Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-nr4z6 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-05-28T01:41:56.341Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Late Quaternary environmental and human Events at En Gedi, reflected by the geology and archaeology of the Moringa Cave (Dead Sea area, Israel)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 July 2007

Sorin Lisker*
Department of Geography, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Cave Research Unit, Jerusalem 91905, Israel
Roi Porat
Department of Geography, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Cave Research Unit, Jerusalem 91905, Israel
Uri Davidovich
Department of Archaeology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem 91905, Israel
Hanan Eshel
Department of Land of Israel studies and Archeology, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel
Stein-Erik Lauritzen
Department of Earth Science, University of Bergen, Bergen 5007, Norway
Amos Frumkin
Department of Geography, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Cave Research Unit, Jerusalem 91905, Israel
*Corresponding author. Fax: +972 2 5820549.E-mail (S. Lisker).


The Moringa Cave within Pleistocene sediments in the En Gedi area of the Dead Sea Fault Escarpment contains a sequence of various Pleistocene lacustrine deposits associated with higher-than-today lake levels at the Dead Sea basin. In addition it contains Chalcolithic remains and 5th century BC burials attributed to the Persian period, cemented and covered by Late Holocene travertine flowstone. These deposits represent a chain of Late Pleistocene and Holocene interconnected environmental and human events, echoing broader scale regional and global climate events. A major shift between depositional environments is associated with the rapid fall of Lake Lisan level during the latest Pleistocene. This exposed the sediments, providing for cave formation processes sometime between the latest Pleistocene (ca. 15 ka) and the Middle Holocene (ca. 4500 BC), eventually leading to human use of the cave. The Chalcolithic use of the cave can be related to a relatively moist desert environment, probably related to a shift in the location of the northern boundary of the Saharo-Arabian desert belt. The travertine layer was U–Th dated 2.46"0.10 to 2.10"0.04 ka, in agreement with the archaeological finds from the Persian period. Together with the inner consistency of the dating results, this strongly supports the reliability of the radiometric ages. The 2.46–2.10 ka travertine deposition within the presently dry cave suggests a higher recharge of the Judean Desert aquifer, correlative to a rising Dead Sea towards the end of the 1st millennium BC. This suggests a relatively moist local and regional climate facilitating human habitation of the desert.

Research Article
University of Washington

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Avni, Y. (1998). Paleogeography and tectonics of the central Negev and the Dead Sea Rift western margin during the Late Neogene and Quaternary. Geological Survey of Israel, Jerusalem(231 pp.).Google Scholar
Ayalon, A., Bar-Matthews, M., and Kaufman, A. (1999). Petrography, Strontium, Barium, and Uranium concentrations, and Strontium and Uranium isotope ratios in speleothems as paleoclimatic proxies: Soreq Cave, Israel. The Holocene 9, 715722.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bar-Adon, P. (1980). The Cave of the Treasure. Israel Exploration Society, Jerusalem.243 pp.Google Scholar
Barkai, R., Gopher, A., Lauritzen, S.E., and Frumkin, A. (2003). Uranium series dates from Qesem Cave, Israel, and the end of the Lower Palaeolithic. Nature 423, 977979.Google Scholar
Bar-Matthews, M., Ayalon, A., and Kaufman, A. (1998). Middle to Late Holocene (6500 years period) paleoclimate in the eastern Mediterranean region from stable isotopic composition of speleothems from Soreq Cave, Israel.Issar, A.S., Brown, N. Water, Environment and Society in Times of Climatic Change. Kluwer Academic Press, 203214.Google Scholar
Bartov, Y., Stein, M., Enzel, Y., Agnon, A., and Reches, Z. (2002). Lake levels and sequence stratigraphy of Lake Lisan, the Late Pleistocene precursor of the Dead Sea. Quaternary Research 57, 921.Google Scholar
Bartov, Y., Goldstein, S.L., Stein, M., and Enzel, Y. (2003). Catastrophic arid episodes in the Eastern Mediterranean linked with the North Atlantic Heinrich events. Geology 31, 5 439442.Google Scholar
Begin, Z.B. (1975). The geology of the Jericho sheet (geological map series 1:50,000). Israel Geological Survey Bulletin 67, (35 pp.).Google Scholar
