GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 124-10
Presentation Time: 4:30 PM


RUCKER, John D., Department of Geosciences, University of Missouri - Kansas City, 5100 Rockhill Road, Flarsheim Hall 420, Kansas City, MO 64110,

The archaeological site of Qasr et Tilah, located approximately 25 km south of the Dead Sea in the Wadi Arabah of Jordan, has been of interest for archaeoseismology due to its location directly atop the Dead Sea Transform Fault. The site features an extensive system of multiple phases of aqueducts, cisterns and agricultural features, ranging in age from the 1st century CE to the modern era, in addition to a late Roman fort, listed in the Notitia Dignitatum. The impetus for the location of all of the phases of human activity at this site is the spring located in the adjacent Wadi et Tilah. Ancient aqueducts and modern plastic pipes are in place to carry water from this spring to agricultural features of the site. Thus this site also reveals abundant paleoenvironmental data, as well as data on ancient agricultural and water management practices in this arid to hyper-arid environment. A prominent feature of the site is an ancient field wall system, of unusual size and precision of orthogonal layout. Portions of this system, which (at the current state of knowledge) is unique in Jordan are still in use. The rectangular pattern of terraced fields is constructed of limestone boulder walls designed to manage overland water flow and to limit soil erosion. In addition to archaeological excavation of the architecture at the site, we excavated soil test pits, surveyed the site with an RTK GPS unit, and most recently (in 2016) used a Leica laser scanner to scan the central portion of the site. Phytoliths in the soil indicate cultivation of cereal grasses and palms. Results of conductivity and ICPMS elemental analyses indicate the soil is depleted of nutrients and slightly saline from over-irrigation. The survey and laser scan will be used to determine the capacity of the water system. As we analyze both the capacity of each phase and the dating of the multiple phases of the water system, we will also refine our understanding of both the productive capacity of this site, and the fluctuations of paleoenvironment that have affected it through time. An understanding of ancient methods of dealing with environmental fluctuations is important research in the current era of climate uncertainty.