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Sword in the Sky Quake

September 634 CE

by Jefferson Williams









Introduction & Summary

Theophanes, Michael the Syrian, and several other late sources describe an earthquake followed by a "sword in the sky" that appeared for 30 days during the beginning of the Muslim conquest of the Levant. Although there are chronological inconsistencies in the various accounts, it is possible to establish that this earthquake very likely struck in September 634 CE. It was described as occurring during the same year that the Rashudin Army invaded Palestine - ie 634 CE. Some authors provided a month (ilul - August/September) and an observation that the earthquake was followed by aftershocks. The "sword in the sky" appears to have been a comet which was observed by ancient Chinese and Japanese sources in September 634 CE.

Textual Evidence

The primary authors for these earthquakes are listed below:
Section
Chronology of Theophanes
Chronicle by Michael the Syrian
al-Makin
Other Sources
Comet

Chronology of Theophanes

Muslim Invasion of Greater Syria Muslim Invasion of the Levant

Wikipedia


Theophanes wrote the Chronicle in Greek during the years 810-815 CE as a continuation of George Syncellus' Chronicle. In the entry for Annus Mundi 6124, we can read:
ANNUS MUNDI 6124 (SEPTEMBER 1, 632— AUGUST 31, 633) a.d. 624

Roman Emperor Herakleios: 31 years: year 23
Arab ruler Abu Bakr: 3 years: year 2
Bishop of Constantinople Sergios: 29 years: year 24
Bishop of Jerusalem Modestus: 2 years: year 2
Bishop of Alexandria George: 14 years: year 14

In this year Abu Bakr sent out four generals who, as I said before, were shown the way by the Arabs— they took Hira and the whole land of Gaza. Sergios had just come from Palestinian Caesarea with a few soldiers; he engaged the Arabs in battle but was the first one killed. So were three hundred of his soldiers. The Arabs withdrew after a decisive victory, having taken many prisoners and much booty.

In the same year there was an earthquake in Palestine. Also, a sign — known as an “apparition” — appeared in the southern sky. It was sword-shaped, and remained for thirty days, stretching from south to north and predicting the Arab conquest.

Theophanes provides a lot of dating information at the top of this quote some of which is, unfortunately, inconsistent. However, the earthquake takes place at the start of the Muslim conquest of the Levant and there are enough clues in the text, particularly regarding the exploits of the Islamic Army, to establish that the earthquake struck in 634 CE.

The Islamic Army of this time was known as the Rashudin Army. They were part of the Rashudin Caliphate. The Rashudin Caliphate ruled from the death of Muhammad in 632 CE until it was supplanted by the Umayyad Caliphate in 661 CE. The first Rashudin Caliph was Abu Bakr. He ruled for ~27 months from after Muhammad's death (8 June 632 CE) until his own death (23 August 634 CE). From 632-633 CE, the Rashudin Caliphate fought and won the Ridda Wars, squashing internal opposition from rebellious Arabian tribes. In 634 CE, Abu Bakr sent four armies into Byzantine controlled Syria and Palestine. Each army had a different commander. Theophanes notes this when he states that the earthquake happened in the same year that "Abu Bakr sent out four generals". The battle in which Sergios died fighting the Rashudin Army was the Battle of Dathin which, according to Wikipedia, took place in February 634 CE although it may have occurred later in the year as other sources state that the 4 armies left Medina in April 634 CE and that the southern army crossed from Elat and marched to Gaza in May 634 CE. Either way, the battle happened in 634 CE and Abu Bakr was the caliph until his death in August 634 CE. This anchors the earthquake to 634 CE.

Chronicle by Michael the Syrian

Michael the Syrian (1126 AD - 1199 AD wrote The Chronicle covering "Creation" until his times. According to Ambraseys (2009), Michael provided two accounts of this earthquake. One of the entries, provided by Ambraseys (2009), is shown below
In the year 945 of the Greeks, there was a violent earthquake, in the month of ilul, and after the earthquake there was a sign in the sky; it appeared in the form of a sword stretching from south to north, and remained for thirty days. To many it seemed to signify the coming of the Taiyayz (Arabs)
The month of ilul in the Hebrew Calendar dates this earthquake to August/September. In another passage, also provided by Ambraseys (2009), we can read
`At this time [a.S. 946 (Arabs' defeat of Theodoric), before the fourth year of Omar] there was a great earthquake, and at the moment of the earthquake the sun was eclipsed. In this earthquake the church of the Resurrection and that of Golgotha fell, together with many other places. Modestus, the Chalcedonian bishop, rebuilt them.
The reported destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (aka Church of the Resurrection and that of Golgotha) during this earthquake is a false synchronicity. The church was destroyed by the Persians in 614 CE and restored in 629 CE by Modestus. It was intact when Omar took possession of Jerusalem in 637 CE (Le Strange (1890: p. 202).

Regarding the solar eclipse, NASA reports one solar eclipse whose path would have passed over the region in 634 CE. This annular solar eclipse occurred on 1 June 634 CE. Michael the Syrian's primary contribution here is he provided a month which, when added to Theophanes account, suggests that the earthquake struck in August or September of 634 CE. The solar eclipse may have been conflated with the earthquake.

al-Makin

al-Makin, a Coptic Christian, wrote al-Majmu al-Mubarak (The blessed collection) in Arabic between 1262 and 1268 CE. Two passages, both provided by Ambraseys (2009), mention the earthquake:
There was a great earthquake in Palestine for thirty days and also a great plague arose in the same place.' (al-Mak. HS. i. 2/19).
`There was a great earthquake in Palestine which lasted thirty days. The shock was violent and was followed by a great plague.' (al-Mak. HM. i. 2/20).
An earthquake lasting 30 days is presumed to describe an earthquake with an extended period of aftershocks.

Other Sources

Gregory Abu 'l-Faraj (Bar Hebraeus) and George Cedrenus also wrote about these events. Gregory Abu 'l-Faraj (Bar Hebraeus) also stated that the earthquake struck during the month of ilul (August/September). More details can be found in the Notes section.

Comet

Ho Peng Yoke (1962) has the following entry for a comet in September 634 CE:
20th September, 634.

On the 23rd day in the eighth month of the eighth year of the Chen-Kuan reign-period a (po) comet appeared at the Hsu and the Wei (11th and 12th lunar mansions) for 11 days before going out of sight [30th September].
(CTS 36/5b; HTS 32/5b; THY 43/la; WHTK 286/21b; W177.)

Williams follows the HTS which says that the comet appeared on a chia-tzu day (22nd September).

The Japanese records, "During the eighth month of the sixth year of Jomei-tenno [29th August to 27th September approx.] a (chhang-hsing) comet was seen at the south. During the first month of the seventh year [24th January to 22nd February, 635 approx.] the (hui) comet turned round and appeared at the E."
(Dainihonshi ch. 359; Nihongi tr. Aston vol. II pp. 166 and 167; K.)
This comet appears to date this earthquake fairly conclusively to September 634 CE. Although the sources may have succumbed to creating a forced synchronicity by having the comet appear immediately after the earthquake, even with a delay the earthquake likely struck in September. The description of a "sword in the sky" appears to be a poetic description of a comet where the use of the word sword ties it to the military exploits of the Rashudin Army adding allegory to the account; something which would have been understood by the Christian authors who wrote about it and their intended audience.

Archaeoseismic Evidence

Archaeoseismic evidence is summarized below

Location Status Intensity Comments
Qasr Tilah possible
Petra - Introduction n/a n/a n/a
Petra - Jabal Harun possible ≥ 6 based on rebuilding evidence
Petra - The Petra Church needs investigation
Bet Sh 'ean possible
Heshbon possible ≥ 8
Jerash needs investigation
Pella possible and needs investigation
Monastery of Khirbet es-Suyyagh possible 9 largely based on rebuilding evidence
Caesarea needs investigation
Mount Nebo needs investigation
Ein Hanasiv possible - needs investigation
Giv’ati Junction possible
Negev - Introduction n/a n/a
Avdat/Oboda possible 9-10 compressional seismic wave, epicenter located SSW of Avdat somewhere in central Negev
Mizpe Shivta possible
Mezad Yeruham possible
Shivta possible 8-9 epicenter a few tens of km. to the WSW
Rehovot ba Negev possible
Saadon possible
Nessana possible
Mamphis possible 9 epicenter to the Southwest
Haluza possible 8-9 epicenter a few tens of kilometers away
epicentral direction to the NE or SW - most likely to the NE
Aqaba/Eilat - Introduction n/a n/a
Aqaba - Aila possible 7


Archaeoseismic Evidence is examined on a case by case basis below

Qasr Tilah

Qasr Tilah faulted birkeh Broken Corner of the Birkeh at Qasr Tilah

photo by Jefferson Williams


Chronology and Seismic Effects

Haynes et al. (2006) examined paleoseismic and archeoseismic evidence related to damage to a late Byzantine—Early Umayyad birkeh (water reservoir) and aqueduct at Qasr Tilah and concluded that left lateral slip generated by several earthquakes cut through a corner of the reservoir and aqueduct creating displacement of the structures. They identified 4 seismic events which produced coseismic slip on the Wadi Arava fault and led to a lateral displacement of 2.2. +/- 0.5 m at the northwest corner of the reservoir (aka birkeh) and 1.6 +/- 0.4 m of the aqueduct. The first seismic event was dated to the 7th century. Haynes at al (2006) suggested it was caused by either the Sword in the Sky Quake (633/634 CE) or the Jordan Valley Quake of 659/660 AD - favoring the Jordan Valley Quake. There was a repair after this 7th century destruction indicating that the site was occupied when the earthquake struck. This suggests that the Sword in the Sky Quake struck the location since the location would likely have been occupied at the time - i.e. at the start of the Muslim conquest of the Levant. It is also possible that this location received damage from the Sign of the Prophet Quake (613-622 CE). At some point the site was abandoned. Haynes et al (2006) noted that archeological evidence at the site indicates that it was abandoned and was not occupied past the Early Umayyad Period (661-700 CE). They also noted that
MacDonald (1992) [] collected some Byzantine and Umayyad surface potsherds at the site and documented ruins of Byzantine houses (village) along the fan surface of Wadi Tilah.
It is not known if the location was still occupied or only partially occupied when the Jordan Valley Quake struck in 659/660 CE. If the site was abandoned around the same time as the archeoseismic sites in the Negev (~640 CE ?), it may have been empty enough not to have been repaired if the Jordan Valley Quake caused further damage. Because of the repair, it it is unclear how much lateral slip was produced.



