Thomas et al (2007) uncovered earthquake damage to Late Roman/Early Byzantine structures in Aila which they dated between ca. 320 CE and 363 CE. There are no known textual
accounts of an earthquake during this time although there is a mysterious and quite possibly false report of a tsunami in the Dead Sea in 315 CE
(see Notes for details).
and Antonopolous (1979) report a tsunami in the Dead Sea in 315 AD based on
reports in difficult to find sources. Ambraseys (1962) suspects the tsunami was actually in Lake Van
in Armenian Turkey in 344 or 345 AD and he is probably correct (see Notes for details).
Both authors assign a Tsunami Intensity of III.
Archaeoseismic Evidence is examined on a case by case basis below
12th century Arabic
Aqaba, located at the northern terminus of the
Gulf of Aqaba has a long history of habitation
punctuated by episodes of abandonment and decline. It's strategic location as the nearest port town to the copper mines
of the Araba Valley made it a regional hub for copper production (smelting) and trade as evidenced at the
Chalcolithic sites of
Tall Hujayrat Al-Ghuzlan and Tall Al-Magass
Map of archaeological sites in greater Aqaba, Jordan region (modified after Brückner et al. 2002).
The modern Israeli city of Eilat, named for ancient
Elath, lies across the border from the Jordanian city of Aqaba.
Aila (aka Ailana) was the name of the Roman Byzantine town in Aqaba
Map of the modern city of Aqaba with ancient and medieval archeological sites
Thomas et al (2007) excavated and examined area J-east between 1994 and 2003. The J-East area is a multiphase site incorporating Early Islamic to
Byzantine domestic occupation and a late third to fourth-century monumental mudbrick structure that has been interpreted as a church
(Parker 1998a; 1999a; Mussell 2001; Rose 1998; Weintraub 1999)
Thomas et al, 2007). This site, in the Roman-Byzantine town of Aila, is located ~500 m north of the modern shoreline of
Aqaba and ~500 m NW of the Islamic town of Ayla
Fig. 2.8 B)
Map of Aqaba showing the three archaeological sites near the coast, some major roads,
and location of cross faults and possible Aqaba fault strands.
Thomas et al (2007) identified 6 or 7 earthquakes from the 2nd century CE onward in J-east and divided up the timing as follows:
Thomas et al (2007) produced a schematic of a composite columnar stratigraphic section for the deposits of the J-east site in Figure 3
Schematic columnar stratigraphic section of the deposits at the J-East site,
showing mudbrick tumble from earthquakes on floor levels, sand horizons, occupational levels, and earthquake event horizons.
Thomas et al (2007)
They identified earthquake destruction (Earthquake VI) in a collapse layer which they dated to the 4th century but before the southern
Cyril Quake of 363 CE. In describing the Phase 2 layer below the collapse
layer they provided a terminus post quem of ca. 320 CE
During the early fourth century, the monumental building was expanded and concluded with the final addition of Rooms 11 and 12 constructed after
ca. A.D. 320. The upper sequences of floors contained Early Byzantine pottery of the mid to late fourth century.
The terminus ante quem is 363 CE when the southern Cyril Quake
is presumed to have created the damage observed in Earthquake V.
This seismic event must have occurred at some point in the mid to
late fourth century A.D. but before the final extensive collapse of the complex in Earthquake V [363 CE].
Archaeological excavation plan map and section drawings.
(A) Site map of the early Byzantine monumental mudbrick structure and city wall in the J-East archaeological excavation (after Parker 2000).
The location of the faults and stratigraphic sections described in this paper are shown.
(B) Umayyad structures (inset) showing faults, from southwest of excavated area.
Thomas et al (2007)
The monumental mudbrick structure experienced fault rupture and collapse of some walls, producing a tumble horizon.
The southern wall of Room 13 was ruptured by Fault D and the northern wall of Room 21 by Fault C.
This tectonic shift caused substantial localized damage. Earthquake VI produced a total of 10 cm of left-lateral strike-slip
measured across Fault C on Wall J.1:26, north of Room 21. This damage from the fault was repaired after Earthquake VI.
