Late Neogene rift valley fill sediments preserved in caves of the Dead Sea Fault Escarpment (Israel): palaeogeographic and morphotectonic implications



Evaporitic-lagoonal marl and dolomite laminar fill sediments are preserved in relict dry caves of the Dead Sea Fault Escarpment (Israel) which has been tectonically active since the Late Neogene. The hosting caves are located within Turonian massive carbonate bedrock and at higher altitudes than previously documented fill sediments of the Dead Sea depression. Based on the relative altitudes of the cave sediments, the ‘reversed stratigraphy’ of the Dead Sea depression fill sediments, possible partial correlation of the cave sediments with other fill sedimentary units of the depression, and sedimentary, geochemical and mineralogical characteristics, it is concluded that: (i) the cave sediments are among the oldest of the depression fill; and (ii) the deposition of the cave sediments took place in hypersaline dolomite-precipitating water bodies of Late Neogene age, during the initial morphotectonic stages of the depression formation. Variable and relatively low Sr/Ca and δ34S ratios of the cave sediments (assuming precipitation from sea water) suggest variable fresh water input into the depositional brine. The present altitudes of the cave sediments reflect Late Neogene levels of water bodies in the depression, modified by vertical post-Late Neogene tectonic movements within the still active fault escarpment. According to these altitudes, a 50 to 250 m uplift of the western margins of the depression since the Late Miocene to Early Pliocene is inferred.