The enigma of the Jonah high in the middle of the Levant basin and its significance to the history of rifting

Yael Sagy, Zohar Gvirtzman, Moshe Reshef, Yizhaq Makovsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent giant gas discoveries within deeply buried structural highs in the middle of the Levant basin have attracted the attention of the industrial and academic communities striving to understand the origin of such structures, their relations to the tectonic history of the basin, and their evolution through time. Here we focus on the Jonah high, which is one of the largest structures in the basin and is particularly enigmatic in its geometry, dimensions and location compared to nearby structures. It is buried under more than 3. km of Late Tertiary sediments, and is associated with one of the largest magnetic anomalies in the basin, though no significant gravity anomaly is observed. Previous studies raised several possibilities explaining its origin: an ancient horst related to the early stage of basin formation (Late Paleozoic or early Mesozoic); a Syrian Arc fold (Late Cretaceous to Neogene); a giant volcanic seamount; and an intrusive magmatic body.A reconstruction of the evolution of this structure is proposed here based on newly produced pre-stack depth migration of five selected seismic reflection lines crossing the Jonah high combined with a basin-wide interpretation of more than 500 2-D time-migrated lines. We suggest that the Jonah high is a horst bounded by grabens, most probably formed during continental breakup related to the Neo-Tethys formation. However, unlike other extensional structures that were reactivated and inverted during the Syrian Arc deformation, the Jonah high was never reactivated. Rather, it formed a prominent seamount that persisted for 120-140. Ma until the Early Miocene, when it was finally buried. In a wider perspective the Jonah horst is similar to the Eratosthenes seamount, a fragment of continental crust between the Levant and Herodotus basins.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)186-198
Number of pages13
StatePublished - 8 Dec 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors are grateful to M. Gardosh and A. Honigstein of the Israeli Petroleum Commissioner's office for funding our work and permitting the usage of the seismic data. We thank P. Trachtman and L. Sobolevsky of the Geophysical Institute of Israel for guidance and fruitful advice in seismic data processing, and D. Birenbaum of Paradigm Ltd. for her devoted technical support. Early versions of this paper greatly benefited from a thorough and very helpful review by A. Sagy. We wish to express our gratitude to Prof. Y. Mart and to a second anonymous reviewer for their constructive comments. This study is part of the senior author's PhD. Thesis at the Tel Aviv University, Israel, under the supervision of Prof. Z. Gvirtzman and Prof. M. Reshef. It was funded by the Israel Ministry of Energy and Water Resources as part of the scholarship program for researches in geology and geophysics of fossil fuels and seismology.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier B.V..


  • Horizon interpretation
  • Levant basin
  • Mesozoic horst
  • Paleo-height
  • Pre-stack depth migration
  • Seamount

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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