At the beginning of the second century AD, the Nabataeans controlled a profitable and likely very secretive
trade route. Frankincense and
myrrh, harvested in South Arabia,
and products from India and the Horn of Africa were transported by camel up the Arabian Peninsula to port cities such as Gaza
where they were shipped and sold all over the Mediterranean. The transport route the camel caravans followed is known as the Incense Road . The way stations along that route
were oases of prosperity in the middle of the harsh desert. Partly in order to control this trade , Rome annexed Nabataea
in 106 AD. Within a decade, a powerful earthquake apparently struck their newly annexed province. There is no clear mention of this earthquake in any known literary sources.
The Nabataeans produced almost no surviving literature of their own. Rather, the evidence for this earthquake was discovered by a young Archaeologist named
Ken Russell by examining excavation reports for the way station towns and cities that were
along the Incense Road.
Nicopolis and Caesarea were ruined in an earthquake.
Eusebius dates this to the first year of the 227th Olympiad which corresponds to July 1, 130 AD – June 3- 131 AD
noteSee Finegan (1998) Sections 185 – 187 for a discussion of the Olympiad calendar system.
The problem with this date is that there is little paleoseismic or archeoseismic evidence to corroborate it. As a result, two schools of thought have
developed in explained what appears to be a mistake by Eusebius.Russell (1985) has suggested that this terse entry
from Eusebius, a native of Caesarea who should have been aware of earthquakes that struck the area, may describe the Incense Road Earthquake (110-114 AD) and that
Eusebius, using unknown sources and writing 200 + years after the event, merely got his date wrong.
Although Russell (1985) does not propose a reason why Eusebius’ sources may have gotten the date wrong, one possibility is that his sources may have reported an earthquake
that occurred during Hadrian's rule when in fact the earthquake occurred during the rule of Trajan ; Hadrian's predecessor. If one changes Eusebius' date for the
earthquake from Hadrian's 13th – 14th year (130/131 AD) to
Trajan's 13th – 14th year (111/112 AD) , one arrives at a date which is within the 4 year time span (110 – 114 AD)
when the archeoseismic evidence constrains the timing of the Incense Road Earthquake. Ambraseys (2009) suggests that Eusebius was not referring to
Nicopolis and Caesarea of the
Palestinian coast but rather to two like named cities in the northeastern Anatolian province of
Pontus and that his 130/131 AD date was approximately correct.
(Salamon et al, 2010)
noted that Shalem (1956), using Judaic sources, suggested that the coast between Caesarea
and Yavne was hit by a tsunami around 115 AD.
Salamon et. al. (2011) offered a quote from Karcz et al (1987) regarding those Judaic sources as
follows : “Talmudic references are not specific neither in time nor location, but Yavne may have been affected”. Karcz (personal communication, 2014)
indicated that the Judaic sources come from the Babylonian Talmud
and are located in
• Megilla 3a
• Baba Metzia 59 B
• Hullin 59 B
In Megilla 3a, the following passage describing an earthquake can be found
R. Jeremiah — or some say R. Hiyya b. Abba — also said:
The Targum of the
was composed by Onkelos the proselyte under the guidance of
R. Eleazar and R. Joshua.
The Targum of the Prophets was composed by
Jonathan b. Uzziel under the guidance of
and Malachi, and the land of Israel [thereupon] quaked over an area of
four hundred parasangs (1463 km.) by four hundred parasangs , and a Bath Kol
came forth and exclaimed, Who is this that has revealed My secrets to mankind? Jonathan b. Uzziel
thereupon arose and said, It is I who have revealed Thy secrets to mankind. It is fully known to Thee that I have not done this for my own honour or for the honour
of my father's house, but for Thy honour l have done it, that dissension may not increase in Israel. He further sought to reveal [by] a
targum [the inner meaning] of the
Hagiographa, but a Bath Kol went forth and said, Enough!
What was the reason? — Because the date of the Messiah is foretold in it.
But did Onkelos the proselyte compose the targum to the Pentateuch? Has not R. Ika said in the name of R. Hananel who had it from Rab: What is meant by the text,
And they read in the book, in the law of God, with an interpretation. and they gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading? ‘And they read in the book,
in the law of God’: this indicates the [Hebrew] text; ‘with an interpretation’: this indicates the targum, ‘and they gave the sense’: this indicates the verse stops;
‘and caused them to understand the reading’: this indicates the accentuation, or, according to another version, the
masoretic notes? — These had been forgotten,
and were now established again.
How was it that the land did not quake because of the [translation of the] Pentateuch, while it did quake because of that of the prophets?
Baba Metzia 59 B may contain a description of a seismic sea wave or tsunami which if related
to the earthquake of Megilla 3a, may provide some dating information.
A Tanna taught: Great was the calamity that befell that day, for everything at which R. Eliezer
cast his eyes was burned up. R. Gamaliel too was travelling in a ship,
when a huge wave arose to drown him. 'It appears to me,' he reflected, 'that this is on account of none other but R. Eliezer b. Hyrcanus.' Thereupon he arose and exclaimed,
'Sovereign of the Universe! Thou knowest full well that I have not acted for my honour, nor for the honour of my paternal house, but for Thine, so that strife may not
multiply in Israel! 'At that the raging sea subsided.
Ima Shalom was R. Eliezer's wife, and sister to R. Gamaliel. From the time of this incident onwards she did not permit
him to fall upon his face. Now a certain day happened to be New Moon, but she mistook a full month for a defective one. Others say, a poor man came and stood at the door,
and she took out some bread to him.[On her return] she found him fallen on his face. 'Arise,' she cried out to him, 'thou hast slain my brother.'
In the meanwhile an announcement was made from the house of Rabban Gamaliel that he had died.
Tana refers to the Tannaim ; Rabbinic sages working from approximately 10-220 AD whose views are
recorded in the Mishnah. Included among the Tannaim were Rabbi Gamaleil
or more specifically Gamaliel II who apparently died right before the
Kitos War of 115-117 AD (Moed Kattan 27a; Yerushalmi Moed Kattan 82a - from Wikipedia)
and Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus who was
Gamaliel II’s brother in law and also was one of the Tannaim. Gamaliel II’s and Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus both resided in Yavne at the time of this account which
appears to have occurred soon before Gamaliel II’s death. Thus, if the passage above does refer to an actual seismic sea wave, it’s date is sometime before 115 AD.
The Emperor once said to R. Joshua b. Hananiah, 'Your God is likened to a lion, for it is written:
The lion hath roared, who will not fear? The Lord God hath spoken,
who can but prophesy? But what is the greatness of this? A horseman can kill the lion'! He replied: 'He has not been likened to the ordinary lion, but to the lion of
Be-Ilai'i!' 'I desire', said the Emperor, 'that you show it to me'. He replied: 'You cannot behold it'. 'Indeed', said the Emperor, 'I will see it'. He [R. Joshua b. Hananiah]
prayed and the lion set out from its place. When it was four hundred parasangs distant it roared once, and all pregnant women miscarried and the walls of Rome fell.
When it was three hundred parasangs distant it roared again and all the molars and incisors of man fell out; even the Emperor himself fell from his throne to the ground.
'I beseech you', he implored, 'pray that it return to its place'. He prayed and it returned to its place.
Another time the Emperor said to R. Joshua b. Hananiah, 'I wish to see your God'. He replied: 'You cannot see him'. 'Indeed', said the Emperor.
Apparently the "lion hath roared" in the passage above alludes to the prophetic book of Amos which starts with
reference to an earthquake perhaps likening it to a lion's roar and two chapters later
continues with several lines of poetry again mentioning the lions roar.
Nonetheless, it is unclear if this seismically enigmatic passage has any relationship to an actual earthquake.
