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A devastating earthquake known in the scientific literature as the Earthquake of 749 struck on January 18, 749 in areas of the Umayyad Caliphate, with epicenter in Galilee. The worst affected being parts of Palestine and western Transjordan.[1][2] The cities of Tiberias, Beit She'an, Hippos and Pella were largely destroyed while many other cities across the Levant were heavily damaged. The casualties numbered in the tens of thousands.

The Seventh earthquake
Scythopolis (Beit She'an) was one of the cities destroyed in the earthquake of 749
749 Galilee earthquake is located in Israel
Beit She'an
Beit She'an
749 Galilee earthquake
Local dateJanuary 18, 749[1][2]
Magnitude7.0 [3]
Epicenter32°00′N 35°30′E / 32°N 35.5°E / 32; 35.5Coordinates: 32°00′N 35°30′E / 32°N 35.5°E / 32; 35.5 [3]
Areas affectedBilad al-Sham province, Umayyad Caliphate
(modern-day Israel, Syria, Palestine (West Bank), Jordan) and Lebanon
Max. intensityXI (Extreme) [3]
Casualtiesunknown, reportedly tens of thousands

In Jewish sources this earthquake is known, in Hebrew, as רעש שביעית, Ra'ash Shevi'it, lit. "seventh noise", interpreted by scholars to mean The Earthquake of the Sabbatical Year, because the earthquake fell on a sabbatical year, literally "the seventh year" in the Jewish calendar.[4]

Damage and casualtiesEdit

According to historical sources, supported by archaeological findings, Scythopolis (Beit She'an), Tiberias, Capernaum, Hippos (Sussita),[5] Jerash and Pella, suffered widespread damage. A Coptic priest from Alexandria reported that support beams had shifted in houses in Egypt and a Syrian priest wrote that a village near Mount Tabor had "moved a distance of four miles." Other sources reported tsunami in the Mediterranean Sea, several days of aftershocks in Damascus, and towns swallowed up in the earth.[1] The town of Umm el Kanatir and its ancient synagogue were destroyed.[6]

Historical sources describe how the death toll in Jerusalem numbered in the thousands. Many buildings, among them the Al-Aqsa Mosque, were severely damaged.[1] However, some caveats are required. The view of the severity of the damage provoked by the 749 quake is contested by new research. Earlier claims that the large Umayyad administrative buildings south of the Al-Aqsa Mosque were so badly damaged that they were abandoned and used as stone quarries and sources of lime, lime kilns being found at the site,[7] is reportedly wrong, the buildings staying in use until the 1033 earthquake.[8] Similarly, the new Arab capital city at Ramla only shows minimal signs of damage.[8]

Religious significanceEdit

Ruins of Hippos/Sussita

"Ra'ash shvi'it" is mentioned in piyyutim (Jewish liturgical poems). Some rabbis believe the earthquake struck in a Sabbatical year, in which case, the translation of the term would be "earthquake of the seventh year".

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d Barkat, Amiram (August 8, 2003). "The big one is coming". Haaretz. Retrieved May 11, 2011.
  2. ^ a b Siegel-Itzkovich, Judy (October 14, 2007). "749 CE Golan quake shows another is overdue". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved May 11, 2011.
  3. ^ a b c National Geophysical Data Center / World Data Service (NGDC/WDS), Significant Earthquake Database, National Geophysical Data Center, NOAA, doi:10.7289/V5TD9V7K
  4. ^ Tsafrir, Y.; Foerster, G. (1992). "The Dating of the 'Earthquake of the Sabbatical Year' of 749 C. E. in Palestine". Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Cambridge University Press. 55 (2): 231–235. doi:10.1017/s0041977x00004584.
  5. ^ Segal, Arthur; Eisenberg, Michael (May–June 2006). "The Spade Hits Sussita". Biblical Archaeology Review. 32 (3): 41–51, 78.
  6. ^ Rosenberg, Stephen Gabriel (February 19, 2009). "The synagogue of Umm el-Kanatir". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved May 11, 2011.[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ Raya Shani; Doron Chen (2011). "On the Umayyad Dating of the Double Gate in Jerusalem" (PDF). Muqarnas: An Annual on the Visual Culture of the Islamic World. Leiden: E.J. Brill. XVIII: 3. ISBN 9789004122345. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 September 2015. Retrieved 26 September 2015.
  8. ^ a b Gideon Avni (2014). The Byzantine-Islamic Transition in Palestine: An Archaeological Approach. Oxford Studies in Byzantium. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 325. ISBN 978-0-19-968433-5. Retrieved 26 September 2015.

External linksEdit

  • Margaliot Mordechai, "Determining the Time of Seventh Earthquake", Israel Exploration Society 8, 1940/1941. (in Hebrew)
  • Margaliot Mordechai, "A New Record of the Fasting Earthquake", Tarbitz 29, 1959/1960, pp. 339–344. (in Hebrew)
  • Tsafrir Y. Ferster C, "On the Dating of the Seventh Earthquake", Tarbitz 58, 1988/1989, pp. 357–362. (in Hebrew)
  • The Seventh Earthquake – The Death of the City