The strike-slip of Fault D in EQ VI could not be measured because Fault D reactivated in subsequent Earthquakes V and IV.
The total strike-slip measured along Wall J.1:53 is 30 cm. Since there was no repair to the wall, this suggests that
the majority of the slip was caused by EQ VI. Similarly, the dip-slip could not be directly measured, but later
releveling of the southwest corner of the monumental building indicates subsidence did occur.
Elsewhere on the site, damage appears not to have been quite as severe, but seismically induced wall failures were
repaired in the subsequent occupation phase.
Fig. Correlation of results among paleoseismic trenching, archaeoseismic excavations, and tufa analysis. In paleoseismic trenching, the youngest age for event X
is not constrained, but it is, however, limited by event Y. In archaeoseismic excavations, the period of first damage overlaps with that of the second damage due to
poor age control. In tufa analysis, the onset and restart of Br-3 and Br-4 mark the damage episodes to the aqueduct; the growth of Br-5 and Br-6 shows interruptions (I) indicating
the occurrence of major events. Except for the 29 June 1170 event, previous events have been unknown in the historical seismicity catalogue. The synthesis of large earthquake events
results from the timing correlation among the faulting events, building repair, and tufa interruptions (also summarized in Fig. 12 and text). Although visible in trenches
(faulting event X), archaeoseismic excavations (first damage), and first interruption of tufa growth (in Br-5 and Br-6 cores), the A.D. 160–510 age of event X has a large bracket.
In contrast, event Y is relatively well bracketed between A.D. 625 and 690, with the overlapped dating from trench results, the second damage of the aqueduct, and the interruption
and restart of Br-3 and onset of Br-4. The occurrence of the A.D. 1170 earthquake correlates well with event Z from the trenches, the age of third damage to the aqueduct, and
the age of interruption of Br-4, Br-5, and Br-6. Sbeinati et al (2010)
Fig. 12 (A)
Calibrated dating of samples (with calibration curve INTCAL04 from Reimer et al. 
with 2σ age range and 95.4% probability) and sequential distribution from Oxcal pro-gram (see also Table 1; Bronk Ramsey, 2001).
The Bayesian distribution computes the time range of large earthquakes (events W, X, Y, and Z) at the Al Harif
aqueduct according to faulting events, construction and repair of walls, and starts and interruptions of the tufa
deposits (see text for explanation). Number in brackets (in %) indicates how much the sample is in sequence;
the number in % indicates an agreement index of overlap with prior distribution.
Sbeinati et al (2010)
Kanari, M. (2008) examined rockfalls in
Qiryat-Shemona which were attributed to earthquakes.
Optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating was performed on soil samples beneath the fallen rocks.
Kanari et al (2019) proposed that
rockfalls QS-3 and QS-11 were most likely triggered by the northern Cyril Quake of 363 CE. Their discussion is quoted below:
QS-3 (1.6±0.1 ka) and QS-11 (1.7±0.2 ka) fit the historical earthquakes of 363 and 502 CE, and only lack
40 years in error margin to fit the one of 551 CE.
Since the 502 CE earthquake was reported on shoreline localities only in the DST area, we find the 363 CE
earthquake to be a better rockfall-triggering candidate.
We suggest that the two ages are clustered around one
of these earthquakes, hence suggesting they represent
one rockfall event in the 363 CE earthquake. However,
we cannot completely rule out the possibility that these
were two separate rockfall events, both triggered by
large earthquakes in 363 and 502/551 CE.
Summary of OSL ages (black circles with error bars) plotted in chronological order
and selected historical earthquakes suggested as rockfall triggers (shown as vertical gray lines, chronologically
labeled at the top axis); see text for details.
Kanari et al (2019)
The criteria used by Kanari (2008) to identify historical earthquakes as triggering the observed rockfalls included:
(a) Estimated minimum MMI of IX
(b) Calculated Moment-Magnitude greater than or equal to 6.5
(c) distance to the site not exceeding 100 km.
