1,300-Year-Old Tsunami Discovery

Researchers at the University of Haifa School of Marine Sciences, in collaboration with the Israel Antiquities Authority, have uncovered evidence of a tsunami deposit along the Caesarea Maritima coastline, which could help scientists both understand how the region reacted to past natural disasters and predict future outcomes.

In a paper led by National Geographic Explorer Dr. Beverly Goodman Tchernov and Charles J. Everhardt IV of University of Haifa in the Geosciences journal, the researchers outline evidence of a tsunami that coincided with a powerful inland earthquake in 749 A.D. along the Dead Sea Fault, which caused well-documented damage throughout the Levant at the time. 

“This study recognizes how coastal sites suffer from earthquakes and tsunamis,” Tchernov said. “In the past 10 to 15 years, we’ve come to understand that tsunamis pose more of a risk than we were originally aware of. This study is the first published evidence of a tsunami deposit on land at the site.”

This discovery could contribute to a broader understanding of tsunami dynamics, tsunami deposit preservation and the overall history of the Caesarea Maritima. Modern, historical and paleotsunami deposits are critical for guiding coastal disaster management and risk assessment. 

Coastal archaeological sites have the potential to reveal integrated anthropogenic and natural deposits, including traces from past tsunamis. Not only can this improve the accuracy of the tsunami record, it also offers a glimpse into the human responses to so-called “natural” disasters. At present, tsunami deposits reported in coastal archaeological sites worldwide number only in the few dozen, making this study unique.  

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