The Judean Desert—The Major Hypogene Cave Region of the Southern Levant


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August 2017


The Judean Desert in eastern Israel consists of a Late Cretaceous epicontinental carbonate terrain formed at the interface between the Neotethys Ocean and the Gondwanian African-Arabian plate. Various rock types were deposited through fluctuations between marine and continental environments due to ingressions and regressions. Orogenic folding of the Syrian Arc fold system occurred between the Late Cretaceous and the Neogene. The folds formed a barrier for deep flowing groundwater, which upwelled along the SE flank of the folds. Possibly mixing with local confined circulation, the hypogene flow created maze caves at the top of the Late Cretaceous limestone, under the confinement of thick chalk, and marl successions. The larger caves are up to 3.5-km-long 2D mazes, less comm with some additional tiers. Speleogenesis occurred most likely during the Oligocene, when far-field recharge could reach the Judean Desert. During the Neogene, the Dead Sea transform has dissected the region, forming a deep endorheic depression at the eastern border of the Judean Desert. This was followed by the lowering of the water table and related dewatering of the caves. Fault escarpments and downcutting canyons have dissected the caves, forming the present entrances. The caves are mostly dry, with rare speleothems. Gypsum rinds indicate that hydrogen sulfide and sulfuric acid took part in speleogenesis.


Maze Caves, Desert Karst, Sulfuric Acid, Syrian Arc, Confined Caves

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