Archeoseismic Evidence from the Fortress at Tel Arad and elsewhere along with paleoseismic evidence from the Dead Sea suggests that
a mid 3rd century BCE earthquake struck the area. This may or may not be related to tsunamogenic evidence from Elat.
Archeoseismic evidence is summarized below
Fortress at Arad
possible to probable - I = IX - X epicenter to the ENE
Archeoseismic Evidence is examined on a case by case basis below
Fortress at Arad
Herzog, Z. (2002) interpreted
damage observed at the Fortress at Tel Arad during the
Hellenistic Period and attributed the damage to a strong earthquake during the middle of the 3rd century BCE. Apparent
seismic damage was observed at the southern and eastern wings of the fortress and in two cisterns where roof collapse was observed. Dating this damage is
based on Hellenistic pottery shards found inside a debris filled depression that was presumed to have been caused by the earthquake and late Hellenistic structures
built atop this debris filled depression and elsewhere. Hellenistic Structures were dated based on toothed chisel marks. Archeoseismic evidence for a mid 3rd Century BCE earthquake can best be described
as possible. Relevant sections from Herzog's report are reproduced in the Notes section of this catalog entry.
Khorzhenkov and Erickson-Gini (2003) report seismic damage at 'En Erga in the 3rd century BCE with an local Intensity of IX-X. They also estimated that the direction of the epicenter
from En' Erga was ENE. Archeoseismic Evidence for the Fortress at Arad Quake at En Erga is labelled as possible to probable (prossible).
Some excerpts from their article follow:
These Nabataean forts [En' Erga and Ein Rahel] were
constructed on the early branch of the Incense Road (the Darb es-Sultan)
between Petra and Gaza during the Hellenistic period between the 3rd
and 1st cent. B.C.. The fort at Ein Rahel was reoccupied by the Nabataeans
in the early 1st cent. A.D. until the early 2nd cent. A.D. and it connected Petra
with the Nabataean station at Ein Hazeva located further north in the central
Recent examination of the finds from the excavation of the fort [at En' Erga] indicates
that it was constructed by the Nabataeans in the 3rd cent. B.C. However, this
fort was abandoned before it was ever occupied, apparently as the result of
an earthquake that damaged the structure, causing a large section of the southern
wall to collapse. No evidence of occupation was found anywhere in the
structure or surrounding area. A single Hellenistic incurved bowl dated to the
3rd cent. B.C. was found buried below the dirt floor of one of the rooms, probably
placed there as a foundation deposit. This practice was found in Nabataean
structures in later periods, including the second occupational phase at
Ein Rahel and at Mampsis and Petra.
Today only the lower courses of the walls of this fort are visible. Upon
examination the building appears to be unfinished as the result of a sudden and
complete abandonment due to an earthquake. It is theorized that the fort was
abandoned before it was completed and that a new fort was constructed a kilometer
to the southwest, next to the spring of Ein Rahel and off of the main
route (Y. Israel, 1998, personal communication).
In the ruins of the Ein Erga fort the walls facing the seismic wave collapsed
systematically toward the seismically induced compression strain, whereas walls
aligned parallel to the seismic wave lost support and collapsed in a random
manner. A correlation between the orientation of construction elements and
the direction of collapse was examined.
The wall oriented in the direction of NS180° in the Ein Erga fort reveals
a clear picture of the collapse: the lower part of the wall is intact (as can be
easily seen from its western side), whereas the upper its part collapsed southward
(Fig. 6 a. b). This wall reveals collapse oriented towards E90°, whereas
walls oriented in a perpendicular direction collapsed on both sides of the original
wall‹s position. Fragments of the destroyed wall were thrown off up to
3.2 m from the structure. This would indicate that the direction of seismic
wave propagation was roughly perpendicular to the NS oriented walls. The
cone of collapse is asymmetric in form. This may indicate that the
propagation of the seismic wave was in an E-W direction, but under some angle to the
wall from ENE.
The Displacements of Rock Fragments and Building Elements
The shift of rock fragments and building elements may be used in a similar
manner as wall inclination or block collapse. Some construction elements or
rock fragments are shifted toward an epicenter due to inertia. Such examples
were observed in the Ein Erga fort: three travertine blocks of the travertine
plate underlying nearly the entire fort were thrown eastward (see Fig. 3) and
rotated clockwise. One of these was displaced horizontally, 1.7 m (Fig. 7) eastward.
