Abstract

Underwater geoarchaeological excavations on the shallow shelf (∼10 m depth) at Caesarea, Israel, have documented a tsunami that struck and damaged the ancient harbor at Caesarea. Talmudic sources record a tsunami that struck on 13 December A.D. 115, impacting Caesarea and Yavne. The tsunami was probably triggered by an earthquake that destroyed Antioch, and was generated somewhere on the Cyprian Arc fault system. The tsunami deposit consisted of an ∼0.5-m-thick bed of reverse-graded shells, coarse sand, pebbles, and pottery deposited over a large area outside of the harbor. The lower portion of the deposit was composed of angular shell fragments, and the upper portion of whole convex-up Glycymeris spp. shells. The sequence records tsunami downcutting (∼1 m) into shelf sands, with the return flow sorting and depositing angular shell fragments followed by oriented whole shells. Radiocarbon dating of articulated Glycymeris shells, and optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dates, constrain the age of the deposit to between the first century B.C. and the second century A.D., and point to the tsunami of A.D. 115 as the most likely candidate for the event, and the probable cause of the harbor destruction.

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