Kanari (2008) surmised that these conditions satisfied
Keefer (1984)'s upper limit for disrupted slides or falls triggered by earthquakes.
In paleoseismic trenches just north of the Sea of Galilee (aka Lake Kinneret), Events CH4-E1, CH4-E2, and CH4-E3 are all possible, but unlikely, candidates.
Probability density functions for all paleoseismic events, based on the OxCal modeling.
Historically known earthquakes are marked by gray lines. The age extent of each channel is marked by rectangles.
There is an age uncertainty as to the age of the oldest units in channel 4 (units 490-499) marked by a dashed rectangle.
Channel 1 refers to the channel complex studied by Marco et al. (2005).
Wechsler at al. (2014)
ICDP Core 5017-1
Lu et al (2020)
associated a turbidite deposit in the core to one of the Cyril Quakes. CalBP is reported as 1636 +/47. This works out to a date of
314 CE with a 1σ bound of 267-361 CE.
Ages come from Kitagawa et al (2017).
The deposit is described as a 11 cm. thick turbidite (MMD). Lu et al (2020) estimated local seismic intensity
of VII which they converted to Peak Horizontal Ground Acceleration (PGA) of 0.18 g. Dr. Yin Lu relates that "this estimate was based on previous studies of turbidites
around the world (thickness vs. MMI)" (
Moernaut et al (2014). The turbidite was identified in the depocenter composite core 5017-1 (Holes A-H).
See the following from
Lu et al (2020b) regarding estimating intensity from turbidites:
Previous studies have revealed that the intensity threshold for triggering historic turbidites are variable
in different regions and range from MMI V½ to VII½ (Howarth et al., 2014; Moernaut, 2020; Van Daele et al., 2015; Wilhelm et al., 2016).
The intensity threshold constrained from the Dead Sea data (≥VI½) is situated in the middle of this range.
Previous studies in Chilean lakes have indicated that the (cumulative) thickness of historic turbidites across
multiple cores correlates with seismic intensity, and can thus be used to infer paleo-intensities in this setting
(Moernaut et al., 2014). However, in the case of the Dead Sea core 5017-1, there is a random relationship
(a correlation factor of 0.04) between the thickness of prehistoric turbidites and seismic intensity (Figure 5a).
A 1 cm. thick microbreccia at 228 cm. is a possible candidate although one of the
Cyril Quakes is a better candidate.
Computed age model from OxCal v4.26 for the seismic events recorded in the trench.
LeFevre et al. (2018)
Klinger et. al. (2015) identified a seismic event (E6) in a trench near Qatar, Jordan in the
Arava which they modeled between 9 BCE and 492 CE. The large spread in age caused them to consider two possible earthquakes as the cause; the
Incense Road Quake
between 110 CE and 114 CE and the southern Cyril Quake of 363 CE.
They preferred the Cyril Quake of 363 CE based on weighing
not related to their paleoseismic study and noted that further investigation was required.
Age model computed for the trench stratigraphy using OxCal v4.2 (Bronk-Ramsey et al. 2010) and IntCal13 calibration curve (Reimer et al. 2013).
Light grey indicates raw calibration and dark grey indicates modelled ages including stratigraphic information. Phases indicate subsets of samples where no
stratigraphic order is imposed.
von Hoff, K. V. (1841). lists an earthquake in 315 AD with the description "Earthquake in Areopolis in Dead Sea (translated from Erdbeben in Areopolis am Totem Meere)".
He cites Ritter (1847, p. 339) as his reference
Unfortunately, like Ambraseys(2009), I cannot find the reference by Ritter although it may be
Ritter, K.W. (1847) "Erdbebenschreithung" vol. 2 p. 339 Breslan
Ambraseys (1962) provides the following
Footnote : ' Mallet (p. 5) gives an earthquake in the Dead Sea on the authority of
Ritter, which we were unable to check. The same event is described by
Moses Khoren (iii, 8), but only Acogh 'ig adds that this was followed by an
inundation of the sea. From Acogh'ig's narration it appears that this event
occurred in the lake Van rather than in the Dead Sea. Also, this event is
usually dated in 344 or 345 A.D. The translators of Armenian texts have not
perceived the chronological difficulties that occur in the MSS of Moses and
Acogh'ig and have committed an anachronism of exactly 30 years; cf. 116.
