Changes in Holocene paleoseismic activity in the Hula pull-apart basin, Dead Sea Rift, northern Israel

E. Zilberman, R. Amit, A. Heimann, N. Porat

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Paleoseismic analysis of the Azaz fault segment of the Dead Sea Fault (northern Israel), indicates that this region was subjected to intermittent periods of strong seismicity and quiescence during the latest Pleistocene and the Holocene. The Azaz fault forms the eastern margin of the Hula Valley, a pull-apart basin between two left-stepping segments of the Dead Sea Fault. The fault is currently inactive, but it displaces a 25-30 ka travertine in the northeastern corner of the Hula Valley and near-surface marsh sediments inside the valley. Two trenches excavated across a 15-20 m high fault scarp near Kefar Szold expose fluvial and colluvial sequences showing clear evidence of recent tectonics. One trench exposes well sorted, bedded alluvial sediments comprising two upward-fining units, each capped by a weakly developed paleosol. The sediments were deposited on the down-faulted block and are bounded in the east by the fault scarp. The second trench uncovers fine colluvial sediments cross-cut by a wide fault-parallel fissure filled by collapsed sediments. In both trenches, the lower sedimentary unit is capped by a coarse colluvium containing boulders up to 1.5 m in size. The colluvium shows no clear bedding and has a weakly developed paleosol on top. Optically stimulated luminescence dating of the lower fluvial sequence shows that its age ranges between 12 ka at the base to 6 ka at the top, while the middle part of the overlying colluvium is ca. 4.8 ka. The relation between the lower fluvial units and the fault indicates that at least two large-scale earthquakes occurred in the Early Holocene, each one resulting in a 1-1.5 m high fault scarp. During this seismically active period, no coarse colluvial sediments were deposited along the fault trace and thus the region must have had low tectonic relief. The clear contact with the overlying coarse colluvium reflects a Middle Holocene rapid change to the present high, steep relief. This change was achieved by frequent, strong seismic events, which triggered colluvial processes and prevented stratification and soil formation on the slope. The soil on the present slope reflects a quiescent period that has lasted at least several hundred years, during which stress has accumulated and seismic risk increased. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)237-252
Number of pages16
Issue number2
StatePublished - 30 May 2000
Externally publishedYes


This work is part of the National Seismic Risk Mitigation project, which is conducted by the Geological Survey of Israel and supported by the Earth Science Research Administration of the Ministry of National Infrastructures. The authors are grateful to H. Weiler, License Division of the IAEC, for funding the OSL dating. This research was partly supported by Grant No. 95-00020 from the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF), Jerusalem, Israel. The authors thank Ximena Wdowinski for editorial assistance. Previous versions of this paper benefited from reviews by S.L Forman, A.G. Wintle and an anonymous reviewer.

FundersFunder number
Ministry of National Infrastructures
United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation
Israel Atomic Energy Commission95-00020


    • Azaz fault
    • Dead Sea Rift
    • Hulla Valley
    • Neotectonics
    • Paleoseismicity


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