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DANNY ITKIN,1 AHARON GEVA-KLEINBERGER,2 DAN H. YAALON,3 URI SHAANAN4 5 AND HAIM GOLDFUS Archaeological Division Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, P.O.B. 653, Beer Sheva, 84105, Israel
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Department of Arabic Language and Literature University of Haifa, 31905, Israel

Institute of Earth Sciences The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 91904, Israel School of Earth Sciences The University of Queensland, Brisbane 4072, Queensland, Australia Archaeological Division Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, P.O.B. 653, Beer Sheva, 84105, Israel
ABSTRACT The colloquial Arabic term n!ri has become, since the late 1890s, the most commonly used term for describing a specific type of calcrete formation in the Levant. While it is reasonable to expect that such a long period of time would be sufficient for the establishment of a coherent use of the term, a combination of extensive literature reviews with field observations prove otherwise. A study of the geological contexts and etymology of the term n!ri and a review of literature back as far as the second half of the nineteenth century reveal a great lack of consistency among scientists use of the term. Correlating the terminological evolution of n!ri with present-day understanding of its formation mechanisms, its stratigraphic associations and contemporary uses of the term among scientists and local Arabs, allows us to propose a clear and consistent definition of n!ri. Our suggested definition recognizes it as a distinct surficial lithology. We show that the formation of n!ri in the Levant started in a regional calcretisation event in the late Pliocene to mid Pleistocene and is ongoing in the Levant nowadays.
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Earth Sciences History Vol. 31, 2012. No. 2 pp. 210228

1. INTRODUCTION Calcretes are near-surface terrestrial accumulations that form polygenetically in permeable host mediums (rocks and soils), and feature secondary calcium carbonate (CaCO3) as their main constituent. Their occurrence is typical of arid and semiarid areas.1 N!ri is the most common colloquial Levantine name for a specific type of calcrete (Blanckenhorn 1896, Canaan 1933, Yaalon and Singer 1974, Yaalon 1978, Dan 1977, Wieder et al. 1993, Dudeen 2001, NRA 2007, Mimi and Assi 2009). It is a calcareous polygenetic formation, formed by pedogenic and

The term calcrete was introduced by the British geologist, George William Lamplugh (18591926) (Lamplugh 1902). Its most common synonym is caliche. The latter has double-meaning; it also applies for sodium cemented nitrate deposits in northern Chile and Peru (having no genetic relation to calcrete).



biogenic near-surface processes in soft sediments and is common found in the semiarid region of the Levant. Etymologically, n!ri derives from the Arabic word n!r (fire, !"#). Specifically, the term derived from the ability of chert to produce sparks. Previous studies that related the term n!ri to heating facilities such as $!b%n (Blanckenhorn 1896, p. 15; Blake 1935, p. 103; Avnimelech 1936, p. 114) have not been supported by our field surveys or by etymological research.2 To the best of our knowledge, the use of the term n!ri in the Levant appeared in the literature in 1867 (Fraas 1867). Its initial use was in reference to a rock type in Jerusalem and later it was also used to describe a type of building stone (Blanckenhorn 1896, Canaan 1933, Blake 1935, Avnimelech 1936). Nowadays it is better known by its Levantine synonym n!ri instead of calcrete/caliche (Parker 2002, Neuendorf et al. 2005). Its widespread occurrence in the Levant is evident in hilly and mountainous semiarid areas dominated by carbonate lithologies. Until the early twentieth century, the lithological classification of calcretes was problematical. This surficial limy formation did not fall into any of the previously known classic carbonates such as limestone, chalk and dolomite (Blanckenhorn 1888, Lamplugh 1902). Therefore, terms such as limy crusts, disturbed limestone, weathered limestone, and the like entered the literature (Lartet 1869, Hull 1886, Blanckenhorn 1888). For illustrations relevant to the geography and geology of the present paper, see Figures 1, 2 and 3.
Figure 1. Satellite photo of the Levant, showing locations (yellow dots) and areas (opaque gray) mentioned in the text (satellite photo by CHELYS s.r.l.).

A $!b%n ( !"#$%) is a traditional Middle Eastern oven, built mainly out of soil, clay and field stones.



Figure 2. Geological map of east Jerusalem and its vicinity. Though calcrete is widespread in this region it is not included as an independent formation in the geologic map. A marks the location of Figure 4; B marks the location of Figure 5 (Scale = 1:50,000, after Arkin et al. 1976). This is the region where n!ri was first documented by Fraas (1867), and later by Blanckenhorn (1896).

Figure 3. Stratigraphic legend and columnar crosssection for the area of Figure 2 (modified from Arkin et al. 1976).

The many studies conducted in the Levant since the second half of the nineteenth century have referred to the term n!ri and have provided us with a clearer understanding of the subject as well as the uses for the term. These studies have involved field observations accompanied by broad multi-disciplinary analyses, drawing on geochemistry (Sachsse 1896, Blanckenhorn 1904, Blake 1935), geomorphology (Blanckenhorn 1904, Dan 1962, 1966 and 1977), geomicrobiology (Krumbein 1968, Verrecchia 1990b), strength and porosity analysis (Yaalon and Singer 1974), archaeological aspects (Schumacher 1896 and 1902, Shiloh and Horowitz 1975, Ackermann et al. 2005), micromorphology (Verrecchia 1990a, Wieder et al. 1993), radiometric dating (Wieder et al. 1993), and palaeomagnetic dating (Mashiah et al. 2009). Nevertheless, a century and a half 212


of research has not enabled scientists to reach one clear definition for the term n!ri. This is evident by the use of diverse terminology in previous studies. Additional problems arise in the absence of n!ri in local geological maps (Arkin et al. 1976, Hirsch 1983, Cook 2000, Hatzor 2000, "enel 2002a and 2002b, Yechieli 2008, Sneh 2008 and 2009), even when it dominates large areas of the maps. The present paper opens with the results of our independent etymological study, pointing out a typical etymological fallacy (Baalbaki 1990) regarding the association between the geological n!ri and fire.3 We then present a chronological review of the literature and the key publications that introduced and often re-defined the term n!ri in its various geological contexts. In conclusion we propose a new, consistent and unambiguous definition of n!ri and offer a unifying definition for a lithological and mappable unit as well as suggesting a time-frame for Levantine calcretisation events that began in the late Pliocene. For examples of n!ri outcrops, see Figures 4, 5, 6 and 7.

