Composition of modern dust and holocene aeolian sediments in archaeological structures of the southern levant

Bernhard Lucke, Amir Sandler, Kim André Vanselow, Hendrik J. Bruins, Nizar Abu-Jaber, Rupert Bäumler, Naomi Porat, Paula Kouki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Archaeological structures are often filled with sediments and may serve as effective dust traps. The physical parameters and chemical composition of archaeological soils in hilltop ruins, ancient runoff-collecting terraces, and cleanout spoils of cisterns were determined in the Petra region in southern Jordan and the Northern Negev in Israel. Different types of ruins are characterized by certain soil structures, but could not be distinguished with regard to substrate composition. This reflects a predominance of aeolian processes for primary sedimentation, while fluvial processes seem to only re-distribute aeolian material. In the Petra region, the physical and chemical properties of all archaeological soils show a significant local contribution from associated weathered rocks. Compared to modern settled dust, archaeological soils in Southern Jordan are enriched with various major and trace elements associated with clays and oxide coatings of fine silt particles. This seems connected with preferential fixation of silt and clay by surface crusts, and a role of moisture in sedimentation processes as calcareous silt was found to be deposited in greater amounts when associated with precipitation. In contrast, the contribution of rocks is negligible in the Negev due to greater rock hardness and abundant biological crusts that seal surfaces. Archaeological soils in the Negev are chemically similar to current settled dust, which consists of complex mixtures of local and remote sources, including significant portions of recycled material from paleosols. Archaeological soils are archives of Holocene dust sources and aeolian sedimentation processes, with accretion rates exceeding those of Pleistocene hilltop loess in the Negev. Comparison with Pleistocene paleosols suggests that dust sources did not change significantly, but disappearance of snow could have reduced dust accumulation during the Holocene.

Original languageEnglish
Article number762
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


This research was funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), grant number LU 1552/2-1. This work was made possible by a grant of the German Research Foundation (DFG, grant no. LU 1552/2-1), which we gratefully acknowledge. We would like to thank the Department of Antiquities of Jordan and the Israel Antiquities Authority for their support. As well, we are grateful to Paula Reimer for 14C-dating charcoal from the monastery garden. We are indebted to Ulrich Hübner and the Natural History Society of Nuremberg for their support with sampling Umm Saysaban, and to Moritz Kinzel and the Shkarat Msaeid excavation team. We would like to thank Saleh Suleiman and Ghassem Mohammed for their indispensable help with collecting dust samples on Jabal Haroun. Last but not least, we are grateful to two unknown reviewers and the editor Jan Perlwitz whose constructive comments helped to improve the manuscript. Funding: This research was funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), grant number LU 1552/2-1.

FundersFunder number
Department of Antiquities of Jordan
Israel Antiquities Authority
Natural History Society of Nuremberg
Ulrich Hübner
Deutsche ForschungsgemeinschaftLU 1552/2-1


    • Aeolian sedimentation
    • Archaeological soils
    • Dust
    • EMMAgeo
    • Holocene
    • Loess
    • Pre-weathered deposits
    • Precipitation influence
    • Runoff-irrigated terraces
    • Snow


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