Paper No. 235-11
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:00 PM


AUSTIN, Steven A., Cedarville University, Cedarville, OH 45314,
Two thousand years ago the Dead Sea Basin was shaken by two earthquakes that left two widespread seismites within laminated Dead Sea sediment. The first earthquake (spring 31 B.C., Jericho fault, M~7.2) transformed adjacent Dead Sea laminated mud and aragonite into a persistent and distinctive intraclast breccia seismite in places greater than 1 m thick. The 1st-century Jewish historian Josephus described the 31 B.C. earthquake as a significant social and economic event during King Herod's reign. A second seismite occurs within laminated mud and aragonite at 10 to 85 cm above the 31 B.C. seismite. Varve counting above the 31 B.C. datum indicates the second seismite can be assigned to 31 A.D. (+/- 5 years), but history specifies as 33 A.D. Superb mud laminae exposures are provided in two gullies at the southwest corner of the Dead Sea at Wadi Ze'elim fan delta where the 33 A.D. seismite outcrops 55 to 85 cm above the 31 B.C. intraclast breccia. The 33 A.D. seismite at Ze'elim is intraformationally folded, 8-cm-thick, sometimes brecciated, silicate mud and aragonite/gypsum laminae. Seismite facies progress from "linear waves" to "asymmetric billows" to "breccia" expressing transition to Kelvin-Helmholtz turbulence within the uppermost shearing laminae during shaking. Recumbent folds and imbricate faults are consistent with gravity collapse upon a broad arch structure during shaking. Folded seismite transitions northward within fan deltas to thicker intraclast breccia, suggesting an epicenter nearer Jerusalem. Matthew, the 1st-century synoptic Gospel author, reported two earthquakes in Jerusalem in 33 A.D. These are the Jerusalem earthquakes of April 3 at the crucifixion of Christ (Matt. 27:51), and April 5 at the resurrection of Christ (Matt. 28:2). Luke, a first century physician and historian, reported a smaller earthquake in the summer at the gathered assembly (Acts 4:31). The persistent 33 A.D. seismite indicates the biggest 33 A.D. earthquake was M~6.0. This biggest earthquake was likely April 3, 33 A.D. that startled city residents and caused moderate damage, especially to the western side of Temple Mount. Pivots of two, 20-m-high, metal doors of the Temple appear to have been damaged, and the 20-m-high curtain in front of the doors was torn, likely by displacement of the lintel of the Temple during the earthquake.
  • Jerusalem Earthquake Poster.pdf (1.9 MB)
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