Figure 4. A view of a 1.5 m thick hardpan n!ri outcropa result of calcretization of the Mishash Formation. This is a typical view of the rock type, on the route of Max L. Blanckenhorn (1896) (see Section 3). Location A in Figure 2.

2. ETYMOLOGICAL DERIVATIONS OF THE TERM N!R" 2.1 The relation between the terms n!ri and fire N!ri (Classical Arabic: n!riyy, !"$% # '& ) derives from the Arabic word n!r (fire, !"#) with the nomen relativum -iyy (literally referred noun, the reference or relation) as a suffix, which is not pronounced as a geminated or a long vowel in Palestinian colloquial Arabic. In Hebrew and Arabic (among other Semitic languages), the root n-w-r means flash, dazzling, and in general anything that emits light (Bosworth et al. 1993, pp. 957958). N!ri in its sedimentary context is actually a shortened form of the full term &a'ar n!ri ( !"$% # '& $() literally: fire stone), and omits the word for stone. References that interpret n!ri as burnt (Blake 1935, p. 103) are

There are numerous examples of etymological fallacies derived from Arabic language into modern Hebrew, especially in the field of geography, e.g. the Hebrew name of the Arabic neighborhood in Jerusalem W!di ()z. This neighbourhood is officially named in Hebrew Na&al Egz (literally Nut Stream), while the historical etymon returns to the Hebrew name of King Jehosaphat. His name was abbreviated by the British authorities during the early twentieth century to Joz and then understood by the Arab population, which established this neighborhood as Nut ( !"#), leading to another etymological fallacy which occurred with the Hebrew naming of this Arab neighborhood (Geva-Kleinberger 2006).


DANNY ITKIN, AHARON GEVA-KLEINBERGER, DAN YAALON, URI SHAANAN and HAIM GOLDFUS etymologically fallacious, reflecting an apparent misunderstanding of the meaning of the term. The Classical Arabic literature (Ibn-Man#$r 1988), as well as contemporary dialectological Arabic (non-technical) dictionaries (Al-Barghouti 2001), does not refer to n!ri in the context of calcrete or any type of carbonatic rock (Barthlemy 1935). Likewise, this term (in its geological context) is neither well known nor commonly used among the Levantine Arab population today. The non-professionals understand the term to mean chert and some types of hard white rocks (geologically known as hardpan calcrete). On the other hand contemporary Arab scientists use it solely as a synonym for a hardpan calcrete/caliche (Dudeen 2001, p. 216; Abu-Jaber et al. 2007, pp. 4798; Mimi and Assi 2009, p. 304) relying on the traditional use of the term among Levantine geologists. Thus both refer to the semantic definition of the fire component that derives from the word n!r. Yet some modern Arabic dictionaries refer to the term &a'ar n!ri in the meaning of fire stone or basalt (Sharoni 1987, p. 476). Similarly, in its semantic definition, many Arabs understand the term &a'ar n!ri as igneous rock, or fire stone (meaning chert) but not as calcrete. In some Arab countries such as Jordan, the term *akhr n!ri (plural: *ukh%r n!riyya) is semantically understood as basalt rocks or volcanic rocks (Al-Kilani 2008, p. 117). 2.2 N!ri and the Hatrurim Formation An important insight can be found in the study of Tawfiq Canaan (18821964). When using fire stone as a translation for n!ri he relied on the Arabic dictionary Mu&+$ al-Mu&+$ noting that it did not give the meaning of the term n!ri. Seeking an alternative term for n!ri he looked up the % '(),4 term limestone. He found that the Arabic translation for limestone is an-n%ra (! "#$& which later became synonymous with phosphorus and other limestone additive materials (Canaan 1933, p. 10). It should be noted that the reddish to burnt-like facies of the metamorphic Hatrurim Formation (the Mottled Zone) (Kolodny et al. 1971, Kolodny et al. 1974, Burg 1991, Gur et al. 1995, Burg et al. 1999) corresponds to Canaans an-n%ra description, as well as to the use by contemporary Arab residents who call the rock &atr%ra (!"#"$%). It is important to note that there is no etymological connection between n!ri and an-n%ra, which is consistent with the local Arab residents differentiation between n!ri and the &atr%r rocks (of the Hatrurim Formation). Associating this formation with the use of the term n!ri has special significance due to its proximity to n!ri outcrops in some localities east and southeast of Jerusalem (see Figures 2 and 3), as well as its pronounced burnt appearance, which would appear to be consistent with the fire component. 3. HISTORICAL RECOGNITION AND CHANGING SCIENTIFIC INTERPRETATIONS OF N!R" Since 1867 the word n!ri has been used in the geological terminology of the Levant with a variety of connotations. The following review is presented chronologically and in relation to the relevant scientific development. Oscar Friedrich von Fraas (18241897) was apparently the first to publish the term n!ri in a geological context (Fraas 1867, p. 201). While surveying Jerusalem and its vicinity, he described a marine formation of oolitic chalky marl in his field book.5 As part of his 1896 research, Max Ludwig Blanckenhorn (18611947) studied n!ri in the

