14So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. 15Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, 16the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.The bolded text is a description of a landslide creating a natural dam. In modern terms, it states that upstream at the town of Adam, the steep banks of the Jordan River collapsed forming a natural dam which caused the river downstream to dry up allowing the Israelites to cross the previously unpassable Jordan River. The last time something like this happened was in 1927 during the Jericho earthquake. The shaking from this earthquake caused the banks of the Jordan River to fail. A landslide dammed up the river and the Jordan ran dry for 22.5 hours (Avni, 1999 and Avni et al., 2002).
On Thursday llth, of the month Shevat, year Hashav [14 January 1541], at one in the afternoon, there was a great earthquake and there was almost total destruction of Jerusalem,Thus, in addition to Joshua 3, we have four more reports of the natural damming of the Jordan River in
And the gentiles report that the river Jordan is dry and they crossed it on dry land and that this lasted three days. Worse than the fall of their houses, they lamented their [loss of] water, … which turned into blood for three or four days. And… the Jordan was dry and desolate because two big hills fell into the river, and others say that the earth cracked and swallowed up the waters of the Jordan.
Although optical luminescence dating can be used to date landslide scars in the vicinity of Damieh,
that might be a bit like searching for a needle in a haystack so it might be better to concentrate initial
efforts in identifying landslide deposits downstream of Damieh.
The first step would involve
identifying a landslide deposit signature using known events – e.g. the earthquakes of 1546 AD and 1927 AD.
The seismites from these earthquakes should be identifiable via radiocarbon dating combined with seasonal palynology.
Next comes the (admittedly difficult) task of identifying the landslide deposit. After the dammed water breaks through it will carry the sediment downstream. Since the landslides are caused by a collapse of the soft Pleistocene Lisan formation which makes up the river banks near Damieh, the key would be to identify reworked Lisan formation landslide deposits from normal Holocene Deposition. Stein et al. (1997) examined geochemical differences between the two deposits in order to better understand the evolution of the Dead Sea water body and this work suggests several ways to distinguish the deposits including (but not limited to)
Articles and Books
Stein, M., et al. (1997). “Strontium isotopic, chemical, and sedimentological evidence for the evolution of Lake Lisan and the Dead Sea.” Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 61(18): 3975-3992.
Torfstein, A. (2008). Brine – freshwater interplay and effects on the evolution of saline lakes The Dead Sea Rift terminal lakes. Jerusalem, Geological Survey of Israel.
Articles and Books
Ambraseys, N. and I. Karcz (1992). “The earthquake of 1546 in the Holy Landz” Terra Nova 4(2): 254-263.
Ambraseys, N. (2009). Earthquakes in the Mediterranean and Middle East: a multidisciplinary study of seismicity up to 1900. Cambridge, UK, Cambridge University Press
Amiran, D. H. K., Arieh, E. and Turcotte,T. (1994). “Earthquakes in Israel and adjacent areas: macroseismic observations since 100 B.C.E.” Israel Exploration Journal 44: 260-305.
Avni, R. (1999). The 1927 Jericho Earthquake. Comprehensive Macroseismic Analysis Based on Contemporary Sources (in Hebrew). Beer Sheva, Israel, Ben Gurion University of the Negev.
Avni, R., et al. (2002). “Erroneous interpretation of historical documents related to the epicenter of the 1927 Jericho earthquake in the Holy Land.” Journal of Seismology 6(4): 469-476./a>
Ben-Menahem, A. (1979). “Earthquake catalogue for the Middle East (92 BC-AD 1980)” B ollettino di Geofisica Teorica e Applicata 21: 245-313.
Braslavski, J. (1938), ‘The earthquake that blocked the Jordan in 1546’, Zion, 3 (4), 323-336.
Braslavski, J. (1956), ‘The earthquake of the year 1546’, Eretz Israel, Bull. Isr. Explor. Soc.,19,230-235.
Drew, C. and Han, W. (2010) Dynamics of Wind Setdown at Suez and the Eastern Nile Delta, PLOS ONE - open access at PLOS ONE
Kenyon, K. (1957). Digging up Jericho. London - can be borrowed with a free account from archive.org
Klein, S. (1939), ‘Remarks on the article by J. Braslavski’, Zion, N.S, 4, 90
Watson:, C. C. M. (1895). “The Stoppage of the River Jordan in A.D. 1267.” Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly Statement: 253-261. - open access at Google Books
1546 CE Quake at The Earthquake Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Transform
Associates for Biblical Research - Apologist website with many photos, plans, etc. of archaeological excavations