Taken together, these three passages suggest that there may have been an earthquake and possible tsunami experienced in Yavne in the years before 115 AD. A seismic exegesis for
some of these Talmudic references is apparently discussed in Krauss, S. (1914).
Silence of the Sources
It should be noted that the seismicity of the Arava and Negev is severely under reported during this time; presumably due to the low population density and nomadic
lifestyles of many of its inhabitants. While the Nabataeans residents left inscriptions on buildings, there is very little extant written Nabataean literature.
This has to be a consideration when confronting the lack of corroborating historical information about the Incense Road Quake and many other earthquakes with
epicenters in the South Dead Sea or the Arava. It should also be noted that there is no equivalent source in the second century AD which provides such a wealth
of information regarding events in Judea such as Josephus (37 AD - ~100 AD) provides for the first century AD.
Russell (1985) further notes that Cassius Dio (155 – 235 AD), an important source for information in the
Roman empire during this time, failed to record two significant earthquakes (in ~106 AD and ~122 AD) in Anatolia during the reigns of Trajan (98 – 117 AD) and Hadrian (117 -138 AD)
and that the only earthquake he did record during their reigns was the Trajan Quake in Antioch in 115 AD possibly because Trajan was nearly killed by it.
According to Russell (1985), there is abundant well dated archeoseismic evidence that there was an earthquake, likely along the Arava fault, between 110 and 114 AD.
contends that the evidence is too wide widespread to support alternative explanations based on war or civil disturbance.
Ambraseys (2009) agrees with Russell (1985)
that an earthquake or earthquakes is the most likely explanation for this evidence although he cautioned that, based on the evidence available to him at the time,
the earthquake assessment was not yet definitive. The archaeological evidence suggests an early-second century destruction at Petra, Masada, Avdat and several other sites
along the Petra - Gaza road (Russell 1985, 40-41). There are claims of further evidence from cities not along the Petra – Gaza Road some of which, upon close examination,
seem dubious. However, since Russell (1985) first published his article, paleoseismic and additional archeoseismic evidence has emerged supporting his thesis that an
earthquake struck the Arava between 110 and 114 AD. The dates proposed by Russell (1985) are constrained by two pieces of evidence. A coin from 110/111 AD found under
earthquake debris in Masada provides the earliest possible date.
An inscription dedicated to Roman emperor Trajan associated with rebuilding in Petra provides the
latest possible date (114 AD). A list of locations with archeoseismic
evidence for the Incense Road earthquake is provided below accompanied by our assessment.
According to Kraeling (1938, p.47), a new north gate was constructed in
Jerash in 115 AD. The dedicatory inscription from the gate was discovered in 6 fragments
(Kraeling, 1938, p. 424) where Trajan is referred to as the "savior and founder" of the city. While Russell (1985) speculated that the civic dedication may reflect
imperial aid Trajan supplied to aid reconstruction after a disastrous earthquake, Kraeling (1938, p.47) attributes the dedication to the improvement of the roads
out of Jerash; in particular the Road to Pella which enabled direct connections to the coastal cities of
Caesarea and Ptolemais (aka Acre). If the Incense Road
Earthquake was caused by a fault break on the Arava fault, seismic damage at Jerash would have been light so we prefer Kraeling’s (1938, p.47) explanation.
Tell Hesban (Roman Esbus) aka Heshbon aka Hesban
Mitchel (1980, Ch. 4 - Stratum 13 and 14) noticed a
massive collapse of bedrock in
underground structures at a location known as Tell Hesban. He attributed the collapse to an earthquake.
In fill atop the bedrock collapse, he found a coin from Aretas IV (9 BC – 40 AD)
along with a number of pottery shards dated to a wide spread of ages over hundreds
of years but with the bulk of shards from Early Roman I-IV (63 BC – 135 AD). He surmised that the fill was deposited soon after the bedrock collapse because he
saw no evidence for extended exposure before filling (silt, water-laid deposits, etc.) and the fill was relatively homogeneous, unstratified, and loose soil that
“gave the appearance of rapid deposition in one operation”. Mitchel (1980) assigned a date of 130 AD to the destruction layer caused by an earthquake citing
Chronicon by Eusebius as a historical reference (
see Jerome's Latin translation of Eusebius Chronicon Book Two, page 228, 227th Olympiad).
Russell (1985) favored a date of 110-114 AD for this destruction layer.
In our opinion, this destruction layer is not well dated. It rests on an untested assumption that the fill above the bedrock collapse layer was deposited soon
after the collapsed bedrock. None of Mitchel’s (1980) date information comes from beneath the collapsed layer. If one dispenses with the argument that the fill was
deposited immediately after an earthquake and examines the variety of dated objects found in the fill, the objects suggest that the fill was deposited over some
period of time and the most probable earthquake candidate for the bedrock collapse layer might be the 31 BC
Josephus Quake. In our opinion, this archeoseismic evidence
Reinhardt and Raban (1999) dated destruction of the outer harbor
breakwater at Caesarea to late 1st / early 2nd century CE and suggested it was caused by seismic activity. Their discussion follows:
L4 — Destruction Phase
The first to second century A.D. basal rubble unit (L4) was found on the carbonate cemented sandstone bedrock (locally known as kurkar)
and was characteristic of a high-energy water deposit (Fig. 2). The rubble was framework supported with little surrounding matrix
and composed mainly of cobble-sized material, which was well rounded, heavily encrusted (e.g., bryozoans, calcareous algae), and
bored (Lithophaga lithophaga, Cliona) on its upper surface. The rubble had variable lithologies including basalts, gabbros, and
dolomites, all of which are absent on the Israeli coastal plain and were likely transported to the site as ship ballast (probably from Cyprus).
The surrounding matrix was composed of shell material (mainly Glycymeris insubricus), pebbles, and coarse sand.
The pottery sherds found in this unit were well rounded, encrusted, and dated to the first to second century A.D. The
date for this unit and its sedimentological characters clearly records the existence of high-energy conditions within the inner
harbor about 100-200 yr after the harbor was built. This evidence of high-energy water conditions indicates that the outer
harbor breakwaters must have been severely degraded by this time to allow waves to penetrate the inner confines of the harbor (Fig. 3, A and B).
Indication of the rapid destruction of the outer harbor breakwaters toward the end of the first century A.D. is derived from additional data
recovered from the outer harbor. In the 1993 season, a late first century A.D. shipwreck was found on the southern submerged breakwater.
The merchant ship was carrying lead ingots that were narrowly dated to A.D. 83-96 based on the inscription "IMP.DOMIT.CAESARIS.AUG.GER."
which refers to the Roman Emperor Domitianus (Raban, 1999). The wreck was positioned on the harbor breakwater, indicating that this
portion of the structure must have been submerged to allow a ship to run-up and founder on top (Raban, 1999; Fig. 3B). Because
Josephus praised the harbor in grand terms and referred to it as a functioning entity around A.D. 75-79, and yet portions of the
breakwater were submerged by A.D. 83-96, we conclude that there was a rapid deterioration and submergence of the harbor, probably
through seismic activity.
Evidence for neotectonic subsidence of the harbor has been reinforced by separate geologic studies (stratigraphic analysis of boreholes,
Neev et al., 1987; seismic surveys, Mart and Perecman, 1996) that recognize faults in the shallow continental shelf and in the proximity of Caesarea;
one fault extends across the central portion of the harbor. However, obtaining precise dates for movement along the faults is difficult.
Archaeological evidence of submergence can be useful for dating and determining the magnitude of these events:
however, at Caesarea the evidence is not always clear.
The submergence of the outer harbor break-waters at the end of the first century A.D. could have also been due to seismic liquefaction of the sediment.
Excavations have shown that the harbor breakwaters were constructed on well-sorted sand that could have undergone
liquefaction with seismic activity. In many instances the caissons are tilted (15°20° from horizontal; Raban et al., 1999a) and at different elevations,
which could be due to differential settling (area K; Fig. 1). However, the tilting could also be due to undercutting by current scour from large-scale
storms (or tsunamis) and not exclusively seismic activity.
