Ancient coastal wells of Caesarea Maritima, Israel, an indicator for relative sea level changes during the last 2000 years

D. Sivan, K. Lambeck, R. Toueg, A. Raban, Y. Porath, B. Shirman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


During the detailed excavations of ancient Caesarea, Israel, East Mediterranean, 64 coastal water wells have been examined that date from the early Roman period (with the oldest occurring in the 1st century AD), up to the end of the Crusader period (mid-13th century AD). The depths of these coastal water wells establish the position of the ancient water table and therefore the position of sea level for the first century AD up to 1300 AD. The connection between the coastal water table and changes in sea level has been established from modern observations in several wells on time scales of days and months and this is used to reconstruct sea level during historical time. The results indicate that during the Byzantine period, sea level at Caesarea was higher by about 30 cm than today. The Late Moslem and Crusader data shows greater fluctuations but the data sets are also much smaller than for the earlier periods. The consistency of the data indicates that the near-coastal well data from Caesarea provides a reliable indicator of sea-level change, with an accuracy of about 10-15 cm. These results are consistent with observations for earlier periods and, with comparisons to model-predicted glacio-hydro isostatic sea-level change, indicate that ocean volumes have been constant for much of the past 2000 years. The well data is also consistent with an absence of significant vertical tectonic movement of the coast at Caesarea over about 2000 years.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-330
Number of pages16
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - 15 May 2004


  • Archaeological indicators
  • Caesarea
  • Isostasy
  • Israel
  • Mediterranean
  • Roman to Crusader period
  • Sea-level change

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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