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Monaxius and Plinta Quake

Winter or Spring of 419 AD

by Jefferson Williams

Introduction & Summary

An earthquake struck Palestine between 1 January 419 and 3 April 419. Ambraseys (2009), in an apparent mistake [1], dates the earthquake to late 418 AD while Guidoboni et. al. (1994) and Russell (1985) correctly date the earthquake to the year 419 AD. The textual accounts of Idatius and Marcellus Comes constrain the date of the earthquake to between 1 January 419 and 3 April 419. Sources suggest many cities were damaged but only Jerusalem is mentioned specifically. Although the contemporaneous and near contemporaneous sources seem to be in agreement that it was a powerful earthquake, all the authors were located far from Palestine and had to have relied on report(s) from the area which they could not verify. Archeoseismic and paleoseismic evidence may suggest a fault break in the Arava.

Textual Evidence

Annales by Marcellinus Comes
Sermon XIX by Augustine
Chronicon by Idatius (aka Hydatius)
Consularia Constantinopolitana


Textual accounts for this earthquake come from contemporaneous and slightly later authors all of whom were residing far from Palestine. Levenson (2004:431-432) suggests that the four sources (Augustine, Idatius, Marcellinus Comes, and the Consularia Constantinopolitana) based their commentary/report on a letter from Praulius who was the Bishop of Jerusalem in 419 CE. Levenson (2004:431-432) also suggests that there may be some conflation in these texts with descriptions of the Cyril Quake seeping into the report on the Monaxius and Plinta Quake. An excerpt from Levenson's (2004:431-432) discussion on this topic is repeated below:
A letter sent by the Jerusalem bishop reporting Palestinian earthquakes in or around 419

This letter, no longer extant, but which can be reconstructed from references to it in Augustine, Hydatius, Marcellinus Comes, and the Consularia Constantinopolitana93, shares a number of significant parallels with the letter on the rebuilding of the Temple: an address to all the churches of the world; a report of the collapse of many Palestinian cities in an earthquake; an account of the conversion and baptism of Jews and pagans followed by the appearance of the sign of the cross on the garments of those baptized. It is also possible that the letter of 419 contained an account of a procession to the Mt. of Olives, similar to the one awkwardly inserted into the Syriac letter, since Marcellinus Comes refers to a Christophany on the Mt. of Olives in his report of the events of 419.


93 Hydatius, Chronicon 71a (AD 419) (ed. A. Tranoy, Hydace. Chronique [SC 219; 1974], 1:124; R.W. Burgess, The Chronicle of Hydatius and the Consularia Constantinopolitana [1993], 86); Consularia Constantinoplitana AD 419 (ed. T. Mommsen,Chronica minora 1 [MGHaa 9; 1894], 246; Burgess, The Chronicle, 244); Augustine, Sermo 19.6 (ed. C. Lambot, [CCSL 41; 1961], 258); Marcellinus Comes, Chronica (ed. T. Mommsen, Chronica minora 2 [MGHaa 11; 1893], 74). For the chronological problems of the notices in Hydatius (which appears to belong to 417) and the Consularia Constantinopolitana (which incorrectly gives John as the bishop of Jerusalem in 419), see Burgess, The Chronicle, 43-44 and 206 (cf. S. Muhlberger, The Fifth-Century Chroniclers [1990], 207).

Annales by Marcellinus Comes

Marcellinus Comes (died ~534 AD) spent most of his life in Constantinople and wrote Annales as a continuation of Jerome's continuation of Eusebius's Ecclesiastical History. It covers 379 - 534 AD with additions to 566 AD by an unknown author. The Latin text quoted below has a margin note dating it to 419 AD by the editor.

(translated by Google and Williams)


(419) 2. Monaxii and Plinta

1 Valentian the younger was born on July 5 in Ravenna to his father Constantine and mother Placidia.
2 Many Palestinian cities were ruined by an earthquake.
3 Our Lord Jesus Christ is always present everywhere and chose to manifest himself in a cloud on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. Many women and then both sexes of many nations and lands came to believe in Christ such as blurred vision and hearing terrified washed away (their sins ?) and were baptized by the cross


(419) II. Monaxii et Plintae

1 Valentinianus iunior apud Rauennam patre Constantio et Placidia matre V nonas Iulias natus est.
2 Multae Palaestinae ciuitates uillaeque terrae motu conlapsae.
3 Dominus noster Iesus Christus semper ubique praesens et super montem oliueti Hierosolymae uicinum sese de nube manifestauit. Multae tunc utriusque sexus uicinarum gentium nationes tam uisu quam auditu perterritae atque credulae sacro Christi fonte ablutae sunt omniumque baptizatorum in tunicis crux saluatoris diuinitatis nutu extemplo inpressa refulsit.
Marcellinus dates the earthquake to the same Olympiad year that Valentinian was born. Valentinian was born on July 9, 419 AD and since the Olympiad year starts on roughly July 20 or August 20, this would date this earthquake to between July/August 418 and July/August 419. Marcellinus further places the earthquake under the heading of Monaxius and Plinta who ruled the Eastern Roman Empire in consulship in 419 AD. This further constrains the date of the earthquake to 1 January 419 to July or August 419.

Sermon XIX by Augustine

Augustine of Hippo (354 - 430 AD) was the Bishop of Hippo Regius in what is now Annaba, Algeria which is where he was living when he wrote Sermon XIX. Guidoboni et. al. (1994) and Ambraseys (2019) supply similar quotes from Sermon XIX while Russell (1985) notes that Sermon XIX is undated, Guidoboni et al (1994)'s quote is listed below

Great earthquakes are reported from the East. Some great cities suddenly collapsed in ruins. Jews, pagans and catechumens in Jerusalem were terrified, and all were baptised.


Terrae motus magni de orientalibus nuntiantur. Nonnullae magnae repentinis conlapsae sunt civitates. Territi apud Hierosolvmam qui inerant iudaei, pagani, catechumini, omnes sunt baptizati. Dicuntur fortasse baptizati septem millia hominum. Signum Christi in vestibus iudaeorum baptizatorum apparuit. Relatu fratrum fidelium constantissimo ista nuntiantur.
This quote suggests shaking in Jerusalem and collapse in the the many cities mentioned by Marcellinus Comes. Damage in Jerusalem, however, is not mentioned. It may have just shook there and caused terror. Ambraseys (2009) notes that since this account was placed in a sermon, some poetic license in exaggerating the effect of the earthquake may have been applied.

Chronicon by Idatius (aka Hydatius)

Idatius (~400 - ~469 AD) was a Bishop in Gallaecia (now Portugal). He wrote Chronicon towards the end of his life which follows in the tradition of Jerome's continuation of Eusebius' Chronicle. Idatius' Chronicle starts in 379 AD. Burgess (1993) notes that Idatius used five maior chronological systems (Jubilees, Spanish, Years of Abraham, Olympiads, and Regnal Years), there are variations between manuscripts, there are scribal errors, and there are chronological errors made by Idatius himself (e.g. with Olympiads). All of this means that although there are a number of dates one can use to constrain the timing of the Monaxius and Plinta earthquake of ~419 AD, some chronological uncertainty may be inherent to the text itself. An English translation provided by Burgess (1993) is shown below. By cross referencing to events listed in the quote below, it appears that the year listed in the margin notes could be off by as much as a year or two.

The author of this work did not know who presided over the church in Alexandria after Theophilus.
Constantius took Placidia as his wife.

23 (Margin Note - 417 AD)

In the name of Rome Vallia, the king of the Goths, inflicted a vast slaughter upon the barbarians within Spain.
There was an eclipse of the sun on 19 July, which was a Thursday. [Note: Actually it was on a Friday (Schove, D., Fletcher, A. (1987)]
The thirty-ninth bishop to preside over the church in Rome was Eulalius.
While the aforementioned bishop was still in office, the holy places in Jerusalem and other areas were shaken by a terrible earthquake. This information was revealed in the writings of this same bishop.

24 (Margin Note - 418 AD)

All of the Siling Vandals in Baetica were wiped out by King Vallia.
The Alans, who were ruling over the Vandals and Sueves, suffered such heary losses at the hands of the Goths that after the death of their king, Addax, the few survivors, with no thought for their own kingdom, placed themselves under the protection of Gunderic, the king of the Vandals, who had settled in Gallaecia.
The Goths broke off the campaign which they were waging and were recalled by Constantius to Gaul where they were given settlements in Aquitania from Tolosa all the way to the Ocean.
Vallia, the king of the Goths, died and was succeeded as king by Theoderic.

25 (Margin Note - 419 AD)

After a quarrel broke out between Gunderic, the king of the Vandals, and Hermeric, the king of the Sueves, the Sueves were blockaded in the Erbasian Mountains by the Vandals.
Valentinian, the son of Constantius and Placidia, was born.
Many terrifying signs which appeared in the city of Biterrae in Gallic territory are described in a widely-circulated letter of Paulinus, bishop of that same city.
The text for the earthquake description in Latin reads as follows
Durante episcopo quo supra grauissimo terremotu sancta Hierosolimis loca quassantur et cetera, de quibus ita gestis eiusdem episcopi scripta declarant.
Guidoboni et. al. (1994) notes that
the manuscripts place Hydatius' entry under the year 418, but as A.Tranoy, the editor of the text, has shown, the scribe seems to have confused a mention of bishop John of Jerusalem (who was already dead by this time) with one of bishop Eulalius of Rome, who is referred to in paragraph 66 of the Chronicle. Tranoy dates the earthquake to 419 on the basis of evidence from Marcellinus and the Consularia Constantinopolitana.
The error of the wrong Bishop is not present in the edition by Burgess (1993). It appears that Ambraseys (2009) did not access the edition by Burgess (1993) and either did not recognize the error of the wrong Bishop or made a poor correction as he inserted a note in his catalog entry noting that "this same bishop" was Saint Zosimus who ruled from ruled March 417 until his death on 26 December 418. This led Ambraseys (2009) to state that Idatius dated the earthquake to within the papacy (aka the bishop of Rome) of Saint Zosimus. See footnote [1] for an explanation of how Ambraseys (2019) came up with an incorrect date.

Considering that apparently Eulalius was bishop of Rome when the this earthquake struck, this constrains the date of the earthquake to 27 December 418 - 3 April 419 when Eulalius was the antipope in Rome. Since Marcellinus Comes dates the earthquake to the consulships of Monaxius and Plinta which was in 419 AD, this earthquake is further constrained to approximately the first quarter of 419 CE - 1 January 419 to 3 April 419.

Consularia Constantinopolitana

I was unable to access this text but it can be found here.

Archaeoseismic Evidence

Archaeoseismic evidence is summarized below

Location Status Intensity Comments
Khirbet Shema no evidence
Khorazin needs investigation
Aphek/Antipatris needs investigation ≥ 7
Avdat/Oboda possible ≥ 8 ridge effect may be present at site
Shivta possible
Mamphis possible 9 epicenter to the north
Yotvata possible to probable ≥ 8
Petra - Introduction n/a n/a
Petra - ez-Zantur and other sites possible but debated

Archaeoseismic Evidence is examined on a case by case basis below

Khirbet Shema


Although excavators Meyers, Kraabel, and Strange (1976) identified two earthquake events ( Eusebius' Martyr Quake of ~306 AD and Monaxius and Plinta Quake of ~419 AD) which destroyed a Synagogue I and then a Synagogue II at Khirbet Shema, subsequent authors ( e.g. Russell (1980) and Magness (1997)) re-examined their chronology and redated the earthquake evidence. Russell (1980) redated the two earthquake events to the Cyril Quake of 363 AD and the Monaxius and Plinta Quake of ~419 AD while Magness (1997) concluded that there was no solid evidence for the existence of a Synagogue I on the site and evidence for an earthquake event in ~306 AD was lacking. She posited that Synagogue II was constructed in the late 4th to early 5th century AD and concluded that there was no solid evidence for the 419 AD (or 363 CE) earthquake as well. In Magness (1997) interpretation of the evidence, she suggested that the site had been abandoned when an earthquake brought down Synagogue II sometime before the 8th century AD.