Qasr Tilah Trench Log A7 Figure 5 - Schematic diagram of Trench A.7 north wall. Stratigraphic units are identified by lowercase letters. Faults are emphasized by heavy lines. Earthquakes are identified by Roman numerals, with IV as the oldest. Dashed lines indicate unexcavated portion of aqueduct floor. Haynes et al. (2006)

Qasr Tilah Trench Log A7 Stratigraphic Column Schematic Figure 4 Schematic stratigraphic column of Trench A.7. Thicknesses of units are generalized from measurements of unit throughout the trench. Listed artifacts provide age control for constraining deposition and earthquake history in units where they were discovered. Age constraints come from radiocarbon data and typological dating of sherds. Haynes et al. (2006)


Petra

Names

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

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.

Jabal Harun
Jabal Harun after excavations Figure 1

The FJHP site following the end of excavations in 2007 (by Z. T. Fiema).

Fiema (2013)


Names

Transliterated Name Language Name
Jabal Harun Arabic جابال هارون‎
Introduction

Jabal Harun (Mount Harun) is located ~5 km. southwest of the main site (cardo) of Petra and has traditionally been recognized by Muslims, Christians, and Jews as the place where Moses' brother Aaron was buried (Frosen et al, 2002). As such, it may have remained as an ecclesiastical and pilgrimage site after Petra's decline in the 7th century CE. About 150 m from the peak of Jabal Harun lies the remains of what is thought to have been Byzantine monastery/pilgrimage center dedicated to Aaron. Archeological investigations indicate that the center was occupied from the late 5th through the 7th/8th centuries CE (Frosen et al, 2002).

Chronology

Mikkola et al (2008) discussed the stratigraphy and potential seismic events in Chapter 6 of Petra - the mountain of Aaron : the Finnish archaeological project in Jordan.
Following seven field seasons of excavation (1998-2005), the obtained stratigraphic information and the associated finds allows for the recognition of fourteen consecutive phases of occupation, destruction, rebuilding and disuse in the area of the church and the chapel 1 Of these, Phase 1 represents the pre-ecclesiastical occupation of the high plateau, Phases 2-8, the period of continuous monastic occupation interspersed with episodes of destruction, and Phases 9-14, the later occupation for which the ecclesiastical function of the church can no longer be supported, as well as the eventual abandonment of the church and the chapel of Jabal Harun. Specifically, Phases 3, 6, 8, 10 and 12 represent phases of destruction. The most likely explanation for most of these destructions is seismic events, and in some cases the evidence for an earthquake seems clear. However, in other cases, especially for Phase 6, alternative explanations will be considered as well. Notably, the multiple episodes of destruction and restoration seem well attested by the evidence of changes in the glass repertoire in the church and the chapel throughout the existence of these structures.
Mikkola et al (2008) assign the 2nd destruction in Phase 6 to an earthquake in the 1st half of the 7th century CE however this event was inferred from rebuilding evidence and contains only a limited reporting of Seismic Effects. The rebuilding also may not have been a response to seismic damage. Stratigraphy from Mikkola et al (2008) is shown below:

Seismic Effects

Seismic Effects from destruction events postulated by Mikkola et al (2008) from Phase 6 is presented below.

Orientation of presumed seismic damage

Mikkola et al (2008) found a directional pattern to inferred archeoseismic damage
In general, the E-W running walls are better preserved than those running N-S. This fact is probably explained by the seismic characteristics prevalent in the Wadi Araba rift valley, which mainly result in earthquakes exhibiting E-W movement. These are likely to cause more damage to walls running in a N-S direction than to those running E-W.
Phase 6 Destruction Event - 1st half of 7th century CE - inferred from rebuilding

Mikkola et al (2008) inferred possible seismic destruction in Phase 6 based on rebuilding that took place in Phase 7. No unambiguous and clearly dated evidence of seismic damage was found. Mikkola et al (2008) also noted a change in liturgy in Phase 7 which could have also been at least partly responsible for the rebuild. Fiema (2013:799), in referring to an iconoclastic edict by the Caliph Yazid II in 723/724 CE, states that Muslims initially used Christian edifices for prayer, with the result that these edifices had to conform to Islamic prescriptions (Bowersock 2006: 91-111). Such shared use of sites by Muslims and Christians can be seen, for example, in the Church of Kathisma between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Moses is mentioned more frequently in the Quran than any other personage (136 times) and his life is narrated more often than any other prophet. Aaron is also frequently mentioned. Thus, it could be expected that Aaron's supposed grave site would become a site for Muslim as well as Christian pilgrimage. In fact, the site currently houses a mosque dedicated to Aaron. Thus, the change in liturgy associated with the rebuild of Phase 7 could have been a reaction to increased Muslim visitation rather than seismic damage or some combination of structural damage and accommodation of Muslim pilgrims. Mikkola et al (2008) noted that, while difficult to date, it seems probable that the iconoclastic damage done to the narthex mosaic [of the Church] can be assigned to this phase where they date this iconoclastic damage to the end of Phase 7. Mikkola et al (2008) produced the following observations regarding the supposed destruction event in Phase 6:

Whereas the event of Phase 3 was almost certainly a massive earthquake coupled with a raging fire, it is much more difficult to interpret precisely what happened in Phase 6. The reason for distinguishing this phase at all is that something must have prompted the extensive rebuilding activities of Phase 7. However, whether it was an earthquake, a spontaneous collapse of the inside structures, or some less dramatic reason, is not immediately clear.

...

Perhaps the most important clue to the nature of the event is offered by the finds of glass and marble elements. The church of Phase 7 no longer featured a marble chancel screen or ambo, and it was lit with new types of glass lamps. It is not easy to see why the marble decorations and old glass lamps would have been discarded if the building was simply remodelled in an orderly manner. Therefore, one must assume that the roof supports and lamps fell as a result of some event, either an earthquake or a spontaneous collapse due to the structural instability of the building. Such an event might have wrecked most of the church furnishings beyond repair.

...

The chapel seems generally to have withstood seismic damage better than the church, as it is a smaller building and its arches are all supported by walls, i.e., the relatively unstable structural supports, such as freestanding pillars, were never installed there. In Phase 6, however, some of the arches appear to have collapsed, which would also have caused considerable damage to the floor and the furnishing of the chapel. Therefore, in Phase 7, some pilasters had to be reinforced and/or rebuilt, the floor repaired and much of the furnishing reinstalled.
Intensity Estimates

Intensity estimates for the 2nd destruction in Phase 6 at Jabal Harun are listed below.
Effect Description Intensity
Arch Collapse Chapel VI +
The archeoseismic evidence requires a minimum Intensity of VI (6) when using the Earthquake Archeological Effects chart of Rodríguez-Pascua et al (2013: 221-224 big pdf) .

Notes and Further Reading

Fiema, Z. T. and J. Frösén (2008). Petra - the mountain of Aaron : the Finnish archaeological project in Jordan. Helsinki, Societas Scientiarum Fennica.

Eklund, S. (2008). Stone Weathering in the Monastic Building Complex on Mountain of St Aaron in Petra, Jordan.

Frosen et al. (2000). "The 1999 Finnish Jabal Harun Project: A Preliminary Report " Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 44.

Fiema, Z. T. (2002). "The Byzantine monastic / pilgrimage center of St. Aaron near Petra, Jordan." Arkeologipäivät.

Finnish Jabal Harun Project

Bikai, P. M. 1996 Petra, Ridge Church. P. 531 in Archaeology in Jordan section. Patricia M. Bikai and Virginia Egan, eds. American Journal of Archaeology 100, no. 3, pp. 507-536.

Bikai, P. and M. Perry (2001). "Petra North Ridge Tombs 1 and 2: Preliminary Report." Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 324: 59 - 78.

Bikai, P. M. 2002a Petra. North Ridge Project. Pp. 450-51 in Archaeology in Jordan section. St. H. Savage, K. Zamora and D. R. Keller, eds. American Journal of Archaeology 106: 435-458.

Bikai, P. M. 2002b North Ridge Project. ACOR Newsletter vol 14.1. Summer, pp. 1-3.

Bikai, P. M. (2002). The churches of Byzantine Petra, in Petra. Near Eastern Archeology, 116, 555-571

Bikai, P. M. 2004 Petra: North Ridge Project. Pp. 59-63 in Studies in the History and Archaeology of Jordan VIII. F. al-Kraysheh ed. Amman. Bikai, Patricia M., and Megan Perry

Parr, Peter 1959 Rock Engravings from Petra. Palestine Exploration Quarterly 91, pp. 106-108.

