The late Quaternary limnological history of Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), Israel

N. Hazan, M. Stein, A. Agnon, S. Marco, D. Nadel, J. F.W. Negendank, M. J. Schwab, D. Neev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The freshwater Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) and the hypersaline Dead Sea are remnant lakes, evolved from ancient water bodies that filled the tectonic depressions along the Dead Sea Transform (DST) during the Neogene-Quartenary periods. We reconstructed the limnological history (level and composition) of Lake Kinneret during the past ∼40,000 years and compared it with the history of the contemporaneous Lake Lisan from the aspect of the regional and global climate history. The lake level reconstruction was achieved through a chronological and sedimentological investigation of exposed sedimentary sections in the Kinnarot basin trenches and cores drilled at the Ohalo II archeological site. Shoreline chronology was established by radiocarbon dating of organic remains and of Melanopsis shells. The major changes in Lake Kinneret level were synchronous with those of the southern Lake Lisan. Both lakes dropped significantly ∼42,000, ∼30,000, 23,800, and 13,000 yr ago and rose ∼39,000, 26,000, 5000, and 1600 yr ago. Between 26,000 and 24,000 yr ago, the lakes merged into a unified water body and lake level achieved its maximum stand of ∼170 m below mean sea level (m bsl). Nevertheless, the fresh and saline water properties of Lake Kinneret and Lake Lisan, respectively, have been preserved throughout the 40,000 years studied. Calcium carbonate was always deposited as calcite in Lake Kinneret and as aragonite in Lake Lisan-Dead Sea, indicating that the Dead Sea brine (which supports aragonite production) never reached or affected Lake Kinneret, even during the period of lake high stand and convergence. The synchronous level fluctuation of lakes Kinneret, Lisan, and the Holocene Dead Sea is consistent with the dominance of the Atlantic-Mediterranean rain system on the catchment of the basin and the regional hydrology. The major drops in Lake Kinneret-Lisan levels coincide with the timing of cold spells in the North Atlantic that caused a shut down of rains in the East Mediterranean and the lakes drainage area.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-77
Number of pages18
JournalQuaternary Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2005

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Yithaki Gal for good advice concerning new sampling sites, Miki Golan for setting the drilling construction and the GFZ team for drilling the longest Kinneret core (with the Usinger equipment). Eli Ram and Nicolas Waldmann helped in fieldwork. The manuscript benefited from the constructive comments of three anonymous reviewers and excellent editorial handling. The Kinneret project was supported by the Israel Science Foundation (ISF) (grant #304.02 to MS), and by the German-Israel Science Foundation for Scientific Research (GIF, grant# 642 to MS, AA and JN).


  • Dead Sea
  • Geo-archeology
  • Lake Kinneret
  • Lake Lisan
  • Quaternary

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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