Meyers, Kraabel, and Strange (1976) archeoseismic evidence for the Monaxius and Plinta Quake of ~419 AD appears to be shaky. It is based on a lacuna of coin evidence starting in 408 AD and lasting for the last three quarters of the 5th century AD. They suggest this indicates abandonment of the site during this time period and in turn suggest that abandonment was likely due to the Monaxius and Plinta Quake of ~419 AD. Magness (1997: 217-218) provides a number of reason why she classifies this as a "dangerous argument from silence". In any case, we agree with Magness that there is at best scant archeoseismic evidence at Khirbet Shema for an earthquake in ~419 AD.


Russell (1985) relates that "it has been suggested that the early 5th century destruction evidence at Khorazin relates to this earthquake Yeivin (1973: 157 - in hebrew). This potential archeoseismic evidence is currently labeled as needs investigation.

Antipatris aka Aphek


Transliterated Name Source Name
Tel Afek Hebrew תל אפק‎‎
Kŭlat Râs el 'Ain Arabic كولات راس يل 'اين
Binar Bashi Ottoman
Surdi fontes Early Frankish ‎‎
'Auja Arabic 'اوجا
Abu Butrus Arabic ابو بوتروس
Antipatris Hebrew ‎‎אנטיפטריס
Antipatris Ancient Greek Αντιπατρίς‎‎
Pegae Hellenistic Period

Aphek is located about 12 km. east of Tel Aviv. It has a long history of habitation appearing for example in 19th century BCE Egyptian Execration texts (Pirhiya Beck and Moshe Kochavi in Stern et al, 1993). Aphek is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible in a list of conquered Canaanite cities (Joshua 12:18, etc.) and as the base from which the Philistines set out to fight Israel (1 Samuel 4:1, 1 Samuel 29:l) (Pirhiya Beck and Moshe Kochavi in Stern et al, 1993). In the Hellenistic period, the city of Pegae occupied the mound. It was expanded by Herod the Great and renamed Antipatris, after his father (Pirhiya Beck and Moshe Kochavi in Stern et al, 1993). It was also occupied in Helenistic, Early Arab, and Ottoman times .


Karcz and Kafri (1978: 244-245) reported that tilted and distorted walls and subsiding arches were encountered in the excavations of the Byzantine town of Antipatris (Aphek) which led Kochavi (1976) and Kochavi (personal communication to Karcz) to attribute the end and decay of the town to the earthquake of 419 AD. In his preliminary report on excavations Kochavi (1975) reported that very little was uncovered in the Early Byzantine Period and suggested that Byzantine Antipatris, as a city of any importance, probably came to its end around the beginning of the 5th century B.C.E. while Kochavi (1981) reports that the entire city of Antipatris was destroyed by an earthquake in 419 CE. Golan (2008) does not present any earthquake evidence but mentions that Kochavi thought that the city was destroyed by the Cyril Quake of 363 CE.
The fact that most of the coins dated to the second half of the fourth century CE suggests that the cardo may have been abandoned at the beginning of the Byzantine period, which seems to corroborate the excavators’ conclusions (Kochavi 1989) that assumed the city was destroyed in the year 363 CE.
The latest coins reported by Kochavi (1975), apparently come from the Early Byzantine level, dated to Constantine the Great (308-337 C.E.), Constantius II (337-361 C.E.), and Arcadius (395-408 C.E.).

Jones (2021) added
Caution must be exercised in interpreting the numismatic data, however, as the ceramic fords included PRS 3 forms dating to the mid-5th-6th century (Golan 2008: fig. 5.5-6). More troubling is the apparent presence of `Mefjar ware' (i.e. Islamic Cream Ware), which dates no earlier than the late 7th century (see Walmsley 2001), in the `earthquake stratum' (Neidinger 1982: 167). This may indicate multiple destructions, but without more complete publication of the excavations, this is difficult to evaluate. It is, however, worth noting the presence of a bishop of Antipatris at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 (Dauphin 2000; Frankel and Kochavi 2000: 23, 31). This may be explained, as Fischer (1989: 1806) suggests, by assuming that the role of Antipatris `was filled with a great number of smaller settlements' like Khirbat Dhikrin (Zikrin) after the 418/419 earthquake, but it is equally likely that Antipatris was simply not abandoned in the early 5th century.
I was unable to access the final report on the excavations (Kochavi (1976:52)). Absent solid stratigraphic information, this archeoseismic evdience cannot be evaluated and is classified as needs investigation.

Seismic Effects

Karcz and Kafri (1978: 244-245) reported that tilted and distorted walls and subsiding arches were encountered.

Intensity Estimates

Effect Location Intensity
Arch Damage VI +
Tilted Walls VI +
Folded Walls VII +
This archaeoseismic evidence requires a minimum Intensity of VII (7) when using the Earthquake Archeological Effects chart of Rodríguez-Pascua et al (2013: 221-224 big pdf) .


Avdat Acropolis Aerial View of Avdat Acropolis



Transliterated Name Source Name
Avdat Hebrew עבדת‎‎
Abdah Arabic عبدة‎
Oboda Ancient Greek ‎‎Ὀβόδα
Ovdat ‎‎
Obodat ‎‎

Avdat started out in the 3rd or 4th century BCE as a Nabatean way station on the Incense Road (Avraham Negev in Stern et al, 1993). By the 1st century BCE, the town was named Oboba after Nabatean King Obodas I. It was occupied continuously until it was abandoned in the 7th century . Situated at the end of a ~4 km. long ridge, Avdat may have suffered from seismic amplification during past earthquakes as it appears it may be subject to a topographic or ridge effect (terrain map).


Archeological excavations have uncovered several earthquakes which struck Avdat/Oboda. Erickson-Gini, T. (2014) noted approximate dates and Intensities:
  1. Substantial destruction in the early 2nd century CE
  2. Some damage due to an earthquake in 363 CE
  3. A massive earthquake in the early 5th century CE
  4. A massive earthquake in the early 7th century CE
Early 2nd century earthquake

The early 2nd century earthquake is the Incense Road Quake which she described as follows:
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. Destruction from this earthquake is well attested particularly nearby at Horvat Hazaza, and along the Petra to Gaza road at Mezad Mahmal, Sha'ar Ramon, Mezad Neqarot and Moyat `Awad, and at `En Rahel in the Arava as well as at Mampsis (Korjenkov and Erickson-Gini 2003).
Erickson-Gini and Israel (2013) added
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 and Israel (2013) discussed seismic damage at Moyat ‘Awad due to this earthquake
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).
Southern Cyril Quake (363 CE)

Tali Erickson-Gini in Stern et al (2008) provided some information on the southern Cyril Quake of 363 CE.
In 1999–2000 an area located east of the Byzantine town wall and the north tower at Oboda was excavated on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Some structural damage, probably resulting from the 363 CE earthquake, is evident in the blockage of a few doorways and the collapse of one of the rooms (rooms 4, 7, 17).
one room of the earlier structure appears to have been utilized in the fourth century CE (room 7), and it apparently collapsed in the 363 earthquake.

the numismatic and ceramic evidence uncovered in this third phase indicate that the dwellings were destroyed in a violent earthquake several decades after that of 363 CE. Following this second, local earthquake, the area was abandoned and many of the building stones were robbed.
5th century earthquake

An early 5th century earthquake suggests the Monaxius and Plinta Quake of 419 CE where there appears to be archaeoseismic evidence in Yotvata. Erickson-Gini, T. (2014) described the early 5th century earthquake at Avdat/Oboda:
A massive earthquake took place in the early 5th century CE, substantial evidence of which was uncovered in the late Roman and early Byzantine residential quarter (Erickson-Gini 2010a: 91-93). All of the structures east of the town wall were abandoned and used as a source of building stone for the late Byzantine town. Following this earthquake, massive revetment walls were constructed along the southern wall of the acropolis in order to shore up the heavily damaged walls. In contrast, the late Byzantine citadel adjoining the temenos area of the acropolis has no revetment walls, certainly due to its construction following the earthquake. The two churches inside the temenos area were built using numerous early Roman ashlars and architectural elements originally from the Obodas Temple damaged in the earthquake.
Negev (1989) provided a wider range of dates for this earthquake which entertains the possibility that this archaeoseismic evidence was caused by the hypothesized Negev Quake which, if real, is dated to the late 5th to early 6th century CE.
A decisive factor in determining this phase is the dating of a series of earthquakes, one or more of which shattered numerous buildings in some of the towns of the central Negev. Although literary evidence is scarce, there is ample archaeological evidence that testifies to these disasters. At Oboda the entire length of the old southern Nabatean retaining wall was thrust outwards, and for this reason it had to be supported by a heavy, slanting supporting wall. Similarly much damage was caused to a massive tower of the Nabatean period, identified in July 1989 as the temple of Obodas (?), which in the Late Roman - early Byzantine period was incorporated in the citadel occupying the eastern half of the acropolis hill. Most of the damage was caused to the western and southern walls of the temple, and for this reason these too had to be supported by still heavier stone taluses, blocking the original entrance to the temple on the southern wall. It is against this talus that the South Church was built. Similar damage was also caused to some of the nearby buildings in the so-called Roman Quarter south of the temple. We may thus place the date of the earthquake between the end of the third century A.D., when the latest building in this quarter was constructed, and A.D. 541, when the Martyrium of St. Theodore was already being used as a burial ground.
Negev (1961) identified several phases of occupation at one of which, dated by inscriptions, began in the third century CE. Negev (1961: 126) noted that during this Late Roman/Byzantine occupation phase, the retaining walls were "probably shattered by a strong earthquake" and were repaired by "adding a second, rounded wall, screening the original one". A precise date for the archeoseismic damage was not supplied.

7th century earthquake

Finally, Erickson-Gini, T. (2014) also discussed the early 7th century earthquake.
The destruction of the town by a massive earthquake sometime in the early 7th century CE was one piece of a puzzle not mentioned by Negev. The earthquake certainly occurred after the latest inscription found at the site in the Martyrion of St. Theodore (South Church) in 617 CE (Negev 1981: 37). Direct evidence of the destruction and abandonment of the site was uncovered by Fabian, with massive destruction evident throughout the site, and particularly along the western face of the site with its extensive caves and buildings (Korjenkov et al., 1996). Mezad Yeruham, several kms further south, was apparently destroyed at the same time (Y. Baumgarten, personal communication), while the earthquake left a trail of damage at numerous sites. This is indicated by the early seventh-century construction of revetment walls around churches and private houses at Sobota (Shivta), Sa'adon, Rehovot in-the-Negev, and Nessana. Compared to other Nabataean sites in the Negev Highlands that indicate a continued occupation through the late Byzantine period well into the early Islamic period in the 9th c., Oboda was devoid of settlement in the early Islamic period. In place of a central town, such as Sobota (Shivta), Rehovot in-the-Negev, or Nessana, a significant number of early Islamic farming villages—many with open-air mosques—were found in close proximity to Oboda.
This would suggest the Sword in the Sky Quake of 634 CE with the potentially dubious Sign of the Prophet Quake (613-622 CE) and the Jordan Valley Quake of 656/660 CE as less likely possibilities.

Archaeoseismic investigations

Korjenkov and Mazor (1999) conducted two archaeoseismic surveys at Avdat and were able to distinguish between 7th century CE seismic effects and effects from a "previous" earthquake in. The "previous" earthquake in this case would be the southern Cyril Quake of 363 CE and/or the 5th century CE earthquake. Since, the Archaeological literature indicates that the 5th century earthquake did more damage to Avdat than the southern Cyril Quake, it can likely be assumed that most of the damaged features that were adapted to in rebuilding would come from the 5th century earthquake.

Seismic Effects

In surveys conducted in 1994 and 1996, Korjenkov and Mazor (1999) examined hundreds of deformation features and selected 41 measurements of wall inclinations, 26 of wall collapse, 17 of block rotations, and 96 cases of through-going fractures, where [they] were certain of the non-static origin of dislocations. They divided the features of seismic destructioninto 2 groups based on diagnostic use.

