Landscape archaeology in a dry-stream valley near Tell es-Safi/Gath (Israel): agricultural terraces and the origin of fill deposits

S. Pariente, O. Ackerman, HJ. Bruins, H. Zhevelev, M. Aren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As part of the long-term archaeological project being conducted at Tell e-Sâfi/Gath in the semi-arid foothills of the Judean Mountains, a first order dry stream channel located in a valley east of the main site was surveyed and soil pits excavated in selected locations. A ditch, 10 m in length, was dug perpendicular to one of the agricultural terraces, showing that the small valley is filled with soil to a depth of more than 3 m above bedrock. The fill dates mainly to the Byzantine period (ca. 4th-7th cent. CE), according to the ceramic sherds. Three check-dam walls and related terraces were found across the width of the valley. Surprisingly, the base of the check-dam does not go deeper than 50 em into the uppermost part of the fill, well above bedrock or gravel layers, while covering only the upper part of the terrace step. Thus we use the term “floating terrace wall” or “floating check-dams”. Each of the terrace walls is about 0.5 m high and 50 m long. The valley is bound by two slopes: (1) a northeast facing slope characterized by Nari outcrops (a hard calcrete crust in the upper part of the chalk bedrock) and soil pockets, and (2) a southwest facing slope without Nari. The source of most valley fill material is apparently from the slope without Nari. The valley shows comparatively little accumulation during the Iron Age and very much accumulation during the Byzantine period. The main cause seems to be human-made earth movement and terrace building during the Byzantine period, rather than passive erosion and accumulation as a result of general environmental pressure by human activity.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)199-215
JournalEnvironmental Archaeology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2005


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