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Laboratory of Geoarchaeology and Soils

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The Laboratory of geology and soils was founded in 1999 by the then Head of the Zinman Institute of Archaeology Prof. Avraham Ronen. Since the foundation of the Laboratory Alexander Tsatskin functions as its Head. The laboratory is active in petrographic and soil micromorphological research in archaeology and environmental sciences. Geoarchaeology is intended to better understand what human cultures really did within the constraints of their environment to ensure life, and what really caused the demise of their culture. Using our data on microarchaeology of finds and their contexts, archaeologists are provided with the most reliable means to decipher the traits of fire applied in and outside of hearths, to identify ancient technologies of stone- and earthenware activities on site, and recognize earlier impacts on the landscape. Integration of archaeology and geological research provides the only possibility to disclose site-formation processes and in this way try to eliminate possible distortions of the pristine location of material culture traits.

Laboratory carries out its research on various geoarchaeological scales across space and time – from site specific to regional levels. The specific aim is to obtain updated knowledge of eolian, fluvial, slope deposition in Israel, and to understand Mediterranean soils in their real typologic and chronologic diversity and relatedness with surficial processes. Applying radiometric dating, we aim at reconstructing paleo-environmental, geomorphological and soil changes during the Quaternary period in the settings dramatically different from glacial-prone temperate regions where the 'laws' of Quaternary were laid down. An important facet of activities is petrographic examination of ancient ceramic sherds and cementing materials for archaeological provenance studies, technological reconstructions and conservation practice.


The laboratory is involved in the following projects: The Mount Carmel prehistoric sites, focusing on the Natufian El-Wad Terrace (with Mina Evron and Daniel Kaufman), Late Nutufian occupation in the Raqefet cave (with Dani Nadel), Early Mousterian Misliya cave (Mina Evron), salvage excavations of Mousterian site in a karstic sinkhole at Nesher Ramla (Yossi Zaidner). One of the key interests is the paleoenvironmental evolution of the coastal plain. This research has been extended to the paleosol sequences in the Galilee coast and paleosol inspection in thin sections of Quaternary sequences in the Haifa bay subsurface (together with Amir Sandler of GSI and Simona Avnaim-Katav of Geo-Marine department of the Haifa University). Relationships between humans and nature in their modern aspect are covered by a mutual project with Oded Balaban on philosophical implications of oil formation.  

Selected publications

Rink, W.J., Schwarcz, H.P., Ronen, A., Tsatskin, A., 2004.Confirmation of a near 400 ka age for the Yabrudian industry at Tabun Cave, Israel. Journal of Archaeological Science 31, 15-20.

Nadel, D., Weiss, E., Simchoni, O., Tsatskin, A., Danin, A., Kislev, M., 2004. Stone Age hut in Israel yields world’s oldest bedding. Proceedings National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) 101 (17), 6821-6826.

Frechen, M., Neber, A., Tsatskin, A., Boenigk, W., Ronen. A., 2004.Chronology of Pleistocene sedimentary cycles in the Carmel Coastal Plain of Israel. Quaternary International 121 (1), 41-52.

Sartori M., Evans, M.E., Heller, F., Tsatskin, A., Han, J.M., 2005. The last glacial/interglacial cycle at two sites in the Chinese Loess Plateau: Mineral magnetic, grain-size and 10Be measurements and estimates of palaeoprecipitation. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 222 (1-2), 145-160.

Ronen, A., Golik, A., Neber, A., Tsatskin, A., Boenigk, W., Beiles, A., 2005. Pleistocene and Holocene pattern of sand migration along the Mediterranean littoral of Israel. Israel Journal of Earth Science 54, 187-198.

Gendler; T.S., Heller, F., Tsatskin, A., Spassov, S., Du Pasquier, J., Faustov, S.S., 2006. Roxolany and Novaya Etuliya – key sections in the western Black Sea area: magnetostratigraphy, rock magnetism and paleopedology. Quaternary International 152-153, 78-93.