An-n%ra sometimes refers to calcium, and etymologically it may be linked to the word n%r (!"#), meaning light, lightness, and to be lit. Der Araber nennt sie nareh, nach Herrn Wolff richtiger narij. Das Wort bedeutet einen weichen Stein, der am Feuer (nar) erhrtet und bei der Construction der Feuerherde verwendet wird. Er heisst somit in unserer Sprache der Feuerfeste, obgleich ihm diese Eigenschaft nach unseren technischen Begriffen nicht ganz zukommt. (Arabs call it n!reh, or more correctly n!rij, according to Mr. Wolff. The word means a soft stone that becomes hard near a fire and is used in the construction of hearths. Thus in our language it would be called the fireproof [stone], though in terms of our technical definition it would not quite have that property.)



area between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, and on the eastern side of the Dead Sea (see Figures 2 and 4). Contrary to Fraas, Blanckenhorn defined n!ri as a chert breccia that appeared as a crust on top of the Senonian carbonates in the region. He made a connection between the genesis of the n!ri crust and the disintegration of the chert beds and chalk of a Late Cretaceous (Senonian) unit that is known today as the Mishash Formation (see Figures 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6).6 Moreover, he argued that the formation of n!ri was still occurring at the time of his study. Blanckenhorn described n!ri as being widely distributed across areas east and south of Jerusalem, east of the Dead Sea, the Judean Mountains and the northern Negev. As for the terminological origin, Blanckenhorn (1896, pp. 1415) argued that its fire resistance and use in the construction of ovens were responsible for its name n!ri.7 Eight years previously, he had reported a study that encompassed vast areas from Syria, through the arid deserts of North Africa, and to the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. His field descriptions included carbonatic crusts having a wide regional distribution. But he did not mention the term n!ri in his earlier publication, using instead the phrase limey crusts (Blanckenhorn 1888, p. 50).8 Along with Blanckenhorn, Rudolph Sachsse (1869?), an agricultural chemist, conducted a chemical analysis of n!ri (Sachsse 1896). Sachsse assumed that its formation was restricted to the Quaternary Period. He described n!ri as a surficial crust that is a secondary product of the Senonian chalk, and was a chert breccia. Sachsse also demonstrated that n!ri is composed of approximately 96% CaCO3 (deliberately excluding the chert from the sample), and concluded that n!ri was not a marine sediment (Sachsse 1896, pp. 2022). By following Sachsses clear field descriptions, we have found that the n!ri outcrops that he studied are a calcretised Mishash Formation that cover the hills east and south of Jerusalem (see Figures 4, 5 and 6). His detailed report comprised the earliest geochemical description of n!ri: CaCO3 = 96.14, CaSO4 = 0.92, FeCO3 = 0.49, Fe2O4 = 0.16, Al2O3 = 0.34, SiO2 = 0.96, H2O = 0.76 (summing to 99.77%) (Sachsse 1896, p. 22). Accordingly, the report of Sachsse contributed a great deal to the preliminary understanding of n!ri. In his 1904 study, Blanckenhorn provided a detailed description of n!ri in terms of lithology, formation, geochemistry, geomorphology, geographical distribution, and architectural uses (Blanckenhorn 1904, pp. 100, 117118). His work was (and remains) an important milestone. Geologically, Blanckenhorn defined two regional formations of surficial crusts: brecciated chert and carbonatic crusts. His theory about the formation of the crusts was that the carbonatic matrix of n!ri was a product of the substratum of marine carbonates. The water movement needed for their dissolution was provided by the capillary action of soil moisture, rain, and runoff in regions characterised by short, seasonal periods of heavy rain and significant evaporation during the dry seasons, such as are typical of the Mediterranean belt of the Levant and North Africa. He argued that architecturally, in addition to its use in high temperature ovens or furnaces, its light weight and porosity made it particularly useful for the construction of indoor vaults and courses. Blanckenhorn referred to the south side of ,%r B!hir and al-!Ayzariyya as the most important locations where n!ri was found (Blanckenhorn 1904, p. 118) (see Figures 2, 4 and 5). He argued that Fraass conglomerate (Fraas 1867, p. 346) was actually n!ri (Blanckenhorn 1904, p. 117), and that Fraas had erred when using the term n!ri to describe oolitic chalky marl (Fraas 1867, p. 201).9

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Mishash Formation is a Campanian marine sequence consisting of alternating siliceous, carbonate and phosphate rocks deposited in a shallow, semi-closed sea once connected to the ocean (Kolodny 1965). Its chalk outcrops typically bare chert fragments and are often calcretised as a result of Pliocene to contemporary calcretesation. Wegen seiner Feuerfestigkeit und Verwendbarkeit zum Herdbau wird das Gestein bei Jerusalem Nri genannt (The rock is known as Nri in the Jerusalem area because of its resistance to fire and suitability for constructing ovens.) Kalkkrusten (limey crust). Oscar F. Fraas described his relevant field observations in Wadi Joz (W!di ()z), in Jerusalem. By following his exact description (Fraas 1867, pp. 200201) it appears that he actually described a calcretised carbonatic rock, known by local residents as n!ri.


