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Dead Sea Levels during the Bronze and Iron Ages

  • Elisa Joy Kagan (a1), Dafna Langgut (a2), Elisabetta Boaretto (a3), Frank Herald Neumann (a4) and Mordechai Stein (a5)...

Abstract

The history of lake-level changes at the Dead Sea during the Holocene was determined mainly by radiocarbon dating of terrestrial organic debris. This article reviews the various studies that have been devoted over the past 2 decades to defining the Dead Sea levels during the Bronze and Iron Ages (≃5.5 to 2.5 ka cal BP) and adds new data and interpretation. In particular, we focus on research efforts devoted to refining the chronology of the sedimentary sequence in the Ze'elim Gully, a key site of paleoclimate investigation in the European Research Council project titled Reconstructing Ancient Israel. The Bronze and Iron Ages are characterized by significant changes in human culture, reflected in archaeological records in which sharp settlement oscillations over relatively short periods of time are evident. During the Early Bronze, Intermediate Bronze, Middle Bronze, and Late Bronze Ages, the Dead Sea saw significant level fluctuations, reaching in the Middle Bronze an elevation of ≃370 m below mean sea level (bmsl), and declining in the Late Bronze to below 414 m bmsl. At the end of the Late Bronze Age and upon the transition to the Iron Age, the lake recovered slightly and rose to ≃408 m bmsl. This recovery reflected the resumption of freshwater activity in the Judean Hills, which was likely accompanied by more favorable hydrological-environmental conditions that seem to have facilitated the wave of Iron Age settlement in the region.

Copyright

Corresponding author

Corresponding author. Email: elisa.kagan@mail.huji.ac.il.

References

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