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Holocene rockfalls in the southern Negev Desert, Israel and their relation to Dead Sea fault earthquakes

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Yair Rinat
The Fredy and Nadine Herrmann Institute of Earth Sciences, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Edmond J. Safra Campus Givat Ram, Jerusalem 91904, Israel
Ari Matmon*
The Fredy and Nadine Herrmann Institute of Earth Sciences, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Edmond J. Safra Campus Givat Ram, Jerusalem 91904, Israel
Maurice Arnold
CEREGE, UMR 6635 CNRS-Aix-Marseille University, BP 80, 13 545 Aix en Provence Cedex 4, France
Georges Aumaître
CEREGE, UMR 6635 CNRS-Aix-Marseille University, BP 80, 13 545 Aix en Provence Cedex 4, France
Didier Bourlès
CEREGE, UMR 6635 CNRS-Aix-Marseille University, BP 80, 13 545 Aix en Provence Cedex 4, France
Karim Keddadouche
CEREGE, UMR 6635 CNRS-Aix-Marseille University, BP 80, 13 545 Aix en Provence Cedex 4, France
Naomi Porat
Geological Survey of Israel, 30 Malkhe Israel St., Jerusalem 95501, Israel
Efrat Morin
Department of Geography, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Mt. Scopus, Jerusalem 91905, Israel
Robert C. Finkel
Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, CA 94511, USA
*Corresponding author at: The Institute of Earth Sciences, The Hebrew University, Edmond J. Safra Campus, Givat Ram, Jerusalem 91904, Israel. Fax: + 972 256 62581. E-mail (A. Matmon).


Rockfall ages in tectonically active regions provide information regarding frequency and magnitude of earthquakes. In the hyper-arid environment of the Dead Sea fault (DSF), southern Israel, rockfalls are most probably triggered by earthquakes. We dated rockfalls along the western margin of the DSF using terrestrial cosmogenic nuclides (TCN). At each rockfall site, samples were collected from simultaneously exposed conjugate boulders and cliff surfaces. Such conjugate samples initially had identical pre-fall (“inherited”) TCN concentrations. After boulder detachment, these surfaces were dosed by different production rates due to differences in post-fall shielding and geometry. However, in our study area, pre-rockfall inheritance and post-rockfall production rates of TCN cannot be evaluated. Therefore, we developed a numerical approach and demonstrated a way to overcome the above-mentioned problems. This approach can be applied in other settings where rockfalls cannot be dated by simple exposure dating. Results suggest rockfall ages between 3.6 ± 0.8 and 4.7 ± 0.7 ka. OSL ages of sediment accumulated behind the boulders range between 0.6 ± 0.1 and 3.4 ± 1.4 ka and support the TCN results. Our ages agree with dated earthquakes determined in paleoseismic studies along the entire length of the DSF and support the observation of intensive earthquake activity around 4–5 ka.

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University of Washington

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