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Pig on the Wall Quake

64 BC

by Jefferson Williams









Introduction & Summary

This earthquake account is best described as a conundrum. A fanciful story in the Babylonian Talmud about an earthquake initiated when a pig clawed its hooves into the Temple Walls in Jerusalem is the sole textual account. Although the story seems implausible, there is weak paleoseismic and possibly archeoseismic evidence for an earthquake around this time leading one to wonder if an actual earthquake seeded the imagination of the writer of the story.

Textual Evidence

Section
Babylonian Talmud
Antiquities of the Jews by Josephus
Roman History by Dio Cassius
Earthquake Catalog Descriptions

Babylonian Talmud

In the Babylonian Talmud, a curious story from the eve of a distant Passover has generated an entry in a number of earthquake catalogs [1]. In 64 BC, Aristobulus II was the Hasmonean King of Judea. He was challenged by his elder brother John Hyrcanus II who recruited Nabatean allies to help him fight for control of the Kingdom. While Hyrcanus II and his allies laid siege to Jerusalem, an agreement was forged before the onset of Passover. Money was sent down the walls of the second Temple in exchange for animals to be sacrificed at the Temple. When the time came to send the animals up the walls, a trick was played. The nature of this trick differs in two different texts. According to Josephus, the animal sacrifices were not delivered. The Babylonian Talmud however states that a pig was placed in the basket and hoisted up the walls of the Temple. As the basket rose, the pig stuck its claws in the wall and the entire land of Israel was shaken for a distance of 400 parsangs (1463 km.) [2] where 400 parsangs may be hyperbole or a euphemism indicating a wide area [3].

Babylonian Talmud Sotah 49b
When the kings of the Hasmonean house fought one another, Hyrcanus was outside and Aristobulus within. Each day they used to let down denarii in a basket, and haul up for them [animals for] the continual offerings. An old man there, who was learned in Greek wisdom, spoke with them in Greek, saying: 'As long as they carry on the Temple-service, they will never surrender to you'. On the morrow they let down denarii in a basket, and hauled up a pig. When it reached half way up the wall, it stuck its claws [into the wall] and the land of Israel was shaken over a distance of four hundred parasangs.
According to Josephus, divine retribution for this trick came not in the form of an earthquake but “a strong and vehement storm of wind that destroyed the fruits of the whole country”. Roman Historian Dio Cassius also recounts the siege of Jerusalem but does not discuss the supposed Passover animal in the basket trick.

Antiquities of the Jews by Josephus

Antiquities of the Jews by Josephus - Book XIV, Chapter II, Paragraph 2
While the priests and Aristobulus were besieged, it happened that the feast called the passover was come, at which it is our custom to offer a great number of sacrifices to God; but those that were with Aristobulus wanted sacrifices, and desired that their countrymen without would furnish them with such sacrifices, and assured them they should have as much money for them as they should desire; and when they required them to pay a thousand drachmae for each head of cattle, Aristobulus and the priests willingly undertook to pay for them accordingly, and those within let down the money over the walls, and gave it them. But when the others had received it, they did not deliver the sacrifices, but arrived at that height of wickedness as to break the assurances they had given, and to be guilty of impiety towards God, by not furnishing those that wanted them with sacrifices. And when the priests found they had been cheated, and that the agreements they had made were violated, they prayed to God that he would avenge them on their countrymen. Nor did he delay that their punishment, but sent a strong and vehement storm of wind, that destroyed the fruits of the whole country, till a modius of wheat was then bought for eleven drachmae.

Roman History by Dio Cassius

Roman History by Dio Cassius - Book 37 – 15.3 – 16.3
Thence he [Pompey] proceeded against Syria Palaestina, because its inhabitants had ravaged Phoenicia. Their rulers were two brothers, Hyrcanus and Aristobulus, who were quarrelling themselves, as it chanced, and were creating factions in the cities on account of the priesthood (for so they called their kingdom) of their god, whoever he is. Pompey immediately won over Hyrcanus without a battle, since the latter had no force worthy of note; and by shutting up Aristobulus in a certain place he compelled him to come to terms, and when he would surrender neither the money nor the garrison, he threw him into chains. After this he more easily overcame the rest, but had trouble in besieging Jerusalem. Most of the city, to be sure, he took without any trouble, as he was received by the party of Hyrcanus; but the temple itself, which the other party had occupied, he captured only with difficulty. For it was on high ground and was fortified by a wall of its own, and if they had continued defending it on all days alike, he could not have got possession of it. As it was, they made an excavation of what are called the days of Saturn, and by doing no work at all on those days afforded the Romans an opportunity in this interval to batter down the wall. The latter, on learning of this superstitious awe of theirs, made no serious attempts the rest of the time, but on those days, when they came round in succession, assaulted most vigorously. Thus the defenders were captured on the day of Saturn, without making any defence, and all the wealth was plundered. The kingdom was given to Hyrcanus, and Aristobulus was carried away.

Earthquake Catalog Descriptions

The entries for this supposed event in some of the earthquake catalogs are brief. For example Amiran et. al. (1994) tersely describe earthquake details as “Jerusalem: strong. Damage to Temple and city walls.” Ben-Menahem (1979) conflates the Antioch earthquake of ~65 BC (i.e. the Pompey Quake) with this 64 BC account (“Destruction of Antiochia. Felt in Cyprus. Damage to the Temple walls during the siege of Jerusalem (Δ ≈ 500 km.) by Hurkanos and the Nabatians.”). His 1991 catalog entry is fundamentally similar. Sometimes, the references listed for this earthquake are older even more problematic earthquake catalogs with no mention of source documents. Amiran et. al. (1994) for example only cites Arvanitakis (1903), Willis (1927), and Sieberg (1932a) or Sieberg (1932b). As such, this illustrates the problem with relying on earthquake catalogs alone for understanding the nature of a historical earthquake report. An example of this can be found in Ken-Tor et al. (2001a) which assigns a date of 64 BC to a seismite (Event A) in Nahal Ze ‘elim when the age-depth profile presented suggests the seismite was formed in the middle of the second century BC. Ken-Tor et. al (2001a) appear to base their date assignment on one or two earthquake catalogs (Willis (1928), Amiran et. al., 1994) rather than examining the historical sources. Recognizing this mistake, Williams (2004) and Agnon et. al (2006) redated this seismite (Event A) to ~150 BC.

Archeoseismic Evidence

Location Status Intensity Notes
Heshbon possible ≥ 8 wide range of dates
Tel Ateret possible no achaeoseismic evidence - based on abandonment of the site
Tell Anafa possible no achaeoseismic evidence - based on abandonment of the site


Heshbon

Aerial view of Tall Heshbon Figure 3

Aerial photo of Tall Hisban a mediaeval village below (courtesy of Ivan LaBianca)

Walker et al (2017)


Names

Transliterated Name Language Name
Hesban
Heshbon Biblical Hebrew חשבון
Heshbon Arabic حشبون‎
Tell Hisban Arabic ‎تيلل هيسبان
Tell Ḥesbān Arabic تيلل هيسبان‎
Esebus Latin
Esbus Latin
Hesebon Ancient Greek Ἐσεβών
Esbous Ancient Greek Ἐσβούς
Exbous Ancient Greek Ἔξβους
Esbouta Ancient Greek Ἐσβούτα
Essebōn Ancient Greek Ἐσσεβών
Esb[untes]
Introduction

Heshbon has been sporadically occupied since at least the Iron Age ( Lawrence T. Geraty in Meyers et al, 1997). It is located on the Madaba Plains ~19 km. SW of Amman and ~6 km. NE of Mount Nebo.

Chronology and Seismic Effects

Dating earthquakes at this site before the 7th century CE is messy. Earlier publications provide contradictory earthquake assignments, possibly due to difficulties in assessing stratigraphy and phasing, but also due to uncritical use of older error prone earthquake catalogs. A number of earlier publications refer to earthquakes too far away to have damaged the site. Dates provided below are based on my best attempt to determine chronological constraints based on the excavator's assessment of primarily numismatic and ceramic evidence. Their earthquake date assignments, at the risk of being impolite, have been ignored.
Stratigraphy from Mitchel (1980)

Mitchel (1980:9) provided a list of 19 strata encountered over 5 seasons of excavations between 1968 and 1976. Mitchel (1980) wrote about Strata 11-15.