Begin, Z.B., Ehrlich, A., and Nathan, Y. (1974). The Lisan Lake, the Pleistocene precursor of the Dead Sea. Geological Survey of Israel Bulletin 63, (30 pp.).Google Scholar
Begin, Z.B., Nathan, Y., and Ehrlich, A. (1980). Stratigraphy and facies distribution in the Lisan Formation—New evidence from the area south of the Dead Sea, Israel. Israel Journal of Earth Sciences 29, 182189.Google Scholar
Begin, Z.B., Broecker, W., Buchbinder, B., Druckman, Y., Kaufman, A., Magaritz, M, Negev, D..(1985). Dead Sea and Lake Lisan levels in the last 30,000 years: a preliminary report.. Geological Survey of Israel., 18 pp., Jerusalem..Google Scholar
Bookman (Ken-tor), R., Enzel, Y., Stein, M., and Agnon, A. () 2004). )Late Holocene lake levels of the Dead Sea. Geological Society of America 116, 5/6 555571.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Elron, A..(1980). The geology of the lower Na'chal Zin. M.Sc. Thesis,. Hebrew University of Jerusalem, (in Hebrew).Google Scholar
Enzel, Y., Bookman (Ken Tor), R., Sharon, D., Gvirtzman, H., Dayan, U., Ziv, B., and Stein, M. (2003). Late Holocene climates of the Near East deduced from Dead Sea level variations and modern regional winter rainfall. Quaternary Research 60, 263273.Google Scholar
Eyal, Y., and Reches, Z. (1983). Tectonic analysis of the Dead Sea rift region since the late Cretaceous based on mesostructures. Tectonics 2, 167185.Google Scholar
Frumkin, A. (1997). The Holocene history of the Dead Sea levels.Niemi, T.M, Ben-Avraham, Z., Gat, Y. The Dead Sea—The Lake and Its Settings Oxford Univ. Press, 237248.Google Scholar
Frumkin, A. (2001). The cave of the letters sediments—Indication of an early phase of the Dead Sea depression?. Journal of Geology 109, 7990.Google Scholar
Frumkin, A., and Elitzur, Y. (2002). Historic Dead Sea level fluctuations calibrated with geological and archaeological evidence. Quaternary Research 57, 334342.Google Scholar
Garfunkel, Z. (1997). The history and formation of the Dead Sea basin.Niemi, T.M., Ben-Avraham, Z., Gat, Y. The Dead Sea—The Lake and Its Setting. Oxford Univ. Press, 3656.Google Scholar
Goldberg, P. (1986). Late Quaternary environmental history of the southern Levant. Geoarcheology 1, 3 225244.Google Scholar
Goldberg, P. (1994). Interpreting Late Quaternary continental sequences in Israel.Bar-Yosef, O., Kra, R. Late Quaternary Chronology and Paleoclimates of the Eastern Mediterranean. University of Arizona, Tucson.89102.Google Scholar
Haase-Schramm, A., Golstein, S.L., and Stein, M. (2004). U–Th dating of Lake Lisan (Late Pleistocene Dead Sea) aragonite and implications for glacial East Mediterranean climate change. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 68, 5 9851005.Google Scholar
Hadas, G. (1989). Ein-Gedi. Archaeological News 83, 88(in Hebrew).Google Scholar
Issar, A.S. (1998). Climate change and history during the Holocene in the eastern Mediterranean region.Issar, A.S., Brown, N. Water, Environment and Society in Times of Climate Change. Kluwer Academic Press, 113128.Google Scholar
Kaufman, A., Yechieli, Y., and Gardosh, M. (1992). Reevaluation of the lake-sediment chronology in the Dead Sea basin, Israel, based on new 230Th/U dates. Quaternary Research 38, 292304.Google Scholar
Kaufman, A., Wasserburg, G.J., Porcelli, D., Bar-Matthews, M., Ayalon, A., and Halicz, L. (1998). U–Th isotope systematics from the Soreq cave, Israel, and climatic correlations. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 156, 141156.Google Scholar
Langozky, Y..(1963). High-level lacustrine sediments in the Rift Valley at Sdom Israel Journal of Earth Sciences,12,.pp. 1725.Google Scholar
Laronne Ben-Itzhak, L., and Gvirtzman, H. (2005). Groundwater flow along and across structural folding: an example from the Judean Desert, Israel. Journal of Hydrology 312, 5169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Livnat, A., and Kronfeld, J. (1984). Paleoclimatic implications of U-series dates for lake sediments and travertines in the Arava Rift Valley, Israel. Quaternary Research 24, 164172.Google Scholar
Machlus, M., Enzel, Y., Goldstein, S.L., Marco, S., and Stein, M. (2000). Reconstructing low-levels of Lake Lisan by correlating fan-delta and lacustrine deposits. Quaternary International 73/74, 127144.Google Scholar
Mazar, B., Dothan, T., and Dunayevsky, I. (1966). En-Gedi, the 1st and 2nd seasons of excavations (1961–1962). Atiqot 5, 100 pp.Google Scholar
Mazor, E. (1997). Groundwaters along the western Dead Sea shore.Niemi, T.M., Ben-Avraham, Z., Gat, Y. The Dead Sea—The Lake and Its Setting Oxford University Press, 265276.Google Scholar
