Lake levels and sequence stratigraphy of Lake Lisan, the late Pleistocene precursor of the Dead Sea

Yuval Bartov*, Mordechai Stein, Yehouda Enzel, Amotz Agnon, Ze'ev Reches

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

303 Scopus citations


Lake Lisan, the late Pleistocene precursor of the Dead Sea, existed from ∼70,000 to 15,000 yr B.P. It evolved through frequent water-level fluctuations, which reflected the regional hydrological and climatic conditions. We determined the water level of the lake for the time interval ∼55,000-15,000 cal yr B.P. by mapping offshore, nearshore, and fan-delta sediments; by application of sequence stratigraphy methods; and by dating with radiocarbon and U-series methods. During the studied time interval the lake-level fluctuated between ∼340 and 160 m below mean sea level (msl). Between 55,000 and 30,000 cal yr B.P. the lake evolved through short-term fluctuations around 280-290 m below msl, punctuated (at 48,000-43,000 cal yr B.P.) by a drop event to at least 340 m below msl. At ∼27,000 cal yr B.P. the lake began to rise sharply, reaching its maximum elevation of about 164 m below msl between 26,000 and 23,000 cal yr B.P., then it began dropping and reached 300 m below msl at ∼15,000 cal yr B.P. During the Holocene the lake, corresponding to the present Dead Sea, stabilized at ca. 400 m below msl with minor fluctuations. The hypsometric curve of the basin indicates that large changes in lake area are expected at above 403 and 385 m below msl. At these elevations the lake level is buffered. Lake Lisan was always higher than 380 m below msl, indicating a significantly large water contribution to the basin. The long and repetitious periods of stabilization at 280-290 m below msl during Lake Lisan time indicate hydrological control combined with the existence of a physical sill at this elevation. Crossing this sill could not have been achieved without a dramatic increase in the total water input to the lake, as occurred during the fast and intense lake rise from ∼280 to 160 m below msl at ∼27,000 cal yr B.P.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)9-21
Number of pages13
JournalQuaternary Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2002

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank N. Waldman, O. Klein, and E. Stanislavsky for their help with the fieldwork; the Arab Potash Co. for their exceptional good will and assistance during the work at the Lisan Peninsula; J. K. Hall for the DTM data, Yossi Bartov, Z. B. Begin, H. Blatt, Z. Garfunkel, S. Goldstein, S. Marco, H. W. Posamentier, A. Sneh, T. Rockwell, and A. Starinsky for many helpful field discussions. Excellent reviews by J. Smoot and K. Adams improved the manuscript. This study was funded by the Israel Science Foundation (ISF, Grant 694/95). Additional funding was provided by and the German–Israel Foundation for research and development (GIF, Grant 546/97).


  • Dead Sea
  • Fan-delta
  • Lacustrine deposits
  • Lake Lisan
  • Lake levels
  • Late Pleistocene
  • Paleoclimatology
  • Sequence stratigraphy


Dive into the research topics of 'Lake levels and sequence stratigraphy of Lake Lisan, the late Pleistocene precursor of the Dead Sea'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this