Stratum Dates Comments
1 1870-1976 CE
2 1400-1456 CE
3 1260-1400 CE
4 1200-1260 CE
5 750-969 CE
6 661-750 CE
7 614-661 CE
8 551-614 CE
9 408-551 CE
10 365-408 CE
11 284-365 CE Stratum 11 is characterized by another building program.
On the temple grounds a new colonnade was built in front (east) of the temple, perhaps a result of Julian's efforts to revive the state cult.
12 193-384 CE Stratum 12 represents a continuation of the culture of Stratum 13.
On the summit of the tell a large public structure was built; partly following the lines of earlier walls. This structure is interpreted to be the temple shown on the reverse of the so—called "Esbus Coin", minted at Aurelia Esbus under Elagabalus (A.D. 218 — 222).
13 130-193 CE Stratum 13 began with a major building effort occasioned by extensive earthquake destruction [in Stratum 14]
The transition from Stratum 13 to Stratum 12 appears to nave been a gradual one.
14 63 BCE - 130 CE the overall size of the settlement seems to have grown somewhat. Apart from the continued use of the fort on the summit, no intact buildings have survived. A large number of underground (bedrock) installations were in use during Stratum 14
The stratum was closed out by what has been interpreted as a disastrous earthquake
15 198-63 BCE architecture interpreted to be primarily a military post or fort, around which a dependent community gathered
16 7th-6th century BCE
17 9th-8th century BCE
18 1150-10th century BCE
19 1200-1150 BCE

Stratigraphy from Walker and LaBianca (2003)

Walker and LaBianca (2003:448)'s Chronological Chart of the Strata at Tall Hisban (Table 1) is presented below:

Stratum Political periodization Cultural Period Absolute Dates
I Late Ottoman-modern ‎Late Islamic IIb-modern
Pioneer, Mandate, and Hashemite
‎1800 CE-today
II Middle Ottoman Late Islamic IIa
Pre-modern tribal‎
1600-1800 CE‎
IIIb Early Ottoman Late Islamic Ib
Post-Mamluk - Early Ottoman‎
1500-1600 CE‎
IIIa Late Mamluk (Burji) Late Islamic Ia‎ 1400-1500 CE‎
IVb Early Mamluk II (Bahri) Middle Islamic IIc‎ 1300-1400 CE‎
IVa Early Mamluk I (Bahri) Middle Islamic IIb‎ 1250-1300 CE‎
IVa Ayyubid/Crusader Middle Islamic IIa‎ 1200-1250 CE‎
V Fatimid Middle Islamic I 1000-1200 CE‎
VIb Abbasid Early Islamic II 800-1000 CE‎
VIa Umayyad Early Islamic I 600-800 CE‎
VII Byzantine Byzantine 300-600 CE‎
VIII Roman Roman 60 BCE - 300 CE‎
IX Hellenistic Hellenistic 300-60 BCE‎
X Persian Persian 500-300 BCE‎
XIb Iron II Iron II 900-500 BCE‎
XIa Iron I Iron I 1200-900 BCE‎

Stratum 15 Destruction Layer (Mitchel, 1980) - 2nd - 1st century BCE

  • Areas of excavations at Tell Heshbon from Walker and LaBianca (2003)
Mitchel (1980:21) noted chronological difficulties dating Stratum 15.
Though evidence for Stratum 15 occupation at Tell Hesban occurs in the form of ceramic remains found across the entire site, evidence of stratigraphic value is greatly limited in quantity and extent.
Mitchel (1980:47) noted that there was limited evidence for destruction and/or abandonment in Stratum 15 though most of the evidence was removed by subsequent building activities particularly in Stratum 13. Destruction layers were variously described as debris, a rubble layer, or tumble. Due to slim evidence, Mitchel (1980:70) did not form firm conclusions about the nature of the end of Stratum 15
The transition to Stratum 14 may be characterized as a smooth one, although the evidence is slim. There is currently no evidence of a destroying conflagration at the end of Stratum 15. In fact, I do not believe it is likely that we shall know whether Stratum 15 Heshbon was simply abandoned or destroyed by natural or human events.

Stratum 14 Earthquake (Mitchel, 1980) - 1st century BCE - 2nd century CE

  • Areas of excavations at Tell Heshbon from Walker and LaBianca (2003)
Mitchel (1980) identified a destruction layer in Stratum 14 which he attributed to an earthquake. Unfortunately, the destruction layer is not precisely dated. Using some assumptions, Mitchel (1980) dated the earthquake destruction to the 130 CE Eusebius Mystery Quake, apparently unaware at the time that this earthquake account may be either misdated as suggested by Russell (1985) or mislocated as suggested by Ambraseys (2009). Although Russell (1985) attributed the destruction layer in Stratum 14 to the early 2nd century CE Incense Road Quake, a number of earthquakes are possible candidates including the 31 BCE Josephus Quake.

Mitchel (1980:73) reports that a majority of caves used for dwelling collapsed at the top of Stratum 14 which could be noticed by:
bedrock surface channels, presumably for directing run-off water into storage facilities, which now are totally disrupted, and in many cases rest ten to twenty degrees from the horizontal; by caves with carefully cut steps leading down into them whose entrances are fully or largely collapsed and no longer usable; by passages from caves which can still be entered into formerly communicating caves which no longer exist, or are so low-ceilinged or clogged with debris as to make their use highly unlikely — at least as they stand now.
Mitchel (1980:73) also noticed that new buildings constructed in Stratum 13 were leveled over a jumble of broken-up bedrock. Mitchel (1980:95) reports that Areas B and D had the best evidence for the massive bedrock collapse - something he attributed to the "softer" strata in this area, more prone to karst features and thus easier to burrow into and develop underground dwelling structures. Mitchel (1980:96) reports discovery of a coin of Aretas IV (9 BC – 40 AD) in the fill of silo D.3:57 which he suggests was placed as part of reconstruction after the earthquake. Although Mitchel (1980:96) acknowledges that this suggests that the causitive earthquake was the 31 BCE Josephus Quake, Mitchel (1980:96) argued for a later earthquake based on the mistaken belief that the 31 BCE Josephus Quake had an epicenter in the Galilee. Paleoseismic evidence from the Dead Sea, however, indicates that the 31 BCE Josephus Quake had an epicenter in the vicinity of the Dead Sea relatively close to Tell Hesban. Mitchel (1980:96-98)'s argument follows:
The filling of the silos, caves, and other broken—up bedrock installations at the end of the Early Roman period was apparently carried out nearly immediately after the earthquake occurred. This conclusion is based on the absence of evidence for extended exposure before filling (silt, water—laid deposits, etc.), which in fact suggests that maybe not even one winter's rain can be accounted for between the earthquake and the Stratum 13 filling operation. If this conclusion is correct, then the Aretas IV coin had to have been introduced into silo D.3:57 fill soon after the earthquake. which consequently could not have been earlier than 9 B.C.

The nature of the pottery preserved on the soft, deep fills overlying collapsed bedrock is also of significant importance to my argument in favor of the A.D. 130 earthquake as responsible for the final demise of underground (bedrock) installations in Areas B and D. Table 7 provides a systematic presentation of what I consider to be the critical ceramic evidence from loci in three adjacent squares, D.3, D.4, and B.7. The dates of the latest pottery uniformly carry us well beyond the date of the earthquake which damaged Qumran, down, in fact, closer to the end of the 1st century A.D. or the beginning of the 2nd.

In addition to these three fill loci, soil layer D.4:118A (inside collapsed cave D.4:116 + D.4:118) yielded Early Roman I-III sherds, as well as two Late Roman I sherds (Square D.4 pottery pails 265, 266). Contamination of these latter samples is possible, but not likely. I dug the locus myself.

Obviously, this post-31 B.C. pottery could have been deposited much later than 31 B.C.. closer, say, to the early 2nd century A.D., but the evidence seems to be against such a view. I personally excavated much of locus D.4:101 (Stratum 13). It was a relatively homogeneous, unstratified fill of loose soil that gave all the appearances of rapid deposition in one operation. From field descriptions of the apparently parallel loci in Squares D.3 and B.7. I would judge them to be roughly equivalent and subject to the same interpretation and date. And I repeat, the evidence for extended exposure to the elements (and a concomitant slow, stratified deposition) was either missed in excavation, not properly recorded, or did not exist.

This case is surely not incontrovertible but seems to me to carry the weight of the evidence which was excavated at Tell Hesban.
Mitchel (1980:100)'s 130 CE date for the causitive earthquake rests on the assumption that the "fills" were deposited soon after bedrock collapse. If one discards this assumption, numismatic evidence and ceramic evidence suggests that the "fill" was deposited over a longer period of time - perhaps even 200+ years - and the causitive earthquake was earlier. Unfortunately, it appears that the terminus ante quem for the bedrock collapse event is not well constrained. The terminus post quem appears to depend on the date for lower levels of Stratum 14 which seems to have been difficult to date precisely and underlying Stratum 15 which Mitchel (1980:21) characterized as chronologically difficult.