  1. Seismic-related features, which can be used for the determination of the seismic origin of the destruction, and degree of seismic shaking - seismic intensity
    1. joints crossing through a few adjacent blocks
    2. rotation of arch or roof slabs around horizontal axis
    3. hanging stones in the arches
    4. later built supporting walls for the tilted walls and columns
    5. non-coincidence of lower rows of masonry with upper building construction
  2. Seismic indicators which can be used for the determination of epicentral direction
    1. inclination of walls
    2. shifting of complete walls or wall fragments
    3. collapse of arches and wall fragments
    4. rotation of building fragments in arches and walls around the vertical axis
Examples and summaries of observations are presented below:
Damage Type
7th century
Location Figure Comments
JOINTS AS AN INDICATION OF THE SEISMIC NATURE OF THE DESTRUCTIONS 7th century Northern Church 4 Joints are mode 1 (dilatation) fractures developed as a result of extension (Engelder and Fisher. 1996). Joints confined to stone breaks often appear in old buildings. Interpretation of such joints is somewhat ambiguous: they could be erected tectonically, they could also be the result of weathering, i.e., repeated heating and cooling events. In contrast, joints passing through two or more adjacent blocks (through-going joints) could be formed only under high strains. Such joints require the application of tremendous amounts of energy to overcome the stress shadows, appearing along free surfaces at the block margins (Fisher et al., 1995: Engelder, and Fisher, 1996; Becker and Gross, 1996) and therefore cannot be related to the weathering process.
Numerous examples of through-going joints were observed during the study of the ruins of Avdat town. One such joint was found in the WSW external wall of the Northern Church (trend azimuth is 150°) in a corner of a small ledge (Figure 4). The joint crosses two adjacent blocks with a thickness of 50 cm each. What is most important in this case, is that the joint has passed straight through cement between the two blocks, without any bends. The length of the joint is 1 m. It starts 30 cm in from the upper corner of the upper block and it finishes 70 cm in from the lower corner of the lower block. The joint is inclined by an azimuth 174° L59° in its upper part, dip azimuth is 173° L68° in its lower part.
All of the above is evidence of an earthquake which took place in the region of Avdat town in the 7th century A.D., probably 631-633 A.D. However, there is other evidence in the town, dating back to the Late Roman period, of at least one more strong seismic event, probably the well known earthquake of 363 A.D. (Amiran, 1950-1952; Russell, 1980; Amiran et al., 1994), which terminated the Late Roman settlement of the city. Several years later, a new town was rebuilt on the ruins of the old one. This idea was suggested by P. Fabian (1996, 1997). Our study has confirmed his suggestion.
Strange discordance of trends of first lower rows of masonry (usually one or two rows) and upper wall fragments is visible in some parts of Avdat. For example, there is counterclockwise rotation of the whole NW wall of room No. 10 of the court (see, Figure 3). Horizontal displacement was 45 cm. During rotation around the vertical axis the NW wall was not collapsed and townsmen, who settled there after the 363 A.D. shock, used the rotated wall for rebuilding (Fabian 1996, 1997). The original trend of the wall was 50°, preserved first and second lower rows testify about that building (Figure 5). Modern trend azimuth of rotated wall is 41°.
In some places, one can see a sharp deviation of trends for separate walls joining to each other perpendicularly. Such deviations can sometimes amount to an angle of 11° (see, for example, SE wall of room No. 2 of the court on the Figure 3).
The shift of the building elements without rotation may be used in a similar manner to wall inclination or block collapse. The upper element of a construction is shifted toward or away from an epicenter due to inertia. In the Avdat such a displacement, of 80 cm, can be observed for the upper fragment of the NW wall of room No. 8 of the court (see, Figure 3) in a NW direction (Figure 6). Its former position (trend azimuth is 41°) is marked by one stone row of 20 cm height. The width of the shifted wall fragment is 70 cm, length is 165 cm, height of preserved fragment is 55-60 cm, its trend azimuth is 45°.
These facts apparently testify to the adaptation of the lower non-destroyed rows of masonry and preserved walls (only rotated slightly) for the regeneration of the town in Byzantine times. During Roman times at the same place, there was a settlement which was destroyed by an earthquake. Later the town was, again rebuilt on the site of the former settlement using the preserved lower rows of masonry and preserved whole walls (Fabian, 1996, 1997).
Additional indirect evidence of possible seismic activity in the studied territory is non-coincidence of lower stone rows with upper building structures. Such patterns occurred when a building was partly destroyed during an earthquake, but ancient people decided not to restore it. They removed still standing preserved fragments of the destroyed building and smoothed out the piles of rubble. They built a new building on the site of the old one. Later, during recent archeological excavations, researchers discovered strange non-coincidence of lower stone rows with upper building structures (Fabian, 1996, 1997).
For example, such non-coincidence can be observed in the northern yard of the bath-house, which is located near the foot of the Avdat hill (Figure 7). The bottom row of the NW corner of the wall is pulled out to the west 13 cm if compared with the upper fragment of the wall, with the trend azimuth of 159° (see, Figure 7(a)). This non-coincidence is even larger - 28.5 cm if compared with the SE part of the wall, with the trend azimuth of 167°. The lower pulled row of the northern fragment of the wall continues to the NW over the perpendicular external wall of the yard (see Figure 7(b)). The probable explanation of this case is given in the previous paragraph.
SUPPORT-WALLS "Previous" Southern Church 8 Indirect evidence of more old shocks are special support-walls which were built solely for this purpose. One such wall was built to support the eastern corner of the Southern Church (P. Fabian, 1994, personal communication). The wall which needed support had an ENE trend (Figure 8). One more support-wall was built to support the external wall (with NE strike) of the South Quarter of the town, opposite the eastern corner of the Fort, later it was dismantled by archeologists during excavation (P. Fabian, personal communication, 1996). This building of supporting walls for city walls of the same trend is not isolated. Apparently, during the Roman earthquake these city walls were slightly tilted, but they were not collapsed. Ancient people built those support-walls specifically to prevent them from possible future collapse (Fabian, 1996, 1997).
CAVE DESTRUCTIONS "Previous" Caves As stated above, on the slope of Avdat hill there are many caves which were inhabited for living during Nabatean—Byzantine times. However, below the caves there are huge piles of rubble, which consist of debris from Avdat hill's rocks and from remains of domestic objects (pieces of Nabatean earthenware vessels, for example - T. Gini, personal communication, 1996). This fact also indicates a possible earthquake in 363 A.D. during which the collapse of inhabited caves took place. After that event ancient people cleaned out the caves and used them for living in for the second time. However, some of the caves were not cleaned after the 363 A.D. shock.
The caves near the top of the hill were the most severely damaged (T. Gini, 1996, personal communication). This fact can be explained by the "sky-scraper effect - maximum oscillation during earthquakes is in the upper part of the building (or the hill in the Avdat case).
A study of habitable (in the past) caves was made. They were dug up on a hill slope, on top of which there are main town buildings. This study shows numerous collapses of walls and cave vaults, and also considerable long fractures. The displacement of chisel traces on the cave ceilings was observed, where those traces are crossed by long fractures in limestone massif . The latest ones show subsidence on the first few centimeters of the middle parts of the limestone hill compared to the external parts. It is the opposite to what one would expect due to gravitation forces. Such graben-like subsidence of watershed parts of mountain ridges was observed during strong earthquakes in the Baikal Rift area (Khromovskikh, 1965) and in the Tien Shan seismic belt (Korjenkov and Chedia, 1986; Korjenkov and Omuraliev, 1993; Ghose et al., 1997). These seismogenic features are indicators of an earthquake intensity of IX—X.
The new Byzantine town existed until the beginning of the seventh century A.D., probably 633 A.D., and was then totally destroyed by an earthquake never to be rebuilt (Fabian, 1996, 1997). This may explain the absence of any Early Muslim period finds at the site in spite of the continued occupation of other Negev sites such as Nessana and Shivta (see Figure 1) that existed until the tenth century A.D. (E. Oren, personal communication, 1996). These towns were located west of Avdat and were probably less affected by the earthquake.
The following are the seismic features belonging to group 2, used for the determination of the seismic wave propagation direction. They belong to the seismic event which occurred in the 7th century.
INCLINATION OF BUILDING AND CONSTRUCTION ELEMENTS mostly 7th century ? various locations 9
As in strong earthquakes throughout the world, a large number of structural elements were found to be preferentially inclined (Richter, 1958; Cloud and Scott, 1969; Bolt, 1978; Polyakov, 1978; Omuraliev et al., 1993a and others). A similar destruction was found in the ancient city of Avdat: forty one cases of preferentially inclined walls (Figures 9 and 10) and inclination of single stones within walls can be seen there. As seen in Figure 5, walls trending SE 130°-140° are systematically inclined to the SW. In contrast walls trending NE 40°-60° are inclined to NW and SE with no preferential direction. This observation seems to indicate that the seismic shock arrived along the NE—SW direction: the walls oriented roughly normal to the seismic wave direction were systematically collapsed or inclined, whereas walls oriented parallel to the seismic waves lost support, were tilted and collapsed randomly.
COLLAPSE FEATURES 7th century ? Agricultural Fences 11a
Numerous ruins of agricultural fences remained on the top (Figure 11(a)) and near the foot of the Avdat hill (Figure 11(b)). The fences trending about EW reveal a clear systematic picture of the collapse: the lower part of the wall is intact (easily seen from its northern side), whereas the upper part of the fences fell southward (see Figure 11). Azimuth of preferred collapsed features are plotted in Figure 12 versus wall trend. One group of walls trending SE 90°-140° reveals collapse toward SW 180°-240°, whereas walls oriented in other directions fell on both sides of the original wall position, they did not show a systematic pattern of the collapse, and so they were not shown on the graph. This observation indicates that the direction of seismic wave propagation was roughly perpendicular to the SE-trending walls.
It is necessary to mention the cases of wall drags (rotations) because of wall collapse. Many rotated blocks or block fragments in Avdat were caused by the drag due to the collapse of a wall (Figure 13). Such rotations cannot be used to determine shear stresses, however the patterns of drag-caused rotations enable us to reconstruct the direction of wall collapse.
ROTATION OF BUILDING ELEMENTS 7th century ? various locations 13
Field study of the epicentral zones of the well-known strong earthquakes revealed that some building constructions or rock fragments were rotated clockwise, whereas others were rotated counterclockwise (Richter, 1958; Cloud and Scott, 1969; Bolt, 1978: Polyakov, 1978; Omuraliev et al., 1993b and others). Horizontal rotation of arch supports, separate blocks in arch supports and walls, or rotation of a large fragment of a wall with tens to hundreds of stones were measured in the ruins of Avdat town. Clockwise and counterclockwise patterns of rotation were observed. Some examples of the rotated elements are shown in Figure 14.
For the case of the Avdat ruins the pattern and degree of rotations were plotted against the wall trends (Figure 15 ). As can be seen in the graph, the only one case of clockwise rotation was found in a wall fragment with trend SE 140°, whereas counterclockwise rotations were found on walls trending NE 40°-60°.
The rotations described above were measured in well-preserved walls at some distance from the corners, so that a researcher could be confident, that the rotations were caused by a shear couple. However, many rotated blocks or block fragments in Avdat were caused by a drag which occurred due to collapse of a wall (see Figure 13). Such rotations cannot be applied to determine shear stresses, however, the patterns of drag-caused rotations enable us to reconstruct the direction of wall collapse, which, as described above, is an independent kinematic indicator.
Archaeoseismic Analysis

Korjenkov and Mazor (1999) provided an extensive discussion regarding the analysis of their data. This discussion provides information for Avdat and explains the methodology used to examine archaeoseismic observations from other sites in the Negev. Due to it's value as a reference, much of the discussion is repeated below:
Study of the destruction in the Avdat ruins reveals a systematic type of dislocation:
  1. Walls of buildings trending SE 120° revealed strong preferential collapse or inclination toward south, whereas walls trending NE 20°-50° tilted and fell without a noticeable systematic pattern (see Figure 10 ). A similar structure of collapse was observed for the ruins of agricultural fences (see Figure 12 ). These observations indicate that the seismic shock arrived from the south in the case of a compressional wave, or from the north, if the wave causing the collapse was extensional. Thus, by this exercise the eastward and westward propagating seismic waves can be excluded.
  2. Most rotated blocks in the Avdat ruins are turned counterclockwise and they were found exclusively on NE-trending walls (see Figure 15 ). The only case of clockwise rotation was found in a wall fragment with trend SE 140°. The fact of the appearance of rotated blocks, as described above, indicates push movements (compression wave approaching the buildings). Thus, the only possibility left is a compressional seismic wave coming from the south. Rotation itself involves shear stresses acting along the walls, thus the seismic wave must have arrived at some angle to the walls.
Following the well-known strong earthquakes a large number of structural elements were found to be preferentially inclined toward the epicenter, however, in some cases the inclination was in the opposite direction. As in the case with the wall inclinations, the walls facing the seismic wave collapsed systematically toward the seismically induced compression strain, whereas the walls aligned parallel to the seismic wave lost support and collapsed in a random manner. Therefore, one has to look for a correlation between the trend of a construction element and the direction of collapse. The collapse debris form the shape of a cone, because the central part of a collapsing wall segment undergoes maximum oscillation during the seismic event (Figure 16 ).