DANNY ITKIN, AHARON GEVA-KLEINBERGER, DAN YAALON, URI SHAANAN and HAIM GOLDFUS When exploring Mount Carmel (see Figure 1), the Swiss orientalist Eberhard Graf von Muelinen (18611927) referred to hadschar n!ri as the softest type of carbonatic formation in the Senonian sequence.10 He then emphasised that there were numerous chert fragments in the soft limestone. According to Muelinen, this rock was locally called *uww!n (chert) and was used for starting fires (Muelinen 1908, p. 13). This last point is significant as it is similar to that raised by Blanckenhorn (1896) and is consistent with our present understanding of the etymology of the term n!ri, as will be shown later.

Figure 5. View of %$r B!hir looking north-west, showing a hilly landscape of n!ri outcropsCenozoic calcretisation of the Mishash Formation (Location B in Figure 2).

John Watson (18421918) devoted the greater part of his career to studying the economic aspects of geology. He described n!ri as one of ten Syrian limestone types, and as a commonly used building stone found in and around Jerusalem. Watson argued that because of its physical properties (later described in Blake 1935) n!ri did not meet the minimum requirements for construction work and dismissed it as useless for that purpose (Watson 1911, p. 211). He was mistaken, however, both because of the extensive historical use of n!ri as a building stone in many areas of the Levant and because he did not refer to the strongly indurated (hardpan) morphology of the n!ri. Tawfiq Canaan was most probably the only local Arab scholar of his time to use the term n!ri in a technical sense. According to Canaan (1933), n!ri is a white limestone, characterised by its lightness, high porosity and high moisture absorbency. He differentiated between two types: (1) the commonly found rock and (2) its softer facies, called &atr%r (Canaan 1933, p. 10). Like Blanckenhorn, Canaan associated the origin of the term n!ri with the rocks ability to withstand high temperatures, both by sustaining its structure (that is, by not breaking apart) when exposed to fire and by not being converted into lime when heated in kilns. Hence he referred to n!ri as fire stone (Canaan 1933, p. 10). According to Canaan, n!ri was the softest type of building stone in local use, found to the east of Jerusalem; and because of its properties it was used mainly for interior courses, ovens, and Turkish baths (Canaan 1933, pp. 10, 12, 30 and 40). Like Watson before him, Canaan did not refer to the hardpan n!ri.


Hadschar n!ri is the old German transcription of &a'ar n!ri.



Figure 6. N!ri outcrop, showing brownish, angular chert fragments in a calcretised chalk matrix of the Mishash Formation. The rock is mostly covered with lichens and moss (close-up of an outcrop from Figure 5).

George Stanfield Blake (18761940) edited an important overview concerning the stratigraphy of Palestine and its building stones, accompanied by physical and chemical laboratory data (Blake 1935). According to Blake, the meaning of the Arabic term n!ri was burnt (Blake 1935, p. 103). Geologically, he defined the rock both as a soft amorphous limestone (Blake 1935, p. 97) and as a crust that could be harder than chalk (Blake 1935, p. 103). Blake argued that n!ri is formed as a result of surficial processes such as chalk alteration and secondary crystallisation, often involving fine gravel, soil, and argillaceous materials (Blake 1935, p. 103). He noted the importance of n!ri as a soft building stone, commonly used by the local Arab population. It is interesting to note that his study lacked any reference to Canaan (1933), given that the latter was most probably the only early twentieth-century local scholar to write about n!ri, and particularly because Canaans work was the most important scientific text on the subject at the time of Blakes study. Moshe Avnimelech (18991971) thought of n!ri as a weathered limestone (Avnimelech 1936, p. 32).11 He explained the term as being derived from the Arabic word for fire and argued that the rock was used by local people for making a sort of primitive furnace (Avnimelech 1936, p. 114).12 His reference to n!ri related mainly to the Shephelah (a range of hills in central Israel), on the foothills of the Judean Mountains (see Figures 1 and 7). Avnimelech accounted for the formation of n!ri by capillarity and evaporation during subtropical seasonal changes. He argued that atmospheric agents were responsible for the rocks alteration, causing the original rock to become unrecognisable. According to him, this alteration masked the parent rock (the host) by losing much of its lithological identity, except for the chert fragments that were unaffected by this alteration. He stressed (Avnimelech 1936, pp. 115 116) that it made field surveying difficult, but found that the lower part of the n!ri (the transition zone) was much softer than the upper part and was apparently the weathered parent rock (Avnimelech 1936, p. 116). He further suggested that n!ri develops within the parent rock matrix, and not on it.
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Au sommet, calcaire altr (Nari) et terre vgtale. (At the top, weathered limestone [nari] and topsoil.) Le nom de Nari signifie en arabe le feu, et il est donn par les habitants une sorte de calcaire friable employ pour faire des fourneaux primitifs. (The name nari in Arabic means fire, and is used by local residents for a kind of friable limestone employed for making primitive furnaces.)


DANNY ITKIN, AHARON GEVA-KLEINBERGER, DAN YAALON, URI SHAANAN and HAIM GOLDFUS Leo Picard (19001997) described n!ri as a surface-crust and argued that the presence of n!ri ends in the Judean desert at a lower precipitation limit of 300 mm/y (Picard 1943, p. 103). Later on he defined n!ri as a caliche-crust and erroneously maintained that there is no trace of the caliche-crust known as n!ri in the Negev (Picard 1951, p. 5). His argument contradicted the 1896 study of Blanckenhorn, which included a clear geographical description of n!ri outcrops in the Negev (Blanckenhorn 1896). It can be assumed that Picards assumption of the absence of n!ri in the Negev was due to having insufficient tools for conducting large-scale geological mapping in the 1950s. But by including the word caliche in his description of n!ri, he introduced a new and ultimately widely-held understanding among local scientists that n!ri is actually a type of calcrete.