Stratum 11 Earthquake (Mitchel, 1980) - 4th century CE - possibly Cyril Quake

  • Areas of excavations at Tell Heshbon from Walker and LaBianca (2003)
Mitchel (1980:181) noted that a destruction of some sort tumbled the wall on the east side of the great stairway , signaling the end of the latter's useful life. The destruction was interpreted to be a result of one of the 363 CE Cyril Quakes. Mitchel (1980:193) suggested the source of the tumble was most probably the retaining wall at the east margin of the stairs (D.3:16A). Mitchel (1980:181) also suggests that this earthquake destroyed the Temple on the acropolis; noting that it was never rebuilt as a Temple. Numismatic evidence in support of a 363 CE earthquake destruction date was obtained from Locus C.5:219 where an Early Byzantine soil layer produced a coin of Constans I, A.D. 343 providing a closing date for Stratum 11 (Mitchel, 1980:195). However, Mitchel (1980:195) noted the presence of an alternative hypothesis where Sauer (1973a:46) noted that a 365/366 coin would suggest that the rock tumble and bricky rei soil of Stratum 6 should be associated with a 365 earthquake. Mitchel (1980:195) judged this hypothesis as untenable citing other numismatic and ceramic evidence. In a later publication, Sauer (1993:255-256) changed his dating assessment of the strata which appears to align with Mitchel (1980)'s original assessment.

Storfjell (1993:109-110) noted that damage appeared to be limited at Tall Hesban during this earthquake
Although evidence for the AD 363 earthquake was found at Hesban, it could only be identified in a few rock tumbles in various areas of the tell. Following the earthquake there was no large scale construction, neither domestic nor public. The earthquake, which was severe at other sites (Russell 1980) probably did little damage at Hesban.
That said, if Mitchel (1980:193) is correct that a retaining wall collapsed on the monumental stairway, unless it was tilted and at the point of collapse beforehand, it's collapse suggests high levels of local Intensity.

Stratum 9 Earthquake - ~6th century CE - debated

  • Areas of excavations at Tell Heshbon from Walker and LaBianca (2003)
Following the stratigraphy listed by Mitchel (1980:9), Storfjell (1993:113) noted archaeoseismic evidence which he dated to 500-525 CE.
There is scattered evidence for a destruction, probably caused by an earthquake. This evidence comes from Area C, and Probes G.11 and G.16. If there was evidence of destruction in Area A, it would have been removed in the subsequent reconstruction and enlargement of the church. The ceramic evidence suggests that the destruction occurred in the Late Byzantine period. Placement in the overall stratigraphic sequence would suggest a destruction date in the first quarter of the sixth century for Stratum 9.
Storfjell (1993:110) discussed dating of Stratum 9 as follows:
The evidence is not precise enough to specify with certainty the exact dates for Stratum 9, although the ceramic horizon is predominantly Early Byzantine (ca. AD 408-527). It is this period that first reveals the Christian presence at Tell Hesban.
The Christian presence was apparently the construction of a Christian church on the remains of the Roman Temple possibly damaged by an earthquake in the 4th century CE. This church was apparently rebuilt in Stratum 8 which has a terminus ante quem of 614 CE according to Storfjell (1993:113). Sauer (1993:259), in the same publication, disputes the early 6th century earthquake evidence at Tall Hisban stating that thus far, there is no earthquake evidence at Hesban in this period.

7th century CE Earthquake

  • Areas of excavations at Tell Heshbon from Walker and LaBianca (2003)
Walker and LaBianca (2003:453-454) uncovered 7th century CE archeoseismic evidence which they attributed to the Jordan Valley Quake of 659/660 CE from an excavation of an Umayyad-period building in Field N of Tall Hesban . They report a badly broken hard packed yellowish clay floor which was pocketed in places by wall collapse and accompanied by crushed storage jars, basins, and cookware. An excerpt from their article follows:
Two roughly square rooms, each approximately 4 x 4 meters wide and built against the inner face of the Hellenistic wall, occupied most of N.l and N.2. Masonry walls, four courses high, delineated the space. The original rooms were separated by what appears to have been an open air corridor; a door in the east wall of N. l and one in the west wall of N.2 allowed passage between the two rooms. The floors of these rooms (N.1: 18, N.2: 16) were made of a hard packed, yellowish clay, which was badly broken and pocketed in many places by wall collapse. Upper courses of the walls of the rooms had fallen onto the floor and crushed several large storage jars and basins and cookware (Fig. 16 ), dated in the field to the transitional Byzantine-Umayyad period. The only foundation trench identified (N.2: 25) yielded no pottery. The fill above these floors contained pottery that was late Umayyad and Abbasid in date. While it is not possible at this early stage of excavation to determine when this structure was first built, it was clearly occupied in the middle of the seventh century, suffered a catastrophic event, and was reoccupied (at some point) and used into the ninth century. Fallen architecture, crushed pottery, badly damaged floors that appeared to have "melted" around the fallen blocks, and wide and deep ash pits and lenses bare witness to a major conflagration. The most likely candidate for this is the recorded earthquake of 658/9, which was one of the most destructive in Jordan's history since the Roman period, rather than the Islamic conquests of the 630's ( El-Isa 1985: 233).

Mamluk Earthquake - late 14th - early 15th centuries CE

  • Areas of excavations at Tell Heshbon from Walker and LaBianca (2003)
Walker and LaBianca (2003:447-453) uncovered late 14th - early 15th century CE archaeoseismic evidence from excavations undertaken in 1998 and 2001 of Mamluk-period constructions in Field L. They identified a complex of rooms previously called the bathhouse complex as the residence of the Mamluk governor of the al-Balqa'. . Walker and LaBianca (2003:447) described and dated the storeroom complex (L.1 and L.2) as follows:
The storeroom complex of L.1 and L.2 was built in three phases, all dated to the fourteenth century (and assigned to Stratum IVb) on the basis of associated pottery. Architectural Phases I and II correspond, respectively, to the original construction (the narrow storeroom in L.1 and the rooms east of it in L.2) and an extension of the L.1 storeroom to the east that followed a short time later (Fig. 7). Phase III, on the other hand, represents a relatively brief reoccupation of the rooms associated with the storeroom's doorway (square L.2).
In L.1 and L.2, earthquake damage was discovered at the end of Phase II.
Phase II Excavations at tall Hisban, the 1998 and 2001 Seasons: The Islamic Periods (Strata I-VI)

...

Earthquake damage was everywhere evident in the L.2 part of the storeroom, with walls knocked out of alignment; collapsed vaults (Fig. 8 ); and extensive ash cover, the result of a large conflagration likely brought on by oil lamps that had fallen from the upper stories. Thousands of fragments of glazed pottery, crushed by the vault stones that fell on them; nearly complete sugar storage jars (Fig. 9); dozens of channel-nozzle and pinched lamps (Fig. 10), many interspersed among fallen vault stones; fragments of bronze weaponry; painted jars and jugs (Fig. 11); and occasional fragments of metal bowls were recovered from L.1:17 - L.2:12, the beaten earth floor of the Mamluk-period (Stratum IVb) storeroom. There is evidence that the earth floor was originally plastered, as traces of white plaster were noticeable in the corners of the room, along the base of the walls at some places, and at the doorway. Earthquake and fire damage was so severe, however, that most of the plaster was destroyed.
Overlying strata was described as follows:
A meter-thick fill of loess (L.1:3, L.2:7) covered the floor (L.1:17, L.2:12), bearing witness to centuries of abandonment after the partial collapse of the covering vaults. The uppermost levels of the storeroom (L.2:3) above this fill were largely disturbed by a Stratum I, Ottoman-period cemetery
Walker et al (2017) also noted archeoseismic evidence which appears to be from the same earthquake in field M (aka Area M) which is described below:
Middle Islamic 3/Post-Middle Islamic 3

...
earthquake (misaligned stones in architecture throughout field; collapse of vaulting and walls) destroys parallel chambers in M4, M5, M8 and M9; area abandoned.

Intensity Estimates

Stratum 14 Earthquake (Mitchel, 1980) - 1st century BCE - 2nd century CE

Effect Description Intensity
Collapsed Walls entrances are fully or largely collapsed and no longer usable
passages ... into formerly communicating caves which no longer exist
clogged with debris
VIII +
The archeoseismic evidence requires a minimum Intensity of VIII (8) when using the Earthquake Archeological Effects chart of Rodríguez-Pascua et al (2013: 221-224)

Stratum 11 Earthquake (Mitchel, 1980) - 4th century CE - possibly Cyril Quake - debated

Effect Description Intensity
Collapsed Walls a destruction of some sort tumbled the wall on the east side of the great stairway VIII +
The archeoseismic evidence requires a minimum Intensity of VIII (8) when using the Earthquake Archeological Effects chart of Rodríguez-Pascua et al (2013: 221-224)

7th century CE Earthquake

Effect Description Intensity
Broken pottery found in fallen position Upper courses of the walls of the rooms had fallen onto the floor and crushed several large storage jars and basins and cookware (Fig. 16 ) VII +
Collapsed Walls Upper courses of the walls of the rooms had fallen onto the floor
Fallen architecture
VIII +
The archeoseismic evidence requires a minimum Intensity of VIII (8) when using the Earthquake Archeological Effects chart of Rodríguez-Pascua et al (2013: 221-224)

Mamluk Earthquake - late 14th - early 15th centuries CE

Effect Description Intensity
Broken pottery found in fallen position L.2 & L.1 (?) - Thousands of fragments of glazed pottery, crushed by the vault stones that fell on them VII +
Displaced Walls L.2 - walls knocked out of alignment
Field M - misaligned stones in architecture throughout field
VII +
Collapsed Vaults L.2 - collapsed vaults (Fig. 8 )
Field M - collapse of vaulting and walls
VIII +
Collapsed Walls Field M - collapse of vaulting and walls
Field M - destroys parallel chambers in M4, M5, M8 and M9
VIII +
The archeoseismic evidence requires a minimum Intensity of VIII (8) when using the Earthquake Archeological Effects chart of Rodríguez-Pascua et al (2013: 221-224)

Notes and Further Reading

References

Walker, B. J. and Øystein, S.L. (2003). "The Islamic Qusur of Tall Ḥisbān : preliminary report on the 1998 and 2001 seasons." Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 47: 443.

