Character, rates, and environmental significance of holocene dust accumulation in archaeological hilltop ruins in the southern levant

Bernhard Lucke*, Joel Roskin, Kim André Vanselow, Hendrik J. Bruins, Nizar Abu-Jaber, Katleen Deckers, Susanne Lindauer, Naomi Porat, Paula J. Reimer, Rupert Bäumler, Tali Erickson-Gini, Paula Kouki

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
182 Downloads (Pure)


Loess accumulated in the Negev desert during the Pleistocene and primary and secondary loess remains cover large parts of the landscape. Holocene loess deposits are however absent. This could be due low accumulation rates, lack of preservation, and higher erosion rates in comparison to the Pleistocene. This study hypothesized that archaeological ruins preserve Holocene dust. We studied soils developed on archaeological hilltop ruins in the Negev and the Petra region and compared them with local soils, paleosols, geological outcrops, and current dust. Seven statistically modeled grain size end-members were identified and demonstrate that the ruin soils in both regions consist of mixtures of local and remote sediment sources that differ from dust compositions deposited during current storms. This discrepancy is attributed to fixation processes connected with sediment-fixing agents such as vegetation, biocrusts, and/or clast pavements associated with vesicular layers. Average dust accretion rates in the ruins are estimated to be ~0.14 mm/a, suggesting that ~30% of the current dust that can be trapped with dry marble dust collectors has been stored in the ruin soils. Deposition amounts and grain sizes do not significantly correlate with wind intensity. However, precipitation may have contributed to dust accretion. A snowstorm in the Petra region delivered a significantly higher amount of sediment than rain or dry deposition. Snowfall dust had a unique particle size distribution relatively similar to the ruin soils. Wet deposition and snow might catalyze dust deposition and enhance fixation by fostering vegetation and crust formation. More frequent snowfall during the Pleistocene may have been an important mechanism of primary loess deposition in the southern Levant.

Original languageEnglish
Article number190
Number of pages60
JournalGeosciences (Switzerland)
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 24 Apr 2019


  • Aeolian dust
  • Archaeological sediment
  • Biocrusts
  • Clast pavements
  • Climate change
  • Holocene
  • Loess
  • Ruin soil
  • Snow
  • Vesicular layer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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