Our data from the inner harbor cannot definitively ascribe the destruction of the harbor at the end of the first century A.D. to a seismic event,
although some of the data support this conclusion. However, regardless of the exact mechanism, our sedimentological evidence from the inner harbor
and the remains of the late first century A.D. shipwreck indicate that the submergence of the outer breakwater occurred early in the life of the
harbor and was more rapid and extensive than previously thought.
Goodman-Tchernov and Austin (2015) examined and dated cores taken seaward of the harbor and identified 2 tsunamite deposits
(see Tsunamogenic Evidence) including one which dates to
to the 1st-2nd century CE. Although, it is tempting to correlate the 1st-2nd century CE tsunamite deposits of
Goodman-Tchernov and Austin (2015) to the L4 destruction phase identified in the harbor (
Reinhardt and Raban (1999)), the chronologies presented
by Goodman-Tchernov and Austin (2015) suffer from some imprecision
due to the usual paucity of dating material that one encounters with cores. Further, the harbor subsidence and breakwater degradation dated by
Reinhardt and Raban (1999) may not have been caused by seismic activity. If it was related to seismic activity,
the Incense Road Quake (~110-114 CE) is a better candidate than the Trajan Quake (115 CE)
because it produced higher intensities in Caesarea Maritima. Archeoseismic evidence at Caesarea Maritima is labeled as possible.
Yadin, Y. (1965, 30) noted that the Great Public Bath-House
(Caldarium ) was filled, as a result of earthquakes,
with massive stone debris concluding that the finds on the floor of the bathhouse represented the last stage in the stay of the Roman garrison left on Masada after
the end of the first Jewish War in 73 AD .
This was based on the presence of “vouchers”
written in Latin and coins which were found mostly in the ash waste of the
furnace. One coin from the time of Trajan was found in the Caldarium which was struck in Tiberius in 99/100 AD (Yadin, Y., 1965, 36 and 118). The latest coin discovered
from this occupation
phase was found in one of the northern rooms of Building VII and dates to 110/111 AD (Yadin, Y., 1965, 119). According to Yadin (1965, 119), this meant that the Roman garrison stayed
on Masada until at least 110/111 AD. According the Russell (1985), this coin supplies the
earliest possible date for the Incense Road Earthquake.
Glueck (1965) excavated a Nabataean Temple at
Khirbet Tannur and identified three separate building phases which he subdivided into Periods I, II, and III.
Period III ended when a violent earthquake undoubtedly destroyed entire temple (Glueck, 1965, 122). The date of the earthquake that ended Period III is unknown.
What can be surmised is when Period II ended and Period III began. Glueck (1965, 138) dated the rebuilding phase that started Period III to the first quarter of the
second century AD based on the architecture and sculpture thinking the rebuild probably, but not definitively, began before the Roman annexation of Nabataea in 106/107 AD.
The reason for the rebuild started in Period III is unknown. It could have been due to age of the Temple or previous earthquake destruction.
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 in between 1994 and 2003. 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.
They identified 6 or 7 earthquakes from the 2nd century CE onward and divided up the timing as follows:
Earthquake VII was dated to the second century CE from Nabatean pottery
found in the collapse layer and the layer below which can be seen in the composite stratigraphic section for the J-east site
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)
). There is a question whether the collapse layer was caused by human agency or earthquake destruction. The Romans annexed Nabatea in 106 CE and the authors
noted that there is debate about the degree of Nabataean resistance to the annexation that might have resulted in destruction by human agency in this period
(Bowersock 1983: 78-82; Parker 1986: 123-24; Fiema 1987; Freeman 1996).
Thomas et al (2007) noted that a complete section of collapsed wall might suggest earthquake destruction.
These occupation deposits [Phase 0] were subsequently covered by a very thick layer of mudbrick collapse which contained whole or partial bricks visible in the section.
The collapse dents the surfaces beneath, indicating a violent fall of the structures. Excavated in the RAP 2002 season, these layers were found to be in excess of
1 m in thickness.
No rupture for this possible earthquake (EQ VII) was documented in the present study because of the limited areas excavated to this depth (about 2 mast). Furthermore,
subsequent building and reuse of the surviving walls have appreciably masked the original geometry.
At another site in Aila ( Area B
Plan of the areas excavated by the Roman Aqaba Project, after the 1998 season.
Note that the location of Nabataean/Roman Aila is in the area not surveyed by Meloy (courtesy of RAP).
JW: Area B is in upper middle of map
), Dolinka (2003:32) found that
some structures exhibited inwardly collapsed walls and/or tumbled-over mudbricks (Fig. 14
Tumbled-over mudbricks from the domestic complex in B.1/3 bear witness to the
earthquake that ushered in the Abandonment II phase at Aila during the early-2nd century AD (courtesy of RAP)
) which was attributed to earthquake destruction.
Impact Block Marks
Complete section of collapsed wall in Area J-east Inwardly collapsed walls and/or tumbled-over mudbricks in Area B
Petra is the location of an ancient city in Southern Jordan which is traditionally accessed through a slot canyon known as the Siq. The site was
initially inhabited at least as early as the Neolithic and has been settled sporadically ever since - for example in the Biblical Edomite,
Hellenistic, Nabatean, Byzantine, and Crusader periods. After the Islamic conquest in the 7th century CE, Petra lost its strategic and commercial value
and began to decline until it was "re-discovered" by the Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812
(Meyers et al, 1997).
It is currently a UNESCO World Heritage site and has been and continues to be extensively studied by archeologists.
Petra - Center
Russell (1985) relates that
extensive damage was revealed during the excavation of cardo maximus in Petra.
Russell (1985) further relates that archeologists believe that
this damage could only have been caused by an earthquake although there are arguments that this destruction resulted from sacking by
Safaitic and Thamudic hordes in the
mid first century AD.
A monumental commemorative arch dedicated to Trajan by the city late in 114 AD was recovered
(Kirkbride 1960: 120) but the
sections of the inscription that would have documented the reason for this dedication were not recovered. Nevertheless, Russell (1985) proposed that
this inscription was a result of rebuilding efforts after the Incense Road Earthquake. As such, this inscription, according to Russell (1985),
provides terminus ante quem for the Incense Road Earthquake.
Russell also noted that during the 1976 excavations at Petra, a brass coin (sestertius) commemorating Trajan's
alimenta italiae endowment was uncovered on a floor-slab
next to several crushed unguentaria in a storage room of a collapsed house of the early 2nd century.
Russell (1985) relates that Sestertii of this type were minted between 103 and 117
Robertson 1971: 57-59, and pl. 13, nos. 344, 350, 354). Unfortunately, the consulship was illegible in the
obverse inscription which would have allowed for more precise dating.
Coins of the last Nabataean king, Rabbel II (71- 106), have been noted in association with this destruction evidence
at Petra (Kirkbride 1960: 118- 19; Parr 1960: 129).
Area I near the Temple of the Winged Lions
The original excavation of Area I, a residential area near the Temple of the Winged Lions, was conducted by the American Expedition to Petra (AEP) under
the supervision of Ken Russell and the direction of Philip C. Hammond between 1974 and 1978. Due to the untimely demise
of Ken Russell and later death of Philip C. Hammond, the full results of this excavation were not fully published.