Mitchel, L. A. (1980). The Hellenistic and Roman Periods at Tell Hesban, Jordan, Andrews University. PhD.

Heshbon Expedition Symposium, Hesban after 25 years, Berrien Springs, Mich., Institute of Archaeology, Siegfried H. Horn Archaeological Museum, Andrews University.

Boraas, Roger S., and S. H. Horn. Heshbon 1968: The First Campaign at Tell Hesban, a Preliminary Report. Andrews University Monographs, vol. 2. Berrien Springs, Mich., 1969.

Boraas, Roger S., and S. H. Horn. Heshbon 1971: The Second Campaign at Tell Hesban, a Preliminary Report. Andrews University Monographs, vol. 6. Berrien Springs, Mich., 1973.

Boraas, Roger S., and S. H. Horn. Heshbon 1973: The Third Campaign at Tell Hesban, a Preliminary Report. Andrews University Monographs, vol. 8. Berrien Springs, Mich., 1975.

Boraas, Roger S., and Lawrence T . Geraty. Heshbon 1974: The Fourth Campaign at Tell Hesban, a Preliminary Report. Andrews University Monographs, vol. 9. Berrien Springs, Mich., 1976.

Boraas, Roger S., and Lawrence T. Geraty. Heshbon 1976: The Fifth Campaign at Tell Hesban, a Preliminary Report. Andrews University Monographs, vol. 10. Berrien Springs, Mich., 1978.

Boraas, Roger S., and Lawrence T. Geraty. "The Long Life of Tell Hesban, Jordan." Archaeology 32 (1979): 10-20.

Bullard, Reuben G. "Geological Study of the Heshbon Area." Andrews University Seminary Studies 10 (1972): 129-141.

Cross, Frank Moore. "An Unpublished Ammonite Ostracon from Hesban." In The Archaeology of Jordan and Other Studies Presented to Siegfried H. Horn, edited by Lawrence T. Geraty and Larry G. Herr, pp. 475-489. Berrien Springs, Mich., 1986.

Geraty, Lawrence T., and Leona Glidden Running, eds. Hesban, vol. 3, Historical Foundations: Studies of Literary References to Heshbon and Vicinity. Berrien Springs, Mich., 1989.

Geraty, Lawrence T., and David Merling. Hesban after Twenty-Five Years. Berrien Springs, Mich., 1994. - Reviews the results of the excavations of the Heshbon expedition a quarter-century after its first field season; full bibliography.

Horn, S. H. "The 1968 Heshbon Expedition." Biblical Archaeologist 32 (1969): 26-41.

Ibach, Robert D., Jr. Hesban, vol. 5, Archaeological Survey of the Hesban Region. Berrien Springs, Mich., 1987.

LaBianca, Oystein S., and Larry Lacelle, eds. Hesban, vol. 2, Environmental Foundations: Studies of Climatical, Geological, Hydrological, and Phytological Conditions in Hesban and Vicinity. Berrien Springs, Mich., 1986.

LaBianca, 0ystein S. Hesban, vol. 1, Sedentarization and Nomadization: Food System Cycles at Hesban and Vicinity in Transjordan. Berrien Springs, Mich., 1990.

Lugenbeal, Edward N., and James A. Sauer. "Seventh-Sixth Century B.C. Pottery from Area B at Heshbon." Andrews University Seminary Studies 10 (1972); 21-69.

Mitchel, Larry A. Hesban, vol. 7, Hellenistic and Roman Strata. Berrien Springs, Mich., 1992.

Sauer, James A. Heshbon Pottery 1971: A Preliminary Report on the Pottery from the 1971 Excavations at Tell Hesban. Andrews University Monographs, vol. 7. Berrien Springs, Mich,, 1973.

Sauer, James A. "Area B. " Andrews University Seminary Studies 12 (1974): 35-71

Terian, Abraham, "Coins from the 1968 Excavations at Heshbon." Andrews University Seminary Studies 9 (1971): 147-160.

Vyhmeister, Werner. "The History of Heshbon from Literary Sources. "Andrews University Seminary Studies 6 (1968): 158-177

Tel Ateret

Satellite Photo of Tel Ateret Fig. 8.5a

A satellite photo (GoogleEarth) of Tel Ateret – Benot Ya’aqov bridge. Vadum Iacob castle straddles the fault trace, that runs through an aqueduct system south of the castle.

JW: White box labeled B encompasses the archaeological site

Agnon in Garfunkel et al (2014)


Names

Transliterated Name Source Name
Tel Ateret
Metzad ‘Ateret Hebrew מצד אטרט
Vadum Jacob Crusader
Vadum Iacob Crusader
Chastellet Crusader
Le Chastelez 13th century CE
Bayt al-Ahzan 12th century CE Arabic بايت الأهزان
Qasr al-'Ata Modern Arabic قاسر الء'اتا
Qasr al-'Atara Modern Arabic قاسر الء'اتارا
Introduction

Tel Ateret is situated atop a structural high that oversees a crossing of the Jordan River. It's military/strategic value has led to multiple occupations which from bottom up include an Iron Age II fortification, a Hellenistic Complex, a medieval Crusader Castle known as Vadum Jacob, and the last structure - a Mumluk and Ottoman pilgrimage site with a mosque ( Ellenblum, et al, 2015). The Hellenistic settlements dating from the 3rd to the 1st centuries BCE may have been Pharanx Antiochus captured by Hasmonean King Alexander Jannaeus in 81 BCE (Ellenblum et. al., 2015 citing Ma'oz, 2013). In some traditions (e.g. 12th century Muslim), the site was associated with the dwelling place of the Biblical Patriarch Jacob when he learned of the disappearance of his son Joseph ( Ellenblum, 2003). Structures built on the site straddle the active Jordan Gorge Fault thus providing a unique location to resolve slip from earthquake events.

Note: Some papers refer to the fault intersecting the structures as the Dead Sea Fault (DSF). This refers to the Jordan Gorge Fault (JGF) segment which is one of several large active faults comprising the Dead Sea Transform. Chronology

Ellenblum et al (2015) found 8 m of accumulated slip at Tel Ateret since the construction of an Iron Age IIA fortification early in the 1st millenium BCE. They were able to resolve this slip into a sequence of time periods summarized below. In a few cases, they were able to estimate the slip of individual earthquake events allowing for an estimate of Moment Magnitude (MW) using the scaling laws of Wells and Coppersmith (1994)
Date Slip1
(m)
Slip2
(m)
Moment3
Magnitude
MW
Intensity4
I
Intensity5
I
Slip2
Velocity
(m/s)
Comments
980 BCE - 142 BCE >2 n/a unresolved unresolved n/a n/a At least 2 m of slip displaced Iron Age IIa walls in an unknown number of events
probably ~142 BCE ~2.5 n/a 7.1 - 7.4 ≥ 9 n/a n/a Excavated coins suggest this event occurred around and no earlier then 142 BCE
~50 BCE - 1178/9 CE ~1.5 n/a unresolved unresolved n/a n/a
  • Undated earthquakes after mid Hellenistic time (~50 BCE) and before construction of Vadum Jacob in 1178/9 CE
  • The site appears to have been abandoned in the mid 1st century CE (no earlier then 64/65 BCE) which may have been due to an earthquake
probably 20 May 1202 CE ~1.6 1.25 7.0 - 7.2 ≥ 9 9 3 Crusader Fortress Vadum Jacob Damaged
Ottoman period ~0.5 0.5 6.6 - 6.8 ≥ 8 7 1 Ottoman Mosque was damaged
Footnotes

1 from Ellenblum et al (2015)
2 from Schweppe, et al (2021) - Schweppe et al (2021) used detailed laser scans of the site and discrete element models to estimate slip and slip velocity for the last two events.
3 computed from Ellenblum et al (2015)'s slip using Wells and Coppersmith (1994)
4 Estimated by Jefferson Williams primarily using Earthquake Archeological Effects chart of Rodríguez-Pascua et al (2013: 221-224)
5 Schweppe, et al (2021) converted slip velocity to Intensity using using Wald et al (1999)

Note - Schweppe, et al (2021) also produced Magnitude estimates which are in fairly good agreement with the table above but because their Magnitude estimates required an input of presumed fault rupture length, they are not repeated in the interest of avoiding circular reasoning.
Iron Age IIA and later Earthquake(s) - 980 BCE - 142 BCE

Ellenblum et. al. (2015:6) uncovered Iron Age IIA remains (ca. 980-830 BCE) to the south and partially beneath the Hellenistic ruins in the southern part of the site. Preliminary dating was based on architectural style and pottery typologies. Ellenblum et. al. (2015:6) estimated that the Iron Age IIA wall was displaced 8 m across the fault with 6 m of displacement taking place after the early Hellenistic period. This left 2 m of displacement in an unknown number of events during the first millennium BCE prior to the 142 BCE earthquake.

