Climate of the last 53,000 years in the eastern Mediterranean, based on soil-sequence stratigraphy in the coastal plain of Israel

Gdaliahu Gvirtzman, Moshe Wieder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


In this paper we present a detailed record of proxy-climatic events in the coastal belt of the eastern Mediterranean during the past 53,000 years. A sequence of alternating palaeosols, aeolianites, and dune sands, which have been dated by luminescence and by 14C, was studied by the magnetic susceptibility, particle-size distribution, clay mineralogy and soil micromorphology. Thirteen proxy-climatic events, demonstrating fluctuations of relatively dry and wet episodes, were recognized. The soil parent materials, as well as the different soil types, were rated in a semi-quantitative "dry" to "wet" scale. The palaeosol sequence is compared to a proxy-climatic record of oxygen and carbon isotopes in speleothems from a karstic cave in central Israel and to a record of lake levels of Lake Lisan and its successor, which is known as the Dead Sea. A genuine red Mediterranean Soil (Rhodoxeralfs), localy designated as "Hamra Soil" developed during the Last Glacial Stage, from 40 to 12.5 thousand calendar years BP. Climatic fluctuations that were recorded in speleothems and in changing lake levels were not preserved in this soil. During the cold and dry Younger Dryas, ca 12.5 to 11.5 calendar ka BP, a thick bed of loess material, deriving from atmospheric dust of the Sahara and Arabian deserts, covered the entire coastal belt. During this phase Lake Lisan was desiccated and turned into the modern, smaller Dead Sea. During the early Holocene, some 10-7.5 calendar ka BP, a second Red Hamra soil developed in warm and wet environments, associated with a relatively high stand of the Dead Sea level. A depletion of δ18O and a significant enrichment of δ13C in the speleothems were recorded during this episode. This event was in phase with the widespread distribution of freshwater lakes in the Sahara Desert and the accumulation of the S1 Sapropel in the eastern Mediterranean. Several small-scale dry and somewhat wet fluctuations of the Late Holocene, from 7.5 calendar ka BP to the present, were recorded in the coastal belt. Changes in human history, as reflected in archaeological records, are associated with proxy-climatic fluctuations. Periods of desertification and deterioration are coupled with dry episodes; periods of relative human prosperity are coupled with wetter episodes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1827-1849
Number of pages23
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Issue number18
StatePublished - 2001


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