Figure 7. Outcrop of n!ri in Bet Guvrin, the Shephelah region (see location in Figure 1). The broken line indicates the contact between the parent rock of Eocenic chalk and the n!ri which is intensively covered with microbiota (lichens, fungi, moss, algea and cyanobacteria), soil and Mediterranean flora. (Supplementary data is available at Avnimelech 1936, Dan 1966, Yaalon and Singer 1974 and Wieder et al. 1993).

One can observe further scientific evolution of the term n!ri in the works of Joel Dan who considered n!ri to be a pedogenic product (Dan 1962, 1966 and 1977). In discussing some aspects of n!ri disintegration and soil formation related to it, Dan described the rock as a hard calcareous crust (Dan 1962, p. 189) and as a fossil or caliche relic (Dan 1962, p. 190). Later on, in his doctoral thesis, he defined n!ri as a n!ri rock (Dan 1966, p. 213) and argued that the widespread distribution of n!ri in the western foothills of the Judean Mountains (specifically in the area of Bet-Guvrin) is mostly fossilised, meaning a fossilised soil, i.e. palaeosoil (Dan 1966, p. 233, see Figure 7). The work of Wolfgang Elisabeth Krumbein (1968), who studied the geomicrobiology and geochemistry of n!ri samples from the Negev, made an important contribution to the understanding of the n!ri diagenesis. Designating it as n!ri limecrust (Krumbein 1968, p. 138), Krumbeins contribution stemmed from his observation that the crust contained high quantities of microflora compared to its limestone substrate. After conducting laboratory experiments, he realised that biochemical reactions have a significant influence on the geochemistry of n!ri. The importance of biogenic agents in the formation of n!ri and other Levantine calcretes was subsequently discussed in other local studies (Verrecchia 1990b, Wieder and Yaalon 1982, Wieder et al. 1993, Amit and Harrison 1995). On the other hand, it should be noted that biogenic activity can also destruct n!ri and other rocks under certain conditions



(Danin et al. 1982 and 1985). Krumbeins study offered a new perspective on the formation of n!ri, emphasising its polygenetic nature. By the 1970s, an international literature on calcretes was already well established (Gile et al. 1965, Netterberg 1969, James 1972, Goudie 1972 and 1973). Local understanding made further advances through the work of Dan Yaalon and Shmuel Singer (1974) as well as that of Joel Dan (1977). Yaalon and Singer considered n!ri to be a variety of calcrete (Yaalon and Singer 1974, p. 1016) and argued that it was not morphologically limited to a hardpan. Rather it was a multi-horizonal (stratified) sequence. While studying a n!ri profile overlaying Eocene chalk, they distinguished three major horizons according to their degree of hardnessin decreasing order: laminar n!ri, upper n!ri, and lower n!ri (Yaalon and Singer 1974). As for the formation path, they stated that n!ri was an indurated petrocalcic horizon, meaning that its genesis had been pedogenic but that the laminar crust was non-pedogenic (Yaalon and Singer 1974). Their contribution provided a n!ri hardness scale, differentiating between dry and wet conditions. Later on, Dan (1977) continued to study and map the distribution of n!ri while distinguishing it from other lime crusts. He classified n!ri as hard and thick exposed lime crusts that overlie soft calcareous rocks (Dan 1977, p. 68). He concluded by arguing that n!ri outcrops, like other lime crusts, are pedogenic horizons that are formed by the downward movement and reprecipitation of calcium carbonate (known as the per-descensum model). Dan contributed an important insight by suggesting that n!ri and all other lime crusts (which he also named calcrete) are actually one and the same. Notwithstanding the importance of his map, it omitted vast areas that are known today to comprise significant amounts of calcretes (and n!ri in particular), such as along the Judean and Samaria Mountains (Dan 1977, p. 70). N!ri alters the near-surface morphology of its parent rock and as such, thus making mapping extremely complex (Avnimelech 1936, Buchbinder 1969). Dans map should have influenced the relevant geological maps of the Levant that disregarded n!ri (and calcretes as a whole) (Arkin et al. 1976, Hirsch 1983, Cook 2000, Hatzor 2000, "enel 2002a and 2002b, Bogoch and Sneh 2008, Yechieli 2008, Sneh 2008 and 2009). But it didnt. Eric P. Verrecchia referred to n!ri as a n!ri-calcrete and argued that a typical weathered carbonate profile in the semiarid area of Israel is known in Arabic as n!ri (Verrecchia 1990a, p. 677). By studying micromorphologically a n!ri profile in the vicinity of Nazareth, he concluded that it was comprised of three major horizons (after Yaalon and Singer 1974), and that five stages had controlled its formation: (1) chalk alteration during pedogenesis; (2) soil deepening, accompanied by the formation of rhizoliths (calcified roots), aeolian dust enrichment and a preliminary hardening of the so-called Bca horizon; (3) surficial erosion and material movement; (4) biogenetically deposition of a thin laminar crust accompanied by aeolian dust capture; and finally (5) destruction of the upper crust, mainly due to the biogenesis of lichens (Verrecchia 1990a). By studying the calcium oxalate-carbonate cycle, Verrecchias subsequent study enabled a better understanding of the biogeochemical role in n!ri formation (Verrecchia 1990b). During the early 1990s, Moshe Wieder, Meir Sharabani, and Arieh Singer (19342010) conducted an intensive micromorphological study of three n!ri profiles from the Shephelah (see Figure 7) and the Negev (Wieder et al. 1993). They argued that the formation of n!ri is controlled by three phases: (1) subterraneous, when n!ri develops within the carbonatic host, underneath the soil cover; (2) surficial, after the erosion of the soil, which is mostly biogenic; and (3) alteration by weathering, ending by the breakdown of the hardpan layer into boulders (Wieder et al. 1993). Their understanding that n!ri initially develops below the soil cover and that much of its development is non-pedogenic, was opposed to what had previously been presumed (Blanckenhorn 1904, Dan 1962, 1966 and 1977). They differentiated between exposed n!ri, which according to them was common in the more humid areas, and what they called subterraneous n!ri, which was common in arid areas (Wieder et al. 1993, p. 47). The primary shortcoming of their study was its relatively limited geographic scope: it neither included observations from the northern part of Israel nor referred to existing studies that 219