Erickson-Gini, T. and C. Tuttle (2017) re-examined ceramic assemblages and other material evidence
from Area I
Location of the Temple of the Winged Lions and Area I
Erickson-Gini and Tuttle (2017)
and redated some of the original stratigraphic phasing produced by Ken Russell. Erickson-Gini and Tuttle (2017)'s analysis
suggests that, although early 2nd century CE earthquake evidence is present in Petra and other sites of the Nabateans,
some of Russell (1985)'s
phasing was off by up to a couple of centuries. Some excerpts follow:
The conclusions to be presented here include a revision of the dating of the Early House in Area I and the ceramic assemblages
uncovered its antechamber and the upper and lower levels of the structure to the late 2nd and early 3rd c. CE when the structure
was abandoned. This revised dating is supported by evidence from other parts of the AEP excavations such as the Painters' Workshop
and important find spots near the temple that are presented in this paper as well as material from other parts of the
Provincia Arabia in the post-annexation period.
The use of a revised ceramic chronology in dating these assemblages will undoubtedly prove to be controversial,
however we believe that such a revision is long overdue and is in itself an important tool for the
re-examination of the phasing of structures and occupational layers in Petra and other sites in the Provincia Arabia,
the vast majority of which have been erroneously dated to the later 1st to early 2nd c. CE.
In 1977, Russell prepared a tentative phasing of the stratigraphy in Area I. The final phasing prepared by him in
1978 indicates the presence of twenty archaeological phases (Phases XX—I) and the remains of successive domestic
structures of the Early Roman (pre-annexation, i.e., the Roman annexation of Nabataea in 106 CE), Middle Roman (post-annexation)
and Byzantine periods. He designated these structures the "Early House", the "Middle House", and the "Late House".
The earliest archaeological material discovered in Area I, uncovered below the earliest architectural remains and in ancient falls, dates to
the Hellenistic period. The latest material belongs to an overlying cemetery that Russell dated to the Late Byzantine or Early Islamic periods.
As we shall see below, the abandonment of the Early House in Area I and abandoned hoards in rooms of the Temple of
the Winged Lions complex were probably the result of an epidemic that occurred sometime in the 3rd c.
rather than the early 2nd c. earthquake as claimed by Russell.
EVIDENCE OF AN EARTHQUAKE EVENT IN THE EARLY SECOND CENTURY CE
Russell's misreading of the archaeological evidence led him to attribute the end of the occupation of the Early House in
Phase XV to earthquake destruction that he dated to 113/114 CE based on the discovery of the single coin
found in the antechamber, a brass sestertius commemorating Trajan's alimenta italiae endowment
dated to the period between 103 and 117 CE, together with the hoard of unguentaria and other ceramic vessels
(Russell 1985: 40-41). Although the Early House was not destroyed and abandoned by an earthquake
in the early 2nd c., evidence of earthquake damage is discernible with the renovations that took place in its final
occupation in Phase XVI.
Subsequent research carried out in several sites64, including Petra itself, indicate that an early 2nd c. earthquake did indeed take
place (Erickson-Gini 2010: 47)65. An examination of the records and photographs of the western side of the
Temple of the Winged Lions complex also reveals evidence of earthquake damage that precedes that of the
363 CE earthquake. This evidence includes the blockage of doorways with architectural fragments
that appear to have been derived from the temple, for instance in Area III.8 (SU 113; W2; Aug. 2, 1977),
that were also used in the construction of the pavement in WII.1W. Revetments adding support to walls were
photographed in Area III.7 (AEP 83900). In addition, a hoard of vessels of the late 1st c. BCE
and first half of the 1st c. CE was discovered in the AEP 2000 season in a spot next to the eastern corridor in
Area III.10 (SU 19). This assemblage of restorable vessels included several plain fineware, carinated bowls
that correspond to later forms of Schmid's Gruppe 5 dated to the second half of the 1st c. BCE (2000 AEP RI. 41), (2000: Abb. 41)
together with early forms of his Gruppe 6 dated to the 1st c. CE (2000 AEP RI. 11), (2000: Abb. 50)
and two early painted ware bowls (2000 AEP RI. 42) corresponding to Schmid's Dekorgruppe 2a
(2000: Abbs. 80=81) dated to the end of the 1st c. BCE and early 1st c. CE.66
In spite of the presence of these early vessels, the AEP 2000 season finds registries records nearly all of
them as dating to 363 CE.
Russell was correct in dating the early form of the Early House
(Phase XVII) to the 1st c. ceramic vessels of that period
The Early House was obviously renovated, prior to its final form in Phase XVI, similar to other buildings
discovered in Petra. Some Nabataean communities, such as Mampsis and Oboda, underwent a wave of new
construction in the newly-organized Roman Province of Arabia while sites such as
'En Rahel and 'En Yotvata were destroyed and never re-built.
Renovations in wake of structural damage evident in structures in many sites
in the years following the annexation, as well as the construction of new buildings,
point to a widespread earthquake event in southern Transjordan and the Negev in the
early 2nd c. CE. The event may have influenced or even prompted the Roman
annexation that occurred soon afterwards. At Petra, the Early House was not destroyed at that time but rather
it was renovated and occupied until the early 3rd c. when it was abandoned,
possibly in the wake of an epidemic.
The primary issue concerning the Early House is the date and manner of its abandonment.
An outstanding difficulty in Russell's phasing in Area I is the two hundred year period between the
renovations that supposedly took place in the Early House in the early 2nd c. CE (Phase XVI)
and the construction of the Middle House in the early 4th c. CE (Phase XII).
This gap in the archaeological record is largely artificial and can be attributed to
the fact that a single coin was used to date the critical ceramic assemblage found in Room 2 (antechamber)
of the Early House (SU 176, 800, 803) to the very beginning of the 2nd c. Rather than its destruction by earthquake
in the early 2nd c., the body of evidence points to its abandonment sometime in the early
3rd c. similar to sites along the Petra—Gaza road.
64 - Evidence of an earthquake at Petra in the late first or early 2nd c. CE has been uncovered by
Kirkbride and Parr at Petra (Kirkbride 1960: 118-19; Parr 1960: 129
Joukowsky and Basile 2001: 50) and more recently in the az-Zantur excavations Kolb and Keller 2002: 286; Grawehr 2007: 399)
Evidence of the event has also been uncovered in sites in the surrounding region at:
Aqaba (Dolinka 2003: 30-32, Fig. 14)
'En Yotvata (Erickson-Gini 2012a)
Moyat 'Awad and Shdar Ramon (Cohen 1982: 243-44; Erickson-Gini and Israel 2013: 45)
'En Rahel (Korjenkov and Erickson-Gini 2003)
Mezad Mahmal (Erickson-Gini 2011)
Mampsis (Negev 1971: 166; Erickson-Gini 2010: 47)
Oboda (Erickson-Gini, in press)
Horvat Hazaza (Erickson-Gini, in press).
However, with regard to Khirbet Tannur, in light of
the final publication and re-evaluation of Nelson Glueck's excavation by J.S. McKenzie et. al. (2013), his claim that
Altar 3 was built in wake of earthquake damage of the early 2nd c. (termed the 113-114 CE earthquake)
appears to be untenable due to the re-dating of Period 2 at the site to the first half of the 2nd c. CE
(Mckenzie 2013: 137).
65 - The occurrence of an early 2nd c. earthquake has been disputed by S.G. Schmid who proposed that destruction
contexts indicated in Nabataean sites were the result of Roman military actions in wake of the annexation
of Nabataea in 106 CE (1997: 418-420).
66 - A lamp in found in close proximity in SU 18 (2000 AEP RI.23) corresponds to
Grawhr's Typ 3.D (75-125 CE), (2006: 293). A complete unguentarium of a type with a
flat base like that found in the Nabataean fort at 'En Rahel was also present in SU 19 (2000 AEP RI.44).
