Soil and Sediments as an Archive of Landscape History: The Case Study of Tell es-Safi/Gath, in the Eastern Mediterranean

O. Ackermann, N. Greenbaum, M. Osband, A. Almogi-Labin, A. Ayalon, A. Bar-Matthews, E. Boaretto, H. J. Bruins, D. Cabanes, L. K. Horwitz, F. H. Neumann, N. Porat, B. Schilman, E. Weiss, A. M. Maeir

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Chapter 19: An archaeological site is an integral part of its surrounding landscape, rather than an isolated island. A study of the sediment record in the vicinity of a site (off-site record) can serve as an archive of the ancient landscape history and provide information about the interaction between the environmental process and human activities. There are two main challenges in studying the environs of archaeological sites: locating geomorphic structures that preserved the landscape archive and distinguishing between human impact and environmental processes. The current case study was carried out in Tell es-Safi/Gath, the biblical “Gath of the Philistines”, in central Israel. It involved the examination of the off-site environs of an archaeological tell through multidisciplinary tests (e.g., sedimentation rate, carbon isotopic composition, phytolith and pollen analysis) on geomorphic structures of diverse scales. The geomorphic structures studied were: a single slope, low order valleys (1st and 2nd order), and high order valleys (drainage basins of tens to hundreds of km2). On the slope, an artificial berm covered the ancient surface and provided information regarding the ancient shape of the slope. An artificial trench, located on the slope, served as a sediment trap that provided information about the slope erosion processes. The low order valleys served as continuous sediment records on a local scale. The high order valleys served as a non-continuous archive on a regional scale. Human activities were recorded on the slope and in the low order valleys. They are expressed by a high rate of sedimentation combined with high δ13C values, a relatively high quantity of phytoliths, and a high concentration of charred particles. This correlates with a well-documented historical event: the destruction of the site by Hazael, King of Aram Damascus (ca. late 9th century BCE). Since the human event was short- lived, high resolution sampling was essential in order to identify its signature.
Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationSoils and Sediments as Archives of Landscape Change
Subtitle of host publicationGeoarchaeology and Landscape Change in the Subtropics and Tropics
EditorsB. Lucke, R. Bäumler, M. Schmidt
Place of PublicationErlangen
PublisherPalm und Enke Verlag
ISBN (Print)978-3-941665-04-0
StatePublished - 2015

Publication series

NameErlanger geographische Arbeiten


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