A Neolithic mega-tsunami event in the eastern Mediterranean: Prehistoric settlement vulnerability along the Carmel coast, Israel

Gilad Shtienberg, Assaf Yasur-Landau, Richard D. Norris, Michael Lazar, Tammy M. Rittenour, Anthony Tamberino, Omri Gadol, Katrina Cantu, Ehud Arkin-Shalev, Steven N. Ward, Thomas E. Levy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Tsunami events in antiquity had a profound influence on coastal societies. Six thousand years of historical records and geological data show that tsunamis are a common phenomenon affecting the eastern Mediterranean coastline. However, the possible impact of older tsunamis on prehistoric societies has not been investigated. Here we report, based on optically stimulated luminescence chronology, the earliest documented Holocene tsunami event, between 9.91 to 9.29 ka (kilo-annum), from the eastern Mediterranean at Dor, Israel. Tsunami debris from the early Neolithic is composed of marine sand embedded within fresh-brackish wetland deposits. Global and local sea-level curves for the period, 9.91-9.29 ka, as well as surface elevation reconstructions, show that the tsunami had a run-up of at least ∼16 m and traveled between 3.5 to 1.5 km inland from the palaeo-coastline. Submerged slump scars on the continental slope, 16 km west of Dor, point to the nearby "Dorcomplex"as a likely cause. The near absence of Pre-Pottery Neolithic A-B archaeological sites (11.70-9.80 cal. ka) suggest these sites were removed by the tsunami, whereas younger, late Pre-Pottery Neolithic B-C (9.25-8.35 cal. ka) and later Pottery-Neolithic sites (8.25-7.80 cal. ka) indicate resettlement following the event. The large run-up of this event highlights the disruptive impact of tsunamis on past societies along the Levantine coast.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0243619
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The Authors gratefully acknowledge the generous support provided by Scripps Center for Marine Archaeology, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego; The Koret Foundation (Grant ID 19-0295); Murray Galinson San Diego - Israel Initiative; the Israel Institute (Washington, D.C.); Marian Scheuer-Sofaer and Abraham Sofaer Foundation; Norma and Reuben Kershaw Family Foundation; Ellen Lehman and Charles Kennel - Alan G Lehman and Jane A Lehman Foundation; Paul and Margaret Meyer and the Israel Science Foundation (Grant ID 495/18).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Shtienberg et al.


  • Archaeology
  • Geologic Sediments/analysis
  • History, Ancient
  • Humans
  • Israel
  • Luminescent Measurements
  • Tsunamis/history

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'A Neolithic mega-tsunami event in the eastern Mediterranean: Prehistoric settlement vulnerability along the Carmel coast, Israel'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this