Can we detect centennial sea-level variations over the last three thousand years in Israeli archaeological records?

S. Dean, Benjamin P. Horton, Niki Evelpidou, Niamh Cahill, Giorgio Spada, Dorit Sivan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Archaeological remains are valuable relative sea-level (RSL) indicators in Israel, a tectonically stable coast with minor isostatic inputs. Previous research has used archaeological indicators to argue for centennial sea-level fluctuations. Here, we place archaeological indicators in a quality-controlled dataset where all indicators have consistently calculated vertical and chronological uncertainties, and we subject the data to statistical analysis. We combine the archaeological data with bio-construction data from Dendropoma petraeum colonial vermetids. The final dataset consists of 99 relative sea-level index points and 12 limiting points from the last 4000 a. The temporal distribution of the index points is uneven; Israel has only four index points before 2000 a BP. We apply an Errors-In-Variables Integrated Gaussian Process (EIV IGP) to the index points to model the evolution of RSL. Results show RSL in Israel rose from −0.8 ± 0.5 m at ∼2750 a BP (Iron Age) to 0.0 ± 0.1 m by ∼1850 a BP (Roman period) at 0.8 mm/a, and continued rising to 0.1 ± 0.1 m until ∼1600 a BP (Byzantine Period). RSL then fell to −0.3 ± 0.1 m by 0.5 mm/a until ∼650 a BP (Late Arab period), before returning to present levels at a rate of 0.4 mm/a. The re-assessed Israeli record supports centennial-scale RSL fluctuations during the last 3000 a BP, although the magnitude of the RSL fall during the last 2000 a BP is 50% less. The new Israel RSL record demonstrates correspondence with regional climate proxies. This quality-controlled Israeli RSL dataset can serve as a reference for comparisons with other sea-level records from the Eastern Mediterranean.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-135
Number of pages11
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
StatePublished - 15 Apr 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The Master's study of S. Dean and this subsequent research was supported by the Israel Science Foundation grant 923/11 awarded to Professor Dorit Sivan, titled: “Generating a continuous, high resolution decadal to millennial scale sea-level curve for the better understanding of the driving mechanisms of environmental changes” and by a Sir Maurice & Lady Irene Hatter Research Grant for Maritime Studies. Other sources of funding include the Haifa Rotary Club and the Graduate Authority of the University of Haifa Scholarship for Excellence in Studies. Giorgio Spada is funded by a FFABR (Finanziamento delle Attività Base di Ricerca) grant of MIUR and by a DiSPeA research grant. Dorit Sivan would like to thank the University of Wollongong (UOW), NSW, Australia for hosting the sabbatical leave that has enabled her to finalize this paper. BPH is supported by Singapore Ministry of Education Academic Research Fund Tier 2 MOE2018-T2-1-030 and National Research Foundation Singapore and the Singapore Ministry of Education under the Research Centres of Excellence initiative. This work is Earth Observatory of Singapore contribution no. 199 and is a contribution to IGCP Project 639, “Sea-level Change from Minutes to Millennia” and PALSEA2 (Palaeo-Constraints on Sea-Level Rise).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier Ltd


  • Eastern Mediterranean
  • Israel
  • Late Holocene
  • Maritime archaeology
  • Middle East
  • Sea level changes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology
  • Geology


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