DANNY ITKIN, AHARON GEVA-KLEINBERGER, DAN YAALON, URI SHAANAN and HAIM GOLDFUS explained the nature and origin of n!ri in a meaningful way (Goldberg 1958, Dan 1977, Verrecchia 1990a and 1990b). Reviewing the soils of Israel, Arieh Singer (2007) described the countrys diverse carbonate accumulations. In discussing soils of the hills and mountain range he defined n!ri as a hard weathering crust with no clear relation to carbonates (Singer 2007, p. 90), and as a hard lime crust (calcrete) (p. 113). In the rest of his book he hardly used the terms n!ri or calcrete. Instead he presented all pedogenic carbonate accumulations as carbonate nodules (Singer 2007, p. 92, p. 153, p. 157), carbonate concretions (Singer 2007, p. 169), or as a recrystallisation of carbonate along root channels (referring to rhizoliths) (Singer 2007, p. 43, p. 217, p. 220, p. 230). Another major local soil review was published simultaneously by Joel Dan, Pinchas Fine and Hanoch Lavee (Dan et al. 2007). They defined n!ri (calcrete) as a petrocalcic horizon, reflecting its pedogenic origin (Dan et al. 2007, pp. 5051, p. 326, p. 329). Thus, our review of the literature shows that until now there has been no single definition of the term n!ri. Rather, there has been considerable diversity in its description: chert breccia (Blanckenhorn 1896, p. 15), soft rock (Watson 1911, p. 211; Canaan 1933, p. 102; Blake 1935, p. 97), surface crust or lime crust (Picard 1943, p. 103; Krumbein 1968, p. 138; Dan 1977, p. 68), weathered limestone (Avnimelech 1936, p. 32), caliche crust or a variety of calcrete (Picard 1951, p. 5; Yaalon and Singer 1974, p. 1016), n!ri rock (Dan 1966, p. 213) and n!ricalcrete (Verrecchia 1990a, p. 677). Also, the disregard for this formation in mapping gave (and still gives) an inaccurate impression of the surface in many areas of the Levant. Likewise it has distorted important chronostratigraphic data, since in most relevant areas the exposed n!ri is much younger than the lithologies of the underlying rocks. 4. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION 4.1 Definition of n!ri The evolution of the term n!ri (in its calcretic context) reflects on the development of Earth sciences regarding one of their most complex objects: bedrock-soil interface. Motivated by and based on previous studies, we advocate a clear and unambiguous definition for the term (as stated at the beginning of this paper). That is: n#ri is a calcareous polygenetic formation, formed by pedogenic and biogenic near-surface processes in soft sediments, and is common in the semiarid Mediterranean region of the Levant. Its morphology varies from that which is slightly- to strongly-indurated, with an approximate thickness of up to three metres or even more, and it may frequently contain chert fragments, carbonate-rich concretions and cracks filled with calcium carbonate or soil. Our study indicates that the term n!ri was most probably originated in Jerusalem or its vicinity, as indicated by relevant nineteenth-century studies (Fraas 1867, Blanckenhorn 1896, Sachsse 1896). 4.2 Etymology of n!ri The term n!ri derives from the Arabic word n!r (fire, !"#), or in its full syntax &a'ar n!ri (fire stone, !"$% # '& !"#). This nomenclature was originally local and referred to an oolitic chalky marl formation, found in the eastern part of Jerusalem (Fraas 1867, p. 201). Later the term was used to refer to the chert breccia and calcretes (mainly calcretised chalk) of the Mishash Formation, occurring along the surfaces of slopes that descend eastwards from Jerusalem (see Figures 2, 4 and 5) (Blanckenhorn 1896, p. 15). This study has included consideration of field surveys in the locations where n!ri was first described (Fraas 1867, Blanckenhorn 1896, Muelinen 1908, Canaan 1933), mainly in Arab settlements east of Jerusalem, the Judean Desert and the Galilee (see Figures 1, 2, 4 and 5). It has shown that the popular acquaintance with n!ri chiefly applies to chert (*uww!n). In some localities the term also refers to the hardest type of white stone (local people referred to 220


