07 February 2018

Maktesh Ramon, the world's largest erosion crater

In the depths of the Negev desert, lies a jewel of geology, inhabited over millennia by various peoples named in the Scriptures, including Christians, as documented by the studies of Father Bellarmino Bagatti from the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum.

Archaeology, Culture, and other Religions

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NAOR DHARI
Tour Guide - Adam Sela Challenging Experience
"We are in the Israeli desert called Negev. More than 60% of Israeli territories are deserted and we are right in the center of it now.”

NAOR DHARI
Tour Guide - Adam Sela Challenging Experience
"We are in an area called Ramon, Makhtesh Ramon. Some absolutely unique geological phenomena have occurred here and we must go back 220 million years to explain them.”

NAOR DHARI
Tour Guide - Adam Sela Challenging Experience
"Our story begins with sandstone-like rocks from the Arabian peninsula that covered the whole area, forming a softer layer on the rock that lay here earlier. Subsequently, a new calcareous rock formed, always below the sea level. The sea filled the whole area then. As a result, there were sandstone rocks, covered by calcareous rocks, both submerged by water.”

What happened next is due to a combination of events: the clash of two tectonic plates led to the formation of mountains that re-emerged on the level of the sea after which the area began to undergo a process of erosion by waves, wind and weather.

The calcareous layer - harder but more external, was consumed first, followed by the erosion of the sandstone layer- a softer layer, located below the first one, eroding material ever more rapidly, to form the actual crater.

NAOR DHARI
Tour Guide - Adam Sela Challenging Experience
"The limestone (calcareous) stones indicate the limits of what remains of the mountains. Inside we find clay, the sandstones that were inside the mountains, and also volcanic activities that usually take place underground, which, on the contrary, happened here before our eyes.”

Maktesh Ramon, therefore, is not only the largest erosion crater in the world, with its length of 44 km and its extension of 280 square kilometers. It also claims the primacy of involving 70% of the currently known geological phenomena.

The desert colors and the absence of water [that we currently notice] should not mislead us. The Mitzpe Ramon area and generally the Negev desert, which had once been much more luxuriant, has been populated over the millennia by many populations.

GIANANTONIO URBANI
Studium Biblicum Franciscanum
"The Negev region is undoubtedly one of the most interesting biblical regions of the territory of Israel that we know and that shows a dwelling that definitely goes back thousands and thousands of years, at least to the first forms of humanity, that is hominids, but also organized groups.”

Shrines, altars, votive stalks for the Most High: the traces found in the territory began in the Bronze Age, about 3500 years ago, and continued in the 13th century BC, with the Israelite tribe of Simeon and, after the fall of Jerusalem, with the Nabateans.

GIANANTONIO URBANI
Studium Biblicum Franciscanum
"In the Nabataean kingdom that later became the southern district, Christianity also flourished slowly and it survived until the 5th to 6th century.”

Every year, tourists and sportsmen push themselves into the depths of the desert, on foot or with a jeep tour: these are signs that confirm what the prophet Isaiah wrote: "the desert will blossom, or better, rejoice.”

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