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Demise of a harbor: a geochemical chronicle from Ephesus

Demise of a harbor: a geochemical chronicle from Ephesus
Demise of a harbor: a geochemical chronicle from Ephesus
At the end of the first century BC, Ephesus became the Roman capital of Asia Minor and the most important commercial, religious, and cultural center of the region. In order to evaluate the status of anthropogenic fluxes in the port of Ephesus, a 12 m long sediment core drilled in the Roman basin was investigated to shed light on the paleo-environmental evolution of the harbor using grain size distribution analysis, 14C ages, major and trace element geochemistry, and Pb isotope compositions. With the help of complementary sedimentological data and Principal Component Analysis, five distinct units were identified which, together, reflect the different stages of water history in the harbor. Among the major disruptive events affecting the port were earthquakes and military events, both of which were particularly effective at destroying the water distribution system.

Seasonal floods of the Cayster River (Küçük Menderes) were the major source of the silt that progressively infilled the harbor. Silting in was further enhanced by the westward migration of the river mouth. A single major disruptive event located at 550 cm core depth and heralding the development of anoxia in the harbor marks the end of the dynamic regime that otherwise controlled the harbor water throughout the Roman Empire period. This remarkable event may correspond to a major disruption of the aqueduct system or to a brutal avulsion of the Cayster River bed. It clearly represents a major disturbance in the history of life at Ephesus. It is poorly dated, but probably occurred during the reign of Augustus or shortly after. Lead isotope and trace metal evidence suggest that in the four bottom units pollution was subdued with respect to other Pb metal inputs, presumably those from aqueducts and natural karstic springs. Near the top of the core, which coincides with harbor abandonment and the more recent period, anthropogenic Pb contamination is clearly visible in both Pb abundances and isotopic compositions.
harbor geoarcheology, geochemistry, Pb isotopes, roman age, paleo-pollution, ephesus, küçük menderes
0305-4403
202-213
Delile, Hugo
343be332-c4ad-4b81-8dfe-d887de5228ab
Blichert-Toft, Janne
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Goiran, Jean-Philippe
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Stock, Friederike
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Arnaud-Godet, Florent
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Bravard, Jean-Paul
ea9d4568-dffa-47f4-8a2c-ce40efcf52f8
Brückner, Helmut
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Albarède, Francis
a4f4ffdb-21a1-46f6-8127-52380bbaee34
Delile, Hugo
343be332-c4ad-4b81-8dfe-d887de5228ab
Blichert-Toft, Janne
1233dd64-ec6b-4649-8e62-f8ca896810ad
Goiran, Jean-Philippe
0cae676a-890b-4b79-addf-85bc2ef7f8f1
Stock, Friederike
9f7f747c-75ec-4db4-9879-f42542ef1e93
Arnaud-Godet, Florent
796056b8-1c4a-4712-a6c6-c58563545935
Bravard, Jean-Paul
ea9d4568-dffa-47f4-8a2c-ce40efcf52f8
Brückner, Helmut
77229df8-ffb7-4480-9529-7651e8456272
Albarède, Francis
a4f4ffdb-21a1-46f6-8127-52380bbaee34

Delile, Hugo, Blichert-Toft, Janne, Goiran, Jean-Philippe, Stock, Friederike, Arnaud-Godet, Florent, Bravard, Jean-Paul, Brückner, Helmut and Albarède, Francis (2015) Demise of a harbor: a geochemical chronicle from Ephesus. Journal of Archaeological Science, 53, 202-213. (doi:10.1016/j.jas.2014.10.002).

Record type: Article

Abstract

At the end of the first century BC, Ephesus became the Roman capital of Asia Minor and the most important commercial, religious, and cultural center of the region. In order to evaluate the status of anthropogenic fluxes in the port of Ephesus, a 12 m long sediment core drilled in the Roman basin was investigated to shed light on the paleo-environmental evolution of the harbor using grain size distribution analysis, 14C ages, major and trace element geochemistry, and Pb isotope compositions. With the help of complementary sedimentological data and Principal Component Analysis, five distinct units were identified which, together, reflect the different stages of water history in the harbor. Among the major disruptive events affecting the port were earthquakes and military events, both of which were particularly effective at destroying the water distribution system.

Seasonal floods of the Cayster River (Küçük Menderes) were the major source of the silt that progressively infilled the harbor. Silting in was further enhanced by the westward migration of the river mouth. A single major disruptive event located at 550 cm core depth and heralding the development of anoxia in the harbor marks the end of the dynamic regime that otherwise controlled the harbor water throughout the Roman Empire period. This remarkable event may correspond to a major disruption of the aqueduct system or to a brutal avulsion of the Cayster River bed. It clearly represents a major disturbance in the history of life at Ephesus. It is poorly dated, but probably occurred during the reign of Augustus or shortly after. Lead isotope and trace metal evidence suggest that in the four bottom units pollution was subdued with respect to other Pb metal inputs, presumably those from aqueducts and natural karstic springs. Near the top of the core, which coincides with harbor abandonment and the more recent period, anthropogenic Pb contamination is clearly visible in both Pb abundances and isotopic compositions.

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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 2 October 2014
e-pub ahead of print date: 12 October 2014
Published date: January 2015
Additional Information: Rome's Mediterranean Ports Project (PortusLimen)
Keywords: harbor geoarcheology, geochemistry, Pb isotopes, roman age, paleo-pollution, ephesus, küçük menderes
Organisations: Archaeology

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Local EPrints ID: 383651
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/383651
ISSN: 0305-4403
PURE UUID: 89f4c36f-0479-48fa-8edd-e46be655c1e8

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Date deposited: 05 Nov 2015 15:15
Last modified: 19 Jul 2019 20:28

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Contributors

Author: Hugo Delile
Author: Janne Blichert-Toft
Author: Jean-Philippe Goiran
Author: Friederike Stock
Author: Florent Arnaud-Godet
Author: Jean-Paul Bravard
Author: Helmut Brückner
Author: Francis Albarède

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