Between plate and salt tectonics—New stratigraphic constraints on the architecture and timing of the Dead Sea basin during the Late Quaternary

Lisa Coianiz, Uri Schattner, Guy Lang, Zvi Ben-Avraham, Michael Lazar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Dead Sea is an extensional basin developing along a transform fault plate boundary. It is also a terminal salt basin. Without knowledge of precise stratigraphy, it is difficult to differentiate between the role of plate and salt tectonics on sedimentary accumulation and deformation patterns. While the environmental conditions responsible for sediment supply are reasonably constrained by previous studies on the lake margins, the current study focuses on deciphering the detailed stratigraphy across the entire northern Dead Sea basin as well as syn and post-depositional processes. The sedimentary architecture of the late Quaternary lacustrine succession was examined by integrating 851 km of seismic reflection data from three surveys with gamma ray and velocity logs and the stratigraphic division from an ICDP borehole cored in 2010. This allowed seismic interpretation to be anchored in time across the entire basin. Key surfaces were mapped based on borehole lithology and a newly constructed synthetic seismogram. Average interval velocities were used to calculate isopach maps and spatial and temporal sedimentation rates. Results show that the Amora Formation was deposited in a pre-existing graben bounded by two N-S trending longitudinal faults. Both faults remained active during deposition of the late Pleistocene Samra and Lisan Formations—the eastern fault continued to bound the basin while the western fault remained blind. On-going plate motion introduced a third longitudinal fault, increasing accommodation space westwards from the onset of deposition of the Samra Formation. During accumulation of these two formations, sedimentation rates were uniform over the lake and similar. High lake levels caused an increase in hydrostatic pressure. This led to salt withdrawal, which flowed to the south and southwest causing increased uplift of the Lisan and En Gedi diapirs and the formation of localized salt rim synclines. This induced local seismicity and slumping, resulting in an increased thickness of the Lisan succession within the lake relative to its margins. Sedimentation rates of the Holocene Ze'elim Fm were 4–5 times higher than before. The analysis presented here resolves central questions of spatial extent and timing of lithology, deposition rates and their variability across the basin, timing of faulting at and below the lake floor, and timing and extent of salt and plate tectonic phases and their effect on syn and post-depositional processes. Plate tectonics dictated the structure of the basin, while salt tectonics and sediment accumulation were primarily responsible for its fill architecture during the timeframe examined here.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)636-651
Number of pages16
JournalBasin Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 The Authors. Basin Research © 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd, European Association of Geoscientists & Engineers and International Association of Sedimentologists


  • Dead Sea basin
  • ICDP
  • diapirism
  • lake sediments
  • late Quaternary
  • salt tectonics
  • subsidence rate
  • well logs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology


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