Early Hellenistic Earthquake - probably ~142 BCE

  • Hellenistic walls in the southern part of Tel Ateret from Ellenblum et al (2015).
Ellenblum et. al. (2015:5) estimated a displacement of ~2.5 m from this event which, though dated from the 3rd century BCE - ~142 BCE, probably struck around ~142 BCE. Ellenblum et. al. (2015:3) described two Hellenistic building phases - one early and one late - with the later phase built atop the earlier one. Although the Northern Hellenistic Complex was too heavily damaged to allow tracing of walls across the fault zone, the southern complex in Area E allowed for such analysis which is described as follows:
Two building phases are discernible in this excavated Hellenistic compound with crosscutting relations that determine their temporal relations. The walls of both phases are deformed and truncated at the fault immediately south of the faulted Crusader wall.

...

The walls of the earlier phase are invariably straight along 20 m except for within the fault zone, where they are crooked left laterally. Heaps of cobbles at the bottom of the walls, which have fallen from the upper parts of the early phase walls, buried indicative artifacts including candles, vessels, cooking pots, decorated fishplates, and relief bowls, as well as imported Hellenistic wares and a hoard of coins. All these findings unambiguously belong to the Hellenistic period. The most special finding is a hoard of 45 small bronze coins buried within the debris of the older walls. A numismatic analysis of the 32 well-preserved datable coins limits the range of the hoard to 150s-140s BCE. The latest dated coin was minted in 143/142 BCE. About 60% of the coins cluster close to this date.
Ellenblum et. al. (2015:4) interpreted the coin hoard as consistent with a scenario of sudden collapse of the wall, possibly triggered by an earthquake, adding:
The types and the arrangement of the walls indicate that the two successive construction periods were separated by a destruction event within the Hellenistic period, which left a considerable amount of debris along the fault. Based on the stratigraphy and lateral displacement, we attribute the termination of the older phase to an earthquake that tore apart the earlier phase during the second century BCE. The latest dated coin in the hoard, minted in 143/142 BCE, provides a lower bound for the date of this earthquake [i.e. a terminus post quem], after which the late Hellenistic walls were built. In another two-phase Hellenistic settlement some 20 km north of Ateret - Tell Anafa, an abrupt termination of a well-developed settlement with elaborate construction [Sharon Herbert in Stern et al (1993:58-61, v. 1)], may be re-interpreted as a result of an earthquake destruction.
Ellenblum et. al. (2015:5) estimated slip from earthquake events by measuring displacement of walls across the fault:
The Hellenistic walls are bent immediately south of the faulted Crusader wall. Reconstruction of the early wall to its original straight disposition requires about 6 m (Figures 3a & 3b ). The later wall (highlighted yellow), dated to the late 2nd - 1st century BCE, is exposed along ~8 m. It is also curved leftward at the center by about 20°. The builders of the Crusader wall destroyed the eastern segment of the late Hellenistic wall, making direct measurement of the displacement impossible.
The 6 m of displacement represents slip from the Late Hellenistic Earthquake and all subsequent earthquakes. Ellenblum et. al. (2015:5) estimated a displacement of ~2.5 m for just the Late Hellenistic Earthquake. Using the scaling laws of Wells and Coppersmith (1994), this corresponds to a magnitude of 7.1 - 7.4 (see Calculator).

Late Hellenistic Earthquake ? - Mid 1st century BCE

Ellenblum et. al. (2015) estimate ~1.5 meters of fault slip occurred on the site between its abandonment probably in the middle of the first century BC and when a Crusader fortress was built at the end of the 12th century CE. Due to the sites abandonment and lack of identified new constructions during this time, it is difficult to resolve the ~1.5 meters of slip into individual earthquake events. However, abandonment of the site may have been precipitated by an earthquake. The latest Hellenistic coin excavated from the site dates to 65/64 BCE indicating desertion of the site occurred afterwards.

post Hellenistic Earthquakes - ~50 BCE - 1178/9 CE

Ellenblum et. al. (2015) estimate ~1.5 meters of fault slip occurred on the site between its abandonment probably in the middle of the first century BC and when a Crusader fortress was built at the end of the 12th century CE. Due to the sites abandonment and lack of identified new constructions during this time, it is difficult to resolve the ~1.5 meters of slip into individual earthquake events.

Vadum Jacob Earthquake - probably 1202 CE

  • Plan of Vadum Jacob fortress with offsets from Ellenblum et al (1998).
Ellenblum et al (1998:304) report, based on historical sources (e.g. William of Tyre, Abu-Shama, Ibn-al-Athir, and 'Imad al-Din al-Isfhani), that the foundation stone of the castle [of Vadum Jacob] was laid in October 1178 CE. The castle, only partially constructed at the time, was besieged and destroyed 11 months later, on 30 August 1179 CE providing a terminus post quem of 1179 CE for its seismic destruction. Up to ~2.1 m of lateral slip was observed in the southern and northern defense walls along with up to 10 cm. of vertical slip. 0.5 m of the lateral slip was attributed to a later seismic event which damaged an Ottoman Mosque which was later built on the site . This left ~1.6 m of slip between the military destruction of the castle in 1179 CE and the seismic event that damaged the Ottoman mosque. In order to produce a terminus ante quem for initial seismic damage to Vadum Jacob, a trench was dug parallel to the southern face of the castle in which 4 units were identified. Units 1 and 2 were recorded as having been deposited on or prior to the castle's military destruction on 30 August 1179 CE. A fallen ashlar block on top of Unit 2 was presumed to have fallen immediately after the Muslim conquest as a historical source document (Abu-Shama) details partial dismantling of the castle soon after it was conquered. Colluvial Unit 3 was dated from 1179 CE to present and was presumed to have accumulated in the centuries after the Muslim conquest. Unit 4 is a modern bioturbated soil horizon. Faults within the trench were associated with seismic displacement of the Crusader wall and a later seismic event. Ellenblum et al (1998:305) described the faults as follows:
The faults extend to two different stratigraphic levels: One group of faults displaces the alluvium of unit 1 and the limy level of unit 2, but extends only a few centimeters into post-1179 unit 3; the second group of faults breaks much higher into the colluvial wedge, up to the base of the modern soil horizon, and possibly to the surface. These observations suggest that at least two earthquakes produced the 2.1 m offset of the southern wall that is now observed. One event occurred soon after the outer ashlar wall was removed, i.e., very soon after 1179. The second post-1179 earthquake also produced rupture at Vadum Jacob, but well after removal of the wall and the accumulation of the colluvium, probably much closer to the present.
Although a strict terminus ante quem was not established, the trench suggests that an earthquake struck soon after military destruction of the castle leaving the 1202 CE earthquake as the most likely candidate.
  • Trench Log from Vadum Jacob fortress from Ellenblum et al (1998) .

Ottoman Mosque Earthquake

Ellenblum et al (1998:305) described archaeoseismic evidence from Mamluk and Ottoman mosques built on the site as follows:

In the northern part of the castle, we also unearthed a Muslim mosque whose northern wall is displaced sinistrally by 0.5 m. A mikhrab (the Muslim praying apse) is well preserved in the southern wall. According to the study of the pottery, the mosque was built, destroyed, and rebuilt at least twice: the initial structure was built in the Muslim period (12th century) and later rebuilt once or twice during the Turkish Ottoman period (1517-1917). The 0.5 m displacement is observed in the northern wall of the latest building phase . The repetitive building of this site might be due to earthquakes.
The latest rebuilding phase was not dated. Ellenblum et al (2015) suggested that the first of the Baalbek Quakes on 30 October 1759 CE was responsible while Ellenblum et al (1998:305) and Marco et al (1997) entertained the possibility that the Galilee Earthquake of 1837 CE is also a possible candidate

Seismic Effects
Early Hellenistic Earthquake - probably ~142 BCE

Ellenblum et al (2015) report the following seismic effects:

  • The walls of both phases are deformed and truncated at the fault immediately south of the faulted Crusader wall.
  • Heaps of cobbles at the bottom of the walls
  • a destruction event within the Hellenistic period, which left a considerable amount of debris along the fault.
  • The Hellenistic walls are bent immediately south of the faulted Crusader wall
  • ~2.5 m of displacement

Vadum Jacob Earthquake - probably 1202 CE

  • Plan of Vadum Jacob fortress with offsets Fig. 2a&b from Ellenblum et al (1998).
Ellenblum et al (1998:304) described seismic effects as follows:
We discovered offset archaeological remains at four excavated locations within the castle (Fig. 2). Three of these locations are Crusader structures and the fourth is a late medieval/early modern Muslim structure. The offset, fully expressed in the southern and northern defense walls, reaches 2.1 m in sinistral displacement with less than 5 cm of vertical slip (Marco et al., 1997). The 50 m long walls crossing the hill are ideal baselines, having meticulously laid masonry and a fault-perpendicular (east-west) orientation. The displacement measured on the walls records the cumulative slip on the fault since 1179, the year the castle was conquered by Saladin. Displacement is distributed over about a 10 m wide zone, and the deformation is accommodated primarily by small offsets and rotations of the carved limestone blocks. All the displacements on the southern wall are purely horizontal (all the blocks retain their original level), and all the rotations are about vertical axes. A minor vertical component of slip, up to 10 cm, is observed in the northern wall. North of the southern main gate, the fault trace bends westward and a Crusader floor is torn, forming a 2 m wide graben (Fig. 2A). The geometry of the graben is compatible with a small left bend in the trace of the fault.

