Anthropogenic overprints on natural coastal aeolian sediments: A study from the periphery of ancient Caesarea, Israel

Gilad Shtienberg, Justin K. Dix, Ruth Shahack-Gross, Assaf Yasur-Landau, Joel Roskin, Revital Bookman, Nicolas Waldmann, Sariel Shalev, Dorit Sivan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Near surface sediment stratigraphy associated with ancient human settlements can potentially reveal the complex history of human impact. This study explores such impacts in the area around ancient Caesarea, a well-known Roman to Early Islam period metropolis in the central coastal plain of Israel, with analysis of human-induced macro-features and microscopic remains found in buried sediments. We retrieved these anthropogenic markers through boreholes and analysed them with sedimentological and radiometric dating techniques, integrated with archaeological and historical records. The analysis identified a refuse deposit comprising two grey loamy sand artefact-bearing facies bedded between late Holocene aeolian sand. One anthropogenic facies represents an urban garbage mound and the other may be an agricultural pedo-sediment, both dated to the Roman to Early Islamic periods. The grey pedo-sediment, contained in three boreholes in the lowlands south of Caesarea, covers an area of at least 1.4 km2. Apparently improved in terms of soil fertility, we postulate that the pedo-sediment is the outcome of composting enrichment of the soil for agriculture. Taking advantage of the high coastal freshwater aquifer in the study area, we propose that the pedo-sediment represents buried agricultural plots. The comprehensive, multi-disciplinary approach demonstrated in this study of cored sediments outside ancient human settlements is among the few in the coastal area of the southern Levant. It could be relevant to other archaeological sites in the Mediterranean and elsewhere around the world.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)22-34
Number of pages13
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2017


  • Aeolian coastal sand
  • Anthropogenic traces
  • Caesarea hinterlands
  • Eastern Mediterranean
  • Islamic period
  • Pedo-sediment

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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