
“The local environment of Dor is characterized by a series of unique embayments/pocket beaches that stand out from the linear morphology of the southeastern Mediterranean littoral shoreface.”
To conduct their analysis, the scientists used photogrammetric remote sensing techniques to create a digital model of the Tel Dor site, combined with underwater excavation and terrestrial borehole drilling to a depth of 9 m (29.5 feet).
In their samples, they found an abrupt layer of seashells and sand, dated to between 9,910 and 9,290 years ago, in the middle wetland layers deposited 15,000 to 7,800 years ago.
They estimate that the ancient tsunami had a run-up of at least 16 m and travelled between 3.5 to 1.5 km inland from the paleo-coastline.
The near absence of Pre-Pottery Neolithic A-B archaeological sites (11,700-9,800 years ago) suggest these sites were removed by the tsunami, whereas younger, late Pre-Pottery Neolithic B-C (9,250-8,350 years ago) and later Pottery-Neolithic sites (8,250-7,800 years ago) indicate resettlement following the event.
“We can’t know for sure why people weren’t living there, in a place otherwise abundant with evidence of early human habitation and the beginnings of village life in the Holy Land,” said Professor Thomas Levy, a researcher in the Department of Anthropology and the Levant and Cyber-Archaeology Laboratory in the Scripps Center for Marine Archaeology at the University of California, San Diego.
“Was the environment too altered to support life? Was the tsunami part of their cultural knowledge — did they tell stories of this destructive event and stay away? We can only imagine.”
“Our project focuses on reconstructing ancient climate and environmental change over the past 12,000 years along the Israeli coast, and we never dreamed of finding evidence of a prehistoric tsunami in Israel,” Dr Shtienberg said.
“Scholars know that at the beginning of the Neolithic, around 10,000 years ago, the seashore was 4 km (2.5 miles) from where it is today.”
“When we cut the cores open in San Diego and started seeing a marine shell layer embedded in the dry Neolithic landscape, we knew we hit the jackpot.”