Archeoseismic evidence for an early 2nd century CE earthquake was also discussed by
Parr, P. J. (1960:129), who reported the following from excavations at Trench I in Katute
JW:Map of Petra. Katute is middle left
Only in two restricted areas, both outside the building, have the original floors been reached, and until more evidence
is forthcoming the date of its construction must remain uncertain. But from the secondary surfaces within the building,
some of them laid down after the partial destruction of the interior walls, a series of coins gives a firm date for the
latest occupation of the structure. Of eight coins so far studied, two are of Malichus II and Shaqilath II
(c. A.D. 40-71), five are of Rabbel II and Gamilath (A.D. 71-106, but late in the period, since Gamilath is Rabbel's second consort),
and one is of Rabbel with either Shaqilath or Gamilath, this being uncertain. The significance of these coins is
increased when it is noted that four of Rabbel II and Gamilath come from the same layer of make-up
beneath one of the secondary floors. There can be little doubt, therefore, that the building was in use at
the end of the 1st century A.D., and probably right up until the Roman conquest of A.D. 106,
though the apparent lack of Roman Imperial coins suggests that it soon feel out of use then.
Judging from the fact that the secondary surfaces from which the coins come in some cases seal the first destruction
levels of the building, a date in the first half of the 1st century A.D. for its construction is not,
perhaps, unlikely. An earlier date than this for the rebuilding of the main wall is precluded by
the discovery of a coin of Aretas IV and Shaqilath I (c. 9 B.C-A.D. 40) in a level immediately
underlying the construction level associated with that rebuilding.
Plan of the Great Temple. (prepared by Paul C. Zimmerman and Brian A. Brown)
Joukowsky and Basile (2001)
Dated to the mid-second century, Nabataean-Roman Phase IV follows a minor collapse when the uppermost course of the
propylaea stairs was built to provide access to the Lower Temenos, and when the Lower Temenos east cryptoportico,
which may have seen collapse, was filled in.
The most descriptive seismic effect mentioned by
is a collapsed house of the early 2nd century. Although
Erickson-Gini, T. and C. Tuttle (2017) would seem to refute this collapse, they did provide some description of seismic effects due to an early
2nd century CE earthquake such as architectural fragments that may have come from the Temple of Winged Lions and revetments added to walls.
Aerial view of the Nabataean mansion under excavation
az-Zantur is located on a rocky spur overlooking the Colonaded street in Petra. Excavations have uncovered a mansion on top of the spur.
Kolb (2002:260) reported on excavations of a large residential structure (i.e. the mansion) in ez-Zantur in Petra. They dated the earliest phase of the structure
to the 20's CE based on fragments of Nabatean fine wares, dating to 20-70/90 CE, found in the mortar below the opus sectile flooring in rooms 1,10, and 17
as well as in the plaster bedding of the painted wall decorations in room 1. Earthquake induced structural damage led to a
remodeling phase which was dated to the early decades of the 2nd century CE (Kolb, 2002:260-261).
A terminus post quem of 103-106 CE for the remodel was provided by a coin
struck under King Rabbel II found in some rough plaster (rendering coat) in Room 212 of site EZ III
A re-examination of the Zantur fineware chronology by the writer has revealed that it contains a number of serious
difficulties.25 The main difficulties in the Zantur chronology center on Phase 3,
which covers most of the 1st through 3rd c. CE. Zantur Phase 3 is divided into three sub-phases:
3a (20-80 CE), 3b (80-100 CE) and 3c (100-150 CE). The dating of Phase 3 is based on a very small amount of
datable material, for example, the main table showing the datable material (Schmid 2000: Abb. 420)
shows that no coins were available to date either Phase 3a or Phase 3c. Moreover, the earliest sub-phase, 3a,
was vastly underrepresented.26 At Zantur, there appears to be little justification for the beginning dates
for either Phase 3b (80 CE) or 3c (100 CE) or their terminal dates (100 CE and 150 CE respectively).
No `clean' loci, i.e., sealed contexts, were offered to prove the dating of Phases 3b and 3c and the
contexts are mixed with both earlier (3b) and later (3c) material (ibid., 184). This raises the question as to why a
terminal date of 100 CE was fixed for Sub-phase 3b. The coin evidence for Sub-phase 3b is scanty
and some of the coins could date as late as 106 CE while there is a discrepancy between the dates of the
coins and the imported wares, many of which date later than 100 or 106 CE. In order to date Phase 3 in
Zantur, there was a heavy dependence an a very small quantity of imported fineware sherds,
mainly ESA. Of the forms used, Hayes 56 is listed in both Phase 3b and 3c (ibid.) and since this
particular form dates later than 150 CE (Hayes 1985: 39) the majority of the forms and motifs of both
sub-phases 3b and 3c should be assigned to the later 2nd and early 3rd centuries.
with its purported range of 60 years.
25 "Problems and Solutions in the Dating of Nabataean Pottery of the Roman Period," presented on February 20, 2014 in the
2nd Roundtable "Roman Pottery in the Near East" in Amman, Jordan on the premises of the American Center of Oriental Research (ACOR).
26 In the words of the report: "Unfortunately, so far only a few homogeneous FKs (find spots/loci) have been registered with
fineware exclusively from Phase 3a. After all, if the Western Terra Sigillata form, Conspectus 20, 4 from FK 1122
(Abb. 420, 421 Nr. 43) accurately reflects the duration of Phase 3a, we can thus estimate [the period] as from 20 to 70/80 CE"
(Schmid 2000: 38).
Room 33 is the work-shop proper. This is indicated by the finds that were encountered in a thick and seemingly undisturbed
destruction layer, sealed by the debris of the rooms arched roof. While any indication for the cause of this destruction
evades us, the dating of the event is clear. Through the evidence of the coins an the floor we arrive at a terminus post
quem of 98 AD. As there is plenty of fine ware in the destruction level, belonging to Schmid's phase 3b, but none of
phase 3c, which according to him starts ±100AD, the destruction must have taken place at the end of the first
or early in the second century AD.
Stratigraphic excavation in square 86/AN unexpectedly brought useful data on the history of the mansion' s construction phases
and destruction. The ash deposit in Abs. 2 with FK 3524 and 3533 provided clear indications as to the final destruction in 363.
A further chronological "bar line" — a some-what vaguely defined construction phase 2 in various parts of the terrace in the
late first or second century AD — received clear confirmation in the form of a thin layer of ash.
The lamp and glass finds from the associated FK 3546 date homogeneously from the second century AD,
and confirm the assumption of a moderately severe (not historically documented) earthquake that led to the structural
repairs observed in various places and the renewal of a number of interior decorations.
Kolb (2002) reports that consolidation had to be undertaken to support wall sections P1 and P2 between rooms 6 and 7 among other
There is indirect evidence of a more substantial destruction in the early 2nd century CE in which residential structures from the earliest
phase of the Nabataean settlement east of the late Roman residential quarter were demolished and used as a source of
building stone for later structures.
In 1985 K. Russell attempted to link destruction phases dating to the early 2nd cent. A.D. at Petra with the possible earthquake destruction of
ancient towns as far away as Mampsis and Avdat in the central Negev Highlands and Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast. However, recent
research at the first two sites has revealed a continuation of occupation throughout the 1st and 2nd cent. A.D.
Erickson-Gini, 1999 and
The recent publication of the acropolis at Avdat refers to large deposits of pottery sherds found in fills under the North Church
and the retaining walls of the acropolis. According to the excavator these deposits represent the period of the use of the temple
and the excavator omits any reference to a possible destruction layer here
Ambraseys (2009) supplied this observation and analysis
Negev argues instead that these destructions were caused by invading Safaitic and Thamudic hordes in the mid first century (
Negev 1976), basing his thesis on the period of pottery
debris found in a workshop at Oboda. This solution might seem preferable, since it is best not to assume an earthquake unless there is written evidence for it. However, apart from
the complexity of the multiple dates of the pottery discovered by Negev (and the fact that later potters often imitated earlier styles), the appearance of a second-century coin
among the pottery (Russell 1981, 8) seems to refute his thesis. Of course, this coin does not prove that Oboda was destroyed by an earthquake; it merely shows that Negev has made
a mistake. What may suggest an earthquake is the sheer severity and extent of the destruction. Russell believes that neither a Roman annexation of the territory nor sacking by
Safaitic or Thamudic hordes could, in any case, have done so much damage.