Mor, U..(1987). The geology of the Judean Desert in the Na’chal Deragot area. M.Sc. Thesis, Department of Geology,. Hebrew University of Jerusalem,, 112 pp. (in Hebrew).Google Scholar
Mor, U., Burg, A..(2000). Geological map of Israel. Sheet 12-III, Mizpe Shalem, 1:50,000,. The Geological Survey of Israel,, Jerusalem..Google Scholar
Neev, D., and Emery, K.O. (1967). The Dead Sea, depositional processes and environment of evaporates. Geological Survey of Israel Bulletin 41, (147 pp.).Google Scholar
Raz, E. (1983). The geology of the Judean Desert, Ein-Gedi area. The Geological Survey of Israel, Jerusalem 110 pp. (in Hebrew).Google Scholar
Raz, E..(1986). Geological map of Israel. Sheet 16-I, 'En Gedi, 1:50,000,. The Geological Survey of Israel,, Jerusalem..Google Scholar
Reches, Z., and Hoexter, D.F. (1981). Holocene seismic and tectonic activity in the Dead Sea area. Tectonophysics 80, 235254.Google Scholar
Schramm, A., Stein, M., and Goldstein, S.L. (2000). Calibration of the 14C time-scale to >40 ka by 234U–230Th dating of Lake Lisan sediments (last glacial Dead Sea). Earth and Planetary Science Letters 175, 2740.Google Scholar
Schwarcz, H.P..(1975). Radiometric dating of travertines in archaeological sites.. National Geographic Society,, research report, 1975 projects, pp. 575581.Google Scholar
Schwarcz, H.P. (1980). Absolute age determination of archaeological sites by Uranium series dating of travertines. Archaeometry 22, 1 324.Google Scholar
Schwarcz, H.P..(1986). Geochronology and isotopic geochemistry of speleothems.. In:Fritz, Fontes(Eds),Handbook of Environmental Isotope Geochemistry, Vol. 2: The Terrestrial Environment, Elsevier, Amsterdam,.Google Scholar
Schwarcz, H.P., Blackwell, B., Goldberg, P., and Marks, A.E. (1979). Uranium series dating of travertine from archaeological sites, Nahal Zin, Israel. Nature 277, 5697 558560.Google Scholar
Schwarcz, H.P., Goldberg, P.D., and Blackwell, B. (1980). Uranium series dating of archaeological sites in Israel. Israel Journal of Earth Sciences 29, 157165.Google Scholar
Shahar, Y., Reiss, Z., and Gerry, E. (1966). A new outcrop of marine Neogene in the Negev. Israel Journal of Earth Sciences 15, 8284.Google Scholar
Shaliv, G..(1991). Stages in the tectonic and volcanic history of the Neogene basin in the Lower Galilee and the valleys,. Geological Survey of Israel, Jerusalem..94 pp.Google Scholar
Shai, Y., Porat, R., and Eshel, H. (2007). Moringa Cave.Stern, E. En Gedi, Excavations I, Final Report (1961–1965), Israel Exploration Society, Jerusalem.391403.Google Scholar
Stein, M. (2001). The sedimentary and geochemical record of Neogene–Quaternary water bodies in the Dead Sea Basin—Inferences for the regional paleoclimatic history. Journal of Paleolimnology 26, 271282.Google Scholar
Stein, M., Starinsky, A., Katz, A., Goldstein, S.L., Machlus, M., and Schramm, A. (1997). Strontium isotopic, chemical, and sedimentological evidence for the evolution of Lake Lisan and the Dead Sea. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 61, 18 39753992.Google Scholar
Steinitz, G., and Bartov, Y. (1991). The Miocene–Pliocene history of the Dead Sea segment of the rift in light of K–Ar ages of basalts. Israel Journal of Earth Sciences 40, 199208.Google Scholar
Stern, E..(2001). Archaeology of the Land of the Bible II.. The Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian Periods, 733–332 BCE. New York..Google Scholar
Stern, E. (2007). En-Gedi excavations I, Final Report (1961–1965). Israel Exploration Society, Jerusalem.435 pp.Google Scholar
Ussishkin, D. (1980). The Ghassulian shrine at En Gedi . Tel-Aviv 7, 144.Google Scholar
Vaks, A., Bar-Matthews, M., Ayalon, A., Gilmour, M., Frumkin, A., Kaufman, A., and Matthews, A. (2003). Paleoclimate reconstruction based on the timing of speleothem growth and oxygen and carbon isotope composition in a cave located in the rain shadow in Israel. Quaternary Research 59, 182193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Vaks, A., Bar-Matthews, M., Ayalon, A., Matthews, A., Frumkin, A., Dayan, U., Halicz, L., and Schilman, B. (2006). Paleoclimate and location of the border between Mediterranean climate region and the Saharo-Arabian Desert as revealed by speleothems from the northern Negev Desert, Israel. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 249, 384399.Google Scholar
Vermes, G. (1977). The Dead Sea Scrolls, Qumran in Perspective. Collins, London.Google Scholar
Zak, I..(1967). The Geology of the Sedom Mountain. PhD thesis,. Hebrew University of Jerusalem, (in Hebrew).Google Scholar