Petra North Ridge Project

Fiema, Z. T., et al. (2001). The Petra Church, American Center of Oriental Research.

Bikai, P., et al. (2020). Petra: The North Ridge, American Center of Oriental Research.

Petra: The North Ridge at ACOR

The Petra Church
Names

Transliterated Name Language Name
The Petra Church English
The Byzantine Church at Petra English
Introduction

The
Petra church is a 5th to 6th century Byzantine era complex on a ridge overlooking the ancient city center of Petra. ACOR excavated the site between 1992 and 1998 (ACOR Jordan website). The Petra papyri were discovered at this church.

Chronology

Mikkola et al (2008) state that it has been suggested that a 7th century CE earthquake completed the demolition of the already derelict and abandoned Petra church in Phase X (Fiema et al, 2001)

Notes and Further Reading

Fiema, Z. T., et al. (2001). The Petra Church, American Center of Oriental Research.

The Petra Church - ACOR Jordan website

Petra Church Bibliography - ACOR website

Bet Sh 'ean

Names

Transliterated Name Language Name
Beit She'an Hebrew בֵּית שְׁאָן
Scythopolis Greek Σκυθόπολις
Beisan Arabic بيسان‎
Tell el-Husn Arabic تيلل يلءهوسن
Introduction

Beit She'an is situated at a strategic location between the Yizreel and Jordan Valleys at the juncture of ancient roadways (Stern et al, 1993). In Roman times, it was one of the cities of the Decapolis. The site of Bet She'an was occupied almost continuously from Neolithic to Early Arab times (Stern et al, 1993).

Chronology and Seismic Effects

Langgut et al 2015 report possible archeoseismic evidence for the Jordan Valley Quake at Bet Sh 'ean citing Bar-Nathan and Atrash (2011: p. 8, 153.154, table 4.4).

Bar-Nathan R, Atrash W. 2011. Bet She’an II, Baysan: the theater pottery workshop. Jerusaem: IAA Reports.

Russell (1985) reported the following
Fitzgerald (1931:7) uncovered three Byzantine houses that had collapsed and burned in the early 7th century, sealing coins of Anastasius I, Justin II, Maurice Tiberius. and Phocas beneath their destruction debris. a temporal span ca. 491-610.

In the Byzantine monastery at Beth-shan, gold coins of Heraclius (610- 641) were sealed beneath similar collapse debris Fitzgerald (1939:2) .
Such damage could have also been the result of sacking by the Rashudin Army. Archeoseismic evidence at Bet Sh 'ean is labeled as possible.

Heshbon

Crushed Ceramics at Hesbon due to 7th century CE quake Figure 16

Ceramic vessels crushed by fallen vault in Early Islamic Room N.1.

Walker and Labianca (2003)


Names

Transliterated Name Language Name
Hesban
Heshbon Biblical Hebrew חשבון
Heshbon Arabic حشبون‎
Tell Hisban Arabic ‎تيلل هيسبان
Tell Ḥesbān Arabic تيلل هيسبان‎
Esebus Latin
Hesebon Ancient Greek Ἐσεβών
Esbous Ancient Greek Ἐσβούς
Exbous Ancient Greek Ἔξβους
Esbouta Ancient Greek Ἐσβούτα
Essebōn Ancient Greek Ἐσσεβών
Introduction

Heshbon has been sporadically occupied since at least the Iron Age and is mentioned 38 times in the Hebrew Bible ( Lawrence T. Geraty in Meyers et al, 1997). It is located on the Madaba Plains ~19 km. SW of Amman and ~6 km. NE of Mount Nebo.

Chronology and Seismic Effects

Walker and Labianca (2003:453-454) uncovered 7th century CE archeoseismic evidence which they attributed to the Jordan Valley Quake of 659/660 CE from an excavation of an Umayyad-period building in Field N of Tall Hisban. They report a badly broken hard packed yellowish clay floor which was pocketed in places by wall collapse and accompanied by crushed storage jars, basins, and cookware. An excerpt from their article follows:
Two roughly square rooms, each approximately 4 x 4 meters wide and built against the inner face of the Hellenistic wall, occupied most of N.l and N.2. Masonry walls, four courses high, delineated the space. The original rooms were separated by what appears to have been an open air corridor; a door in the east wall of N. l and one in the west wall of N.2 allowed passage between the two rooms. The floors of these rooms (N.1: 18, N.2: 16) were made of a hard packed, yellowish clay, which was badly broken and pocketed in many places by wall collapse. Upper courses of the walls of the rooms had fallen onto the floor and crushed several large storage jars and basins and cookware (Fig. 16), dated in the field to the transitional Byzantine-Umayyad period. The only foundation trench identified (N.2: 25) yielded no pottery. The fill above these floors contained pottery that was late Umayyad and Abbasid in date. While it is not possible at this early stage of excavation to determine when this structure was first built, it was clearly occupied in the middle of the seventh century, suffered a catastrophic event, and was reoccupied (at some point) and used into the ninth century. Fallen architecture, crushed pottery, badly damaged floors that appeared to have "melted" around the fallen blocks, and wide and deep ash pits and lenses bare witness to a major conflagration. The most likely candidate for this is the recorded earthquake of 658/9, which was one of the most destructive in Jordan's history since the Roman period, rather than the Islamic conquests of the 630's (El-Isa 1985: 233).
As dating is no more precise than the 7th century CE, archeoseismic evidence at Tall Hisban is labeled as possible.

Intensity Estimates

Effect Description Intensity
Broken pottery found in fallen position VII +
Collapsed Walls VIII +
Collapsed Vaults VIII +
The archeoseismic 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)

Notes and Further Reading

Boraas, Roger S., and S. H. Horn. Heshbon 1968: The First Campaign at Tell Hesban, a Preliminary Report. Andrews University Monographs, vol. 2. Berrien Springs, Mich., 1969.

Boraas, Roger S., and S. H. Horn. Heshbon 1971: The Second Campaign at Tell Hesban, a Preliminary Report. Andrews University Monographs, vol. 6. Berrien Springs, Mich., 1973.

Boraas, Roger S., and S. H. Horn. Heshbon 1973: The Third Campaign at Tell Hesban, a Preliminary Report. Andrews University Monographs, vol. 8. Berrien Springs, Mich., 1975.

Boraas, Roger S., and Lawrence T . Geraty. Heshbon 1974: The Fourth Campaign at Tell Hesban, a Preliminary Report. Andrews University Monographs, vol. 9. Berrien Springs, Mich., 1976.

Boraas, Roger S., and Lawrence T. Geraty. Heshbon 1976: The Fifth Campaign at Tell Hesban, a Preliminary Report. Andrews University Monographs, vol. 10. Berrien Springs, Mich., 1978.

Boraas, Roger S., and Lawrence T. Geraty. "The Long Life of Tell Hesban, Jordan." Archaeology 32 (1979): 10-20.

Bullard, Reuben G. "Geological Study of the Heshbon Area." Andrews University Seminary Studies 10 (1972): 129-141.

Cross, Frank Moore. "An Unpublished Ammonite Ostracon from Hesban." In The Archaeology of Jordan and Other Studies Presented to Siegfried H. Horn, edited by Lawrence T. Geraty and Larry G. Herr, pp. 475-489. Berrien Springs, Mich., 1986.

Geraty, Lawrence T., and Leona Glidden Running, eds. Hesban, vol. 3, Historical Foundations: Studies of Literary References to Heshbon and Vicinity. Berrien Springs, Mich., 1989.

Geraty, Lawrence T., and David Merling. Hesban after Twenty-Five Years. Berrien Springs, Mich., 1994. - Reviews the results of the excavations of the Heshbon expedition a quarter-century after its first field season; full bibliography.

Horn, S. H. "The 1968 Heshbon Expedition." Biblical Archaeologist 32 (1969): 26-41.

Ibach, Robert D., Jr. Hesban, vol. 5, Archaeological Survey of the Hesban Region. Berrien Springs, Mich., 1987.

LaBianca, Oystein S., and Larry Lacelle, eds. Hesban, vol. 2, Environmental Foundations: Studies of Climatical, Geological, Hydrological, and Phytological Conditions in Hesban and Vicinity. Berrien Springs, Mich., 1986.

LaBianca, 0ystein S. Hesban, vol. 1, Sedentarization and Nomadization: Food System Cycles at Hesban and Vicinity in Transjordan. Berrien Springs, Mich., 1990.

Lugenbeal, Edward N., and James A. Sauer. "Seventh-Sixth Century B.C. Pottery from Area B at Heshbon." Andrews University Seminary Studies 10 (1972); 21-69.

Mitchel, Larry A. Hesban, vol. 7, Hellenistic and Roman Strata. Berrien Springs, Mich., 1992.

Sauer, James A. Heshbon Pottery 1971: A Preliminary Report on the Pottery from the 1971 Excavations at Tell Hesban. Andrews University Monographs, vol. 7. Berrien Springs, Mich,, 1973.

Sauer, James A. "Area B. " Andrews University Seminary Studies 12 (1974): 35-71

Terian, Abraham, "Coins from the 1968 Excavations at Heshbon." Andrews University Seminary Studies 9 (1971): 147-160.

Vyhmeister, Werner. "The History of Heshbon from Literary Sources. "Andrews University Seminary Studies 6 (1968): 158-177

Jerash

Names

Transliterated Name Language Name
Jerash English
Gérasa Greek Γέρασα
Ǧaraš Arabic جرش‎
Introduction

Jerash has a long history of habitation, flourished during Greco-Roman times, appears to have been mostly abandoned in the second half of the 8th century and was sporadically reoccupied and abandoned until Ottoman times when continuous habitation began anew. It is one of the world's best preserved Greco-Roman cities and has been studied by archeologists for over a century.