Ottoman Mosque Earthquake

Marco et al (1997:14) described the archaeoseismic evidence as follows:

In the northern part of the fortress, additional walls from the Arabic period show lesser left-lateral displacements of the order of 0.2-0.3 m at points which coincide with the N—S lineament. A Muslim-style room is interpreted as a mosque due to the presence of a south-facing round niche identified as a "makhreb" or a praying apse. The mosque wall is bent and offset sinistrally, and a layer of building stones, that lies imbricated directly on the floor, suggests collapse.
Ellenblum et al (2015) updated the displacement estimate to 0.5 m.
  • Photo of faulted wall of the Ottoman mosque from Marco (2009).

Slip History of Tel Ateret

Tel Ateret Slip History Figure 4

Schematic illustration of the stages of slip accrual (values are rounded) in the Ateret structures, timeline from bottom to top.

Ellenblum et. al. (2015)


Tel Ateret Slip History Figure 3b

A schematic illustration of the archaeological strata at Tell Ateret offset by the Dead Sea Fault. The older the strata the larger the offset

Ellenblum et. al. (2015)

Intensity Estimates
Early Hellenistic Earthquake - probably ~142 BCE

Effect Description Intensity
Collapsed Walls VIII+
Displaced Walls VII+
The archeoseismic evidence requires a minimum Intensity of VIII (8) when using the Earthquake Archeological Effects chart of Rodríguez-Pascua et al (2013: 221-224) .

Vadum Jacob Earthquake - probably 1202 CE

Effect Description Intensity
Displaced Walls VII+
Although the reported archeoseismic evidence requires a minimum Intensity of VII (7) when using the Earthquake Archeological Effects chart of Rodríguez-Pascua et al (2013: 221-224) , the reported ~2.1 m of coseismic slip suggests a much higher intensity - IX (9), X (10), or higher.

Ottoman Mosque Earthquake

Effect Description Intensity
Collapsed Walls VIII+
Displaced Walls VII+
The archeoseismic evidence requires a minimum Intensity of VIII (8) when using the Earthquake Archeological Effects chart of Rodríguez-Pascua et al (2013: 221-224) .

Calculator
Moment Magnitude from Strike-Slip Fault Displacement

Source - Wells and Coppersmith (1994)

Variable Input Units Notes
cm. Strike-Slip displacement
cm. Strike-Slip displacement
Variable Output - not considering a Site Effect Units Notes
unitless Moment Magnitude for Avg. Displacement
unitless Moment Magnitude for Max. Displacement
  

Notes and Further Reading
References

Ellenblum, R., et al. (2015). "Archaeological record of earthquake ruptures in Tell Ateret, the Dead Sea Fault." Tectonics 34(10): 2105-2117.

Ellenblum, R., et al. (1998). "Crusader castle torn apart by earthquake at dawn, 20 May 1202." Geology 26(4): 303-306.

Marco, S. et. al., (1997). "817-year-old walls offset sinistrally 2.1 m by the Dead Sea Transform, Israel." J. Geodyn. 24: 11.

Schweppe, G., et al. (2021). "Reconstructing the slip velocities of the 1202 and 1759 CE earthquakes based on faulted archaeological structures at Tell Ateret, Dead Sea Fault." Journal of Seismology.

Marco, S. (2009). The history of the Frankish Castle of Vadum Iacob. Dead Sea Workshop, pp. 35-41

Agnon, A. (2014). Pre-Instrumental Earthquakes Along the Dead Sea Rift. Dead Sea Transform Fault System: Reviews. Z. Garfunkel, Z. Ben-Avraham and E. Kagan. Dordrecht, Springer Netherlands: 207-261.

Maʿoz, Z. U. (2013). "A Note on Pharanx Antiochus." Israel Exploration Journal 63(1): 78-82.

Ellenblum, R. (2003), Frontier activities: The transformation of a Muslim sacred site into the Frankish Castle of Vadum lacob, Crusades, 2, 83-97.

Ellenblum, R., 1998, Frankish Rural Settlement in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem: Cambridge, England, Cambridge University Press, 321 pp.

William-of-Tyre, 1986, Willelmi Tyrensis Archiepis-copi Chronicon (ed. R.B.C. Huygens): Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Mediaevalis, 63-63a, Turnhout, book 21, chapter 25 (26), p. 997.

Abu-Shama, 1872-1906, Le livre des deux jardins. Histoire des deux regnes, celui de Nour ed-Din et celui de Salah ed-Din, in Recueil des historiens des croisades, Historiens orientaux: Acadèmie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, Paris, v. 4, p. 194-208.

Ibn al-Athir, 1872-1906, Extrait de la chronique intitulée Kamel-altevarykh, par Ibn-Alatyr, in Recueil des historiens des croisades, ed. Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres: Paris, Historiens orientaux, p. 189-744.

’Imad al-Din al-Isfahani, 1971, Bundari, Sana al-barq al-Shami, abridged by al-Bundari, Part 1: Beirut, R. Sesen.

Tell Anafa

Names

Transliterated Name Source Name
Tel Anafa Hebrew תל אנפה‎
Tel el-Hader Arabic تل الأخضر‎
Introduction

Tel Anafa was inhabited from the Early Bronze age through the Early Roman period and then again as attested by some later Arab structures. The most significant remains were found in the Hellenistic period (Herbert in Stern et al, 1993). The name of the town in Hellenistic times is unknown.

Chronology

Herbert in Stern et al (1993) summarized Tel Anafa's Hellenistic and Early Roman history as follows :
The evidence of the coins and stamped amphora handles together with the architectural remains of the Hellenistic levels indicates that there was a minor Ptolemaic settlement on the site in the third century BCE. This was succeeded in the second half of the second century BCE by a prosperous Seleucid settlement that took an active part in the trade of the Late Seleucid empire and flourished through the first quarter of the first century BCE. The chaotic conditions surrounding the disintegration of the Seleucid empire probably led to the site's abandonment some time shortly after 75 BCE. The mound was reoccupied in the early years of the first century CE as part of the reorganization of the Galilee under Herod Philip, whose capital was at nearby Caesarea Philippi (Banias). It was again abandoned toward the end of that century and was not reoccupied in antiquity.
Ellenblum et. al. (2015:4) suggested that an earthquake could be interpreted from the results of excavations in the Hellenistic period at Tel Anafa.
In another two-phase Hellenistic settlement some 20 km north of Ateret - Tell Anafa, an abrupt termination of a well-developed settlement with elaborate construction [Sharon Herbert in Stern et al (1993:58-61, v. 1)], may be re-interpreted as a result of an earthquake destruction.
Although Herbert in Stern et al (1993) did not report any evidence for seismic destruction in Hellenistic times, they did date construction of a Late Hellenistic stuccoed building around ~125 BCE noting that a coin of Alexander Zebina (128-125 BCE) found in the construction fill of the bath's southern room is the latest find under any of the building's original floors. Herbert in Stern et al (1993) also reports that a massive leveling and terracing operation took place with the construction of the Late Hellenistic stuccoed building, obliterating earlier architectural remains. This could explain an absence of archaeoseismic evidence. Coins and [] stamped amphora handles strongly suggested that the site was abandoned in second quarter of the first century BCE; similar to Tel Ateret which was abandoned sometime after 65/64 BCE.

Notes and Further Reading
References

Tsunamogenic Evidence

Paleoseismic Evidence

Location Status Intensity Notes
Tekieh Trenches possible Event B - ~2 m left lateral displacement
Bet Zayda possible but unlikely Event CH4-E6 (392 BCE - 91 CE)
Dead Sea - Seismite Types n/a n/a
En Feshka possible 8-8.5 2 sub cm. thick microbreccias are possible candidates
En Gedi no evidence masked by 31 BCE Josephus Quake seismite
Nahal Ze 'elim possible but unlikely 8 cm. thick Type 4 seismite at ZA-2 which appears to be due to southern Dead Fish and Soldiers Quake - modeled age (1σ) 103 BCE +/- 37
Taybeh Trench no evidence
Qatar Trench no evidence


Tekieh Trenches

Gomez et. al. (2003:15) may have seen evidence for an earthquake in the 1st or 2nd century BCE in paleoseismic trenches in Syria (Event B). Event B is estimated to have created ~ 2 meters of displacement Gomez et. al. (2003:16-17).