hardpan calcrete outcrops). The term &a'ar n!ri (as calcrete) is hardly known to young Arab people today and is in much wider use in the area east of Jerusalem, compared to the Judean Desert and the Galilee. When asked about it, the local people interpret n!ri to mean a stone that makes sparks. Questions concerning the relationship of n!ri to $!b%n construction were ruled out on the spot, arguing that only &atr%ra stones (Hatrurim Formation) or &aw!ra earth (marl) are in use. Correspondingly, some senior Arab linguists were asked regarding their familiarity with &a'ar n!ri. None of them were acquainted with this term in any sense. It is thus not surprising that the term n!ri is not to be found in Arabic dictionaries in the discussed geological sense. It should be stressed that the alternative definitions of n!r (fire) include sparks, flash and the like, but not heat in any sense. This understanding corresponds with that of Muelinen, which accentuated the localised use of the term (Muelinen 1908, pp. 13 14, p. 345). Therefore n!ri is colloquially synonymous with chert and derives from its physical capacity to produce fire (sparks). In view of this etymology, chert-bearing calcretes have gained the epithet n!ri. Subsequently the popular use of any hardpan-calcretes for $!b%n making was responsible for relating the term n!ri to heating facilities. This broad brush terminological usage has given rise to an etymological fallacy. We also found that according to some Arab ! %) is synonymous to n!ri and occasionally relates to residents, the local colloquial term mizzi ( !"#$ various types of hard limestones. This alternative terminology appears in a few previous studies (Canaan 1933, p. 10; Blake 1935, p. 97). 4.3 The terminological linkage between chert- to non-chert-bearing n!ri N!ri rocks are exposed very extensively in large areas of the Levant. The terminological evolution of this term that took place in the area of Jerusalem referred mainly to the chert of the Mishash Formation. This understanding comes from the local frequency of this chert-bearing formation in that area (see Figures 4 and 5). The association of chert with n!ri is also common in other areas such as the northern Negev, the Judean Mountains, the Shephelah and the Galilee (see Figure 1). Notwithstanding this, the term n!ri as related to chert did not survive after the early twentieth century. Since then, nearly all studies have employed the term n!ri to describe types of calcretes that lack any presence of chert (Canaan 1933, Picard 1943, Yaalon and Singer 1974, Dan 1977, Wieder et al. 1993). Thus the terminological origin of the non chert-bearing n!ri emerges from its field association with chert. Subsequently the designation of all similar calcrete morphologies emerged as n!ri, even when having no field association with chert. This terminological evolution caused an etymological fallacy that nowadays obscures any etymological relationship of the term n!ri with chert. This variance is a part of a global trend towards designating calcretes with local names. Evidence of that is shown by nearly fifty different names for calcretes worldwide (Goudie 1973, Reeves 1976), most of which are only known in a very local manner. 4.4 The presumed linkage of n!ri with heating facilities N!ri was historically an important building stone in the Levant. It can be assumed that the regional use of n!ri field stones for different household uses (such as ovens) dates to prehistoric times, simply because of their ready availability at the surface. Particularly, the use of n!ri ashlars began during the Iron Age and possibly even earlier (Shiloh and Horowitz 1975, Reich 1987). Then again, the presumed linkage of n!ri with heating facilities such as $!b%ns, kilns, etc. (Blanckenhorn 1896, p. 15; Canaan 1933, p. 10; Avnimelech 1936, p. 114; Neuendorf et al. 2005, p. 432) is mistaken. The inconsistent usage of n!ri, which ranges from chert (Blanckenhorn 1896, p. 15) to calcretised chalk (Blake 1935, p. 103; Picard 1943, p. 103; Dan 1977, p. 68), suggests that its name has no connection to its ability to withstand high temperatures. In fact, these two types of rock have very different thermodynamic properties (Clauser and Huenges 1995) and react differently when exposed to high temperatures. Due to its clay-rich portion and high porosity, n!ri in fact has a poorer thermal conductivity than the much 221

DANNY ITKIN, AHARON GEVA-KLEINBERGER, DAN YAALON, URI SHAANAN and HAIM GOLDFUS more commonly found marine carbonates (Blake 1935, pp. 93117). This physical property has misled many scientists, who sought to link the Arabic word n!ri with heating apparatuses (Blanckenhorn 1896, p. 15; Canaan 1933, p. 10; Avnimelech 1936, p. 114; Neuendorf et al. 2005, p. 432). Moreover, field observations in archaeological sites show that people mostly used stones and soil that were close at hand for the construction of heating facilities and were not necessarily n!ri (see Figure 8).
Figure 8. Pottery kiln of the Tenth Roman Legion, consisting mostly of dolomite and limestone, though its surround is highly enriched with an in situ n!ri. Many other inspected heating apparatuses, such as $!b%ns etc., have been found to have little or no n!ri (Binyanei Hauma site, Jerusalem. Photo by Danit Levi).

4.5 The importance of n!ri in geological mapping Despite its widespread distribution within the areas of most of the existing geological maps of the Levant, they currently ignore the presence of n!ri (Arkin et al. 1976, Hirsch 1983, Cook 2000, Hatzor 2000, "enel 2002a and 2002b, Bogoch and Sneh 2008, Yechieli 2008, Sneh 2008 and 2009). That is the case even when n!ri is abundant as a thick hardpan and is evidently distinct from its underlying parent rock. At present, this is strikingly inconsistent with the presence in maps of distinct lithologic units of lesser regional abundance, such as (1) Quaternary sediments like travertine (Hatzor 2000, "enel 2002a, Bogoch and Sneh 2008) or kurk!r (calcareous sandstone) (Buchbinder 1969, Segev and Sass 2009) and (2) Miocene, Pliocene and Pleistocene alteration products of Late Cretaceous and Paleocene carbonates (Hatrurim Formation) (Kolodny et al. 1971, Kolodny et al. 1974, Burg 1991, Gur et al. 1995, Burg et al. 1999). We therefore recommend distinguishing and mapping n!ri across the Levant. This will correlate stratigraphic data with field reality more satisfactorily and will greatly facilitate the understanding of the climatic and tectonic evolution of the region. 4.6 Regional calcretisation events Calcretisation is very much controlled by climate and the hosts mineralogy (James and Choquette 1984, Wright 2007, Tanner 2010, Ildefonso 2010). Many outcrops and near-surface rocks in Jerusalem and its vicinity, have undergone significant calcretisation since late Pliocene (see below). This is evident in the limestone of the Bina Formation (Arkin et al. 1965, Arkin et al. 2007) and chalks of the Menuha and Mishash Formations (Flexer 1968) (see Figures 4, 5 and 6). Calcretised sediments of similar morphologies have been documented in previous studies, among them being Eocenic chalks of the northern Negev (Dan 1977), Late Cretaceous and 222