Chronology and Seismic Effects

Ferry et al (2011) list archeoseismic evidence at Jerash dated as Late Byzantine and dated to 490-640 CE. They supply a quote from Savage et al (2001, p. 458) as follows:
The pottery and glass under this tumbled wall section showed that the collapse must have occurred during the Late Byzantine period, probably the result of an earthquake that was responsible for the destruction of other city buildings in the sixth century.
Archeoseismic evidence at Jerash is labeled as needs investigation.

Pella

Names

Transliterated Name Language Name
Pella Greek Πέλλα
Fahl Hebrew פחל
Fāhl or Fihl Arabic فاهل or فيهل
Khīrbīt Fāhl Arabic كهيربيت فاهل
Tabaqat Fāhl Arabic تاباقات فاهل
Pihil(um) Ancient Semitic
Aliases - Wikipedia notes (with citations) that Pella could also be known as Berenike (aka Bernice) during the Hellenistic Period and Philippeia during the Roman period.

Introduction

Pella is located in the foothills east of the Jordan Valley ~30 km. south of the Sea of Galilee. It has been accepted as ancient Pella of the Decapolis (Smith in Stern et al, 1993).

Chronology

Walmsley (2007) attributes some archaeoseismic destruction at Pella due to the Jordan Valley Quake although this date assignment seems tentative.
Excavations in the early 1980s identified six house units destroyed in the earthquake of 749. These houses represented the last phase in a long urban development that commenced with the complete redevelopment of living quarters on Pella's main mound in the first half of the sixth century (Watson 1992). The original arrangement consisted of four-metre wide gravelled streets set out on a formal grid, each street flanked by stone and mudbrick terrace-style houses two storeys high, prefaced in some places by shops. These streets, intended to serve local needs, were not equipped with colonnades or sidewalks. Although modified, the layout remained the same until an earthquake in 659-60 required a rebuilding of the quarter, in which the linear terrace houses were replaced by independent, self-contained units centred on one or more sizeable courtyards.
Walmsley (1982) discussed this in more detail noting that:
only in one trench (IVE) has the Sydney team excavated much below the A.D. 746/7 surface, producing evidence for at least three Byzantine and Umayyad architectural phases. Since an attempt to establish a detailed chronology for the whole Umayyad period on the basis of this one trench would be premature, the following account concentrates on the final phase in the life of urban Pella.

...

We turn now to a consideration of the layout and use of the buildings in Areas III and IV (figs 28-29 and end-plates 2-3). A dominant feature of Pella in the Byzantine and early Umayyad periods appears to have been streets with packed mud and pebble surfaces. One such street, 5 m wide, ran east-west through Area IV. From it, north and south, doorways gave access to dwellings, hence referred to as the North and South Buildings. But at some stage during the Umayyad period the street was cut by a wall which continued south to form the west wall of the South Building. Before this event it appears that this building had covered a considerably greater area; now to the west of the north-south Umayyad wall the earlier walls were razed level with the new and final occupation surface of a courtyard. Into this surface were dug lightly fired clay tabuns. Although the date of the demolition of the western sector of the South Building and of the construction of the north-south wall is uncertain, the slight build-up of detritus on this surface points to a time not far removed from the final destruction of A.D. 746/7. Tentatively we ascribe these alterations to the period following the earthquake of A.D. 717.
This earlier paper by Walmsley (1982) appears to provide an earthquake date (717 CE) which was revised to 659/660 CE in the later paper - Walmsley (2007). The earthquake of 717 CE refers to an earthquake which Ambraseys (2009) and Guidoboni et. al. (1994) locate in Syria and Upper Mesopotamia. None of the sources mention specific localities except for a conflation mistake by Pseudo-Dionysius of Tellmahre. However, reports from Upper Mesopotamia suggests an epicenter far from Pella indicating that another closer earthquake was likely responsible for this tentatively identified and dated archeoseismic evidence. Archeoseismic evidence at Pella is labeled as possible and needs further investigation.

Monastery of Khirbet es-Suyyagh

Chronology, Seismic Effects, and Intensity Estimate

Taxel (2009: 186) reports damage, based on ceramic and numismatic finds, around the middle of the 7th century CE concluding that "it is highly likely that the observed damage and subsequent repairs in Khirbet es-Suyyagh were caused by one or more earthquakes." Damage descriptions follow:
Damaged architectural remains can be recognised throughout the site. Signs of destruction and nearly immediate rebuilding combined with absence of signs of man-made violent actives are typical earthquake-related features.

The area of the large courtyard (Fig. 2.1:8-10) had been completely rebuilt after a destructive event. An earlier construction phase, which is observed south of the centre of the courtyard (Fig. 2.1:9), is covered by a later floor. Fallen masonry and subsequent repairs were observed in the southern part of the apse of the church, with its inner face remaining asymmetric. Since the damage is observed close to the foundations of the church it seems that the damage had a pervasive affect on the entire structure. A section of about 10 m in the southern end of W33 seems also to have been rebuilt. Similarly, in W100 there is a warped contact in room 19, where two different styles of masonry meet but are misaligned.

Another type of damage appears in two broken door thresholds, that of the main gate and that of the small courtyard in the south of the monastery. The large, monolithic and nicely carved stones are placed in-situ but broken by a width wise crack into two pieces. Assuming the thresholds were carved from intact rocks without significant fractures, we can envision strong vertical acceleration, perhaps of the order of lg, which caused the fracturing. Such strong shaking is known based on modern earthquakes to occur either near the epicentre of strong earthquakes (of the order of magnitude 7 and above) or in places with strong local amplification of seismic waves.

Each of the damaged elements alone would not suffice to indicate an earthquake as the damaging agent. However, the occurrence of many such elements, the extensive repair and reconstruction of features without any sign of human violence and in short time, together with the frequent occurrence of earthquakes in the region supports the association of the damage to earthquake/s.
This suggests that the Jordan Valley Quake, the Sword in the Sky Quake and/or possibly even the Sign of the Prophet Quake damaged the site with the Jordan Valley Quake the most likely candidate. Archeoseismic evidence at the Monastery of Khirbet es-Suyyagh is labeled as possible . Seismic Intensity is estimated at IX (1 g).

Caesarea

Langgut et al (2015) report that destruction of a building in Caesarea Maritima was tentatively attributed to the 659 CE earthquake by Raban et al (1993:59-61). This archeoseismic evidence is labeled as needs investigation.

Raban A, Holum KG, Blakely JA. 1993. The combined Caesarea expeditions: field reports of the 1992 season. Haifa: University of Haifa.

Mount Nebo

Names

Transliterated Name Source Name
Mount Nebo English
Jabal Nibu Arabic جَبَل نِيْبُو‎
Har Nevo Hebrew הַר נְבוֹ‎
Pisgah Hebrew Bible פִּסְגָּה
Fasga Arabic ‎فاسعا
Jabal Siyāgha Arabic جابال سيياعها
Rās as-Siyāgha Arabic راس اسءسيياعها‎
Rujm Siyāgha Arabic ‎روجم سيياعها
Jabal Nabo local bedouin جابال نابو
Jabal Musa local bedouin جابال موسا
Introduction

Mount Nebo is famous as the location where in the 34th chapter of Deuteronomy Moses climbed its peak to view the promised land before passing away. Only ~ 7km. from Madaba, it provides a commanding view of the Dead Sea, Judah, and Samaria. The ridge of Mt. Nebo has been inhabited since remote antiquity, as the dolmens, menhirs, flints, tombs, and fortresses from different epochs testify (Michelle Piccirillo in Meyers et al, 1997). Several churches and a monastery were built there in the Byzantine era.

Chronology

Ambraseys (2009) notes that
Indeed, Russell remarks that it is impossible to ascertain the effects of this and the AD 632 (634) earthquake on the Mt Nebo monastery owing to the manner in which the excavations were conducted.
However Russell (1985) correlates archeoseismic destruction at Mount Nebo to the Mount Lebanon Thrust Quake of 551 CE and the Sabbatical Year Earthquake of 746/749.

July 9, 551 CE entry - p. 45

This earthquake also appears to have been responsible for the destruction and subsequent abandonment of the Town of Nebo (Saller and Bagatti 1949: 217, n. 2).
January 748 CE entry - p. 49

The final destruction of the basilica at Mt. Nebo also appears to correlate with this earthquake (Schneider 1950: 2-3),
Notes - p.54

At Mt. Nebo (Sailer 1941: 45-46) and Aereopolis (Zayadine 1971) in the region of ancient Moab, recovery after the 551 earthquake apparently did not occur until the end of the century. Related to this delayed recovery is the possibility that an influx of southeastern populations from decaying urban centers like Petra subsequent to the 551 earthquake was responsible for the intensified building during the late 6th and early 7th centuries in both Moab (Sailer 1941: 248) and the Negev (Kraemer 1958: 23. 28-29; Colt 1962: 21-22).
This archeoseismic evidence is labeled as needs investigation.

Ein Hanasiv

Karcz et. al. (1977) list archeoseismic evidence (oriented collapse, alignment of fallen masonry) in Ein Hanasiv in the 7th century AD based on Vitto (1975). Archeoseismic evidence at Ein Hanasiv is labeled as possible and needs investigation.

