Two centuries of coastal change at Caesarea, Israel: Natural processes vs. human intervention

Gilad Shtienberg, Dov Zviely, Dorit Sivan, Michael Lazar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The coast at Caesarea, Israel, has been inhabited almost continuously for the last 2,400 years, and the archeological sites are today a major international tourist attraction. Because the sites straddle the shoreline, they are subject to constant damage by wave action, and must therefore be frequently restored. In this paper, local shoreline migrations over the last 200 years are investigated with the aim of distinguishing between natural and man-made coastal changes. In order to assess these changes accurately, geomorphological and sedimentological data were examined based on detailed beach profile measurements, bathymetric surveys, and grainsize analyses. In addition, series of old aerial photographs, as well as historical topographic maps and nautical charts were consulted. The results show that shoreline changes can be grouped into two main time periods. During the first period from 1862 to 1949 before the expansion of modern settlements, the position of the shoreline changed irregularly by up to 30 m. In the second period from 1949 onward, numerous coastal structures have been erected, and various coastal modifications have been carried out. The evaluation of the data suggests that human interventions have had relatively little effect on the overall position of the shoreline, as displacements ranged only from 5 to 18 m. Thus, coastal changes at Caesarea are predominantly due to natural wave action reflected in the heterogeneous geomorphological and sedimentological characteristics of the shore. This contradicts the common assumption that human activities are always mainly responsible for large-scale shoreline modifications in the region. It is concluded that, in order to implement meaningful mitigating countermeasures, coastal archeological sites need to be individually assessed with respect to the dominant factors causing local coastal change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)365-379
Number of pages15
JournalGeo-Marine Letters
Issue number4
StatePublished - 24 Jan 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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