The preferred direction of collapse or inclination of building elements may be either toward an epicenter or away from it. If the damaged site is located in the quadrangle of compression strain (Figure 17 ), the deformation will be caused by a push movement exerted on the ground, resulting in inclination and collapse toward the epicenter. In contrast, in the sites located in a tensional quadrangle, the deformations are induced by a pull movement causing inclination and collapse away from the epicenter. In either case, the line of collapse or relative motion can be determined. This line connects the original position of an object and its position after an earthquake, or corresponds to the dip azimuth of an inclined element. The intersecting points of the collapse lines measured in many places will converge at the area of the epicenter (Figure 18 ).

Shear stresses applied to an elongated element cause its rotation. The direction of rotation depends on two factors:
  1. orientation of principle stresses in a location and
  2. the orientation of the elongated element
Field study of the epicentral zones of the world-known strong earthquakes revealed that some building constructions or rock fragments were rotated clockwise, whereas others were rotated counterclockwise. A seismic wave approaching a building parallel or normal to its walls will result in collapse, shift or inclination with no rotation (Figure 20(a) ). The rotation should take place in the cases where the principle stresses are oblique to a construction element, and the resolved shear stresses are high (Figure 20(b) ). Thus, rotated elements situated on perpendicularly oriented walls should have an opposite direction of rotation, if the seismic shock came along the bisector of the two walls (Figure 20(c) ).

Two mechanisms of rotation, caused by tectonic movements, are known in geology (Figure 21 ):
  1. book-shelf structures, or synthetically rotated blocks, and
  2. asymmetric pull-aparts, or antithetically rotated blocks (Jordan, 1991)
As can be seen in Figure 21 , the same direction of rotation can be obtained by the different stress setups. These rotated blocks are termed "antithetical" or "synthetic" because with respect to the same simple shear couple two directions of rotation are possible. A synthetic structure is formed as a result of compression acting parallel to an element along axis, whereas the antithetical structure is developed when extension is parallel to an elongated element. Thus, in tectonics the interpretation of the rotation structures should be proceeded by a determination of the strain that occurred parallel to a rotated element. Such an ambiguity does not exist in seismic interpretations. Any lateral extension applied to a construction should lead to its collapse or inclination, whereas rotation could occur only under horizontal compression. This provides an additional criterion for the determination of strain accompanying an earthquake: the appearance of rotated blocks is an indication of a push movement. A scheme showing the direction of rotation, with respect to the direction of seismic wave propagation, is shown in Figure 20 .

This discussion leads to an additional conclusion explaining the lack of oriented inclination and collapse features in an epicentral area (and additionally, to the assumption that the point seismic source is not valid in the epicentral zone): the shock wave moving from a hypocenter under a high angle to the surface, results in a lateral extension applied to constructions. This explains why in recent earthquakes (Acapulco, 1962; Scopje, 1963; Tashkent, 1966 and others) the areas above a hypo-center do not reveal systematic inclination and collapse patterns (Muto et al., 1963; Binder, 1965; Medvedev, 1966; The Scopje Earthquake of 26 July 1963, 1968; Mirzoev et al., 1969; Liquidation of Consequences of Tashkent Earthquake, 1972), whereas some distance away inclination and collapse have pronounced directional patterns (Figure 22 ).

All said above is true for the features of destruction found in building constructions built on an isotropic massive foundation without a strong preferential orientation of the fabric in the basement rocks. In the studied case, Avdat was built directly on massive limestones. Thus, an input caused by rock anisotropy could be neglected. To avoid gravitational reasons for the city's destruction, the authors did not conduct the measurements on the slope of Avdat hill.

Avdat ruins have two perpendicular directions of walls (—NE 50° and —SE 140°), so the overall model can be represented as a single building (or room). To cause south-directed wall collapse by a compressional seismic wave, the shock should have come from south side. If the shock arrived exactly perpendicular to the NE-trending walls (i.e., from SW, Figure 23(a) ), the shear stresses along walls should be minimal and the rotations should appear only occasionally.

In contrast, maximal shear stresses would result if the seismic wave approached the buildings along a bisector line between the walls (Figure 23(b) ), i.e., from south. In this case rotations on both wall directions should be clearly pronounced, whereas both NE and SE-trending walls should reveal oriented collapse and inclinations to the south (SE and SW sides correspondingly).

In the case of Avdat the only NE-trending walls revealed oriented collapse and inclinations, and SE-trending walls demonstrate systematic counterclockwise rotations. Such a situation is possible if the compressional wave came from SSW (Figure 23(c) ).

Thus, the epicenter was located somewhere SSW from the Avdat settlement, and the scale of destruction indicates that the epicenter was situated 15 km south of Avdat, probably in the area of the Nafha Fault zone. The force (seismic intensity) of a shock resulting in the destruction of buildings was determined using the scale of earthquake intensity MSK-64. Buildings in Avdat town according to this scale are classed as B type - buildings from natural hewed stones. Quantitative characteristics of destruction: most buildings were destroyed (more then 75%). According to the degree of destruction Avdat town is classified as fourth degree: All these features of destruction show on IX-X intensity of seismic shock on territory of Avdat town.
The destruction was caused by a compressional seismic wave and the epicenter was located SSW of Avdat somewhere in central Negev. The degree of town destruction during the historical earthquake according to Seismic Intensity Scale MSK-64 was IX-X.
Intensity Estimates

Korjenkov and Mazor (1999)'s seismic characterization of the 7th century earthquake

As mentioned previously, Korjenkov and Mazor (1999) were able to sort a number of seismic effects by earthquake event - distinguishing whether the observed damage was due to the 7th century earthquake or one of the "previous" earthquakes (i.e the southern Cyril Quake of 363 CE and/or the 5th century CE earthquake). As such, one can have confidence in the Intensity estimate Korjenkov and Mazor (1999) produced for the 7th century earthquake. Korjenkov and Mazor (1999)'s conclusion for the 7th century CE earthquake is that
The destruction was caused by a compressional seismic wave, the epicenter was located SSW of Avdat somewhere in central Negev, and the degree of town destruction [] according to Seismic Intensity Scale MSK-64 was IX-X.
Distinguishing 7th century effects from "previous" earthquake effects

Korjenkov and Mazor (1999) did not produce an Intensity or directional estimate for any of the earthquakes that preceded the 7th century CE event. However, by making use of their detailed descriptions of seismic effects and the Earthquake Archeological Effects chart, I produced Intensity estimates for both the 7th century CE earthquake and the "previous" one. Although I cannot rigorously distinguish whether my "previous" earthquake Intensity estimate is for the southern Cyril Quake of 363 CE or the 5th century CE earthquake, if Erickson-Gini, T. (2014) is correct that the southern Cyril Quake only caused some structural damage and the 5th century earthquake was massive, my Intensity estimate for the "previous" earthquake is likely effectively for the 5th century quake. So, it is labeled as such.

Intensity Estimate for the 7th century CE earthquake

Effect Earthquake
Location Intensity
Penetrative fractures in masonry blocks 7th century many locations
an example from Northern Church
Figure 4
Tilted Walls 7th century various locations VI +
Collapsed Walls 7th century various locations
Fig. 9
Collapsed Walls 7th century Agricultural Fences
Fig. 11a
Fig. 11b
Arch damage 7th century various locations VI +
This archaeoseismic evidence requires a minimum Intensity of VIII (8) when using the Earthquake Archeological Effects chart of Rodríguez-Pascua et al (2013: 221-224 big pdf) .

Intensity Estimate for the 5th century CE earthquake

Effect Earthquake
Location Intensity
Displaced Walls "previous"
prob. 5th century
Room 10 in court in S Quarter
Fig. 5
Room 8 in court in S Quarter
Fig. 6
Displaced Walls "previous"
prob. 5th century
N yard of bath-house
Fig. 7a
Fig. 7b
Tilted Walls "previous"
prob. 5th century
Support Walls of Southern Church
Fig. 8
VI +
Collapsed Walls "previous"
prob. 5th century
Caves VIII +
Collapsed Vaults "previous"
prob. 5th century
Caves VIII +
This archaeoseismic evidence requires a minimum Intensity of VIII (8) when using the Earthquake Archeological Effects chart of Rodríguez-Pascua et al (2013: 221-224 big pdf) .

Topographic or Ridge Effect

Evidence of increased seismic damage in upslope cavescitation adjacent to the Avdat acropolis suggests that a ridge effect may present at Avdat. A terrain map showing the ~4 km. long ridge Avdat lies on suggests the same. Orientation of the ridge further indicates that seismic energy arriving from the NE or the SW (orthogonal to the ridge) would be most likely to produce seismic amplification at the site. A slope effect may also be at play as Avdat is parked at the end of the ridge; surrounded by steep slopes on 3 sides.

Notes and Further Reading

Korzhenkov, A. and E. Mazor (1998). "Seismogenic Origin of the Ancient Avdat Ruins, Negev Desert, Israel." Natural Hazards 18: 193-226.

Korzhenkov, A. and E. Mazor (1999). "Structural reconstruction of seismic events: Ruins of ancient buildings as fossil seismographs." Science and New Technologies 1: 62-74.

Rodkin, M. V. and A. M. Korzhenkov (2018). Estimation of maximum mass velocity from macroseismic data: A new method and application to archeoseismological data. Geodesy and Geodynamics.

Fabian, P. (1998). Evidence of earthquakes destruction in the archaeological record–the case of ancient Avdat. Pp. 21E-26E in The Annual Meeting of the Israel Geological Society, Mitzpeh Ramon.

Erickson-Gini, T. (2014). "Oboda and the Nabateans." STRATA - Bulletin of the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society 32.

Tali, E.-G. and I. Yigal (2013). "Excavating the Nabataean Incense Road." Journal of Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology & Heritage Studies 1(1): 24-53.

Erickson-Gini, T. (2000). Nabataean or Roman? Reconsidering the date of the camp at Avdat in light of recent excavations. XVIIIth International Congress of Roman Frontier Studies, Amman, Jordan.



Transliterated Name Source Name
Shivta Hebrew שבטה‎‎
Subeita Arabic شبطا‎
Isbeita Arabic يسبييتا‎
Sobata Ancient Greek ‎‎Σόβατα

Occupation at Shivta began in the 1st century BCE when it was a station on the Incense Road ( Avraham Negev in Stern et al, 1993). Occupation continued from Nabatean to Roman and Byzantine times until the Arab conquest after which the town declined. It was abandoned in the 8th or 9th century CE although some pottery found there suggests some type of occupation continued until the 13th or 14th century CE ( Avraham Negev in Stern et al, 1993). .


Negev (1989) wrote about an earthquake which affected Sobota (aka Shivta) between the end of the 3rd century CE and the middle of the 6th century CE. The end of the 3rd century CE date was apparently based on Negev's observations of archeoseismic damage at Avdat/Oboda.
A severe earthquake afflicted Sobata [aka Shivta] still more. At the same time both mono-apsidal churches of Sobata suffered a great deal of damage. The South Church (Fig. 5) was surrounded on all four sides by a high talus. It is highly likely that the transformation of this building from a mono-apsidal basilica into a tri-apsidal one took place at the time when the whole building underwent a complete remodeling. Yet, it is not certain whether this transformation is a direct outcome of the earthquake. The constructional history of the North Church (Fig. 4) is much the same, but outer buildings which were added after the earthquake indeed help in determining the various phases. Originally the mono-apsidal basilica had no additional chapels on the south. When the building suffered severe damage by the earthquake, it was completely surrounded by very high stone taluses on all sides, except on the eastern half of the southern wall of the basilica, where two strongly built chapels with apses and domes were constructed, taking the place of the talus as a support for the shattered southern wall. The repair of the first phase of the church, which was made after the earthquake marked the beginning of the second phase. This too has now been firmly dated by a coin of Justinian (527-538 A.D.) which was found in the intentionally made fill in the room behind the southern apse. The change from the mono-apsidal to tri-apsidal plan must have taken place at this time.

