Ackermann, O., et al. 2014. Palaeoenvironment and Anthropogenic Activity in the Southeastern Mediterranean Since the Mid-Holocene: The Case of Tell es-Safi/Gath, Israel. Quaternary International 328-329: 226-43

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Ackermann, O., et al. 2014. Palaeoenvironment and Anthropogenic Activity in the Southeastern Mediterranean Since the Mid-Holocene: The Case of Tell es-Safi/Gath, Israel. Quaternary International 328-329: 226-43
  This article appeared in a journal published by Elsevier. The attachedcopy is furnished to the author for internal non-commercial researchand education use, including for instruction at the authors institutionand sharing with colleagues.Other uses, including reproduction and distribution, or selling orlicensing copies, or posting to personal, institutional or third partywebsites are prohibited.In most cases authors are permitted to post their version of thearticle (e.g. in Word or Tex form) to their personal website orinstitutional repository. Authors requiring further informationregarding Elsevier’s archiving and manuscript policies areencouraged to visit:  Author's personal copy Palaeoenvironment and anthropogenic activity in the southeasternMediterranean since the mid-Holocene: The case of Tell es-Sa 󿬁 /Gath,Israel Oren Ackermann a , b , * , Noam Greenbaum c , d , Hendrik Bruins e , Naomi Porat f  ,Mira Bar-Matthews f  , Ahuva Almogi-Labin f  , Bettina Schilman g , Avner Ayalon f  ,Liora Kolska Horwitz h , Ehud Weiss a , Aren M. Maeir a a Institute of Archaeology, The Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology, Bar-Ilan University, 5290002 Ramat-Gan, Israel b The Department of Land of Israel Studies, Ashkelon Academic College, Ashkelon 78211, Israel c Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, University of Haifa, Haifa 31905, Israel d Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management, University of Haifa, Haifa 31905, Israel e The Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, Bona Terra Department of Man in the Desert, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Sede Boker Campus,84990, Israel f  Geological Survey of Israel, 30 Malchei Israel Street, Jerusalem 95501, Israel g Environmental Secretary, Ministry of Production, Government of Tucuman, 4000, Argentina h National Natural History Collections, Faculty of Life Sciences, Berman Building, Givat Ram, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem 91904, Israel a r t i c l e i n f o  Article history: Available online 20 March 2014 a b s t r a c t The  “ younger  󿬁 ll ”  phenomenon de 󿬁 ned by Vita-Finzi, related to sediments that were deposited in manyMediterranean valleys, has been a topic of discussion for several decades. The main challenge regardingthis issue is deciphering the srcin of the  󿬁 ll: geomorphic processes induced by natural climatic, or byanthropogenic activity. The current research is an attempt to deal with this issue by using a concept inwhich the environmental records, i.e. climate, hydrology and sedimentology, were examined inconjunctionwith human history, in the area of the Bronze and Iron Age archaeological site of Tell es-Sa 󿬁 /Gath, in central Israel. The study investigated geomorphic structures of various scales: a single slope,1stand 2nd order valleys, and larger drainage basins of a few tens to hundreds km 2 . High-resolution datingof the sediments by OSL and  14 C allowed the identi 󿬁 cation of different sedimentary phases.The sedimentary history of the Tell es-Sa 󿬁 /Gath environs shows that: (a) During the Chalcolithicperiod and Early Bronze Age ( w 4200 e 3050 BCE), stable conditions prevailed in the small valleys, rep-resented by soil formation; (b) During the Iron Age II and up to the Early Arab period ( w 800 BCE e 800CE), aggradation took place in the small and the large valleys; (c) During the post-Byzantine/EarlyArab periods (after 800 CE), major incision occurred in the large valleys, whereas minor aggradationoccurred in the small valleys. Climatic and natural geomorphic processes are the major factors shapingthe landscape in the current research area.Anthropogenic activity was expressed at localized sites and for a limited time, in two locations only.One location is the siege trench that surrounds Tell es-Sa 󿬁 /Gath, where sedimentation occurred shortlyafter the destruction of the site by Hazael, king of Aram Damascus (ca. late 9th century BCE), and in thesame locality during the Byzantine period. The other location is the 2nd order valley close to thearchaeological site, where enhanced sedimentation rates occurred shortly after site destruction. Inaddition, these results suggest that the small basin valleys underwent aggradation that continuouslyrecorded the local environmental history, whereas the large drainage basins underwent cut and  󿬁 llprocesses related to the regional environmental history in a less continuous record.   