Evaluating Use of Rock-Hewn Features for Sea Level Measurement, Israeli Coast


  • Daniel Jean Stanley


Archaeological sites, eustatic sea level, historic time, Holocene, Israeli coast, kurkar, Mediterranean, neotectonics, piscinas, relative sea-level, rock-cut pools.


Israel's Mediterranean coast, positioned on a structurally active margin, shifted vertically to some extent during the late Holocene. Consequently, changes of relative sea-level that account for both eustatic sea level and land motion are subtle and generally difficult to measure. This study evaluates the value of pools and other anthropogenic rock-cut features used to measure changes of sea level during the late Holocene. A number of these depressions, originally formed to retain fish and for other purposes, still function at present sea level. Most rock-hewn pools and channels on the Israeli margin have been dated to Roman, Byzantine and Crusader periods, usually through indirect association with archaeological sites and other structures in the vicinity. In fact only a few of these features, such as the piscina at Caesarea with affixed mosaics, are accurately dated. It is proposed here that some rock-cut features on broad flat platforms, or trottoirs, at elevations close to present sea level, were formed in more recent time, possibly in association with quarry operations and removal of coastal rock material for construction during the past few centuries. Unless a rock-cut feature can be reliably dated, it should not be used to determine sea level or land motion on this geologically complex margin.