The epigraphic evidence of Sobata may help in attaining a close as possible date both for the earthquake and for the subsequent reconstruction of the North Church. One of these inscriptions, that of 506 A.D., is clearly a dedicatory inscription of a very important building, which justified the participation of a Vicarius, a man of the highest rank, in the dedication of this building. This inscription was not found in situ. However, there is no question about the inscription of A.D. 512, in which year the mosaic floor of one of the added chapels was dedicated by a bishop and the local clergy. It is thus safe to assume that the whole remodeling of the North Church began in the first decade of the sixth century. The second half of the fifth century A.D. was one of tectonic unrest. Severe earthquakes were recorded in the years 447, 498, and 502 A.D. The two latter dates would be highly probable dates for the destruction of the South and North Churches of Sobata, their total remodeling, and their rebuilding as tri-apsidal basilicae, and thus the beginning of Phase II.
Earthquakes referred to by Negev (1989) appear to come from Kallner-Amiran's (1952) catalog. The 447 CE earthquake was reported in Constantinople and would not have caused damage in the Negev (see Ambraseys (2009) for details). The 498 CE earthquake is dated to 499 CE by Ambraseys (2009) and struck Eastern Anatolia. It also would not have damaged structures in the Negev. The 502 CE earthquake is the Fire in the Sky Earthquake which could have damaged structures in the Negev although it's epicenter was not close to the region. This leaves the Monaxius and Plinta Quake of 419 CE and the hypothesized Negev Quake of the late 5th/early 6th century CE as possibilities.

Seismic Effects

Korjenkov and Mazor (1999a) identified damage patterns in the ruins of Shivta which indicated previous devastation by earthquakes. These patterns stemmed from three recognizable earthquakes during the Roman, Byzantine, and post-Byzantine periods. Damage patterns are summarized in the table below:
Damage Type Location Figure Comments
Hanging keystone of arches not discussed for Shivta
Asymmetric arch distortion SE Corner of Southern Church 3 Seismic wave propagation was parallel to the arch trend
In such cases the direction of the seismic wave propagation was parallel to the arch direction. In the example given in Fig. 3 the arch trend was 61° and, hence, the seismic wave propagation was ENE-WSW.
Partially collapsed arch stones One of the courtyards of the northern quarter 4 Seismic waves arrived parallel to the direction of the arch
In this example the arch support stones are still standing though slightly displaced, a few stones of the arch are still in the air, and the rest of the stones lie on the ground. The direction of the seismic wave propagation was parallel, or nearly parallel, to the original arch trend. The arch trend was 238°, hence the direction of the seismic waves propagation was along an axis of about NE—SW.
Non-shifted collapse of arches various locations 5 Seismic waves arrived parallel to the arch direction
Arch stones that lie on the ground in a straight line below the original arch position (Fig. 4a) indicate that the seismic waves propagated in a direction that was parallel to the original arch trend. Eight cases have been observed at Shivta, indicating the seismic wave propagation along a SW—NE axis.
Crescent collapse patterns of arches various locations 5 Seismic waves arrived perpendicular to the arch direction
Arch stones that lie on the ground in a crescent pattern (Fig. 5b) indicate that the seismic waves arrived in a direction perpendicular to the original arch trend. Five such cases have been found at Shivta, indicating the seismic waves arrived in a SW-NE direction.
Systematic rotation of wall fragments around the vertical axis various locations 6c Indicating azimuth of epicenter and seismic intensity
Five clockwise rotations were observed at Shivta on walls trending 40°-50° and, in contrast, 4 cases of counterclockwise rotations were observed on the perpendicular walls, trending 120°-130° (Fig. 6c). Thus, the seismic waves came along the bisector of these wall trends, i.e., the seismic waves arrived from the WSW.
Rotation of single stones, wall fragments, or entire walls around a vertical axis indicate arrival of the seismic waves at some angle to the wall trend. The theoretical background of this phenomenon has been discussed in detail by Korjenkov and Mazor (1999a,b).
Similar rotational damage patterns were observed at the Suusamyr earthquake (I = 9-10, MSK-64 scale) as described by Korjenkov and Omuraliev (1993) and Omuraliev et al. (1993b). By analogy, it seems that the intensity of the seismic event that destroyed Shivta was at least I= 8-9 (MSK-64 scale).
Stones rotated around a horizontal axis in collapsed arches Courtyard of the west-central quarter 7a The direction of the seismic waves was inclined, indicating a nearby hypocenter
Two examples of arch stones lying on the ground, each stone being rotated around a horizontal axis, have been observed at Shivta. One example is shown in Fig. 7a, leading to the following conclusions:
  1. as the arch is observed to have fallen straight on the ground, the seismic waves arrived along an axis that was parallel to the trend of the arch, 44° in the studied case, hence the seismic waves arrived along a SW—NE axis
  2. the counterclockwise rotation of the individual stones indicates that the direction of seismic wave arrival was SW
  3. the rotation of the individual stones indicates that the direction of the arriving seismic waves was inclined to the ground surface and could not be vertical (hypocenter beneath the site), nor could it be sub-horizontal (the hypocenter being far away, as compared to its depth).
Hence, the seismic waves arrived in an oblique angle to the ground and the hypocenter was, therefore, rather close to the damaged site, probably in the order of a few tens of kilometers.
Sagged roof slabs rotated around a horizontal axis Building at the north quarter of Shivta 7b The direction of the seismic waves was inclined, indicating a nearby hypocenter
Figure 7b depicts a row of sagged roof slabs that were also rotated, at a building at the north quarter of Shivta. The tilting of the individual slabs indicates a rotational movement. By the same arguments discussed in the previous section, this indicates that the direction of the arriving seismic waves was inclined, which further indicates that the hypocenter was relatively close to the study location, a few tens of kilometers away. The trend of the row of roof slabs is 138°, hence the direction of the arriving seismic waves was along the SW—NE axis.
Systematic collapse of walls and agricultural fences various locations 8a
Indicating seismic intensity and "general direction" of seismic wave propagation
Figure 8a shows a wall of a building, trending SE 141°, that collapsed in a SW 231° direction.
Figure 8b depicts an agricultural wall trending SE, revealing a distinct collapse towards the SW.
Nineteen cases of such walls were observed at Shivta (Fig. 8c).
In 15 cases collapse was toward the SW in walls trending 100°-160°, whereas only in 4 cases collapse was toward the NE in walls of the same trend. This clearly preferred orientation of collapse leads to the following conclusions:
  1. the cause of destruction was an earthquake
  2. since the respective seismic intensity attributed for such collapse in adobe buildings is I = 7 according to the definitions of the MSK-64 scale, in the case of the stone buildings of Shivta the local seismic intensity was at least I = 8
  3. the seismic waves arrived along a general SW—NE direction.
Severe damage to about 75% of the buildings various locations n/a Indicating earthquake intensity of at least I = 8 (MSK-64)
The MSK-64 scale definitions relate to degrees of damage of buildings, starting at "slightly" damaged and ascending up to "severe" and "total" destruction. In addition, the MSK-64 scale defines general types of building qualities, starting from modern seismic-proof buildings (type A) and descending through stone buildings (type B), fired-brick buildings, adobe buildings, etc. Accordingly, the Byzantine city of Shivta, built of hard limestone stones placed on hard limestone bedrock, is composed of type B buildings
At Shivta more than 75% of the type B Byzantine buildings reveal severe damage, indicating destruction by earthquake of an intensity of at least I = 8 (MSK-64).
Significant spreading distances of collapse debris Northeast of town 8b A criterion of high intensity earthquake
The distance at which collapse debris is observed away from the structural foundations is a crucial indicator for a seismic or non-seismic cause (e.g., static loading, poor foundations, climatic weathering) and the intensity of the former. At Shivta the collapse debris of agricultural walls, which originally were, at most, 1 m high, is observed to reach distances of up to 8 m (Fig. 8b). Experience in building construction reveals that in the case of non-seismic destruction the collapse debris is thrown to a distance that is not more than 1/3 of the original height of the structure (0. Korjenkova, personal communication). The corresponding figure is 8/1 in the described cases of agricultural walls at Shivta. Hence, this very distinct distance of collapse debris spreading denotes destruction by an earthquake. The intensity of that earthquake can be estimated from other damage patterns, described above, e.g., collapse of walls, indicating seismic intensity of I = 8; high percentage of severely damaged walls (about 75%), indicating an intensity of I = 8 or more; and, as described below, joints that cross few adjacent stones in a wall. Thus, the intensity of the earthquake that spread the stones of agricultural stone fences to the described distances was at least I=8
The advantage of studying collapse features at ancient agricultural stone fences is that they are isolated, i.e., there is a distinct distance between them. In contrast, in dense urban complexes observations are hindered because
  1. the presence of other building elements touching a wall partially support it and severely complicate the destruction pattern
  2. it is often hard to identify the source of fallen stones.
In addition, experience reveals that damaged agricultural stone fences were not robbed by later inhabitants, in contrast to the common looting of stones from fancy buildings.
Preservation of walls in a preferred direction within a complex of ruins NE quarter of Shivta 9 Destruction was by an earthquake and seismic wave propagation was parallel to the preserved wall trend
Figure 9 clearly reveals a preferred orientation of preserved walls of the northern quarter of Shivta. This type of key observation is useful as a tool in the reconnaissance stage of an archeoseismic study. The preferred orientation of intact walls testifies that the destruction of the urban complex was definitely by an earthquake. In addition, the axis of the seismic wave propagation was parallel to the trend of the preserved walls. Walls trending around 68° at the northern quarter of Shivta are distinctly better preserved, hence the seismic wave propagation was along the ENE—WSW axis.
Systematic tilting of fallen roof slabs SW quarter of Shivta 10a 10b 10c Seismic waves propagated in the direction of the tilting
Figures l0a,b depict tilting of roof slabs in two adjacent rooms (Fig. 10c) at the southwest quarter of Shivta. In this case both walls that supported the roof slabs oscillated during the earthquake, and as a result the roof slabs collapsed and were tilted in the same direction in both rooms. The seismic wave propagation was perpendicular to the trend of the supporting walls. The trend of the supporting walls depicted in Fig. 10 was SE-NW, hence the direction of the seismic wave propagation was perpendicular, i.e. NE-SW.
Holes of missing stones
("shooting of stones")
Northern quarter of Shivta 11a 11b 11c Indicating "shooting" or "bursting" during strong earthquakes
Figures 11a and 11b,c were photographed in adjacent rooms at the northern quarter of Shivta, depicting the phenomenon of "shooting stones". Nearly a hundred cases of such "missing" stones have been observed at Shivta. This resembles two different phenomena
  1. mining bursting — the extrusion of single rocks from walls of mine galleries, as a mode of localized stress release
  2. shooting of single rocks out of rock exposures during the M = 7.3 (I = 9-10) 1992 Suusamyr, Kyrgyzstan, earthquake (Korjenkov and Omuraliev, 1993; Omuraliev et al., 1993).
It is concluded that the holes of missing single stones, seen in Figs. 11 a—c, similarly resulted from localized stress release during a strong earthquake. This conclusion is supported by the numerous other seismic damage patterns observed in conjunction with the phenomenon of shooting stones, e.g., the joint seen above the missing stone in Fig. 11a, or the rotation of the stone No. 19 as well as stones No. 8, 10, 13, and 15, seen in Figs. 11b,c.