2014 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA. All rights reserved. *  Corresponding author. Institute of Archaeology, The Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology, Bar-Ilan University, 5290002 Ramat-Gan, Israel. E-mail addresses:, (O. Ackermann). Contents lists available at ScienceDirect Quaternary International journal homepage:   2014 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA. All rights reserved. Quaternary International 328-329 (2014) 226 e 243  Author's personal copy 1. Introduction Sedimentation and erosion processes in the Mediterranean ba-sin relating to climate and human history have been studied forseveral decades (Dusar et al., 2011). Pioneering research by Vita- Finzi (1969) of sediments in the Mediterranean basin that accu-mulated between the Roman period and the Middle Ages weredescribed as the  “ younger  󿬁 ll. ”  This sedimentary  󿬁 ll was correlatedto more humid climate conditions during this period. This obser-vation was a starting point for an extensive discussion regardingthe dominance of environmental or climatic-dependent processesversus human activity, and their impact on the Mediterraneanlandscape (e.g., Davidson, 1980; Wagstaff, 1981; Goldberg, 1984;Pons and Quezel, 1985; Bruins, 1986; Rosen, 1986a, 1986b; Rubin,1990; Barker, 1998; Bintliff, 2002, 2005; Butzer, 2005; Fuchs,2007; Casana, 2008; Houben et al., 2011).Further studies show that the effect of human anthropogenicactivitiesontheMediterraneanlandscapeiscomplexandmayhavediverseandevencontraryeffects(Blondeletal.,2010).Forexample,periods of relatively high human activities such as grazing andover-exploitation of natural vegetation can cause intensive erosion(Pope and van Andel, 1984; van Andel et al., 1990). Contrastingly,human activities such as the construction of agricultural terracescan prevent erosion (Solé-Benet et al., 2010).Subsequent periods of reduced human activities and abandon-ment can also affect the landscape in contradictory ways. Forexample, a lack of terrace maintenance can lead to the collapse of retaining walls, resulting in erosion of the sediment stored in theterrace body (Rosen,1986a; Walsh, 2004; Avni, 2005; Zgaier, 2008;Avni et al., 2012); on the other hand, reduced human activities canlead to vegetation regeneration (Shoshany and Svoray, 2002;Neumann et al., 2010) and landscape surface stabilization.These examples demonstrate that sedimentary mechanisms arecomplex in nature (Dusar et al., 2011), and distinguishing betweenthe impacts of natural versus human factors on the landscape is achallenging research goal (Goldberg, 1984; Bruins, 1986; Rosen,1986a; Goudie, 1994; Bintliff, 2002; Walsh, 2004; Dusar et al.,2011). Therefore, interdisciplinary researches have been conduct-ed at archeological sites where high-resolution sedimentary re-cords as well as human cultural historyare evident (End 󿬁 eld,1997;Dincauze, 2000; Butzer, 2005; Dusar et al., 2011). Tell es-Sa 󿬁 /Gath(Fig. 1a e c), the site of the current research, has been underdetailed archaeological research since 1996 (Maeir, 2003, 2004,2012a,b). It provides an optimal location for interdisciplinarystudy, integrating geomorphological, climatic, and vegetation re-cords with the cultural and historical record.Alluvial sediments deposited in upper valleys are usuallyderived from the surrounding slopes of the catchment. Down-cutting and erosion of older sediments upstream may reworkand deposit older sediments downstream. The response of   󿬂 uvialsystems to changing climate is relatively slow due to longerdistances between sediment source and depositional sites, andthe presence of temporary sediment traps along the channel.These factors determine delayed sediment response to changing 󿬂 ow regime. Alluvial archives of larger catchments integrate thegeomorphological response of large areas in the landscape,whereas slope colluvial systems are spatially limited but theirresponse to change is immediate and represents the upslopeonly. Colluvial bodies respond readily due to their proximity toupslope sediment-producing and contributing areas (Fuchs,2007).Sedimentation-erosion near archaeological sites may beaffected locally by human land use (Dusar et al., 2011), but it isunclear whether aggradation and/or downcutting is regional andoccurs in the entire valley at the same time. The current study        F       i     g  .       