The Dead Sea fault (DSF) is the most impressive tectonic feature in the Middle East. It is a plate boundary, which transfers sea floor spreading in the Red Sea to the Taurus collision zone in Turkey. The DSF has influenced many aspects of this region, including seismicity and ground water availability. It may have even affected the course of human evolution. Numerous geophysical and geological studies of the Dead Sea fault provide insight into its structure and evolution. Crustal structure studies have shown that the crust at the fault zone is slightly thinner than that of the regions west and east of it. A transition zone between the lower crust and the Moho under the fault was mapped.
The region has a remarkable paleoseismic record going back to about 70 ka years. Several earthquakes, such as the one that occurred in the Dead Sea region on 31 BC, may have even influenced the course of history of this region. The confusion and fear inflicted by the earthquake paved the way for the expansion of Herod’s kingdom. Places such as Jericho, the oldest city in the world, which are located within the valley formed by the fault, were affected immensely by seismic activity.
The DSF is an important part of the corridor through which hominids set off out of Africa. Remains of the earliest hominids are found in several sites along the Dead Sea fault, including Erk-el-Ahmar, Ubediya and Gesher Benot Ya’aqov. It is interesting to note that acceleration in the vertical motion along the Dead Sea fault, which produced its present physiography, began slightly before man had started his way out of Africa northwards.