In the Suusamyr earthquake mentioned, shooting of single rocks was observed within the isoseismal line of I = 8 and more. By analogy, it is suggested that the earthquake at Shivta, which caused shooting of single stones out of walls, had an intensity of at least I = 8. This is in good agreement with similar intensities concluded from other, above-described, observations, e.g., rotation of stones and other building elements, systematic collapse of walls and agricultural stone fences, high percentage of severely damaged buildings, and distances of thrown away collapse debris of agricultural fences.
Single stones partially pushed out of walls Northern quarter of Shivta 11b 11c Indicating damage by a strong seismic event
Figures 11b,c show not only holes of bursted out stones, but also reveal stones that were partially pushed out of the wall. For example, stones No. 7, 8, 9, 10, 13, 16, 19 (Figs. 11b,c) are pulled out southward 2.5-26.0 cm. Such pushed stones provide by them-selves a criterion of seismic damage.
Vertical joints passing through few adjacent stones 12a is in West Central Quarter
12b in Northern Church
13b in South Church
12a 12b 13b Minimum earthquake intensity I= 8x MSK-64 scale
The definition of damage patterns caused by earth-quakes of intensity I = 7 (MSK-64 scale) includes joints crossing a few adjacent high-quality bricks. The reason that such through-going joints are formed only as a result of high-intensity earthquakes is understandable in light of the high energy necessary to overcome the stress shadows of free surfaces at the stone margins (i.e., the free space between adjacent stones) as described by Fisher et al. (1995), Engelder and Fisher (1996), Becker and Gross (1996). Figures 12a,b depict through-going joints, not in bricks, but in hard limestone stones, and hence, the intensity of the damaging earthquake must have been higher than the I = 7, quoted for bricks. This is in agreement with other criteria that indicate that the earthquake that damaged Shivta was at least I = 8.
It is important to note that these cracks occur in stair-cases and doorsteps that by origin carried no load and in a doorpost of the type shown in Fig. 13b, which is shielded by an overlying arch-like structure. The lack of overload rules out static damage in these cases and makes seismic destruction evident.
Cracked doorsteps, staircases, and doorposts 13a in North Church
13b in South Church
13a 13b Cracks in structures in Shivta that carry no load
Upper parts of buildings more damaged than lower parts Southwest quarter 14 The "skyscraper effect"
The arches and roof slabs seen in Fig. 14 mark the ground floor of a building, and the overlying walls are the reminders of the second floor. In this case severe damage is seen in the upper part of the building, as compared to little damage in the lower part. This observation resembles the well-known "skyscraper effect" that results from the higher degree of oscillations of the higher part of the structure. A higher degree of destruction of upper parts of structures at Shivta is the rule, providing an independent reflection of seismically-induced damage.
Special walls supporting constructions that were tilted by a former earthquake location not specified 15 Figure 15 depicts an example of a well built inclined wall that supports a tilted section of a wall of a house at the west—central quarter. Similar support walls are observable at Avdat where these walls reveal a systematic trend, indicating the supported walls were tilted by an earthquake (Korjenkov and Mazor, 1999a). Similarly, the supporting walls of Shivta seem to reflect a former earthquake, in agreement with the above-listed observations that indicate earthquake damage. In certain cases, such support walls are themselves seismically damaged, indicating a second earthquake event.
Seismic damage of lately restored walls not discussed
Korjenkov and Mazor (1999a) summarized their conclusions as follows:
  1. The ancient city of Shivta is situated on flat low-land, built of massive carbonate bedrock. Hence, no site-effects are expected to have affected the patterns of seismic damage.
  2. Walls of buildings and agricultural fences trending SE (130°±15°) reveal collapse in a preferential direction towards the SW (Fig. 8 ), whereas walls oriented NE (40°±20°) reveal random collapse.
  3. This key observation indicates that the seismic waves arrived either from the SW (in the case of a compression wave), or from the NE, if the collapse happened in an extensional quadrangle (Korjenkov and Mazor, 1999a). In any case, the SE and NW directions of seismic wave propagation can be excluded.
  4. Rotations of blocks are observed at the Shivta ruins to be clockwise at walls trending NE (40°-50°), and counterclockwise at walls trending SE (115°-130°), as shown in Fig. 6c . Such rotations could be caused only by push movements by compression waves. Thus, the seismic waves arrived from the SW.
  5. The Shivta ruins disclose two main perpendicular directions of walls: NE (30°-60°) and SE (120°-150°), as can be seen in Fig. lc . Hence, all the buildings of the Byzantine city can be modeled via a "representative room" depicted in Fig. 16 . Three possible scenarios warrant discussion:
    1. seismic waves arrived parallel to the NE-trending walls (Fig. 16a) — the shear stresses along the walls would be minimal, and hence no rotation would be caused, and only collapse of NW walls would be systematic
    2. seismic waves arrived from the west, i.e., along a line of the bisector between the wall directions—both NE and SE trending walls would reveal oriented collapse to the NW and SW sides respectively; walls with a NE trend would reveal clockwise rotation, and walls with a SE trend would reveal a more or less equal number of counterclockwise rotations
    3. seismic waves arrived from the WSW, i.e., at a different angle to each of the wall directions — the SE walls would manifest systematic collapse generally toward the SW, whereas the NE walls would show random collapse; rotations of elements of walls trending NE would be clockwise, whereas rotations of stones of the SE-trending walls would be counter-clockwise
    The field observations fit this solution (c).
  6. A few hundred individual observations, made at almost one hundred locations at the ancient city of Shivta, revealed the 19 types of damage patterns reported above. Part of these observations are useful in determining the axis along which the seismic waves propagated (WSW—ENE), other observations point out that the epicenter was located WSW of the city, and yet another group of observations points to an intensity of I= 8-9 (MSK-64 scale) of the earthquake that destroyed the Byzantine city in the 7th century.
  7. The distance of the epicenter of the earthquake that destroyed Byzantine Shivta can be estimated from the following boundary conditions and considerations:
    1. the systematic pattern of destruction indicates dominance of horizontal seismic movements, which in turn rules out the possibility that the hypocenter was beneath the city (i.e., Shivta was not at site A of Fig. 17 )
    2. on the other hand, the dominance of a horizontal component of the seismic movements implies that the epicenter was at a distance that at least equaled the depth of the hypocenter (i.e., Shivta was at site B of Fig. 17)
    3. the intensity I = 8-9 (MSK-64 scale) limits the distance of the epicenter probably to less that 30 km, a conclusion that has to be checked by data from more sites from the Negev, applying the "triangulation method".
  8. An attempt to locate the epicenter of the post-Byzantine earthquake at Shivta is made by applying the reconstructed WSW direction of the epicenter, and the concluded epicenter distance of a few tens of kilometers. These boundary conditions were projected on the geological map of Israel: the concluded direction of the epicenter crosses the Zin fault at a distance of 10 km, and the adjacent Nafha fault crosses with the direction of the concluded epicenter at a distance of 50 km. In any case, the results clearly point out that the epicenter was in the Negev highlands and not in the Dead Sea Rift Valley.
  9. The seismic damage patterns described so far were observed on buildings built in the Byzantine period and in secondary walls added later on, leading to the conclusion that at least two earthquakes damaged the Byzantine and post-Byzantine constructions.
  10. The described variety of seismic damage patterns provides tools to establish certain characteristics of the involved earthquakes, e.g., seismic intensity, axis of seismic waves propagation, and in the case of systematic rotation, also the specific direction of the epicenter. In a more advanced stage of the archeoseismological study, the investigations in individual sites can be put together into a regional picture that provides more definite answers on the nature of the studied earthquakes. For example, the Negev data from several ancient ruin centers may be compiled, e.g., Mamshit, Avdat, Rehovot, Haluza, Hurvat Sa'adon, Shivta, and Nizzana (Fig. 1 ). In other words, the triangulation approach is recommended (Korjenkov and Mazor, 1999a , 1999b).
  11. The common descriptions of damage patterns typifying different earthquake intensities are based on the inventory of modern buildings. The present work brings up additional damage patterns observed in ancient architectural complexes, e.g., damage pattern of stone arches, systematic tilt, collapse and rotation of stone building elements, the distance to which collapse debris is thrown away from the respective foundation, as well as preferential collapse of colonnades observed in many published case studies.
  12. The described archeoseismological study has modern applications in regard to specifications of seismic safety to be taken into account in new constructions in the Negev highlands.
  13. Finally, the described archeoseismological work lends itself to inter-regional and international collaboration in the construction of a seismic archive that goes back thousands of years.
Intensity Estimates

Unlike at Avdat/Oboda, Korjenkov and Mazor (1999a) did not or were not able to separate out seismic effects from different earthquakes and their Intensity Estimate and directional information comes from a post-Byzantine earthquake. So, an Intensity Estimate is not possible at this time.

Notes and Further Reading

Korjenkov, A. and E. Mazor (1999). "Earthquake characteristics reconstructed from archeological damage patterns: Shivta, the Negev Desert, Israel." Israel Journal of Earth Sciences 48: 265-282.

Margalit, S. (1987). "The North Church of Shivta: The Discovery of The First Church." Palestine exploration quarterly 119(2): 106-121.

Erickson-Gini, Tali (2013-12-16). "Shivta Final Report" (125). Hadashot Arkheologiyot – Excavations and Surveys in Israel.

Tepper, Yotam; Bar-Oz, Guy (2016-05-04). "Shivta Preliminary Report" (128). Hadashot Arkheologiyot – Excavations and Surveys in Israel.

Segal, A. (1985). "Shivta-A Byzantine Town in the Negev Desert." Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 44(4): 317-328

Röhl, Constanze (2010). "Shivta, Architektur und Gesellschaft einer byzantinischen Siedlung im Negev (PhD thesis); "Shivta, Architecture and Society of a Byzantine settlement in the Negev"" (in German). Cologne, Germany: University of Cologne.


Hanging Keystone in Mamshit Fig.9 a

Keystone, slipped down 6cm in a N-S (174 degrees) trending arch in a room west of the Eastern Church.

Korzhenkov and Mazor (2003)

Korzhenkov and Mazor (2003) estimated that an earthquake struck Mamshit at the end of the 3rd or beginning of the 4th century. Although they saw evidence that a later 7th century earthquake also struck the site, they found statistically meaningful directional preferences in the damage patterns that allowed them to separate the effects of the two different quakes. They further estimated that the epicenter of the late 3rd/early 4th century earthquake was to the north of Mamshit and the minimum local intensity was IX.

Korzhenkov and Mazor (2003) estimated that all structures were damaged during the earthquake and 15% were destroyed. They noted that although the destroyed Roman buildings were rebuilt, "the large number of deformation patterns seen in the remaining parts of the Roman period buildings makes room to the assessment that practically all houses were damaged." They further noted that "most of the second floors or upper parts of high structures were rebuilt at the Byzantine stage, leading to an estimate that at least 15% of the Roman period buildings were destroyed in the earthquake. In the rebuilding, presumably after the quake(s), the incorporation of wooden beams to absorb seismic shocks is thought to reflect a seismic awareness that stemmed from the damage and destruction experienced in Mamshit during this earthquake. They further noted the secondary use of building stones presumed to be salvaged from the damaged and destroyed structures.

Erickson-Gini (personal communication, 2021) relates that there is archeoseismic evidence for destruction and abandonment of Building XXV and destruction and rebuilding in Buildings I and XII from the earthquake(s) that struck around this time. Further details are in Erickson-Gini, T. (1999).

The archeoseismic evidence suggests that the Cyril Quake and/or the Monaxius and Plinta Quake was responsible for the observed damage. Because it is difficult to identify which of these two earthquakes caused the damage or if both were responsible, archeoseismic evidence for Mamphis is labeled as possible.


Stratigraphy of Yotvata Fig. 7

West baulk of Room 4, showing the mud-brick collapse

JW: Stratigraphy of Yotvata - burnt layer at bottom is overlain by mud brick collapse layer and sedimentation until the top Early Islamic layer

Davies and Magness (2015)


Transliterated Name Source Name
Yotvata Hebrew יׇטְבָתָה
Iutfata Arabic يوتفاتا
Ein Ghadian Arabic يين عهاديان

Yotvata is located in a small oasis about 40 km. north of Eilat. The modern name Yotvata is based on Jotbathah, one of the stops of the Israelites in the journey of the Exodus (Deuteronomy 10:7 and Numbers 33:33-34). There is as yet no proof for this identification (Zeev Meshel in Stern et al, 1993). Due Yotvata's water source and location at a crossroad, it has been settled during different periods although although there is no mound or multiperiod central site (Zeev Meshel in Stern et al, 1993). Sites are located in different places. Zeev Meshel in Stern et al (1993) summarizes the sites:
Remains can be divided into four main groups: ...

The settlements excavated so far date to the [following periods]
  1. Chalcolithic
  2. the Early and Middle Bronze Ages
  3. The beginning of the Iron Age
  4. Nabatean
  5. Roman
  6. Early Arab
The sites from the last four periods were probably fortresses or way stations
A Roman fortress is present at the site .