It is also quite possible that these towns were damaged by a series of distinct earthquakes, since Petra and Oboda are some 80 km apart. Certainly, though, given that the
history of this area in the early second century is relatively well documented, no invasions being recorded, seismic activity seems the most likely, but not definite, cause of
damage in the absence of any other solution.
Russell (1985) cites
Negev (1971, p 166) for evidence of early second century earthquake destruction at Mamphis.
Negev (1971) reports extensive building activity in Mamphis in the early second century AD obliterating much of the earlier and smaller infrastructure.
However, neither a destruction layer nor an earthquake is mentioned in the article.
Korzhenkov, A. and T. Erickson-Gini (2003) cast doubt on Russell's assertion of archeoseismic damage at Mamphis and Avdat stating that recent research indicates a
continuation of occupation throughout the 1st and 2nd cent. A.D. citing an MA Thesis (A Nabataean Roman Settlement in the
Central Negev Highlands in the Light of the Ceramic and Architectural Evidence Found in Archaeological Excavations During 1993–1994, Unpublished M.A.
Dissertation, Tel Aviv University (1999)) and subsequent paper ( Erickson-Gini, New Excavations in the Late Roman Quarter in Avdat, Proceedings of the Twenty-Seventh
Archaeological Congress in Israel, Bar Ilan University April 2–3, 2001). Continuous occupation could indicate that seismic damage was limited rather than absent.
Notes and Further Reading
Erickson-Gini, T. (2010:47). Nabataean settlement and self-organized economy in The Central Negev: crisis and renewal, Archaeopress.
Chronology and Seismic Effects
relates that three building and occupation phases have been identified at Moje Awad. In the middle phase plentiful pottery dating until the end of the first century
AD was present along with Nabatean coins from the reigns of
Aretas II (103 BC – 96 BC),
Aretas IV (9 BC – 40 AD),
and Rabbel II (70 – 106 AD). In the final phase, ceramic vessels dating to the 2nd to 3rd century AD
were present along with coins from Roman Emperors
Trajan (98 – 117 AD),
Commodus (161 – 192 AD), and
Caracalla (188 – 217 AD).
Although a destruction layer was not mentioned between the middle and final phase, both the Incense Road Earthquake of 110 – 114 AD and the Roman annexation of Nabataea in 106 AD
neatly fits at the interface between the end of the middle phase and beginning of the final phase.
The Early Roman phase of occupation in the site ended with extensive damage caused by an earthquake that took place shortly before
the Roman annexation of the region in 106 CE (Korjenkov and Erickson-Gini 2003). The building in Area C and the kiln works
were destroyed, and the cave dwellings were apparently abandoned as well. Reconstruction was required in parts of the fort.
At this time, deposition from its floors was removed and thrown outside of the fort and a new bath as well as heating were
constructed in its interior. Along its eastern exterior and lower slope, rooms were added. Thus, the great majority of the finds
from inside the fort and its ancillary rooms date to the latest phase of its occupation in the Late Roman, post-annexation phase,
the latest coins of which date to the reign of Elagabalus (219–222 CE).
Plan of the fort with marked types of deformations. Following Shamir (1999)
Khorzhenkov and Erickson-Gini (2003)
Korzhenkov, A. and T. Erickson-Gini (2003) report that the fort at Ein Rahel was first constructed and occupied in the 3rd century BCE followed by a hiatus in occupation from
~100 BCE until the early first century CE after which it was re-occupied. The fort was then, according to the authors, re-abandoned in the early second century CE.
The abandonment came after the fort's destruction due to what the authors beleive was a seismic event.
The archeoseismic evidence for the early second century CE earthquake was described as follows:
In the surrounding casemate rooms the latest occupational
phase (dating to the early 2nd cent. A.D.) was sealed by the collapse of
the upper floor of the fort. Sections excavated in these rooms revealed clear
collapse of the ceiling of the lower floor and the upper floor debris sealed by
the upper floor roof. The ceiling and roof of the structure were made from
woven organic matting and mud and were supported by wooden beams.
A rich ceramic assemblage was discovered in the fort as well as extensive organic finds
and included reed-matting and wooden beams, almond shells, nuts and olive and dates stones.
Several wooden lice combs and other wooden objects were found in excellent condition,
as well as many shreds of textiles and leather. Two camel bones were found bearing
inscriptions in black ink in the Nabataean script.
examined the textiles, basketry and cordage and reported that
Preserved by the arid climate, the perishables from `En Rahel include about 300 textile and basketry fragments,
cordage, spindle whorls and needles. The Early Roman date of the material, provided by its archaeological context,
differs slightly from its radiocarbon dating 
(Carmi and Segal 1995:55).
 In the fall of 1991, a brown goat-hair textile fragment from L13, Basket 129 was submitted to
I. Carmi and D. Segal at the 14C laboratory of the Weizmann Institute of Science, in order to
verify the archaeological conclusions. Their results suggest the fabric was manufactured in the Roman period:
-209.2 ± 3.9
1885 ± 40
* Conventional radiocarbon years before 1950.
** Calculated using CALIB 3 (Stuiver and Reimer 1993).
Note by Jefferson Williams : The radiocarbon date reported in Carmi and Segal 1995:55
is a bit different (and earlier)
-209.2 ± 3.9
1885 ± 40
66-145 CE (87%), 165-186 CE (13%)
* Conventional radiocarbon years before 1950.
** Calculated using CALIB 3 (Stuiver and Reimer 1993).
Tali Erickson-Gini (Personal communication, 2021) relates that the date of seismic destruction at
Ein Rahel was sometime during the late first century CE or early second century CE.
The authors mention the inclination of walls, the collapse of walls and lintels and the rotation of
Based on their analysis of structural damage, they hypothesize that the epicenter of the causative earthquake was located several
kilometers ESE (~125 degrees) of Ein Rahel and estimated local seismic intensity of VIII–IX.
The site is located along the northern cliff of the Ramon Crater, above the ancient of pass of Ma‘ale Mahmal
(Naqb el-Mahamla; Fig. 1), which was part of the ancient Petra–Gaza road (the Incense Road)
established by the Nabataeans in the early first century CE. It was later taken over by the
Romans in 106 CE with the annexation of the Nabataean kingdom. A small fort (6.5 × 7.0 m; Fig. 2)
overlooking the pass (Ma‘ale Mahmal) was discovered at the site by Kirk in 1937
(Kirk G.E. 1938. Exploration in the Southern Desert. PEQ 70:211–235).
A recent analysis of the pottery and coins from the fort by the writer indicated that the fort was
built in the Late Roman period, in the later part of the second century CE (Severan period)
and was occupied until the early third century CE. It was subsequently reoccupied in the Early
Byzantine period, with the construction of the army camp at nearby Oboda under Diocletian and
the reoccupation of Sha‘ar Ramon in that period (Erickson-Gini T. 2007. The Nabataean Roman Negev
in the Third Century CE. In S.A. Lewin and P. Pellegrini, eds. The Late Roman Army in
the Near East from Diocletian to the Arab Conquest [BAR Int. Ser. 1717]. Oxford. Pp. 91–100).
earlier remains appear to belong to an Early Roman Nabataean caravan station destroyed in the early second century CE by an earthquake.
Chronology and Seismic Effects
Erickson-Gini (2011) excavated 6 meters west of the fort and found remains
which appear to belong to an Early Roman Nabataean caravan station
destroyed in the early second century CE by an earthquake. They described what they
found as follows:
Pottery found in the excavation of the building shows that it was founded in the mid-first century CE and continued
to be used until sometime in the early second century CE, when it was evidently destroyed in an earthquake (Fig. 7
Jar in collapse in the corner of L402, looking northwest.