Giv’ati Junction

Baumgarten (2001) excavated a round pottery kiln at Giv' ati Junction dated to the 4th-7th century CE (Shmueli (2013)). Langgut et al (2015) report that four fired Late Roman Amphora (similar to those at Yavne) "were found inside the kiln’s collapsed firing chamber" covered by a thick layer of aeolian sand. Langgut et al (2015) noted that while "the excavator suggested that the kiln was destroyed during operation, possibly due to some technical fault, and was consequently abandoned (Baumgarten 2001)", they believe an earthquake should also be considered as a cause of destruction.

(Shmueli (2013)) excavated Stratum III in a rectangular building (L109, L119) at Giv'ti Junction in 2011 where, on the floor, they found three Gaza jars which were set upside down (Fig. 4) and broken. A fourth jar was found upright but also broken. Based on numismatic finds, they dated the beginning of the settlement to the fourth or fifth century CE. Construction and use of the rectangular building was dated to the fifth to seventh centuries CE. In the seventh century the installation and building went out of use.

Archeoseismic evdience at Giv’ati Junction is labeled as possible.

THE NEGEV

In surveys conducted in 1994 and 1996, Korjenkov (1999) identified and examined seismic features such as

Avdat

Avdat Wall Bulges Bulges in SW Wall of Avdat Tower

photo by Jefferson Williams


Names

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

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).

Chronology

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.
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
Event
"Previous"
or
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.
TREND DISCORDANCE OF FIRST LOWER ROWS OF MASONRY WITH UPPER WALL FRAGMENTS, AND TREND DEVIATION FROM PERPENDICULAR OF WALLS JOINING EACH OTHER "Previous" Room 10 of Court in South Quarter 3
5
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).
SHIFTING OF UPPER PRESERVED FRAGMENTS OF WALLS AS COMPARED WITH LOWER ROWS OF STONES "Previous" Room 8 of Court in South Quarter 3
6
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).
NONCOINCIDENCE OF LOWER STONE ROWS WITH UPPER BUILDING STRUCTURES "Previous" N yard of bath-house 7a
7b
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
10
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
11b
12
13
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
14a
14b
15
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
attribution
Location Intensity
Penetrative fractures in masonry blocks 7th century many locations
an example from Northern Church
Figure 4
VI+
Tilted Walls 7th century various locations VI +
Collapsed Walls 7th century various locations
Fig. 9
VIII +
Collapsed Walls 7th century Agricultural Fences
Fig. 11a
Fig. 11b
VIII +
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
attribution
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
VII+
Displaced Walls "previous"
prob. 5th century
N yard of bath-house
Fig. 7a
Fig. 7b
VII +
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.

Mizpe Shivta

Erickson-Gini (personal correspondence, 2021) relates that this site in the Negev suffered seismic damage in the 7th century CE - sometime after 620 CE.

Mezad Yeruham

Erickson-Gini (personal correspondence, 2021) relates that this site in the Negev suffered seismic damage in the 7th century CE - sometime after 620 CE.

Shivta

Broken and repaired lintel stone at Southern Church in Shivta Broken and repaired lintel stone (top of photo) at entrance to South Church in Shivta

photo by Jefferson Williams


Names

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

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). .

Chronology

Erickson-Gini (personal correspondence, 2021) relates that Shivta suffered seismic damage in the 7th century CE - sometime after 620 CE.

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
8b
8c
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

Because the observations of Korjenkov and Mazor (1999a) are derived from what is presumed to be 2 separate earthquakes (Byzantine and post-Byzantine), it is difficult to identify which seismic effect should be assigned to which earthquake. However, it is likely that much of the observed damage comes from the later post-Byzantine earthquake when repairs would have either been limited or not made at all. The table below should be considered tentative.
Effect Description Intensity
Tilted Walls VI +
Displaced Walls VII +
Collapsed Walls VIII +
Penetrative fractures in masonry blocks VI +
Displaced masonry blocks VIII +
Dropped keystones in arches or lintels in windows and doors VI +
The archeoseismic 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) . Korjenkov and Mazor (1999a) estimated a local Intensity of 8-9 (MSK-64 scale) for the 7th century (post-Byzantine) earthquake. They estimated that the epicenter was a few tens of kilometers away based on seismic effects which suggested high levels of intensity (i.e the epicenter had to be close) and rotated arch stones and roof fragments which indicates oblique incidence of the seismic waves. Oblique incidence would indicate that the hypocenter was close to the site. They also estimated that the epicenter was in the WSW direction. Directionality of the epicenter was based on orientation of damage patterns and observations about how wall orientation affected the extent and type of observed seismic damage. These patterns indicate an epicenter in the NE or SW direction. Choosing one of these two directions was apparently largely based on a preferred SW direction of wall collapse (inertia effect). Refining a WSW direction from a generally SW direction was apparently based on 9 rotated wall fragments which agreed with a model they showed in Figure 16c.

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.

Rehovot ba Negev

Tilted Walls at Rehobot ba Negev Fig. 12

Rehovot ba Negev, northward tilting and shifting of the southern wall of the Northern Church

Khorzhenkov and Mazor (2014)


Erickson-Gini (personal correspondence, 2021) relates that this site in the Negev suffered seismic damage in the 7th century CE - sometime after 620 CE.

Tsafrir (1988: 26) excavated the Northern Church (aka the Pilgrim Church) of Rehovot ba Negev and came to the following conclusions regarding its initial construction :
A clear terminus ante quem for the building of the church is given by a burial inscription (Ins. 2) dated to the month Apellaios 383, which falls, according to the era of the Provincia Arabia, in November- December 488 C.E. The church probably was erected in the second half of the fifth century. (See below the subsequent general discussion of the triapsidal basilicas beginning on p. 47.). Although it is clear that several parts of the complex were built later than the main hall, such as the northern chapel (see 111. 1 15), there is no doubt that the entire complex was constructed within the same few year.
Later on he noted that
A date of approximately 460-470 for the building activity therefore seems reasonable, although the calculation remains hypothetical.
After initial construction, additional architectural elements were added; foremost among them a a revetment or support wall which is described and discussed below by Tsafrir (1988: 27).
The most important architectural addition was the talus, or sloping revetment, that was built around the walls of the church from the outside to prevent their collapse. Such revetments were common in the Negev. They supported the walls of churches as well as of private houses. They are found, for example, around the walls of St. Catherine's monastery in Sinai. At Rehovot such walls may have been erected following an earthquake, but more probably it was necessary to reinforce them just because of poor quality masonry. To explain these retaining walls as having created a military defense post (as has been done in the case of the northern church at Shivta) is awkward.
Khorzhenkov and Mazor (2014: 84) identified what they believed were three (or more) earthquakes which had expressions in the walls of the northern church. The first two earthquakes struck after construction of the church around 465 CE and before the site was abandoned by its Christian inhabitants around 640 CE (when the Byzantine Empire permanently lost power in the area and could no longer support these peripheral outposts). A later earthquake struck during the Early Arab period - after ~640 CE.
The existence of revetment walls, supporting the southern wall of the Church from the south, indicates that the southern wall’s tilt occurred during the first of the Late Roman earthquakes. It seems that the southern wall began to tilt northward inside the building during the Early Arab earthquakes; additional evidence for this is the shift northwards of the upper part of the revetment wall. Stones of the perpendicular eastern wall are cracked in the small room marked on the plan. Nevertheless, this wall is better preserved (it is much higher) than the main southern wall of the North Church. This indicates that the seismic shocks during both earthquakes acted perpendicular to the main Church wall: it had freedom of oscillation and was significantly destroyed. The small eastern wall, oriented parallel to the effect of the seismic movements, withstood the seismic oscillations better, although many of its stones were significantly damaged. The whole northern wall of the Church (field station 12 in fig. 3) has a significant tilt to the south (figs. 8 a. b).
Khorzhenkov and Mazor (2014:84) discussed the two late Byzantine quakes (between 465 CE and 640 CE) further
The destruction event (an earthquake), which deformed the original wall, occurred before the decline of the Byzantine Empire. There was then another seismic event which led to the destruction of the revetment wall itself. The last event was probably an end of ›civilized‹ life here.
Rodkin and Khorzhenkov (2019) noted that

Another strong earthquake occurred during the 7th century AD. This could be the same earthquake that destroyed Avdat [ Korjenkov and Mazor (1999), Fabian (1998)]. This earthquake could also drive the inhabitants out of Rehovot, which occurred soon after (or slightly before) of the Arab conquest.
This suggests that the Late Byzantine earthquakes that struck Rehovot ba Negev could include some combination of the following

Archeoseismic evidence at this location is labeled as possible.

Saadon

Erickson-Gini (personal correspondence, 2021) relates that this site in the Negev suffered seismic damage in the 7th century CE - sometime after 620 CE.

Nessana

Aerial view of Nissana Aerial view of Nessana

Etan J. Tal - Wikipedia


Names

Transliterated Name Source Name
Nessana
Nitzana Hebrew ניצנה‎‎
Nizzana Hebrew ניצנה‎‎
Auja el-Hafir Arabic عوجة الحفير‎‎
el-Audja Arabic variant يلأودجا
'Uja al-Hafeer Arabic variant 'وجا الءهافيير
el Hafir Arabic variant يل هافير
Introduction

Nessana was located along the Incense Road and was settled from the Hellenistic to Early Arab periods (Avraham Negev in Stern et al, 1993). There is a Neolithic site in the vicinity. The Nessana papyri was discovered at Nessana. .

Chronology

Erickson-Gini (personal correspondence, 2021) relates that Nessana suffered seismic damage in the 7th century CE - sometime after 620 CE.

