Paleo Hydrography of Lampedusa

While it is well known that  Lampedusa geologically is part of the Pelagian shelf (a structural member of the African continent), less known is that Lampedusa was linked to the North African cosat not too long ago (at the beginning of the Holocene period). Recent studies of paleoclimatology and paleohydrography seem to indicate that most likely the sea level in the Channel of Sicily up to the Late Glacial Maximum  was so low that  Lampedusa was part of Africa with no sea standing between the two respective current shorelines.
Approximately 10'000 years BC the sea level between Lampedusa and the Tunisian shores was 70 meters lower than today making it possible to walk from Lampedusa to the Tunisian coast.

Paleogeograohic Map Courtesy of  Quaternary Science Review from “Sea Level Change along the Italian coast for the past 10,000 yr” OF Lambeck, Antonioli, Purcell, Silenzi

Approximately 8'000 years BC the sea level between Lampedusa and the Tunisian shores was 40 meters lower than today and the land passage to Africa was already closed.
Approximately 6'000 years BC the sea level between Lampedusa and the Tunisian shores was just 14 meters lower than today. 

Paleogeograohic Map Courtesy of  Quaternary Science Review from “Sea Level Change along the Italian coast for the past 10,000 yr” OF Lambeck, Antonioli, Purcell, Silenzi

Why should we care about the sea level changes during the Holocene when dealing with the prehistory of Lampedusa? Approximately 6,000 years BC the shoreline of Lampedusa was significantly different than it is today (see a tentative comparison in the two maps below) with a sea level likely 15 meters below its current level: any archaeological research in a tiny island such as Lampedusa should include coastal and underwater surveys when dealing with neolithic sites which once stood close to the sea and now could be below the sea.
The Neolithisation of Sicily was a gradual process spanning from 6,200 to 5,700 BC right during the period when  the sea level of Lampedusa was reportedly 15 meters lower than today. At the same time a late Mesolithic culture (10,000-6,000 BC) known as the Capsian culture flourished in Tunisia and it was likely transitioning to the Neolithic as well. 
Intuitively the sea level does matter when it comes to a small island like Lampedusa laying between Tunisia and Sicily. For example the neolithic hut excavated in 1973 on the Island of Lampedusa yielding several Stentinellian pottery shreds and obsidian was situated in "Cala Pisana", an area whose shoreline was significantly differnt than today at the time the hut was inhabited. 

Lampedusa Today Bing Map

Lampedusa tentative shoreline chart of 8000 years BP (in red)


The Mediterranean Sea 16,000 years BP

The Mediterranean Sea today



         The Mediterranean Sea 16,000 years BP (detail)



The Mediterranean Sea today (detail)


This post is copyright of  Diego Ratti ©

Bibliography

“La Sicilia nella Preistoria” by Sebastiano Tusa 1999, Sellerio Ed.
-"Sea Level change  along the Italian coast for the past 10'000 years", 
Lumbeck, Antonioli, Purcell, Silenzi, Quaternary Science Review, edited by  Elsevier, 

2003

-"Unravelling mystery and process from the prehistoric colonization and abandonment of the Mediterranean Islands" in Comparative Island Archeologies (British Archaeological Reports, Oxford, Chapter 7)   
-"Isolation and Interactyion cycles" Copat, Danesi and Recchia 

-"Elevation of the last interglacial highstand in Sicily: a benchmark of costal tectonics", Antonioli, Kershaw, Renda, Rust, Belluomini, Cerasoli, Radkte, Silenzi, Quaternary International, edited by       Elsevier,  2005

-"Les còtes de la Tunisie. Variationdu niveau marin depuis le Tyrrhenien", Paskoff and Sanlaville, Collection de la Maison de l' orient mèditerranèen, Lione, 1984
-"African environmental and climatic changes and the general atmospheric circulation in the late Pleistocene and Holocene", Nicholson, Flohn, Climatic change 2, 1980, Reidell Publishing
-“La risalita del mare nel corso dell’ Olocene” Antonioli e Silenzi – from “Mare e cambiamenti Globali” Ed. ICRAM year 2000  pp-29-42
-Variazioni del livello del mare nell’ ultimo semiciclo glaciale ottenute da speleo temi in grotte sommerse di aree costiere italiane” F. Antonioli from Studi Trent. Sci. Nat, Acta Geol., 80 (2003)
-“Holocene sea-level change in Sicily and its implications for tectonic models: new data from Taormina area, North East Sicily” Antonioli, Kershaw, Rust, Verrubbi in Marine Geology 196 (2003) 53-71
This post is copyright of  Diego Ratti ©