Settlement on the Shores of Lake Lisan and adjacent swamps: Hindered aridization

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Amotz Agnon, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel and Nigel Goring-Morris, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Institute of Archaeology, Jerusalem, Israel
Increased rainfall/evaporation ratio had merged the Dead Sea and Sea of Galilee basins to a 260 km long Lake Lisan during the Last Glacial Maximum, 160 m below current mean sea level (mbsl). The timing of the natural drop to the 400 mbsl (Dead Sea level) has been precisely determined to 25-11 ka. Human settlements had initiated near the retreating shorelines at 21 ka. However, rather than following the dropping level, the subsequent settlement took advantage of swamps perched above 240 mbsl.
Along with an increased number of persons in the communities that left artefacts in the lacustrine and shore sediments, the technologies for exploiting the environment for survival had evolved. Some of the finds attest to activities that were not tied immediately to physical survival. The development of art and of social behaviour raises fascinating issues regarding our perception of the capabilities and motives of Mankind during the change from hunter-gatherer subsistence to one based on cultivation of plants and livestock associated with settlement.
The changes in the lifestyle are likely related to the environmental changes, some of which can be reconstructed by modern geological tools. On the other hand, some of the findings of the archaeological studies can help resolve geological issues, such as aridization around 9 ka, attested by initiation of gully washers that form boulder deposits over Netiv Hagdud site. The aridization is hindered relatively to lake level drop, presumably due to evolving spatial distribution of rainfall, where the rift shoulders still receive rain, while lake decline reflects aridization in the southern drainage, namely the Negev. This observation accords with speleothem studies from the rift shoulders.