Israel's Geology

During ancient geological times the land of Israel was situated on the northeastern margins of a continent comprising Africa and Arabia. An ocean named Tethys extended to the north, periodically inundating the region. Terrestrial sandstone, soil and marsh deposits accumulated on the exposed land of Israel. When the sea flooded the region it deposited limestone and chalk with fossils, bearing evidence of the shallow to deep marine settings. As part of the global plate tectonic system, the Africa-Arabia continent moved northeastward and collided with the European-Asian continent. The resulting faulting and folding of the sedimentary strata in the land of Israel further intensified during the younger faulting event along the Dead Sea-Red Sea Rift Valley (resulting in the lowest point on earth, 422 m below sea level located at the Dead Sea). These processes shaped the topography of the country, and are still active as indicated by earthquakes in the region.

While being a relatively very small country, Israel’s geology is quite varied and it displays many interesting geological phenomena. Outcrops of sedimentary rocks - both marine and terrigenous (land-formed) - span 10 geological periods, from the early Triassic period (which started 250 million years ago; outcrop is located in Makhtesh Ramon, see below) to the present. In the very southern part of the country, in the vicinity of Eilat, the landscape is dominated by many types/variations of igneous and metamorphic rocks, part of the Arabo-Nubian massif and dating back to the Precambrian Era. In the north east of the country, there are large expanses of very young volcanic rocks, the result of eruptions in the last 25 million years. An interesting geological feature is a 210 m tall halite (rock salt) formation called "Mount Sodom", in the Dead Sea area.

Of particular morphological and geological interest is Makhtesh Ramon, the largest of the Negev erosion valleys cut into an upward-folded geological structure. The unique erosion valleys of the Negev are entirely surrounded by cliffs, comprising a single narrow outlet to the southeast, thus recalling a crater (mortar), called Makhtesh in Hebrew. The elongated Makhtesh Ramon - the crater is 40 km long and 2-10 km wide - exposes very ancient (Triassic and Jurassic periods) marine and terrestrial strata, intrusive magmatic and volcanic rocks and other remarkable geological phenomena. Makhtesh Ramon is thus a huge and unique natural history museum, which became an official Geological Park under the initiative of Prof. Emanuel Mazor of the Weizmann Institute of Science.

The three stamps, issued as a souvenir sheet, illustrate samples from the collections of the Geological Survey of Israel and the Hebrew University, photographed by Dr. David Darom. A reduced geological map of Israel is in the center of the souvenir sheet, and a view of sedimentary layers in Nahal Ardon in east Makhtesh Ramon, intruded by a vertical dyke, is on its left.

The depicted fossil fish, Aipichthyoides Galeatus, is one of many vertebrate remains of great scientific significance, found in the country.

The depicted blue-green Eilat Stone, frequently incorporated in Israeli jewelry, consists of some copper minerals like those used to be mined in the Timna area, just north of Eilat. Copper ore has been mined in Timna since the 6th millennium BC (the modern Timna mine was active between 1958 and 1976; some activity has been resumed lately). Besides copper, the Timna Valley displays rare stone formations and sand. Although predominantly red, the sand can be yellow, orange, grey, dark brown, or black. One can also find light green or blue sand near the copper mines. Water and wind erosion have created several geological attractions (the Solomon's Pillars; several monolithic, mushroom-shaped, red sandstone rock formations, and arches).

The depicted ammonite Proeucalycoceras Haugi is a mollusk-conch fill of an extinct creature related to extant octopods and squids. Ammonites are among the most important fossils, used in the defining of the geological periods.

The souvenir sheet was issued in 2002. Designer: Moshe Pereg.