Earthquakes and Famines in Early Roman
Steve Austin, Ph.d., Geology, spoke on, "Earthquakes and Famines in Early Roman History: Evidence from Microfacies Analysis of Laminated Mud of the Dead Sea, Israel."
The Nahal Ze’elim fan delta is situated east of the Masada fault at the southwest corner of the north basin of the Dead Sea. It is one of the Dead Sea’s largest fan deltas, where, at a depth of just over 3 m, laminated lake mud from the Early Roman Period occurs. Several gully exposures allowed us to identify three facies associated with the Early Roman Period. Earthquakes produced turbulent mixing forming seismites within laminated sand and silt. Earthquakes often produced coherently folded seismites within higher-viscosity, laminated, detrital clays in the distal fan delta and delta slope.
During times of drought, when detritus was completely cut off from the fan delta, calcium ions from groundwater precipitated as a calcium carbonate mineral called aragonite on the lake floor. Multi-year droughts built up stacked white aragonite laminae with only slight traces of intervening wind-blown dust. Early Roman historians record famines from 67 to 62 BC (Onias event described by Josephus), 25 to 23 BC (King Herod’s famine described by Josephus), and 41 to 43 AD (Emperor Claudius’ famine described by Luke in Acts 11:27-30). The Jericho Earthquake of 31 BC (M~7.2) is the largest in the Dead Sea region during the last 2,700 years and is recounted by both Josephus and King Herod. The Jerusalem Earthquake of 33 AD (M~5.5) occurred at the crucifixion of Christ (Matthew 27:51). Regularities within laminae are evident. For example, varve counting suggests Herod's famine prevailed the seventh summer after the Jericho Earthquake. Mud recording these three Roman famines and these two Roman earthquakes comprises an extraordinarily distinctive, 109-year sequence. Furthermore, these laminae appear to be persistent across Nahal Ze'elim fan delta.
About our speaker: Steve Austin has a B.S. from the University of Washington, an M.S. from San Jose State University and a Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University, all in geology. He successfully defended a Ph.D. thesis which proposed an unconventional theory for the origin of coal. Shortly thereafter, Mount Saint Helens exploded, blasting an an entire forest of broken trees into Spirit Lake and providing a laboratory demonstration of Steve's theory at work! Steve was a contributing member of the research programs, which proposed and popularized the theories of Catastrophic Plate Tectonics (CPT), and Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth (RATE). Steve's professional memberships include the Geological Society of America, the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, the Society for Sedimentary Geology, the International Association of Sedimentologists. He has had professional, peer-reviewed projects at Mt. St. Helens and within the Grand Canyon. He has done extensive research on a mass kill of nautiloids within the Redwall limestone of the Grand Canyon, radioisotopes of Grand Canyon rocks, and earthquake destruction of archaeological sites in the Kingdom of Jordan. Current research is on biblical earthquakes recorded as seismites in Dead Sea sediments. Dr. Austin has published research in the prestigious, peer-reviewed journal International Geology Review.
NOTE: Because this presentation involved current research undergoing peer review, the presentation was not streamed live and will not be publicly distributed.