Tekieh Trench Seismic Events Figure 13

Summary of events observed in the trenches and the interpreted palaeoseismic history of the Serghaya fault. Colluvial wedge deposits post-date palaeoseismic events. Stratigraphic ties provide additional constraint on the relative timing of events. Ages represent calendar corrected radiocarbon ages for given features (2σ uncertainties provided).

Gomez et al (2003)


Bet Zayda

Wechsler at al. (2014) records event CH4-E6 (modeled age 392 BCE – 91 CE) in paleoseismic trenches at Bet Zayda just north of the Sea of Galilee (aka Lake Kinneret).

Bet Zeyda Earthquakes
Figure 9

Probability density functions for all paleoseismic events, based on the OxCal modeling. Historically known earthquakes are marked by gray lines. The age extent of each channel is marked by rectangles. There is an age uncertainty as to the age of the oldest units in channel 4 (units 490-499) marked by a dashed rectangle. Channel 1 refers to the channel complex studied by Marco et al. (2005).

Wechsler at al. (2014)


2D and 3D Paleoseismic Study at Bet Zayda

Results are based on a 2D and 3D paleoseismic study conducted over multiple years utilizing multiple trenches. Trenches were dug to examine paleo-channels which intersect the active Jordan Gorge Fault. A few paleo-channels were active long enough to record paleo-earthquakes. Initial work done by Marco et al (2005)) identified fault ruptures with two historical earthquakes which were dated as follows:

Date Displacement (m)
1202 CE ~2.2
1759 CE 0.5
Another channel dating between 3 and 5 ka was displaced up to 15 meters.

Subsequent work at the same location by Wechsler at al. (2014) revealed 8 more surface-rupturing earthquakes in two paleo-channels which were labeled as Channels 3 and 4. Radiocarbon sampling appears to have been sufficiently dense except for Event CH4-E6..

Bet Zayda Plots and Charts

Description Image Source
Age Model Wechsler at al. (2014)
Age Model
Big
Wechsler at al. (2014)
Age Model
really big
Wechsler at al. (2014)
Map of
Trenches
Fault
Channels
Wechsler at al. (2014)

Dead Sea

Seismite Types

Seismite Types of Wetzler et al (2010) are used in Intensity Estimates. Seismite Types from Kagan et al (2011) were converted to those of Wetzler et al (2010) to estimate Intensity.

Seismite Types (Wetzler et al, 2010)
Type Description
1 Linear waves
2 Asymmetric Billows
3 Coherent vortices
4 Breccia
Seismite Types (Kagan et al, 2011)
Type
(Kagan)
Type
(Wetzler)
Description
A 4 Intraclast breccia layer
B 4 Microbreccia
C 4 Liquefied sand layer within brecciated clay and aragonite
D 1, 2, or 3 Folded laminae
E 1 Small Fault millimeter -scale throw

En Feshka
Kagan et al (2011) in Table 3 assigned a sub centimeter thick microbreccia at a depth of 377 cm. to a 64 BCE quake. They also identified another sub centimeter thick microbreccia at 377.8 cm. which dates from around this time.

En Feshka Plots and Charts

Image Description Source
Age Model Kagan et al (2011)
Age Model - big Kagan et al (2011)
Age Model Kagan et al (2010)
Age Model - big Kagan et al (2010)

En Feshka Core (DSF) Photos

This core was taken in 1997 by GFZ/GSI

Image Description Image Description Image Description Image Description Image Description
Composite Core DSF
Sections B1-B5

0-499 cm.
Section B1

0-93 cm.
Section B2

100-197 cm.
Section B3

200-298 cm.
Section B4

300-396 cm.
Section B5

400-499 cm.

En Gedi
Migowski et. al. (2004) observed that any possible 64 BCE seismite in En Gedi was masked or overprinted by the thick 31 BCE Josephus Quake seismite (Table 2).

En Gedi Core (DSEn) Charts and Plots

Image Description Source
Floating Varve Chronology
and Radiocarbon dates
Migowski et al (2004)
Floating Varve Chronology
and Radiocarbon dates -large
Migowski et al (2004)
Migowski's Date shift Migowski (2001)
Recounted Age-depth plot Neugebauer at al (2015)
Recounted Age-depth plot - large Neugebauer at al (2015)
Correlated Age-depth plots
of DSEn and ICDP 5017-1
Neugebauer at al (2015)
Comparison of paleoclimate proxies
from DSEn to other sites
Neugebauer at al (2015)
Core correlation
DSEn to ICDP 5017-1
Neugebauer at al (2015)
Core correlation
DSEn to ICDP 5017-1 -big
Neugebauer at al (2015)
Thin Section of Jerusalem Quake
showing varve counts
shallow section
Williams et. al. (2012)
Thin Section of Jerusalem Quake
showing varve counts
deep section
Williams et. al. (2012)
Thin Section of Jerusalem Quake
showing varve counts
shallow section - big
Williams et. al. (2012)
Thin Section of Jerusalem Quake
showing varve counts
deep section - big
Williams et. al. (2012)

En Gedi Core dating ambiguities

The En Gedi Core (DsEn) suffered from a limited amount of dateable material and the radiocarbon dates for the core are insufficiently sampled in depth to produce an age-depth model that is sufficiently reliable for detailed historical earthquake work in the Dead Sea. Migowski (2001) counted laminae in the core to create a floating varve chronology for depths between 0.78 and 3.02 m which was eventually translated into a year by year chronology from 140 BCE to 1458 CE . The seismites in the "counted interval" were compared to dates in Earthquake Catalogs [Ambraseys et al (1994), Amiran et al (1994), Guidoboni et al (1994), Ben-Menahem (1991), and Russell (1985)]. Relatively minor additional input was also derived from other studies in the region which likely relied on similar catalogs. Some of these catalogs contain errors and a critical examination of where the dates and locations of historical earthquakes reported in these catalogs came from was not undertaken. Migowski (2001) shifted the dates from the under-sampled radiocarbon derived age-depth model to make the floating varve chronology in the "counted interval" match dates from the earthquake catalogs. Without the shift, the dates did not match. This shift was shown in Migowski (2001)'s dissertation and mostly varies from ~200-~300 years. The "counted interval" dates are ~200-~300 years younger than the radiocarbon dates. Some of Migowski's shift was justified. Ken-Tor et al (2001) estimated ~40 years for plant remains to die (and start the radiocarbon clock) and reach final deposition in Nahal Ze'elim. This could be a bit longer in the deep water En Gedi site but 5 to 7.5 times longer (200-300 years) seems excessive. Although uncritical use of Earthquake catalogs by Migowski (2001) and Migowski et al (2004) led to a number of incorrectly dated seismites , the major "anchor" earthquakes (e.g. 31 BC, 1212 CE) seem to be correct.

Neugebauer (2015) and Neugebauer at al (2015) recounted laminae from 2.1 - 4.35 meters in the En Gedi Core (DsEn) while also making a stratigraphic correlation to ICDP Core 5017-1. Nine 14C dates were used from 1.58 - 6.12 m but samples KIA9123 (inside the Late Bronze Beach Ridge) and KIA1160 (the 1st sample below the Late Bronze Beach Ridge) were discarded as outliers. These two samples gave dates approximately 400 years older than what was expected for the Late Bronze Age Beach Ridge - a date which is fairly well constrained from other studies in the Dead Sea. This left 7 samples distributed over ~4.5 m - an average of 1 sample every 0.65 meters - not a lot. Their DSEn varve count, anchored to an age-depth model derived from these 7 samples, produced an average shift of ~300 years compared to Migowski et al (2004)'s chronology (i.e. it is ~300 years older). Although two well dated earthquakes were available to use as time markers (the Josephus Quake of 31 BCE and the Amos Quake(s) of ~750 BCE), they chose not to use earthquakes as chronological anchors (Ina Neugebauer personal communication, 2015). Instead, they used the Late Bronze Age Beach Ridge as evidenced by discarding the two radiocarbon samples. Using the Beach Ridge as a chronological anchor was likely a good decision as the Late Bronze Age Beach ridge is fairly well dated. Their newly counted chronology produced a paleoclimate reconstruction that aligned fairly well with data from other locations . Although paleoclimate proxies are not necessarily synchronous and suffer from greater chronological uncertainty than, for example, well dated earthquakes, the problem with their recount for our purposes does not lie with their relatively good fit to other site's paleoclimate proxies. That is probably approximately correct. The problem is they calibrated their count to the bottom of their counted interval (Late Bronze Age Beach Ridge) but did not have a calibration marker for the top.