Davies and Magness (2015) excavated a Roman Fort at Yotvata from 2003-2007. A monumental Latin inscription discovered earlier (1985) outside of the east gate suggests that the fort at Yotvata was built when Diocletian transferred the Tenth Legion Fretensis from Jerusalem to Aila in the last decade of the third century. Two destruction layers were described after establishment of the fort - a burned layer and a collapse layer. The authors noted that the first phase of Roman occupation at our fort, which is associated with coins that go up to ca. 360, ended with a violent destruction evidenced by intense burning throughout. Reconstruction is said to have occurred immediately after this destruction as documented by a series of successive floor layers throughout. The cause of the burned layer was not established but the authors suggested a a possible connection with the Saracen revolt against Rome led by Queen Mavia, ca. 375–378 noting the documented successes of her forces against Roman field armies and that the inclusion of former foederati among her troops suggest that her forces would have been capable of taking and destroying the fort at Yotvata. Whatever the specific cause, the excavators strongly believed that human agency rather than the southern Cyril Quake of 363 AD was the general cause noting that there was no visible evidence of structural damage or a collapse layer. One of the excavators, Gwyn Davies (personal communication 2020) noted that
We are confident that the fort was destroyed in a violent attack as we encountered signs of intense burning across most contexts and, even more suggestively, the stone frame of the main gate was fire-seared as well. If the fire had been more localized and associated with signs of toppling collapse, then ‘natural causes’ may have been more persuasive or, indeed, that this represented an accidental destruction. Instead, the evidence suggests to us that the fort was put to the torch quite deliberately
Another of the excavators, Jodi Magness (personal communication 2020) related the following
In addition to the lack of evidence of visible structural damage that could be attributed to an earthquake in the earliest destruction level, the absence of whole (restorable) pottery vessels and other objects in that level suggests an earthquake did not cause the destruction, as one would expect these artifacts to be buried in a sudden collapse. Therefore, we attributed the destruction by fire to human agents.
As for the collapse layer, it is dated to after the abandonment of the fort in the late 4th century.
The Late Roman occupation ended with an orderly evacuation and abandonment, as indicated by the fact that the rooms were cleared out. The absence of a reference to a fort at Osia [i.e. the fort excavated near Yotvata] in the Notitia Dignitatum, together with a reference to the ala Constantiana being stationed at Toloha (Or. 34.34), ca. 110 km to the north of Yotvata, suggest that our fort was abandoned by the early fifth century. Soon thereafter an earthquake—perhaps the earthquake of 419—toppled the walls of the fort. An ephemeral Byzantine period occupation was established on top of the collapse, without any attempt at leveling.
A limited amount of debris between the fort's presumed abandonment and the collapse layer led the authors to suggest the Monaxius and Plinta Earthquake of 419 AD as a possible cause of the collapse layer. Although the ensuing ephemeral Byzantine period occupation was undated due to a lack of recovered pottery, significant sediment accumulated between the Byzantine layer and the well dated Early Islamic layer suggesting that these two layers are a century or two apart. This eliminates several potential local earthquake candidates - e.g. the Inscription at Areopolis Quake (late 6th century), the Sign of the Prophet Quake (613-622 CE), and the Sword in the Sky Quake (634 CE). Archeoseismic evidence at Yotvata for the Monaxius and Plinta earthquake of 419 AD should be considered as possible to probable - The excavators say possible and I say probable.

Seismic Effects

Seismic effects include collapsed walls (mud brick collapse) and toppled steps at the fort .

Intensity Estimates

Effect Location Intensity
Collapsed Walls various locations VIII +
This archaeoseismic evidence requires a minimum Intensity of VIII (8) when using the Earthquake Archeological Effects chart of Rodríguez-Pascua et al (2013: 221-224 big pdf) .



Transliterated Name Language Name
Petra English
Al-Batrā Arabic ٱلْبَتْرَاء‎
Petra Ancient Greek Πέτρα‎
Rekeme Thamudic ?
Raqmu Arabic
Raqēmō Arabic

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 - ez-Zantur and other sites
Map of Petra Figure 2

Map of Petra with the locations of major excavations marked

Jones (2021)

Basemap: Esri, Maxar, Earthstar Geographics, USDA FSA, USGS, Aerogrid, IGN, IGP, and the GIS User Community

Archeoseismic Evidence for the Monaxius and Plinta Quake has been claimed at several sites in Petra - ez-Zantur, in a structure outside the Urn Tomb, and in Structure I of the NEPP Project. Jones (2021) provides a discussion below which disputes this
Within Petra, the 418/419 earthquake has been suggested as the cause for the destruction of three structures: At the Urn Tomb, a 363 earthquake destruction has been suggested for a cave below the tomb (Zayadine 1974: 138) as well as House II, which was partially rebuilt afterwards and by the 6th century was being `used as a quarry' (Zeitler 1993: 256-57). Taking this quarrying as evidence for a 5th century abandonment of House II, Kolb (2000: 230; 2007: 154-55) suggests a second destruction in the 418/419 earthquake, primarily based on analogy to al-Zantur I. As only a preliminary report has appeared for House II, it is not possible to evaluate the archaeological evidence for this attribution, but a 5th century abandonment of House II may instead be related to the modification of the Urn Tomb for use as a church in 446 (Bikai 2002: 271).

NEPP Structure I has not been excavated, and the claim that it was destroyed in the 418/419 earthquake is based on surface finds and reference to al-Zantur I (Fiema and Schmid 2014: 431). Without excavation, the actual date and nature of the building's destruction remain uncertain. The claim for damage at Petra related to the 418/419 earthquake rests primarily, therefore, on the evidence from al-Zantur I.

Kolb (1996: 51, 89; 2000: 238, 244; 2007: 157) attributes the destruction of the final occupation phase of al-Zantur I, Spatromisch II, to the 418/419 earthquake. As with many of the sites discussed above, this attribution is based primarily on numismatic finds, which decline sharply after the 4th century. Like most other regions of the Eastern Mediterranean, however, a lack of 5th century coinage is typical for sites in southern Jordan. For example, in their discussion of coins collected (and purchased) in Faynan, Kind et al. (2005: 188) note a decline in coin frequencies after about 420 AD. While this does not rule out an earthquake, many sites that seem to lack 5th century coinage were, on close inspection, occupied during the 5th century.

The discussion of the coin finds at al-Zantur I also gives cause for pause. The author states,
An end of the settlement of ez Zantur after the earthquake of 419 AD could be harmonized well with the coin series, if not for the discovery of a small bronze coin of Marcianus, which was minted in the years 450-457 AD, discovered in the ash layer of Room 28, in the immediate vicinity of the remains of a kitchen inventory destroyed in an earthquake. (Peter 1996: 92, translation I. Jones)
Peter goes on to point out that, as the only mid-5th century coin at the site, it may be intrusive, which would allow for an earthquake destruction of Spatromisch II in 418/419. It is worth noting, however, the presence of 25 unidentifiable small bronze coins, 15 of which could be dated to the 4th-5th century (Peter 1996: 98-100, nos 89-113). At least some of these are likely to be issues of the 5th century.

The discussion of the ceramic assemblage follows a similar pattern. The latest imports present at Spatromisch II are African Red Slip Ware (ARS) Forms 91C and 93B, both dated by Hayes (1972: 144, 148) to the 6th century (Schneider 1996: 40). Schneider (1996: 41) argues that Hayes's (1972) dating for the southern Levant is not entirely secure, and the presence of these forms in Spatromisch II is evidence for an early 5th century appearance. At production sites in Tunisia, however, neither form appears before the mid-5th century (Mackensen and Schneider 2002: 127-30). Likewise, Form 93 does not appear in Carthage until the 5th century, and first appears at Karanis, in the Fayyum, in the '420s CE or later' (Pollard 1998: 150). It is very unlikely that these forms appeared at al-Zantur earlier than they did in North Africa.

The `local' ceramic assemblage from Spatromisch II also contains several forms that postdate 419. Of note are several `Aqaba amphorae (Fellman Brogli 1996: 255, abb. 766-67), which date no earlier than the early 5th century (Parker 2013: 741); Magness's (1993: 206) Arched-Rim Basin Form 2, dating to the 6th-7th century (Fellman Brogli 1996: 260, abb. 790); and local interpretations of late 5th-6th century ARS, e.g. Forms 84 and 99 (Fellman Brogli 1996: 263, abb. 809-10). Gerber (2001: 361-62) also notes the similarity of the Spatromisch II ceramics to those apparently from 6th century phases at the Petra Church, although these contexts are not secure enough to make this comparison definitive.

Overall, the argument that Spatromisch II was destroyed in the 418/419 earthquake is rather circular. A lack of 5th century coinage is presented as evidence of this destruction, and this in turn is used to dismiss a mid-5th century coin as intrusive. If this is accepted, an earlier date must also be accepted for the otherwise mid-5th-6th century ceramics. When considering the evidence together, however, the more parsimonious explanation is that al-Zantur I was occupied, perhaps on a small scale or even intermittently, into the 6th century, which would bring al-Zantur I into line with other sites in Petra and the broader region with 363 and (late) 6th century destruction layers (see Table 1).

If an earthquake did cause the destruction of Spatromisch II, the best candidate would seem to be the Areopolis earthquake of c. 597 AD. This event is known primarily from an inscription that describes repairs performed in the year 492, of the calender of the province of Arabia (597/8 AD), following an earthquake, found by Zayadine (1971) at al-Rabba (ancient Areopolis), on the Karak Plateau (see also Ambraseys 2009: 216-17). Rucker and Niemi (2010: 101-03) have argued, primarily on the basis of the continued use of the Petra Church into the last decade of the 6th century, as evidenced by the Petra Papyri, that this earthquake is a better fit for the 6th century destructions in Petra previously attributed to the earthquake of 551. Accepting c. 597 as the date of the destruction of Spatromisch II is not critical to this paper's argument, but it follows from accepting the excavators' identification of an earthquake destruction and considering the events postdating 418/419 that could plausibly have affected southern Jordan. The possible events listed in the most recent Ambraseys (2009: 179, 199-203, 216-17) catalogue are the 502 Acre earthquake, which seems to have caused little damage inland; the 551 Beirut earthquake, an attribution Ambraseys explicitly rejects due to the lack of major destruction in Jerusalem; and the c. 597 Areopolis earthquake, which is the most likely possibility if the first two are ruled out. Of course, it is not possible to rule out destruction during a later earthquake, an otherwise unknown earthquake, or due to another cause entirely. Likewise, the destruction of the building does not necessarily coincide with the end of the occupation; it is entirely possible for an earthquake to destroy a previously abandoned building. Regardless of the exact date of the destruction, the evidence discussed above indicates that occupation continued into the 6th century.

The ceramics from al-Zantur are an important chronological anchor in the Petra region, and it has generally been accepted that those from Spatromisch II date to the narrow period between 363 and 419. Expanding the dating of this phase to the late 4th-6th century, therefore, has implications for the dating of other sites in Petra, notably the Petra Church.
A much more extensive discussion of dating evidence and interpretation can be found in Jones (2021). Some of his conclusions follow:
A critical review of the dating evidence from al-Zantur I Spatromisch II indicates that this destruction has been misdated by at least a century. Spatromisch II was occupied at least into the 6th century, and if an earthquake was responsible for its destruction, the Areopolis earthquake of c. 597 is a more likely candidate. This returns the emergence of the Negev wheel-made lamp to the 6th century, in line with essentially every other site where it occurs. This revision also has implications for the dating of the Petra Church, which relied heavily on comparison to the material from al-Zantur, and other sites in Petra. Taken on its own, the evidence indicates that the Petra Church was built in the early 6th century, rather than the mid-5th.
A summary of archeoseismic evidence in Petra from Jones (2021) is reproduced below.

Arcehoseismic Evidence in Petra Table 1

List of sites in and near Petra (other than al-Zantur) with destructions attributable to earthquakes in 363 AD and the 6th century

Jones (2021)

Notes and Further Reading

Jones, I. W. N. (2021). "The southern Levantine earthquake of 418/419 AD and the archaeology of Byzantine Petra." Levant: 1-15.

Kolb, B. 1996. Die Spatromischen Bauten. In, Bignasca, A., Desse-Berset, N., Fellman Brogli, R., Glutz, R., Karg, S., Keller, D., Kolb, B., Kramar, C., Peter, M., Schmid, S. G., Schneider, C., Stucky, R. A., Studer, J. and Zanoni, I. (eds), Petra — Ez Zantur Ergebnisse der Schweizerisch- Liechtensteinischen Ausgrabungen 1988-1992: 51—89. Mainz: Philipp von Zabern.