Mampsis

Tilted Wall in Mamshit Fig. 12b

Tilting westward of upper stones of the N-S (174 degrees) trending east wall in a room south of the main premises of the West Church – stone A has a dip of 61 degrees and stone B has a dip of 74 degrees. "Seismic push arrived from SW"

Korzhenkov and Mazor (2003)


Names

Transliterated Name Source Name
Mamshit Hebrew ממשית‎
Kurnub Modern Arabic كورنوب
Kurnub Nabatean ?
Mampsis Byzantine Greek Μαμψις
Memphis Ancient Greek Μέμφις
Introduction

Mampsis was initially occupied at least as early as the 2nd century BCE when it was a station on a secondary part of the Incense Road (Avraham Negev in Stern et al, 1993). It appears on the Madaba Map as Μαμψις (Mampsis). It went into decline or was abandoned in the 7th century CE .

Chronology and Seismic Effects

Korzhenkov and Mazor (2003) estimated that an earthquake struck Mampsis in the 7th century. Although they also saw evidence that a late 3rd or early 4th 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 estimated that the epicenter of the late 7th century earthquake was to the southwest of Mamshit and the minimum local intensity was IX.

They report that the percentage of collapsed buildings could be well estimated as the ruins were left untouched. Their estimates were that practically all of the buildings in Mamphis were damaged and more than 50% were destroyed in this earthquake. Almost no second floor structures survived without severe damage.

Erickson-Gini (personal correspondence, 2021) relates that this site in the Negev suffered seismic damage in the 7th century CE - sometime after 620 CE.

Haluza

Fallen Column at Haluza Fig. 13 Haluza

Collapse of one of the columns of the Cathedral in a NE (45º) direction. Note lead bundle on the surface of the pedestal and traces of lead on the bottom of the fallen column

Korzhenkov and Mazor (2005)


Names

Transliterated Name Source Name
Haluza Hebrew חלוצה‎
Elusa Byzantine Greek - Madaba Map ΕΛΟΥϹΑ
Chellous Greek Χελλοὺς
Halasa
asal-Khalūṣ Arabic - Early Arab الخلصة
Al-Khalasa Modern Arabic
Introduction

Haluza, ~20 km. southwest of Beersheba, was founded by the the Nabateans as a station along the Incense Road ( Avraham Negev in Meyers et al, 1997). The town reached a peak of prosperity in the Late Nabatean and Late Roman periods but continued as a major city of the Negev into the Byzantine period ( Avraham Negev in Meyers et al, 1997). Haluza remained inhabited after the Muslim conquest but eventually declined and was abandoned - like many other Byzantine cities in the Negev. These old cities preserve much archeoseismic evidence and have been rightly called fossil seismographs whose examination can help unravel the historically under reported seismic history of both sides of the Arava before ~1000 CE.

Chronology

Korjenkov and and Mazor (2005) identified damage patterns from at least two heavy earthquakes. They surmised that the first earthquake struck in the Byzantine period between the end of the 3rd and the mid-6th centuries A.D.. Citing Negev (1976) Negev (1989), they discussed this evidence further
Negev (1989) pointed out that one earthquake, or more, shattered the towns of central Negev between the end of the 3rd and mid-6th centuries A.D.. Literary evidence is scarce, but there is ample archeological evidence of these disasters. According to Negev a decisive factor is that the churches throughout the whole Negev were extensively restored later on. Negev found at the Haluza Cathedral indications of two constructional phases. One room of the Cathedral was even not cleaned after an event during which it was filled with fallen stones and debris from the collapsed upper portion of a wall. In the other room the original limestone slabs of the floor had been removed but the clear impression of slabs and ridges in the hard packed earth beneath suggests that they remained in place until the building went out of use (Negev, 1989:135).

The dating of the discussed ancient strong earthquake may be 363 A.D., as has been concluded for other ancient cities around Haluza, e.g. Avdat37, Shivta38, and Mamshit39. However, Negev (1989:129-142) noticed inscriptions on walls and artifacts.
The inscriptions Negev noticed were discovered at Shivta which Negev (1989) discussed as follows:
A severe earthquake afflicted Sobata [aka Shivta].
...
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.
Although Negev (1989) and Korjenkov and and Mazor (2005) suggested the Fire in the Sky Earthquake of 502 CE as the most likely candidate, its epicenter was too far away to caused widespread damage throughout the region. This suggests that the causitive earthquake is unreported in the historical sources - an earthquake which likely struck at the end of the 5th or beginning of the 6th century CE. This hypothesized earthquake is listed in this catalog as the Negev Quake.

Korjenkov and and Mazor (2005) also discussed chronology of the second earthquake.
The Early Arab – Second Ancient Earthquake

Negev (1976:92) suggested that a strong earthquake caused the final abandonment of Haluza. He summed up his observations at one of the excavated courtyards:
Voussoirs of the arches and extremely long roof slabs were discovered in the debris, just above the floor. It seems that either the destruction of the house occurred for a very short time after its abandonment or the house had to be abandoned because of its destruction by an earthquake.
Korjenkov and and Mazor (2005) noted that while the Sword in the Sky Quake of 634 CE destroyed Avdat 44 and ruined other ancient towns of the Negev 45, archeological data demonstrate that occupation of the [Haluza] continued until at least the first half of the 8th cent. A.D.46. This led them to conclude that one of the mid 8th century CE earthquakes was a more likely candidate. Unfortunately, it appears that we don't have a reliable terminus ante quem for the second earthquake.

