Paper No. 8
Presentation Time: 10:20 AM
ARCHAEOSEISMOLOGY: OVER 100 YEARS OF STUDYING EARTHQUAKES AT ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES
Many archaeologists have documented “destruction horizons”, i.e. stratigraphic layers that show signs of fire, instantaneous destruction, or massive structural collapse (as evidenced by smashed, in situ vessels on a living surface, toppled masonry, and other catastrophic building failures). These destruction horizons have been interpreted as evidence for ancient earthquakes since the late 19th and early 20th century when large-scale excavations of major archaeological sites across the Mediterranean and Near East were launched (e.g. Arthur Evan’s excavations of the Minoan palace at Knossos on Crete). Ambraseys (1971) was one of the first to advocate the modern use of archaeological data to help define the earthquake history and thus the hazard of a region. Where archaeological structures and features are built across a fault, it is possible to document slip rates and coseismic offsets. The practice of deciphering and dating evidence of earthquake damage at archaeological sites has evolved into the modern field of “archaeoseismology”—a term first coined in the paper by Karcz and Kafri (1978). Although also referred to as “seismic archaeology” or “earthquake archaeology”, attempts to quantify earthquake damage at archaeological sites remain problematic, not least because the conditions of the building before and after the earthquake damage that occurred in antiquity are poorly known. Stiros (1996) provided one of the first standardized lists of criteria to identify earthquake damage at an archaeological site and other studies have followed, but these have yet to gain acceptance by many seismic-hazard practitioners. Recently, the International Geoscience Programme IGCP 567 (2008-2012) “Archaeoseismology along the Alpine-Himalayan seismic zone“ has become a forum for different disciplinary specialties to address the merits and methodology of collecting and utilizing archaeological data for seismic hazard assessment (e.g. Sintubin et al. 2010). The result is that archaeoseismology is rapidly developing, as a novel multidisciplinary research field that is evolving from qualitative observations to determining quantitative data on ancient earthquakes.