The historical reference appears to come from
E. Dulaurier's translation of the Armenian text
"Acogh 'ig's universal history" Publications de Ecole des Langues Orientates N.iivantes,
vol. 18, p. 101-102, Paris 1898.
Another copy of this book in English can be found here
where the entry for the tsunami report may be on page 137.
Now when Sanatruk was king, he took possession of the city of P‘aytakaran
and planned to rule the whole of Armenia.25 When the great prince Bakur
realized this, who was bdeašx of Ałjnik‘, he conceived the same for himself and
gave assistance to Ormizd, king of the Persians. The other nobles of Armenia
assembled around the great Vrt‘anēs and dispatched two of the honourable
princes to the emperor Constantius, son of Constantine,26 [asking] that he
should send a force in assistance and make as king of Armenia Xosrov, son of
Trdat.  On hearing this, he dispatched Antiochus with a huge force.27 And
he came and made Xosrov king. And he sent Manačihr with his southern
forces and a Cilician army  against Bakur the bdeašx. And Antiochus
combined the other Armenian forces with his entire Greek army and moved
against Sanatruk. Now he filled the city of P‘aytakaran with Persian troops and
took flight to the king of Persia; he escaped with the nobles of Albania. And the
Armenian forces ransacked their country and returned from there.
Now Manačihr travelled southwards; he overthrew the bdeašx Bakur and
his forces and pursued those Persians who were assisting him. And he took
many captives from the regions of Nisibis, including eight deacons of the great
bishop Jacob; Jacob went after them and asked for these captives to be freed.
And when Manačihr refused, Jacob resolved to go to the king. Antagonized by
this, Manačihr ordered the eight deacons to be thrown into the lake. When the
great Jacob heard this, he returned to his place angered, as Moses from the
presence of Pharaoh. On reaching a certain mountain, from which the district
derived, he cursed Manačihr and the district. And the judgement of God was
not delayed, but Manačihr was slain soon after in the manner of Herod and
the country became infertile, a sky of copper came over it and  the lake
rebelled and extended over the boundaries of fields. When king Xosrov heard
this, incensed, he ordered the captives to be freed. But after the passing of
Jacob from the country, Manačihr’s son and heir, with sincere penitence,
powerful tears and lamentation, through his intercession, gained healing for
himself and the district.
This passage suggests that Ambraseys (1962) is correct that this supposed tsunami is likely both mis-dated and mis-located.
6. 315. Dead Sea (iii). 24 (p. 100). This indicates a tsunami intensity of 3. The reference (24, p.100) is the same one
listed above by Ambraseys (1962) - STEPAN ACOGH'IG of DARON. - In E. Dulaurier's translation of the Armenian
text « Acogh'is universal history ». Publications de l'Ecole des langues
Orientales Vivantes, vol. 18, p. 101-102, Paris 1898.
Paleoclimate - Droughts
Ambraseys, N. N. (1962). "Data for the investigation of the seismic sea-waves in the Eastern Mediterranean." Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America 52(4): 895-913.
ANTONOPOULOS, J. "Catalogue of Tsunamis in the Eastern Mediterranean from Antiquity to Present Times." Annals of Geophysics 32(1): 113-130.
Hoff, K. V. (1841). Chronik der Erdbeben und Vulkan-Ausbrüche, mit
vorausgehender Abhandlung über die Natur dieser Erscheinungen.
Gesch. Ueberlieferung nachgew. natürl. Veränder. Erdoberfläche, Parts 4 and 5, Gotha.
Mallet, R., et al. (1858). The earthquake catalogue of the British Association: with the discussion, curves and maps, etc, Printed by Taylor and Francis.
Ritter, K.W. (1847) "Erdbebenschreithung" vol. 2 p. 339 Breslan