Implications of some early Jewish sources for estimates of earthquake hazardin the Holy Land

I. Karcz

Abstract


For the past two millennia the Holy Land was under the yoke of successive invaders and oppressors, not a fertile ground for growth of historiographic traditions. Consequently, earthquake cataloguers had to rely largely on chronicles and texts written at distant administrative and cultural centers of the day, where earthquake destruction suffered by a culturally and economically depressed province may have been overshadowed by damage in more important parts of the empire. On this assumption, and aided by an implicit notion that the lands bounded
by the Dead Sea Rift and Anatolian Fault systems are seismically contiguous, early cataloguers often extended the impact of earthquakes documented in nearby East Mediterranean countries to the Holy Land. Once published, such reports of supposed destructive intensities in Israel were used by Judaic scholars and archaeologists
to date poorly defined, often metaphoric, literary seismic echoes, and to justify assigning seismic origin to equivocal
signs of damage, asymmetry, or abandonment at archaeological sites of corresponding age. The spread of damage and intensity portraits are therefore enhanced and distorted, and so is their application in palaeoseismic analysis. Four test cases are presented, illustrating the use and misuse of local Judaic sources in identifying destructive intensities supposedly generated in the Holy Land by earthquakes of 92 B.C., 64 B.C. and 31 B.C., and
in postulating a regional seismic catastrophe in 749 A.D..

Keywords


historical seismology;paleoseismology;Dead Sea Rift

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References


DOI: https://doi.org/10.4401/ag-3334
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Published by INGV, Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia - ISSN: 2037-416X