Formation processes at the Ohalo II submerged prehistoric campsite, Israel, inferred from soil micromorphology and magnetic susceptibility studies

Alexander Tsatskin, Dani Nadel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Soil-geomorphic analysis coupled with micromorphology, SEM/EDS, magnetic susceptibility, and conventional sedimentological studies allowed us to reconstruct the site formation history and validate the archaeologically observed variability of human activities in the prehistoric camp of Ohalo II (19.5 ka B.P.), Sea of Galilee, Israel. The cultural layers rest upon the Late Pleistocene Lake Lisan deposits that accumulated under conditions of changing water supply and increasing rate of sedimentation from deep-water varvelike deposits to basalt-derived, near-shore sandy lacustrine deposits. Intermittent occupation is recorded in some localities, indicating short-term inundation episodes, which led to partial truncation and deformation of the sediments, primarily in the eastern lakeward part, of the site. On the elevated, landward positions, incipient soils with strongly bioturbated profiles formed. Micromorphology demonstrates that intentional flooring was applied within the remains of brush huts, where millimeter-sized, horizontally organized burnt and unheated vegetal tissues were likely to have been placed upon the compacted ground. In fireplaces, the cultural deposits in thin sections are composed of strongly mixed, abundant wood charcoal, ashes, and fishbone remains. Post-depositional alterations were controlled by intermittent inundation of the site and salinization, which induced gypsum and pyrite deposition, primarily along decayed roots, and eventual pyrite oxidation. Accumulation of sodium and chlorine in the post-occupation deposits is likely to have occurred because of discharge of saline groundwater. Although only suggestive at this stage of research, the conclusions drawn from magnetic susceptibility parameters of archaeologically related deposits at Ohalo II fit well with the micromorphological reconstructions and provide new information on the Late Pleistocene evolution of the Lake Lisan/Sea of Galilee fluctuating system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)409-432
Number of pages24
JournalGeoarchaeology - An International Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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