1  .     a .     G    e    n    e    r    a     l    m    a    p .     b .     L    o    c    a    t     i    o    n    o     f    m    a     i    n    s     i    t    e    s    a    n     d    r    e    g     i    o    n    s    m    e    n    t     i    o    n    e     d     i    n    t     h    e    t    e    x    t .    c .     S    t    u     d     i    e     d     l    a    n     d    s    c    a    p    e    u    n     i    t    s    a    n     d    s    e    c    t     i    o    n    s . O. Ackermann et al. / Quaternary International 328-329 (2014) 226  e  243  227  Author's personal copy attempts to isolate the effect of erosion and sedimentation invarious catchment scales, from an anthropogenic single slopestructure, to 1st and 2nd order basins (Figs. 1a e c and 2) and tolarger catchments of 30 km 2 (Nahal Luzit) and 306 km 2 (NahalHa ’ Elah). It hypothesizes that natural mechanisms have a broadspatial impact, whereas human impact is more local in character.One of the main constraints in reconstructing sedimentogicalrecords is the accuracy and resolution of dating methods (Dusaret al., 2011). Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) enables thedating of sediments that do not contain any material for radio-carbon dating or indicative ceramic remains. This method wasapplied systematically in the current research, in particular high-resolution, in a 2nd order basin (DB2) which borders the foot-slopes of Tell es-Sa 󿬁 /Gath (Fig.1c). 2. Geological and geomorphological setting  Telles-Sa 󿬁 /GathissituatedatthetransitionbetweentheJudeanfoothills (Shephelah) and the southern coastal plain of Israel(Fig. 1a; Ackermann and Bruins, 2012). The foothills and the site ’ sbedrock are primarily composed of white Eocene chalk of theMaresha Formation. The chalk bedrock on the foothills is coveredby thick, resistant calcrete crust, locally known as Nari (Wiederet al., 1994; Itkin et al., 2012), which is the main bedrock of thearea. On the Tell, the chalk is covered by a calcareous, marine,gravelly sandstone of the Pliocene Pleshet Formation (Buchbinder,1969).The research site is also located at the transition between theshallow, Rendzina soils of the Judean foothills and the deep, mixedaeolian-alluvial Grumusol soils (Vertisol) of the Quaternary coastalplain and the valleys between the hills (Dan et al., 1972, 1976;Bruins and Yaalon, 1979). Brown Rendzina soils usually cover Naricrust, whereas carbonate-rich Pale Rendzina soil occurs on thesofter chalk devoid of Nari. Dark brown soils and heavy Grumusolare formed in alluvial deposits, eroded fromthe Judean hills, and inaeolian clayey loess sediments, derived from dust srcinatingmainly in the deserts of North Africa (Yaalon and Dan, 1974; Danand Bruins, 1981; Bruins and Yaalon, 1992).The climate of the area is semi-arid Mediterranean (Ka 󿬂 e andBruins, 2009), characterised by a hot, dry summer and a cool,rainy winter. The mean annual temperature is 20   C. The meantemperature in January and August are 12   C and 26   C, respec-tively.TherainyseasongenerallylastsfromOctobertoMay,andthemean annual rainfall is 450 mm (Fig.1b). The vegetation belongs tothe xeric Mediterranean phytogeographic region, characterised bydwarf shrubs including  Rhamnus  (Palestine buckthorn) and  Sarco- poterium spinosum  (Thorny burnet). 3. Archaeological background Tell es-Sa 󿬁 /Gath, one of the largest pre-classical archaeologicalsites in Israel, is identi 󿬁 ed as the biblical  “ Gath of the Philistines ” (Rainey, 1975; Schniedewind, 1998; Maeir, 2012a,b). The site is animportant source of archaeological data for approximately the lastsix millennia (Maeir, 2001, 2003, 2004; 2012). A unique, human-made trench (Ackermann et al., 2005a; Maeir and Gur-Arieh,2011), visible in aerial photos, encircles the eastern, southern andwestern sides of the Tell. The trench is 5 e 6 m deep, 8 e 10 m wideand 2.5 km long (Figs. 1c, 3 and 4). A berm (earth embankment) w 90 cm in height is adjacent to the trench (Figs. 2 and 5) and sit- uated on the side away from the Tell (Ackermann et al., 2004,2005a). Archaeological studies conducted on the trench and theberm indicate that theyare part of a unique siegesystem, includingmoat and a berm, probably built in the lateIronAge IIA (ca. late9thcentury BCE) by Hazael, king of Aram Damascus, when heconquered the site (see II Kings 12:18; Maeir and Gur-Arieh, 2011;Maeir, 2012a,b). The berm is composed of reworked and dumpedrock and soil material, derived from the trench by the quarryingcarried out during the Iron Age. Geoarchaeological excavations of thetrenchshowthatitwasdugthroughthehardNaricrustandtheunderlying softer