Using palaeo-environmental proxies to reconstruct natural and anthropogenic controls on sedimentation rates, Tell es-Safi/Gath, eastern Mediterranean

Oren Ackermann, Noam Greenbaum, Avner Ayalon, Miryam Bar-Matthews, Elisabetta Boaretto, Hendrik J. Bruins, Dan Cabanes, Liora Kolska Horwitz, Frank H. Neumann, Naomi Porat, Ehud Weiss, Aren M. Maeir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Mediterranean landscapes have been characterized by the ongoing interaction between natural processes and anthropogenic activities over several thousands of years. However, separating the relative contributions of these two factors in shaping the landscape has proved to be difficult. With reference to three excavated probes located in the environs of the archaeological site of Tell es-Safi/Gath (central Israel), we outline a methodological approach that may aid in distinguishing between the impact of natural and anthropogenic agencies on the accumulation of sediment fills. We conclude that at Tell es-Safi/Gath, natural geomorphic processes were the major factors that shaped the landscape, but anthropogenic activity is expressed in a brief period of time as evidenced by a high sedimentation rate, combined with high δ13C values, a relatively high quantity of phytoliths, and a high concentration of charred particles. This anthropogenic signature is interpreted as resulting from the destruction of the site by Hazael, King of Aram Damascus (ca. late 9th century BCE). This research demonstrates how high-resolution multi-disciplinary sampling of probes for dating, C isotopic composition, phytolith characterization, pollen analysis and assessment of sedimentation rates, in combination with the study of human cultural history at an archaeological site, may facilitate the distinction between natural and anthropogenic causes of sedimentation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)70-82
Number of pages13
StatePublished - 11 Aug 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


This research was supported by the following: the F.I.R.S.T. (Bikura) track of the Israel Science Foundation (ISF) (Grant # 32/11 to AMM, UW and LKH); the Israel Science Foundation (regular grant 100/13 to AMM); Ashkelon Academic College ; and the Dr. Simon Krauthammer Chair in Archaeology and the Koschitzky Family Foundation (both of Bar-Ilan University). The authors wish to acknowledge the following for drawing the figures: Noga Yoselevich, from the Department of Geography at the University of Haifa; Roni Blustein-Livnon, from the Cartography Laboratory at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev; and Jay Rosenberg. Thanks to Gal Avraham and Chem Weinberger for designing the 3D model. The authors also thank Tzlil Labin and Michal David from the Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology at Bar Ilan University for assistance in the field and in the lab. The palynological samples were thankfully processed by Anne Niehus and Patrick Blomenkemper. The Ackerman Family Bar-Ilan University Expedition to Gath (directed by AMM) provided logistic support in the field. Thanks also to Professor Veerle Vanacker, the two anonymous referees, and Elsevier language editing service for their constructive suggestions and additions that improved an earlier version of this manuscript.

FundersFunder number
Ashkelon Academic College
Koschitzky Family Foundation
Schweizerischer Nationalfonds zur Förderung der Wissenschaftlichen Forschung153038
Bar-Ilan University
Israel Science Foundation32/11, 100/13


    • C isotopic composition
    • Eastern Mediterranean
    • OSL
    • Phytoliths
    • Pollen
    • Tell es Safi/Gath


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