Kolb, B. 2000. Die spatantiken Wohnbauten von ez Zantur in Petra and der Wohnhausbau in Palastina vom 4.-6. Jh. n. Chr. In, Schmid, S. G. and Kolb, B. (eds), Petra — Ez Zantur Ergebnisse der Schweizerisch-Liechtensteinischen Ausgrabungen: 195-311. Mainz: Philipp von Zabern.

Kolb, B. 2007. Nabataean private architecture. In, Politis, K. D. (ed.), The World of the Nabataeans: Volume 2 of the International

Bernhard Kolb, G., Growher (1998). "Swiss-Liechtenstein Excavations on Az-Zantur in Petra, 1998 " Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 43.

Tsunamogenic Evidence

Paleoseismic Evidence

Paleoseismic evidence is summarized below:
Location Status Intensity Notes
al-Harif Syria possible wide spread in ages
MW = 7.3-7.6 based on 4.2 m of slip
Bet Zayda no evidence
ICDP Core 5017-1 possible 6 2.7 cm. thick turbidite
En Feshka good evidence 8-9 2 cm. thick intraclast breccia (Type 4)
En Gedi possible 5.5-7 0.5 cm. thick Type 1 seismite
Nahal Ze 'elim possible 8-9 5 cm. thick intraclast breccia (Type 4)
Same seismite dated to 419 CE by Kagan et. al. (2011) and to 363 CE by Ken-Tor et al. (2001a) and Williams (2004)
Taybeh Trench possible Event E3
MW > 6.5
Qatar Trench possible Event E6 - one of several candidates between 9 BCE and 492 CE
MW > 6.5

Displaced Aqueduct at al Harif, Syria

Sbeinati et. al. (2010) report a seismic event X which they dated to 335 AD +/- 175 years at a displaced aqueduct at al-Harif, Syria (close to Masyaf, Syria).

Al Harif Aqueduct Seismic Events Fig. 13. 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)

Image Description Source
Age Model Sbeinati et. al. (2010)
Age Model - Big Sbeinati et. al. (2010)

Strike-Slip Fault Displacement - Wells and Coppersmith (1994)

Variable Input Units Notes
cm. Strike-Slip displacement
cm. Strike-Slip displacement
Variable Output - not considering a Site Effect Units Notes
unitless Moment Magnitude for Avg. Displacement
unitless Moment Magnitude for Max. Displacement

Bet Zayda

Wechsler at al. (2014) did not see any evidence for this earthquake in paleoseismic trenches just north of the Sea of Galilee (aka Lake Kinneret).

Bet Zeyda Earthquakes
Figure 9

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 in the core to the Monaxius and Plinta Quake. CalBP is reported as 1513 +/47. This works out to a date of 437 CE with a 1σ bound of 390-484 CE. Ages come from Kitagawa et al (2017). The deposit is described as a 2.7 cm. thick turbidite (MMD). Lu et al (2020) estimated local seismic intensity of VI which they converted to Peak Horizontal Ground Acceleration (PGA) of 0.09 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).
En Feshka
Kagan et. al. (2011) assigned a 419 AD date to a 2 cm. thick intraclast breccia at a depth of 210 cm.

Image Description Source
Age Model Kagan et al (2011)
Age Model - big Kagan et al (2011)
Age Model Kagan et al (2010)
Age Model - big Kagan et al (2010)
En Gedi
Migowski et. al. (2004) assigned a 419 AD date to 0.5 cm. thick seismite at a depth of 237 cm (2.37 m). Williams et. al.(2012) varve counted part of the same 1997 GFZ/GSI core that Migowski et. al. (2004) worked on and produced an estimate of varve count uncertainty based on distance from a well dated "anchor" earthquakes which in this case are the Josephus Quake of 31 BC and the Sabbatical Year Quake of 747/749 AD. These anchor quakes are between 329 and 394 years away from the Cyril Quake of 363 AD and/or the Monaxius and Plinta Quake of 419 AD. Assuming a worst case scenario of 394 years, the 8% varve count error estimated by Williams et al (2012) constrains Migowski et. al.'s (2004) 419 AD to +/-32 years - i.e. between 387 and 451 AD. Two conclusions can be drawn.

1. Migowski et. al.'s (2004) varve count suggests they identified a seismite caused by the Monaxius and Plinta Quake of 419 AD.

2. The Monaxius and Plinta Quake of 419 AD would not likely have masked or overprinted the Cyril Quake seismite of 363 AD indicating that the Cyril Quake did not produce a seismite in En Gedi. Simple calculations supporting this are in footnote [2]. This is consistent with Migowski et al (2004: Table 2) which did not list a 363 CE seismite being masked or overprinted by a 419 CE seismite.

En Gedi Core (DSEn)
Image Description Source
Floating Varve Chronology and Radiocarbon dates Migowski et al (2004)
Floating Varve Chronology and Radiocarbon dates -large Migowski et al (2004)
Migowski's Date shift Migowski (2001)
Recounted Age-depth plot Neugebauer at al (2015)
Recounted Age-depth plot - large Neugebauer at al (2015)
Correlated Age-depth plots of DSEn and ICDP 5017-1 Neugebauer at al (2015)
Comparison of paleoclimate proxies from DSEn to other sites Neugebauer at al (2015)
Core correlation - DSEn to ICDP 5017-1 Neugebauer at al (2015)
Core correlation - DSEn to ICDP 5017-1 -big Neugebauer at al (2015)
Nahal Ze 'elim
There has been an ongoing debate since the start of the millennium whether a seismite in Nahal Ze 'elim should be assigned to the southern Cyril Quake of 363 AD or to the Monaxius and Plinta Quake of 419 AD.

Ken-Tor et al. (2001a) assigned a seismite known as Event D in Nahal Ze 'elim (ZA-1) to the 363 AD Cyril Quake Seismite as did Williams (2004). Neither Ken-Tor et al. (2001a) nor Williams (2004) were aware at the time that the Cyril Quake was a result of two earthquakes with northern and southern epicenters; just that the damage reports were so widespread that it was doubtful that one earthquake could have produced so much destruction. Considering the possibility that textual reports overstated the damage, this cast significant uncertainty in determining which date to assign to the seismite. Williams (2004) estimated that that the Monaxius and Plinta Quake of 419 AD was unlikely to produce sufficient shaking to form a seismite in Nahal Ze 'elim which is why he rejected that earthquake for Event D. At the time, he was relying on Russell (1980) whose article suggested an epicenter north of the Sea of Galilee. This may not have been a good assumption. He also noted that at the time three authors (Abou Karaki (1987), Ben-Menahem et. al, (1981), and Galli and Galadini (2001)) had placed the epicenter of the 363 AD Cyril Quake to the south in the Arava. Other authors had estimated that the epicenter was in the north due to the many northern cities listed in Cyril's letter (Brock, 1977).

At ZA-2, Kagan et. al. (2011) assigned a 5 cm. thick intraclast breccia at a depth of 342 cm. to the Monaxius and Plinta Quake of 419 AD. this appears to be the same seismite Ken-Tor (2001a) labeled as Event D at ZA-1. Kagan et al (2011) likely assigned a 419 AD date because it better fits with the modeled ages. Bookman (nee Ken-Tor) co-authored a paper in 2010 ( Leroy et. al. (2010)) which maintained a 363 AD date for Event D.

Because Migowski et. al. (2004) had used varve counting in the En Gedi core to assign a seismite to the 419 AD earthquake rather than the 363 AD Cyril Quake, there was doubt whether the 363 AD Cyril Quake had created seismites in the Southern Dead Sea.

Now, however, armed with the knowledge that the Cyril Quakes had northern and southern epicenters and that the southern Cyril Quake produced fatalities in nearby Ghor-es-Safi, Jordan (see Archeoseismic evidence), it can more confidently be stated that the southern Cyril Quake likely did produce a seismite in Nahal Ze 'elim. However, the mystery of Kagan et. al.'s (2011) radiocarbon match with the Monaxius and Plinta Quake of 419 AD still remains.

Image Description Source
Age Model Agnon et al (2006)
Dated Litho-section Ken-Tor et al. (2001a)
Dated Litho-section - Big Ken-Tor et al. (2001a)
Image Description Source
Age Model Kagan et al (2011)
Age Model - big Kagan et al (2011)
Age Model with annotated dates Kagan (2011)
Age Model with annotated dates - big Kagan (2011)
Annotated Photo of ZA-3
ZA-3 = N wall of gully
ZA-2 = S wall of same gully
Kagan et al (2015)


On-site fault rupture suggests a minimum moment magnitude MW of 6.5 (Mcalpin, 2009:312).
Taybeh Trench
LeFevre et al. (2018) might have seen evidence for this earthquake in the Taybeh Trench (Event E3).

Taybeh Trench Earthquakes
Figure S5

Computed age model from OxCal v4.26 for the seismic events recorded in the trench.

LeFevre et al. (2018)

Image Description Source
Age Model Lefevre et al (2018)
Age Model - big Lefevre et al (2018)
Trench Log Lefevre et al (2018)
Annotated Trench photomosaic Lefevre et al (2018)
Stratigraphic Column Lefevre et al (2018)
Stratigraphic Column - big Lefevre et al (2018)
Qatar Trench
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 Earthquake of 363 CE. They preferred the Cyril Earthquake of 363 CE based on weighing other evidence> not related to their paleoseismic study and noted that further investigation was required. Although they did not consider the Monaxius and Plinta Earthquake of 419 CE as a possibility, it fits within their modeled ages.

Image Description Source
Age Model Klinger et al (2015)
Age Model - big Klinger et al (2015)
Trench Log Klinger et al (2015)
Simplified Trench Log Klinger et al (2015)


Paleoclimate - Droughts


[1] Ambraseys (2009) states
Marcellinus Comes places this event during the consulships of Monaxius and Plinta, in the second indiction, AD 419, whereas Idatius claims that ‘the holy places of Jerusalem as well as others were shaken by a most terrible earthquake’ during the papacy of St Zosimus (March 417 to December 418). In fact the earthquake happened in the second indiction during the consulship of Monaxius and Plinta (AD 419; Cons. Const. i. 240), and it is mentioned after the solar eclipse (Philostorg. xii. 8–9) of 19 July 418 (Schove and Fletcher 1987, 72–73, 290) at about the time of the appearance of fire in the sky (Philostorg. xii. 8–9), which is probably an allusion to the comet of September 418 (Schove and Fletcher 1987, 72–73, 290). These chronological elements suggest a date late in AD 418, probably in September or October.
The primary mistake here is placing the earthquake when Saint Zosimus was the bishop of Rome (March 417 to 26 December 418) rather than when Eulalius was the bishop of Rome (27 December 418 - 3 April 419). This is apparently due to having a copy of Idatius' Chronicon (ed. by Tranoy(1974)) in which there is a textual error in naming the bishop of Rome. This error was recognized by Guidoboni et al (1994) citing Tranoy (1974). The error of the wrong bishop of Rome is not present in the copy of Idatius Chronicon edited by Burgess (1993).

Faced with the apparent contradiction of Idatius dating the earthquake to the reign of Saint Zosimus (March 417 - 26 December 418) and Marcellinus Comes dating the earthquake to the year of the consulship of Monaxius and Plinta which took place in 419, Ambraseys (2009) looked for other clues in the texts noting that Idatius dated the earthquake after a well dated solar eclipse in July 418 and conjecturing the earthquake took place around the time of a "fire in the sky" (comet ?) which is dated by Philostorgius in Church History (Book XII - Chapters 8 and 9) as lasting until late Autumn and preceding a number of (not specifically located) earthquakes that happened in the next year. Since the next year would presumably be 419 AD, this indicates that Ambraseys (2009) date of late Autumn is flawed when using the "fire in the sky" (described in the text as a meteor) of Philostorgius as a date marker.

[2] Migowski et al (2004) report the 419 CE seismite at a depth of 2.3716 m with a thickness of 0.5 cm. They report the ~175 CE seismite at a depth of 2.5562 m. A simple calculation reveals that in this part of the core, 1 cm. of sediment represents ~13 years of time. As 363 CE is 56 years earlier than 419 CE, it should be ~4 cm deeper and thus ~3.5 cm. below the bottom of the 0.5 cm. thick 419 CE seismite. It should not have been masked or overprinted.