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Public Lecture Series with Beverly Goodman

Tsunamis in the Mediterranean: Exploring the Past and Preparing for the Future

Coastlines and harbors are excellent places to live. Linkages to trade networks, ample resources, and attractive views have long drawn people to build villages, towns, and cities near to the waterline. However, there are risks as well; storms, floods, erosion, and tsunamis to name a few. In the Mediterranean, coastal cities have long been a central to the rise of civilizations, expansion of empires, and accumulation of wealth. King Herod knew this when about 2000 years ago he commissioned the construction of a massive megaharbor on the coastline of modern Israel.

This masterpiece, named Caesarea after Roman Emporer Caesar Augustus (Gaius Octavius Thurinus), brought great wealth and prominence to the region, but somehow fell partially into ruins, eventually becoming completely submerged. Discoveries in the past two decades have shown that a series of tsunamis have impacted Caesarea’s coastline. More recent modern tsunamis have helped to better understand and interpret the evidence at Caesarea, while the Caesarea evidence has been central for determining hazard potential in the highly populated eastern Mediterranean region.

Part of the challenge of understanding past events is the difficulty in finding and identifying their remains along the coastline. Tsunami deposits in populated areas are especially short-lived due to the capacity of people to clean-up post-disaster, and tendency to stay put and rebuild even when risks are apparent. Today there are many modern analogs that demonstrate this; the boxing day Tsunami of 2004, Japan 2012, Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, and Harvey; to name only a few. The multiple events at Caesarea open a window to better understand these human responses to disaster. The offshore, underwater record is protected from much of post-disaster intervention, while the terrestrial deposits are vulnerable. The comparisons between what is seen on shore and offshore fill in the untold story of human response, resilience, and sometimes even social structure and interrelationships between nearby towns.

Unraveling these mysteries requires a complex web of field exploration onland and underwater, laboratory patience and dedication, and scouring libraries and archives. Dr. Goodman will share the story of the discovery of some of these ancient deposits, the challenges of the exploration and investigations, and ultimately what they have to teach us worldwide about living on coastlines and preparing for the future.

Dr. Beverly Goodman FI’08 is a marine geoarchaeologist who specializes in underwater archaeological sites, ancient harbors, tsunamis, sea-level and understanding coastal change. While the Mediterranean is her current home and primary research area, she also has active projects in the Red Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and Pacific Ocean. She is an Assistant professor in the Leon Charney School of Marine Sciences at the University of Haifa, a National Geographic Explorer, serves on the scientific advisory board and trustees of EcoOcean, and has received numerous grants and awards worldwide. Her work on tsunamis in the eastern Mediterranean has been central for governmental coastal planning and risk assessment.

Date: Monday, November 27

Time: 6:00 pm Reception, 7:00 pm Lecture

Location: Club Headquarters, 46 E 70th Street, New York, NY, 10021

Member Ticket Price: $10

Guest Ticket Price: $25

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