Palaeoenvironment and anthropogenic activity in the southeastern Mediterranean since the mid-Holocene: The case of Tell es-Safi/Gath, Israel

Oren Ackermann, Noam Greenbaum, Hendrik Bruins, Naomi Porat, Mira Bar-Matthews, Ahuva Almogi-Labin, Bettina Schilman, Avner Ayalon, Liora Kolska Horwitz, Ehud Weiss, Aren M. Maeir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The "younger fill" phenomenon defined by Vita-Finzi, related to sediments that were deposited in many Mediterranean valleys, has been a topic of discussion for several decades. The main challenge regarding this issue is deciphering the origin of the fill: geomorphic processes induced by natural climatic, or by anthropogenic activity. The current research is an attempt to deal with this issue by using a concept in which the environmental records, i.e. climate, hydrology and sedimentology, were examined in conjunction with human history, in the area of the Bronze and Iron Age archaeological site of Tell es-Safi/Gath, in central Israel. The study investigated geomorphic structures of various scales: a single slope, 1st and 2nd order valleys, and larger drainage basins of a few tens to hundreds km2. High-resolution dating of the sediments by OSL and 14C allowed the identification of different sedimentary phases.The sedimentary history of the Tell es-Safi/Gath environs shows that: (a) During the Chalcolithic period and Early Bronze Age (~4200-3050 BCE), stable conditions prevailed in the small valleys, represented by soil formation; (b) During the Iron Age II and up to the Early Arab period (~800 BCE-800CE), aggradation took place in the small and the large valleys; (c) During the post-Byzantine/Early Arab periods (after 800 CE), major incision occurred in the large valleys, whereas minor aggradation occurred in the small valleys. Climatic and natural geomorphic processes are the major factors shaping the landscape in the current research area.Anthropogenic activity was expressed at localized sites and for a limited time, in two locations only. One location is the siege trench that surrounds Tell es-Safi/Gath, where sedimentation occurred shortly after the destruction of the site by Hazael, king of Aram Damascus (ca. late 9th century BCE), and in the same locality during the Byzantine period. The other location is the 2nd order valley close to the archaeological site, where enhanced sedimentation rates occurred shortly after site destruction. In addition, these results suggest that the small basin valleys underwent aggradation that continuously recorded the local environmental history, whereas the large drainage basins underwent cut and fill processes related to the regional environmental history in a less continuous record.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)226-243
Number of pages18
JournalQuaternary International
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by following: The Israeli Environment Protection Ministry (Grant 5-012 to A. M.M, ,O.A., H.B., M.B.R., A.A.L., A.A. and B.S.) and the F.I.R.S.T. (Bikura) track of the Israel Science Foundation (ISF) (Grant ( #32/11 to AMM, UW and LKH); The Dr. Simon Krauthammer Chair in Archaeology ; The Kuschitzky Family Foundation (both of Bar-Ilan University); The Ashkelon Academic College. The authors wish to acknowledge the following for drawing the figures: Noga Yoselevich of the Department of Geography of the University of Haifa, Roni Blustein-Livnon from the Cartography Laboratory at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and Jay Rosenberg. The authors also thank Tzlil Labin from the Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology at Bar-Ilan University for assistance in the field, Prof. Hanoch Lavee, Prof. Sarah Pariente, Dr. Lena Zhevelev, and Dr. Natan Fragin from the Laboratory of Geomorphology and Soil of the Department of Geography at Bar Ilan University, for their advice and assistance in the field and in the laboratory. Thanks also to Pierluigi Pieruccini and the two anonymous referees for their constructive suggestions and additions that improved an earlier version of this manuscript.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes


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