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The significance of geomorphological and soil formation research for understanding the unfinished Roman ramp at Masada

Goldfus, Haim ; Avni, Yoav ; Albag, Roy ; Arubas, Benny

Catena, November 2016, Vol.146, pp.73-87 [Periódico revisado por pares]

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  • Título:
    The significance of geomorphological and soil formation research for understanding the unfinished Roman ramp at Masada
  • Autor: Goldfus, Haim ; Avni, Yoav ; Albag, Roy ; Arubas, Benny
  • Assuntos: Masada ; Geomorphology ; Soil Formation ; Archeology Architectural Reconstruction
  • É parte de: Catena, November 2016, Vol.146, pp.73-87
  • Descrição: New multidisciplinary research based on geomorphological investigation and soil survey conducted at the slopes of Masada fort enabled us to reevaluate and question the dramatic events that took place there, in 73/74 CE, according to the 1st century CE Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus. The fort, built on a high elevated and isolated rocky block facing the Dead Sea in Israel, is now on the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites. Here, according to Josephus, a group of Jewish rebels occupying Masada chose to kill each other and die as free people rather than go into captivity. This act took place after the rebels realized that the Roman army, laying a complex assault ramp against the fort of Masada, were breaching its walls. The archaeological finds unearthed at Masada, revealing the daily life of the Jewish rebels and the well-preserved remains of the Roman siege apparatus, seem at face value to complement Josephus' description.However, our new geomorphological and soil examination of the assault ramp and the natural terrain in its vicinity enable us to clearly separate between the man-made construction and the natural slope environments, and draw a clear boundary between the two. In addition, we conclude that since their formation, they were not subjected to later modification by processes such as natural erosion, slope sliding, or anthropogenic interruptions. As the Roman assault ramp was found to be an uncompleted structure, we conclude that the final scenario of the siege could not have happened as Josephus described it. This meticulous new research confirms our earlier hypothesis that the assault ramp was never completed and therefore could not have been operational. Such a conclusion challenges the common understanding of how the Roman siege of Masada ended. •A new geomorphological investigation and soil survey was conducted at Masada ramp.•It shows beyond reasonable doubt that the Roman assault ramp was never completed.•The Romans could not have breached the walls of Masada using an unfinished ramp.•The new research contradicts Josephus' description of the end of Masada.
  • Idioma: Inglês

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