). Wall 1 appears to have collapsed northward (Fig. 8
Collapse of Wall 1 in the courtyard, looking west.
) and the remains of a cooking pot (Fig. 10:8) in L601,
next to the tabun (F-1), had broke and was partially spread eastward next to the interior of W1. Tabun F-1
contained small rocks and a number of potsherds, including an early type of a Gaza wine jar (Fig. 10:11)
that is dated to the first–third centuries CE. Other diagnostic potsherds included parts of Nabataean painted
ware bowls (Fig. 9:1–8), an Eastern Sigilatta ware bowl (Fig. 10:1), undecorated cups and bowls (Fig. 10:2–5, 7),
Nabataean rouletted ware (Fig. 10:6), Nabataean cooking pot (Fig. 10:9), Roman carinated cooking pot (Fig. 10:10),
jars (Fig. 10:12, 13), Nabataean strainer jugs (Fig. 10:14, 15) and a fragment of a Roman lamp with a decorated
discus (Fig. 10:16).
Visual investigation of the area north of the early structure shows traces of possible wall lines and
other rooms. However, no plan of this structure can be determined without carrying out further excavations.
It may be assumed, on the basis of the 2004 excavation, that rooms were situated around an open courtyard.
The structure was badly damaged by an earthquake and appears to have been stripped of masonry stones nearly
to its foundation.
In addition to excavations in the early building, the exterior sides of the Roman fort along the eastern,
northern and part of the western side, were excavated to facilitate restoration work on the structure
(L101/L102, L103, L201 and L801). A deep probe along the northeastern corner of the structure (L103)
was excavated down to bedrock. In the foundation trench near bedrock a diagnostic fragment of a Late
Roman-Nabataean debased painted ware bowl (Fig. 9:9) was found. The structure showed signs of
earthquake damage along its northern wall (L201) and the center of this wall had collapsed northward.
A section of collapse at this point of the wall was preserved and left unexcavated.
The current excavation confirmed the discovery that the Mezad Mahmal fort is a Roman and not a Nabataean fort,
as has generally been assumed. The fort was constructed in the later half of the second century CE in the
Late Roman period. It appears to belong to a Roman military initiative of constructing tower forts in the
Severan period elsewhere along the Petra–Gaza road, such as the fort of Horbat Qazra and Mezad Neqarot.
Other forts of this type and period are known at Horbat Haluqim (‘Atiqot 11 [ES]:34–50) and Horbat Dafit (ESI 3:16–17).
The primary discovery in this season was the remains of the Nabataean caravan station of the first century CE,
situated at the head of the pass. This structure, which apparently contained a number of rooms located around a
central courtyard, was destroyed in a seismic event in the early second century CE and subsequently, was probably abandoned.
Hellenistic-Nabataean Fort 'En Ziq
Erickson-Gini (2012) report that at the site of ’En Ziq in the Nahal Zin basin near
Sde Boker, the same early 2nd century earthquake which destroyed the Nabatean Fort at Ein Rahel also destroyed the Nabatean Hellenistic fortress at 'En Ziq.
Unfortunately, no details for this assessment at 'En Ziq were provided.
[Horbat Hazaza] is located 2.5 km northeast of the Haluqim Junction near Kibbutz Sede Boqer (map ref. 183376/534142)
and [is] situated on a low hilltop overlooking the modern Sede Boqer—Yeroham Road 204 on the west and
Nahal Ha-Ro`a and Nahal Hazaz on the east. The site was established next to an ancient track linking the
Oboda/Sede Boqer region with the Nabatean site of Mampsis in the Classical period.
This phase is Nabataean and may be dated to the Early Roman period
(prior to the Roman annexation in 106 CE), i.e., the second half of the
first through the early second centuries CE.
Phase 2 commenced when the north wing was restored and expanded following earthquake damage in the early second
century CE and corresponds with the second, post-annexation phase of occupation (post-106 CE).
Domestic use of the courtyard (Room 30) appears to indicate that the structure ceased to function as a temple
sometime during the second century CE. This phase extends primarily through the second and third centuries CE.
4th - mid 5th
Phase 3 is represented by a minor amount of material in one corner of the courtyard (Room 30) as late as the
Early Byzantine period (fourth to mid-fifth centuries CE).
The new evidence from the 2001 excavations at the site indicates that it was established in the mid-first century CE,
during Nabatean rule over the area. The material discovered in the south wing, together with evidence of the fallen
arches in Room 2, point to its destruction and subsequent abandonment of the south wing sometime in the
early second century CE, after which it may have been stripped of its building stones. In contrast,
the north wing was rebuilt and continued to be partially occupied well into the post-annexation period (Phase 2; second—third centuries CE) and
early Byzantine period (Phase 3; fourth—mid-fifth centuries CE).
Three walls of a structure (W1–W3; Fig. 4) were revealed during the 2005 season.
The walls were constructed from hard limestone blocks (average size 0.25×0.35 m).
The only complete wall was W2 in the west, oriented north–south (length 12.5 m),
which was preserved to at least two courses high above the surface.
A possible entrance is indicated along this wall, slightly west of its center.
The other two walls appear to have been of the same length.
The structure had entirely collapsed in the earthquake of the early second century CE.
The structure, which was apparently a two-story building, appears to have been stripped for
building stones, probably after the earthquake destruction.
In the collapse of the upper storey (L100, L500, L600), potsherds dating to
Late Hellenistic period were discovered, including painted fine-ware bowls
(Fig. 5:1, 3, 4), a bowl of the fish-plate tradition (Fig. 5:9),
as well as painted fine-ware bowls of the Early Roman period (Fig. 5:5–7).
Large fragments of a fine-ware painted bowl of the second half of the first century CE were discovered,
in situ, in the middle of the building (L100; Fig. 5:8).
A group of collapsed stone ceiling slabs (F2), standing nearly upright, was uncovered in the middle of the L601 square (Fig. 8
Upright, collapsed ceiling slabs (F2), looking north
The building was apparently destroyed in an earthquake in the early second century CE.
Evidence of this disaster could be seen in the collapsed upper floor in both squares,
the collapsed ceiling slabs and in the collapse of the structure’s exterior walls.
In addition, parts of the same Nabataean Aqaba Ware jar, found in the last season,
were discovered deep in L502, somewhere above the surface of the lower floor.
The coins recovered from the debris of the upper floor are Nabataean coins of the first century CE.
The pottery assemblage includes forms of the earliest Nabataean painted wares of the Late Hellenistic period,
Nabataean painted ware bowls of the Early Roman period, and plain ware Nabataean vessels, spanning the Late
Hellenistic and Early Roman periods. The latest datable pottery vessels discovered in the
structure are the Nabataean Aqaba Ware jars, dated to the early second century CE.
Collapsed upper floor, ceiling slabs, and exterior walls. The only complete wall (W2) was oriented N-S.
Evidence of an early second-century CE earthquake is found at other sites along the Incense Road at Nahal Neqarot, Sha'ar Ramon,
and particularly at the head of the Mahmal Pass where an Early Roman Nabataean structure collapsed (Korjenkov and Erickson-Gini 2003; Erickson-Gini 2011).
There is ample evidence of the immediate reconstruction of buildings at Moyat ‘Awad, Sha'ar Ramon, and Horvat Dafit. However, this does not
seem to be the case with the Mahmal and Neqarot sites.
