The ruin of the Roman Temple of Kedesh, Israel; example of a precariously balanced archaeological structure used as a seismoscope

Gregor Schweppe*, Klaus G. Hinzen, Sharon K. Reamer, Moshe Fischer, Shmuel Marco

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In certain regions and under favorable geologic conditions, precariously balanced rocks may form. These types of unusual formations have been used to estimate yield ground motions. Because such balanced rocks have not been ‘unbalanced’, they can be used as a rough estimate for ground motions which have not been reached or exceeded since the balanced formation achieved its contemporary state. We hypothesize that other ancient manmade structures, delicate in terms of stability and particularly those that have survived earthquake ground motions intact, can be used in the same manner. We therefore suggest that these structures act as local seismoscopes which might be capable of determining maximum upper ground motion bounds. We apply the concept of the study of precariously balanced rocks to the ruin of the Roman Temple of Kedesh, located in close proximity to a branch of the Dead Sea Transform Fault. The delicate-looking ruin was surveyed with a 3D laser scanner. Based on the point cloud from that survey, a discrete element model of the remaining temple wall was constructed. To test the stability of the model we used 54 analytical ground motion signals with frequencies ranging from 0.3 to 2 Hz and PGAs between 1 and 9 m/s2. These calculations reveal two failure mechanisms. Additionally, ground motions of eight earthquakes, including two assumed local earthquake scenarios, five historical earthquakes of the region and one strong motion record of the 1999 Taiwan Chi Chi earthquake have been used to test the hypothesis. None of the simulated earthquakes (assumed or historically documented) toppled the ruin; only the strong motion record collapsed the structure. The simulations reveal a surprisingly high stability of the ruin of the Roman Temple of Kedesh mainly due to the small height to width ratio of the remaining walls. However, ground motion with large PGAs at a low frequency range in EW direction does collapse the remains of the temple.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberS0444
JournalAnnals of Geophysics
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017


FundersFunder number
German-Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research and DevelopmentGIF 1165-161.8/2011


    • Archaeoseismology
    • Back calculation of ground motion
    • Collapsed wall
    • Precariously balanced archaeological structure


    Dive into the research topics of 'The ruin of the Roman Temple of Kedesh, Israel; example of a precariously balanced archaeological structure used as a seismoscope'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this