Anthropogenic overprints on natural coastal aeolian sediments: A study from the periphery of ancient Caesarea, Israel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Near surface sediment stratigraphy associated with ancient human settlements can potentially reveal the complex history of human impact. This study explores such impacts in the area around ancient Caesarea, a well-known Roman to Early Islam period metropolis in the central coastal plain of Israel, with analysis of human-induced macro-features and microscopic remains found in buried sediments. We retrieved these anthropogenic markers through boreholes and analysed them with sedimentological and radiometric dating techniques, integrated with archaeological and historical records. The analysis identified a refuse deposit comprising two grey loamy sand artefact-bearing facies bedded between late Holocene aeolian sand. One anthropogenic facies represents an urban garbage mound and the other may be an agricultural pedo-sediment, both dated to the Roman to Early Islamic periods. The grey pedo-sediment, contained in three boreholes in the lowlands south of Caesarea, covers an area of at least 1.4 km2. Apparently improved in terms of soil fertility, we postulate that the pedo-sediment is the outcome of composting enrichment of the soil for agriculture. Taking advantage of the high coastal freshwater aquifer in the study area, we propose that the pedo-sediment represents buried agricultural plots. The comprehensive, multi-disciplinary approach demonstrated in this study of cored sediments outside ancient human settlements is among the few in the coastal area of the southern Levant. It could be relevant to other archaeological sites in the Mediterranean and elsewhere around the world.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-34
Number of pages13
StatePublished - Sep 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors gratefully acknowledge support from the University of Haifa , the Helmsley Charitable Trust Mediterranean Sea Research Center , and also Maurice and Lady Hatter Fund of the Leon Recanati Institute for Maritime Studies (RIMS) at the University of Haifa. Dina Dagan Begun of Ben Gurion University of the Negev and Silas Dean, Benny Bechor and Dr. Guy Sisma-Ventura of the University of Haifa are thanked for their vital help in the field. We also thank Dr. Or M. Bialik and Dr. Nimer Taha from the University of Haifa for their help in the sedimentological and geochemical analyses. Jonathan J. Gottlieb from the University of Haifa is thanked for preparation of thin sections. Improvements of earlier versions of the manuscript by two anonymous reviewers and by Associate Editor Dr Veerle Vanacker are truly appreciated.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier Ltd


  • Aeolian coastal sand
  • Anthropogenic traces
  • Caesarea hinterlands
  • Eastern Mediterranean
  • Islamic period
  • Pedo-sediment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'Anthropogenic overprints on natural coastal aeolian sediments: A study from the periphery of ancient Caesarea, Israel'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this