Seismic Effects

Korjenkov and and Mazor (2005) identified damage patterns in the ruins of Haluza which indicated previous devastation by at least two heavy earthquakes discussed above in Chronology. Damage patterns are summarized in the table below:
Damage Type Location Figure Comments
Through-going Joints Station 6 (Fig. 4) 
3
4
Joints crossing adjacent stones (Fig. 3 a. b) are a substantial evidence of seismic origin of deformation, i.e. opening of joints as a result of seismic vibrations. Formation of such joints has been reported in many macroseismic studies. S. Stiros supposed that opening and closing of vertical joints take place according to the direction of the acting seismic forces. For example, such joints formed in modern buildings during the Tash-Pasha (northern Kyrgyzstan) 1989 earthquake of a magnitude Mpva = 5.1 (Fig. 3 c) and Suusamyr (northern Tien Shan) 1992 earthquake of the magnitude MS = 7.3 (Fig. 3 d). Such through-going joints are formed only as a result of a high-intensity earthquake, as high energy is necessary to overcome the stress shadow of the free surfaces at the stone margins (i.e. the free space between adjacent stones).
An example of such a joint is observable at Haluza at the lower part of the wall of the courtyard, west of the theater (Fig. 4). Here a subvertical joint passes two adjacent stones in the wall with a trend of 37º. The length of the joint is 25 cm. One can observe similar numerous joints in the ruins of all the ancient cities of the Negev: Avdat, Shivta, Mamshit and Rehobot-ba-Negev
Joints in a Staircase Theater
5 A subvertical joint, 58 cm long, maximal opening 1.5cm, and a strike of about 122°, crosses the staircase of the excavated theater (Fig. 5). It cuts through two adjacent staircase blocks that trend about 42°. It is important to note that all the staircase blocks are damaged to a certain degree – they are cracked.
The staircase was built close to a wall, the upper part of which is tilted toward NE (dip angle ~69°). The upper part of the staircase is also tilted, but less (dip angle ~83°), so there is a gap between the upper parts of the wall and the staircase. A similar joint in a staircase was also observed at Mamshit in a room near the Eastern Church and the Late Nabatean Building
Cracks Crossing Large Building Blocks Cathedral
6 Cracks crossing large building blocks can also be a result of a strong earthquake, but it is always complicated to prove their 100% seismic origin because the cracks can be also realization of the loading stress along the weak zone that existed in the rock. However, together with other »pure« seismic features, observed in the archaeological excavation area, these cracks can serve as an additional evidence of seismic damage. An example of such a crack was found at the marble column pedestal of the Cathedral. The pedestal of the northern column is broken by a sub vertical crack (Fig. 6). A seismic origin of this feature is supported by the left-lateral shift along the crack: it is hard to envisage that static loading can cause strike-slip movements. The left-lateral shift along the crack is 1 cm and the maximum crack opening is 1.5 cm. The crack is laterally widening toward NE (1.5cm) and narrowing toward SW (0.1 cm). The last phenomenon is difficult to explain just by loading from above. The strike azimuth of the crack is 35º and the length is 92 cm. A similar deformation can be observed at the pedestal of a column at the northern Church at Shivta
Cracked Doorsteps Station 28
7 Cracking of doorsteps is an important feature for the evaluation of a seismic damage. Their preferential occurrence in walls of the same trend can serve as a kinematic indicator of seismic motions that acted parallel to the trend of the doorstep stones.
Such features are abundant at the ruins Avdat, Shivta and Mamshit. At Haluza two vertical cracks can be seen in a long doorstep (strike azimuth 121º) in the excavated courtyard (Fig. 7). It is important to note that the doorstep and two stones standing on it (probably a fragment of a previous wall) are tilted toward NE (azimuth ~32º) at an angle of about 80º
Cracked Window Beams Cathedral
8 Cracked window beams are common features of seismic damage. Many of them were observed in ancient Negev cities. As in the case with doorsteps, their preferential occurrence in walls of the same trend can serve as a kinematic indicator of seismic motions acting parallel to the trends of window beams. Generally, these data are supportive material to ›strong‹ seismic deformations, but in some cases one can prove that the crack in a beam occurred because of static loading. For example, a crack in a beam above the window (in a room behind the Cathedral) can be explained by loading from above, but it is impossible to explain a crack in the window-sill (Fig. 8 a) in the same way. The strike azimuth of both broken beams is 126°. A model explaining this damage pattern is presented in Fig. 8 b.
Tilted Walls Theater (Fig. 10)
9
10
Tilting and (following) collapse of walls and columns are very common damage patterns described in many archeoseismological publications. However, tilting and collapse of buildings can be also caused by action of static loading or weathering in time, poor quality of a building or its design, consequences of military activity or deformation of building basement because of differential subsidence of the ground etc. However, a systematic pattern of the directional collapse of walls of the same trend proves a seismic origin of the damage. These patterns can be explained as an inertial response of buildings to propagation of seismic motions in the underlying grounds (Fig. 9).
For example the upper part of a wall of the Theater at Haluza is tilted toward NE43° at an angle of 69° (Fig. 10). Another wall of the same building was also tilted. It is preserved only up to its third row of stones (height is 83 cm above the ground), but the whole wall was tilted toward NE42° at an angle of 74°. Note an opening between stones of the tilted wall and the perpendicular one.
Perpendicular Trends of Collapsed and Preserved Arches Theater
11
12
At the ruins of ancient cities one can observe different types of arch deformations. In some cases the stones of a collapsed arch are found along a straight line on the ground, whereas in other cases arch stones are found in a crescent pattern. These cases provide indicators of the direction of the respective seismic wave propagation – at the first case the destructive seismic waves propagated parallel to the arch trend, whereas at the second case they propagated perpendicular to the arch trend. An arch at the Theater at Haluza collapsed in a crescent pattern (Fig. 11). Its trend was 130° and its stones collapsed toward 220°SW. The deviation of the collapsed stones from the straight line is 20.5 cm. This observation reveals that the propagation of the seismic waves was along a SW-NE axis. In contrast, an arch with a perpendicular strike (45°) in an adjacent room was preserved (Fig. 12).
Collapse of Columns Cathedral
13 Collapse of columns is a most spectacular feature of seismic destruction. A drum fragment is seen near the pedestal of a fallen eastern column in the Cathedral (Fig. 13). There are traces of lead on the surface of the pedestal, which was a binding matter between the pedestal and the upper column drum. Traces of lead were also preserved in the lower part of the column’s lower drum which collapsed toward NE45°. Thus, the seismic waves of an ancient earthquake propagated along the NE-SW axis.
Shift of Building Elements Theater (Fig. 15)
14
15
Horizontal shifts of the upper part of building constructions can be explained in the same way as tilting and collapse. The lower part of the structure moved together with ground onto direction of the seismic movements, but the upper part of the buildings stayed behind because of inertia (Fig. 14). Such displacements of building elements is a known phenomenon of earthquake deformation of ancient buildings and is used for determination of seismic motions’ direction, similar to the case of wall tilt and collapse.
At Haluza an external wall of the western part of the Theater has been shifted to SW 215º (Fig. 15). The upper row of stones was shifted by 7 cm, and it was also slightly tilted (dip angle is 81º) to the same direction.
Earthquake Damage Restorations Cathedral
16
17
18
Clustered repairs or changes of the building style of houses of the same age can serve as supportive evidence of a seismic origin of the deformation. These repairs and later rebuilding are usually of a lower quality than the original structures. Such poor rebuilding is typical for earthquake-prone regions in less-developed areas of the world even today.
The ruins of Haluza reveal features of later restoration, e. g. walls supporting Cathedral’s columns (Fig. 16) blocked former entrances (Fig. 17), secondary use of stones and column drums (Fig. 18), walls built later, features of repair of the water reservoir, the addition of the side apses to the original single-apse structure of the Cathedral etc. All these damage restorations provide solid evidence of a former strong earthquake.
Earthquake Debris Filling Part of a Corridor at the Theater Theater 19 Negev observed filling of part of a corridor at the Theater, and concluded »the bones and pottery vessels appear to be contemporary with the period of use of the theatre, and they may therefore represent the remains of meals taken during religious festivities conducted in the theatre. Similar filling of a corridor, surrounding a Buddhist temple, was found at the Medieval Koylyk archeological site (SE Kazakhstan) that was located along the Great Silk Route. In this case the researcher concluded that the filling of the corridor was to prevent future collapse of walls that were tilted during an earthquake (Fig. 19).
A Dump of Destructive Earthquake Debris Dumps located northwest of Haluza are another interesting feature. Excavation of one of the dumps revealed that it did not contain kitchen refuse, as was common, but mainly fine dust and some burnt bricks and clay pipes. It is also important to mention that the pottery, discovered by Colt’s expedition of 1938 in the city dumps, was not earlier than the late Roman period. Based on these data, Negev came to the conclusion that this garbage hill, as well as other huge dumps surrounding the city, was made by the local inhabitants that cleaned dust and threatening sand dunes, which finally doomed it.
Waelkens et al. (2000) described a large dump at ancient Sagalassos (SW Turkey), containing many coins, sherds, small stones and mortar fragments, including stucco, piled up against the fortification walls, so that the latter lost completely their defensive function. The authors concluded that the material inside this dump represents debris cleaned out from the city after a destructive earthquake. Existence of a significant quantity of burnt brick fragments and broken clay pipes at the Haluza dumps is an evidence of a strong earthquake, which partly or completely destroyed the city. As a result the city [was] abandoned for some time, and storms brought in dust from the desert. Later settlers cleaned the ruins from the dust, sand, broken pipes and bricks, which they could not use, but they reused sandstone and limestone blocks to restore the city. Similar dumps of garbage exist on the slopes of Avdat and the same interpretation was reached.


Intensity Estimates

Because the observations of Korjenkov and Mazor (1999a) are derived from what is presumed to be 2 separate earthquakes (Byzantine and post-Byzantine), it is not entirely clear which seismic effect should be assigned to which earthquake. However, as the second earthquake is thought to be associated with abandonment, it can be assumed that most seismic effects are associated with the second earthquake. The table below lists some of these seismic effects but should be considered tentative.
Effect Description Intensity
Tilted Walls Fig. 10 VI +
Penetrative fractures in masonry Blocks Fig. 4 VI +
Fallen Columns Fig. 13 V+
Collapsed arches Fig. 11 VI +
Displaced Masonry Blocks Fig. 15 VIII +
The archeoseismic 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) .

Korjenkov and Mazor (1999a) estimated a minimum seismic intensity of VIII–IX (MSK Scale), an epicenter a few tens of kilometers away, and an epicentral direction to the NE or SW - most likely to the NE. Their discussion supporting these conclusions is repeated below:
Joints crossing several adjacent stones (e. g. Fig. 4 ) indicate destruction by a high-energy earthquake, as the energy was sufficient to overcome the stress-shadow of the empty space between the building stones. Tilts of the walls (Fig. 10 ), fallen columns (Fig. 13 ), shifted collapse of an arch (Fig. 11 ), shift of a stone row of the wall (Fig. 15 ) – all these observations disclose that the destructive seismic waves arrived along a NE-SW axis (~40º), most probably from NE. Although all of the buildings in the city were well built and had one or two floors, all of them were severely damaged by an earthquake. The significant seismic deformations observed in the buildings indicate a local seismic intensity of at least I = VIII–IX (MSK Scale). This requires a strong shock arriving from a nearby epicenter, most probably a few tens of kilometers from Haluza. This supposition is based on the fact that short-period seismic waves, which tend to be destructive to low structures (which have short-period harmonic frequencies), attenuate at short distances from the epicenter.
Notes and Further Reading

Halutza Excavation Project

Aqaba/Eilat

Names

Transliterated Name Source Name
Aqaba Arabic العقبة
al-ʿAqaba Arabic variant
al-ʿAgaba Arabic variant
ʿaqabat Aylah 12th century Arabic عقبة آيلة
Ayla Arabic آيلا
Aela Latin
Aila Latin
Ailana Latin
Haila Latin
Aila Byzantine Greek Άιλα
Berenice Ancient Greek Βερενίκη
Elath Ancient Semitic
Ailath Ancient Semitic
Ezion-Geber Hebrew עֶצְיֹן גֶּבֶר
Transliterated Name Source Name
Eilat Hebrew אֵילַת
Ilat Arabic إِيلَات
Umm al-Rashrāsh Arabic أم الرشراش
Introduction

Aqaba, located at the northern terminus of the Gulf of Aqaba has a long history of habitation punctuated by episodes of abandonment and decline. It's strategic location as the nearest port town to the copper mines of the Araba Valley made it a regional hub for copper production (smelting) and trade as evidenced at the Chalcolithic sites of Tall Hujayrat Al-Ghuzlan and Tall Al-Magass Klimscha (2011). The Hebrew Bible (e.g. 1 Kings 9:26-28 and 2 Chronicles 8:17-18) mentions nearby Elath and Ezion Geber as ports of departure for Solomon's merchant fleet to Ophir ( S. Thomas Parker and Donald S. Whitcomb in Meyers et al, 1997). According to the same Hebrew Bible, Eilat was later conquered by the Edomites in the late eighth century BCE (2 Kings 16:6). Nelson Glueck excavated the site of Tell el-Kheleifeh thinking it was Solomon's port city but subsequent work on the site suggests that this is not the case. Before the Roman annexation in 106 CE, Aqaba was a Nabatean port. In Roman and Byzantine times, the port was known as Aila. The town surrendered to the Muslims during the Muslim conquest of the Levant, and eventually a new Muslim town (Ayla) was built just outside the city walls of Byzantine Aila (aka Ailana) (Whitcomb, 1994).