chalk. Erosion processes of the slope and theberm almost completely  󿬁 lled the trench with sediment(Ackermann et al., 2005a).The human record is based on archaeological  󿬁 eld surface sur-veys that were conducted in the site as part of the present project,and on data obtained from archaeological surface surveys con-ducted in the neighbouring region, 15 e 20 km south of the site(Lachish and Amazya, Fig. 1b). These surveys revealed evidence of continuous human activity from the Chalcolithic period (ca. 5thmillennium BCE) until modern times (Fig. 6; Dagan, 1992, 2002, 2006; Uziel and Maeir, 2005, 2012a,b).During the site survey (Tell es-Sa 󿬁 /Gath), indicative sherdscollected from the surface were sorted and counted according totheir cultural periods. In order to broadly assess the size of the siteand the intensity of activity at the site during different periods, thedispersal of sherds from various periods were mapped. Thisallowed for the creation of sherd distribution maps for the variousperiods.Althoughthesemapsdonotprovideaclear-cutestimateof  Fig. 2.  General view of the small geomorphologal structures: The trench and the berm; 1st order drainage basin (DB1). Note the terraced valley and adjacent slopes. Slope withoutCalcrete on the northern side; slope with Calcrete on the southern side; 2nd order drainage basin (DB2). Asterisks mark probe section locations. O. Ackermann et al. / Quaternary International 328-329 (2014) 226  e  243 228  Author's personal copy the site ’ s size during each period, they do provide an overview of the general size and extent of activity in various periods (Uziel andMaeir, 2005, 2012).Although one might claim that slope overland  󿬂 ow mightdisperse sherds on the surface in a manner unrelated to the actualsize and extent of activity in the various periods, the survey inter-pretation was subsequently  “ ground truthed ”  in the excavations.Ongoing excavations at the site demonstrate that the size andextent of activity on site, as suggested by the survey, matches theexcavation results with exceptional accuracy (Maeir, 2012a,b).Therefore this method, at least regarding Tell es-Sa 󿬁 /Gath, can beconsidered reliable.In the neighbouring regions of Lachish and Amazya (Fig. 1b),archaeological  󿬁 eld surveys were conducted in areas of 10*10 km.The sites were surveyed and sherds were sorted according to theirculturalperiod(Dagan,1992,2002,2006).Theassumptionwasthatmore sites and larger amounts of   󿬁 nds represent higher levels of human activity, and vice versa. The results/data of these studieswere summarized and presented in Fig. 6.The archaeological surface survey of Tell es-Sa 󿬁 /Gath (Uzieland Maeir, 2005, 2012) shows that the level of human activitywas high during the Early Bronze Age II/III (ca.3000 e 2200 BCE),the Late Bronze Age (ca. 1550 e 1200 BCE) to the Iron Age IIB (ca.800 e 700 BCE), and from the Late Roman to the Byzantine pe-riods (ca. 132 e 638 CE; Dagan, 1992, 2002; Uziel, 2003; Uziel andMaeir, 2005, 2012). Human activity at the site peaked during theIron Age, when the main site at the top of the tell was a centralPhilistine urban entity. In the late Iron Age IIA (ca. late 9thcentury BCE), a siege system was constructed and the city wasdestroyed (Ackermann et al., 2005a; Maeir et al., 2006; Maeir andGur-Arieh, 2011). During the Roman and Byzantine periods (ca.1st e 7th cent. CE), extensive evidence of human activity was notseen at Tell es-Sa 󿬁 /Gath, as the main human habitation in thevicinity was relocated to Kh. Sa 󿬁 yeh, w 2 km to the northeast of the tell (Fig. 1b, Dagan, 1992, 2002; Uziel, 2003; Uziel and Maeir, 2005, 2012). Intense human activity during the Iron Age and theRoman and Byzantine periods was also documented in neigh-bouring environs, at Lachish and Amazya (Fig. 6). 4. Palaeoenvironmental records 4.1. Climate Several high-resolution palaeoclimatic records exist in theregion, most of which are based on analyses of isotopiccomposition.Speleothems in caves provide extraordinary records. Such re-cords are derived from the Soreq Cave (Fig.1b), located 18 km eastof the research site (Bar-Matthews et al.,1998, 2003; Bar-Mathewsand Ayalon, 2004; Orland etal., 2009), and in a cavelocated westof  Fig. 3.  Trench section, Area C6 e Pro 󿬁 le showing excavated section. Numbers mark each  󿬁 ll layer. Dense stone fragments and quarry  󿬂 akes can be seen at the bottom of the section.Dashed line marks transition from layers containing Iron Age II sherds (below line) to layers containing Byzantine sherds (above line). O. Ackermann et al. / Quaternary International 328-329 (2014) 226  e  243  229
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