Reappraised list of historical earthquakes that affected Israel and its close surroundings

Motti Zohar, Amos Salamon, Rehav Rubin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Numerous historical reports of damaging earthquakes in the Levant have accumulated over the last 3000 years. Here, we screen that information and focus on the damaging earthquakes that affected Israel from the second millennia BCE to the 1927 CE Jericho earthquake and list the earthquakes by date, of major damage, type of sequence, and degree of size. The compilation results in three different lists: (i) 71 reliable earthquakes that in our opinion were most probably associated with the Dead Sea Transform (DST) and affected Israel and its close surroundings; (ii) 41 questionable earthquakes that should be re-evaluated or ignored; and (iii) 46 earthquakes that probably occurred but were erroneously associated with damage in Israel. What emerges from the list of the reliable earthquakes is that (i) Israel and its close surroundings suffered damage about 32 times during the last two millennia, that is, once in about 60 years, although not regularly; (ii) 21 of the earthquakes occurred during the last millennia, i.e., an event every ∼45 years; and (iii) three intervals of increased reporting are noticed: between the fourth and the mid-eighth century, from the beginning of the eleventh to the end of the thirteenth century, and from the end of the eighteenth century up to the last entry in 1927, though this period may be extended until today. In-depth evaluation of the changing regimes over time within the study area, the historical reports of earthquake damage outside of Israel, and comparison with physical paleo- and archaeo-seismology evidence, such as the “137–206” and “165–236” paleoseismic earthquakes for which there is no historical match, indicates that the historical list is far from being complete. Thus, we argue that the apparent cycles of historical reporting do not necessarily reflect the actual rate of seismic activity and further investigation is needed to establish a compiled, multi-sourced list to decipher the true nature of cycles of strong earthquakes in this region during historical times.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)971-985
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Seismology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.


  • Dead Sea Transform
  • Earthquake damage
  • Historical earthquakes
  • Israel
  • Seismic cycles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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