The modern Israeli city of Eilat, named for ancient Elath, lies across the border from the Jordanian city of Aqaba.

Aila

Introduction

Aila (aka Ailana) was the name of the Roman Byzantine town in Aqaba .

Chronology and Seismic Effects

Thomas et al (2007) excavated and examined area J-east between 1994 and 2003. The J-East area is a multiphase site incorporating Early Islamic to Byzantine domestic occupation and a late third to fourth-century monumental mudbrick structure that has been interpreted as a church (Parker 1998a; 1999a; Mussell 2001; Rose 1998; Weintraub 1999) ( Thomas et al, 2007). This site, in the Roman-Byzantine town of Aila, is located ~500 m north of the modern shoreline of Aqaba and ~500 m NW of the Islamic town of Ayla . Thomas et al (2007) identified 6 or 7 earthquakes from the 2nd century CE onward in J-east and divided up the timing as follows:



Thomas et al (2007) produced a schematic of a composite columnar stratigraphic section for the deposits of the J-east site in Figure 3 . They identified earthquake destruction (Earthquake IV) in a collapse layer which they suggested struck in the early to middle 7th century CE.
            Measured in Section C (fig. 5 ), Earthquake IV caused 12 cm of dip-slip across Fault D and up to 30 cm of lateral motion on Wall J.1.53. However, since Fault D also slipped in Earthquakes V and VI and appears to have caused more severe structural damage, strike-slip is probably minimal in this event. The pottery constrains the date of Earthquake IV to sometime between the seventh century and the mid seventh to eighth century. In this case, an early to middle seventh-century date would best fit the dating evidence. Earthquake IV probably caused the collapse of the long-abandoned domestic structures.
Intensity Estimates

Effect Description Intensity
Fault Scarps dip-slip VII +
Displaced Walls VII +
Collapsed Walls VIII +
Seismic Uplift/Subsidence VI +
The archeoseismic 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) however since the site was abandoned at the time, the walls may have been weakened. Since Thomas et al (2007) estimated that earthquakes V (S. Cyril Quake) and VI (Aila Quake) were more energetic at the site and an Intensity of VIII (8) was estimated for these earthquakes, it seems prudent to downgrade the intensity estimate one count to VII (7). On-site fault rupture suggests a minimum moment magnitude MW of 6.5 (Mcalpin, 2009:312). 12 cm. of dip-slip movement suggests a Moment Magnitude Mw between 6.0 and 6.2. 10 cm. of strike-slip movement also suggests a Moment Magnitude Mw between 6.0 and 6.2. while the upper limit of 30 cm. of strike-slip movement suggests a maximum Moment Magnitude Mw between 6.4 and 6.6 (see Calculator below).

Calculator

Normal Fault Displacement - Wells and Coppersmith (1994)

Variable Input Units Notes
cm.
cm.
m/s Enter a value of 655 for no site effect
Equation comes from Darvasi and Agnon (2019)
Variable Output - not considering a Site Effect Units Notes
unitless Moment Magnitude for Avg. Displacement
unitless Moment Magnitude for Max. Displacement
Variable Output - Site Effect Removal Units Notes
unitless Reduce Intensity Estimate by this amount
to get a pre-amplification value of Intensity
  

Site Effect

The value given for Intensity with site effect removed is how much you should subtract from your Intensity estimate to obtain a pre-amplification value for Intensity. For example if the output is 0.5 and you estimated an Intensity of 8, your pre-amplification Intensity is now 7.5. An Intensity estimate with the site effect removed is helpful in producing an Intensity Map that will do a better job of "triangulating" the epicentral area. If you enter a VS30 greater than 655 m/s you will get a positive number, indicating that the site amplifies seismic energy. If you enter a VS30 less than 655 m/s you will get a negative number, indicating that the site attenuates seismic energy rather than amplifying it. Intensity Reduction (Ireduction) is calculated based on Equation 6 from Darvasi and Agnon (2019).

VS30

VS30 is the average seismic shear-wave velocity from the surface to a depth of 30 meters at earthquake frequencies (below ~5 Hz.). Darvasi and Agnon (2019) estimated VS30 for a number of sites in Israel. If you get VS30 from a well log, you will need to correct for intrinsic dispersion. There is a seperate geometric dispersion correction usually applied when processing the waveforms however geometric dispersion corrections are typically applied to a borehole Flexural mode generated from a Dipole source and for Dipole sources propagating in the first 30 meters of soft sediments, modal composition is typically dominated by the Stoneley wave. Shear from Stoneley estimates are approximate at best. This is a subject not well understood and widely ignored by the Geotechnical community and/or Civil Engineers but understood by a few specialists in borehole acoustics. Other considerations will apply if you get VS30 value from a cross well survey or a shallow seismic survey where the primary consideration is converting shear slowness from survey frequency to Earthquake frequency. There are also ways to estimate shear slowness from SPT & CPT tests.

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
  

Notes and Further Reading

Tsunamogenic Evidence

Paleoseismic Evidence

Paleoseismic evidence is summarized below

Location Status Intensity Notes
al-Harif Syria possible
Bet Zayda possible
ICDP Core 5017-1 possible 7 16.5 cm. thick turbidite
En Feshka probable 5.6-6.4 1 cm. thick Type 1 (Linear Waves) Seismite
En Gedi possible 5.6-6.3 0.5 cm. thick Type 1 seismite was assigned to 660 CE
Nahal Ze 'elim no evidence
Taybeh Trench possible Event E3 - 551 CE +/- 264
Qatar Trench no evidence


Paleoseismic Evidence is examined on a case by case basis below

Displaced Aqueduct at al Harif, Syria

Sbeinati et. al. (2010) report a seismic event Y which they dated to 657 AD +/- 32 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)

Bet Zayda

Wechsler at al. (2014) may have seen evidence for this earthquake as Event CH3-E1 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)


Dead Sea

ICDP Core 5017-1
Lu et al (2020) associated a turbidite in the core to a middle 8th century earthquake. CalBP is reported as 1248 ± 44 yr B.P. This works out to a date of 702 CE with a 1σ bound of 658 - 746 CE indicating that the Sign of the Prophet Quake Sword in the Sky Quake, Jordan Valley Quake(s), Sabbatical Year Quake(s), and the By No Means Mild Quake are all possibilities. Ages come from Kitagawa et al (2017). The deposit is described as a 16.5 cm. thick turbidite (MMD). Lu et al (2020) estimated local seismic intensity of VII which they converted to Peak Horizontal Ground Acceleration (PGA) of 0.18 g. Dr. Yin Lu relates that "this estimate was based on previous studies of turbidites around the world (thickness vs. MMI)" (perhaps 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 634 AD date to a 1 cm . thick Type D (i.e. Type 1) seismite at a depth of 172.0 cm. depth.

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 (DSEn)
Migowski et. al. (2004) did not assign a date of 634 AD to any of the seismites in the En Gedi Core (DSEn) but did assign a 0.5 thick seismite at a depth of 1.99 m to a date of 660 AD.

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
At site ZA-2, Kagan et. al. (2011) did not assign any seismites to a date of 634 AD.

ZA-2
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)

Arava

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) did not identify any seismic events the Qatar trench which might correspond to this earthquake.

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)

Notes

Chronicon by Bar Hebraeus (Gregory Abu 'l-Faraj)

Gregory II Abu 'l-Faraj bar Ahron (aka Gregory Bar Hebraeus) wrote Chronicon in Syriac in the 13th century where one can read:
Heraclius transgressed the Law and took Martina, his brother's daughter, to wife, and begat by her an illegitimate son, Herakluna. In the same month of Elul [September], an earthquake took place. And a sign, like unto a spear, appeared in the heavens, and it remained there for 30 days. This manifestly made known the victory of the Arabs.
The passage relates an earthquake striking in September followed by a "sword (or spear) in the sky" which lasted for 30 days. There is no synchronism of the earthquake with Heraclius marriage to his niece in Bar Hebraeus' account. The author stated that the earthquake occurred in September which was the same month as when Heraclius married his niece. He does not mention that these two events are separated by ~21 years. The events are juxtoposed in the text by use of a common month to make a theological point - that Heraclius' transgression with his niece is linked somehow with the way the earth reacted to these events with the assumption that the earth was manifesting something from the supreme being.

Synopsis Historion by Cedrenus

George Cedrenus wrote Synopsis Historion (aka A concise history of the world) in the 1050's in Greek. In Cedrenus (1838: 745), he noted that a comet was observed for 30 days some time after Muhammed died.

Ambraseys (2009) notes

Ambraseys (2009), citing Grumel (1934), noted that Theophanes started his years (ie indictions) in September rather than March during this time period. He also provided the following chronological notes

Russell (1985) notes

The comet mentioned by Theophanes, Cedrenus, and Michael the Syrian would not have been Halley's. since it would have returned to earth ca. March 13.607 and again ca. September 28, 684. The changing form of the comet, which first appeared in the shape of a cross and later assumed the form of a striking sword reflects its movement at perihelion.

Eclipse Path

Annular Solar Eclipse on 1 June 634 CE comes from Eclipse Predictions by Fred Espenak and Chris O'Byrne (NASA's GSFC).

Paleoclimate - Droughts

References





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https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Roman_and_Byzantine_Near_East.html?id=WqEsAQAAIAAJ

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Guidoboni et. al. (1994)

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