Tertiary carbonates of the Shephelah (Buchbinder 1969, Bar et al. 2012), Late Cretaceous and Tertiary carbonates of the Galilee (Levi 1983), Late Cretaceous carbonates of Jarash and its vicinity (Bender 1968, Abu-Jaber et al. 2007), Neogene carbonates of Zgharta and its vicinity (Geze 1956, Wolfart 1967), Late Cretaceous limestones of Al-Mukharram and its vicinity (Muir 1951), Eocene and Early Miocene limestones of Gaziantep and its vicinity (Gndo&an et al. 2010) and Late Miocene and Quaternary sediments of Adana and Mersin (Kapur et al. 1987, Kapur et al. 1993, Eren et al. 2008) (see Figure 1). According to their stratigraphic settings, it can be assumed that these calcretes formed in a multiphase process that acted between the late Pliocene and the present. This argument is supported by: (1) radiometric (Wieder et al. 1993) and paleomagnetic (Mashiah et al. 2009) dating results, and as documented in other works (Blake 1935, Verrecchia 1990a, Kapur et al. 1987, Verrecchia and Le Coustumer 1996, Eren et al. 2008), showing coeval formation of the discussed calcrete outcrops in the region; (2) relevant records of arid and semiarid climates (BarMatthews et al. 1996, Robinson et al. 2006, Enzel et al. 2007); (3) the regional carbonatic platform of the Levant (Vaumas 1961, Garfunkel 1988), which largely represents the hosts mineralogy; and (4) the occurrence of suitable morphotectonic conditions (Garfunkel 1988, Begin and Zilberman 1997, Bar et al. 2006). Thus in addition to its stratigraphic conformity, the combination of all of the above factorschronogenesis, semiarid climate conditions, carbonate parent rocks and stable morphotectonic environmentindicates a regional late Pliocene to mid Pleistocene calcretisation event that gave rise to the majority of contemporary calcrete outcrops in the Levant. A coeval similar event of regional calcretisation occurred during that same time in western Mediterranean areas (Candy and Black 2009, Pla-Pueyo et al. 2009, Gallala et al. 2010). It should be noted that pre-Cenozoic calcretes are also present in the Levant. The authors are familiar with some Jurassic calcretes in the Levant but these have not yet been documented. The present climate, carbonatic and morphotectonic settings of the Levant, favour calcretisation. In addition, biotic activity has a major role in producing secondary calcium carbonate during calcretisation (Krumbein 1968, Verrecchia 1990b, Amit and Harrison 1995, Alonso-Zarza and Wright 2010). Therefore the presence of biota associated with carbonate host mediums (rocks and soils) in semiarid areas can indeed suggest an occurrence of calcretisation. Indication of a present regional calcretisation is chiefly evident from the dominance of the above mentioned formation factors in the Levant. A focused chrono-paleoclimatic study of n!ri in the Levant can support this conclusion. 5. CONCLUSIONS 1. N!ri is a calcareous polygenetic formation, formed by pedogenic and biogenic nearsurface processes in soft sediments, and is common in the semiarid Mediterranean region of the Levant. Its morphology varies from that which is slightly- to strongly-indurated, with an approximate thickness of up to three metres or even more. It may frequently contain chert fragments, carbonate rich concretions, and cracks filled with calcium carbonate or soil. Since the nineteenth century, and possibly even prior to that, the term n!ri was used by Arab residents in Jerusalem and its vicinity to denote a type of chert-bearing building stone, &a'ar n!ri. Specifically the term referred to the chert that occurs mostly in the Mishash Formation and its surficial hardpan calcretes. Designating n!ri as calcrete outcrops that have no field association with chert indicates an etymological error. However, this common terminology has been generated by designating similar outcrops that are associated with chert, such as the calcretised carbonates of the Mishash Formation. Etymologically, n!ri is derived from the ability of chert to produce fire (sparks) and does not refer to its presumed use as a building stone for heating apparatus. Nor does it reflect its ability to withstand high temperatures. N!ri rocks are regionally exposed throughout the Levant, and therefore should be well 223



4. 5.

DANNY ITKIN, AHARON GEVA-KLEINBERGER, DAN YAALON, URI SHAANAN and HAIM GOLDFUS marked and documented on the relevant geological maps of the region. The combination of chronogenetic, climatic, lithologenetic and morphotectonic conditions, indicate a late Pliocene to mid-Pleistocene regional calcretisation event that formed the majority of the present calcrete outcrops in the Levant. Recent field observations suggest ongoing calcretisation in the semiarid areas of the Levant. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS We wish to thank to all those who contributed to this study: Jonathan Shechter, Ivri Tasker, Roth Shaal, Benny Gurelnik, Moshe Wieder, Rivka (Kiki) Amit, Avinoam Danin, Avraham (Stary) Starinsky, Rami Zeidenberg, Lior Enmar, Ran Frank, Diffallah Khalil, David (Diro) Kosashvili, Hendrik Bruins, Karl Stahr, Hans-Peter Blume, Reinhold Jahn, Wilhelm Rmer, Daniela Sauer, Muhsin Eren, Selim Kapur, Yoav Avni, Ron Beeri, Danit Levi, Yildirim Gungor, Memet (Memo) Tanrisever and Luca Mellano. The comments of the journals referee are also appreciated. REFERENCES
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