A large block of travertine bedrock lies on the lower rows of the former
wall and measures 1.40 m in length, 0.90m in width and 0.42m high. It weighs
approximately 2 tons. These features indicate that the seismic energy radiated
from the ENE.
The seismic intensity of the first earthquake [3rd century BCE] was about I = IX–X,
Archeoseismic evidence for the Fortress at Arad Quake is labeled as possible to probable.
The radiocarbon age from the North Beach places
the maximum age at 100–400 BC (2 sigma error), while the Tur Yam radiocarbon age brackets
the horizon as a minimum age of 100–500 BC (2 sigma error). Highest probability of these two
radiocarbon ages place the event at about 2300 yBP, or around 200–300 BC (Data Repository).
The tsunamite deposit in the Tur Yam core was inferred from "an anomalous bed (~60cm) of more concentrated mixed shell and broken coral fragments of varying condition
from pristine to heavily worn and eroded." The inferred tsunamite deposit in the North Beach core was encountered "at a depth of 160 cm down-core [where] the grain size increases to
greater than coarse sand (>250 micron) and foraminifer abundances decrease significantly to either low or barren (0–150 individuals per cm3)." The anomalous bed in the
North Beach Core was ~32 cm. thick.
Paleoseismic Evidence for the Fortress at Arad Quake is summarized below:
possible - several candidates various deformation types ~ 2 cm. thick
Nahal Ze 'elim
probable - 8 cm. thick intraclast breccia
Qatar Trench Jordan
Each site will now be discussed separately.
Wechsler at al. (2014) records event CH4-E6 with a wide modeled age range from 392 BCE – 91 CE in paleoseismic trenches at Bet Zayda
just north of the Sea of Galilee (aka Lake Kinneret).
In the coarser grained lithology present at Nahal Darga, Enzel et. al. (2000)
report a 20 cm. thick seismite in Deformed Unit 8 in Stratigraphic Unit 10 which is dated to 250 BC +/- 200 (2000-2400 BP)
(see Table 2).
Kagan et al (2011)
in Table 3 report
several seismites from En Feshka at depths of 425-447 cm. which might fit this earthquake.
Klinger et. al. (2015) hypothesized that Event E7 in a paleoseismic trench in the southern Arava
near Qatar, Jordan may have been caused by an earthquake in ~150 BC or an earlier event (Date Range 338 BC – 213 BC). The
Fortress at Arad Quake may be a better fit for this event than the Southern
Dead Fish and Soldiers Quake of ~150 BC
Archeoseismic Evidence from the Fortress at Arad
Relevant sections from
Herzog's (2002) report on the fortress at
Arad are reproduced below:
Apparent damage to the southern and eastern wings of the fortress occurred during the Hellenistic period (3rd century BCE).
The massive foundations, intended to guarantee the stability of a large tower erected at the centre of the site, completely
destroyed remains of earlier periods. Additional severe damage resulted from the collapse of the rock roof of two of the water
cisterns (Fig. 3). This event took place during the Hellenistic period, apparently the result of a strong earthquake. The
collapse caused the complete destruction of all occupational remains and created a deep depression in the northwestern sector
of the fortress. The depression was partly filled in with debris and partly built over by later Hellenistic-period structures.
Moreover, the levelling of the depression with debris from the close surroundings eliminated most of the upper Iron Age remains
(Strata VII and VI) in this area (Fig. 4). Consequently, the Hellenistic structures were erected at elevations similar to those
of the Iron Age strata elsewhere. This chaotic process is responsible for the lack of architectural remains of the Iron Age strata in this area.
Based on evidence provided by the only intact cistern, the subterranean reservoir consisted of elliptical cisterns.
There appear to have been three cisterns. The rock ceilings of two of these collapsed during the Hellenistic period.
The considerable thickness of the rock layer that remained above the reservoir (approximately 2 m.) indicates that the
collapse was not a result of the pressure of settlement layers, but the consequence of a powerful earthquake.
The water system of Arad is a unique example of a water storage system combined with a postern for emergency use.
An earthquake apparently caused the collapse of the Arad water system as well as other systems in the south.
From the excavations at Masada and Qumran, we know that earthquakes occurred during the 2nd and 1st centuries BCE (Karcz and Kafri 1978).
During that same period, the water system at Tel Beersheba was also destroyed. Such a date is supported by the late Hellenistic sherds
found amid the debris in depressions created as a result of the collapse (Fig. 4, above). The same episode probably also caused the
collapse of the well in the lower city.