In the En Gedi core (DSEn), the Late Bronze Age Beach Ridge (Unit II of Neugebauer et al, 2015) is found from depths 4.35 to 4.55 m. It's top coincides with the bottom of the recounted interval - far away from the overlap (2.1 - 3.02 m) with Migowski's counted interval. Thus, if there were any problems with the recounted dates (e.g. hiatuses or accumulating systemic errors) as one moved to the top of the recounted interval, they would go unnoticed. Varve counts in the overlapped interval were fairly similar - 583 according to Migowski (2001) vs. 518 according to Neugebauer et al (2015). There wasn't a major discrepancy in terms of varve count interpretation. But, the lack of a calibration point near the top of the recounted interval leaves one wondering if the recounted dates in the overlap are accurate and why Migowski's pre-shifted chronology doesn't correlate well with the reliable parts of the earthquake record.

Neugebauer at al (2015:5) counted 1351 varves with an uncertainty of 7.5% (Neugebauer at al, 2015:8). That leads to an uncertainty of ~100 varves by the time one gets to the top of the recounted interval away from the Late Bronze Age Beach Ridge calibration point. The Beach Ridge itself likely has an uncertainty of +/- 75 years. Add the two together and the uncertainty approaches Migowski's shift. In addition, roughly 15% of the recounted interval went through intraclast breccias (seismites) where the varves were uncountable and the varve count was interpolated with a questionable multiplication factor of 1.61 applied to the interpolated varve count (Neugebauer at al, 2015:5). Migowski et al (2004) also interpolated through the intraclast breccias however in her case she used the interpolation to line up with events out of the Earthquake catalogs.

Unfortunately, Neugebauer at al (2015)'s study did not resolve the uncertainties associated with Migowski's varve counts. Both studies lack a sufficiently robust calibration over the entire depth interval. Dead Sea laminae are difficult to count. They are not nearly as "well-behaved" as they are in the older Lisan formation or in Glacial varves. This was illustrated by Lopez-Merino et al (2016). Their study, which used seasonal palynology to ground truth varve counts, showed that between 1 and 5 laminae couplets (ie varves) could be deposited in a year . This study, undertaken in Nahal Ze'elim, represents a worst case scenario. It is essentially impossible to count varves in Nahal Ze 'elim because the site receives too much fluvial deposition which muddies up the varve count (pun intended) compared to the deeper water site of En Gedi. While the conclusions from Lopez-Merino et al (2016) cannot be generalized to the entire Dead Sea, it does point out that Holocene Dead Sea varve counts need to be calibrated to be used in Historical Earthquake studies. The calibration can come through anchor events such as strong earthquakes and/or clearly defined and dated paleoclimate events, seasonal palynology work (determining the season each laminae was deposited in), and/or dense radiocarbon dating - much denser than what is available from the En Gedi core (DESn). There may also be geochemical ways to calibrate varve counts.

In 2018, Jefferson Williams collected ~55 samples of dateable material from an erosional gully in En Gedi (aka the En Gedi Trench) located ~40 m from where the En Gedi Core (DsEn) was taken in 1997 . This erosional gully was not present when the En Gedi core was taken. It developed afterwards due to the steady drop in the level of the Dead Sea which has lowered base levels and creates continually deeper erosional features on the lake margins. Due to cost, these samples have not yet been dated but lab analysis of this material should resolve dating ambiguities in En Gedi. The samples are well distributed in depth (68 - 303 cm. deep) and can be viewed here in the Outcrop Library. Radiocarbon from the En Gedi Core can be viewed here. In the Google sheets presented on the radiocarbon page for the En Gedi Core, Neugebauer's radiocarbon samples and a reconciliation table can be viewed by clicking on the tab labeled Nueg15.

En Gedi Core (DSEn) Photos

Core Depths were measured from surface. The core was taken about a meter above the Dead Sea level which was ~ -411 m in 1997. In 2011, Jefferson Williams measured the elevation of the surface where the En Gedi Core (DSEn) was taken using his GPS. The recorded elevation was -411 m however GPS is less accurate measuring elevation than it is for Lat. and Long. so this depth measurement should be considered approximate.

Image Description Image Description Image Description Image Description
Composite Core
Sections C1, A2, A3, A4

19-397 cm.
Litholog and
Composite Core

47-325 cm.
Litholog
Entire Core

-30 cm.-1022 cm.
Litholog
Legend
Section C1

19-114 cm.
Section A2

114-196 cm.
Section A3

200-296 cm.
Section A4

300-397 cm.
1458 CE Quake

65-80 cm.
1202, 1212, and 1293 CE Quakes

90-115 cm.
1033 CE Quake

131-143 cm.
Thin Section
A3_3_1a

259.7-269.9 cm.
Thin Section
A3_3_2

271.5-273.7 cm.
Thin Section
A3_3_3

273.5-283.5 cm.
Thin Section
A3_4_1

283.3-293.4 cm.
SEM Image
250x Magnification
Sample EG13

Nahal Ze 'elim
ZA1
Williams (2004) and Agnon et. al (2006) both revised an original date assignment of Event A at Nahal Ze’elim (ZA1) by Ken-Tor et al. (2001a) from ~64 BCE to approximately mid second century BCE since the mid second century date better matched the radiocarbon profile and estimates of sedimentation rate.
ZA-1

Image Description Source
Lithosection with dates Ken-Tor et al. (2001a)
Lithosection with dates - big Ken-Tor et al. (2001a)
Lithosection with dates - really big Ken-Tor et al. (2001a)
Correlated Trench Logs for ZA-1.
Lithosections above are composite lithologs
derived from multiple sites as far as, I think,
300 meters apart. ZA-1 refers to the location
where a large part of the composite
lithosection was derived. More landward gullies
were used to capture the most recent
earthquakes (Events G (1834) and H (1927))
Bookman referred to site ZA-1 as site 2.
Revital Bookman (nee Ken-Tor)
Map of Gullies where Revital Bookman
(nee Ken-Tor) did her work
Revital Bookman (nee Ken-Tor)
Events B (Josephus Quake - 31 BCE)
and C (Jerusalem Quake - 26-36 CE)
at site ZA-1
Jefferson Williams
Thin Section Slide from ZA-1
showing Event C (Jerusalem Quake)
Jefferson Williams

ZA2
Kagan et al (2011) did not assign a 64 BCE earthquake to any of the seismites observed in ZA2 although it was listed as a secondary candidate for mid second century BCE seismite at a depth of 516 cm.

ZA-2

Image Description Source
Age Model Kagan et al (2011)
Age Model - big Kagan et al (2011)
Age Model with annotated dates Kagan (2011)
Age Model with annotated dates - big Kagan (2011)
Annotated Photo of ZA-3
ZA-3 = N wall of gully
ZA-2 = S wall of same gully
Kagan et al (2015)

Arava

On-site fault rupture suggests a minimum moment magnitude MW of 6.5 (Mcalpin, 2009:312).
Taybeh Trench
In paleoseismic trenches near Taybeh, Jordan, LeFevre et al. (2018) did not date any seismic events to an earthquake from around this time.

Taybeh Trench Earthquakes
Figure S5

Computed age model from OxCal v4.26 for the seismic events recorded in the trench.

LeFevre et al. (2018)


Taybeh Trench

Image Description Source
Age Model Lefevre et al (2018)
Age Model - big Lefevre et al (2018)
Trench Log Lefevre et al (2018)
Annotated Trench photomosaic Lefevre et al (2018)
Stratigraphic Column Lefevre et al (2018)
Stratigraphic Column - big Lefevre et al (2018)

Qatar Trench
Klinger et. al. (2015) did not observe any seismic events in this time window in a trench near Qatar, Jordan.

Qatar Trench

Image Description Source
Age Model Klinger et al (2015)
Age Model - big Klinger et al (2015)
Trench Log Klinger et al (2015)
Simplified Trench Log Klinger et al (2015)

Notes

Paleoclimate - Droughts

Mention is made of a drought preceding this siege of Jerusalem which may have some expression in the sediments and may assist in resolving chronology. In Antiquities of the Jews , Josephus writes in Book XIV, Chapter II, Paragraph 1
Now there was one, whose name was Onias, a righteous man be was, and beloved of God, who, in a certain drought, had prayed to God to put an end to the intense heat, and whose prayers God had heard, and had sent them rain.

Footnotes

[1] e.g. Ben-Menahem, 1979 and 1991, Amiran et. al., 1994.

[2] A parsang is a Persian mile. There are differing accounts of the exact distance of a parsang. Karcz (2004) states that this is 4000 yards which is in approximate agreement with other estimates. Using the reckoning of Karcz (2004), 400 parsangs equals to 1463 km.

[3] 400 parasangs shows up in a Talmudic description of an earthquake in Megilla 3a (2nd paragraph) which is discussed in the Textual Evidence section for the Incense Road Earthquake of 110 – 114 AD.

References