Weinstein-Evron, M., Kaufman, D., Bachrach, N., Bar-Oz, G., Bar-Yosef Mayer, D., Chaim, S., Druck, D., Groman-Yaroslavski, I., Hershkovitz, I., Liber, N., Rosenberg, D., Tsatskin, A., Weissbrod, L., 2007. After 70 Years: New Excavations at the el-Wad Terrace, Mount Carmel, Israel. Journal of the Israel Prehistoric Society 37, 37-134.

Tsatskin, A., Gendler, T.S., Heller, F., Ronen, A., 2008. Near-surface paleosols in coastal sands at the outlet of Hadera stream (Israel) in the light of archeology and luminescence chronology. Journal of Plant Nutrition and Soil Science 171,524-532.

Tsatskin, A., Balaban, O., 2008. Peak Oil debate in the light of oil formation theories. Energy Policy 36, 1826-1828.

Faustov, S.S., Virina, E.I., Tsatskin, A., Gendler, T.S., Heller, F., 2009. The Matuyama/Brunhes boundary in loess sections in the south of the East European plain and their correlation on the basis of paleomagnetic and paleopedological data. Quaternary International 20, 60-66.

Grishkan, I., Tsatskin, A., Nevo, E., 2009. Comparative microbiotic and edaphic analyses of two neighboring soil profiles on different lithologies in Upper Galilee, Israel. European Journal of Soil Biology 44(2), 180-190.

Tsatskin, A., Gendler, T.S., Heller, F., Dekman, I., Frey, G.L., 2009. Towards Understanding Paleosols in Southern Levantine Eolianites: Integration of Micromorphology, Environmental Magnetism and Mineralogy. Journal of Mountain Science 6, 113-124.

Balaban, O., Tsatskin, A., 2010. The Paradox of oil reserve forecasts: The political implications of predicting oil reserves and oil consumption. Energy Policy 38, 1340-1344.

Weinstein-Evron, M., Tsatskin, A., Weiner, S., Shahack-Gross, R., Frumkin, A., Yeshurun, R., Zaidner, Y., 2012. A Window into Early Middle Paleolithic Human Occupational Layers: Misliya Cave, Mount Carmel, Israel. PaleoAnthropology, 202−228.

Tsatskin, A., Sandler, A., Porat, N., 2013. Toposequence of sandy soils in the northern coastal plain of Israel: Polygenesis and complexity of pedogeomorphic development. Geoderma 197–198, 87–97.

Nadel, D., Danin, A., Power, R.C., Rosen, A.M., Bocquentin, F., Tsatskin, A., Rosenberg, D., Yeshurun, R., Weissbrod, L., Rebollo, N., Barzilai, O., Boaretto, E., 2013. Earliest floral grave lining from 13,700–11,700-y-old Natufian burials at Raqefet Cave, Mt. Carmel, Israel. PNAS 110 (29), 11774–11778.

Tsatskin, A., Zaidner, Y., 2014. Geoarchaeological context of the later phases of Mousterian occupation (80-115 ka ago) at Nesher Ramla, Israel: soil erosion, deposition and pedogenic processes. Quaternary International 331, 103-114.

Zaidner, Y., Frumkin, A., Porat, N., Tsatskin, A., Yeshurun, R., Weissbrod, L., 2014. A series of Mousterian occupations in a new type of site: the Nesher Ramla karst depression, Israel. Journal of Human Evolution 66, 1-17.

Frumkin, A., Zaidner, Y., Na'aman, I., Tsatskin, A., Porat, N., Vulfson, L., 2014. Sagging and collapse sinkholes over hypogenic hydrothermal karst in a carbonate terrain. Geomorphology (in press).

The Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, 199 Aba-Hushi Avenue, Haifa, Israel 3498838
Tel: +972-4-8249392 | Fax: +972-4-8249876 | E-mail: arch@research.haifa.ac.il | Department of Archaeology
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