Erickson-Gini (2012a) supplied the following regarding evidence at
for an early 2nd century CE earthquake
Although unreported in historical sources, a growing body of archaeological evidence points to
widespread earthquake destruction in several Nabataean sites in southern Jordan and the Negev,
Petra (Kolb B. 2002. Excavating a Nabataean Mansion. NEA 65/4:206–261)
Khirbat Tannur (Khirbet et-Tannur. NEAEHL 4, p. 1444. Jerusalem)
Aqaba (Dolinka, B.J. 2003. Nabataean Aqaba from a Ceramic Perspective: Local and Intra-Regional Trade in
Aqaba Ware during the 1st and 2nd Centuries AD [Bar Int. Ser. 1116]. Oxford)
Horbat Dafit (Dolinka B.J. 2006. Arabia Adquistita? Ceramic Evidence for Nabataean Cultural
Continuity during the Antonine and Severan Periods: The Aqaba Ware from Horvat Dafit. Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation. The University of Liverpool)
Horbat Hazaza (Erickson-Gini T. 2010. Nabataean Settlement and Self-Organized Economy in the Central Negev [Bar Int. Ser. 2054]. Oxford).
Fig. 4. Dip and strike CHIRP profiles (see Fig. 3), from which sample segments “a” and “b” have been enlarged
for comparison with previously identified sediment core and underwater excavation stratigraphic compilations within the surveyed area
(Reinhardt et al., 2006; Reinhardt and Raban, 2008; Goodman-Tchernov et al., 2009). Three horizons, representing four tsunami events,
are recognizable from the available core evidence within the surveyed area (for core locations, see Fig. 1C). Goodman-Tchernov and Austin (2015)
Goodman-Tchernov and Austin (2015) and earlier researchers associated a 1st - 2nd century CE tsunamite
deposit from offshore Caesarea
with the Trajan quake of ~115 AD, we consider this association unlikely.
Salamon et al (2011) noted that the presence of a tsunami far south of the supposed epicenter of the Trajan Quake does not fit the usual pattern of tsunamis on the Israeli
coast where most tsunamis which hit the coast were generated by ruptures more or less opposite to the coast (e.g. from the Cypriot and Hellenic Arcs).
While Salamon et. al. (2011) suggested a storm surge as a possibility, the work of
Goodman-Tchernov and Austin (2015) and earlier publications appears to preclude this as they used a host of indicators to seperate storm surge deposits from
We propose that an offshore shelf collapse potentially due to the Incense Road Earthquake of ~110 - ~114 AD
as a more likely cause.
ARCGIS Dashboard (also under construction although an early version is online).
Some simple calculations are performed below to see if the Incense Road Earthquake could have produced the tsunamogenic deposits in Caesarea due to a
localized offshore shelf failure.
1. Intensity estimates at Nahal Ze 'elim due to the 5 cm. thick brecciated seimsite associated with Incense Road Quake at Nahal Ze 'elim (ZA-2) are
Lu et al (2020) - no site effect considered
Williams (2004) - no site effect considered
Lu et al (2020) - with site effect based on VS30
Williams (2004) - with site effect based on VS30
Estimated Intensity at Nahal Ze 'elim = VIII (8) which corresponds to a ahmax (aka PGA) of 0.34-0.65 g based on
2. Magnitude from fault distance and ahmax
Determine fault distance from location to nearest or most likely earthquake producing fault
Fault distance = 13 km.
Enter ahmax = 0.31 g
Magnitude = 7.5
3. Fault break length based on magnitude (Wells and Coppersmith, 1994)
Magnitude = 7.50
Fault Break = 124 km.
4. Compute ahmax base on Magnitude and distance to location - offshore Caesarea
Magnitude = 7.5
Distance (R) from fault break to shelf (~150 km.).
attenuation relationship of Hough and Avni to estimate peak horizontal ground acceleration at Caesarea. Include site effect- slope combined with soft sediments.
Initial calculations led to a peak horizontal ground acceleration (ahmax) of 0.04 – 0.14 g offshore Caesarea without considering a site effect. 0.1 g is sufficient to cause a submarine
landslide. Check Tsunami literature and Civil Engineering slope stability equations to refine this.
There is an offshore slope break from Akhziv down to Gaza capable of generating tsunamis.
Dey et al (2014) reports underwater slumps offshore from Palmachim and
Akhziv which are located adjacent to the shelf slopes.
A list of locations with paleoseismic evidence for the Incense Road earthquake is provided below accompanied by an assessment.
wide range of dates - could be due to southern Cyril Quake
Each site will now be discussed separately.
Dead Sea - Introduction & Summary
There appears to be a clear spatial pattern at play for an early second century earthquake with a 5 cm. thick seismite in the south (Nahal Ze ‘elim) and no seismites observed
in the north (En Feshka). This, combined with paleoseismic evidence from the Arava, indicates that this early second century earthquake was caused by a fault break on the Arava Fault;
likely associated with the Incense Road Earthquake of ~110 - ~114 AD.
Migowski et. al. (2004) assigned two seismites at depths of 264 and 265 cm. (2.64 and 2.65 m)
at En Gedi to earthquakes in 112 and 115 AD. The 112 AD date refers to the 110-114 AD Incense Road Quake and the 115 AD date refers to the
Trajan Quake which was too far away to have created a Dead Sea seismite.
During field work in January 2014 in the nearby En Gedi Trench,
Williams saw evidence for a sizeable earthquake around 112 +/- 8 AD which was probably created by the Incense Road Quake. Williams also observed two detachment planes in the
Road Quake seismite (use magnifying glass to see at high resolution) which might explain why Migowski, while doing microscope work on the En Gedi Core,
identified two separate seismites from the same deformation event.
Nahal Ze ‘elim (Site ZA-2)
Kagan et. al. (2011) dated a 5 cm. thick seismite at a depth of 445 cm. to 86-164 AD (1 σ) and assigned a date of 115 AD.
The 115 AD date refers to the
Trajan Quake which was too far away to have created a Dead Sea seismite so a
correction has been made to associate this seismite with the 110-114 AD Incense Road Quake.
Taybeh Trench, Jordan
LeFevre et al. (2018) identified a seismic event (E4) in the Taybeh trench in the Arava which they modeled
between 14 BC and 205 AD and associated with the Incense Road Earthquake which struck between 110 AD and 114 AD.
Figure S5: 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 BC and 492 AD. The large spread in age caused them to consider two possible earthquakes as the cause; the Incense Road Earthquake
between 110 AD and 114 AD and the southern Cyril Earthquake of 363 AD. They preferred the Cyril Earthquake of 363 AD based on weighing other
noteArcheoseismic Evidence, Historical Reports, and Dead Sea Seismite Evidence.
not related to their paleoseismic study and noted that further investigation was required.
Figure 6. 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. Klinger et al (2015)
An 438 - In that year there was an earthquake: Nicopolis and Caesarea were overthrown.
A.G. 438 comes from the Seleucid calendar and is often abbreviated as A.G.(Anno Graecorum). Russell(1985) relates that
A.G. 438 corresponds to 126/7 AD. Chronographia in original Syriac can be found
Paleoclimate - Droughts
 A parasang is a Persian mile.
There are differing accounts of the exact distance of a parasang. Karcz (2004) states that this is 4000 yards which is in approximate agreement with other estimates.
Using the reckoning of Karcz (2004), 400 parasangs equals to 1463 km. Although 400 parasangs
by 400 parasangs does seem like an impossible distance, this is not necessarily a reason to reject this account. The ancient sources frequently exaggerate when it come to numbers
and this is particularly the case in religious/spiritual literature. In addition 400 parasangs may be a symbolic number and/or a euphemism for a wide area.
400 parasangs was also used in a Talmudic account to describe the extent of the
Pig on the Wall Quake.
WHEN Masada was thus taken, the general left a garrison in the fortress to keep it, and he himself went away to Cesarea; for there were now no enemies
left in the country, but it was all overthrown by so long a war.
The next occupation of Masada after the earthquakes was a Byzantine settlement in the 5th century AD.
Negev, A. (1974). The Nabatean Potter's Workshop at Oboda, Habelt.